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UNICEF Warns Child Trafficking Could Emerge as a Serious Issue in Haiti

The devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12th has led to a series of efforts to speed the adoption process for orphans in Haiti.  Some aid groups, however, have cautioned that a hasty process may not be in the best interests of the children and could open the door to child trafficking networks.

One issue revolves around knowing who is truly an orphan and who is not.  Save the Children Chief Executive, Jasmine Whitbread, said that family members may still be alive and taking children out of the country would "permanently separate thousands of children from their families - a separation that would compound the acute trauma they are already suffering".  Additionally, UNICEF spokesman, Christopher de Bono stated that it is not uncommon for Haitian parents to put their children in orphanages temporarily and, thus, finding out which children are in fact orphans requires great attention to detail and documents.

A second concern voiced by aid agencies is that moving children around without procedure in a time of national emergency can open the door to fraud and abuse, as trafficking networks take advantage of the weakness of local authorities and relief coordination. The UN's Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement saying that "[e]nslavement of children and trafficking were . existing problems, and could easily emerge as serious issues over the coming weeks and months."

Fears were raised as United Nations officials confirmed that around 15 children disappeared from a hospital in Haiti.  UNICEF adviser Jean Luc Legrand said the situation was similar to the aftermath of the tsunami in Asia five years ago: "traffickers fish in pools of vulnerability. We know from past experience that trafficking happens in the chaos that usually follows emergencies."

UN Peacekeeping Presence Grows in Haiti

As of January 25, 2010, The United Nations continued its work to provide emergency relief services to the people of Haiti with a meeting of senior United Nations officials today.  The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate the various sources of aid that are currently being channeled toward the nation.  Immediate goals for the crisis-stricken state include stabilization and security efforts, which are being led primarily through the efforts of UN Peacekeepers.

Based upon the United Nations Security Council resolution of January 19, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) expanded its forces to 8,940 troops and a police force of up to 3,711 individuals.  After visiting Port-au-Prince, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Mmoon requested an additional augmentation of troops for the region after surveying the devastation.  In describing the mission, Alain LeRoy, the UN Secretary-General for peacekeeping, stated that "their main task is to assure security and, of course, to help the Haitian people remove the rubble in all the places it can."  The latest figures indicate that there have been 81 total fatalities, of which 21 are confirmed UN Peacekeeping fatalities. The earthquake claimed the head of MINUSTAH, Hedi Annabi, as well as individuals representing Tunisia, Nigeria, Canada, Mexico, Italy, USA, Germany, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Guatemala, India, Philippines, United Kingdom, and Brazil.  According to the UN News Centre, "the earthquake has caused the single greatest loss of life in the UN's history."  With at least 50 people unaccounted for, the UN must combine efforts to assist the Haitians as well as identify the dispatched personnel.  Although early recovery efforts are currently underway, it is apparent that much greater investments into reconstruction and redevelopment of infrastructure will be necessary.

Supreme Court Ruling Changes Advocacy Landscape

Yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United holds tremendous implications for and our supporters.  As you read the editorials in newspapers and online and listen to the pundits on television, I invite you to consider how this decision fundamentally changes the advocacy landscape in which we often operate.

This morning, I will leave it to the law professors and historians to put this decision in context and to dissect the constitutional principles in play.   I will put aside the "pros" and "cons" of the decision to focus on this:  As a practical matter, the financing of political speech and advocacy in the U.S. will immediately change.

Citizens United, the plaintiff in this case, is a nonprofit corporation that has historically opposed on issues relating to United States respect for international law and customs, such as ratification of the Law of the Sea. takes seriously our responsibility to represent in Washington the interests of our members and supporters and to educate and empower  our members and supporters on the issues of U.S. leadership in building international institutions and respect for rule of law.  We will continue to do so as we analyze and adapt to the consequences of this decision.

For those who value true "citizen" input into the American political process, one lesson is clear:  Organization like will need your sustained support more than ever.

The Era of Unilateralism is Over

"The era of unilateralism is over," exclaimed Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA) during the conference to launch the bi-partisan American Engagement Caucus at 10:00am on Thursday, January 21.

The conference was led by the caucus' founding members, Representative Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Representative Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-LA), and was complimented by speeches from former UN Ambassador and current President of the Connect US Fund Nancy Soderberg, InterAction's Lindsay Coats, and Representative Bill Delahunt.  Representative Carnahan opened the conference by pointing out the challenges of living in a global society and stating that an isolated United States would leave the country desolated with military, economic, and humanitarian problems.

Carnahan reiterated the importance of understanding our global partners and enemies while working multilaterally for America's best interest.  He made sure to explain that one of the objectives behind the engagement is to create a "smart power" strategy to encompass what Defense Secretary Robert Gates described as, ".military success is not sufficient to win: economic development, institution-building and the rule of law. . . along with security, are essential ingredients for success."    Smart power as a blend of military strength and creative diplomacy can relieve our security issues as well as reinforce our international image. Subsequently, Representative Carnahan used a quote from President Truman to exemplify an overarching goal of the Caucus by stating,

"It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow's viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences."

Launch of American Engagement Caucus

The new American Engagement Caucus will officially launch tomorrow, Thursday January 21, 2010 at 10:00 am in the Rayburn House Office Building Room 2200.  The Caucus was formed to foster the development of strategies in which to engage other nations.   In an increasingly globalized world, the United States cannot expect to unilaterally tackle the many challenges present today, such as terrorism and climate change.  The Caucus will analyze potential multilateral approaches to global issues, working to engage both formal governmental institutions and international organizations.  One of the primary objectives of the body is to review the role the United States currently plays in regional and international institutions such as the European Union and the United Nations.

The two Congressmen spearheading the American Engagement Caucus are Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-LA).  They have stressed the importance of the formation of such a governmental body, stating, "Our security, our economic future, and safeguarding the world's environment all depend on engagement."  The American Engagement Caucus is the first to explicitly evaluate ways in which to improve and strengthen U.S. partnerships amongst nations., the Better World Campaign, and the United Nations Association of the United States of America support the efforts of Congressmen Carnahan and Cao.  CGS encourages members and interested individuals alike to attend the Launch party to be held tomorrow.  To RSVP, please e-mail Dana Proctor of the United Nations Foundation at with your name and organizational affiliation.

Two New ICC Judges to be Sworn in Tomorrow

On January 20th, 2010, Ms Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi of Argentina and Ms Kuniko Ozaki of Japan will make a solemn undertaking in open court in The Hague to exercise their functions impartially and conscientiously. Later in the day a plenary will be held in which the new judges will be assigned to the judicial divisions.

After the passing of Judge Fumiko Saiga of Japan and the resignation of Mr. Mohamed Shahabuddeen, the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute (ASP) held elections to fill the judicial vacancies during the ASP's eighth session.

The eighth session of the ASP, which met in November of last year, was the first ICC meeting attended by the US since September 2001.  State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh and Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp led the US delegation.

CLICK HERE to view the live broadcast of the ceremony from the ICC website.  (Video clips of the ceremony will also be available on the ICC website from 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.)

To learn more about the ICC CLICK HERE

The Lubanga Trial Resumes - ICC Prosecution Spurs the Release of Child Soldiers

The Lubanga trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague resumed on January 7th.  Thomas Lubanga is the alleged leader of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPS) militia which was involved in the Ituri region conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2002-2003. The ICC investigation into the situation in Ituri has also led to arrest warrants for Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui who are both in ICC custody, and Bosco Ntaganda who remains at large.

Lubanga has pleaded not guilty to the three war crimes charges against him.  The charges include: the enlistment and conscription of children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.  Lubanga was the first suspect to be arrested and transferred to the ICC where he currently remains in custody as the trial continues.  The prosecution finished presenting their case on July 14, 2009 after calling 28 witnesses over 74 days of hearings.  The defense will call around 30 witnesses and the proceedings are expected to last several months.

Obama Remarks on Recovery Efforts in Haiti

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that "three million people — about a third of Haiti's population — had been affected" by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday. International aid groups have estimated the death toll to be in the tens of thousands.

Medical supplies have been highlighted as particularly crucial in the effort to save lives in a country which was already severely stretched for medical resources before the earthquake.  Tammam Aloudat, an emergencies specialist at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies in Geneva stated that "[m]any other quakes have shown us very clearly that of people who suffer injuries and die as a result, most deaths occur within the first 72 hours."

President Obama remarked this morning on U.S. efforts to provide aid.  He noted the practical challenges that the aid effort faces, such as, communication difficulties and Haiti's damaged main port and roads.  Obama said that rescue and relief workers are currently on the ground and a team worked throughout the night "to identify priority areas for assistance, and shared the results of that review throughout the United States government, and with international partners who are also sending support." He also committed an immediate investment of $100 million to support U.S. relief efforts

Obama stated:  "We will partner with the United Nations and its dedicated personnel and peacekeepers, especially those from Brazil, who are already on the ground due to their outstanding peacekeeping efforts there.  And I want to say that our hearts go out to the United Nations, which has experienced one of the greatest losses in its history.  We have no doubt that we can carry on the work that was done by so many of the U.N. effort that have been lost, and we see that their legacy is Haiti's hope for the future."

Help Us Help in Time in Haiti

Thursday January 14th, 2010 - A message from Executive Vice President, Bob Enholm

Support the UN Central Emergency Response Fund:
Support the People of Haiti

The world is watching anxiously and with a heavy heart as the residents of Haiti struggle to cope in the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the island nation two days ago.  At our thoughts are with the people of Haiti including the citizens of Haiti, the families of Haitians across the world, and UN peacekeepers and other international staff who have suffered tremendous losses on the ground.

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is a program of the United Nations that allows for coordinated, immediate and intelligent relief services provided by agencies of the United Nations.  The money given to the CERF, both by countries and individual donors, is available immediately for life-saving activities, and right now the people of Haiti need your support.  Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to immediately support the United Nation's humanitarian efforts.

When I joined, it was with an unshakable faith in the ability of an empowered, supported United Nations to help create the world in which I want my daughters to grow up.   I have no doubt that is bringing us closer to that goal, as they did by supporting the CERF during the Reform the UN Campaign.  If you believe, as I do, that is a vital force for a more empowered UN please consider joining our movement toward global solutions.

Global Cooperation Needed in International Air Security

It is axiomatic that "global problems require global solutions."  International institutions have been created to resolve a whole range of practical problems, including the issues created by international air travel and, specifically, screening passengers and luggage for explosives. 

In reaction to the attempted detonation of an explosive device on a flight landing in Detroit on Christmas Day, the United States has unilaterally imposed additional screening requirements on certain travelers.  As a short-term emergency measure, there may be some merit in this.  In the heat of the moment, we should not lose sight of the fact that America's ultimate security in screening international passengers rests on international cooperation.

The United States participates in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an international body that establishes and regularly updates security requirements for international air travel.  To the extent that evaluations now conclude that additional of different screening requirements should be imposed, the U.S. should work within the framework of the ICAO to make these the new standard.