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South Sudan Watch: Gerrymandering, Sudan-Style

JUBA, Sudan—Sudan’s national elections in April highlighted the fact that elections are a process, not a one-day event that happens only on polling day (or during polling period, since Sudan had five days of polling). This is significant because a process can be manipulated more easily and more subtly than a one-day or five-day event. Some thoughts on this note…

An analyst friend of mine has examined “lessons learned” from the elections with an aim of providing recommendations for the conduct of the referendum (I’ll highlight his paper on this blog when it is published). He argues that the conventional wisdom on the relationship between Sudan’s April elections and the looming southern self-determination vote is wrong. According to my friend, who has worked on elections in several contexts, the idea that the two events are markedly different and should be treated so runs contrary to the fact that the referendum and elections are in fact quite similar from a technical stand point. So if there’s anything to be learned from the April polls, it’s that what happens in the run-up to the polls—for example, during voter registration—can and will likely have a big impact on the fairness and credibility of the south’s independence vote on January 9, 2011.

Today I had the chance to interview the deputy chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, and the head of the commission’s southern bureau, Justice Chan Reec Madut. The interview didn’t yield any stories for the AP wire, but I wanted to share his insights. Justice Chan is the deputy chief justice of the Supreme Court of Southern Sudan, has been serving on the bench in Sudan since 1979, and has a degree in legal anthropology from Harvard.  Ithoroughly enjoyed hearing his perspectives on referendum-related issues. Here’s part of the transcript from the interview:

Under the elections law, the secretary-general had a lot of power and he was able to manipulate things. And even the state high committees in the southern were all answerable to Khartoum. Now the high committees report to the southern bureau which is here [in Juba]. So we have a chance of correcting things…

There are attempts currently being made by the [southern] Minister of Humanitarian Affairs to transport people living in the north to the south. I don’t know how soon they are going to do that. But certainly there will be [some southerners] there who will hang around. They have been there for 20 years, through the war. They will have difficulties coming down here. They don’t have houses here anymore and their children are in school [in the north]. So we certainly consider some of them will stay there and that they will register there. But voting in northern Sudan is our greatest area of fear. Because there are talks in the media that there are two million southerners in the north which is not true because during the census Khartoum went on record saying there were 500,000 there so how did it jump like that? So you can see that kind of mentality, it is an indication that this issue could be manipulated.

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Piracy at the Security Council; Eminent Persons on LDCs Appointed, and more from today at the UN


Somalia: this morning the Security Council held an open debate on legal responses to piracy off of the coast of Somalia, in which the SG reported that in the past seven months there have been 139 piracy-related incidents and 30 hijacked ships, while 17 ships and 450 sailors are currently being held at ransom.  In response, he proposed seven legal mechanisms to bring perpetrators to justice: 1) build regional State capacity to prosecute and imprison perpetrators; 2) locate a Somali court in a third country and apply Somali law; 3 & 4) assist a regional State/States to establish special chambers within their national court system; 5) establish a regional tribunal (involving regional States & the AU); 6) create an international “hybrid” tribunal; and 7) establish a full international tribunal under Ch. VII.  In order to more fully explore these options and related issues, he announced his intention to appoint a Special Adviser on Legal Issues Related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which, though yet to be confirmed, is rumored to be Jack Lang.  As a sign of progress, however, the SG did note that in the past 18 months almost 600 Somali men have been prosecuted or convicted as a result of investigations by 11 States.   In her statement, Ambassador Rice commended the SG for his report and analysis of the seven legal options, and concluded by stating that piracy will not be resolved until Somalia is stabilized and, in this regard, the U.S. strongly supports the Djibouti Peace Process and Transitional Federal Government.  The debate concluded with the reading of a Presidential Statement.  (Note, as of yesterday Japan has a new Perm Rep, H.E. Mr. Tsuneo Nishida, who is replacing Ambassador Takasu, who held the position since 2007) 

DRC: the mass rape of women and children in the DRC has continued to receive strong international condemnation, and UNICEF’s Anthony Lake and Secretary Clinton have now both issued statements. 

UN-HABITAT: this morning the GA elected Joan Clos of Spain as Executive Director of UN-Habitat for a four year term beginning October 18.

Eminent Persons on LDCs: today the SG appointed a Group of Eminent Persons on Least Developed Countries, to advise on international support to LDCs in advance of the 4th UN Conference on LDCs, scheduled to take place in Istanbul from May 30-June 3, 2011.  The membership of the 10-member group, which will be co-chaired by Alpha Oumar Konaré (former President of Mali) and Jacques Delors (former President of the EC) and includes former President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn, can be found here

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UNHCR: “We are going to need massive amounts of funding” (Video)

CNN interviews a UN Refugee Agency worker on the ground in Pakistan. On its website, UNHCR says “$40 provides 10 blankets for flood victims in Pakistan displaced by floods; $100 provides a refugee with a survival kit containing a blanket, a mattress, a kitchen set, a cooking stove and soap; $200 provides an all-weather tent to shelter a displaced family.”

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What The Haiti Earthquake Can Teach Us About Pakistan Flood Response

The emergency phase of the Pakistan flood effort continues at pace.  Apparently, there are some 800,000 people reachable only by air.  That’s 800,000 people who’s only lifeline is a handful of US and Pakistani helicopters in the area.

In about one month there will be another meeting at the UN for the launch of a “consolidated appeal” for Pakistan.  This happens when the emergency phase of a humanitarian disaster ends and the long term recovery efforts begin.  This typically costs much more than emergency operations.  The Pakistan flood appeal is likely to be the biggest ever. 

The thing is, this appeal is just that–an appeal. There is only a little bit of designated money  set aside for these things.  Donors don’t have to give if they don’t want to–and there are plenty of places around the world that don’t seem to capture donors’ attention.  Still, because of the strategic importance of Pakistan, chances are they will elicit a pretty good response from donors. The problem is, donors might be wary of how their money is spent. In fact, there are already concerns that fear of government corruption are slowing donors’ reponse. 

Here is where the response to the Haiti earthquake might provide some guidance for a way forward:  In both places you had a democratic and internationally supported but weak civilian government.  For long term recovery efforts to be sustainable, donors must ultimately empower and strengthen the civilian government’s capacity to deliver services to its people.  To help thread the needle between wanting to empower a civilian government while satisfying donor’s concerns about transparency, the Haitian government created an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, co-chaired by Haiti’s Prime Minister and Bill Clinton, to “conduct strategic planning and coordination and implement resources from bilateral and multilateral donors, non-governmental organizations, and the business sector, with all necessary transparency and accountability.”

Having a high profile, internationally respected non-Haitian as a co-chair is certainly a boon to Haiti’s fund raising effort, while having the top government official as a co-chair ensures that this is a Haitian-driven proces.  Will Pakistan create a similar hybrid commission?  If so, who would be the prominent international co-chair?  On the one hand, the United States is by far the largest donor to Pakistan relief efforts so far. On the other hand, a prominent US role may be politically untenable

Who would you nominate to co-Chair an “Interim Pakistan Recovery Commission?”  Queen Rania?  Tony Blair?  Send us your thoughts via Twitter, @UNDispatch. 

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Responses to Latest Sexual Assault Crisis in DRC; Somalia Attack Condemned

DRC: the SG has issued a statement today in response to the rape and assault of at least 154 Congolese civilians during an attack by armed elements of the Mai-Mai and FDLR in eastern DRC earlier this month, expressing his “outrage”, calling on armed groups in the DRC to lay down their weapons and join the peace process and calling on the government of the DRC to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.  He has decided to immediately dispatch ASG Atul Khare, Officer-in-Charge of DPKO to the DRC, and has instructed Margot Wallström, SRSG for Sexual Violence in Conflict, to take the lead in the UN’s response and follow-up to the incident.  Wallström has also issued a strongly-worded statement “condemning the rapes in the strongest possible terms”.

Somalia: Augustine Mahiga, SRSG for Somalia, today condemned the attack on the Mogadishu hotel, in  which several civilians, including Members of Parliament, were killed.  The Security Council also issued a press statement condemning the attack and reiterating their support for the Transitional Federal Government & AMISOM.


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Bringing The Diplomacy Of “Dignity Promotion” To the UN MDG Summit

In a March 2008 article in the American Prospect, ]the journalist Spencer Ackerman wrote the first serious attempt to understand the organizing principals of then-candidate Obama’s foreign policy vision. Ackerman discovered that should Obama assume the presidency, “the Obama doctrine” as he put it, would be premised on “an agenda of ’dignity promotion’ to fix the conditions of misery that breed anti-Americanism and prevent liberty, justice, and prosperity from taking root.”

Two years into the Obama presidency, the precise contours of a “dignity promotion” agenda are beginning to take shape. That agenda will be tested on the world stage next month for the first time when President Obama meets with other heads of state for a United Nations summit on the Millennium Development Goals. That summit will show just how far the United States has come in increasing the relevance of global development in its foreign policy strategy—but also how far the United States and the rest of the world still has to go if it is to live up the promise of the MDGs.

In May 2010, President Obama released his administration’s first National Security Strategy—a quadrennial review of American national security priorities. Featured prominently was a section titled “promoting dignity by meeting basic needs,” which articulated the ways in which the United States was working to eradicate extreme poverty and promote global health.

The strategy document tied these efforts directly to American values, namely “the freedom that American stands for.” And, for the first time since 2000, when nearly 200 world leaders agreed to a set of poverty reduction and health promoting measures known as the Millennium Development Goals, those goals were mentioned, by name, in a US National Security Strategy. “The United States has embraced the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals and is working with others in pursuit of the eradication of extreme poverty,” the strategy read.

A few months later that strategic level guidance was followed up by the release of a more narrowly focused agenda of the administration’s strategy for reaching the MDGs. Titled “Celebrate, Innovate, and Sustain: Toward 2015 and Beyond” this document was the clearest manifestation yet of how the administration’s approach to extreme poverty and global health. With its release, the administration provided an insight into the nuts and bolts of how at least one part of its “dignity promoting agenda” would be implemented.

The theme of “innovation” runs throughout the document. The idea is to use American funds and expertise to fill discreet gaps in research, technology and other needs. “Drawing on America’s long tradition of development through innovation,” the document says, “we will increase funding for applied research, expand access to effective existing technologies, and practices, build learning partnerships and stimulate innovation in partner countries, and expand global access to knowledge.”

I asked USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah how that will work, in practice. “Just like we are on the verge of eradicating polio because they invented a vaccine that allowed us to not have to provide everyone with treatment services using iron lung,” he said, “in the same way we have huge opportunities to transition from more costly and ineffective strategies to things that are more highly scalable and lower cost.”

The hope is that a renewed focus on innovation may yield significant technological breakthroughs in the near future. For example, one promising new tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the first vaginal microbicidal gel which women can apply themselves, pre-intercourse. USAID largely funded the research that lead to this breakthrough, which is yielding promising results in clinical trials. If this document delivers on its promises we may see other important public health breakthroughs, including a new vaccine to fight childhood diarrhea, which kills two million children a year.

Of course, that is a big “if.” When the President’s latest budget was released earlier this year, some in the public health community expressed disappointment at what amounted to only marginal funding increases for these kinds of programs.  Further, many advocates – while generally positive about the MDG plan– lament that a long promised Obama administration strategy on global development has not yet been released. “Until the US has some kind of mission statement, all of these piecemeal reform efforts are like a ship without a compass,“ wrote Oxfam’s Porter McConnell.”Why  bother investing in ‘game changing innovations’ if we don’t know what destination we’re trying to get to?”

Still, the MDG strategy document provides a public demonstration of the administration’s commitment to the MDGs at a crucial time. When world leaders meet at the UN in September, they are expected to sign onto a plan that spells out the specific ways in which donors and recipient countries alike will help make the MDGs a reality by the 2015 target date. Diplomats are now deep into negotiations so as to finalize that document before their presidents and prime ministers arrive.

The last time world leaders gathered for this kind of confab was 2005. Back then, the American commitment to the MDGs was in serious doubt. Just weeks before the 2005 UN summit, the American Ambassador to the UN tried to scrub all mentions of the MDGs from an early draft of the outcome document, sending negotiations into a tailspin.

The United States has come a long way since then. Still, there is only so much that any one country can do on its own. These are, after all, a global effort. And while there has been progress in the aggregate since 2000, it has been uneven across regions, with sub-Saharan Africa still lagging behind. “Without a major push forward,” warns the UN. “Many of the MDG targets are likely to be missed in most regions.”

Closing that gap by 2015 is a key ambition of the summit. Whether that happens will, in part, be a test of how well a “dignity promotion” agenda is applied to traditional diplomacy at the UN. For the sake of billions of people around the world living below subsistence levels, let us hope it translates well.

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