The Global Citizen: peacekeeping
I distinctly remember feeling relief when I first heard about President Obama's decision to arm Syrian rebels - finally there will be a stop to all this bloodshed. Research has led me to think otherwise, however, and I am now skeptical of the President's decision.
David Rohde of Reuters calls Obama's decision to arm the rebels the "best of several bad choices in Syria." He supports his claim by explaining, "Arming one side in a conflict can help produce a diplomatic settlement." In fact, a study on civil war found that conflicts are shorter when there is military intervention on the rebel side.
A guest blog post by Lucy Law Webster
Syria needs help. Its government has no legitimacy having killed some 90,000 Syrian people and forced millions from their homes as internal refugees and into exile in nearby countries.
It would be a mistake for the United States to put its own boots on the ground, but it could help to provide a wide range of equipment (including weapons) to the insurgents. Above all, it could, together with the Arab League and others, support and encourage a transition process, carefully defined and backed by an overwhelming vote in the UN General Assembly.
It is important that the recently agreed Arms Trade Treaty was not abandoned when 100% consensus could not be obtained during the treaty conference negotiations. Instead, the text was taken to the General Assembly where there was a positive vote of 154 versus 3 negative votes (Syria, Iran and North Korea) with 23 abstentions.
On September 20th, GlobalSolutions.org, hosted a panel discussion titled It Can Be Done: U.S. Personnel in International Peacekeeping. During this event, attendees were treated to the perspectives of three prominent U.S. peacekeepers: Lynn Holland, William Stuebner, and Deborah Owens.
First, Lynn Holland provided her perspective on the importance of U.S. involvement in peacekeeping missions, as well as her take on the role that women have in future peacekeeping missions. Next, William Stuebner provided a realistic perspective on future U.S. engagement in international peacekeeping, providing a number of conditions that must be met in order for the United States to engage in the process. Finally, Deborah Owens provided some of her perspectives that she gained through service in Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia.
The panel discussion was the last in a series of events held to promote a report we published last year in conjunction with the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping, entitled “U.S. Engagement in International Peacekeeping: From Aspiration to Implementation.” Thanks to generous support from the Compton Foundation, we were able to hold events education policy makers, government officials, fellow NGO staff, and students on the benefits of U.S. engagement in peacekeeping efforts.
Rarely are the words "stable" and "consistent" used to describe Somalia, a country that has spent a majority of the past two decades mired in near-perpetual civil war. However, in the case of the Fund for Peace's annual Failed States Index (FSI), the aforementioned adjectives could, unfortunately enough, be applied to the troubled East African state.
For the fifth straight year, Somalia earned the dubious distinction of topping the index, which "ranks instability risks of 177 nations based on 12 social, economic, and political indicators," including "violations of human rights and rule of law," "legitimacy of the state," and "uneven economic development," among others. This year, the Fund for Peace cited Somalia's "widespread lawlessness, ineffective government, terrorism, insurgency, crime, and well-publicized pirate attacks against foreign vessels" as the primary reasons for the country's continued presence at the top of the list.
Last week, the Fifth Committee Peacekeeping Budget, effective from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, was passed. Along with monetary shifting and restructuring of peacekeeping staff, the new mandate reiterates important stances on human rights preservations where missions are present. As the peacekeeping structure in the UN continues to evolve and shift into a more effective system, we have to stay focused on the imperative nature and continual support of peacekeeping missions around the world.
With more effective management, the UN was able to cut roughly $537 million from their budget. In a statement released today by U.N. Ambassador Joseph Torsella, the new focus of funds, "shifts resources from overhead to operations." While the implementation of more effective appropriations of funds and management is a great step towards the future of UN peacekeeping, it is also important to recognize the need for increased funding elsewhere in the peacekeeping budget. Dr. Paul Williams of George Washington University spoke of the need to increase funding for different supplies for peacekeeping missions, including the need for 17 more helicopters to transport troops and civilians around rough terrain yesterday at an event sponsored by Citizens for Global Solutions on the Hill.
No one will blame Kofi Annan for a lack of effort. Over the past few months, the former UN Secretary-General has worked tirelessly to peacefully resolve the ongoing turmoil in Syria. And yet, with the bloodshed continuing to escalate, Annan's peace plan has not come to pass.
The Syrian government's continued defiance of Annan's six-point peace plan, coupled with its ongoing brutality towards its enemies at home, clearly indicates that this regime values power above all else, even if it comes at the expense of its own people. In light of this reality, it is time for the United States and the international community to take firm steps to bring about the end of violence in Syria and secure a transfer of power from the Assad regime before the violence in Syria truly spirals out of control.
Yesterday, the Republican-led Subcommittee of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations proposed a draft budget for spending on foreign aid, including funding of the United Nations, the State Department, and various peacekeeping operations around the world. The proposed amount was $40.1 billion as a base budget of the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and international affairs programs in other agencies. Additionally, they allocated $8.2 billion for diplomatic and development programs related to the ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
This represents an overall 12% cut from Obama’s proposed budget of $54.71 billion (and about 5% lower than what was proposed last year by Congress). These proposed cuts could be disasterous for humanitarian efforts in poor regions, meaning the cuts would reduce funding for providing clean cookstoves for poor families, promoting literacy, and other humanitarian needs.
Tomorrow may be Valentine's Day, but for those of us who care about international affairs funding (or federal funding of any kind, for that matter), today was a day which has long been almost as breathlessly anticipated: the release of the President's annual budget request for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2013. (I know, not as delightful as Valentine's Day, but still important.)
President Obama stressed that his overall budget aims to balance many different priorities, such as spurring job growth while reigning in the deficit. But stepping away from that bigger picture, what does the President's budget request mean for funding for international affairs in the next year?
President Obama has requested $51.6 billion for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Within that, budget priorities include funding for the "frontline states" (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq); human and economic security; support for embassies and the U.S. global presence; and support for U.S. allies and contributions to multilateral organizations.
This weekend, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was in Germany speaking at an event supporting women in international security. Secretary Clinton remarked "that when we think about peacemaking, which is, after all, one of the critical tasks of any of us in international security, that something is missing. And that is women. There are not enough women at the table, not enough women's voices being heard". Women are underrepresented in peacekeeping forces and in international peace negotiations. This is an unfortunate revelation, considering studies and experiences have show that the presence of women in peacekeeping operations can be extremely beneficial to the success of the effort.
This year as we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s 83rd birthday, I’m struck by the vast difference between his beliefs and today’s “peace candidate”, Representative Ron Paul. In New Hampshire, Paul received 47 percent of the under 30 vote compared to 25 percent for Mitt Romney. It’s easy to understand Paul’s youth appeal. He would avoid “long and expensive land wars,” would immediately withdraw from Afghanistan, has railed against the draft and supports legalizing marijuana.
But let’s be clear: Ron Paul is no Martin Luther King. While Dr. King most likely would have supported Paul’s call for bringing troops home from Afghanistan, King’s understanding of what peace means is almost the opposite of Paul’s.
Paul’s vision of peace is based on individualism and isolationism. He believes that “the greatest chance for peace comes from a society respectful of individual liberty.” But there is a world of difference between being anti-war and pro-peace.
King believed that,
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties … must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”
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