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Yet Another UN School Hit in Gaza

There is word that an UNRWA School in Gaza has been hit by Israeli artillery, killing at least 20 people.  Some 3,000 Gazans were sheltering there.  From the New York Times

Mr. Turner of the United Nations said his agency had provided the GPS coordinates of the school to the Israel Defense Forces 17 times, starting July 16 and most recently Tuesday at 8:48 p.m., to ensure it would be spared. Ziad Yousef, who also works for the agency, said the doors were locked at 11 p.m. Tuesday so no one could come or go.

“People who saw that happen are now convinced there are no safe places left,” Mr. Yousef said.

At least four strikes hit in close succession in a straight line across the school compound, indicating artillery fire, according to people who saw the attack; one struck a house behind the school. The drop ceiling of one classroom had collapsed, and the tin roof was peppered with shrapnel holes. The ground was covered with rubble, clothing and pools of blood. Sunlight shone through a hole in the roof of another classroom, also hit by a shell.

At the nearby Kamal Adwan hospital, Saeed Adham stood over the bed of his 15-year-old son, Rizek, whose right leg had been shattered by shrapnel. An X-ray of Rizek’s calf showed bones looking like an archipelago. Mr. Adham said his family was sleeping in a second-floor classroom when a strike shattered the windows, so they ran to a hallway, where a shell hit the roof. As he waited for surgery on his son’s leg, Mr. Adham said his wife and other children remained at Abu Hussein despite the danger. “We have nowhere but the school,” he said.

Mr. Turner’s agency, which in calm times provides education, health care and other services to about 70 percent of Gaza’s 1.7 million residents who are classified as refugees, has found rockets in three of its empty schools during the conflict, most recently on Tuesday. He said officials were not able to gain access to the school on Tuesday because of fighting nearby, but that unlike the other two cases, they did not plan to turn the rockets over to Gaza-based security officials, which had prompted criticism.

UNRWA is a humanitarian agency. Not a political one. Still, the services UNRWA provides for the people of Gaza, principally education, can provide a bulwark against extremism and the ideology promoted by Hamas. For example, both Hamas and UNRWA run summer camps for children in Gaza. UNRWA’s camps (when they have funding)  are pretty standard — arts and crafts, theater and all that.  Hamas’ children’s camps include military training for “pioneers of liberation.”

Needless to say, undermining UNRWA can serve to bolster Hamas. If (the US and UN funded) UNRWA is not providing services or protection to the people of Gaza, Hamas will step in.

The incident today is first and foremost a tragedy for the people involved. But it is also an expression of a terribly trend in this conflict. UNRWA’s neutrality should be inviolable and all sides need to respect that neutrality and, in the case of Israel, take utmost caution to avoid strikes that may damage the schools or injure people sheltering inside. Civilians in Gaza are boxed in with nowhere to escape. UNRWA can provide sanctuary only to the extent that belligerents respect its neutrality. So far, that does not appear to be the case.


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Ransom Payments to Al Qaeda Masked as Development Aid

How do al Qaeda affiliates in Africa fund their operations? Through ransom paid my European governments, it turns out. A rather explosive scoop. “While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have earned at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just in the past year…These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funnel the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid.” (NYT

Liberia has run out of hospital beds for its Ebola patients…”in Monrovia, the capital city, there isn’t enough space in the specialized isolation unit to hold all of the city’s symptomatic cases. The Ministry of Health wanted to expand the unit at Elwa Hospital, on the outskirts of Monrovia, but the local community fought back, physically, making it impossible to secure health staff, a Health Ministry official told BuzzFeed by telephone. “The Elwa facility is overwhelmed right now as I speak to you,” said Tolbert Nyenswah, the country’s assistant minister of health.“It was built as a transit point for 18 persons, but as I speak to you we have 25 in the unit and 20 who need to be in the unit but there’s no room to put them there.” Instead most are back in their communities, and a few are waiting in ambulances, Nyenswah said.” (BuzzFeed


A CAR mine owned by Canada’s Axmin was overrun by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels more than year ago. It now forms part of an illicit economy driving sectarian conflict in one of Africa’s most unstable countries, despite the presence of thousands of French and African peacekeepers. (Reuters

Health authorities are trying to determine who on a series of flights across West Africa last week came into contact with a man who days later died of the Ebola virus. (VOA

The military spokesman for the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo says a joint military offensive with the national army in Walikale and Masisi territories has freed over 20 villages from rebels from the Mai Cheka and the Alliance for the Sovereign and Patriotic Congo groups. (VOA

Through word of mouth and family ties, Somali refugees seek a temporary home in a nook of Istanbul, in order to find some respite from the political and natural disasters that have devastated Somalia for decades. (IPS

Burundi’s ruling party is carrying out a “relentless campaign of intimidation” against opposition and critics, ahead of presidential elections next year, Amnesty International said. (Yahoo

South African metal workers started returning to work on Tuesday after accepting a wage deal from employers, ending a four-week strike that dealt a blow to growth in Africa’s most advanced economy. (Reuters

Barack Obama gave a preview of a summit he will hold with African leaders next week, saying African nations should look inward for solutions to economic woes and not make “excuses” based on a history of dependence and colonization. (Reuters

The West African airline that transported a passenger sick with Ebola last week says it’s now suspending flights to the two cities hardest hit by the disease. (AP


More destruction in Gaza as Israel intensifies its military operations, including destroying Gaza’s only power plant.  Meanwhile, the Israeli government seems to be alienating the White House. The latest. (Guardian

“Families [in Iraq], including those with children, are stuck in the middle of an increasingly violent war and they are paying the price,” says Human Rights Watch. (IPS

A new US government report says the military has not effectively kept track of the light weapons it supplied to Afghanistan’s army and police. According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an independent watchdog group, the failure creates a danger that small arms such as machine guns will fall into the hands of insurgents. (VOA

Migrant workers building the first stadium for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup have been earning as little as 45p an hour, the Guardian can reveal.The pay rate appears to be in breach of the tournament organisers’ own worker welfare rules and comes despite the Gulf kingdom spending £134bn on infrastructure ahead of the competition. (Guardian


Human rights groups in and outside Pakistan are condemning as “brutalization and barbarism stooping to new lows” a mob assault on a minority Muslim community that left at least three people dead and burned many of their houses. (VOA

Amnesty International says a team of four from its headquarters in London traveled to Thailand to research the human rights situation in the kingdom following the May 22 coup. (VOA

A US company that supplies meat to fast-food chains in China has pulled all its products made by a subsidiary. An expose revealed some of the products were mishandled and had expired. (NPR

The Americas

Latin America and the Caribbean should push to achieve universal access to social services and policies to boost formal employment in order to make faster progress towards human development, the UNDP and experts recommend, while pointing to the improvement in human development indicators made in recent years. (IPS

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. (VOA

Hundreds of Africa’s emerging leaders are gathered in Washington for a three-day summit that includes a meeting with President Barack Obama. The summit is a highlight of a six-week U.S. fellowship that has given about 500 young Africans a chance to sharpen their skills through coursework and professional development. (VOA

Genetically modified corn seeds are no longer protecting Brazilian farmers from voracious tropical bugs, increasing costs as producers turn to pesticides, a farm group said. (Reuters


Is the UN peacekeeper selection process flawed? (IRIN

Trade Facilitation Will Support African Industrialisation (IPS

The Brics have a chance to succeed where the World Bank has failed (Guardian

US-Africa Leaders’ Summit Watch List (CGD

South Sudan: Is There Hope for a Durable Solution? (ISS


Inaccessible health services for people with disabilities, combined with social stigma and violence, contribute to high HIV risk – a gap that must be filled if the disabled are not to remain disproportionately vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, say health experts and activists. (IRIN

Designs for flying cars are being targeted at humanitarian organisations for use in a variety of missions, from delivering vaccines to transporting medics and patients. (SciDevNet

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A Ground’s-Eye View of Afghanistan’s Election Crisis

It has been a long, drawn out and violent election season in Afghanistan.  There’s no conclusive winner. But it is increasingly looking as if ordinary Afghans are on the losing end of this election.

The first round of 2014 elections in Afghanistan was held on April 5. After inconclusive results, the run off took place on June 14. However due to allegations of fraud after the announcement of the preliminary results that showed Dr. Ashraf Ghani ahead of his opponent Abdullah Abdullah, the election season went off-rail.

Abdullah rejected the preliminary results, calling the episode a “coup d’état,”  and a declared himself the rightful winner. Abdullah’s supporters installed posters declaring him the president and supporters of Ghani poured into the streets to support their success. Name-calling and antagonizing discourse from both sides continued until John Kerry visited Afghanistan and met with President Hamid Karzai and both candidates. After the various meetings with Kerry, both candidates promised a new coalition where both the winner and the loser of the election will form some sort of unity government.

Through Kerry’s deal, international and national entities were to monitor the process of counting the eight million votes and separating fraudulent votes from legitimate ones. However, the process is already facing delays on a daily basis. Despite public announcements with John Kerry, representatives from both sides- the latest being Ahmad Zia Massoud from the Ghani camp- have spoken against the agreement on creating a coalition government. As of right now, it seems as if more uncertainty is ahead for the Afghan people as the audit is delayed by arguments and misunderstanding.

While presidential candidates and their supporters fought over power, Afghans were fighting their own battles. When discussing the “election drama” in Afghanistan, a friend told me, “Everything is on pause and everyone is holding their breaths because people are afraid.” Throughout the process Afghans have been worried about the possibility of violence and civil war leaving many afraid to go on with their daily lives.

Not only are Afghans unsure of their future, but the country has also experienced extreme levels of terror in the past few weeks. Eight foreigners were killed and thirteen civilians injured by a suicide bomber on July 2. 89 Afghans were killed by the Taliban on July 15. Taliban militia also occupied two buildings in the vicinity of Kabul airport and used their position to attack the facility on July 17. Nine civilians were killed in Takhar in a bomb blast on July 24. In most recent news, the Taliban killed fifteen civilians who were traveling in Ghor Province on July 25.  All girls’ schools in Shindand, Herat, have been closed due to lack of security for the first time since the Taliban government lost power.

In addition to what seems like an increase in terrorist attacks and civilian casualties, the Afghan members of parliament tried to slip in a bill to protect their wages after the end of their terms. This is while 36 percent of the population lives in poverty and almost all Afghans are living in instability and war. The obvious disconnect between people and their representatives is perhaps what led to Afghans in Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Qandahar, Helmand, and Bamyan to protest the bill. Samira Hamidi, a women’s rights activist called the bill “The Luxury Bill” as she held a sign that read, “The parliament is not an insurance company.” Though the protest was not widely covered by international media, it contributed to the rejection of the bill in the Senate. Compared to the every-day struggles of the Afghan people, the ivory tower of politics where presidential candidates and their supporters are quarreling over votes while parliamentarians are fighting for more privileges seems to be terribly out of touch.

Roqia Hossaini, a university student in Kabul, wrote to me today, “Our leaders are too busy fighting over power to notice that we are dying in the roadsides.” Suicide attacks, the lack of security, poverty, increased inequality and the ongoing clashes over election results have made Afghans impatient and frustrated as their fates remain unresolved. Afghans, who risked violent threats from the Taliban and who on occasion traveled long distances and stood in lines under the rain for hours to vote have now waited nearly four months for the results of this election amidst many terrorist attacks. By prolonging the process and refusing to collaborate, supporters of both candidates blatantly go against the will of the majority of Afghan people who have waited too long for election season to end peacefully. The Afghan people have done their duty towards their country and their children by participating in a historic election despite grave difficulties. Will the politicians do their duty towards the Afghan people by forming a democratic government and preventing further violence? So far, it does not look good.

Photo credit:  Afghans protest parliament’s “luxury bill” with slogan “People hold a red card.” /Abdullah Ahmadi

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The Ebola Outbreak Just Got More Fierce

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Africa’s most populous country has confirmed its first ebola death, from a traveller from the Liberia. In the meantime, Liberia is going on lockdown and two American aid workers have been sickened. Jina Moore of Buzzfeed offers an excellent dispatch from Lagos, Nigeria. “Nigeria has begun medical testing at all ports of entry for passengers coming from Ebola-affected countries after a Liberian traveler died of the disease in Lagos on Friday. Passengers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — as well as any passenger from any departure point who appears ill upon arrival — must be tested for Ebola, an often fatal virus. Anyone positive will be quarantined.” (BuzzFeed

The Liberian government closed most of its border crossings and introduced stringent health measures to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola virus that has killed at least 660 people across the region. (Reuters

A second American aid worker stationed at a Liberian hospital tested positive for the Ebola virus on Sunday, a week after an infected man brought the disease by plane to Nigeria.  (Fox News

Security Council Calls for Gaza Ceasefire. It Breaks Down Quickly…”A fragile truce in Gaza for a Muslim holiday broke down Monday as a mortar shell fired from the Palestinian territory killed four Israeli soldiers, prompting the army to resume attacks on Hamas militants. The renewed fighting killed a fifth Israeli soldier inside Gaza, Israel said, while Gaza health officials said at least 18 Palestinians were killed…An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council called for “an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire,” echoing U.S. President Barack Obama’s appeal in a phone call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.”(WSJ


Sweden has resumed financial aid to Uganda after suspending some assistance in March over a law widely condemned by donor nations that increases punishment for homosexuals. (Reuters

The UN’s FAO is warning people in West African countries about a link between eating wildlife and the disease Ebola. The FAO says it is especially worried about the fruit bat. (VOA

More than 130,000 people who live in 42 fishing villages along Uganda’s shores of Lake Victoria have an HIV-infection rate that is three to four times higher than the national average in this country of 36 million people. (VOA

Despite legislative and societal hostility, Uganda’s gay rights activists refuse to take a step back. (Think Africa Press


Lebanon’s inability to store water efficiently, water pollution and its misuse both in agriculture and for domestic purposes, have put great pressure on the resource. (IPS

Migrant workers who built luxury offices used by Qatar’s 2022 football World Cup organisers say they have not been paid for more than a year and are now working illegally from cockroach-infested lodgings. (Guardian

The Gaza police operations room and a Palestinian health official say separate Israeli airstrikes hit the compound of Gaza City’s main hospital, causing casualties. (AP


People in Asia who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual often find themselves victims of violence from family members, who in fact are often the main perpetrators, according to a recent report by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. (IPS

The planned construction of 88 hydroelectric dams in the lower Mekong basin by 2030 will cause food security challenges in Cambodia, experts say. (IRIN

The Philippines on Sunday welcomed its 100-millionth citizen — a baby girl named Chonalyn who was born at a hospital in the capital, Manila. But the celebration is mixed with concern in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country with one of the fastest growing populations in Asia. Many in the country struggle to meet the basic necessities of life. (NPR

A group of 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers has arrived at a detention camp in Australia, government officials said on Monday, after having been held at sea by authorities for almost a month, sparking a legal challenge. (Reuters

Pacific island leaders will renew calls for meaningful action on climate change at a regional summit opening in Palau today, amid fears rising seas will swamp their low-lying nations. (Yahoo

New legislation recently passed in the southwest Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea outlawing polygamy has been welcomed by experts in the country as an initial step forward in the battle against high rates of domestic violence, gender inequality and the spread of AIDS. (IPS

The Americas

Argentina’s government is resuming negotiations in a dispute with US. creditors that risks sending the country into default this week. (AP


A conversation with Daniel Drezner about the new BRICS Development Bank and his book about how international institutions responded to the 2008 financial crisis. (Global Dispatches Podcast

Sanitation For All: Ignore Quality at Your Own Peril (People, Spaces, Deliberation

How Not to Teach Children about Poverty (NYU Development Research Institute

How enormous stories go unreported all the time (Campaign for Boring Development

Africa’s Last Colony (Africa is a Country


A UN panel opens a three-day meeting on the ageing of the global population. It’s part of a process that could lead to a new international treaty to protect the rights of older persons. (VOA

Blockages to preventing malnutrition in Kambia, Sierra Leone: a semi-quantitative causal analysis (SLRC

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SG; Middle East; Ukraine

SG: The SG leaves New York tomorrow morning for Nicaragua and Costa Rica where he will meet with the country’s respective presidents and government representatives until his return on Wednesday evening.

Middle East: The Security Council held an emergency session early this morning where the SG called for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire. The Council supported the SG’s request by issuing a presidential statement urging all parties to accept and implement a ceasefire into the Eid al-Fitr period marking the end of the Ramadan. Over the weekend UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness was interviewed about the UN’s relief efforts on Meet the Press. Full interview available here.

Ukraine: The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported an increase in fighting among armed groups in Donetsk and Luhansk against the Government of Ukraine. Regarding the Malaysia Airlines flight, High Commissioner Pillay stated that the downing of the plane is a violation of international law which could result in a war crime. Investigators continue attempts to access to the site and examine details of the crash.

UN Peacekeeping: The SG briefed the SC this morning regarding regional partnerships with UN peacekeeping. He noted effective division of labor among regional organizations, but expressed concern for the deteriorating situation in South Sudan despite the presence of the UNMISS peacekeeping mission.

Syria: OCHA reported that over the weekend UNRWA was forced to halt deliveries of healthcare items and medicine to Palestine refugees in Yarmouk due to lack of authorization.

Cameroon: Boko Haram militants kidnapped the wife of Cameroon’s vice prime minister and killed three people in a cross-border attack on Sunday. The incident was the third Boko Haram attack in Cameroon since Friday.

Iraq: OCHA reported that the Anbar Department of Health scaled-up medical assistance ahead of the Eid holiday in Iraq. WFP continues to distribute food to 8,000 families in the region.

Afghanistan: UNAMA condemned this weekend’s attacks in Afghanistan’s western province of Ghor killing 15 people. The UN called for a prompt and thorough investigation into the incident.

World Hepatitis Day: Today marks World Hepatitis Day to increase awareness for a disease that kills close to 1.4 million people each year. WHO and its partners use this day to mobilize policymakers, health workers and the public to coordinate a global response to viral hepatitis, strengthen prevention, and increase hepatitis B vaccine coverage.

United Nations Headquarters in New York will be closed tomorrow in observance of Eid al-Fitr.

UN Direct | Leave a comment

Episode 26: Daniel Drezner

Daniel Drezner is on the line this week! I speak to the academic and Washington Post writer about his career and life in and out of academia. He’s made a career arguing (and proving in peer-reviewed fashion) counter-intuitive takes on conventional foreign policy wisdoms. Our conversation kicks off with a discussion of the new BRICS Development Bank and his book about how international institutions responded to the 2008 financial crisis. We then turn to a discussion of his life and career, with interesting diversions along the way.

Have a listen. This was a fun and lively conversation. And remember to subscribe to the Global Dispatches Podcast on iTunes so you don’t miss an episode.


Previous episodes

How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire

Episode 25: Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE, USA. Long-time AIDS-Fighter

How Humanity is Winning the Fight Against AIDS

Episode 24: Joseph Cirincione, Nuclear Policy Wonk 

A Migrant’s Story: Why are So Many Children Fleeing to the USA?

Episode 23: Live from the UN 2014 (Volume 2); A special edition with a slew of UN officials.

Inside the Iran Nuke Talks

Episode 23: Jillian York, Digital Free Speech defender

Turkey’s Strategic Interests in Iraq

Episode 22: Live from the UN, 2014 (Vol 1); A special edition, featuring the President of the General Assembly,  the UN Ambassadors from Vietnam and Jamaica, the head of the UN Association, and more!

The UN’s View of the Iraq Crisis

Episode 21: Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to the UN, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India and more.

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

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


Podcast | Leave a comment

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