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Ed Webb

Deterrence, Mass Atrocity, and Samantha Power's "The Education of an Idealist" - 0 views

  • In Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Problem from Hell, American force is one of many foreign policy tools that can and should be bent toward civilian protection and atrocity prevention globally; for many of her critics from the left, American force is to be dismantled; for many of her critics from the right, American force should serve core national security interests and nothing more.
  • In A Problem from Hell, Power argues that US policymakers did not act to stop genocide because they did not want to; in her memoir, she relates how a room full of civil servants whose thinking had been shaped by her first book found themselves in a years-long limbo over complex human disasters in Syria and Libya. Together, these cases constitute a real-time test of the “toolbox” of interventions Power first proposed at the end of A Problem from Hell; together, they reveal both the problem at the heart of her theory of foreign policy, and the still all-too-slender slate of effective policy alternatives to force across the political spectrum.
  • Libya and Syria serve as parallel cases through which questions about the US’s role in the world are refracted. The standard narrative is as follows: the US intervened in Libya under the guise of preventing mass atrocities, this intervention ended first in regime change and then in a failed state, and Libyans now live in enduring danger; the US did not intervene to protect civilians during the Syrian Civil War, war snarled the full region into conflict, and today Syrian civilians continue to die in unspeakable ways and uncounted numbers. At each stage, the narrative is in fact more complicated, particularly if we begin by asking whether the US did in fact prevent mass atrocity in Libya and end by noting the U.S. did in fact intervene in Syria in multiple ways, but the broad lines are still instructive for understanding public debate. Would Libyans have been better off in the absence of an American-led intervention, or would they have been worse off? Would Syrians have been better off for U.S. intervention, or would they have been worse off for it?
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  • the implicit promise of force underlies each alternative set of policies Power proposes. Actors who are willing to abandon mass atrocity campaigns voluntarily may be easily deterred — but actors committed to a mass atrocity campaign could find themselves diplomatically isolated, operating under economic sanction, or threatened by prosecution, and still continue to wage campaigns of death. “Stop this or else” undergirds threats when a powerful actor makes them. The toolbox’s logic is ultimately escalatory as a result: force is a tool of last resort, but no other tool works without the latent presence of American military force.
  • confronting ongoing or imminent atrocities can require quickly shifting perpetrators’ incentives. In the immediate aftermath of the Libyan protests, for instance, Power argues rapid, joint Security Council and American action “was probably the best example in history of governments hastily using a vast array of “tools in the toolbox” to try to deter atrocities.” But this proved insufficient: “The pressures that the United States and other countries were imposing on Qaddafi’s regime would take months to reach their full effect, and we had run out of further nonmilitary steps to take to try to affect the Libyan leader’s near-term calculus.”
  • “While administration officials could say they had imposed consequences on Assad’s regime for crossing the red line, they could not specific the nature of these consequences in any detail,” she writes. “Since even Assad didn’t know the particulars of the cost he would be bearing, he seemed unlikely to be deterred from carrying out further attacks.”
  • American military force underwrites other dimensions of statecraft, and mobilizes when other deterrent measures have failed. But the problem, then, is not simply, as her critics allege, that Samantha Power is a hawk, or that she doesn’t understand which conflicts constitute core American interests — the problem is that all deterrent models of atrocity prevention rest on the threat of force.
  • UN peacekeepers are the largest deployed force in conflict zones today; UN peacekeeping constitutes an enormous part of the Security Council’s agenda; the UN peacekeeping budget is separate from and larger than the UN’s operational budget; and a heated debate on the use of force by UN peacekeepers has now been running over twenty years. Peacekeeping is an effective tool that works best when it is all carrots and few sticks — but peacekeepers today are usually charged with protecting civilians under threat of imminent violence, as well. They rarely use force, and while they seem to protect civilians from rebels well, they struggle more to protect civilians from government forces.
  • Historically, when deterrence fails, the UN Security Council has outsourced this work — instead of sending in the Marines, for example, the UN instead turns to the French, as they did in the Central African Republic, or British Special forces, as they did in Sierra Leone, or — yes — NATO, as they did in the former Yugoslavia and then Libya.
  • discussions about US restraint are nearly entirely divorced from these extremely active debates about the use of force in UN peacekeeping — and considering the two together is instructive
  • a military with stunningly excess capability demands we continually interrogate its purpose; people who live under imminent threat of violence are not marginal to US foreign policy interests unless we define them that way; and the US outsources most conflict management to the UN system, which then relies on the military might of its member states to wield force in the places most dangerous for civilians
  • If unwilling actors cannot be swayed save by the use of force, and we are reluctant to use force for practical or ethical reasons, then we are left with two options: we can address the root causes of conflict, and we can help those refugees and internally displaced people who manage to escape violence. The first set of options requires reimagining the fundamental structures of foreign policy; the second set of options is currently so politically unpopular that it is remaking domestic politics across refugee-receiving countries
Ed Webb

Russia, Turkey and Iran reach agreement on Syria committee | World news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • The three self-appointed guarantors of the Syrian peace process – Russia, Turkey and Iran – have spurned efforts by the UN to change the composition of a committee due to write a new constitution for the country. The 150-strong committee, due to start work next year, could pave the way for UN-supervised elections and a possible peace process that would encourage millions of refugees to return to their homeland. The agreement on the committee’s formation was formally reached by the three countries on Tuesday in Geneva and the proposals passed to the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, for his endorsement and for consideration by the UN security council on Thursday
  • the west has lost control of the Syrian crisis to the trio of countries in the so-called Astana Group
  • The UN said Russia rejected five names that De Mistura wanted to add to the list, and the envoy’s absence from the brief press conference did not bode well.
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  • The official Syrian opposition, the Syrian Negotiating Committee, has previously complained that the proposed committee is not politically balanced and may not touch sufficiently on the powers of the president.
  • the state department’s leverage in Syria as anything but a spoiler is limited
  • De Mistura said there was an extra mile to go in the marathon to construct a credible and balanced constitutional committee, and his successor would have to take up the task in the new year
  • The proposed committee consists of government supporters, opposition members and a neutral group from civilian society. The true political allegiance of the third group is critical since it will hold the political balance of power.
  • “The last word is with us, with the UN, not with any country, as good and as powerful as they may be.”
  • De Mistura, in briefing the UN security council this week, will have to address US suspicions and set out how he thinks the committee can be made more balanced and credible. Details of how the committee would operate or be chaired appear to be only sketchily agreed. President Bashar al-Assad wants the committee to meet in Damascus, a venue rejected by the opposition.
  • On Sunday Çavuşoğlu said he could envisage Turkey accepting Assad remaining as president if he was elected in free and fair elections. Turkey, along with Saudi Arabia, has done the most to support the severely weakened opposition
  • the European Union has said it will not provide reconstruction money for Syria unless democratic elections are agreed and supervised by the UN in which refugees are given a right to vote
Ed Webb

Business as Usual in Western Sahara? | MERIP - 0 views

  • potentially promising peace talks took place in Geneva in December, 2018 between the Polisario Front liberation movement of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco in an effort to kickstart the stalled peace process for the nearly 45-year conflict over this North African territory
  • The two claimants to the territory, Morocco and the Polisario Front, sent delegations. In addition, and as at previous talks, neighbouring Algeria and Mauritania were also invited to attend
  • UN peacekeepers have been on the ground in Western Sahara for nearly three decades as part of the mandate of MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), which has been renewed regularly since 1991 even though the Secretariat’s negotiators have made little progress toward a solution to the Morocco-Sahrawi dispute
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  • the forces protecting the status quo, and thus Morocco’s ongoing colonization of Western Sahara, remain durable
  • If formal talks have been sporadic and often lacked clear outcomes, the parties have been pursuing other initiatives in the past few years. Polisario has achieved favorable outcomes in legal cases calling into question Morocco’s exploitation of resources from a non self-governing territory.[3] Morocco is focused on increasing its reach and influence in Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa. In January 2017 the Kingdom rejoined the Africa Union, which it had left in protest at the admission of SADR in 1984.
  • Algeria not only hosts the exiled SADR government, but also the thousands of Western Saharans who were exiled by Morocco’s invasion in 1975 and who now number 173,000.
  • In the world after the September 11 attacks, the North Atlantic community, led by Paris and Washington, began to view the stability provided by the UN mission in Western Sahara as an end in itself. Since at least 2004, the Council—unable to take independence off the table (because of international law) yet unwilling to force Morocco to contemplate it (because of geopolitics)—has opted to keep the parties talking in the hopes that a new reality will someday emerge.
  • Facing a Moroccan military invasion of its desert colony and with the dictator Franco on his deathbed in October 1975, Spain abandoned its plans for a plebiscite and arranged for Morocco and Mauritania to divide the territory. Mauritania renounced its claim in 1979 and later recognized the government for Western Sahara which the pro-independence Polisario Front founded in 1976, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). War between Morocco, supported by France and the United States, and the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, lasted until a ceasefire was established in 1991, which still holds today.
  • While this consensus-based process has been part of the dynamic reinforcing a status quo that has provided international political cover for Morocco’s ongoing colonization and economic exploitation of Western Sahara, it has rarely been met with anything short of a unanimous vote from the entire Security Council and especially the Permanent Five. In breaking with this tradition, the US resolution elicited almost unprecedented abstentions from two permanent members of the Security Council with little historical interest in the Western Sahara issue, China and Russia, as well as the de facto AU representative on the Council, Ethiopia, a state that also recognizes SADR.
  • Operating under Chapter VI of the UN charter, the only material leverage the Security Council has in Western Sahara is to tie the fate of MINURSO’s peacekeeping force to progress at the negotiating table. The Council, however, has always been loath to terminate a mission that appears to be keeping the peace in Western Sahara. In past few years, several nearby countries—Mali, Chad, Niger, Libya, and Nigeria—have witnessed increasing levels of terrorism and armed conflict which have raised international concerns about the possible destabilizing effects of a UN withdrawal from Western Sahara.
  • the new US attitude toward Western Sahara appears to be driven by John Bolton, who became Trump’s National Security Advisor shortly before the April vote on MINURSO. Bolton has a long history with the Western Sahara conflict, from his days in heading the State Department’s UN office at the end of the Cold War, to serving as an aide to Baker’s Western Sahara mission in the late 1990s, to his controversial interim appointment as the US representative to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006. It is no secret that Bolton has been sympathetic toward Polisario, a cause that became popular among the UN-bashing conservatives in the mid-1990s. While Bolton’s “get tough” approach to Western Sahara might be framed in terms of sensible UN cost-cutting, his recent statements on the issue, where he framed the Western Sahara question as a simple matter of organizing a vote on independence, have sent the Moroccan diplomatic corps, Washington D.C. lobbyists and media apparatus into a frenzy.
  • There has been no fundamental change to the basic geopolitical architecture of the conflict to suggest that Morocco and Polisario Front are more willing to accept an outcome they view as existential annihilation (respectively, independence for Western Sahara or some kind of political-economic integration with Morocco).
  • the Sahrawi nationalist movement benefits from a safe haven in Algeria, which serves as a base for pro-independence Sahrawi activism. Recent years have seen this activism flourishing beyond the refugee camps in Algeria: in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, in the Sahrawi diaspora, and in social media campaigns. The “supply” side of Sahrawi nationalist demand for self-determination seems assured.
  • France has supported Moroccan efforts to decouple MINUSRSO’s primary and secondary functions. Though MINURSO ostensibly exists to facilitate a political solution that respects Western Sahara’s right of self-determination, its secondary peacekeeping function has effectively provided international cover for Morocco’s ongoing colonization of the territory since 1991.
  • Sahrawi activists contesting Moroccan rule continue to provide substantive documentation, now easily circulated by social media, that the Moroccan authorities commit human rights abuses against nationalist Sahrawis.[4] Troublingly, MINURSO is one a few UN peacekeeping missions in the world whose mandate does not include a provision for human rights monitoring, due in large part to French protection on the Security Council. Similarly, some Sahrawis in the Moroccan-controlled territory continue to voice grievances that the economic investment and development of the territory under the auspices of Morocco does not benefit the Sahrawi population but instead go to Moroccan settlers, corporations, and political-economic oligarchs of the makhzan.
Ed Webb

The Israel-Hezbollah Channel - 0 views

  • Israel and Lebanon have a long history of tension: officially, they have been at war without interruption since 1948, and they have not agreed on an officially demarcated border—nor, after several wars, have they formally agreed to a cease-fire. Nevertheless, a strange forum for conflict management has grown up between them. Since 2006, when UNIFIL was reauthorized by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, peacekeepers have presided over more than one hundred tripartite meetings, which bring together officers from Israel, Lebanon, and UNIFIL to manage disputes and technical issues along the Blue Line.5 The primary belligerents along the border are Hezbollah and the Israeli military, but the Lebanese military serves as Hezbollah’s interlocutors in what has become known as the Tripartite Process.
  • In a region rife with standing conflicts between belligerents who have little or no direct channels of communication, UNIFIL provides a rare example of conflict management in an extremely unstable and opaque environment. Its track record offers some suggestions of promising approaches to manage and mitigate conflict, while avoiding unwanted escalation. But it also offers stark warnings of the limitations of a narrow and indirect approach in the absence of enduring cease-fires, treaties, or other more robust conflict-resolution mechanisms
  • its newly muscular force with strong international political backing created perhaps the only sustained, regular, and efficacious channel of communications between Middle East belligerents in an active conflict
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  • UNIFIL makes a precarious model for conflict management. Despite its successes, both Israel and Hezbollah routinely attack UNIFIL’s legitimacy in public. The population of southern Lebanon expresses widespread skepticism about the peacekeeping mission’s intentions and loyalties, despite the benefits they reap from UNIFIL, which not only reduces conflict but serves as the area’s largest employer.11 Many residents of southern Lebanon and supporters of Hezbollah believe that UNIFIL serves Israeli and American interests and is unlikely to act to protect civilians during future conflicts
  • The original UNIFIL mission deployed in 1978 with three missions: to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, to restore “international peace and security,” and to restore the authority of the government of Lebanon in the border region. None of these missions were achieved. Israel never fully withdrew, and in 1982 extended its occupation deeper into Lebanese territory. On the Lebanese side, state authority no longer existed, as the nation was riven by the 1975–90 civil war. A quisling militia eventually known as the South Lebanon Army served as an Israeli proxy.13 Hezbollah formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli occupation, and over the following decade grew into the dominant local force fighting Israel. Lebanon’s national army was reconstituted after the Taif Agreement of 1989 paved the way for an end to the country’s civil war. Even as other militias disbanded or had their fighters absorbed into the regular military, Hezbollah alone maintained an autonomous militia. Israel still occupied about one-tenth of Lebanon’s territory, along the southern border, and Hezbollah continued to lead the armed resistance. In 2000, Israel finally withdrew from most of Lebanese territory, but continued to occupy high ground on the mountain of Jabal al-Sheikh, known as Shebaa Farms, as well as the village of Ghajar, which contains critical water sources.14 Later, it also claimed some Lebanese territorial waters in an area where underwater oil and gas exploration is underway.15 Citing Israel’s continuing occupation, as well as the Israeli air force’s daily overflights of Lebanon, Hezbollah spurned calls from some of its Lebanese rivals to disarm or integrate into the national army.16 Tensions regularly flared along the border, and finally boiled over into war in July 2006.
  • Initially, Hezbollah preferred a UN resolution that would leave it sovereign in southern Lebanon. But Lebanon’s government, and significant quarters of Lebanese public opinion, wanted to reassert state sovereignty in the zone of southern Lebanon that hitherto had been solely under Hezbollah’s control. Israel and the United States, by contrast, entered the cease-fire negotiations with unrealistic hopes that they could achieve through peacekeeping what they had failed to do through violence: disarm Hezbollah
  • UNSCR 1701, which led to a cessation of hostilities on August 14, 2006
  • Immediately upon implementing the cease-fire, UNIFIL peacekeepers initiated a process that was not specified in the new mandate but which has become, in the eleven years since the cessation of hostilities until the time of this writing, the most successful element of the mission: the standing, direct negotiations between the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, under UN auspices
  • this somewhat informal mechanism has now met more than one hundred times without a single walkout from either side. It appears to be the only place where Israeli and Lebanese officials formally and directly interact
  • In the context of the Middle East, this forum is especially remarkable. Most of the region’s running conflicts lack even tactical communication between adversaries. Relatively straightforward arrangements such as temporary cease-fires, prisoner exchanges, or safe passage for civilians have been tortuous and at times virtually impossible in regional conflicts. Belligerents often refuse to recognize each other even on a most basic level. If Israel and Lebanon (and, by extension, Hezbollah) have managed to build a rudimentary channel despite their history and the political obstacles to communication, then perhaps—using a similar approach—other belligerents in the region might also inaugurate conflict-­management channels or CBMs.
  • Its approximately 10,500 troops generate economic activity for southern Lebanon; after the Lebanese government, UNIFIL is the largest employer in the area.
  • Hezbollah is a regional military power, operating in tandem with Iran as infantry or trainers in Iraq, Yemen, and possibly elsewhere. In Syria, Hezbollah has played perhaps the most critical military role on the government’s side. Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah has moved from being a strong faction to being the strongest, today holding the balance of power domestically, with the ability to dominate the complex political negotiations that determine who holds the presidency. In 2013, the European Union as a whole joined Israel, the United States, and some individual European governments in listing Hezbollah’s “armed wing” as a terrorist group. (Hezbollah itself denies it has any separate armed wing, making such a designation tantamount to naming the entire organization.)
  • UNIFIL’s best direct relationship is with the Lebanese Army. It cannot officially communicate with Hezbollah, and its channels to the Israeli military, while stronger than before 2006, are still limited
  • On one hand, Hezbollah and Israel have both benefited from UNIFIL’s core functions: development projects for poor denizens of the border region; demarcation of the Blue Line; deconfliction, de-escalation, conflict management, and communication between belligerents; intelligence gathering; and a unique forum in which armies from two nations at war routinely meet for direct talks and resolve technical issues even as the political conflict between their governments continues unabated. On the other hand, both belligerents routinely have undermined UNIFIL, attacking its legitimacy and performance in public forums while praising it in private; engaging in prohibited military operations; and refusing to extend any political support to the negotiations that they joined at a military level.
  • “It’s a conflict-management institution, not a conflict-resolution institution,” observed Timur Goksel, a UNIFIL veteran who worked with the mission over the course of two decades and has been based in both Israel and Lebanon. “It offers adversaries a way out. They can use UNIFIL as an excuse. It opens a way out of major conflict. This is what UNIFIL is all about.”
  • The disputed village of Ghajar, which has long been a flashpoint between the two sides, exemplifies the limits of the existing channels of communication and negotiation. The Blue Line passes directly through the village. Its inhabitants are Alawites who previously lived under Syrian rule on territory that today is claimed by Lebanon.36 Israel currently controls the entire village. Israeli presence in the northern half of Ghajar entails a permanent violation of the Blue Line. The situation is further complicated by the lack of pressure from the village’s residents, who appear content to operate as part of Israel. Israel has committed in principle to withdrawing from the northern portion of the village, but the details of how to do that have eluded all parties.37
  • Hezbollah operates in southern Lebanon with full independence. It might defer to the Lebanese Army or UNIFIL in order to avoid embarrassment or minor mishaps, but it can freely circumvent even the most symbolic of checks
  • Hezbollah continues to hold sovereign power of arms and operates without limitation from the government of Lebanon, UNIFIL, or any other force
  • Hezbollah has greatly increased its military capacity since joining the Syrian war as a pivotal combatant in 2012. The Lebanese nonstate actor has emerged as the premier urban combat and infantry force on the side of the Syrian government. It has engaged in wide-scale maneuver warfare, and has engaged in integrated warfare, involving air force support, with professional forces from Iran, Russia, and Syria. Hezbollah has helped form new militias and has led coordinated assaults with militia support involving groups and fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere.45 Reports suggest that Hezbollah has also acquired a new arsenal of long-range missiles and land-to-sea missiles, which greatly increases its deterrent capacity against Israel and could enable it to threaten more Israeli targets than it could in 2006
  • With the Syrian war potentially entering a closing phase, from which Hezbollah and the Syrian government will emerge victorious, several analysts have refocused their attention on the latent Israel-Hezbollah conflict
  • Israel and Lebanon are formally still at war, and no closer to a permanent cease-fire than they were when UNSCR 1701 came into force on August 14, 2006. Whereas the Israeli government and military are unitary actors on one side of the Blue Line, the other side has a bedeviling array of potential belligerents with competing interests. These possible participants include but are not limited to Hezbollah, the Lebanese government, Palestinian factions, the Syrian government, and possibly some Syrian rebel factions, although most Syrian rebels in the Golan have either cooperated with Israel or remained neutral. UNIFIL can call the Lebanese Army to settle a crisis, but then must rely on the Lebanese Army, itself strained by pressures stemming from the war in Syria, to make effective contact with other players
  • Whether technical talks and a bare-bones conflict-management channel can, in fact, shift the political opportunities is precisely the question raised by UNIFIL’s record since 2006. UNIFIL’s example suggests that military-military talks have utility but are unlikely to drive political resolution. The UNIFIL model may be a promising approach for conflicts between belligerents with strained or nonexistent diplomatic relations, but it is a model for managing conflict and avoiding unintended escalations, not for resolving conflict and reversing escalations that are intentional or are based on mistrust and miscalculation
  • “It’s the only mission that speaks to two countries that are still at war,” noted one UNIFIL official. “This works if parties don’t want to go to war. It can’t prevent a war from happening.”
  • Unless a government or nonstate actor has openly and expressly deputized a military channel to negotiate a political resolution, there is no evidence that technical talks will prompt a political dialogue—simply because some participants hope for it to do so—much less a resolution
  • UNIFIL’s record as an arbiter or honest broker does not appear to have changed any policy position on the part of Hezbollah or the government of Israel. A technical channel cannot create a new political climate
  • UNIFIL’s conflict-management paradigm may, paradoxically, increase risks by leaving political problems unresolved. “There is no doubt the UNIFIL mission has acted as shock absorber for local tensions and maintained a negative peace, that is, it has prevented the escalation of minor incidents into large-scale conflict,” the researcher Vanessa Newby concluded after conducting fifty interviews of UNIFIL officials and others who deal with the mission.54 “But its presence appears to be sustaining the conditions of conflict more than it is resolving them.”
  • successfully bolstered the Lebanese military’s function and standing as a state institution
  • If either Hezbollah or Israel shifted its cost-benefit calculus and decided it was more preferable to go to war than maintain the status quo (as Israel had in advance of the summer of 2006), then UNIFIL’s mechanisms would provide almost no peacemaking or conflict-avoidance potential
  • Many of the Middle East’s conflict areas are plagued with similar problems and thus are ripe for UNIFIL-like channels, managed by neutral third parties that can avoid accidental escalations, act as a clearing house for airing grievances and seeking technical solutions to relatively small technical problems, and potentially manage aspects of open conflict if it emerges. Such channels could pave the way for delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen or exchanging prisoners in Syria. The model is for a standing body that is not ad hoc nor of limited duration, and thus can establish trust over multiple iterations of dialogue and conflict management.
  • the UNIFIL case illustrates the broader problem with applying a military (or security, or conflict-management) paradigm to inherently political problems. Such a forum can be an effective long-term intermediary, but only for tactical matters. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is a political one
  • The field of critical security studies has pushed the field of academic political science to incorporate political concerns into its definition of security, but minimized the hard security concerns that make life dangerous in conflict zones.55 The balance of security and politics is not merely a theoretical concern; it drives the persistence of deadly conflict in the Middle East. Both hard security and political grievance must be addressed, even if unfairly, in order to resolve a conflict. A similar dynamic shapes the need to address process as well as policy. A satisfactory forum is required for belligerents to talk at all. Forums like UNIFIL, or the Madrid Peace Conference (where parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict met in 1991), create the space and relationships that are a precondition for any substantial negotiation. Yet process does not suffice if no common policy framework can be reached on the central matters of dispute. No amount of tripartite meetings at the UNIFIL headquarters will compel the political leadership in Israel or Hezbollah to reformulate their core goals
  • The Middle East needs more UNIFILs, but it is crucial to keep in mind the limitations of a conflict-management approach if such forums are to be useful for advancing long-term security. They are no substitute for politics.
Julianne Greco

The Daily Star - Politics - Resistance slams UN report urging party to disarm - 0 views

  • BEIRUT: Hizbullah’s Loyalty to Resistance bloc slammed on Wednesday a UN report urging  the party to disarm as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy on the Implementation of UN Resolution 1559 Terje-Roed Larsen accused Hizbullah of conducting foreign hostile activities. 
  • “Disbanding militias in Lebanon especially Hizbullah is of vital importance to the country’s democracy and sovereignty,” Larsen said. 
  • In response, Hizbullah said the report was “insolently biased” and aimed to cover up for “the true side responsible for the region’s instability,” – a reference to Israel. 
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  • The UN report, the latest on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, also said Israel continued to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty and relevant Security Council resolutions through its breaches to Lebanese air space as well as its occupation of the northern part of the town of Ghajar. 
Ian Mandell

BBC NEWS | South Asia | UN to evacuate Afghanistan staff - 0 views

  • The UN will temporarily evacuate 600 "non-essential" international staff from Afghanistan
  • UN has 1,300 international staff based in Afghanistan.
  • The temporary relocation of staff out of Afghanistan is likely to take three to four weeks,
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  • The 600 staff represent 12% of the total UN workforce - international and local staff - in Afghanistan
  • The attack on the guesthouse, which is used by the UN and other international organisations, happened just before 0600
  • Three Taliban militants with suicide vests, grenades and machine guns carried out the assault.
  • The three gunmen were shot dead
Ed Webb

UN expert report unmasks Libya arms embargo violations - 0 views

  • Libya's warring parties are running rings around a UN arms embargo
  • transfers have been "repeated and sometimes blatant, with scant regard paid to compliance with the sanctions measures"
  • the opaque process surrounding the transfer of an Irish navy patrol boat to Haftar's forces.Sold for 110,000 euros ($122,000) in March 2017 by the Irish government to a Dutch company, it was then bought for $525,000 by an Emirati firm and re-registered in Panama as a "pleasure yacht".- 'External parties' -The ship was subsequently bought by Haftar's forces for $1.5 million.
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  • UN report highlights Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey as regular embargo violators, with Amman and Abu Dhabi allegedly funnelling arms to Haftar, while Ankara equips the GNA
  • UN experts say that the Sudanese fighters were sent to Libya under a contract signed in Khartoum on May 7 between Canadian firm Dickens & Madson and Daglo, in the name of Sudan's military council
  • The report says foreign combatants have been recruited by both sides, including from Sudan and Chad, but makes no mention of Russian mercenaries who -- according to media reports denied by Moscow -- have fought alongside Haftar's forces.
  • report accuses the UAE of delivering a Russian aerial defence system (Pantsir-S1) to Haftar's forces
  • Ankara even promised to send troops to Libya to support the GNA, if required, further exacerbating tensions.
Ed Webb

Saudi-led coalition air attacks in Yemen down 80 percent: UN | Yemen News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • The United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths has told the UN Security Council that the number of air attacks by the Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi rebels has dropped by nearly 80 percent in the last two weeks.
  • "In recent weeks, there have been entire 48-hour periods without air strikes for the first time since the conflict began," Griffiths said on Friday. "We call this de-escalation, a reduction in the tempo of the war, and perhaps a move towards an overall ceasefire in Yemen."
  • De-escalation of hostilities is a major aspect of informal talks that have been going on between Saudi Arabia and Houthi officials since September for a possible ceasefire in Yemen.
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  • skirmishes between the warring parties in the port city of Hodeidah, where the two sides agreed on a ceasefire last year, have been reduced by 80 percent after the deployment of UN monitors in recent weeks
Ed Webb

Un accord politique entre Trump et Mohammed VI serait derrière le rapprocheme... - 0 views

  • Le blocus imposé en juin 2017 au Qatar par les EAU, l’Arabie saoudite, Bahreïn, et l’Égypte a provoqué une « crise politique » entre le Maroc et les Émirats.
  • Le déploiement de la diplomatie marocaine s’est traduit, d’abord, par la décision de Mohammed VI de se retirer, début février dernier, de la coalition arabe au Yémen.
  • son rapprochement tactique avec l’émirat de Qatar n’était qu’une manœuvre visant à mettre la pression sur les EAU et l’Arabie saoudite. L’objectif non déclaré étant d’inciter ces deux monarchies à convaincre Trump de soutenir la position marocaine sur le dossier épineux du Sahara occidental.
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  • le président américain tente de rallier le Maroc et les pays du Golfe autour de la question de la lutte contre le terrorisme et la radicalisation en Afrique du nord. Pour se faire, Trump tente une réconciliation entre le Maroc et les EAU par le biais de la relance de la coopération bilatérale.
  • Sur le plan diplomatique, la visite d’Ivanka Trump, fille et conseillère du président américain, début novembre, traduit aussi la volonté américaine de consolider l’alliance stratégique avec le Maroc.
  • Ce qui en dit long sur le laxisme de Trump envers un pouvoir qui régresse en matière de démocratie et de droits de l’homme, mais qui se permet, malgré tout, d’augmenter son budget militaire.
Ed Webb

Libya's rival factions sign UN-brokered 'permanent' ceasefire in Geneva | Euronews - 0 views

  • Turkey is the main patron of the Tripoli government, while the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt back Hifter
  • Shortly after the announcement of the deal, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it did not appear to be credible — even as he expressed hope that all parties would stick to it. "Time will show how long it will last," he added, questioning the list of delegates and whether it would be "correct" for mercenaries to leave so quickly.
  • Previous diplomatic initiatives to end the war have repeatedly collapsed - but the UN-brokered deal aims to cement a months-long lull in fighting and boost the political process.
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  • The agreement also involves the formation of a joint military force and a way to monitor violations, Williams said. The deal will be sent to the UN Security Council.
  • orders foreign mercenaries out of the country within three months
  • The rival sides in Libya’s conflict signed a permanent cease-fire Friday, a deal the United Nations billed as historic after years of fighting that has split the North African country in two.But skepticism over whether the agreement would hold began emerging almost immediately.
Ed Webb

UN warns of 'ecological disaster' in Houthi-controlled Red Sea area | Arab News - 0 views

  • UN human rights experts have demanded access to an abandoned oil tanker off the coast of Yemen that say poses a risk of causing an “ecological catastrophe” in the Red Sea. The tanker, FSO Safer, lies in waters controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis near the port of Hodeidah, where it currently holds an estimated 1.1 million barrels of oil. The ship, launched in 1976, is decaying rapidly after being abandoned in 2015 when its engine room flooded with seawater.
  • relevant permits from local authorities in the Houthi-controlled area have not been granted
  • “It is vital that a UN technical team be permitted to board the FSO Safer if we are to have any hope of preventing the threat of a spill that could be four times worse than the historic Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989,” said Marcos Orellana, UN special rapporteur on toxics and human rights.
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  • “If this ship were to break up, a spill could decimate livelihoods of local coastal communities, biodiversity in the region, and heavily impact shipping routes in the Red Sea,”
  • David Boyd, special rapporteur for human rights and environment, said: “An oil spill would harm the rights to life, health and a healthy environment for some 1.6 million Yemenis.”
Ed Webb

On Blaming Climate Change for the Syrian Civil War - MERIP - 0 views

  • the Syria climate conflict narrative is deeply problematic.[2] Not only is the evidence behind this narrative weak. In addition, it masks what was really occurring in rural Syria (and in the country’s northeast region in particular) prior to 2011, which was the unfolding of a long-term economic, environmental and political crisis. And crucially, the narrative largely originated from Syrian regime interests in deflecting responsibility for a crisis of its own making. Syria is less an exemplar of what awaits us as the planet warms than of the complex and uncomfortable politics of blaming climate change.
  • much of Syria and the eastern Mediterranean region experienced an exceptionally severe drought in the years before the onset of Syria’s civil war: the single year 2007–2008 was northeastern Syria’s driest on record, as was the three-year period 2006–2009
  • it is reasonable to say, per the Columbia study, that climate change did make this particular drought more likely
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  • The widely reproduced claim that 2 to 3 million people were driven into extreme poverty by the 2006–2009 drought was drawn, extraordinarily, from analyses by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) of pre-drought poverty levels.[4] The claim that around 1.5 million people were displaced was derived from a single humanitarian news bulletin, seemingly on the basis of a misreading of the UN’s estimate of those affected—not displaced—by the drought. Using Syrian government numbers, the UN actually reported drought-period displacement to be around 40,000–60,000 families.
  • A presidential decree in 2008, which tightened restrictions on land sales across the northeastern-most province of Hasakah, led to the extensive loss of land rights and was credited by some organizations as a key factor in the increased migration from northeast Syria prior to the war
  • during 2008–2009 rural Syria was hit by triple-digit increases in the prices of key agricultural inputs. In May 2008 fuel subsidies were halved, leading to an overnight 342 percent spike in the price of diesel. And then in May 2009 fertilizer subsidies were removed, causing prices to rise anywhere from 200 to 450 percent. The fuel subsidy cuts had particularly devastating economic consequences, especially for farmers reliant on cheap fuel for groundwater irrigation.
  • The fact that a number of neighboring countries experienced equivalent precipitation declines during 2006–2009—or in Iraq’s case an even larger decline—but no comparable migration crises, suggests at the very least that the migration from Syria’s northeast must have been caused more by these Syria-specific factors than by the drought.
  • Proponents of the climate conflict thesis typically claim that drought-induced displacement caused a “population shock” within Syria’s urban peripheries, exacerbating pre-existing socio-economic pressures. Yet Syria’s cities grew rapidly throughout the decade before the civil war, not only during the drought years. By our calculations, excess migration from the northeast during 2008–2009 amounted to just 4–12 percent of Syria’s 2003–2010 urban growth (and this excess migration was not all triggered by drought)
  • As Syria’s pre-eminent breadbasket region—the heartland of strategic crop production—Hasakah was particularly vulnerable to economic liberalization and the withdrawal of input supports. No other region of the country was so dependent on groundwater for irrigation, a factor that made it particularly vulnerable to fuel price increases. Hasakah’s groundwater resources were also exceptionally degraded, even by Syrian standards
  • a deep and long-term structural agrarian crisis
  • it is evident that northeastern Syria’s agrarian troubles—and especially those in the province of Hasakah—went all the way back to 2000, and indeed earlier. Production of the two main government-designated strategic crops, wheat and cotton, was in decline in Hasakah from the early 2000s onward. Land and settlements were being abandoned there well before the drought. Net out-migration from Hasakah during this period was higher than from any other province. And the reasons for this lay not in the drought but in the contradictions of Syrian development.
  • an agrarian socialist development program, promoting rapid expansion of the country’s agricultural sector and deploying Soviet aid and oil income to this end. Among other elements, this program involved heavy investment in agricultural and especially water supply infrastructure, low interest loans for private well drilling, price controls on strategic crops at well above international market value, the annual wiping clean of state farm losses and, as already indicated, generous input subsidies
  • Environmentally, the model relied above all on the super-exploitation of water resources, especially groundwater—a problem which by the early 2000s had become critical. And economically, Syrian agriculture had become highly input dependent, reliant on continuing fuel subsidies in particular.
  • Within just a few short years, Syria embraced principles of economic liberalization, privatized state farms, liberalized trade and reduced price control levels. At the same time domestic oil production and exports fell rapidly, thus undermining the regime’s rentier foundations and its capacity to subsidize agriculture
  • Irrespective of any drought impacts, these developments essentially occurred when the props that had until then artificially maintained an over-extended agricultural production system—oil export rents, a pro-agrarian ideology and their associated price controls—were suddenly and decisively removed.
  • as Marwa Daoudy concludes in her new book on the subject, there is “little evidence” that “climate change in Syria sparked popular revolt in 2011”—but “a lot of evidence” that “suggests it did not.”
  • The region was also deeply affected by intense irrigation development and over-abstraction of groundwater resources within Turkey
  • It was Ba’athist state policies which had turned Hasakah into a region of wheat monoculture, failed to promote economic diversification and facilitated cultivation ever deeper into the badiya (the desert) while over-exploiting surface and groundwater resources. Moreover, these measures were taken partly for strategic and geostrategic reasons, bound up with regime interests in expanding and consolidating Hasakah’s Arab population (its project of Arabization), in controlling and excluding the province’s Kurdish population and in extending its control and presence within a strategically sensitive borderland and frontier region. During the heyday of Ba’athist agrarian development, Hasakah’s population and agricultural sector expanded like in no other area. With the collapse of this development model, rural crisis and out-migration were the inevitable result.
  • After an initial reluctance to acknowledge the depth of the crisis in the northeast, the government eventually embraced the climate crisis narrative with gusto. The drought was “beyond our powers,” claimed Asad. The drought was “beyond our capacity as a country to deal with,” claimed the Minister of Agriculture. “Syria could have achieved [its] goals pertaining to unemployment, poverty and growth if it was not for the drought,” proclaimed Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah al-Dardari.[12] Indeed, as the International Crisis Group reported, the Asad regime would regularly take diplomats to the northeast and tell them, “it all has to do with global warming,” blaming what was in essence a state-induced socio-ecological crisis on climatic transformations beyond its control.[13] This shifting of blame is essentially how the Syria climate crisis narrative began.
  • Official UN reports on the crisis in the northeast, which were produced in collaboration with the Syrian regime, were predictably drought-centric, barely mentioning any factors other than drought, omitting any criticisms of government policy and ignoring the existence of a discriminated-against Kurdish minority
  • International media reports on the subject were similarly focused on  drought, no doubt partly because of media preferences for simplified and striking narratives, but also because they relied upon UN sources and took these at their word
  • The climate crisis narrative reached its apogee in 2015, in the run-up to the UN Paris conference on climate change, when countless politicians and commentators turned to the example of Syria to illustrate the urgency of international action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
  • regurgitated as a statement of fact in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and by Western liberal politicians and eco-socialist campaigners alike
  • climate change is also much more than a physical reality and looming environmental threat: It is simultaneously an object of discourse, debate and rhetoric, a potent meta-narrative that can be invoked for explanation, legitimation, blame avoidance and enrichment.
  • climate change is already regularly invoked to questionable ends across the Middle East and North Africa. It is used to explain away ecological catastrophes actually caused by unsustainable agricultural expansion, to make the case for investment in new and often unnecessary mega-projects, to obscure state mismanagement of local environmental resources and to argue against the redistribution of such resources to oppressed and minority groups
  • blaming climate change is often a distraction from the real causes of socio-ecological crisis
Ed Webb

Foreign Secretary statement to Parliament on Syria - Oral statements to Parliament - In... - 1 views

  • The conflict is therefore creating opportunities for extremist groups. Syria is now the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today, including approximately 70 to 100 individuals connected with the United Kingdom
  • The UN assesses that by the end of this year, on these trends, over 3.5 million, or 15 per cent of Syria’s total population, will have become refugees in other countries. And the Foreign Minister of Jordan has warned that Syrian refugees are likely to make up 40 per cent of his country’s population by the middle of next year, with similar numbers predicted for Lebanon
  • We have supported human rights investigation teams to collect documentary, photographic and interview evidence of abuses, and trained medical staff to gather forensic evidence of torture and sexual violence. This material is being made available to the UN Commission of Inquiry and other international investigative bodies so that those involved in human rights violations can be held to account.
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  • the conference, which should be held as soon as possible, should be focussed on agreeing a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and formed by mutual consent
  • we are stepping up our efforts to support the opposition and increase pressure on the regime, in order to create the conditions for a political transition
  • We are increasing the support we are providing to Syria’s neighbours, including providing equipment to the Jordanian Armed Forces to help them deal with the immediate needs of Syrian refugees at the border and transport them safely to international humanitarian organisations. We have provided funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces for four border observation towers, to help reduce cross-border violence in key areas and to protect and reassure local communities. And we are also working with the Syrian National Coalition and key international supporters to develop plans for transition and Syria’s post-conflict needs, building on the conference we held at Wilton Park in January
  • There is no purely military victory available to either side without even greater loss of life, the growth of international terrorism and grave threats to neighbouring countries
  • We have not sent arms to any side during the conflicts of the Arab Spring. No decision has been made to go down this route, and if we were to pursue this, it would be under the following conditions: in coordination with other nations, in carefully controlled circumstances, and in accordance with our obligations under national and international law. The United Kingdom and France are both strongly of the view that changes to the embargo are not separate from the diplomatic work, but essential to it. We must make clear that if the regime does not negotiate seriously at the Geneva conference, no option is off the table
  • Our assessment is that chemical weapons use in Syria is very likely to have been by the regime. We have no evidence to date of opposition use. We welcome the UN investigation, which in our view must cover all credible allegations and have access to all relevant sites in Syria
  • The United Kingdom holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council next month, and we remain in favour of the Security Council putting its full weight behind a transition plan if it can be agreed
Ed Webb

UN to teach children about Holocaust in Gaza schools - Middle East, World - The Indepen... - 0 views

  • The United Nations' refugee agency is planning to include the Holocaust in a new human-rights curriculum for pupils in its Gaza secondary schools despite strident opposition to the idea from within Hamas. John Ging, the UN Relief and Works Agency's (UNRWA) director of operations in Gaza, told The Independent that he was "confident and determined" that the Holocaust would feature for the first time in a wide-ranging curriculum that is being drafted.
  • Although the UNRWA director strongly emphasised that the de facto Hamas government had not sought to interfere with the agency – which is responsible for the welfare of some 1 million Gaza refugees – other figures in the movement have angrily condemned the idea of including the Holocaust in any part of the curriculum. Yunis al Astal, a religious leader and a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said last month that it would be "marketing a lie" and a "war crime" to do so.
  • "This is also part of the frustration here. There are so many global tragedies and travesties that are learned worldwide. Who learns about the Nakba? Again [that is] a very reasonable and legitimate demand but it's not 'either/or'; it's both."
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Julianne Greco

Iran: Israel out to sidetrack UN with ship claim - 0 views

  • Tehran says Tel Aviv spread 'false' claims about seizing a ship with Iranian ammunition to sway attention away from the Goldstone report on Israeli war crimes.
  • As the UN general assembly was busy reviewing the Goldstone report, Israel's UN mission submitted a letter to the Security Council accusing Iran of violating Resolution 1701, which was issued to stop Tel Aviv's 2006 offensive against Lebanon. Iran's responded to the allegation by reminding the Zionist regime that Tel Aviv has breached "not one but several" UN Security Council resolutions, including that very same motion.
Ed Webb

Maroc : pourquoi l'histoire du « complot iranien » ne tient pas | Middle East... - 0 views

  • Selon le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Nasser Bourita, l’Iran, à travers son bras armé, le Hezbollah, aurait utilisé son ambassade à Alger pour faire passer des armes aux combattants du Front Polisario et aurait également procédé à leur instruction en matière d’espionnage en territoire algérien.
  • personne ne comprend pourquoi le Maroc a rompu ses relations diplomatiques avec le lointain Iran et non pas avec la voisine Algérie qui, si l’on en croit les Marocains, a facilité le transit des armes iraniennes destinées aux camps de réfugiés sahraouis de Tindouf et a permis que les instructeurs du Hezbollah puissent comploter au grand air sur son territoire
  • En mettant le Polisario et l’Iran dans le même sac, le Maroc cherche à rendre « antipathiques » les indépendantistes sahraouis aux yeux de Washington et attirer vers eux les foudres de l’administration Trump.
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  • Pour cette dernière, dirigée par un politicien qui a une vision assez primitive du monde, l’ami de mon ennemi est forcément mon ennemi. C’est-à-dire, si l’ennemi iranien soutient le Polisario, donc le Polisario est forcément l’ennemi des Américains.
  • par ce geste, Rabat a voulu faire un clin d’œil aux Américains après l’annonce, lors de la dernière réunion du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU chargé du renouvellement de la Mission des Nations unies au Sahara occidental (MINURSO), de l’intention des États-Unis à prendre « leurs responsabilités » au cas où Marocains et Sahraouis n’arriveraient pas à se mettre d’accord dans un laps de temps de six mois.
  • Certains croient que cette menace signifie qu’en cas d’échec des hypothétiques négociations entre Rabat et le Polisario, l’administration américaine reconnaîtrait, comme elle l’a fait avec Jérusalem, la marocanité du Sahara occidental
Ed Webb

U.N. Is Preparing for the Coronavirus to Strike the Most Vulnerable Among Refugees, Mig... - 0 views

  • United Nations is preparing to issue a major funding appeal for more than $1.5 billion on Wednesday to prepare for outbreaks of the new coronavirus in areas suffering some of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, including Gaza, Myanmar, Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen, according to diplomatic and relief officials familiar with the plan
  • the request—which would be in addition to ongoing humanitarian operations—comes at a time when the world’s leading economies are reeling from the economic shock induced by one of the most virulent pandemics since the 1918 Spanish flu
  • “Some of the biggest donors are seeing global recession about to hit them,” said one senior relief official. “How generous are they going to be when they have a crisis looming in their own backyards?”
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  • U.N. relief officials and aid organizations are bracing for what they fear could be a cataclysmic second phase of the pandemic: spreading in the close-quarters encampments of the world’s more than 25 million refugees and another 40 million internally displaced people.
  • More than 3 billion people lack access to hand-washing facilities, depriving them of one of the most effective first lines of defense against the spread of the coronavirus, according to UNICEF
  • the effort to ramp up an international aid response is being hampered by the quest to ensure the safety of international staff. Those concerns have been amplified by the announcement last week that David Beasley, the executive director of the Rome-based World Food Program, had been infected with the coronavirus. Some international relief agencies have recalled senior field officers, fearing they could be infected.
  • Konyndyk, who worked on the response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said that U.N. and relief agencies are having to balance ensuring the health of their own staff with delivering care to needy communities.
  • “You would have a hard time designing a more dangerous setting for the spread of this disease than an informal IDP settlement,” he said. “You have a crowded population, very poor sanitation … very poor disease surveillance, very poor health services. This could be extraordinarily dangerous … and I don’t think that’s getting enough global attention yet.”
  • In conflict-riven countries from Afghanistan to South Sudan to Yemen, dismal health care infrastructures are already overburdened after years of fighting
  • After five years of war, with millions of people on the brink of famine, Yemen’s population is more vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak than those of most other countries. The conflict has left most of the country’s population effectively immunocompromised,
  • “For many population groups, living in overcrowded conditions, social distancing is a challenge or impossible,” according to the Assessment Capacities Project report. Many countries that host refugee camps, such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, are likely to be overwhelmed by the health needs of their own citizens. Nations with weak health systems “may struggle to screen, test, and contain the epidemic for the host population let alone the refugees,”
  • In Gaza, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides primary care for about 70 percent of the territory’s more than 1.8 million people, is bracing for the likely arrival of the coronavirus in one of the most densely populated place in the world. The U.N. agency—which the Trump administration defunded last year and has sought to dismantle—has some 22 medical clinics in Gaza, putting it on the front lines of the defense of the coronavirus.
  • “I’m told that there are 60 ICU beds in the hospitals,” Matthias Schmale, the director of Gaza’s UNRWA operations, told Foreign Policy. “If there is a full-scale outbreak the hospital sector won’t cope.”
  • The leaders of major relief organizations are pressing donors to grant them greater flexibility to redirect funding from existing programs that are likely to be paralyzed by the pandemic and use that money for programs—including clean water and sanitation projects—that could help stem the crisis.
  • “As bad as it is now in the well-organized and affluent north, with health systems, good sanitation, and big infrastructure, imagine how it will be when it will hit crowded camps with refugees and displaced people,” said Egeland, who spoke by telephone from quarantine in Norway.
  • sweeping U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions imposed on governments in Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela are hampering relief efforts.
  • Egeland acknowledged that most U.N. sanctions regimes, including those for Iran and North Korea, include exemptions for the import of humanitarian goods. But the sanctions have scared financial institutions from providing vital financial services to relief agencies. “Not a single bank had the guts to transfer money, because they were all afraid to be sued by the U.S. government,”
  • The World Health Organization announced earlier this year that more than $675 million will be required through April—including $61 million for its own activities—to mount an international campaign against the virus. Though WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said recently that more money would be needed. On Feb. 17, UNICEF issued an urgent request for $42.3 million to support the coronavirus response. It will be used to reduce transmission of the virus by promoting distance learning for kids who can’t attend school and public information aimed at shooting down misinformation.
  • Guterres, meanwhile, expressed concern that the pandemic could claw back decades of efforts to raise international health standards and to scale back the most extreme levels of poverty, and undercut U.N. sustainable development goals, which are designed to improve the standard of living around the world by the year 2030.
  • “COVID-19 is killing people, as well as attacking the real economy at its core—trade, supply chains, businesses, jobs,” Guterres said. “Workers around the world could lose as much as $3.4 trillion.”
  • “We need to focus on people—the most vulnerable, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises,” Guterres said. “That means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss. That also means designing fiscal and monetary responses to ensure that the burden does not fall on those who can least afford it. The recovery must not come on the backs of the poorest—and we cannot create a legion of new poor. We need to get resources directly into the hands of people.”
Ed Webb

UN allowing Assad government to take lead in rebuilding Aleppo | Fox News - 0 views

  • Matching up the planning documents with U.N. press releases issued throughout 2017 reveals that such projects as school refurbishment, health center repairs and new community centers in Aleppo fall almost exclusively within the priority areas of the city outlined by the government. 
  • Aleppo’s historic Old City has been separated from the broader humanitarian planning process, and is under the supervision of a so-called “National Higher Steering Committee for the Restoration of the Old City of Aleppo.” The most recent meeting of that committee, publicized on Nov. 2 by the Syria Trust for Development, a non-government organization associated with Syria's first lady, Asma Assad, was hosted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Asma Assad, and the charity she founded, are longtime partners of the U.N. in Syria. They are undertaking a large amount of relief and development work throughout the country using U.N. funds. The Old City reconstruction plan is led by the Syrian Government's Ministry of Culture, and works closely with the Ministry for Public Works and Housing, and the Ministry for Tourism, as well as UNESCO and the UNDP, along with other government bodies and NGOs. The Old Aleppo program is similar in design to that used in the rehabilitation of the Old City portions of Homs, a city south of Aleppo, which began in 2015 and continues today. There, too, the neighborhoods chosen for rebuilding appeared to prioritize the government's plans for the city, rather than any form of neutrality. 
  • The executive director of the Washington-based Syria Institute, Valerie Szybala, charges that “the U.N. agencies engaging in reconstruction work in areas like eastern Aleppo are -- at least publicly -- maintaining a willful ignorance, putting on blinders to the fact that the Syrian regime is taking very real steps to prevent many civilians from returning to their homes,"
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  • A “new class of war profiteers are the new power network Damascus is using to dominate Aleppo today, and the regime intends to use this network in ruling post-conflict Syria,”
Ed Webb

Turkey only country to vote against UN resolution on oceans and seas - Turkish Minute - 0 views

  • Turkey was the only member to vote against two resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly on the oceans and seas linked to the landmark 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
  • The “Oceans and the law of the sea” resolution — adopted by a recorded vote of 135 in favor to one against (Turkey), with three abstentions (Colombia, El Salvador, Venezuela) — called on states that have not done so to become parties to the Agreement for the Implementation of the UN Convention.
  • Turkey does not recognize the maritime boundaries of Cyprus and faces EU sanctions for deploying two drillships inside Cypriot waters.
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  • Mavroyiannis also criticized a Turkey-Libya deal to delimitate their maritime borders. “No country can pursue outlandish maritime claims guided by might, and not by well-established rules of international law, and no state should enter into dubious bilateral arrangements that contravene the convention,”
  • “Such arrangements have no legal effect, nor do they affect the status of the UNCLOS as the sole pertinent universal legal framework on the delimitation of maritime zones codifying international law. Upholding the integrity of the convention is the collective responsibility of all of us,”
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