The current situation in the Central African Republic is beyond terrible. Following the rebel overthrow of President Francois Bozize in March of this year, thousands have been displaced and are facing starvation and malnutrition. Almost 70,000 refugees have fled the country, putting strain on unstable and poor neighboring countries like Chad. The countryside is almost completely lawless with armed gangs attacking civilians and villages. It is almost impossible for humanitarian aid to reach those suffering and two UN officials have been attacked.
Two groups are responsible for the majority of the violence and terrorism, the Seleka rebels and self defense militias known as anti-Balaka. People affiliated with the groups terrorize the civilian populace, conducting nighttime raids and attacks on houses and even entire villages. 18 women and children were massacred in late October by Seleka fighters. The clashes between the rebels and the militias have deepened cleavages along sectarian and ethnic lines in the population.
Last week the UN Security Council approved a 250-strong 'Protection Force' to provide security for humanitarian aid workers and UN officials in the country. This force could be increased to 560 soldiers if necessary. The UNSC has condemned what is going on in the CAR, but beyond the Protection Force, not much has been done.
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or MONUSCO, has been conducting peacekeeping operations in the unstable countries since early 2000. But on March 28th, 2013, the Security Council approved Resolution 2098 which allowed for the creation of an Intervention Brigade. This Brigade, a first in the history of the UN, is allowed to conduct offensive operations against numerous rebel and guerilla groups, including the Lord's Resistance Army, operating in the DRC. These groups have been responsible for 59 peacekeeper deaths and have attempted to further destabilize the country and halt elections. The Brigade has a one year mandate and a defined exit strategy; it consists of almost 20,000 soldiers in 3 infantry battalions, 1 artillery battalion, 1 Special Forces group, and 1 Reconnaissance Company.
The United Nations has been moderately successful at ending the scourge of war between its member states. It has also shown creative support for human rights by developing norms such as the Responsibility to Protect to assert that people are more important than states—that no member state is to commit gross abuses and violence against its people.
However, action to effectively ensure observance of the R2P norm has been blocked repeatedly by the veto possibility in the UN Security Council. The veto power and the status of Permanent Members of the Council given to the 5 victorious powers from World War II was seen as the only way to get agreement to the San Francisco Charter in 1945, but many scholars believe this was not intended as a permanent arrangement. In fact, the Charter provides that "A General Conference of the Members of the United Nations for the purpose of reviewing the present Charter may be held at a date and place to be fixed by a two-thirds vote of the members of the General Assembly and by a vote of any seven (later nine after the membership of the Council was increased from 11 to 15) members of the Security Council" . . . . "Any alteration of the present Charter recommended by a two-thirds vote of the conference shall take effect when ratified . . . . by two thirds of the Members of the United Nations including all the permanent members of the Security Council."
"Make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny," said Secretary of State John Kerry at an August 26th press conference referring to the gas attacks in Syria. Earlier Monday, Sec. Chuck Hagel used less fiery rhetoric, saying,"We are analyzing the intelligence. And we will get the facts. And if there is any action taken, it will be concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification." It is clear the administration wants to act and most media speculation suggests limited air strikes in concert with U.S. allies but nothing is certain yet.
What three things would you wish for given the chance? One wish may be to be wealthy, another may be to have done something differently in the past, or perhaps you would wish for world peace. These are usually what you would think of given such a hypothetical because they are largely regarded as unlikely or even impossible - relegated to wishful thinking. Though world peace is often derided in popular culture as being unrealistic, analogous to anything that would be desirable but ultimately impossible; The truth is there are concrete steps that can be taken that would make the world safer. The United States could sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the UN in September.
Last night I watched a really great TED talk by Simon Sinek, called "How Great Leaders Inspire Action." The argument Mr. Sinek makes is that effective leaders inspire change not by focusing on what they do, but by focusing on why they do it. To back up his argument, Sinek cites incredibly influential leaders throughout history, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Wright brothers. These leaders changed the course of history because they focused first on the motivation behind their actions and let the outcomes be a byproduct of that motivation.
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.
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 GlobalSolutions.org on the Hill.