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Is the International Community Abandoning South Sudan?

The world’s youngest nation has plunged deeper into crisis — and fallen further off the international agenda. Overshadowed by Ebola, ISIS and protests in Hong Kong, a new round of peace talks resumed last week to end the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. Mediated by the African Union, the negotiations between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar, aim to broker a power-sharing deal and halt the violence that has engulfed South Sudan since Kiir dismissed Machar in December. The international community must take a more active role in this process.

There are obvious security and humanitarian implications of continued instability in what is now considered the world’s most fragile state. An estimated 1.7 million South Sudanese civilians have been uprooted by violence, some fleeing across the nation’s porous borders while many others seek refuge in UN compounds and other de-facto camps for internally displaced people. The conflict has exacerbated food insecurity throughout the country, prompting the UN to declare an acute level 3 emergency. South Sudan’s crippling underdevelopment leaves it with little capacity to contend with the consequences of this war, which is jeopardizing efforts to integrate South Sudan into the East African Community, a regional economic bloc that recently initiated trade negotiations. Worse, neighboring countries such as Uganda and Sudan have become involved in the conflict, risking a larger military confrontation and potentially destabilizing the entire region.

But beyond the urgent political and humanitarian imperatives to intervene in this crisis, the UN, U.S. and European Union must consider their more basic obligations to South Sudan. Over the past five years, these stakeholders have funneled billions of dollars into the country, undertaking an ambitious state-building campaign that has rivaled those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly overnight, Juba transformed from a remote outpost into a hub for multilateral aid and development organizations. The U.S. was instrumental in helping broker the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the Sudanese Civil War and facilitating the subsequent independence referendum, which gave birth to a sovereign southern republic in 2011. The role of the international community in helping the South Sudanese secure and build their own country raises important questions as to whether it is doing enough currently to help them achieve peace.

This is not to suggest that foreign donors and international agencies are absent. The U.S. recently pledged $83 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing its total aid allocation to South Sudan this year to $720 million. Britain has sent more than $200 million in aid. UNHCR and other agencies have ramped up operations in the country. But these efforts, in focusing on providing relief to victims of the violence, are only mitigating the symptoms of the crisis, rather than addressing the underlying causes of their suffering.

Such a response illustrates the pitfalls of the “new humanitarianism” that Alain Destexhe, a former Secretary-General for Medecines Sans Frontieres, argues has become a feature of the post-Cold War era. This “new humanitarianism” is characterized by donors dispensing large sums of humanitarian aid not as a supplement, but a substitute for taking decisive political or military action to end civil wars or other man-made disasters. The troubled legacies of international attempts to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan will likely reinforce this trend. But simply providing aid to South Sudan is not sufficient, especially when the government can simply expel humanitarian workers or enact laws that strictly regulate the activities of local civil society organizations. Improvements in public health or social services gained through donor-funded programs are, at best, fleeting when pervasive insecurity encourages local authorities to divert a majority of public funds to security and law enforcement.

So while the international community may have a clear material interest in stabilizing South Sudan, it also bears a larger ethical responsibility to help secure a durable peace. The UN and its most influential member states have already claimed an active stake in the country’s future. The people of South Sudan need a more forceful demonstration of this commitment — and they need it now, more than ever.

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Kristof interview

Episode 38: Nicholas Kristof

Nicholas Kristof is on the line! The New York Times columnist grew up in rural Oregon with a father who escaped near-certain death in a World War Two prison camp. Kristof tells Mark how he got his start in journalism and discusses some of the big assignments of his career, like the Tiananmen Square massacre and the genocide in Darfur. You’ll hear some fascinating stories from someone who you’ve no doubt read for years. They kick off with a discussion of A Path Appears, the new book by Kristof and his co-author and wife Sheryl WuDunn.

This interview is part of a podcast series in which foreign policy thought leaders and luminaries share their life stories and discuss the influences that shaped their worldview from an early age. Check out the archives and subscribe!

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New York and New Jersey Under Criticism for Quarantine Policy

On Friday, the governors of New York and New Jersey mandated that any travelers coming from ebola affected regions who had direct contact with ebola patients must be held in strict isolation. On Sunday night, New York eased that requirement slightly. Still, a perfectly healthy MSF nurse wrote a scathing op-ed about her treatment in isolation and public health officials are warning that this policy is both unnecessary and may discourage health workers for traveling to the regions they are most needed.  “‘I don’t want to be directly criticizing the decision that was made but we have to be careful that there are unintended consequences,’ said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. ‘The best way to stop this epidemic is to help the people in West Africa, we do that by sending people over there, not only from the U.S.A. but from other places,’ Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He called such quarantines ‘a little bit draconian.’” ((Reuters

Also…Quarantined MSF nurse Kaci Hickox says she doesn’t have a fever; a preliminary blood test came back negative for Ebola. She reportedly hired a civil rights attorney to work for her release Sunday. (NPR

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, arrived in Guinea’s capital Conakry on Sunday to see first hand how the global response is failing to stop the deadly spread of Ebola in West Africa. She will also visit Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone this week. (Reuters

Earth at Risk…The World Wildlife Fund says more than half of the world’s wildlife population has been lost. The conservation group says this has placed the health of the planet at risk. “We are consuming on average every year about the equivalent of about 1.5, one-and-a half times the resources available to the planet. That means we are cutting trees more quickly than they can be restored.  We are fishing the oceans more quickly than fishing stocks can reproduce, and we are emitting in the atmosphere more CO2 than the natural systems can actually absorb. This is clearly not sustainable.” (VOA


Mauritania has closed its border with Mali to prevent the spread of Ebola, officials said on Saturday, highlighting fears of further contagion in West Africa after a girl from Guinea died of the disease in Mali this week. (Reuters

The longer the Ebola outbreak rages in West Africa, the greater chance a traveler infected with the virus touches down in an Asian city. (AP

Africa’s economic growth is bounding ahead, despite the Ebola epidemic gnawing at its western shoulder, but some see the continent showing a deficit in solidarity towards the three poor and war-weakened states worst hit by the deadly disease. (Reuters


Three United Nations peacekeepers were injured in northern Mali on Saturday when a blast struck their convoy near the northern desert town of Kidal, the U.N. mission said. (Reuters

The general secretary of the Ghana Medical Association says public sector workers will continue their indefinite strike action this week to pressure President John Dramani Mahama’s government to address their concern about their pensions. (VOA

Sudan’s ruling party has given final approval to President Omar al-Bashir as its candidate in next year’s presidential vote, sealing his bid to extend his rule after 25 years in power. (Reuters

A major political party in Burkina Faso on Saturday pledged to support a plan to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to stand for re-election next year, when he was due to stand down. (Reuters

The sovereign debt market is booming, with sub-Saharan African countries raising nearly $7 billion so far this year, more than in all of 2013, according to Dealogic, a market research firm. (NY Times


Tunisians voted on Sunday in parliamentary elections that bring full democracy finally within their reach, four years after their revolution cast out autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. (Reuters

An absolutely horrific tale of the physical and psychological torture endured by ISIS’ hostages. (NYT


The organizers of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest have canceled a vote on what the next steps should be in their month-long street occupation. (VOA

Indonesia’s new president on Sunday appointed professional technocrats to lead the top economic ministries and implement much-needed reforms to deal with costly fuel subsidies, cooling investment and the country’s creaky infrastructure. (VOA


Combat operations in Helmand Province officially ended on Sunday for the United States Marines and British troops stationed there, bringing an end to a decade-long struggle to keep a major Taliban stronghold and the region’s vast opium production in check. (NYT

The Americas

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been re-elected for a second term, after securing more than 51% of votes in a closely-fought election. (BBC

Uruguay’s election for a new president to succeed Jose Mujica will go to second round, exit polls say. (BBC

Haiti’s government announced it was postponing long-delayed legislative and municipal elections that had been due to be held Sunday, triggering protests by thousands of angry would-be voters. (AFP

Reuters Factbox: Uruguay’s presidential candidates and their policies


Contras and Drugs, Three Decades Later (IPS

A Doctor’s Diary: Encountering Chaos And Kindness In An Ebola Ward (NPR

Make love, not development goals (Aid Thoughts

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Americans Rather Like The United Nations

American like the United Nations–and there is data to prove it.

A new poll from a bi-partisan polling team shows that nearly three quarters of likely American voters surveyed believe that the United Nations is still relevant and needed today. These voters overwhelmingly believe that the United States should work with the United Nations to solve common problems.

The survey released this week is the latest of an ongoing series of polls conducted by the bi-partisan team of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Better World Campaign.  As you can see from the data below, the relevance of the United Nations to American voters is at an all time high. 


Why are Americans suddenly more supportive of the United Nations? The answer probably has to do with the ebola outbreak in West Africa. According to the poll, 92% of likely American voters believe that the United Nations has an important role to play in stopping the ebola outbreak in west Africa. The poll also found that voters are supportive of the WHO’s effort to stop the outbreak, and that Americans want the United States to work with the United Nations to help contain the outbreak.

Here’s the full polling data. It’s a bit of UN-day present from the American public to the United Nations.

October 2014 Poll Executive Summary

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Credit: UNFCCC

Why the Bonn Climate Talks Matter

Another round of UN climate change negotiations are taking place this week in Bonn. This is the third time countries are meeting in Germany this year to create a legally enforceable mechanism they all agreed was necessary following the 2011 summit in Durban, South Africa. The outcome of this week will be a draft text that countries will work to ratify at the major summit this December in Lima, Peru. What comes out of Lima will in turn set the stage for the final, binding agreement on climate change next year in Paris. In other words, the Bonn talks kick off a year of intense diplomacy on climate change–and there is a great deal at stake.

One of the biggest complaints about UN negotiations, and the climate change negotiations in particular, is a lack of accountability. Countries can agree to any measures in the presence of other UN members at a conference, but can easily claim politics and economic problems for not implementing any of those measures if there is no legal requirement to do so. The Bonn talks are intended to correct that problem.

In Bonn, national governments will agree to a draft text that contains the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), or the voluntary funds and actions, to which each country can commit by March 2015. Especially important are terms of emissions reductions and other chances to mitigate the effects of climate change like improving energy efficiency, increased use of renewable energy, efficient and resilient urban environment design, and land use improvement. These INDCs will be the basis of the decision on pre-2020 goals that will be ratified at the in Lima this December.

There is consensus among countries in Bonn that first drafts of INDCs will not be sufficient to keep global warming below 2º C — but that is where agreement ends.  Determinations of which countries can and should contribute what are the heart of the whole climate negotiations. Developing countries argue that developed countries need to make amends on the latter’s disproportionate lifestyles and manufacturing. Developed countries say they should not have to foot the bill for outsized populations or closed off economies not open to investment in innovation and technology.

Using 2020 as a marker is critical because whatever agreement text is worked on and ratified in Lima serves as the basis for the ultimate agreement to be ratified at in Paris next year, which — according to the plan — would becomes binding in 2020.  This doesn’t leave much time for countries to come together on two specific issues in Bonn this year: carbon capture and slightly raising emission reduction goals.

Carbon capture technology and storage (CCS) is often touted as a solution to the climate problem.  The technology allows emitters to catch and secure nearly 90% of their carbon emissions from fossil fuel use.  The carbon does not enter the environment as a result.  The issue is that, within the UN climate negotiations, many see the use of the technology as a stall tactic. Developed countries like the U.S., Canada, and Australia are able to keep using fossil fuels and could possibly divert mitigation or adaptation funds towards developing more advanced carbon capture and storage technology. Some feel it is used as a political crutch to avoid a real move towards fossil fuel independence and away from polluting fracking and oil sands projects.  Still, CCS technology development will likely lead to an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and is probably more politically viable in developed countries given the power of oil and gas companies and manufacturers.  The companies will not have to drastically change their operations and governments can say they are reducing emissions.

Another issue that is critical in Bonn and will lead to progress in Peru and ratification in Paris in 2015 is ratifying the second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.  The first round ended in 2012 and required a pledge to reduce emissions to 15% of 1990 levels.  The second round, which runs from 2013 to 2020, would require a reduction of emissions to 18% of greenhouse gas levels present in 1990. Really, all it would take are a few of the developed countries to sign on.  However, countries like the U.S. have a stance, the Byrd-Hagel resolution, that no international agreement would be agreed to that excludes large population centers like India and China from emissions reductions. Canada withdrew from the first round commitment citing the heavy burden of financial penalties should they stay committed.  It may not be a coincidence that tar sands and fracking projects went into full swing after their 2011 withdrawal.

A draft decision will be issued on October 25, from the Bonn talks. Then negotiators move to Lima in December, leaving about one year for intense and complex diplomacy before the Paris talks in November 2015. There is no option for negotiators but to make progress in each round at this point.

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Ebola Comes to New York, But It’s Mali We Should Be Worried About

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With word of a doctor in NYC coming down with ebola, there’s a potentially much more worrying development: a two year old girl has tested positive for ebola in Mali.

In Mali:Speaking on state television on Thursday, Malian Health Minister Ousmane Kone said the infected girl was being treated in the western town of Kayes. She was brought to a local hospital on Wednesday and her blood sample was Ebola-positive, Mr Kone said. The child and those who have come into contact with her have been put in quarantine.The girl’s mother died in Guinea a few weeks ago and the child was then brought by relatives to Mali, Reuters news agency quotes a health ministry official as saying. Mali is now the sixth West African country to be affected by the latest Ebola outbreak – however Senegal and Nigeria have since been declared virus-free by the WHO. (BBC

In New York. A physician working with MSF in Guinea has tested positive for the disease in New York City. This is the first imported case to the USA’s largest city. “The doctor, Craig Spencer, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center on Thursday and placed in isolation while health care workers spread out across the city to trace anyone he might have come into contact with in recent days. A further test will be conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm the initial test. While officials have said they expected isolated cases of the disease to arrive in New York eventually, and had been preparing for this moment for months, the first case highlighted the challenges surrounding containment of the virus, especially in a crowded metropolis.”  (NYT

From DAWNS Subscriber Mike R: “On October 25th activists in more than 35 countries will mobilize their communities for the first Global Day of Action for the Right to Health by holding marches, rallies, teach-ins, and candlelight vigils to raise awareness of health disparities across the globe and demand political action to address them. The Day of Action is being coordinated by the Article 25 Education Fund (, and other groups focused on creating a social movement for the right to health and article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”


Ebola has now reached every district in Sierra Leone and all but one district in Liberia, with “intense transmission” in these countries’ capital cities, according to the WHO. West Africa today is nowhere near goals set by the United Nations to get the outbreak under control, according to the WHO. (USA Today

Why a proven ebola vaccine sat on the shelf almost a decade ago (NYT

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen said Thursday he was boosting his donations to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to $100 million. (AFP


Suspected Boko Haram militants kidnapped at least 25 girls in an attack on a remote town in northeastern Nigeria, witnesses said, despite talks on freeing over 200 other female hostages they seized in April. (Irish Times

A group of South Sudanese women peace activists has suggested that men in the civil war-torn country be denied sex until they stop fighting. (News Vision

USAID has announced a $75 million food security program in Madagascar. (USAID


Auditors and employees at the U.S. Agency for International Development say critical assessments of the agency’s work in Egypt were removed from a report before it was released by the agency’s inspector general he Washington Post reported on Thursday. (Reuters

The UN has launched a $2.2 billion humanitarian appeal for Iraq. (OCHA


China’s Communist leaders promised legal reforms on Thursday that could give judges more independence from interference by local officials but will leave the party essentially above the law, after a high-level meeting that had been billed as a pivotal moment in the country’s legal history. (WaPo

India is set to sign a memorandum on Friday to be one of the 21 founding members of the newly established Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an initiative by China. (Times of India

Nine members of the Hazara community were shot dead in what appeared to be targeted killings in different parts of Quetta, Pakistan. (Tribune–Pakistan

Former U.S. government officials say the release of an American who had been detained in North Korea for nearly six months is not likely to significantly affect relations between Washington and Pyongyang. (VOA

The Americas

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto renewed his pledge to punish perpetrators of alleged massacres by security forces as a state governor stepped down amid a crisis that’s overshadowing the Mexican president’s economic agenda. (Bloomberg

The U.S. government urged a federal judge on Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the United Nations by a group of Haitians who claim peacekeepers caused the devastating cholera epidemic that followed their country’s 2010 earthquake. (Reuters )


Americans don’t know much about African geography and that is undermining the fight against ebola…and US policy in Africa in general. Mark interviews Laura Seay in the newest episode of the Global Dispatches Podcast

America is losing influence in Latin America–and that’s great news. (The Week

South Sudan peace deal offers glimmer of hope. (Guardian

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