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U.S. Sending Delegation to Durban Review Conference Preparations

To forestall any potential conniptions from those for whom "Durban II" conjures up all sorts of fervid demons, this does not mean that the United States has decided to participate in April's anti-racism conference. What it does mean is that the Obama Administration intends to actually interact with the rest of the international community, rather than to rashly erect walls and issue pre-emptive boycotts (not to mention other sorts of pre-emptive action).What's more, the administration seems to be handling this tricky issue -- which has become both a diplomatic and a domestic one -- quite adroitly. Instead of simply appeasing the very vocal constituency distorting and shouting down the conference's purpose, administration officials took the step of actually talking with Jewish leaders about the decision to send a delegation. Contrary to suggestions that the Durban process is a priori anti-Semitic, not all of these prominent Jewish groups have come out against U.S. participation in the conference. Talking, then, does not amount to capitulation to America's enemies; it turns out to be what our friends at home want, too.While shrill voices on the Right proclaim that anything short of an out-and-out boycott of all things remotely connected to Durban, announced loudly and vehemently, would amount to a surrender of moral leadership, Obama's team seems to be conscious of not only the potential pitfalls of the conference, but also the benefits of interacting with the rest of the world on a very important issue. Sending a delegation to preparatory meetings does not bind the United States to anything opposed to its interests; on the contrary, the decision falls very much within U.S. interests to renew its role as a global leader and willing conversant. This is not naivete; it is intelligence.
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Afghan Civilian Casualties Up 40%

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How Rural Poverty Fuels Instability in Pakistan

By EriposteDiscussions on the precarious situation in Pakistan today tend to be focused mostly on the threat from fundamentalist or "jihadi" militants. The focus on that threat is absolutely critical, however, there are underlying structural factors that also play a key role in Pakistan's instability. Rural poverty is a major factor that, so far, has not garnered the attention is deserves.Eriposte is a regular contributor to The Left Coaster, where he frequently writes on issues pertaining to the Indian sub-continent. Below the fold is an in-depth post that explores the relationship between rural poverty and state security in Pakistan. For more on the relationship between poverty and terrorism see this post from UN Ambassador Susan Rice.
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Pakistan strikes deal with Taliban on Sharia law

This came across CNN's Twitter feed:
Pakistani government officials announced Monday that they have reached an agreement with the Taliban to allow strict Islamic law, or sharia, to be implemented in parts of North West Frontier Province.It marks a major concession by the Pakistani government in its attempt to hold off Taliban militants who have made significant advances inside the country.
Here's the full article.
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Greece-Macedonia Name Talks Begin Again

As promised last month, a new round of discussions between representatives from Greece and its contentiously-named neighbor to the north was undertaken this week. The bar was set low, with the modest goal, according to American UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, of creating "a more positive climate" in the often rancorous negotiations of how to reform the currently cumbersome name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). In that light, having a "good, solid discussion" with no new proposals was certainly preferable to hitting upon some debilitating snag.The issue, for those who have not been following closely, is that Greece's northernmost province is also called Macedonia. It's not out of possible confusion that Athens objects to the name "Macedonia" for the country, though. Particularly given the province's large Macedonian minority (as in, FYROMians) and its historic significance (the provenance of Alexander the Great, for instance), Greece worries that Skopje may have designs on annexing its territory.I must observe, though, even setting aside the silliness of this overblown fear -- if Greece blocked its objection to Macedonian entry into NATO, for example, would NATO really permit a member's takeover of territory of another sovereign nation? -- the irony of the situation. While Greece is supposedly making a big deal out of the name controversy to avoid geopolitical strife, plenty of such strife is occurring in the very process of choosing a different name. I mean, when one country has already taken the other to an international court over the issue, relations can't get much worse.Plus, this proposal, though probably unorthodox, strikes me as reasonable:
Skopje is expected to continue insisting on the so called double name formula including one name for international use and another for bilateral relations with Athens. Greece on the other hand wants Macedonia to change its name and use the new name everywhere...
If Athens is truly worried about the bilateral implications of using the name "Macedonia," then shouldn't its concerns be relieved by Skopje's pledge to use a different name in interactions with Greece? And frankly, short of outright invasion, I don't think the rest of the world is particularly suspicious of a country and a bordering region sharing a name.Now if one of these countries were China, of course, and the other Taiwan Chinese Taipei, we'd likely have a much easier solution.(image of Alexander the Great statue in Macedonia, from flickr user Dime01 under a Creative Commons license)
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The UN in ’08

Via UN Good Works, check out this newly embeddable video of some of the 2008 highlights of the UN's busy year. And while you're at it, tell me if you think the narrator is celebrating the 100,000 blue berries or the 100,000 blue berets deployed around the world. My guess is that he meant the latter, but I think that's why we're better off sticking with blue helmets.UN Good Works also suggests campaigning your local cable provider to include UN TV in their basic service package. Hey, it may not be ESPN, but they do have George Clooney.
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Mira Sorvino: Fighting Human Trafficking

Speaking of modern day slavery, the United Nations just named Mira Sorvino a Goodwill Ambassador to combat human trafficking.
Academy Award-winning American actress Mira Sorvino was named as Goodwill Ambassador to combat human trafficking for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today, coinciding with the release of a new report showing that nearly half of all nations have yet to bring a single perpetrator of the scourge to justice.
On the 200th anniversary of the birth of former United States President Abraham Lincoln who led the emancipation of slaves in his country, Ms. Sorvino stressed the need for human trafficking to be relabelled as slavery so that “people can’t tune out the human suffering.”
It was a case of life imitating art for the actress, who portrayed an American government agent seeking to curb sexual exploitation worldwide in a 2005 television miniseries.
That miniseries, of course, called Human Trafficking. In real life, though, the stats are grim.
According to the report, only one victim out of every 100 trafficking cases is rescued, and at present there are 22,500 cases of people being recovered worldwide.“Are we making progress?” said Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC Executive Director. “My answer is: I wish we were.”
Nearly 80 per cent of trafficking comprises sexual exploitation, but he warned that that is illusory, since it is the most commonly reported since it is more visible compared to other forms of the scourge, such as sweatshops and child exploitation.Further, modern-day slavery is characterized by a very large presence of women as predators. In some countries in Africa, a majority of traffickers are women. Despite the term “trafficking,” which implies the movement of persons across borders, the crime also occurs within countries and communities.
“Not even animals prey on their kin,” Mr. Costa said, noting that statistics show there is a large amount of exploitation within both large and smaller nations.
image from Flickr user photogrammaton
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What the Warrant Means

Read this excellent and very thorough report, hot off the presses from the Enough Project. The bottom line: the warrant has the potential to be a real game changer in Sudanese politics by strengthening more moderate elements. The paper explains in great detail why this is so, and advises the United States and the international community on what it must do to seize this opportunity.