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Canada is Joining the Iraq Coalition–And that Matters. (Really!)

Canada is joining a growing group of nations that have committed military resources to the campaign, including France, Britain, Australia, Belgium, Denmark and the UAE. This is a big deal, and not just for Canadians.

As the coalition of countries supporting the US-led campaign grows – both in size and diversity, as Gulf nations and nations who were not part of the 2003 “coalition of the willing” are offering their support – so too does the legitimacy of the military efforts against IS extremists. In a conflict where the enemy has a powerful social media and PR strategy, the broader and more diverse the coalition, the harder it will be for ISIS to single out the US or “the West” as the enemy.

Canada is considering sending two CF-18 fighter jets to participate in the airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, as well as an air-to-air refueller aircraft and CP-140 Aurora reconnaissance planes. Canada has already contributed a small number of highly trained special forces soldiers, who are currently deployed on a short term mission in Iraq. The Canadian government is debating these options today, with little parliamentary discussion debate, triggering concerns about political and public support for increasing Canada’s military participation in the campaign.

Canada – like France - was strongly opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and while Canada has not shirked away from military involvement in Afghanistan, Libya or even Kosovo, there are concerns that Stephen Harper’s decision would not reflect the will of the people. Harper said he believes “that the mission undertaken by our allies . . . is of necessary actions and of noble actions,” adding that “when we think something is necessary and noble, we do not sit back and say only other people should do it. The Canadian way is we do our part.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister John Baird, warned that “there are no quick fixes“, and that the public should be prepared for a long term involvement. This is not to say that Canada’s participation will involve troops in a combat role, but it is a realistic assessment of the possibility that Canadian military assets might be engaged for a significant period of time. As the Canadian government weighs its options, one thing is clear: Stephen Harper is not prepared to let Canada stand idly by while other allies are directly involved in the fight against IS, and the Canadian public should be prepared for a new Canadian military campaign in the Middle East.

One of the interesting questions raised by Canada’s growing involvement in the fight against ISIS is whether the military support for the US-led campaign constitute “going to war”, and whether parliamentary approval is required. In the UK, parliament voted in support of airstrikes in Iraq – but not Syria. In France, parliamentary approval was not specifically sought, and the government made the decision as part of our routine defense operations. Moving forward, and as the fight against IS extremists expands and deepens, interesting legal questions will arise: can a country be “at war” with a non-state actor? What degree of parliamentary approval is appropriate, and how will public opinion react?

Photo credit: Stephen Harper’s Flickr Stream.

Caption: PM Harper welcomes home members of the Canadian Armed Forces returning from Canada’s mission in Afghanistan

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Somaly Mam

Somaly Mam, in her own words

Somaly Mam is on the line today. She is the Cambodian anti-sex trafficking activist who came to prominence a few years ago as celebrities in the west rallied around her and her organization. That all came crashing down this year when Newsweek published a cover story calling into question the credibility of her amazing personal story, which includes escaping from the sex trade herself. She was ousted from the organization that bears her name and was tarnished by some of her closest allies. Then, in September, Marie Claire published an article calling into question some of the claims of that Newsweek takedown, suggesting that key details were incorrect.

So what is the real story? I don’t know. The point of this interview was not to engage in a back and forth with Somaly about whether or not she fabricated claims about past. Rather, I was interested in learning what she is up to now, and how this controversy has affected her personally and her work rescuing girls from the sex trade. To be honest, I’m not sure I succeeded. It was a tough interview. I’ll let you decide. Please feel free to direct your criticisms and critiques (or, if you like it, your approbation) of this interview to me personally, via @MarkLGoldberg


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syria map

Source of Tainted Measles Vaccine ID’d in Syria

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Last month, at least a dozen Syrian children in a rebel held area died after receiving a measles vaccine. The WHO and UNICEF promptly suspended a vaccination drive and promised an investigation. On Wednesday, the UN released its finding: a tragic mistake by an NGO. “The World Health Organization last month said the muscle relaxant had been kept in the same refrigerator as a substance meant to dilute the measles vaccine. It said the exact person or group responsible for the laboratory was not known.  [A UN Spokesperson] on Wednesday did not name the NGO partner and referred to the WHO report.Syria’s conflict between the government and rebel groups, now in its fourth year, has caused the collapse of its health system in contested areas. Nationwide vaccination efforts have been thrown into disarray, and polio re-emerged in parts of Syria last year.After the children’s deaths, the Western-backed opposition based in Turkey said it had suspended the second round of measles vaccinations. The campaign was meant to target 60,000 children.  (AP

Quote of the Day…World Bank President Jim Kim, re: Ebola: “Now, thousands of people in these (three) countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place,”This … shows the deadly cost of unequal access to basic services and the consequences of our failure to fix this problem.” (Reuters


Doctors Without Borders said it had rejected cash for the Ebola response from Australia, asking the country instead to deploy desperately-needed medical teams to west Africa. (AFP

Mauritius is going against the advice of the WHO and demands of the Security Council and is banning all travelers from ebola affected countries. (NPR

HRW says more than 100 demobilized fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo have died from starvation and disease in a remote military camp. (VOA

Pestilence, cyclical droughts and floods, and the West Africa Ebola crisis have pushed hunger to record levels in Gambia, where 200,000 people need urgent food assistance, the United Nations says. (TRF

The United States warned South Sudan’s president and rebel leader to engage in serious peace talks to end nearly a year of violence in the world’s newest state or face United Nations sanctions. (Reuters

Fighting the Ebola epidemic means confronting the issue of inequality, as people in poor countries have less access to knowledge and infrastructure for treating the sick and containing the deadly virus, the head of the World Bank said. (Reuters

Ugandan police Wednesday arrested two men over an anti-unemployment protest where they paraded four piglets painted in the ruling party colors and branded the country’s leaders “pigs.” (AFP

In Senegal, literacy experts are using the new technologies to motivate and teach women to read. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization rolled out the program in Dakar in 2012,  but is now expanding it to six other African countries. (VOA

In Zimbabwe, the issue of contraceptive use remains controversial and divisive in this country of 13.72 million people. Parents and educators are agreed on one thing: that levels of sexual activity among high-school students are on the rise. What they do not agree on, however, is how to deal with the corresponding increase in teenage pregnancies. (IPS

In Senegal, literacy experts are using the new technologies to motivate and teach women to read. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization rolled out the program in Dakar in 2012,  but is now expanding it to six other African countries. (VOA


Acts of terrorism and violence in Iraq killed more than 1,100 people in September, continuing what has been a particularly deadly year for the country. (VOA

Morocco has secured a $519 million loan from the World Bank to partly finance two solar power plants with a combined capacity of up to 350 megawatts, the second phase of the 500 MW Ouarzazate project, the bank said in a statement. (Reuters

A wave of violence between militia groups vying for power is sweeping across parts of Libya, prompting international organizations to put forth an ambitious plan to provide humanitarian aid to 85,000 people by the end of this year. Yet concerns remain over the feasibility of such an operation, given the security risks, access issues and communication problems. (IRIN


Reports on leprosy and elephantiasis in India and Bangladesh highlight the prejudice and economic cost faced by sufferers. (Guardian

Hong Kong officials on Wednesday held ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of communist China as city leaders remain locked in a standoff with protesters demanding greater democratic reforms. (VOA

Myanmar awarded licenses Wednesday to the first foreign banks allowed to operate in the country in a half-century. (AP

India could run out of a critical medicine in its free HIV/AIDS drugs program in three weeks due to bureaucratic bungling, a senior government official said, leaving more than 150,000 sufferers without life-saving drugs for about a month. (Reuters

WFP is providing food or cash for approximately 190,000 people in urgent need of assistance in Sri Lanka. A WFP-led Rapid Drought Assessment estimates that as many as 770,000 people have been affected by the drought, which has resulted in the loss of about one third of the paddy harvest in parts of the country. (WFP

The Americas

The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in a U.S. hospital was evaluated initially and turned away, a critical missed opportunity that could result in others being exposed to the deadly virus, infectious disease experts said. (Reuters

Mexico has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world, and women can find themselves criminalized even after miscarriage. (Guardian

The United States and Brazil have come to an agreement designed to end a decade long dispute over cotton subsidies, reports say. (BBC


Ebola comes to the U.S. and loses its deadly punch (Humanosphere

Why Quantifying the Value of Tropical Forests Matters for Development (CGD

Must Read of the Day: The MDG Leaders Report (UN Dispatch

India-Pakistan Dialogue: Is It Possible? (VOA

On Reproductive Rights, Progress with Concerns (IPS

El Salvador’s ‘hidden war’ being waged against women’s rights (GlobalPost

From “Power to the People” to “Information is Power” (Development Impact

The West Steps Forward in the Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation (Development Channel

The Extreme Poor Shouldn’t Have to Make Extreme Choices (USAID Impact

Could Myanmar’s hunt for energy derail peace? (The Interpreter


Older people are expected to make up one-fifth of the world’s population by 2050. So governments must prepare to expand social pensions and ensure that this growing demographic plays a full role in society, according to the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index. (Guardian

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This is the Most Frightening Ebola Statistic

Ebola has reached the United States and there’s a collective media freakout. But ebola will not spread in the United States, so the media’s attention really ought to focus on what is truly frightening about ebola: donors are still not ponying up the resources required to contain the outbreak in West Africa.

Funding levels for the international response to ebola are pathetically low. On September 16th, the UN launched a $987 million appeal for resources to stop the outbreak. The appeal covered things like protective equipment, fuel to keep the lights on in the hospitals, pay incentives for health care workers, and pretty much everything else required to halt the outbreak. Two weeks later the international response has been…muted. To date only $254 million has been committed against that plan. That’s just about 25%.

In other words, ebola is spreading out of control yet donors are doing about one quarter of what needs to be done to beat back the outbreak. Until resources are committed to the fight against ebola in west Africa, we can expect more imported cases to the USA and the rest of the world.  And, of course, we can expect the disease to spread exponentially in West Africa.



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UN Building

And What A UN Week that Was!

The UN Summit officially ended yesterday with Paraguay delivering the final address before the General Assembly. And what a UN Week it was!

Ebola, Syria, climate change, peacekeeping and the Millennium Development Goals were top of the agenda.  Meanwhile, throughout it all, we saw encouraging signs of renewed American engagement with the UN system.

I speak with Richard Gowan of the Center on International Cooperation, who sorts through the big stories coming out of the UN summit.  It’s a great conversation for all you UN nerds out there.

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Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 9.23.05 AM

Why Ebola Won’t Spread in the USA

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Word of ebola reaching American shores caused many American media outlets to embarrass themselves with fear mongering headlines. The fact is, Ebola will not spread in the USA. Why?  Because unlike Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone the USA has a strong health system in which infection control is a core function. “Every hospital that can do isolation can do ebola isolation,” said CDC chief Dr. Thomas Frieden at a press conference yesterday. He added that viral Hemorrhagic Fever (of which ebola is a type) has never spread in the USA. Bottom line: it’s reasonable to expect more imported cases of Ebola to the USA so long as the outbreak is spreading in West Africa. But the chances of an outbreak in the USA are exceedingly low.  

Meanwhile, the WHO’s Ebola Emergency Response Mission is officially up and running. Its headquarters is in Accra, Ghana. (WHO

And: UNICEF warns that ebola orphans being shunned by their communities (Guardian


The UN Mission for Ebola wants to achieve significant progress in combating the deadly disease within 60 days, including ensuring that 70 percent of cases receive treatment, its new head Tony Banbury said. (Reuters

The trial of South African opposition party leader Julius Malema on corruption charges has been postponed until next year. (BBC

The rainy season in West Africa is compounding difficulties in getting supplies delivered and new treatment centres built as donors rush to isolate people infected with the deadly Ebola virus and stop its rapid spread, US officials said. (TRF

The International Monetary Fund said it would work with Zimbabwe to produce a debt repayment plan that would help Harare qualify for international loans. (Reuters

Guinean security forces are intensifying their Ebola screening efforts at the border with Sierra Leone. At the Madina Oula town crossing, people are subjected to rigorous health checks. (VOA

WFP and UNICEF say they have assisted more than 500,000 people in parts of South Sudan hit hardest by the country’s nine-month conflict. (VOA

And for our French speaking DAWNSers, check out this new website coveringMaliBurkina Faso, and Niger


The UN’s humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that tens of thousands more people could be forced to flee Syria if Islamic State militants continue to make territorial gains. (VOA

European Union countries must cough up “considerable” resources for migrant rescues in the Mediterranean Sea before Italy can discontinue its own mission, or else many lives will be lost, human rights group Amnesty International said. (Reuters

Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq captured a border crossing with Syria on Tuesday, expelling Islamic State militants in heavy fighting that ground down to vicious house-to-house combat and close quarters sniping. (ABC


Protesters camped out in Hong Kong for a fifth consecutive day are threatening to expand their campaign of civil disobedience if the territory’s chief executive does not meet their demand for democratic reforms. (VOA

Myanmar has confirmed to the United Nations it is finalizing a plan that will offer minority Rohingya Muslims citizenship if they change their ethnicity to suggest Bangladeshi origin, a move rights groups say could force thousands into detention camps. (VOA

Indigenous people experience dementia at a rate at least three times higher than the non-Indigenous population in Australia, but a lack of awareness of the seriousness of the issue means not enough is being done to combat a “looming epidemic”, the peak body for Alzheimer’s sufferers and their carers has said. (Guardian

US President Barack Obama and new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to expand and deepen their countries’ strategic partnership and make it a model for the rest of the world. (Reuters

Stunning timelapse satellite imagery of the Aral Sea drying up because of climate change. (WaPo

The Americas

While the US tightens an economic embargo on its island neighbor, several African leaders were making a pilgrimage to Havana to strengthen bilateral relations. (IPS

Shipping firms should pressure the Nicaraguan government and the Chinese backer of a proposed canal to ensure that the project does not force indigenous people off their land and inflict massive environmental damage on the country’s ecosystem, an environmental advocacy group has urged. (Guardian

A project funded by international development aid helps Cuban women entrepreneurs with the aim of closing the gender gap, as part of the economic reforms underway in this socialist Caribbean island nation. (IPS

California’s catastrophic drought has most likely been made worse by man-made climate change, according to a report released by Stanford University, but scientists are still hesitant to fully blame the lack of rain on climate change. (Reuters


Analyst: West Cannot Win Prolonged Fight With Islamic State (VOA

Understanding Latin America’s Financial Inclusion Gap (CGD

Female entrepreneurs an amazing engine for economic growth (Guardian

The costs and economic impact of violence against children (ODI

“I’m Missing My Place in the World”: An Interview with Aziza Brahim (Think Africa Press

Why Hong Kong’s demand for democracy is not just another Occupy (GlobalPost

West Africa: Is World Up to Ebola Challenge? (Deutsche Welle

Facing Death, Six Days a Week (USAID Impact

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