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Cease-Fire Agreement for CAR

The Forum for National Reconciliation and Political Dialogue for the Central African Republic wrapped up yesterday with the announcement of a cease-fire agreement, following three days of negotiations in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville. The peace talks, which brought together the transitional government, civil society stakeholders as well as the two key warring factions – the (mostly Muslim) Seleka and (mostly Christian) anti-balaka – are the first step in a long process of restoring peace and bringing about reconciliation. Following 15 months of intense confrontations, growing resentment between communities and an unstable security situation, the cease-fire brings some hope - albeit fragile - for a positive resolution of the crisis. 

Indeed, the cease-fire agreement is not a comprehensive peace deal, leaving out fundamental, key questions about disarmament and political reconciliation. The agreement is narrowly focused on the question of ending violence and the promotion of violence and hatred in the CAR. It does, however, include a reference to the territorial integrity of the CAR, following a “curveball” Seleka demand for partition  halfway through the negotiations. The negotiators – including the President of Congo and CAR transitional government representatives – were not expecting this request, and it initially created some confusion and chaos in the process. Within a day, however, the Seleka had dropped this demand, and signed the cease-fire agreement which stipulates that “all parties are renouncing to the partition of the Central African Republic.” According to the Seleka representative, the request was made obsolete once political power sharing was agreed upon.

Historically, Muslims have been left out of CAR governance, and a key dimension of success for building sustainable peace in the country will be whether there is an acceptable level of Muslim representation in the ranks of power. The transition from the current, temporary government to a democratically elected, representative government is going to present some challenges, particularly as the security situation also needs to be resolved in parallel.  The lack of agreement regarding disarmament is also of concern, and will need to be addressed in short order. The prime minister just announced a voluntary disarmament campaign for civilians to begin over the weekend, but a more comprehensive – and compulsory – campaign will be vital. In the context of a precarious cease-fire, where self-restraint is key, it is all too easy for the fragile equilibrium to be broken.

For Douglas Yates, African affairs analyst at the American University in Paris, “this conflict is not sustainable. In the long run, it will peter out.” Assuming that rational self-interest prevails in the CAR, this means that the warring parties have to be willing to work together to determine what mutually beneficial outcomes might look like. As shaky as the cease-fire is, it still represents a “much needed and encouraging first step” for CAR and the millions of people affected by crisis.

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Massive Protests Erupt in West Bank

A Third Intifada?…At press time, there were media reports of clashes when thousands of Palestinian demonstrators marched from Ramallah to Jerusalem, confronting Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint, with some fatalities. This is a big deal. We recommend checking out Haaretz’ live blog for news of these fast developing stories.  http://bit.ly/1t05VVG

Also, UNRWA reported that at least 15 people were killed when artillery struck a UN school functioning as a shelter for displaced Gazans.The death toll also includes an untold number of UN workers. Meanwhile, John Kerry drafted a ceasefire proposal while in Cairo. He leaves the region on Friday, but the negotiations go on. Here is an article about the devastation at the UN school, via AFP http://yhoo.it/1t06j6C

New Human Development Report is Out..Norway is first and Niger is last.The annual measure of indices related to social development Improvements in life spans, education and incomes are slowing due to natural disasters, misguided government policies and worsening inequality in a world where the 85 richest people have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people, the United Nations said Thursday in its annual human development report.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ab7h24) The Report: http://bit.ly/1t01J8D)

Valerie Amos Wants Relief Funding Reform…The need has not kept up with the demand. Her interview is well worth a read. “The U.N.’s top humanitarian official called Thursday for major changes in the delivery of relief, as funding falls short because of a growing number of conflicts and disasters…In an interview in Tokyo, she offered several ideas for improving aid delivery and addressed the crisis in Gaza: (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ab6Ncj)

Ebola Makes its Way to Nigeria…A Liberian man in his 40s is being tested for the deadly Ebola virus in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people. If confirmed, this would be the first time Ebola is found in Nigeria. (http://bit.ly/1sZV9yK)

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International AIDS Conference

The U.S. ambassador to Australia said it should not be a crime to be a member of the LGBT community. Ambassador John Berry told the 20th international AIDS Conference that the fight against the disease cannot be won by relegating segments of the population to the shadows. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Ab52vu)

Africa

An Air Algerie flight that went missing en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers has crashed, said an Algerian aviation official. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Ab0O79)

Central African Republic’s mainly Muslim Seleka rebels signed a ceasefire with the “anti-balaka” Christian militia, after having dropped their demand for the country to be split in two along religious lines. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1z7CLVp)

Two UN human rights experts called on the Government of Nigeria and the international community for a swift and stronger response to the plight of some 3.3 million people displaced in the country due to violence since 2010, one of the highest numbers of IDPs in the world. (UNHCR http://bit.ly/1z7yscH)

More than 2,000 Ghanaians took to the streets of the capital Accra on Thursday as part of planned nationwide protests against what they say is the government’s mishandling of the economy. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1z7BwoZ)

Rising sea levels and increased tides have eroded most of the once-sandy beach along Kribi, Cameroon. Now beaches are reduced to narrow muddy paths. And local hotels, bars and restaurants are feeling the impact of this erosion directly in their pockets as tourists reduce in numbers. (IPS http://bit.ly/1Ab081M)

GlaxoSmithKline said on Thursday it is applying for regulatory approval for the world’s first vaccine against malaria, designed for children in Africa. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Ab1olw)

Nigeria could cut the number of polio cases to zero next year and be declared free of the disease in 2018 even though a national eradication campaign has had to contend with an insurgency in the north, Bill Gates said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Ab1Dgi)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Danish diplomat Ellen Margrethe Loj as his new special envoy to South Sudan and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the world’s newest nation. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1z7Cx0v)

Parents are taking their daughters to remote regions of Kenya to undergo female genital mutilation in secret, according to the head of the country’s new FGM prosecution unit. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Ab35zk)

A new Ugandan sex-education campaign to reduce teen pregnancy, maternal mortality among young women and girls, and the cost of post-abortion medical care, is generating heated debate. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1z7Dl5l)

Newly introduced land permits for resettled smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe will bring little gain to the thousands of beneficiaries who are struggling to get loans from banks to finance their operations, say farmers’ organizations and analysts. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1z7DQwu)

MENA

The United Nations’ World Food Program is appealing for $10 million in emergency aid to help Palestinian civilians facing food shortages in Gaza. (VOA http://bit.ly/1z7EYQy)

Asia

Two Finnish aid workers with an international Christian organization were shot dead on Thursday in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat, officials said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1z7IpH4)

China plans to extend a railway line linking Tibet with the rest of the country to the borders of India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2020 once an extension to a key site in Tibetan Buddhism opens, a state-run newspaper reported. (VOA http://bit.ly/1z7FhuT)

Australia’s human rights commissioner on Thursday said conditions at an asylum-seeker camp on Christmas Island have “significantly deteriorated” with children plagued by despair and suffering symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder. (Yahoo http://yhoo.it/1Ab73b5)

The Americas

Haiti is set to vaccinate 200,000 people in three departments against cholera starting in August. (WHO http://bit.ly/1z7yl0F)

Around the US, food assistance agencies are trying to come up with new ways to feed hungry kids in the summer. In Hopkins County, Ky., they’re using mobile vans to take food to where kids live. (NPR http://n.pr/1z7zeWW)

The Colombian armed forces kill eight rebels from the left-wing National Liberation Army in an operation in eastern Arauca province. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Ab4rdj)

Opinion/Blogs

How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1z9buln)

How can politics change to serve future generations (on climate change, but lots of other stuff too)? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1ojbdJ5)

Patriarchy allows child marriage and female genital mutilation to flourish (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Ab3r92)

Empowering DR Congo’s Sexual Violence Survivors by Enforcing Reparations (IPS http://bit.ly/1z7ATf7)

We will not banish AIDS until we banish stigma (ONE Campaign http://bit.ly/1rDEnFf)

Why Ebola epidemic is spinning out of control (CNN http://cnn.it/1oj4cYQ)

Why Are We Ignoring a New Ebola Outbreak? (NY Times http://nyti.ms/1oj8Ndr)

The Implications of India’s 2014 Budget for Financial Inclusion (Center for Financial Inclusion blog http://bit.ly/1ojbagt)

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UNinsider

Iraq; Middle East; Mali

Iraq: The SG met with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki in Baghdad today as well as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to review the ongoing security crisis. The SG congratulated Fouad Massoum on his election as Iraq’s new President and remarked that a new government “will strengthen the unity of the country, fight effectively against terrorism and ISIS, as well as uproot the seeds of sectarianism and division.”

Middle East: The SG condemned the attack on an UNRWA school in Gaza that killed many “including women and children, as well as UN staff.” Although it remains unclear who is responsible for the attack, the incident highlights the need to stop all fighting immediately.

Mali: UN Peacekeeping mission in Mali initiated a search operation for the Air Algerie plane that disappeared en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers. According to Mali’s president, wreckage of the flight has been spotted between Aguelhoc and Kidal.

Human Development Report: UNDP launched the 2014 Human Development Report today in Tokyo. The report explores “structural vulnerabilities” and shows an overall decline in poverty, but 800 million people remain at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur. The report also includes a new Gender Development Index to measure the gender gap in human development achievements.

Afghanistan: The audit of the Afghan presidential election resumed today with a new set of criteria proposed by the UN for determining fraudulent ballots.

CAR: Peace talks in Brazzaville successfully resumed after a brief suspension on Tuesday. CAR groups signed an agreement on the cessation of hostilities during yesterday’s final round of the forum.

South Sudan: UNMISS reported continued heavy firing this morning in Nassir between SPLM/A In Opposition forces and SPLA troops.

Nigeria: The SRSG for West Africa condemned the killing of Nigerian civilians yesterday and over the weekend by Boko Haram killing more than 130 people.

MINUSMA: The SG appointed Diane Corner of the UK as new Deputy Head of MINUSCA.

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How to Negotiate a Gaza Ceasefire

As the conflict in Gaza drags on there’s a renewed diplomatic effort to secure a ceasefire. I speak with Michael Hanna of the Century Foundation about the complex diplomatic efforts underway, the critical role that Egypt is playing, and why things may get bloodier before they get better. Hanna also offers one possible solution in which both sides can save face as they lay down their arms.

Have a listen. This is an important and timely conversation.

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Previous episodes

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

 

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This is Not the First Time an UNRWA School Has Been Attacked

There is word that multiple people were killed today when Israel mortars struck an UNRWA school housing Gazans displaced by conflict. The details are still coming in, but this seems to be a mass casualty event. Media is reporting at least 15 people killed. UNRWA says it relayed the coordinates of the shelter to the Israeli Army to avoid this kind of incident.

Alas, this sort of thing has happened before.  On January 15, 2009 during Operation Cast Lead Israeli fired white phosphorous incendiary shells at an UNRWA compound sheltering 600-700 people. No one was killed in that attack. But an attack a week earlier near an UNRWA school killed at least 40 people. Here’s a report from the New York Times from January 2009. 

The strike against the United Nations headquarters wounded three people, destroying with three shells a warehouse full of hundreds of tons of food and medicine, said John Ging, director of United Nations operations in the area.

The incident, a week after some 40 people were reported killed when an Israeli mortar shell struck near a United Nations school, underscored the difficult relations between Israel and the United Nations that stretch back to Israel’s founding.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations, in Jerusalem to discuss possible cease-fire terms, expressed “strong protest and outrage” and demanded an investigation.

But Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on Thursday justified the attack on the refugee agency headquarters, saying that Hamas militants had fired at Israeli forces from within the compound.

A UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry into alleged violations of international humanitarian law during the 2009 Gaza conflict found that Israel was not justified under the laws of war to target these UNRWA compounds sheltering civilians. It recommended that the Security Council refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, but the Security Council declined to do so.

Now, here we are five and a half years later and history seems to be repeating itself. An UNRWA compound sheltering civilians has once again been targeted; and once again dozens of people have been killed.  The precise circumstances will become apparent in the coming days, but this is yet another sad example of the consequences of violating UNRWA’s neutrality.  When UNRWA’s neutrality is compromised and violated, civilians pay the price.

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#BringBackOurGirls, 100 Days On

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And they are still no-where in sight. “The only information comes from Boko Haram’s leader, who said in a video they are being held captive as “slaves” and will not be returned unless the government swaps imprisoned militants for girls. “The sadder thing is the conversation between the citizens and our government leaves a lot to be desired.  Leaves a lot to be desired,” says Obi Ezekwelizi, one of the leaders of Bring Back Our Girls. Activists say they plan to continue near daily “sit-outs” in Abuja until the girls are rescued.  But the group and the kidnapped girls are also now in the center of Nigerian politics, with the government accusing Bring Back Our Girls of being agents of the opposition.” (VOA http://bit.ly/UoTjJ3)

UN Human Rights Council Authorizes Gaza Probe…“Twenty-nine countries voted for an investigation to be carried out by the body, notably including China, India, and several South American countries.  There were 17 Abstentions, mostly from EU member countries.  There was a single, definitive vote against an investigation: the United States. The EU abstentions speak to the political influence of their relationship with the United States.  The votes for investigation by South American countries is no surprise either, given their poor trade and diplomatic relations with Israel.   The blatant vote against investigation by the U.S. was expected, but interesting nonetheless given the fact that the vote is just for an investigation, not an automatic accusation. “ (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/UoToMO)

HIV/AIDS

The vast majority of AIDS patients are of working age, according to statistics from U.N. AIDS. And so, as the working population changes, AIDS activists say the workplace also needs to adapt. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nB23sb)

Africa

Gambia has taken steps to improve its poor human-rights record after the European Union suspended 150 million euros in development aid this year, activists said, urging tougher action by the international community. (TRF http://bit.ly/1pamF65)

The head doctor fighting the deadly tropical virus Ebola in Sierra Leone has himself caught the disease, the government said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1nAZaI6)

Seleka rebels have demanded that Central African Republic be partitioned into a Muslim north and a Christian south, a surprise move at talks aimed at halting religious violence, sources at the meeting said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1nAZjLx)

International NGOs have rebuffed a recent offer by the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo to use drones for humanitarian information gathering, saying this could represent a dangerous “blurring of the lines” between military and humanitarian actors in the conflict. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1panOuA)

The UN refugee agency said it needs three times as much money as it’s already received to provide basic aid to the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic In an effort to revive international support. (VOA http://bit.ly/1paorEm)

Ghana’s government plans to use some of its World Bank loans to fund a free sanitary pad program for young girls in poor rural communities to reduce dropout rates. The initiative is part of a program known as the Ghana secondary school improvement project. (VOA http://bit.ly/1sSbZ2z)

Some 51,247 persons are affected by the floods occurring in Liberia’s Montserrado County, which includes the capital Monrovia. Affected persons are sheltered in schools, churches and in host communities. Malaria, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases were reported at refuge centers. Some cholera cases are also suspected. (OCHA http://bit.ly/1nAYvq0)

Men, women and children are being kidnapped and held for months as slaves by militias in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, says MSF. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1nB7uY4)

MENA

The increasing scale of the crisis in Gaza and the urgent needs of a growing number of civilians require greater assistance from UNRWA. The estimated number who will soon require support rises to 150,000 – three times the 50,000 originally projected – the Agency is now doubling its appealing for a total of $115 million. (UNRWA http://bit.ly/1pakRtW)

Egypt’s new president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made a head start on tackling the country’s economic problems, managing to introduce long-awaited subsidy reform without stirring popular unrest. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1pam0l9)

Palestinians asked the UN to investigate into “all violations” of human rights and humanitarian law that they say have been committed by Israel during its military offensive in Gaza. (Yahoo http://yhoo.it/1nB2AKT)

Israel may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and shelling houses and hospitals during its two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1parDQl)

Asia

Monsoon rains over the past week have caused floods in eastern India, killing three people and forcing thousands of families from their homes, officials and witnesses said. (AlertNet http://bit.ly/1nAY3YX)

Thailand’s military junta has unveiled an interim constitution that allows the army to retain sweeping powers. (VOA http://bit.ly/1pap1lz)

Parts of a northern Chinese city have been quarantined after state media said a man there died of bubonic plague. (AP http://yhoo.it/1paqOHj)

The Americas 

Harvest of the world’s biggest coffee and sugar cane crops may be stalled by the four to five days of rain that are in store for southeast Brazil starting today, forecasters said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1papOTq)

Hosing down a driveway in drought-stricken California could soon mean a visit from the “water cops,” as agencies throughout the state begin beefing up staff to enforce strict new conservation rules set to take effect next month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1nB3qXP)

Opinion/Blogs

We cannot give a woman a cow and expect her to change the world (Guardian http://bit.ly/1nAZQNn)

BRICS – The End of Western Dominance of the Global Financial and Economic Order (IPS http://bit.ly/1palCD7)

How Much Are Developing Countries Losing from Commodity Mispricing Really? (CGD http://bit.ly/1pao1xF)

A Summer of Innocent Deaths (VOA http://bit.ly/1nB1tee)

BRICS Bank Can Free Africa From the West (The Star http://bit.ly/1pat2Gw)

Goodluck Jonathan and a Billion Dollars of Bad Judgment (Daily Maverick http://bit.ly/1patip8)

‘African gay movement won’t go back into the closet’ (Beacon http://bit.ly/1nBPmgJ)

Conflict dynamics on Kenya’s coast (IRIN http://bit.ly/1mESMtc)

Research/Reports

A new study shows that newborn babies can reap the health benefits of a delay in cutting their umbilical cord – whilst they’re safe in their mothers’ arms. (BBC http://bbc.in/1nB0Cdr)

The World Food Program reports increasing conflicts in the first half of this year have created a huge surge in emergency airlifts and airdrops of food to people caught in hard-to-reach areas. (VOA http://bit.ly/1nB1yi2)

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