The Global Citizen: Civilian Protection
From time to time, it's always good to take a step back and ask ourselves how we can do our jobs better, as individuals and as organizations. That's what the U.S. State Department did this week with the release of its first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR. This 242-page document, entitled "Leading Through Civilian Power," assesses what State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are doing right and where there is room for improvement in the areas of diplomacy and development.
In the words of Secretary of State Clinton in her opening letter:
"New actors, good and bad, have the power to shape international affairs like never before. The challenges we face-nuclear proliferation, global pandemics, climate change, terrorism-are more complex than ever."
With only a month left until Sudan's momentous January 9th referendum-in which southerners will cast their votes on whether or not to secede from the north to form their own independent state-questions are swirling about whether the referendum will happen on time, or at all, and what the aftermath might entail for the country that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently described as a "ticking time bomb." Just yesterday, it was announced by Sudanese officials that the separate referendum in the oil-producing Abyei region will not take place on January 9th after all, despite being agreed to in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended decades of war in Sudan.
Today, on International Human Rights Day--which marks the 62nd anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly adoption of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights--the possibility of human rights violations and even a potential return to warfare between north and south Sudan following the referendum remains of great concern to Citizens for Global Solutions.
Just last month the UN reported over 500 mass rapes in eastern Congo over a two month period. Women were the primary victims of violence perpetrated by armed combatants and even some Congolese soldiers. According to UN envoy Margot Wallstrom, rape has become the weapon of choice in eastern Congo.
This latest round of sexual violence hit the major media networks, but how many have gone unnoticed? Rape has become so common – practically reaching the status of an endemic in the DRC – that often it fails to trigger a response. In the long and protracted conflict in the DRC, women constitute a high portion of the victims' statistics. It's a horrifying illustration of the fact that women are most deeply affected by war.
In today's armed conflicts, women and girls face the worst perils: death, rape, sexual abuse, kidnapping, enslavement and displacement. Gender crimes and sexual violence play a prominent role in many conflicts as a method of torture, a form of humiliation, and a way to spread terror and fear. Women are often shamed and ostracized, and communities are destroyed. Almost inevitably, conflicts target people at the margins of society, especially women, and they are likely to bear the brunt of the fallout in the post-conflict period.
Is there a Responsibility to Protect the people of Kyrgyzstan? The answer is Yes.
Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) calls upon the international community to abide by its moral responsibility to not let deadly conflicts got unnoticed. If R2P is important to you, then click HERE to see how Citizens for Global Solutions is working collectively with other organizations to urge the UN Security Council to remember their Responsibility to Protect. The ethnic violence and suffering that is taking place in Kyrgyzstan must end soon and the interim government of Kyrgyzstan has already stated that they are unable to protect their people from further violence. The people of Kyrgyzstan need the UN Security Council to not let the current conflict in their State go unnoticed.
Authorities in Kyrgyzstan have reported that more than half, approximately 57,500, of the individuals who left Kyrgyzstan for Uzbekistan have returned home. Reports from inside Kyrgyzstan indicate that 75,000 Kyrgyz citizens fled to Uzbekistan but international aid groups are saying that over 100,000 Kyrgyz citizens actually left the country. In addition to people leaving the country, many more people, approximately 300,000 people, are internally displaced.
Why are they returning home? Has the violence subsided? The answer is not really. Even though Large-scale unrest has ceased in the country's south, tension still remains high, security forces are carrying out raids and human rights organizations are accusing the police of looting. Officials are reporting that as many as 2,000 people may have been killed during the fighting that took place earlier this month.
In spite of the present tension, the interim leader, Roza Otunbayeva, still wants to continue with the plan of having a constitutional referendum on Sunday. Some say that this is not a good idea because there is a high risk of causing new unrest, but Otunbayeva insists that holding the constitutional referendum is essential for ensuring stability back in Kyrgyzstan.
The United Nations (UN) announced today that approximately 400,000 have been displaced by the unyielding violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan. The UN has also reported that roughly 300,000 people have fled their homes and another 75,000-100,000 people (not counting children) are thought to have taken refuge in Uzbekistan. Many of the people that have fled to Uzbekistan are women and children who are now living in makeshift camps where many are reporting instances of rape and severe beatings.
The effect of the violence on Uzbekistan
This is the first time that Uzbekistan has opened its doors to refugees but Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Aripov said Uzbekistan would stop accepting refugees because they could not be accommodated. Additionally, Uzbekistan has called for international aid to assist them in their ability to admit and accommodate refugees.
What about aid?
Until a week or so ago, most Americans probably couldn't locate the nation of Kyrgyzstan on a map. However, ethnic violence has now broken out in the country in dramatic fashion, following a coup in early April, and the small Central Asian republic is now dominating the news.
What exactly is behind the recent upheaval? Violence, concentrated primarily in the nation's second-largest city, Osh, has been directed against ethnic Uzbeks, who make up a minority of Kyrgyzstan's population but have a strong presence in the southern region where Osh is located. As of Monday, the Kyrgyz government claims that at least 124 people have been killed, with more than 1,600 wounded; however, the numbers may well be higher. At least 150,000 ethnic Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan have fled across the border to neighboring Uzbekistan, leading to the potential for a humanitarian crisis.
The Kyrgyz government, which appears to have little or no control over the situation in the southern part of the country, has appealed to neighboring Russia to send peacekeeping troops to help quell the violence. However, at this time the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a regional organization composed of former Soviet states and led by Russia, had not yet reached a decision on sending troops to Kyrgyzstan.
A step in the right direction!
On April 28, 2010, the members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted by voice vote on S. 1067 the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009. A voice vote is a voting method used by the U.S. House of Representatives in which a vote is taken on legislation by responding verbally. The decision is made by the chair, although it can be challenged.
The bill is summarized here by the Congressional Research Service:
Sunday marked the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, commemorating victims who have suffered the effects of the deadly weapons. Antipersonnel landmines have been dubbed indiscriminate killers, as they injure and kill more civilians than soldiers. In the wake of armed conflict, women and children often come across these hidden killers - in fields or on the way to school - and are maimed or killed.
The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty prohibits all use, production and trade of antipersonnel mines, provides timelines for destroying stockpiles, and recommends assistance programs for mine victims. Although 156 other countries have signed and ratified the Mine Ban Treaty, the U.S. has not. All U.S. military allies are party to the treaty, and Cuba is the only other country in this hemisphere that hasn't signed the treaty. Given that the U.S. was the first country to call for the elimination of landmines in the 1990s, the U.S. ought to sign the treaty to solidify its commitment to arms control.
In 2009, 67 national organizations asked President Obama to undertake a review of U.S. landmine policy. The State Department announced the beginning of the review in December 2009, and there is hope that it will end with a decision to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.
The United States has named three Strategic Objectives for Sudan:
- A definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses, and genocide in Darfur.
- Implementation of the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that results in a peaceful post-2011 Sudan, or an orderly path toward two separate and viable states at peace with each other.
- Ensure that Sudan does not provide a safe haven for international terrorists.
The genocide in Darfur has been ongoing for six years. It was initiated by the National Congress Party (NCP) and a government supported militia called the Janjaweed. The Darfur region in Western Sudan has been targeted causing at least 300,000 deaths, 2.7 displaced individuals, and 250,000 refugees. The severity of the violence in the region has lessened since 2005, but people still live in insecurity and the genocide is still occurring. Sudan is at a critical juncture where the right action could lead to stability and peace. The press release called for the U.S. to act with a sense of urgency and purpose in Sudan. A U.S. Department of State press release stated:
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