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This is the Dawning of the The Age of “The Aquarius”

22. Juni 2018 - 15:08

The story of the MS Aquarius and its 627 passengers is becoming the story of international migration today — and it is a story of wealthy countries turning their backs on vulnerable migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

On June 9, Italy refused to grant entry to the MS Aquarius, an NGO rescue ship operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders. Nearby Malta also refused to grant entry, causing the two governments to snipe at each other over social media as to who should take responsibility. After the Eastern Mediterranean route to Greece was largely cut off with the EU-Turkey deal in 2016, many migrants have opted to cross from Libya, placing the burden heavily on Italy to process and care for the asylum seekers who come over. With the formation of a new populist coalition government in Italy between the anti-immigrant and anti-EU parties of the 5-Star Movement and the Northern League, the Aquarius offered the first opportunity for the Italian to push back on its de facto role of welcome mat for the EU.

That left 629 migrants stuck at sea, including some who had been rescued by Italian Coast Guard ships and then transferred to the Aquarius. After days of bickering, Spain ultimately agreed to allow the ship to dock at Valencia, which still left the ship at sea for several days. To help ease the logistical problems, France also agreed to take in some of the asylum seekers aboard the Aquarius while it was enroute to Spain.

The agreement between Spain and France was a rare show of unity on an issue that continues to polarize politics throughout the EU. But it also illustrates how anti-immigrant sentiment has captured the EU.

Some of the migrants aboard the Aquarius are certainly economic migrants, but initial processing in both France and Spain revealed that many were likely legitimate asylum seekers who have the legal right to seek asylum. But rather than search for real solutions, politician frame these journeys as illegal immigration, the NGO rescue ships who help them as human traffickers, and wash their hands of responsibility, even as they potential make the situation facing these refugees back home worse.

On the other side of the world, similar drama is unfolding along the US-Mexico border.

Decades of political and economic instability has led to several countries in Central America mired in violence, generally between armed gangs and the government. The violence has reached such a level that starting in 2014, the number of people from countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala seeking asylum along the southern US border drastically increased. With the election of President Trump and his anti-immigrant stance, these asylum seekers are now being caught between international legal obligations regarding asylum and US politics.

Starting in April, the Trump administration launched a “zero tolerance” policy regarding those crossing the border. Those who do not cross at a designated port of entry are now being prosecuted for improper entry, a federal misdemeanor under US law, regardless of circumstances. Because children cannot be detained in the same facilities as their parents while they undergo legal prosecution, thousands of children are being separated from their families. Many of these children are only separated for a few hours, but the increase in prosecutions means that at least 2,300 children have been sent to their own detention facilities, where the current average stay is around two months.

The issue of family separation at the border has renewed the immigration debate in the US. While the administration claims it is just following existing laws, recent reports highlight that the policy is actually designed to be a punitive measure aimed at dissuading people from seeking asylum in the US. Attorney General Jeff Sessions further limited the ability of Central Americans to seek asylum by overruling existing immigration court rulings and deciding that gang violence does not constitute a valid grounds for asylum. Thus, many who are currently seeking asylum along the border or within US courts now face deportation to their home countries, even in the face of likely death if they return.

Much like in Europe, these policies serve as a knee-jerk reaction to anti-immigrant sentiments rather than real solutions to the problems at hand. Seeking asylum is a legal right, and in this case there are good reasons to classify these migrants as refugees fleeing armed conflict rather than as asylum seekers. The same could be said for Venezuelans, who are seeking asylum in the US in record numbers while also flooding neighboring countries such as Colombia and Brazil. But instead of engaging with the issues causing people to flee, the US is merely turning them away and shutting the door behind them.

The number of displaced people around the world – including refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs – hit record highs in 2017 with 68.5 million people displaced.

These numbers are largely fueled by the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, along with new and growing crises in Venezuela, Myanmar and the DRC. But as the need for humanitarian action increases, governments around the world are increasingly clamping down on refugee resettlement and asylum claims. 

UNHCR estimates that an average of 44,000 people were forcibly displaced each day in 2017. It is the culmination of a trend that started in 2012. In that six year span, there has been a 235% increase in the number of people forcibly displaced around the world, from 29.1 million in 2012 to the 68.5 million reported by UNHCR this week. Yet rather than address the root causes of this displacement, or help those who cannot return homes, governments are enacting stricter refugee and asylum policies to block aid to those who need it most.

The EU and US are not alone in this attitude. From mass deportations of Afghans from Pakistan and the deportation of Rohingya refugees from India and Bangladesh, to Australia’s harsh offshore detention policies and dwindling humanitarian resources for existing refugee camps in Africa and the Middle East, the world as a whole is turning its back.

But again, for the sixth year in a row, forced displacement is at an all-time high. It is clear that the current trend towards criminalizing asylum seeking and turning refugees away at the border does nothing to quell the numbers of those who need help. Until the root causes are addressed, political will should be focused on helping refugees and asylum seekers find safety.

The post This is the Dawning of the The Age of “The Aquarius” appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Map of the Day: Where Refugees Live

20. Juni 2018 - 17:22

Today’s map comes from the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Tent Partnership for Refugees. It shows that as many as 2.1 million refugees of working age (18 to 59) live in major urban areas in developing countries.

According to a report the two organizations published Tuesday, this means there are substantial employment opportunities for these refugees that would also lower the cost of hosting them and create economic benefits for host countries.

The world is facing unprecedented levels of displacement due to conflicts, prolonged instability and humanitarian crises. According to the UN refugee agency, there are now more than 25 million refugees around the world in need of sustainable solutions, and about 85 percent of them are being hosted by low- and middle-income countries.

Click here for an interactive version

About 60 percent of all refugees live in urban areas, not desolate camps.

But the researchers wanted to know if those of working age live close enough to cities to take advantage of the work opportunities there with multinational, regional and local businesses. So, the researchers mapped where refugees live in 31 of the 37 developing countries that host more than 25,000 refugees.

They found that 38 percent of all working-age refugees in developing countries live in major urban areas. They estimate that’s anywhere from 915,000 to nearly 2.2 million refugees. In five to seven of the countries analyzed, there are more than 50,000 refugees in major cities.

The map also shows that many of the countries that have the most people hired by multinational corporations also have the largest clusters of working-age refugees living in urban areas.

“As market leaders with global reach through hiring and supply chains, policy influencers, and innovators, [multinational corporations] have distinctive capacities for engagement that do not exist within the traditional refugee response community,” according to the report.

“There are many barriers to employing refugees but companies should know that geography isn’t one of them,” Cindy Huang, the lead author of the study and co-director of migration, displacement, and humanitarian policy at the Center for Global Development said in a press release. “Our advice to multinational companies? Hire refugees if they can.”

However, the report notes that other major barriers may still preclude businesses from working with refugees. These include discrimination, restrictions on movement in a country and laws that prohibit refugees from working or owning businesses.

“There’s a real economic opportunity here, but only if policymakers reduce these barriers to employment and support new opportunities for refugees and host communities,” Huang said.

The post Map of the Day: Where Refugees Live appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: How Separating Families at the Border Offends US Asylum Law and Tradition

20. Juni 2018 - 16:00

My guest today, Kari Hong, is an assistant professor at the Boston College law school and an expert on US asylum policy and law.  imagine, We have an extended conversation about the tragedy unfolding at the Southern US border, where the Trump administration has mandated the separation of migrant children from their parents in order to deter them from claiming asylum and expedite their removal from the country.

This is inhumane, barbaric and as Kari Hong explains, not in compliance with both the laws and tradition around seeking asylum in the United States.

She does a good job of putting this new family separation policy in the context and history of how the US has typically handled claims of asylum. And a little more than halfway through this conversation we get to what I think is the heart of the matter: that separating children from their parents at the border is designed to force parents to enter a guilty plea to a misdemeanor offense which cuts off their ability to claim asylum.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn more about US asylum policy and the kafka-esque situation into which these families are thrown, have  a listen

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app.

The post PODCAST: How Separating Families at the Border Offends US Asylum Law and Tradition appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The United States is Quitting the UN Human Rights Council. Here’s Why That’s a Bad Idea

19. Juni 2018 - 19:10

One day after being criticized by the top UN human rights official for its policy of separating children from their parents at the border, the United States announced that it is withdrawing from the main UN human rights organ, the Human Rights Council.

The timing is eyebrow raising, but this was not an entirely surprising decision.  One year ago, Nikki Haley visited the Human Rights Council in Geneva and issued an ultimatum: unless the Council reformed to her liking, the United States would pull out.

Haley’s criticisms of the council center around two indisputable facts: that the Council frequently focuses Israel and that some members of the Council are countries with poor human rights records. But rather than remain on the Council to defend Israel and try and prevent countries with poor human rights records from influencing the work of the Council, the United States is calling it quits.

By withdrawing from the Human Rights Council, the United States is ceding yet another tool of American global leadership

Haley’s criticisms of the Human Rights Council are as old as the Council itself. When the Council was created in 2005, then UN ambassador John Bolton lobbied successfully against the Bush administration joining it. After the 2008 elections, the United States opted to join, concluding that it could better steer the work of the Council from the inside, including defending Israel, rather than from the sidelines.

Evidence suggests that this approach tangibly advanced American interests at the Council.

A report last year by the Council on Foreign Relations examined the work of the Council in years in which the United States served as a member and the years in which it did not. It found that Israel-specific resolutions decreased by more than half once the US joined the Council.


The CFR report also shows how country-specific mandates were added to the Council’s to-do list when the US was on the council, compared to the years in which it was not.


In other words, when the United States was an active participant at the Council, the Council reduced its focus on Israel and expanded its focus on other countries with problematic human rights records. This suggests that the stated reasons for the US withdrawal from the Council will become something of a fulfilling prophecy: with the US indifferent to the Council, the Council is more likely to adopt resolutions and measures that the United States finds contrary to its interests.

This move by the US is intended to discredit the UN Human Rights Council. In fact, the Council has a decent record of upholding human rights around the world.

Israel and Palestine are not the sum of the work of the Human Rights Council. Rather, in its 12 years of existence, the Council has amassed a decent track record, both of investigating specific human rights abuses and global norm setting.

In 2011, with strong support from the United States, the Human Rights Council passed an historic resolution that equated LGBT rights with human rights. This had the effect of mainstreaming LGBT rights into the broader UN human rights portfolio. This included giving then-secretary general Ban Ki Moon the breathing room he needed to more robustly engage in LGBT rights issues, even though some more conservative UN member states remained adamantly opposed. (In 2015, he was awarded the Harvey Milk award for his work on behalf of LGBT rights).

Just last year, the Human Rights Council approved the creation of a new special human rights “rapporteur” whose work focuses on rights issues around sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Human Rights Council has also been a platform for constructive engagement on issues that are otherwise paralyzed by big power rivalries at the Security Council. Syria is a good example here. With the Security Council unable to take any action, the Human Rights Council approved creating a commission of inquiry to document human rights abuses committed in the context of the Syria conflict. Every six months, the Commission of Inquiry releases a new report detailing abuses and identifying perpetrators. This obviously has not stopped the slaughter in Syria–but it has created robust documentary evidence of crimes committed in Syria that could be used in future war crimes proceedings. It is also a demonstration that, despite inaction at the Security Council, the United Nations can still be a player on these key global issues.

The Council has also routinely shined a spotlight on neglected human rights issues, such as regime abuses against its citizens in Eritrea and Belarus. It is the only UN entity that consistently maintains focus on human rights abuses by regimes that are not on the radar of the news media or are of particular interest to powerful forces at the UN.  In these situations it does its job–and does its job well. Again, to quote the CFR report:

“Two successive terms of U.S. membership on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), before the mandatory one-year hiatus, have improved the body’s performance in several ways. These improvements include strengthening the council’s commitment to country-level action, fortifying norms that underpin fundamental freedoms and assist at-risk populations, rebalancing the human rights agenda, and building momentum for the defense of civil society.”

To the extent that US withdrawal from the council serves to undermine the council itself, the people who will suffer will end up being Eritreans and Belarusians who are being oppressed by their government.

US and International Human Rights Groups Do Not Support this Move

The American decision to leave the Human Rights Council is being criticized by human rights and humanitarian groups that have long standing commitments to upholding human dignity around the world.

Forfeiting the U.S. seat on the UN Human Rights Council only serves to empower actors on the Council, like Russia and China, that do not share American values on the preeminence of universal human rights – an assertion backed up by evidence from the 2006 U.S. Council withdrawal. Further, no other likeminded country seeking to occupy the United States’ former seat can realistically match Washington’s global diplomatic and political footprint. In short, without strategic U.S. engagement at the Council as a member, the U.S. loses a platform to influence the course of human rights globally for the better and the victims of human rights abuse globally will fall prey to the machinations of governments that will take advantage of this strategic vacuum.

That statement was signed by The Better World Campaign, CARE, Council for Global Equality, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), Freedom House, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights First, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, PEN America, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Save the Children and United Nations Association – USA.

These groups work day in, day out to promote human rights around the world and they argue that the US withdrawal is harmful to their cause.

That is because this decision is antithetical to US interests and serves to undermine an already fragile global human rights regime. The United States doesn’t stand to gain much from leaving the Human Rights Council and the Trump administration is committing yet another unforced error by ceding this platform for upholding human rights around the world.

The post The United States is Quitting the UN Human Rights Council. Here’s Why That’s a Bad Idea appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Zimbabwe is About to Hold its First Elections Since Robert Mugabe’s Ouster. Will it Be Free and Fair?

19. Juni 2018 - 16:30

On 30 May 2018, Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the official date for the 2018 general elections. These elections – to be held on 30 July – are the first since the removal of former president Robert Mugabe from power in November 2017.

The stakes are high. These elections are the first in over 10 years to have new presidential candidates from the country’s two main political parties. Over 100 political parties are contesting in the election, with 23 candidates running for president. More young candidates are stepping up and competing for seats in parliament. State media has even started giving some coverage to opposition parties.

Zimbabwe is entering new territory with these elections, but old concerns still linger, especially in regards to the voters roll and potential rigging.

President Mnangagwa has promised free and fair elections several times. However, it’s a little difficult to take him for his word, given a history of voter intimidation, political violence and poll rigging in the country. Despite this violent history, there are many indications that Zimbabweans will turn up in large numbers to vote on election day. Both first-time and seasoned voters have had to re-register due to the introduction of a biometric voter registration process, which nullified the old voters roll. Described by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as improving “the quality of the voter register as it accurately captures voters data” and having “great potential to transform the electoral system in Zimbabwe”, voter registration began in September 2017.

While citizens in Zimbabwe lined up to register, there were still questions. First, would people living outside the country (an estimated 5 million Zimbabweans) have the right to vote? There was no official word from government, but there were some indications that at the very least, Zimbabweans living in countries such as South Africa and England could cast their votes (both countries have the highest number of Zimbabwean nationals). Mnangagwa said so himself at the World Economic Forum, where he assured international delegates that Zimbabweans outside the country would not be excluded from the electoral process. However, the final answer only came on 30 May with Mnangagwa’s announcement: No, the diaspora would not be able to vote.

Furthermore, voter registration was to formally close two days after the announcement. The announcement triggered a last-minute flurry of registrations, but angered people living outside the country. They wouldn’t even have enough time to go back and register. They would be completely absent from the elections.

All this has re-ignited fears of election tampering. Tawanda Chimhini, the Director of the Election Resource Centre (ERC), believes that there is real reason to be worried. “We’ve not seen a fundamental shift in what’s happening in Zimbabwe since the 2013 elections. We have seen a consistent attempt in disenfranchising Zimbabweans. This has not changed under the new administration.”

ZANU PF supporters. Credit: Zanu PF website

Still, the broader political narrative around the elections has changed for the better, with the two main parties (MDC and ZANU PF) encouraging a peaceful electoral process. However, this rhetoric of ‘free and fair’ hasn’t translated into action on the ground. The exclusion of diaspora voters and the sudden announcement of the voter registration deadline contradict the message of inclusivity that the ruling party has preached. Furthermore, the government has resisted efforts to amend the Electoral Act, with the then Minister of Justice (Mnangagwa) throwing out the motion in 2014. “In our proposal back then, we had indicated that it was essential that the then administration considers the question of the right to vote, given that the Electoral Act limited the right to vote with respect to the diaspora vote,” says Chimhini. Although Mnangagwa promised in 2014 that the Electoral Act would be amended to make it more in line with the Constitution, no amends were made.

What’s equally concerning is who has access to the voters roll. Inspection of the provisional voters roll began in May, with close to 5 million voters checking whether their details were accurate. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) did tell registered voters not to be alarmed if there were anomalies – after all, the purpose of the inspection was to be able to correct any errors. However, trust in ZEC itself is shaky. A recent survey by Afrobarometer shows that close to half of registered voters indicated that they had little to no faith in ZEC’s neutrality in the electoral process. The commission refused the ERC access to the voters roll for an independent public audit. Thes secrecy around the voters roll is a major issue in creating an environment for credible elections. “You cannot say you want a free and fair election when you don’t respect the independence of the Electoral Commission. These are things that define a free and fair election,” stresses Chimhini. “They (the new dispensation) have focused on a narrative to the outside world that suggests that free and fair elections is what they want to see, but without really enforcing it in terms of their practice.”

With less than two months until the general elections, candidates are now in campaign overdrive. Amidst all the rallies and speeches and posters, the voter and voters rights have taken a backseat to the political spectacle. It’s a situation that Chimhini believes disenfranchises the voter and robs them of their agency. “Our fear is that the voter is still being confined to being a passive participant in the election process. What is crucial is building up confidence in elections as a vehicle for citizen participation.” After years of intimidation and rigging, voters have the opportunity to actively participate in rebuilding Zimbabwe. However, if the lack of transparency continues with the voters roll and in the bodies meant to ensure that these elections are legitimate, then the silencing of voters will continue.

The post Zimbabwe is About to Hold its First Elections Since Robert Mugabe’s Ouster. Will it Be Free and Fair? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: Tom Catena is a Hero Doctor of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains

18. Juni 2018 - 15:53

For many years Tom Catena was the only doctor in the Nuba Mountain region of Sudan. This is an area on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. In 2011 it was the site of intense fighting between government forces and local groups aligned with the South.

Throughout this fighting, which lasted for years, Tom Catena ran the Mother of Mercy Hospital. He saw thousands upon thousands of patients every year under the most difficult of circumstances. His hospital was bombed, his house was targeted, but Tom Catena never left. And he is still working there to this day.

I caught up with Tom in Yerevan, Armenia where he was on hand to participate in events around the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.  Last year, Tom won this prize, which is conferred by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. This is a group established by Armenian and Armenian-American philanthropists in honor of the survivors of the Armenian genocide. The idea behind the prize is to honor individuals who are standing up for human rights, often without much recognition and in extremely difficult circumstances. The winner this year was a Rohignya human rights lawyer named Kyaw Hla Aung.

This is a powerful conversation with a true humanitarian who has saved countless lives in extremely difficult circumstances.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app.

The post PODCAST: Tom Catena is a Hero Doctor of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

An Outbreak of Nipah Virus in India Can Help Explain the Future of Infectious Disease

15. Juni 2018 - 15:49

India’s Kerala state has just faced an outbreak of Nipah virus. Seventeen people have died so far. That wouldn’t seem so serious, but only eighteen people were infected.  To make matters worse, there is no known cure or vaccine for Nipah – all doctors can offer is supportive treatment while the victim’s immune system attempts to fight off the virus, which causes brain damage.

Nipah is a near perfect example of an emerging infectious disease. Its history and evolution follow the pattern of almost every new virus.

First of all, it’s not actually new. When we say Nipah is an “emerging” infectious disease, we mean that it is emerging into humans and domestic animals. The virus itself has been in existence for a long time; it’s not something that recently evolved out of nowhere. But it was only identified in 1998, when it first infected humans in Malaysia in the village of Sungai Nipah. In the 1970s, intensive pig farming started in Malaysia, with farmers expanding farmland into wild areas. Nipah, it turns out, was already present in fruit bats. Bats infected pigs, and then pigs infected people. 265 people were infected, and 40% of them died.

Next, Nipah is a Zoonotic disease. It circulates among animals, and can then infect humans. In this case, Nipah has a wild animal reservoir – bats – and when humans began to expand into bat territory, the infection spread. Ebola is the same way; it’s present among wild bats and every so often it spreads into the human population and then among people. As people take over the last wild spaces on the planet, we’re going to see more virus outbreaks like Nipah.

And, finally, like so many viruses, Nipah has no cure. Bacterial infections can almost always be treated or cured through some combination of antibacterial drugs. Viruses are much more difficult to target. HIV can be treated, not cured; the same is true of the herpes virus. There are drugs that treat the influenza virus, but their effectiveness is limited.

This Nipah outbreak was probably caused by bats. Pigs have been ruled out as the infection source. While the India health authorities have not yet identified Nipah in bats in Kerala, Nipah is present it bats all through South and Southeast Asia and it is challenging to identify viruses in wild animals like bats, especially since bats carry the circus without actually getting sick. It’s most likely that some unfortunate person came into contact with a bat or a fruit contaminated with bat saliva and was directly infected.

So far the Indian response has also been exemplary. The outbreak in India seems to be under control. The first cases were identified in Kozhikode district, and were promptly reported to the Indian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. The Ministry of Health sent a response team immediately to support response. The Kerala Department of Health and Family Welfare has identified and quarantined every Nipah patient, and they are tracing their contacts to identify people who may have been exposed.

This, though, is what the future looks like. Zoonotic diseases and human deaths, apparently out of the blue. When we’re lucky, the response will look like this too.

The post An Outbreak of Nipah Virus in India Can Help Explain the Future of Infectious Disease appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: Making Sense of the Trump-Kim Summit

14. Juni 2018 - 16:28


When I last spoke with my guest today, Kelsey Davenport, the saber rattling between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un had reached a fever pitch. North Korea was launching nuclear and missile tests; the United States was undertaking aggressive military drills, with Donald Trump routinely threatening war via Twitter.

Then this meeting in Singapore happened.

Now things look much different, so I invited Kelsey Davenport back on the show to help explain the significance of this meeting and what we may expect next from this diplomatic opening between the United States and North Korea.

Kelsey Davenport is the Director for Non Proliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association and a longtime analyst of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

She does a very good job explaining both what happened in Singapore — beyond the optics.  She also offers some helpful analysis to help us understand how this diplomatic process may shake out in the coming months.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn what comes next in high stakes diplomacy with North Korea then have a listen.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app.

The post PODCAST: Making Sense of the Trump-Kim Summit appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The UN’s Nightmare Scenario is Now Unfolding in Yemen

12. Juni 2018 - 16:18

UPDATE: The Saudi-led coalition has launched a major attack on the crucial port city of Hodeidah. The UN and humanitarian agencies have warned for months that an attack on this port could disrupt food supplies throughout the country and put 250,000 lives at risk. Much of Yemen was already on the brink of famine. With this attack, there is increased likelihood that child mortality rates increase past the famine threshold.

The UN’s nightmare scenario for Yemen might soon unfold.

This statement from the Yemen country director of Mercy Corps, which runs operations in Yemen, sums up the feelings of the humanitarian community

“As of today, Yemen has lost the lifeline that delivered 70 percent of its food and aid supplies. Eight million people stand on the brink of starvation and will no longer have access to their main source of food.

“Whatever the strategic or political gains that might be won by taking or holding Hodeida, these will be eclipsed by the suffering, misery and needless loss of life that will be paid by the Yemeni people. There can be no winner in this conflict.

“Now that fighting has begun, all we can do is prepare for the worst.” 

Original post below. 

With the World Distracted By the Trump-Kim Summit, Yemen’s Last Lifeline is Under Imminent Attack

All eyes are in Singapore, where Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in a legitimately historical summit. But halfway across the world, belligerents seem to be using this moment of international distraction to carry out a long planned assault on a Port in Yemen through which most humanitarian aid and food is imported.

Forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are backed by the United States in the Yemen civil war, are positioned to attack Hodeidah. The UN and the International Committee for the Red Cross have pulled their staff from the port city, which is controlled by forces aligned with the Houthi rebels groups. (The US-backed Saudi-led coalition is backing the internationally recognized government of Yemen, which is seeking to regain control of this strategic port.)

The UN and international aid groups have been warning for months that an attack on Hodeidah would be absolutely catastrophic. This is the only operational port in the entire country in which shipping containers can be offloaded. Some 75% of population of Yemen relies on food aid, 80% of which comes through that single port. UN officials warn that an attack that disrupts operations at this port could cause more than a quarter of a million civilians deaths.

A year ago, as another attack seemed imminent, I spoke with Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group about the consequences of an attack on Hodeihah.  He warned it could plunge the country into famine.

We are now nearing one of the most dire inflection points of this terrible conflict.  The one thing that could stop this attack is a diplomatic intervention by the United States.

So far, the US has backed the Saudi-led campaign though enabling military capacities, like mid-air refueling for Saudi bombers. Members of Congress from both parties are seeking to condition that assistance on more strident human rights criteria.

But now, with an attack imminent, it seems only the Trump administration has the ability to press its Middle Eastern allies to hold back on this assault. Whether or not they choose to exercise that power remains to be seen.  At the Security Council yesterday, Kuwait (a member of the Saudi-led coalition) blocked the issuance of a unanimous statement calling for restraint. The US did not, apparently, approach the issue with much urgency.

I’m told the US was relatively muted in closed door security council deliberations on Yemen today. Neither Haley nor her deputy were there. Britain “did most of the talking” said one dip

— columlynch (@columlynch) June 12, 2018

What we do know is that if this assault occurs, a country already beset by humanitarian catastrophe will enter into a deeply painful emergency that will likely lead to a famine that kills several thousand people.

The post The UN’s Nightmare Scenario is Now Unfolding in Yemen appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: A Bold (Yet Practical) New Idea for UN Reform

11. Juni 2018 - 10:18

I spent the last week of May at a conference in Stockholm called the New Shape Forum. This was an ideas festival and prize competition and workshop all around new ideas for better organizing the world to confront catastrophic global risks.

The Global Challenges Foundation, which convened this, solicited new ideas for global governance and received several thousand ideas from all over the world. Of these submissions, 14 finalists were selected to present their ideas at the New Shape Forum.

And then those of us invited to the conference all got down to work. We identified the ideas we thought we could help refine and spent two days building upon them. At the end of the conference, three of those 14 ideas were selected as winners, and the winning ideas got $600,000 each.

My guest today, Natalie Samarsinghe is one of those winners. She is the executive director of the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom–though she wants to stress that this episode was recorded in her personal capacity, as was the idea she submitted.

She came up with a proposal for a novel kind of UN Reform —  not a reform of the Security Council, or the General Assembly. Rather, it is a proposal for how UN agencies can better design and implement programs and projects around the world.

You can find the other two winning ideas and other finalists at Global

This episode is presented by the Global Challenges Foundation, which recently convened the New Shape Forum in Stockholm. This was a platform where over 200 leading thinkers and experts discussed fresh ideas for improving global governance to tackle the world’s most pressing problems. Next, the Global Challenges Foundation is partnering with the Paris Peace Forum in November to present further developed and more holistic ideas for confronting global catastrophic risks.  Visit to learn more.


The post PODCAST: A Bold (Yet Practical) New Idea for UN Reform appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

For the First Time Since the US-Lead Intervention, the Rate of Children Not in School in Afghanistan is Rising

8. Juni 2018 - 10:13

For the first time since 2002, when a US-lead intervention toppled the Taliban government, the rate of children not in school in Afghanistan is rising.

According to a new report by UNICEF and the Afghan government this week, almost half of the country’s 7- to 17-year-olds – as many as 3.7 million – are missing out on school. Of those, 2.2 million (60 percent) are girls. Worryingly, another 300,000 kids who are currently in primary school are at risk of dropping out, the report estimates.

These findings seem to have sparked a sense of urgency in the government, which has declared 2018 a “year of education.”

“Now is the time for a renewed commitment to provide girls and boys with the relevant learning opportunities they need to progress in life and to play a positive role in society,” Adele Khodr, UNICEF’s Afghanistan representative, said in a press release.

After decades of conflict ravaged the country, Afghanistan set out in 2001 to reboot its education system, following the U.S. invasion and ouster of the Taliban government. Together, the international community, local communities and civil society worked to repair school buildings, set up additional temporary classrooms, provide access to safe water and sanitation, develop curriculum and bring in school supplies.

By March 2002, children were back in classrooms for the first time in years. Three million kids attended school that first year, and in 2003, more than 4 million children filled classrooms, according to a UNICEF report from that year.

In the subsequent years, enrollment continued to rise, especially among girls. The Constitution of Afghanistan even stipulates free primary and secondary education by the state. Yet, as the most recent data indicate, improvements need to be made if the Ministry of Education is to keep the out-of-school rate from continuing to rise.

According to the report, the contributing – and co-dependent – barriers to education span both the demand-side and supply-side of the equation.

Insufficient demand from the population for education is tied to both socio-cultural factors as well as economic. For example, child marriage “remains the second-most reported reason for girls dropping out of school,” the report says. Insecurity is also a very real risk for both boys and girls, but because of “gendered perceptions of insecurity,” 22 percent of girls cited insecurity (including the risk of harassment) as a reason for not attending school, compared to 8 percent of boys.

Other demand-side barriers to education include the parents’ level of education, poverty, beliefs about religious education and child labor, among others.

On the supply-side, barriers are caused by the “lack of educational opportunities offered,” including the lack of provisions for nomadic lifestyles or displaced families, the lack of teachers (in quality and quantity, especially of females) and the lack of infrastructure, to name a few.

As the data show, these barriers disproportionately affect girls and children in rural areas and areas with higher rates of displaced households. In fact, the provinces that have seen the highest rates in out-of-school children – including Kandahar, Helmand, Wardak, Paktika, Zabul and Uruzgan – are in the southern part of the country with the highest rates of internally displaced persons. In those areas, up to 85 percent of girls are not attending school.

“Business as usual is not an option for Afghanistan if we are to fulfill the right to education for every child,” Khodr said. “When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment.”

Certainly, it’s not all bad news. Dropout rates are actually quite low, according to the report with 85 percent of children who start primary school completing the last grade. In lower secondary schools, 94 percent of boys and 90 percent of girls also complete all the grades. Afghanistan’s “dropout and survival rates” are actually better than its neighbors Pakistan and Nepal; although, the report notes that may be partially because of the number of children in Afghanistan who’ve never even enrolled.

The report notes, too, that lack of sufficient data poses a significant barrier to improving access to education in Afghanistan. Even estimates by government officials of the number of children in school in 2015 spanned from 6 million to 11 million, and the last time they conducted a full census was in 1979.

Still, in response to the concerning findings in this week’s report, the government and its partners have expressed an eagerness to implement the recommendations in the report to move toward achieving Goal 4 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

These recommendations include addressing data gaps, optimizing coordination across sectors, increasing public spending on education, improving accountability systems and, of course, targeting vulnerable groups, such as girls and displaced children.

As the acting minister of education, Mohammad Ibrahim Shinwari, wrote, “We cannot achieve our government’s ambitious plan for long-term prosperity in Afghanistan without continuing to prioritize programming that brings out-of school children into the education system.”

The post For the First Time Since the US-Lead Intervention, the Rate of Children Not in School in Afghanistan is Rising appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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PODCAST: World Food Program Chief David Beasley Discusses Food Crises in the Sahel and North Korea

7. Juni 2018 - 12:04


My guest today, David Beasley is the executive director of the World Food Program. We caught up not long after he visited both the Sahel region of western Africa and from North Korea, where the World Food Program is actively engaged.

We kick off discussing the situation in the Sahel, where food security conditions are rapidly deteriorating because of a combination of lower than normal rainfall and insurgent activities. Beasley describes the situation there, and also the link between food security and extremism.  We then discuss a trip he took to North Korea a few weeks ago, including his overall impressions of food availability in North Korea and how nuclear diplomacy with North Korea may impact the humanitarian situation there.

David Beasley took over as executive director of the WFP one year ago. He’s a former politician who previously served as Governor of the state of South Carolina.


Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post PODCAST: World Food Program Chief David Beasley Discusses Food Crises in the Sahel and North Korea appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Crisis in Venezuela is in Desperate Need of International Attention

6. Juni 2018 - 20:06

The Organization of American States is meeting in D.C. this week for its 48th General Assembly. There were a host of issues on the agenda, but chief among them is what to do about Venezuela, which continues its slow economic and political collapse. Adding to the urgency of finding a viable approach to Venezuela is a recent report released by the OAS last week, finding widespread evidence of crimes against humanity committed by state security forces.

It is the most recent reminder that the situation in Venezuela is more than just a political drama; it has become a crisis in desperate need of international attention.

Venezuela’s current economic collapse is the result of nearly 20 years of political and economic policies dating back to the election of Hugo Chavez as president in 1998. Chavez succeeded in reducing poverty and increasing opportunities for the country’s poor, but it came at a cost. By nationalizing much of the country’s farmland and manufacturing industry, while enacting stringent price controls and drastically expanding presidential powers, Chavez made Venezuela increasingly dependent on both its main oil exports and his own power for survival. High oil prices and his cult of personality made this feasible, but it did put the country on delicate political and economic footing.

Upon Chavez’s passing in 2013, the job of keeping Venezuela afloat fell to its new president Nicolas Maduro. As vice president and Minister of Foreign Affairs under Chavez, Maduro was seen by many as the most capable within the government’s inner circle and an obvious successor to Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution. But the stunning drop in oil prices from an average of $109 a barrel in 2012 to just $40 a barrel in 2016 sent the Venezuelan economy into a tailspin. Having already lost a significant amount of human capital following Chavez’s nationalization efforts, there was little else for the country to rely on economically. However it is the political choices made by Maduro that has led to today’s humanitarian crisis.

During the 15 years of Chavez’s rule, government respect for human rights eroded, especially in the areas of freedom of the press and the rule of law. Rather than correct this trajectory upon coming to power, in many ways Maduro doubled down, continuing with Chavez’s policies while further consolidating power in the executive branch. In 2014 as the economic situation deteriorated and protests erupted over the lack of food, medicine and other basic necessities in the country as a result of hyperinflation, Maduro reacted by launching crackdowns on protesters, human rights activists, opposition politicians and the media. Since then, both the protests and government crackdown has continued as an estimated 1.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country, looking for basic goods and trying to escape the growing political oppression back home.

These are the reasons why the situation in Venezuela has dominated debates at the OAS for the last five years, but an OAS report released last week adds another layer of concern.

Beyond finding just human rights abuses by the government, a panel of experts found evidence of extensive crimes against humanity committed by the government and state security forces since 2013.

In particular, the panel found evidence that more than 8,000 people have been extrajudicially executed since 2015 and more than 12,000 people have been arbitrarily detained since the presidential elections in 2013. In addition to that, the panel found evidence of murder and the targeting of opposition members by state security forces as a means for the government to maintain absolute control over the civilian population.

The report is important as the OAS has been on the frontlines of trying to find a diplomatic solution to the Venezuelan crisis. By noting such serious crimes ocurring, the report makes clear that a diplomatic solution while Maduro remains in power may not be possible, and the legacy of the crisis will likely extend far past his rule.

It also comes just months after the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary examination into possible state crimes committed since at least April 2017. A preliminary examination is not a proper investigation, but rather a look into whether it is likely crimes covered by the ICC’s jurisdiction – war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide – have occurred. What the OAS report demonstrates is the answer to that questions is almost certainly a “yes.” This will inevitably place the court in a precarious situation: pursue a formal investigation and possible charges against a government that is already internationally isolated, or drag out the process in the hopes that eventually cooler heads will prevail in Venezuela?

Making this calculus even harder is the fact that Venezuela is not actually at war. Although the economic collapse it experienced is rarely seen outside of times of armed conflict, it is corruption, the erosion of democratic norms and self serving policies for the government elite that has created the mess. Thus, can an economic war be grounds for prosecution by the ICC?

Much like the preliminary examination into the drug war in the Philippines, which was announced at the same time as Venezuela’s, by undertaking these examinations the ICC is signaling its willingness to get involved even in cases where traditional armed conflict is not present. As Mark Kersten points out, this could be a way for the court to try and influence state behavior before it is called on to intervene more directly. However, in the case of Venezuela, it is unlikely that such influence will provide concrete results.

What is clear for now is there is no end in sight for the crisis in Venezuela. Maduro won re-election last month in what many opposition leaders and international observers consider to be a sham election. One of his campaign promises was national reconciliation with the opposition. To that end, he recently released 79 prisoners who were supposedly arrested for anti-government activities, but even that is viewed with skepticism by observers who claim they are actually government supporters. It is yet another sign that the democratic erosion experienced over the past 20 years cannot be righted overnight, and probably not by those who led the institutional collapse. In the meantime, thousands of people continue to flee the country in the largest refugee exodus in the Western Hemisphere, and the government seems content to continue oppression as business as usual.

It may turn out that the OAS report is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to uncovering the crimes committed by state forces. But the report lays bare just how serious the crisis has become and the need for international resolve right now.

The post The Crisis in Venezuela is in Desperate Need of International Attention appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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One Year After Trump Ditched the Paris Agreement, Where Are We?

5. Juni 2018 - 17:45

One year ago this month, US President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw his country from the Paris Agreement. After playing a key role in pulling the agreement together, the US, now under new leadership, dealt it its greatest blow. The result may be catastrophic for the climate, but climate negotiations are moving forward. Here’s a look at where we are one year after Trump’s decision.

Shadow Delegation

States and cities, lead by Democrats but also some Republicans, banded together to say they were “still in” the agreement. Corporations, too, scrambled to sign up to uphold President Obama’s commitments. The groups made a point of showing up to UN climate talks late last year lead by California Governor Jerry Brown and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, shadowing the official, US state department delegation.

In the US’s absence, of course, climate negotiations continue. Diplomats will meet this September in Bangkok to continue to hammer out the rulebook governing the Paris Agreement. They aim to have it finished by the annual, end-of-year climate summit, which will occur this December in Katowice, Poland. The US continues to attend the climate talks where a mixed coalition of professional staff at the State Department and new, Republican appointees — some of whom support the Paris Agreement and some of whom do not — send mixed messages  including promoting liquified natural gas and traditional fossil fuels while simultaneously working on the Paris Agreement rulebook as if the US had never announced its intention to leave.

Officially, Nothing Has Happened…Yet

The awkward arrangement speaks to the US’s position with one foot firmly planted in the doorway but, so far, going no further. Despite Trump’s announcement last June, under the Paris Agreement rules, the US cannot officially give notice that it is exiting the agreement until 3 years after it joined it — so, in November 2019. That exit will not go into effect until one year after that, November 2020.

In the US, climate skeptic groups who had lobbied Trump heavily to pull out of Paris also aren’t satisfied. The door is still open, they warn, for the US to rejoin the Paris Agreement at any time. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, an oil industry aligned think tank, is calling on Trump to send the Paris Agreement to the Senate where it would be voted on as a treaty. CEI and similar groups have also urged Trump to pull out of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the treaty that undergirds the Paris Agreement and through which climate negotiations take place.

Trump could follow the urging of conservative groups and ditch the UNFCCC, but has not yet done so. He also continues to speak about reentering the Paris Agreement from time to time if the US could get a “completely different deal” than the one agreed to during the Obama administration. That is extremely unlikely — impossible, really — in the short term, given that the Paris Agreement was more than a decade in the making. But Trump seems to relish the idea of climate accord as bargaining chip.

Slowing Momentum

With the US hanging about awkwardly at climate negotiations, many warn that countries’ momentum will slow. Others say they already have. “In the absence of the United States, you have a phenomenon of a fair number of countries, I think, trying to pull back a little bit on some of the things that were agreed to, some of the compromises that were reached in Paris,” Todd Stern, Obama’s top climate diplomat, recently told a conference convened by the World Resources Institute.

In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times  Gov. Jerry Brown painted a bleaker picture, asserting that global progress has stalled. “This is real,” Brown told the newspaper. “It is far more serious than anybody is saying.”

A “Closing Window”

A new study published last month in the journal Climate Policy suggests that, due to a variety of factors stemming from US withdraw, the world may not be able to contain global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the Paris Agreement’s upper goal. The study finds that even if the US re-engages with the Paris agreement in the year 2025 — by which point Trump will be term-limited from office — the world will be 6 to 9 percent less likely to stay below the 2-degrees threshold. To meet the 2°C target without the US means increased reduction efforts and mitigation costs for the rest of the world, and considerable economic burdens for major developing areas.

China’s Murky Role

Despite that, there are some signs of hope.

China has promised to play a greater role in climate negotiations, and has promised to work with the EU to do so; the two entities have a alluded to a partnership of the sort forged between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping that allowed the agreement to come to fruition in the first place. The potential for EU-China cooperation appears only to have grown as the US antagonizes both on trade.

But in order for international observers to take China’s climate ambition seriously, it will have to show that the work it has done to clean up its act within its own borders extends to its work beyond its projects overseas, an ever-growing part of China’s economy as it seeks to exert influence worldwide.

Only One Way Forward

The best news of the last year is that, even with the US promising to formally quit, no other country has done the same. In fact, no other country has even backslid on its commitments in a substantial way. Not yet, at least.

In a reflection on the last year published in May 2018, Reuters reporter Alistair Doyle, a veteran climate journalist, recalls a metaphor related to him by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, the former head of the Least Developed Countries group at the Paris negotiations. The group includes 48 nations, mostly in Africa and in Southeast Asia.

At annual climate talks in Morocco in 2017, he told me the Kyoto Protocol was a way of telling the rich countries to fix the problem of global warming – cramming about 40 prime ministers or presidents in a lift in a skyscraper and pressing the button to send them to the top floor.

“But the lift broke down. Now we’ve all agreed to take the stairs. That may take longer, but we’re more likely to get there,” he said.

Poor countries, who, a decade ago, may have balked at cutting their own emissions if the US was not committed to doing the same, now appear to still be ready to move ahead. The grim reality is that most recognize, in a way the US does not, that if climate change is to be limited, they no longer have a choice.

The post One Year After Trump Ditched the Paris Agreement, Where Are We? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

What India Can Teach Indiana About Fighting Diabetes

4. Juni 2018 - 15:57

The developing world is where some of the more innovative strategies against diseases have been developed. To a certain extent, this is out of necessity — poorer communities have higher burdens of preventable diseases. But now, some interventions designed for the developing world are being deployed to poorer communities in the United States.

On the line to discuss how strategies honed in the developing world can help three poor neighborhoods of the city of Indianapolis, Indiana tackle high rates of diabetes is Amy Israel. She is the global health thought leadership and policy director for the health and pharmaceutical company Lilly which has launched a new pilot based on the “community health worker” model deployed in countries like India.

The “community health worker model” is a strategy for training people of the community to be the first points-of-contact between their neighbors and the health care system. It is used widely in countries like India, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and throughout much of the developing world.

In our conversation, Amy discusses how the pilot project will work with three poorer neighborhoods of Indianapolis, where rates of diabetes are exponentially higher than in wealthier parts of the city and state. We discuss the link between diabetes and poverty and also, more broadly, how health ideas created in the developing world are being applied here in the United States.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post What India Can Teach Indiana About Fighting Diabetes appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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180,000 Refugees in Jordan Are About to Lose a Lifeline

1. Juni 2018 - 16:11

Some 5.6 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries since war broke out seven years ago. This includes Jordan, which is home to 657,000 Syrian refugees. And now, some of the most vulnerable among them are about to have one of their last lifelines cut off.

The UN Refugee Agency warns that it is facing a serious funding shortfall for a program that provides a monthly cash allowance to 30,000 families, or about 180,000 people. These families receive $113 per month and are selected because they face some additional hardships — about one third of these families have a member living with a disability, for example.

That program helps these families pay rent, afford medicines and buy food. And now, it is running out of money. UNHCR said yesterday that it needs $40 million to keep this program operational in Jordan through the end of the year. If funding is not received by the end of June, it will be forced to scale back this assistance. Across the region as a whole, UNHCR says “$116 million is urgently needed to avoid cutting off assistance to 87,000 families.”

The pressures on this program are part of wider funding challenges, now seven years into this regional crisis. But when you boil it down, these statistics are the compounded experiences of individuals. And these funding shortfalls are the international community turning their backs on these individuals.

The post 180,000 Refugees in Jordan Are About to Lose a Lifeline appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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PODCAST: Kristine McDivitt Tompkins was one of the largest private landowners in the world before she gave it away

31. Mai 2018 - 15:40

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins made history earlier this year when she completed what is said to be the largest ever transfer of land from a private entity to a government.

In a ceremony in Chile with President Michelle Bachelet at her side, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins formally handed over 1 million acres of land of while President Bachelet designated 9 million more acres to create vast new national parks.

This created areas of protected wilderness about the size of Switzerland.

That ceremony was the culmination of decades of work by Kristine and her late husband Doug Tompkins. Kristine was the longtime CEO of the outdoor apparel company Patagonia. Doug, who died in a kayaking accident in 2015, was the co-founder of the clothing companies North Face and Espirit. Together, the created the non-profit Tompkins Conservation.

In this conversation, Kristine Tompkins discusses the origins of her work as a conversationist and as a pioneer of corporate social responsibility. She also describes the process of creating wilderness areas in partnerships with governments.

We caught up while she was in New York to receive an award from the United Nations Environment Program.

Among other things, this is an interesting conversation about the impact of philanthropy in global affairs and conservationism.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post PODCAST: Kristine McDivitt Tompkins was one of the largest private landowners in the world before she gave it away appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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It is the 70th Anniversary of UN Peacekeeping. Here’s How Peacekeeping Has Evolved

30. Mai 2018 - 16:56

Peacekeeping is not in the Charter of the United Nations. When negotiators hammered out the details of the San Francisco Treaty in 1945, they created a new model for international political cooperation. But that model excluded, at the time, a platform for the deployment of an impartial international military force to confront threats to peace and security.

That change just three years later, on May 29, 1948, when the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization was created to monitor a fragile truce between the newly formed country of Israel and its Arab neighbors.  Since then, May 29 has been recognized by the UN as Peacekeeper Day to honor the Blue Helmets who have lost their lives in the line of duty. To date, there have been over 3,700 fatalities among nearly 1 million blue helmets deployed since 1948.

The UN Secretary General, fittingly, commemorated the day in Mali, which is home to most dangerous UN Peacekeeping mission in the world. The mission, known MINUSMA, has suffered over 160 deaths since 2013 — mostly at the hands of terrorist groups and insurgents.

MINUSMA is also a good example of how UN Peacekeeping has evolved in the last 70 years. Back in 1948 the peacekeepers were not an armed force, per se. Then, in 1956 the Canadian diplomat Lester Pearson created the elements of modern day peacekeeping by designing an armed mission composed of military units from many countries that deployed to monitor the withdrawal of troops from the Suez. (This ended what is known today as the “Suez Crisis.”)

For the most part, peacekeeping for the next 50 years used the model designed by Pearson:  peacekeepers would deploy to monitor a truce and provide each side breathing room as a peace process takes hold. The peacekeepers have a straightforward mission of serving as the neutral guarantors of truce or peace agreement.

But today’s conflicts are far more complex. The Mali conflict is a good example. There is no “front line” of the conflict from which the sides need to be separated. Rather, various insurgent groups find strategic value in attacking UN Peacekeepers, mostly through IEDs and ambushes. Added to this mix,  you have jihadist terrorist groups for whom attacks on civilian populations and attacks on the UN are a core part of their ideology.  Meanwhile, the overall mission of the MINUSMA is to protect civilians from violence and assist the government of Mali as it conducts arduous “nation building” projects.

This is a far cry from the old days of UN Peacekeeping — but it is worth noting that peacekeeping has evolved as the nature of conflict has evolved. (Sometimes, far too slow as was the case in Rwanda). But in more modern cases the deployment of UN Peacekeepers has been extremely successful, including in Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire and Sierra Leone. These missions were more or less able to work themselves out of a job over the course of a decade, leaving behind stable countries and fast growing economies. (This was a point made in a recent op-ed by two members of the United States Congress, Adam Kinzinger  and  David Cicilline).

Today, there are over 100,000 peacekeepers deployed to 15 missions around the world. These forces are deployed at a cost-saving bargain to the countries that pay for their deployment, which includes the United States which foots over a quarter of cost of UN Peacekeeping. (A recent report by the US Government Accountability Office found that it has cost the US eight times less to support UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Central African Republic than it would have cost for the US to deploy its own military forces. )

So, this week, on the 70th anniversary of UN Peacekeeping it is worth to take a step back and appreciate both the individual sacrifices of foreign military personnel deployed to dangerous places not to advance any single country’s interest, but in the service of global peace and security. Peacekeeping is a continually evolving enterprise, and it serves the interests of peace and security to provide peacekeeping the resources it needs to keep up with the ever changing nature of conflict.


The post It is the 70th Anniversary of UN Peacekeeping. Here’s How Peacekeeping Has Evolved appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: A New Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

29. Mai 2018 - 13:58

The ebola outbreak ongoing the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most severe ebola outbreak since the 2014 calamity in west Africa that killed over 11,000 people.

By the last week of May, there a have been over 20 deaths linked to this outbreak and over 50 suspected cases. But this is a fluid and fast moving situation, so what I wanted to do with this episode is to offer listeners some broader context for understanding this particular outbreak, and also explore how the international response to this outbreak is so profoundly different from the response back in 2014.

I could have no better person discuss outbreak than my guest today Laurie Garret. She is a global health expert, pulitzer prize winning journalist and former fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. We kick off discussing the origins of this new outbreak. We then have a longer conversation examining how the response to this outbreak is so profoundly different than the devastating outbreak in West Africa four years ago.

If you have 20 minutes and want some context for understanding this ongoing emergency in the DRC and how it may evolve, have a listen.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcherSpotify or get the Global Dispatches mobile app. 

The post PODCAST: A New Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Let’s Talk About Menstrual Hygiene

28. Mai 2018 - 6:18

On any given day more than 800 million women and girls are menstruating, yet menstrual health and hygiene is a neglected health and development issue. Stigma, taboos, and ignorance around periods harm women and girls every day.

In many parts of the world, women and girls are considered dirty or impure during menstruation. They are restricted from daily activities such as eating certain foods, touching animals, going to school, or socializing with boys and men. In some cultures, burning a used pad symbolizes burning a baby. In extreme cases, women and girls are isolated to places like cow sheds during their period. 

But menstrual health and hygiene is not just an issue in developing countries.  While the concrete challenges might be different, menstruation is still met with silence, neglect, and stigma in countries like the United States, Germany, and Japan.

We are beginning to see some traction against the neglect of menstrual health and hygiene. A UN agency is hosting a convening on menstrual health for the first time. The United Nations Population Fund is bringing together youth activists, policymakers, experts, donors, and practitioners in Johannesburg on May 28 – Menstrual Hygiene Day — to drive action on this fundamental issue of gender equality.

As menstrual health and hygiene activism starts to ramp up, it is imperative for the global community to approach the issue holistically.

Current solutions primarily focus on providing access to safe and affordable products or materials, but products alone won’t solve the problem.

It is critical that discussion about menstruation be mainstreamed as a normal biological process. The period is a fundamental developmental milestone and vital health sign. Girls and women need information to understand and manage their period with confidence and dignity. We must also ensure they have access to a toilet or place to manage their period at home, work, school, or in transit.

Above all, we will only be able to make progress by taking on the stigma that comes with menstruation. We must arm pre-adolescent girls – and their key influencers including family, religious leaders, community health workers, and boys and men – with the knowledge they need to manage their periods comfortably, with confidence. It’s time to support the social and physical health of girls when they need it most.

If addressing menstrual health and hygiene is such a no-brainer, why is it still an outlier? Despite an emerging body of evidence and an increased commitment to gender equality, the global response has been slow. One reason is this issue falls through the cracks between programs such as health, education, gender, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

As a global community, it is our responsibility to invest in the research to understand the links between menstruation and social and physical health outcomes. In parallel, we must also advocate for unrepresented issues affecting the daily lives of women and girls. These approaches are not mutually exclusive, but should reinforce each other.

Global events that focus on women’s health like the World Health Assembly and Women Deliver should include discussions on menstrual health and hygiene. Development agencies, practitioners, and researchers should include it in strategies to meet gender, water and sanitation, and education-focused Sustainable Development Goals. Humanitarian response agencies can ensure that sanitary supplies and education modules are embedded in emergency response programming. Investing in the capacity of researchers in the Global South to better understand local taboos, stigma, and solutions should be prioritized. In the United States, we need to ensure that women and girls in under-resourced settings likes schools, prisons, and homeless shelters have access to sanitary products.

The rallying cry for this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day is #NoMoreLimits. It is high time that we step up our efforts to ensure that women and girls are no longer limited because of their periods.


Ed note. This is a special guest post from Thorsten Kiefer and Gabrielle Fitzgerald. Thorsten Kiefer is founder and CEO of WASH United, a Berlin-based non-profit organization that works to end the global sanitation and hygiene crisis. Gabrielle Fitzgerald in founder and CEO of Panorama, a Seattle-based action tank.

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