The Global Citizen: peacekeeping
Earlier today, Citizens for Global Solutions delivered a petition containing 29,000 signatures to the White House calling for the Obama Administration to "work through the United Nations to continue protecting the people of Libya from atrocities committed by their own government."
The petition launched in April with a full page ad in the New York Times, in which Citizens for Global Solutions called on the United Nations to take three important actions:
- Deploy U.N. peacekeepers on the ground to protect Libyan civilians
- Provide food, water, medicine, and shelter for the displaced people of Libya
- Sponsor elections to bring democracy and a legitimate government
Don Kraus, Citizens for Global Solutions' CEO stated,
"We believe these three actions offer the best chance to save Libyan lives and to create the conditions necessary for the Libyan's to build a more stable and human rights abiding nation. They speak to our most basic values - the shared human desire to live in a world where common human dignity and hope for the future prevail."
Global citizens are commemorating World Refugee Day throughout the world today by participating in cultural events and reflecting on the experiences of those who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict. For example, 19 year old Sahar from Baghdad, Iraq who is living as a refugee in Damascus, shared their personal story to advocate for the rights of refugees.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, released the 2010 Global Trends report today that states that there are 43.7 million displaced people worldwide. The report also explains that 80% of refugees are hosted by developing countries.
It's been a bad month in Sudan, with much discouraging news emerging from the country just weeks before it is scheduled to split into two separate states. However, today U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice announced that the northern and southern governments have just signed an agreement which would hopefully alleviate the escalating crisis in the disputed region of Abyei on the North-South border and lead to the withdrawal of the Sudanese Armed Forces from that region.
Abyei has been a source of contention between northern and southern forces in recent weeks. In late May, forces from the north of the country captured a key town in Abyei. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) swiftly called for the northern forces to pull out. Sudanese President Bashir-perhaps best known in the international community for being charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), though he has yet to be arrested-claimed that the South attacked Northern Sudanese troops who were part of a UN peacekeeping convoy on May 19th while they were withdrawing from the region, and the North had responded in self-defense. The South disputed this assertion.
I recently attended an event at the Brookings Institute, which focused on the implications that the recent military intervention in Libya has had on the concept of the responsibility to protect (R2P). R2P, which was unanimously endorsed by UN member states in 2005, calls for states to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. When states fail at this task, it is the duty of the international community to take decisive collective action to respond to these crimes. Several people, including President Obama, have invoked R2P as a reason to intervene in Libya. The question that the Brookings event tried to answer is what does Libya mean for the future of R2P?
A theme that emerged throughout the event was that the military conflict in Libya presents a strong opportunity for the U.S. to learn from what has worked and what has not. Sarah Sewall, the founder of the Mass Atrocity Response Operations project, noted that there is a lot of cloudiness and gray areas around responses to R2P. Many people noted the inconsistencies regarding U.S. response to R2P. Audience members asked why Libya and not Syria or Yemen? I think it's important to strengthen R2P and specify when military action is necessary. The principle needs to be clearer on when a military response is needed and what actions need to be taken before armed intervention occurs.
John Danforth, a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN (2004-05), and a Republican U.S. senator from Missouri (1976-94) just published an excellent article in USA Today laying out why it is in the United States' interest to stay engaged in the UN.
He says that while Congress has been debating whether to limit contribution to the UN, the real debate is:
"how we can best influence the institution to accelerate the adoption of reforms while not shutting down the organization's work, decreasing U.S. influence, and costing American taxpayers more money."
His bottom line is this:
"Cutting or limiting our funding, particularly at a time when the world is facing a number of global challenges, can only handicap U.S. diplomacy and give our adversaries a stronger hand."
I hope his former colleagues on the Hill are listening to this Republican icon from the "Show Me" state. Click here to send a message to your representatives supporting U.N. funding.
Today is a great day for international justice. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general charged with ordering the infamous genocide at Srebrenica, has been arrested in Serbia after sixteen years as a fugitive and will be extradited to the U.N. war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
Mladic is accused of being responsible for the deaths of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the attack on Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995. Peacekeepers who were supposed to protect the town were unable to prevent the massacre by Mladic's forces.
Serbia's government was quick to trumpet the news of Mladic's capture. "We have ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of Serbia and the members of our nation wherever they live," said President Boris Tadic.
The arrest of Mladic sends a clear message to other tyrants around the globe who have committed similar crimes: there is no impunity for international lawbreakers and those responsible for genocide and mass atrocities. Whether it is President al-Bashir in Sudan or Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, those leaders and officials responsible for crimes against civilians will not be able to escape justice forever.
This coming Sunday, May 29th, is the "International Day of UN Peacekeepers." The day presents an opportunity to reflect on the noble work of previous and current UN Peacekeepers and allows us to remember those peacekeepers who gave their lives trying to protect civilians, strengthen governments, and stem violent conflict. The efforts of these brave men and women do not go unnoticed.
The day also affords us the opportunity to realize the enormous impact that UN Peacekeepers have throughout the world. Although some have questioned the effectiveness of such operations, peacekeepers are injected into the most volatile situations, and success is necessarily ever changing. Yet, UN Peacekeepers have had immense success in seemingly unsolvable situations.
Across the globe right now, peacekeepers are deployed in 15 peacekeeping operations. For example, UN Peacekeepers are in the Sudan helping to enforce a comprehensive peace agreement signed by the Sudanese government - and they are there to react when unexpected events occur such as Omar Hassan al-Bashir's aggressive grab of the Abyei region. Also, in Haiti, UN Peacekeepers are deployed to strengthen governing institutions and provide stability to a nation recently rattled by a devastating earthquake. There is no doubt that these peacekeeping operations are imperative to ensuring pacifism throughout the world.
The world's eyes, most recently focused on such hot spots as Libya and Cote D'Ivoire, turned back to Sudan this weekend as forces from the northern part of the country captured a key town in the disputed Abyei region on May 21st. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has called for the northern forces to pull out immediately, a call which the government of Sudan has rejected.
Sudanese President Bashir-currently charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), but yet to be arrested-claimed that the South attacked Northern Sudanese troops who were part of a UN peacekeeping convoy on May 19th while they were withdrawing from the region, and the North responded in self-defense. South Sudan's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) denied this charge and accused the North of taking a step towards "full-scale war."
On March 17th the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution authorizing UN members "to take all necessary measures... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack" in Libya. I was giving a speech in the United Arab Emirates at the time and had a ring side seat to the very positive Arab response to the "no fly zone".
I wonder what they are thinking now that a peaceful protest movement has morphed into a civil war. Thousands of civilians have been killed, about 300,000 displaced, and according to the UN, 750,000 have fled the country. Muammar el-Qaddafi's forces have pounded the city of Misurata while NATO warplanes continue to strike targets in the capital city of Tripoli. But lost amidst this flame and fury is the simple concept that the Libyan population should be protected.
When governments are willing to use tanks, helicopters, artillery and automatic weapons to brutally silence peaceful dissent - as is in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain - the ability to deploy overwhelming ground forces could be the only means to actually protect civilians while driving repressive dictators to step down. Unfortunately, such a force does not exist. Today no nation or coalition today has the capability, desire or credibility to successfully put boots on the ground in Libya. There is even less political will to respond to the atrocities underway in Syria.
Last night I was watching television when the news broke of Osama bin Laden's death. Needless to say that was not what I expected to hear. Just the day before news had broke that Col. Qaddafi's son had been killed at his compound in Libya - and I assumed that the momentous breaking report would have something to do with more news coming out of the UN backed mission in Libya. Citizens for Global Solutions has been advocating for the protection of civilians in Libya, not the overthrow of Col. Qaddafi, but we understand that in order for this story to end something will need to change in Libya. But I digress from the point - Osama bin Laden is dead - and this is a cause for what, celebration?
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