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UN Plaza: Faltering Peace in Northen Uganda

In this edition of UN Plaza, I welcome Enough Campaign policy analyst Julia Speigel back to the program. We discuss her recent trip to Northern Uganda, where she monitored last month's peace talks between the government of Uganda and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army. The peace talks stalled at the last minute when rebel leader Joseph Kony failed to show up to the signing ceremony. In the clip below, Julia discusses how the international community might pressure Kony to come back to the table. You can also read her excellent report on how to revive the peace process in Northern Uganda.
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Taking On Maternal Death, One Cause at a Time

UNFPA officials are calling on governments to address the high rates of maternal death, and to find the root causes behind them. Deputy Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, Jaime Nadal-Roig, said in a recent interview:
"This should be from the perspective of reproductive health, which is more holistic. we have to look at root causes of the problem and the broader picture."
Tackling the specific causes of maternal complications, such as fistula incontinence, hypertensive disease and obstructed labor, can help reduce numbers. RH Reality Check has a piece up addressing the fact that nearly 13% maternal deaths that are caused by unsafe abortions. Here's a snippet:
Reducing maternal deaths is a laudable goal, and one that must be achieved if the rest of the millennium development goals are to be realized. But reductions in maternal mortality can never be fully realized unless the global community of donors, governments, and public health starts including abortion in realistic approaches to protecting women's health. If the world wants to promote development, it needs to start promoting comprehensive reproductive health care.
Read the full piece here.
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Over the Moon Over Somalia

At least one person on the UN Security Council is enthusiastic about the possibility of a robust UN peacekeeping force deploying to Somalia.
"I am so excited! I'm over the moon!" South Africa's jubilant U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo told reporters afterwards.
Somalis are also likely to be pleased by the news, because it indicates a firm UN commitment to help alleviate the deteriorating humanitarian and political situation in their country. The African Union also welcomes UN involvement, as its contingent of 2,600 Ugandan and Burundian troops is not sufficient to maintain security as the country slowly opens up a peace process. One reason that this force has remained so deeply undermanned is because neighboring countries are loathe to involve their troops in a regional conflagration; UN peacekeepers from all over the world will not have this problem. Possible troop-contributing countries may be less ecstatic, however, at the prospect of ponying up additional contributions to the over 110,000 blue helmets already deployed around the world. Other commentators are also likely to question the feasibility of rounding up troops for another UN peacekeeping mission when the force in Darfur remains over 16,000 personnel short of its target size. These are legitimate concerns, and, in calling for preparations for possible UN deployment, the Security Council is in fact anticipating the difficulty of obtaining peacekeepers. Setting out the conditions for dispatching a peacekeeping mission to Somalia -- while simultaneously pushing for more concerted pressure in broader peace negotiations -- is not mere bureaucratic red tape; it is a prudent recognition that simply throwing in troops that the international community cannot yet provide would not solve either Somalia's political or humanitarian woes. Pragmatism is necessary on deliberations of whether, when, and how UN peacekeepers -- or a coalition under a different guise, which was one of the options laid out in the Secretary-General's most recent report on Somalia -- deploy to Somalia, but to allow the weight of the difficulties of achieving such a deployment to trump the actual needs of the situation on the ground would smack of expediency and perpetrate a great disservice on Somalis.
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Bad News on World Economic Health

The United Nations released its semi-annual World Economic Situation and Prospects Report. The prospects are not so good. From the UN News Center
The deepening credit crisis in affluent countries triggered by the continuing housing slump, the declining value of the United States dollar, persisting global imbalances and soaring oil and commodity prices pose major threats to economic growth around the world, according to a report released today by United Nations economists. [snip] Today's report, issued by the UN's Department of Social and Economic Affairs (DESA), predicts that world economic growth will fall steeply to 1.8 per cent this year and 2.1 per cent next year, down from 3.8 per cent in 2007. The report says that much depends on developments in the US, which remains the prime driver of the global economy, and where a crashing housing market and finance and credit weaknesses set off the global downturn. A worst-case scenario would see the "world economy come to a virtual standstill" if recent financial measures in the US fail to turn the economy around, and house prices continue to fall, blending with a severe tightening on credit.
Read more. And for readers interested in learning more about the mortgage crisis, I fully recommend checking out last week's episode of This American Life from Chicago Public Radio.
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You Can’t Pressure Sudan Without China

According to John McCain, Darfur's genocide will be over in five years, if only we replace the United Nations with a "League of Democracies," an international body shorn of pesky non-allies like China and Russia. In a somewhat speculative speech today, McCain laid out the accomplishments that he envisions his administration will have accomplished by 2013.
After efforts to pressure the Government in Sudan over Darfur failed again in the U.N. Security Council, the United States, acting in concert with a newly formed League of Democracies, applied stiff diplomatic and economic pressure that caused the government of Sudan to agree to a multinational peacekeeping force, with NATO countries providing logistical and air support, to stop the genocide that had made a mockery of the world's repeated declaration that we would "never again" tolerant such inhumanity.
One minor problem here. While the U.S. has not indeed exerted sufficient pressure on Khartoum, it has used up a lot of the economic influence that it brings to the table. U.S. companies have not been able to do business in Sudan since 1998, thanks to sanctions that the Clinton administration placed on the regime for supporting terrorism. Additional targeted sanctions are still possible, and the U.S.-based divestment movement continues with full force, but the main source of funding for Sudan's genocidal apparatus is, of course, China (though India and Malaysia also have significant investments). Shutting out China, the most relevant player in Sudan, from the world's premier global institution would effectively close off the best possible avenue through which to pressure Khartoum. Working with China to end the genocide may be difficult and fraught with complications, but trying to do it without Beijing would be well-nigh impossible.
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Two More Cents on Burma and R2P

Seemingly everyone and their mother has lately weighed in on the subject of invoking the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as a way of securing aid for Burma's cyclone victims, but I wanted to add two points to the discussion. First, by and large, the R2P doctrine has been misunderstood or misrepresented in calls to "invade" Burma. R2P is often implied to boil down to a simple equation: if a government is unable or unwilling to adequately protect its citizens, then the international community has a right to forcibly intervene to protect these people. The first part of this conditional is accurate, but the second is a gross oversimplification. R2P does not prescribe invasion any more than the Constitution of the United States mandates impeachment. Military intervention is only one component of the R2P framework, and one of last resort, at that; it is only to be undertaken when a series of specific conditions are met, ensuring that intervention is justified, well-intentioned, practical, authorized by the proper authority (i.e., the UN Security Council), and will not cause more harm than good. Wielding R2P as a Trojan horse for invasion and regime change, as Robert Kaplan seems to desire, is harmful to the integrity and future viability of the concept, as well as to the more pressing concern of alleviating the Burmese people's suffering. Scott Paul, writing at The Washington Note, explains this point well, in reference to just one commentator with a convoluted understanding of R2P.
Unfortunately, Hiatt (like some others), seems to equate this principle with an international obligation to trample over the sovereignty of Myanmar in one fell swoop. It would be a disaster if R2P were first operationalized in the form of a hastily arranged military intervention in Myanmar, both for the Burmese people, for whom such an intervention could just as easily exacerbate the crisis as bring relief, and for the promise of the R2P concept, which actually outlines out a set of diplomatic and humanitarian options that are intended to avert a military showdown and preserve national sovereignty. For R2P to really grow in importance in a positive way, military intervention must be a last resort.
Since military intervention is not the only way to use R2P, though, invoking it in an accurate and responsible manner could actually perform a significant service to the doctrine. Merely by uttering these three words, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner spurred a discussion of R2P that will hopefully help hasten its integration into commonly accepted -- and enforced -- international norms.
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New Trouble for Darfur

Things are poised to go from worse, to very worse. From the UN News Center:
The Darfur conflict could lapse soon into another major cycle of violence and large-scale human displacement unless the parties retreat from their recent state of confrontation, the top United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council today. Briefing Council members on the work of UNAMID, the hybrid UN-African Union mission in Darfur, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno said there has been "a deeply disturbing" recent deterioration in the security situation. Last weekend's attack by rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) members on Government forces on the outskirts of the capital, Khartoum, illustrated that the conflict -- which has raged on and off since 2003 -- had the potential to move beyond the borders of the Darfur region, which lies on Sudan's western flank.
Read more.
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Top UN Aid Officials on the Charlie Rose Show

This is a couple of days old, but I thought I'd flag it anyway. The World Food Program's Josette Sheeran and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes discuss relief efforts in Burma with Charlie Rose.
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Robert Kaplan: Invade Burma

Robert Kaplan's NYT op-ed today is infuriating on a number of levels. Kaplan argues that the United States and a number of our European allies should consider mounting an invasion of Burma. He concedes that once such an an operation is mounted, the regime might fall so we should also be prepared to impose security afterward. Kaplan acknowledges that a Security Council resolution authorizing an invasion would likely be shot down by the recalcitrant Chinese, but proposes we send a coalition of the willing anyway. No problem with that, right? It's not like American forces are already fighting two costly wars. As for the Europeans, I foresee two problems. One, it's a big step to think that the Europeans will circumvent the Security Council. They take international law very seriously. Second, European forces are also bogged down around the world in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chad and Lebanon. Fact is, most European (and Commonwealth) governments are under strong domestic pressure to scale back their military commitments oversees. A new "coalition of the willing" for Burma is basically a non-starter. Also bothersome about the piece is that he believes the fantasy that we can just airdrop food and humanitarian assistance to the affected areas. This is just not so. Without intelligence on the ground (i.e. where to drop the relief) and a ready-to-go distribution mechanism, airdrops can do more harm than good. The strong will fight off the weak and people with guns will sell the relief on the black market. The aid will not go to the people who need it most. Yes, we do have a moral obligation to help the suffering Burmese. The way to fulfill that obligation is not to froth at the mouth for toppling another odious regime, but by working diplomatic channels to force the junta to relent their obstruction of humanitarian relief efforts. This may mean taking a harder line with China over its support of the junta. It certainly does not mean we need to ready the gears of war to invade and occupy the country. That, frankly is a distraction and counterproductive to first imperative of helping those in danger. UPDATE: Robert Farley has a couple of thoughts on the wisdom and utility of invading Burma.