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Human Rights and Security in Iraq

A couple of recently released UN reports reveal the lingering security and human rights concerns in Iraq. In its human rights report, issued on Saturday, the UN mission in Iraq cautioned that, while violent attacks have decreased in Baghdad, the security situation in the rest of the country remains precarious. In another report, a group of experts established in 2005 to investigate the use of mercenaries found that private military contractors (PMCs) often operate without sufficient accountability, posing yet another danger to human rights in countries like Iraq.
Presenting its report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the working group said that private security companies in such conflict-wracked countries as Iraq, Colombia and Afghanistan are recruiting former policemen and members of the military from developing countries as "security guards" in their operations. Once there, those guards in fact become "militarily armed private soldiers," which is essentially a new way to describe mercenaries, who are often responsible for serious human rights abuses, the working group stated.
Even without mention of the name Blackwater, the implied subtext of this report remains the incident last September, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed by personnel of the infamous U.S. contractor. As voices from The Wall Street Journal to The New Republic have opened their arms to the possibility of using PMCs in places like Darfur, the working group's report serves as a reminder that contractors can often undermine the very security they are meant to ensure.
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Peacekeepers in Chad

According to Reuters, the EU peacekeeping force in Chad has deployed sufficiently to be termed "operational."
A European Union military force deploying in Chad's eastern borderlands became operational on Monday, starting a one-year mission to protect refugees, civilians and humanitarian operations. The force, called EUFOR, is expected eventually to have 3,700 troops from more than a dozen European countries. France, the former colonial power in Chad, is providing half the troops. "The equipment and units currently available allow us to declare that EUFOR has achieved its initial operational capacity," the EU force said in a statement sent to Reuters.
Even beyond the daunting task of protecting a half million refugees and displaced persons in a still-bubbling war zone, EUFOR faces significant operational challenges. It has already lost one French soldier, killed by the Sudanese military last month. Its neutrality is questioned by both the Sudanese government and Chadian rebels, and Chadian president Idriss Deby welcomes the force, but probably only inasmuch as it seems to provide support for his beleaguered regime. Despite these dangers, the relative speed of EUFOR's deployment -- at least compared to that of the UN force scheduled to deploy in neighboring Darfur over two months ago -- is welcome, and it should bring much-needed relief to those displaced in eastern Chad.
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Peace and Democracy in West Africa

The Washington Post's Craig Timberg reports on the progress made by many of the counties in the region:
Civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast have ended, and although Ivory Coast has yet to hold its first postwar vote, Liberia and Sierra Leone have elected leaders with popular mandates. Regional giant Nigeria, where military rule ended in 1999, has had a series of deeply flawed votes, but the disputes are being settled in an increasingly independent court system. These countries are all freer, more stable and more democratic than they were a decade ago, regional analysts say. Peace, however fragile, is the norm rather than war. And citizens of these nations increasingly are demanding responsive governance from their leaders.
Why is West Africa experiencing this improvement, when much of East Africa is embroiled in conflict? Timberg focuses much of his article on the positive influence of burgeoning democracies like Ghana, which has benefited from its peaceful electoral transitions and successful handling of any regional or ethnic tensions. Along with this explanation, though, Timberg highlights another factor:
The exile and prosecution of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, who spread conflict to the country's neighbors, has helped stabilize the region, as have U.N. peacekeeping missions.
UN peacekeepers are not just a band-aid to respond to emergencies. The secure environment that they provide, as their success in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone demonstrates, provides a foundation for long-term development across the entire region.
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Peace AND Justice in Northern Uganda

Responding to Mark's post from earlier today... The ICC should not, as Opinio Juris suggests, be considered the "obstacle to peace," at least not per se. It isn't out of sheer haughtiness, of course, that the ICC could make a legitimate case for making Kony's indictment a sticking point. As I've argued previously, peace and justice are deeply interrelated, and a circumscribed role for the ICC in Uganda could harm both these goals and the reputation of the ICC itself. A few points: 1. As perhaps the most deserving poster child for an ICC indictment out there, Kony simply must be held accountable for his crimes. 2. The ICC's charter allows it to suspend its jurisdiction only if the host country's proposed prosecution is fully credible and meets international standards of accountability. While Museveni's proposed use of traditional Ugandan justice seems more legitimate than, say, the kangaroo courts proposed by the Sudanese government to ward off ICC prosecutions there, it is still troublesome that Kony may escape any jail time whatsoever. A free and unpunished Kony will not only insult the ideal of justice, but could very well endanger peace and stability in northern Uganda -- ceasefire or no.
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The Need for Peace, Protection, and Funding in Darfur

Gloomy news for the prospects of both peace and peacekeepers in Darfur, reports the UN News Center:
Recent fierce fighting in Sudan's devastated Darfur region makes it clear that the international effort to protect the population is at dire risk unless the parties are pressured to negotiate a peace, a top United Nations peacekeeping official said today. "With the Government intent on military action and the rebels either fighting or fragmenting, it is difficult to see an opening for political negotiations," Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said as he briefed the Security Council on UNAMID, the hybrid African Union-UN force in Darfur.
The opening of an avenue for peace negotiations is, of course, crucial for long-term stability in Darfur. And as long as a peace accord is pursued honestly by all sides -- and not through rushed expediency, as was the failed Darfur Peace Agreement of May 2006 -- it will also improve the odds of deploying a fully effective peacekeeping force in the short-term.
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Ten Hours in Iraq Cost the Same as Three Years in Liberia, Says Former UN Official

From today's presentation at the U.S. Institute of Peace by Jan Egeland, the former UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, comes this enlightening statistic: The amount of money that the United States has contributed to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) -- whose successes include calming a decade of civil war, bringing a former dictator to justice, and ushering in a democratic government that elected Africa's first female leader -- over the past four years is equal to the amount that it spends in ten hours in Iraq. This statistic is sobering, but it is not surprising. After all, the amount of money that the U.S. spends in just three days in Iraq is equivalent to our entire yearly contribution to all UN peacekeeping missions. And while the conflict in Iraq roils on, many war zones in which the UN has been engaged are emerging as valuable success stories. In addition to Liberia, Egeland cited Ivory Coast, East Timor, South Sudan, Sierre Leone, and Kosovo as examples in which UN engagement has led to substantially freer and more stable societies -- all at a fraction of the cost of the U.S.'s operations in Iraq. Egeland stressed that the key to improving U.S.-UN relations is to convince the U.S. government just how good of an investment UN peacekeeping missions are. As Mark has emphasized before -- and as even U.S. government studies have proven -- UN peacekeeping missions are consistently more effective and more cost-efficient than comparable U.S.-led enterprises. For these and other reasons, supporting UN peacekeepers is strongly in U.S. interests, even if this year's budget request doesn't reflect this priority.
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Talking About Diplomacy Over Breakfast

Yesterday morning, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the persistent gap -- which we've decried time and time again -- between funding for diplomacy and for the military. Acting Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) praised Gates' presence as a potential harbinger of reinvigorated cooperation between these two goals:
"Years ago the U.S. Secretary of Defense came before the Foreign Affairs Committee regularly. Reinstating this custom will help Congress and the Administration work more closely together to restore some balance between what has come to be known as 'hard power' and 'soft power.' And Mr. Gates' own statements of late bear that out."
In the speeches that Representative Berman refers to, Secretary Gates has nodded to the importance of "civilian involvement and expertise" and "non-military instruments of national power." This is a strong step for a Secretary of Defense to take, and we will need to make sure that next year's budget builds on this commitment to leveling the vast funding disparity between State -- which currently takes up only about 1% of the total budget -- and Defense -- which eats up over 10 times that.
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Finally, Some Helicopters for Darfur?

According to Reuters, some of the helicopters so desperately needed by peacekeepers in Darfur have been offered by a somewhat unlikely source:
Russia is proposing to supply some of the helicopters the United Nations has been urgently seeking to back up the U.N./African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, Moscow's U.N. ambassador said on Wednesday. "The most likely scenario of the use of Russian helicopters would be Russia supplying the helicopters with crews from other countries," said envoy Vitaly Churkin. The United Nations has for months been seeking six attack and 18 transport helicopters to support the planned 26,000-member UNAMID force, which is starting to deploy in the violence-torn Darfur region of western Sudan.
Churkin was murky on the details, not specifying the number or type of helicopters that Russia will provide, and the solution of outfitting Russian choppers with foreign crews is far from an ideal option. Nonetheless, combined with the four attack helicopters offered by Ethiopia last month, this is a start. Unfortunately, even as Darfur peacekeepers seek to receive some much-needed aerial support, they still face crippling shortages on the ground. U.S. special envoy Rich Williamson was right to caution that "we're wrong to obsess about the helicopters," but only because there is so much else to obsess about as well. There are still only 9,000 troops that have been deployed, and the state of these largely African units -- underfunded, undersupplied, and insufficiently trained -- is even worse than many had assumed. In addition, the 105 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) that arrived from Canada over two years ago are apparently outdated and in need of repair. So, to the international community, if helicopters aren't your thing -- how about some new APCs?
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Why A Billion People Need a Stronger U.S.-UN Partnership

Last week, former UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland penned a column in The Huffington Post arguing that, while the living situations of most human beings in the world have been improving over the last two decades, an impoverished underclass of one billion people still lives in deplorable conditions. Egeland, a veteran of disaster and war areas from Colombia to Darfur, issues a call to arms for the world's richest countries: make combating global poverty a priority, or risk not only moral hypocrisy, but also the danger of antagonizing an entire substratum of the global population. To address this festering problem, Egeland proposes a renewed commitment to international cooperation, with an emphasis on improving the relationship between the UN and the United States. As we have noted here and elsewhere, the U.S. has significantly shortchanged humanitarian and peacekeeping imperatives in favor of beefing up its defense spending. Egeland puts the contrast in these priorities in stark terms:
Every year since the invasion in 2003 America has spent six times more in Iraq alone than the United Nations system has had to invest on all peace, human rights, relief, development and environmental efforts around the globe. The annual 120 billion dollars spent in Iraq is nearly twenty times more than the cost of all the successful UN humanitarian and peace-making operations in Angola, the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Northern Uganda, the Middle East and East Timor combined. The cost of unilateralism and effectiveness of multilateralism is not known to the American tax-payer, or to UN member states.
To strengthen Egeland's last point, it bears reminding that UN peacekeeping has been shown to be eight times cheaper -- as well as more effective -- than comparable U.S.-led missions.