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Will the USA Support Peacekeepers for CAR?

No American official has been more outspoken on the need for a coherent international response to unfolding crisis in the Central African Republic than Ambassador Samantha Power. But soon, Ambassador Power could be in the unfortunate position of having to explain to other UN member states that the USA will not be able to support a desperately needed UN Peacekeeping mission to CAR.

As the crisis escalated in the late fall, Power led the US government’s response, helping to pass a Security Council resolution that gave a French supported African Union force wide mandate to protect civilians in CAR. She also helped marshall American resources to transport and equip the African troops so they could quickly deploy.

These troops, which number about 6,000, initially made a difference. But in recent weeks it has become clear that the force size and structure is inadequate. Ethnic cleansing is almost certainly underway in CAR;  the capitol city has been nearly emptied of its Muslim population as they are forced to flee for their lives. The humanitarian response has been undermined by rampant insecurity, putting millions at risk of hunger and disease and compounding the crisis.

Something more is needed. And yesterday, Ban Ki Moon recommended a large UN peacekeeping mission, numbering about 13,000 troops. But now the USA is going to be put in a very awkward spot: the US Ambassador to the UN has articulated an urgent need to break the cycle of violence in CAR, but the USA may not have the funds to contribute to a UN Peacekeeping mission there.

The US pays about 28% of the cost of UN Peacekeeping. Ban Ki Moon’s proposed mission for the Central African Republic would total about $800 million, putting the USA on the hook for about $230 million.

In its FY 2014 budget, Congress cut US contributions to UN Peacekeeping by 12%, and appropriated no funding the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali. The Obama Administration is about to release its 2015 budget. If funding for a potential peacekeeping mission in CAR is excluded from the White House request, Congress may decide not to pony up the money. If that money is not secured, a UN mission to stem ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic would barely be able to get off the ground.

$250 million is a lot of money, but it’s not an immense expenditure in US budgetary terms. The consequence of withholding this funding, however, would be profoundly negative for international community’s response to ethnic cleansing in CAR.

Image credit.  Brazilian peacekeepers with MINUSTAH patrolling the Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: UN/MINUSTAH/Jesús Serrano Redondo

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How Your Roof Can Fight Global Warming

As the climate continues to change, temperatures are not increasing equally in all areas. Large cities and urban centers are seeing rising temperatures significantly higher than surrounding areas, in an effect coined “urban heat islands.” By the year 2030, almost 60 percent of people worldwide will live in urbanized areas, and this temperature change will be more than just a matter of comfort; the effect is predicted to be as much as 22 degrees F, independent of greenhouse induced warming. The Journal of Environmental Economics and Management reports that with rising temperatures, tempers will also rise — by 2099, climate change is predicted to cause an additional 22,000 murders and 180,000 cases of rape. So it´s not an idle curiosity that has led researchers to look ahead for effective adaptation strategies.

Because heat islands are primarily created by the absorbtion of sunlight in materials such as concrete, a few of the most effective technologies deal with changing roof technologies. An assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Matei Georgescu, recently conducted a study of roofing materials, and showed that with widespread changes, urban heat islands can be controlled.

“This is the first time all of these approaches have been examined across various climates and geographies,” Georgescu told Arizona State University Press. “We looked at each adaptation strategy and their impacts across all seasons,” he said, “and we quantified consequences that extend to hydrology (rainfall), climate and energy.”

Unsurprisingly, the study found that technologies functioned best when they took into account the specific climate of the location. In California, simply painting your roof white significantly reduces the amount of heat absorbed, but in colder locations, different strategies are needed.  With cool roofs in areas with harsh winters, “The energy savings gained during the summer season,” Georgescu said, are “nearly entirely lost during the winter season [because of additional heating costs].”

As is often the case with environmental “solutions,” Georgescu stressed it´s important to investigate potential consequences. The study also found, for example, that green roofing techniques, in addtion to cooling urban areas, also reduce preciptation by as much as 50 percent. This means in areas sensitive to drought, like Florida, cool roofs might not be the best way to tackle urban heat islands.

A one-size fits all solution to environmental issues are rarely possible, so studies like Georgescu’s continue to be extremely important in tackling how to move forward with climate adaptation strategies.

Image via wikimedia commons

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Top of the Morning: Sec Gen Recommends Huge Peacekeeping Expansion in CAR

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Ban Ki Moon Recommends Huge Peacekeeping Expansion in CAR

The Secretary General wants the current AU force transformed into a UN Peacekeeping operation of  deploying 11,820 Blue Helmets. “In a report to the 15 members of the UN Security Council, Ban specified that the peacekeeping mission should focus, in the initial stage, on “the protection of civilians” as part of a “military surge.” However, Ban warned that “the scale of the needs in the CAR is daunting” and it is understood that even in the best case, UN peacekeepers couldn’t be deployed for another six months because of the time required to mount such an operation.The mandate of the proposed force would be progressively expanded to support the political transition process, in particular restoring the government’s authority over the country and organizing elections  (AFP

Bahrain Bombing Kills 3 Police Officers

A rare killing of security forces. Usually, it’s the other way around. “Three policemen were killed by a remotely detonated bomb in Bahrain on Monday during a protest in a village west of the capital Manama, the Interior Ministry said, in one of the worst incidents of violence in recent months. The United Arab Emirates said one of its police officers, serving in a Gulf Cooperation Council force operating in the island kingdom, was among the three dead officers, according to the UAE state news agency WAM. Bahrain’s main opposition groups condemned the bombing as a criminal act and urged followers to ensure that protesters use only peaceful means to push their demands for reforms.” (Reuters

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Can the UN Stop the Crimea Crisis?

The crisis in Crimea is clearly of grave consequence to the people in the region and to global security. It will also test the UN system, which was designed in large part to give major world powers a forum to peaceably discuss their conflicts and come up with diplomatic solutions when a crisis like this arises.

The UN has not stopped global conflict. But it has put an end to conflict between major world powers. In the 69 years since the UN’s founding there has been no major war between big powers. Compare that to the 69 years prior to the UN’s founding in which there were no fewer than six major wars, including the two World Wars, the Spanish-American War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Russo-Turkish War, and the Boxer Rebellion.

The UN system, designed in the aftermath of World War Two, established basic codes of conduct that have helped to eliminate armed conflict between the world’s biggest powers. Those mechanisms will be tested in the coming days. There will be meetings of the Security Council, negotiating by international diplomats, statements by the Secretary General, and perhaps even the dispatch of some sort of UN observer mission.

The formal role of the UN in mediating this conflict may or may not be limited, but the global system that it reflects will help ensure that this crisis does not escalate.


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Why All the Fracas in Caracas?

Protests erupted in Venezuela last month and have been growing stronger every day. What’s this all about? I speak with Venezuela based journalist Oscar Schlenker who helps put this protests in context and explain what is going on. Economic woes and unrelenting crime are fueling mass discontent, but is it enough to topple Hugo Chavez’s successor?


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Top of the Morning: Scores Killed in Boko Haram Attack

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Scores Killed in Boko Haram Attacks in Northern Nigeria

This is on top of a horrific massacre at a school last week. “Twin bomb blasts in the city of Maiduguri killed at least 46 people on Saturday evening while, around 50 km (30 miles) away, dozens of gunmen were razing a farming village, shooting dead another 39.The attacks will heap pressure on Jonathan, whose intensified military push to end the Islamist sect Boko Haram’s four-and-a-half-year-old insurgency has been running for almost a year. While the bloodshed has not diminished, the army had at least had some success in confining it to remote rural areas in recent months, so that the attack on a densely populated market area in Maiduguri will be seen as a setback. (Reuters

Food Crisis Looming for CAR

Only a fraction of funds required for humanitarian relief have materialized. “A food crisis is looming in the Central African Republic after nearly a year of violence, a UN humanitarian official warned on Sunday. Funds pledged to help the crisis in January have not materialised, Abdou Dieng, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator said, with only one-fifth of the $500m promised at a donor conference in Brussels coming in to the country. “It is now that the humanitarian crisis will start to deepen,” Dieng said. “If we don’t pay attention, we will soon see people dying of hunger,” Dieng told the AFP news agency after visiting the market town of Bouar in the far west of the country the size of France” (Al Jazeera

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