The Global Citizen: Human Rights
Last Friday, President Obama announced that the U.S. will send a small deployment of troops to several countries in Central Africa to help combat the Lord's Resistance Army. Approximately 100 American soldiers will likely be sent to Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in support of a regional effort to counteract the notorious LRA.
Obama's order follows Congress' passage of the "Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act," which the President signed into law last year. In a letter to Congressional leaders informing them of the action, Obama noted that "Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense." Obama noted that "...regional military efforts have thus far been unsuccessful in removing LRA leader Joseph Kony or his top commanders from the battlefield," and therefore, "I have authorized a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa."
Today, the people of Syria are waiting. Waiting for the world to wake up and take action as their oppressive leader Bashir Al-Assad's regime has killed over 2700 people and continues to jail and torture civilians who only ask for the right to protest their government.
Russia and China have kept the Syrian people waiting for relief from the violence. Yesterday, the two permanent members of the Security Council rejected a resolution (which was watered down to gain their support) that called for an immediate end to violence and demanded that those responsible for perpetuating violence against the unarmed protesters be held accountable. Sanctions or other measures against the Assad regime would only come into affect if Syria failed to meet these demands.
Should the U.S. government have the right to use unmanned drone attacks, called targeted killing by some and assassination by others, against our enemies abroad in the war on terror living? Does it make a difference if these targets are U.S. citizens or foreigners? Should an official from the Central Intelligence Agency sitting in Langley, VA, just ten miles from our nation's capitol, have the ability to operate and pilot armed drones in Pakistan and Yemen, launching attacks before the evidence against their targets has been presented to the American public?
On Wednesday Eric P. Schwartz, the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, addressed a crowded assembly at the United States Institute of Peace. Schwartz, who took the oath of office on July 8, 2009, is leaving the State Department to take on the position of Dean at the Humphrey School of Foreign Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
He began his speech by mentioning the "elephant in the room," saying it would be impossible to talk about humanitarian aid without speaking of the Horn of Africa right now. The State Department estimates that right now more than 13.3 million people there are in need of emergency assistance, primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. People in that area are facing the worst drought they have seen in 60 years, on top of conflict and poverty, and therefore now is a crucial time for humanitarian aid.
Last week I attended the Social Good Summit in New York City, hosted by the United Nations Foundation, Mashable and Ericsson. In every panel and key note the underlying theme of the interdependence between individuals and UN Agencies made itself known. In some cases individual countries were instrumental to the success of a program and in some cases technology was, but in every case without the institutional support, expertise and legitimacy of the UN and without the innovation, willingness to risk and passion of the individuals, success was impossible. Nowhere was this partnership highlighted more than on the panel discussing the 46 million displaced people in the world. The moderator put it best when he stated: "Technology must come with a generous helping of hope, because technology alone is not the answer."
This week, it was announced that a United Nations draft resolution on Syria--written by France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Portugal and supported by the U.S.--was backing off from demanding immediate sanctions on the Assad regime. Instead, it would threaten to impose sanctions only if the Syrian government does not cease its violence toward protesters. This change apparently comes as the sponsoring nations seek to gain the support of Russia and China, both permanent U.N. Security Council members, who oppose sanctioning Assad's government. Meanwhile, Russia is floating a resolution of its own which would condemn the violence in Syria but include no sanctions at all.
On the plus side, the France-UK-Germany-Portugal resolution "demands an immediate end to all violence", and states that the Security Council "expresses its determination, in the event that Syria has not complied with this resolution, to adopt targeted measures, including sanctions."
President Obama took to the podium today at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), and spoke to that body-and the world--about the progress that's been made since last year's UNGA and the multitude of challenges that lie ahead. This was a speech more focused on lofty goals than concrete proposals or policy commitments, but nevertheless it was powerful and touched on many key issues at the heart of Citizens for Global Solutions' mission.
The key theme of Obama's speech? "Peace is hard." But it's also worth the effort.
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Ten years ago, while driving to work, I watched in horror as smoke and flames billowed from the Pentagon from across the Potomac River. Later, huddled in a basement office, our small staff overcame its fear that this was "the beginning of the end" and got to work.
The message sent that day to our members began, "The world has shifted." Like the first few moments after an earthquake, we didn't know how bad the damage was, but we knew the world would never be the same again. I wrote then:
Today marked the final closing arguments in the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Lubanga is charged by the ICC with conscripting child soldiers under the age of 15 into battle in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The defense made the argument that most of the soldiers recruited were overage, and when Lubanga discovered that some of them were under eighteen, he attempted to demobilize the underage soldiers; however, this process was difficult. The defense asserted that the ICC "can't condemn" Lubanga, as he attempted to prevent child soldier use in the DRC. Lubanga himself gave a statement at the end of the trial, in which he said that he was only attempting to "save life...in a spirit of reconciliation" and had taken action against conscription of minors.
The final verdict on the Lubanga case, which will mark the first completed trial in the ICC's history, is anticipated early in 2012.
Today and tomorrow, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be hearing closing arguments in the trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, accused by the Court of conscripting child soldiers in battle in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This marks an important milestone for the Court: the long-awaited conclusion of the first completed trial since its creation.
Lubanga is alleged to be the founder of Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and the Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo (FPLC); the former Commander-in-Chief of the FPLC, and president of the UPC. He is charged with war crimes including enlisting and conscripting child soldiers under the age of 15 into the FPLC. His trial began in January 2009.
The closing arguments are scheduled to wrap up tomorrow, and a verdict in the Lubanga case is expected early next year.
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