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Child Kidnappings in Haiti on the Rise

Via UN News Center:
Three more young girls have been kidnapped in Haiti over the past week, the United Nations peacekeeping mission to the impoverished Caribbean country reports, amid mounting UN concern about the continuing spate of child abductions. An eight-year-old girl was kidnapped in the capital, Port-au-Prince, last Thursday, and the following day a seven-year-old girl was abducted in the town of Arcahaie, according to the UN mission (known as MINUSTAH). On Saturday, a three-year-old girl who had been kidnapped two days earlier was found in Arcahaie and brought to hospital after being injured with a razor blade.
While both boys and girls have been kidnapped, it seems that females are a large target, and often raped and sexually abused. The criminal gangs who are kidnapping the children (while on their way to and from school) also frequently end up killing them, despite the family paying their requested ransom. Massimo Toschi, a child protection adviser with MINUSTAH, says that while successfully decreasing the prevalence of adult kidnappings may have led the gangs to move on to target children in response. MINUSTAH, the Haitian police and the military have been working diligently to curb this devastating trend, and now have a new victim to protect. UN Photo/Sophia Paris
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Possible abortion ban to be enforced in Lithuania

We find via RH Reality Check that the Lithuanian Parliament is considering an abortion ban. This was brought up at the 41st Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the UN agency that monitors nations' progress on ensuring women's human rights. Anna Wilkowska-Landowska reports:
By adopting more restrictive regulations on abortion Lithuania would join a group of three countries of the European Union (Malta, Ireland and Poland), where access to abortion is significantly limited. The Committee considered the recent official reports from Lithuania as well as a shadow letter submitted by the Seimos Planavimo ir Seksualines Sveikatos Asociacija (The Family Planning and Sexual Health Association-FPSHA) based in Vilnius, Lithuania and the Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York. In their letter of June 5, 2008, organizations brought to the Committee's attention the pending restrictive abortion legislation. And during Lithuania's review, CEDAW committee members pressed the government delegation not only on access to contraception but also on proposed legislation that seeks to defend prenatal life and would pose restrictions on access to abortion. Japanese committee member Yoko Hayashi stated that governmental restrictions on abortion "contradict the full enjoyment of women's reproductive health rights that are protected by CEDAW."
CEDAW is recommending that instead of changing the laws to restrict abortion (which won't effect the number of abortions or population growth), Lithuania develop strategies to increase family planning, "such as a comprehensive range of contraceptives, including emergency contraception, more widely available and affordable, provide mandatory sexual education in schools and increase knowledge and awareness about family planning among women as well as men." Let's hope the nation takes their advice.
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No Country for Young Girls.

BBC has been airing "No Country for Young Girls" this week, a UN-funded documentary on India's preference for sons. Via UN News Center:
"No country for young girls" explores issues such as illegal sex determination and consequent elimination, and its consequences for vast Asian nation in the years to come. It portrays a young Indian woman who has to choose between staying with a husband who does not want girl children, or to make it on her own. According to a series of studies commissioned by UNFPA last year, prenatal son selection in several Asian countries - including India, China and Viet Nam - is likely to have severe social consequences in coming years. The agency has been working to address the issue for many years.
This comes a few months after the Indian prime minister denounced the widespread practice of aborting female fetuses as a "national shame." Check out the BBC World News website to find out when the film is airing in your area.
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Guide released to protect girls globally from HIV

With 7,000 young women becoming HIV positive every day, it's no news that massive efforts are being made to specifically to target its prevalence among girls and young women in the world. And yesterday, a UN-backed guide was released in an attempt to decrease these staggering numbers. Via UN News Center:
At the publication's launch in Mexico City against the backdrop of the XVII International AIDS Conference, Purnima Mane of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said that "girls and young women face double vulnerability, and double efforts are needed to protect them."
The guide "Make it Matter" was created by UNFPA, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Young Positives and the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS. What really stands out about this guide is that its focus is not only on increasing access to reproductive and sexual health services for girls and young women (which is obviously a key component), but recognizes that there are a number of other factors - like socioeconomic status and certain patriarchal customs like child marriages - that contribute to this epidemic among the world's women. You can find more information and download the full guide here.
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Peter Bergen

I have, perhaps, an old-fashioned view of history and just as it is hard to explain why the French were in Moscow in 1812 without Napoleon, and the rise of the Nazi party is inextricably linked to the views and personality of Hitler, its just not possible to understand al Qaeda, what it is and what it has done, without understanding bin Laden. Without him al Qaeda simply would not exist (look at the minutes of the founding meetings of al Qaeda in 1988, for instance). Without him 9/11 would have been one of many harebrained schemes in the head of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM.) The Al Qaeda organization and bin Laden the man are largely co-terminus, after all it's a rather small organization today and has always been so. The Al Qaeda movement is another matter, though that too takes its strategic cues from OBL.
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Matthew Levitt

Peter's is an excellent article. I'd submit, however, that it conflates Bin Laden with al Qaeda and I increasingly wonder if perhaps al Qaeda the organization has outgrown Bin Laden the man. After all, a persistent AQ threat does not mean Bin Laden is still calling the shots. Sadly, if it's true that the organization has grown past the man it is another sign of just how successful he and the organization both have been.
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Peter Bergen

Some of the issues in the final discussion I tried to address in a story for TIME earlier this month, so rather than rewriting that story I'm pasting it in below: Does Osama bin Laden matter anymore? You could be forgiven for thinking he doesn't. In recent months, an impressive cast of terrorism experts and counterterrorism officials around the world has coalesced around the notion that al-Qaeda's leader is no longer an active threat to the West. They point out that he has not been able to strike on U.S. soil since 9/11 or in Europe since the London bombings three summers ago. In Iraq, his most successful franchise operation is on the ropes. Across the Muslim world, opinion polls suggest his popularity has faded, and many of his early supporters -- including prominent jihadi ideologues -- have denounced him. Even his messages on the Internet scarcely merit headlines in the mainstream media. Did you know he posted two audio messages on the Web in May? I didn't think so.
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Paul Cruickshank

Although there have undoubtedly been more plots launched by home-grown cells in the West since 9/11 than by Al Qaeda, the evidence suggests that the most dangerous plots, such as the July 2005 London bombings and the 2006 airlines plot, have all been directed by Al Qaeda.
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Sierra Leone Police Adopt UN Guidelines on Sexual Abuse

This is a good step:
Sierra Leonean police have adopted new policy guidelines on sexual abuse and exploitation that have been drafted by United Nations officials as part of their efforts to reduce the widespread levels of violence against women and girls in the West African country. The policy guidelines, the first in the region, were drafted by the conduct and discipline office, the gender adviser and the UN Police section of the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), according to a statement issued in Freetown by the office on Saturday.
Considering the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse in Sierra Leone, this is a good thing to see happening. This week, UNIOSIL is conducting workshops and trainings not only for police officers, but managers and other employees of the police force. Only time will tell of the impact it will make; we can only hope it's a great one.