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Meanwhile, a Global Food Crisis

Once again, the World Food Program is warning that unless donors step up it will have to start rationing food aid.
The Rome-based World Food Program said it issued the appeal in a letter sent to governments on Thursday, urging them to be as generous as possible by May 1 so the WFP will not have to begin rationing food aid.The agency estimates that in Darfur alone it needs to provide emergency food for as many as 3 million people daily. The organization, the world's largest humanitarian agency, gives food to as many as 70 million people worldwide.Earlier this month, WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said that the high prices of food and oil have been swelling the ranks of the hungry since last summer, and cautioned that the crisis would continue for several years.Sheeran said that a 40 percent rise in the cost of fuel and commodities such as grain since mid-2007 have raised the cost of food and transport, causing the shortfall in the agency's 2008 budget.
The WFP says it needs $125 million to cover transportation costs and $375 million to purchase new food stocks. But this is just the humanitarian face of a larger global crisis. As Ban wrote a couple weeks ago rising food prices are also fomenting political instability around the world.
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Monday Morning Coffee

The Olympic torch has begun its 85,000-mile journey. The American death toll in Iraq reaches 4,000.

Top Stories

>>Pakistan - On Saturday, the Pakistan People's Party named its pick for Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, a former speaker of the National Assembly who spent four years in jail under what many consider to be trumped-up corruption charges. Many speculate that Gillani was chosen over Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who ran the PPP during Benazir Bhutto's exile, because he will be easier for Bhutto widower Asif Ali Zardari to dislodge after he runs for a seat in parliament and is eligible for the top position. Meanwhile, Musharraf has vowed to support the new government.

>>Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe's leading opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has accused the government of Zimbabwe of printing 9 million ballots for Friday's election when the nation only has 5.9 million registered voters, which includes nearly 600,000 extra for civil servants, police, and soldiers. Meanwhile, Mugabe increased government debt 65-fold ($53 billion) in the six weeks leading up to March 7 to bump up civil servant salaries and supply farm equipment.

>>Colombia/Ecuador - Colombia has admitted that an Ecuadorean citizen was killed in the raid three weeks ago on FARC rebels in Ecuadorean territory that caused a diplomatic standoff between Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, had previously said that it would be "extremely grave" if it proved true that an Ecuadorian was killed in the raid.

>>Bhutan - The people of Bhutan will become members of the world's newest democracy today as they vote in an election for seats in the lower house of parliament that will end the hundred years' rule of the extremely popular Wangchuck royal family. The 28-year-old king has implored citizens to vote.

Friday in UN Dispatch
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U.S. Intervenes on Ethiopian Abortion Law

I applaud recent posts by Frances and Michelle recognizing that, for much of the world, unsafe abortion remains a critical issue for women's health and rights. I also agree with those who have said that U.S. leadership and support is crucial, and that addressing this problem should be high on the agenda for the next administration.Here in Ethiopia, we have changed our law to expand the indications for legal abortion. The new law is a result of several years' effort by a coalition of health and women's rights advocates both in and out of government working together to revise Ethiopia's laws in accordance with the 1992 constitution.
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We’re Only Going to Get What We Give

On page one of the Post today, Colum Lynch pens an excellent breakdown of budgetary pressures facing the United Nations. This month, reports Lynch, the United Nations secretariat asked it's top donors, including the United States, for an additional $1.1 billion over the next two years. Why would the UN need this extra cash? Forgive the pun, but here's the money graf from Lynch
Much of the increased spending flows from Bush administration demands for a more ambitious U.N. role around the world. During President Bush's tenure, the United States has signed off on billions of dollars for U.N. peacekeeping operations in Sudan and elsewhere, and authorized hundreds of millions for U.N. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.N. officials helped organize elections and draft a new constitution.
There are always two important thing to keep in mind when folks rail against UN spending. 1) The UN's budget is relatively small. It's regular operating budget is about $5 billion; peacekeeping costs about $6 billion. 2) The United States has an effective veto over increases to both peacekeeping and the regular UN budget. If the United States does not think it is in its interest to incur a portion of the cost of a peacekeeping mission, the US always has the option to use its veto to block the mission.On the other hand, the growth we have seen at the UN over the last few years is largely due to America directing the UN to take on more jobs. Among other things, the United States--which is the UN's single largest patron--has turned to the UN to send peacekeepers to the Horn of Africa, set up a war crimes tribunal in Lebanon, and arrange elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the United States has directed the UN to take on such roles, it only stands to reason that the United States should be expected to pay its fair share of the costs.
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Final Word on Somalia

To clear up any misconceptions, the United Nations--as a rule--does not send peacekeepers to places where there is no peace to keep. Somalia today certainly falls into this category.Peacekeepers are trained to keep the peace, not mount invasions. Furthermore, the Secretary General does not have any standing forces at his disposal. When the Security Council approves a peacekeeping mission, the Secretary General must rely on member states to pony up troops and equipment. To complicate matters, member states are generally reluctant to offer their troops for a peacekeeping mission that has no ceasefire or political agreement to uphold (see: Sudan, Darfur).The Security Council can, however, approve the kind of mission that Alex Thurston considers necessary to save Somalia.The defense of Kuwait in 1990 and Australia's interventions in in East Timor, for example, were authorized by the Security Council. However, these are not "UN peacekeeping missions," but essentially war-fighting efforts led by individual member states. For humanitarian intervention to occur in Somalia tomorrow, an individual country, NATO, or some coalition of the willing would have to take on the project themselves. Presumably, this would include evicting Ethiopian troops, suppressing an insurgency and defeating spoilers. So far, no country seems willing to take this on, so the next best option is to work to secure a political agreement between as many factions as possible and then use UN peacekeepers as the guarantors of that peace. The newest Secretary General's report on Somalia, linked here, recommends this path--and I suspect the Security Council will approve.
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Still Debating Peace and Justice in Northern Uganda

Last week, Mark and I both expressed our opinions of the controversy in Northern Uganda, where a proximate peace accord is being stalled by rebel leader Joseph Kony's insistence on immunity from ICC prosecution. Though there are no new developments in the stalemate, I wanted to share the well-reasoned opinion of Kevin Jon Heller, a blogger at the peerless Opinio Juris. Rejecting his colleague Julian Ku's assertion that "the ICC really is now the obstacle to peace," Kevin gives his take on how to navigate out of this morass.
It seems to me that the answer lies in the ICC's principle of complementarity. Given that ordinary Ugandans favor traditional justice for low-level perpetrators and criminal prosecution for high-level perpetrators, the Court should insist on two things: (1) that the Ugandan government and the LRA revert back to their original plan to try Kony and the other LRA leaders in Uganda's High Court; and (2) that the Ugandan government revamp its criminal justice system to satisfy the principle of complementarity. At that point -- and only at that point -- should the ICC step aside.
The key, of course, is to reconcile Ugandans' belief in the need to prosecute high-level LRA criminals with the deficiencies of the Ugandan justice system. While simply dropping its indictments would be devastating, the ICC could opt for a tactical delay, accepting a less-than-ideal solution in immediate term, but retaining the prerogative to bring Kony et al to justice at least eventually. This would both provide a viable option for the ICC and, as Kevin pointed out to me, give Uganda an opportunity to bring its courts up to the legal standards of the ICC.
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UN targets Sudanese army for mass rapes in Darfur

The United Nations has called out the Sudanese government for committing mass rapes of women and girls in Darfur in a new report released today.The UN high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, released the report stating that President Omar al-Bashir's administration is providing help and support to the Arab janjaweed militia, who are responsible for looting at least three towns, raping girls and women and killing at least 115 people last month. Over 30,000 people have been displaced as a result as well. Via the UN's News Centre:
The report describes extensive looting during and after the attacks, and catalogues 'consistent and credible accounts' of rape committed by armed men in uniform.'These actions violated the principle of distinction stated in international humanitarian law, failing to distinguish between civilian objects and military objective,' the report concludes.
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Peacekeepers in Somalia Weren’t Always an Option

Piggybacking on Mark's response to Alex Thurston's disagreement with Ban's report on Somalia, there are a couple of things we must keep in mind.First, the Secretary-General's suggestion of possibly deploying peacekeepers in Somalia (eventually, at least) was not always his idea. As Edith Lederer of the AP reminds us, Ban has previously actually resisted pressure to push for a peacekeeping force.
In December, the Security Council called on Ban to plan for the possible deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to replace the African Union force now in Somalia. The council was reiterating a request it initially made in August that Ban rejected.
Compare Ban's most recent report to the one he gave in November. From Reuters:
"Under the prevailing political and security situation, I believe that the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation cannot be considered a realistic and viable option," Ban said in a report to the Security Council.