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Forced Eviction of IDP Camp in Darfur

More disturbing news out of Darfur today. From the BBC:
An un-named UN official on Sunday saw the forced relocation of refugees at gunpoint from Otash camp to Amakassara. The UN says this "dangerous precedent" could jeopardise Darfur peace talks... UN emergency relief coordinator Sir John Holmes said a UN official witnessed Sudanese security forces with sticks and rubber hoses coercing hundreds of refugees, including women and children, to leave Otash refugee camp on the outskirts of Nyala.Other witnesses told the BBC they saw 10 vehicles with heavy machine guns surrounding people, while eight trucks were loaded with their belongings.The refugees have been moved into an area where the UN says it is known that the Janjaweed militia operate.
Read more. Also, see daily updates from the Passion of the Present.Finally, I'd like to thank blogger KM at the Coalition For Darfur, who has posted important updates on Darfur for the past three years. You have been an invaluable resource to me, and I'm sure countless others who have tried to keep up with the conflict in Darfur. Thanks for all your hard work over the years.
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Ban travels to Turkey for meeting on Iraq

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend a high-level diplomatic meeting on Iraq in Turkey this week.The Istanbul Expanded Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Neighbouring Countries of Iraq will focus on ways to promote greater regional dialogue."The Secretary-General hopes the Istanbul meeting will be an important opportunity for the participants to find mutually acceptable solutions on issues of common concern," spokesperson Marie Okabe said.More
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Uh, Fred?

As we've said before, the UN usually takes a beating during campaign season. The latest candidate to get in on the action is Fred Thompson, who in an 'exlusive email' to the Gun Nut blog of Field and Stream, rails against a UN plot to take guns away from law abiding Americans.Says Thompson, "Last year, the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights declared that international human rights law requires all nations to adopt strict gun control laws. These "minimum" provisions are much more restrictive than any of those on the books anywhere in the U.S. and would almost certainly violate the Second Amendment of our Constitution." I'm no fancy big city lawyer -- and I certainly don't play one on TV -- so I am hard-pressed to find something in this document that would violate Americans' second amendment rights. But, like I said, I'm no lawyer. Decide for yourself. Here are the offending paragraphs from the very brief August 2006 declaration of the Human Rights Council Sub-commission to which Thompson refers:
Urges States to adopt laws and policies regarding the manufacture, possession, transfer and use of small arms that comply with principles of international human rights and international humanitarian law;Also urges States to provide training on the use of firearms by armed forces and law enforcement personnel consistent with basic principles of international human rights and humanitarian law with special attention to the promotion and protection of human rights as a primary duty of all State officials;Further urges States to take effective measures to minimize violence carried out by armed private actors, including using due diligence to prevent small arms from getting into the hands of those who are likely to misuse them;
As you can see, these are pretty broad directives. And as you can see, no country is required to do anything. In fact, the only UN body that can require something of a member state is the Security Council, on which the United States has a veto.
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‘The Melancholy Destiny of the UN’

On October 22, the New York Times Magazine's James Traub published a report on the likelihood of an expanded UN role in Iraq for the Stanley Foundation. Traub speaks to UN Dispatch about the report, the inevitability of greater UN involvement in Iraq, and the troubling prospect that Iraq's last best hope may still fail.In your report, you argue that it is inevitable that the UN take on a more robust political role in Iraq. How do you come to that conclusion? It is probably inevitable that the UN's role will be expanded, but it is by no means inevitable what that role will be. It will be expanded in part because the dimensions of catastrophe there call on some of the abilities that the UN uniquely has. For example, the whole question of what will be done with the over two million refugees -- perhaps an equal number of IDPs -- is the kind of work the UN does. There is also another sense in which the expansion of the UN's role is inevitable, namely that there is a wish both on the part of the United States and of the United Nations for an expanded UN role.The question is, what can the UN usefully contribute to Iraq?
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UNCHR: More than 4.4 million Iraqis have been displaced

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reports that violence in Iraq has displaced more than 4.4 million people. The agency estimates that 60,000 people are forced to leave their homes every month.
Of these, some 2.2 million Iraqis are displaced internally, while more than 2.2 million have fled to neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan. Many were displaced prior to 2003, but an increasing number are fleeing now. In 2006, Iraqis had become the leading nationality seeking asylum in Europe.
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US Softening its Position on Climate Change?

Via Jurist, I see that the UN's top climate change negotiator, Yvo de Boer, told reporters yesterday that the United States and Australia -- the only two western industrial nations not to ratify the Kyoto Accords -- have agreed to participate in the Bali conference to negotiate a successor climate change agreement. de Boer's announcement came after informal meetings with member states in Indonesia yesterday. From the AP:
"The United States came to this meeting with a very constructive position, saying they want to see a launch of negotiations" to be concluded by 2009, he said…"The United States and Australia indicated in this meeting they are willing to begin negotiations," de Boer told reporters Thursday. "They are willing take on commitment on the future climate change regime."[snip]U.S. Undersecretary of State Paula J. Dobriansky said the Indonesian talks were the "kind of discussion that needs to take place to move us forward." Dobriansky could not say if the United States would drop its long-standing opposition to forced emission reductions, but noted that a combination of mandatory measures and financial incentives was part of domestic environmental policy.
Baby steps, perhaps. But a step in the right direction nonetheless! It was unclear just a few months ago, for example, if the United States would even participate the Bali negotiations, which will take place in early December.
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UN agencies work together to help Somali rape victims

United Nations agencies are working together to address the problem of sexual violence in Somalia."After years of war, rape has become a threat to women in Somalia when they move along roads, due to the presence of militia at illegal roadblocks. They are also at risk in IDP settlements located on the outskirts of towns such as Galkayo, which are too isolated to be secure," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a news release.More
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Worst than the Grinch

As Mark mentioned, not everyone got into the spirit of UN Day yesterday. Niles Gardiner, from the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, published this:
As overpaid and under worked United Nations bureaucrats quaff champagne and feast on canapés and shrimp in Turtle Bay to celebrate U.N. Day, it is important for the world to remember those who have been failed by the organization, or have suffered at its hands.
He goes on to blame the UN for the Rwanda genocide, the Darfur genocide, and the suffering of "millions of Iraqis...under the brutal boot of the Baathist regime while Saddam Hussein plundered the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food Program," among a list of other things.The most disappointing part of Gardiner's post is its single-minded view of world events. Nobody who is serious about foreign policy actually believes in reductions like his. Obviously there are other factors that, one would hope, should speak to his hypotheses. UN troops are "peacekeepers" and are not intended to be an invasionary force or successfully operate in areas where there is no peace to keep. Rwanda and Darfur were (and are being) failed by all of humanity, not specifically the UN. Those "millions of Iraqis" he mentions, 80 percent of the population, were actually supplied critical medical supplies and food through the Oil-for-Food program, not to mention the fact that Saddam Hussein was unable to develop a WMD program during that time. These were the stated goals of the program. The majority of the resources that flowed to Hussein during this period were due to "sanctions violations outside the Programme's framework," oil smuggling to the tune of $11 billion as compared to the estimated $1.8 billion in revenues from OFF manipulation.