Here in Washington, the term “revolving door” refers to the phenomenon of former government officials taking up private sector posititions to lobby their former colleagues for lucrative government contracts. This is very common and afflicts both parties with equal opportunity. Indeed, even the most committed and die-hard ideologues are not immune from the pressure to cash out and draw on the contacts they have made in years of government service. For instance, one John R. Bolton has joined the board of EMS Technologies, a firm that describes itself as “a leading provider of wireless connectivity solutions over satellite and terrestrial networks.”
In a release earlier this month, EMS touted a new effort to boost government sales.
As Emily reported yesterday, the President of the General Assembly convened a panel discussion yesterday that wasn’t exactly friendly toward the Responsibility to Protect. This was, as I explained earlier, part of an unfortunate PGA power play (no, that’s not a mixed sports metaphor) to back off from R2P. But to hear The Economist tell it, it was practically an anti-R2P putsch.
Contrary to The Economist‘s salacious wording, I don’t think it’s worth affording this week’s discussions the gravity of a “campaign to sabotage R2P.” Nor did it occur “in defiance of Ban Ki-moon,” who gave his remarks a couple days before the actual debate, making the savvy argument to not replace the “substance” of R2P with the “rancor” of politically fraught debate.
There are critics of R2P, to be sure, some legitimate, but many brandishing misconstructions of the doctrine as a sort of handy fig leaf for neocolonialism. What they are brandishing, however, are the sharpened “knives” with with The Economist claims certain governments are attempting to “unravel” R2P. The responsibility to protect is not going to collapse because of this week’s discussion, past Security Council resolutions are not going to “un-invoke” R2P, and, hopefully, the debate will progress to the level of how best to prevent mass atrocities and protect civilian populations.
Another tragic example of the dangers that UN personnel face:
The attack on the U.N. worker took place early Thursday at the Kacha Garhi camp near Peshawar. Local police chief Ghayoor Afridi said the assailants tried to abduct the U.N. official and opened fire when he resisted.
The chief of the U.N. refugee agency in Pakistan, Guenet Guebre-Christos, identified the dead U.N. worker as Zill-e-Usman, a 59-year-old Pakistani in charge of the U.N.’s relief efforts at the camp. She said Usman had worked for the U.N. for nearly 30 years and was set to retire soon.
“He was quite an old hand and he was looking forward to his retirement,” Guebre-Christos told The Associated Press. She strongly condemned the attack, calling it a “cowardly assassination.”
This UN worker was one of many trying to help the two million Pakistani civilians that have been displaced. Trying to abduct him — and hinder the protection and resettlement of fellow Pakistanis in the process — was indeed cowardly, as well as foolish, egotistical, and vile.
The report also notes the arrival of the UN team, led by Chilean ambassador Heraldo Munoz, tasked with investigating another cowardly assassination in the country: that of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a group of scientists from scores of countries that study the effects of climate change. Their findings have provided scientific backbone to policy debates about how much carbon emissions should be reduced over how long a period of time to stem the most dramatic effects of climate change. In other words, they are an invaluable resource to humanity.
This is something that the Nobel Commitee recoginized when it awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize to the IPCC. Someone who apparently does not share this view is one Blaine Luetkemeymer, the representative of the 9th district of Missouri in the United States Congress. He thinks the IPCC is “international junk science.” Accordingly, he just introduced a bill that would block the United States from funding the IPCC.
For kicks, his press release says: “Luetkemeyer’s legislation would prohibit U.S. contributions to the IPCC, which is nothing more than a group of U.N. bureaucrats that supports man-made claims on global warming that many scientists disagree with.” (emphasis mine)
It would seem that Mr. Luetkemeyer’s know-nothingism extends to English grammar.
“The so-called ‘military coup’ in Honduras was a successful effort by Honduran patriots to preserve their constitutional system of government from an international alliance of communists and socialists backed by Iran,” Kincaid wrote in a column published at aim.org.
Yes, Zelaya tried to subvert national institutions to his parochial advantage. But the military deposing a duly elected national president is inimical to the principals of democracy that the Honduran military is purporting to defend. I think Kevin Casas-Zamora said it best in a balanced piece for Brookings, “If Zelaya must be prosecuted for his hare-brained attempt to subvert the Honduran constitution, then let the courts proceed as rigorously as possible. And the same applies to the coup perpetrators. If Honduras is to have a decent future its politicians and soldiers, in equal measure, must learn that the road to democracy and development runs through the rule of law.”
UPDATE: Republican members of Congress join the fray.
Even though Israel is not participating, or did not allow the commission — headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone — to pass through Israeli territory, it seems to have helped bring about two developments that can be applauded.
First, despite its opposition to the probe, which is mandated to investigate actions of both the Israeli military and Hamas, the Israeli government has agreed to provide compensation for the damage inflicted upon UN buildings, including a school, in Gaza during the December/January offensive. This is a welcome step, though it does not of course excuse the inexcusable: bombing a UN building, even by accident, but particularly if targeted, makes Ban Ki-moon very, very angry.
Second, and more directly, the commission was able to hear from Israeli witnesses, most prominently the father of captured soldier Gilad Shalit, in Geneva. That the investigation is seeking out such witnesses should be signs enough to the Israeli brass that it is not “hopelessly biased,” but alas, that train, as they say, has sailed.
Middle East: During the last 48 hours of the continued ceasefire, humanitarian workers have delivered food to hundreds of thousands of people, repaired water and sanitation infrastructure, re-stocked medical supplies, and some of the 520,000 displaced Palestinians have returned to their homes. However, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator remarked the scale of needs remains “unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.”
Middle East: At today’s informal session of the General Assembly on Gaza the SG remarked that the most recent ceasefire has held since yesterday at 8 a.m. local time. He noted that a durable ceasefire is necessary and UN shelters must continue to remain safe zones. The SG thanked UN staff in Gaza and will fly the UN flag at half-mast tomorrow in memory of those who died in the conflict.
Middle East: The SG commended Israeli and Palestinian parties for committing to a 72-hour ceasefire that took place at 8 a.m. local time today. He urges all parties to abide by the ceasefire and commence peace talks in Cairo to address underlying issues and agree on a durable ceasefire to sustainably stop the violence. The UN lends its full support toward these efforts.
Middle East: The SG condemned yesterday’s shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah that killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians. The SG stated that the attack violated international humanitarian law and UN shelters must continue to be safe zones and not combat zones.
SG: Last night the SG spoke at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica where he repeated his call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire. Speaking about yesterday’s shelling of a UN shelter he said: “Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror” and demanded “that all parties immediately respect UN premises”.
SG: The SG met with President Ortega yesterday in Nicaragua where he visited a wind farm and praised the country’s commitment to renewable energy. The SG arrived in Costa Rica today where he is expected to lecture about “Costa Rica and the United Nations: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century”.