Tag: United Nations (Page 1 of 2)

A solid investment if you know what you’re getting: Why continued support for UN peacekeeping is good policy for the US

The following is a guest post by Jay Benson and Eric Keels.  Jay Benson is a Researcher at One Earth Future (OEF), with research focusing on issues of peacekeeping, civilian protection and intrastate conflict.  Eric Keels is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Global Security at the Howard H. Baker Center and a Contractor with the OEF Research. His research focuses on international conflict management and democracy in post-war countries. 

During the first year of the Trump administration, the United States government has initiated numerous changes to the United States’ foreign policy. Since his first year in office, this new administration has signaled a 2020 withdrawal from Paris Climate Accords, backtracked on international efforts to sustain democracy, antagonized traditional US allies, and proposed a 23 percent cut in funding for the State Department. In addition to these radical shifts, the new administration has also been highly critical of international peacekeeping. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has consistently questioned the efficacy of international peacebuilding efforts in fragile countries such as Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.S. is not alone in this criticism, as new allegations of peacekeeper misconduct has drawn criticism of the management of UN peacekeeping operations. Given these critiques of international peacekeeping and peacebuilding, it is important to understand what benefits, if any, are provided by sponsoring these missions.

Given the current political climate’s increasing hostility to peacekeeping, what do we know about its efficacy in containing conflicts and protecting civilians? Continue reading


Syria: An Option Remains


With the bombing of the UN aid convoy in Syria and fresh attacks on Aleppo after the Assad regime declared the ceasefire over, American and UN officials are in need of a Plan B. Now that trust between the U.S. and Russia is at a new low after Russia allegedly carried out the convoy attack, the situation on the ground Thas gotten even more grim. With the U.S.-Russian ceasefire accord in tatters, the time has come to put a Safe Zone in place for refugees.

In fact, a de facto safe zone is already in place in northern Syria. The Turkish military’s recent thrust over the shared border has begun to allow Syrian refugees to cross back over into Jarabulus. For weeks Turkey has been advocating that the U.S. and western allies work with it to install a formal Safe Zone. With no other realistic options remaining, this novel development has the potential to be a game changer.

The only viable option is to install a Safe Zone in northern Syria stretching north from Aleppo to the Turkish border and east to just west of Kobani.  The viability of the zone rests on Turkey’s ability to lead the effort and militarily guard the zone on the ground, and the fact that the Syrian regime does not at present fly in this area. The security and humanitarian reasons are compelling, from turning around refugee flight to establishing a sizable zone of stability and allowing the focus to be on eradicating ISIS with Turkey fully engaged. Continue reading


North Korea and Hollywood: the Perfect Holiday Storm


A perfect storm is defined as an event in which a rare combination of circumstances results in an event of unusual scale and magnitude. 9-11 is a classic, and tragic, perfect storm. This December the world has witnessed another perfect storm involving the confluence of culture and foreign policy: the bizarre North Korean hacking of Sony and the scare that arrived just in time for the holidays for millions of Americans.

Not since the Danish publication of a cartoon that Muslims viewed as an insult to Islam has a confluence of this kind had such serious consequences. The Sony executives, who made the spoof film involving a comedic sendup of North Korean repression that ended in an assassination of its sitting leader Kim Jong-un, cannot be faulted for making the film that North Korea took such exception to. But by filming a scene in which the dictator’s head explodes, they crossed a line and all but invited hacker retaliation.

Sony’s internet defenses were surprisingly low, given a previous and rather damaging cyber penetration of its networks. But Sony’s greatest error was actually to take the threat of terrorism from the North Korean hackers on U.S. movie theaters showing the film seriously. Instead of standing up for freedom of expression (and protecting its investment), along with the major movie theater chains it caved. Continue reading


The Responsibility to Protect & Fear of Foreign Policy Failure

Last week I had the opportunity to partake in a workshop on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) at The Hague Institute of Global Justice (the Institute). The Institute is preparing to launch a project on R2P, seeking to bring academics, civil society and government/policy makers together to formulate insightful and policy relevant findings on R2P.   As the workshop was governed by Chatham House rules, I will only here note a few of my insights from the workshop, primarily insights about the connections between political will to uphold R2P and the theoretical and practical realities of foreign policy.

R2P is a very broad agenda with multiple loci of responsibility. The first covers the responsibilities of states to protect their own populations against war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing. A second locus of responsibility is the “international community,” for when states cannot protect their peoples or prevent these crimes, then, it also has an obligation to aid states, through various capacity building and preventive mechanisms. Third and finally, the United Nations Security Council possesses a particular responsibility. When preventive measures fail (or are not forthcoming), then the international community as represented through the United Nations Security Council has the responsibility to use all peaceful means to protect people from the four R2P crimes. If or when those peaceful means fail, then the Security Council has the responsibility to take “timely and decisive” measures, in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter, to protect populations. Such measures include military options, taken with or without the consent of a target state.

These three loci of responsibility track the three Pillars of the doctrine. Pillar One refers to the domestic state’s responsibility as outlined above. Pillar Two addresses the international community’s obligation and commitment to encourage and assist states (through capacity building) to uphold their Pillar One responsibilities. Pillar Three highlights the range of tools, from peaceful to non-peaceful and less coercive to more coercive, available to the Security Council and regional organizations. The pillars, it is thought, are not sequential, and some cases may only invoke or require Pillars One or Two. Regrettably, much of the debate concerning R2P tends to distill to questions about forcible intervention under Pillar Three.

This brings us to last week’s workshop. The brute fact of the matter is that R2P is a state doctrine, and much of the reality in international affairs is that states will only voluntarily undertake actions. In R2P parlance, this means that there is an ongoing question about the “political will” to uphold R2P. The discussion about political will, however, becomes blurred due to several related aspects. First and more generally, when any discussion of political will raises its head, it seems that almost everyone is working from the assumption of the political will to intervene militarily (the Pillar Three responsibility). Yet R2P proponents are quick to point out that R2P is more than this, as it includes early warning and capacity building.

This leads to a second point. States seem quick to lend rhetorical support for early warning and capacity building, but the discussion ends there. It seems, at least to me, that we ought to press them then to make more explicit commitments on these fronts. Development is linked to prevention, and perhaps we ought to change the background assumptions about political will from intervention to state building.

If this is too strong, as many states are unwilling to engage in prolonged state building enterprises, then there ought to be an open and pressing discussion about peacekeeping. If states are unwilling or unable to open their wallets, then perhaps they would be willing to provide troops. For example, as Perry and Smith note, North America and Europe have the lowest levels of troop contributions compared to Asia and Africa. A keen example is the United Kingdom, which consistently contributes around .5% of peacekeepers worldwide. Some might think that these countries are already fulfilling their obligations through foreign aid, so they are under no other or further obligations to supply peacekeepers, but this logic is unsound for a variety of reasons. Least amongst them, it overlooks the sad fact that we have no way under the current R2P doctrine to say who and who has not fulfilled their obligations or even how those obligations could be fulfilled. (See here, here and here for some discussions about this issue.)

Moreover, the gendered division of peacekeepers is also noteworthy and ought to be pressed upon from an R2P perspective. If one is looking for a way to not only keep the peace, but also to build capacity, then it would seem that including more female peacekeepers could kill two birds with one stone.   The level of gender equality is seen as a factor in conflict emergence, and if one could mitigate at least small levels of gender inequality while simultaneously saving lives, then this seems like an obvious win. However, looking at the data for female troop contributions, Crawford, Lebovic and Macdonald find that between 2009-2011 “86 percent of countries contributed no female personnel to an average mission in all three years, and 99 percent of countries contributed no female personnel to an average mission in at least one of the three years, under consideration.” Capacity building and timely response seem inherently linked on this issue.

Though what is apparent from the discussions last week and the reality of R2P is that states are unwilling to commit themselves or their peoples to anything that may end up looking like foreign policy failure. Even if we can divide R2P along the three pillars, states implicitly understand that if they sign on to more than their own responsibility for R2P crimes, this may end up committing them to foreign policy agendas that they deem too risky or too costly.   As Feaver and Gelpi argue in their work, states are willing to take on costs, particularly costs in lives, if they are seen to be “winning.” Casualty aversion only becomes a key concern for states when they are losing their foreign policy battles. While the cases are different, Feaver and Gelpi’s findings are illustrative here. Whatever foreign policy goals states set for themselves, they must be able to formulate them in such a way that they can ultimately “win.” Given that R2P is so wide ranging, covering everything from developing constitutions, building infrastructure, advocating for open democracy, calling for inclusive education of citizens, as well as (non)coercive measures to force states to abide by their obligations, it is, in a sense, a foreign policy nightmare. No statesperson could adequately formulate a policy framework that could be operationalized in a way where states could show that they upheld their responsibilities, did what they could, as well as succeeded in their efforts, and were not also on the hook for more.

Some might object and say that there are R2P successes. To be sure, there are, but there are also so many “failures” that the variation in foreign policy responses as well as the success rate tell us very little about the conditions for states to act, let alone act and succeed. While states are willing to note that they and the international community have a responsibility to protect, they are unwilling to talk about the finer details, and it is my worry that this is because of the vast expanse of the doctrine itself. If states cannot be seen to win and succeed, then they will either refrain from embarking on an R2P activity, or they will choose to do so from the shadows. Risk of foreign policy failure is, then, inherently linked to the discussion of political will, and it is high time we see that the doctrine itself is breeding its own limitations.


The United Nations and American Public Opinion

The following is a guest-post from Martin Edwards, professor at Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Martin’s website is here.

How do Americans think about the United Nations? The results of recent surveys by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project and the Better World Campaign offer some insights on this question. These organizations have tracked opinions on the United Nations since 2004 and 2009, and the findings are based on random samples of adults and registered voters, respectively. One of the findings in both surveys is that there are partisan differences in the opinions of Americans regarding the United Nations. A finding in the Better World Campaign survey helps us to better understand why these partisan differences exist.

The figure below aggregates the percentage of respondents who view the UN as either “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” in both surveys over time. Both surveys report an improvement of the UN’s numbers. In the Pew Research survey, the UN’s favorability numbers have gone up ten points since 2007, while the Better World Campaign reports a similar ten point jump since this time last year.

Continue reading


The Complexities of Intervening in Syria


Well into the Syrian civil war the Assad regime has made a costly miscalculation by staging a significant chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and its allies have been wary of a full-scale military operation in Syria, but spurred by this attack they are now preparing to intervene. To succeed western allies must be focused not only on degrading Syrian capabilities but also on avoiding mistakes beyond the short term that they made in Libya and Iraq.

The U.S. needs to intervene with as much legitimacy as it can muster, which appears to have a fighting chance in Congress (though Congressional leaders would be unwise to hold any votes ahead of the impending report from UN weapons inspectors). But the Bush Administration’s legacy continues to take a toll when it comes to the credibility of the U.S., not only at home but around the world. David Cameron seriously miscalculated in this respect already, although odds are the House of Commons will back British involvement in a second attempt at authorization once the UN issues what is likely to be a game changing report. Despite Russia’s prevention of authorization from the UN Security Council, the growing certainty about Syria’s multi WMD use is sufficient justification in the eyes of numerous American allies starting with the French (a list that will grow with the declassification of additional evidence and the weight of the UN’s moral authority, if not in a UNSC resolution at least in a clarifying report).

The western operation, however, needs to go beyond a mere “shot across the bow.” To reestablish a deterrent effect for rogue regimes like Assad’s, the operation will need to be more decisive. Yet it is even more important for the West to degrade Syrian military capabilities enough to turn the tide in the war. Doing less would allow Assad to appear to be standing up to the West yet again. And whatever deterrent effect were regained, it would slowly fade as the civil war grinds on indecisively. Moreover the war has already spilled over the Turkish, Jordanian, and Lebanese borders, and is rapidly on its way to becoming a sectarian regional war that would harm the security interests of a long list of countries including the U.S.

Notwithstanding some high placed naysaying U.S. and western credibility are in fact at stake, not only in Tehran and Pyongyang but also in the redoubts of al-Qaeda’s increasingly active affiliates and Hezbollah–not to mention Moscow and Beijing. Most of all, the U.S.-led intervention as currently designed would be a missed opportunity to tilt events on the ground toward what is already a stated western aim: the removal of the Assad regime. The mass bloodshed and destabilization of a critical region need to be stopped, and the authority of the international community restored. Continue reading


The Syria Endgame: A Way Forward

syrian-flag  Russia

With the increased likelihood that Assad will fall, even were he to hang on until a Gaddafi-style bitter end, pressure is mounting on the U.S., Europe, and Turkey inter alia to come up with a game plan for the post-endgame.   The good news is progress is rapidly being made:  stepped up aid from the U.S., aid from Europe, intelligence sharing among Turkey-Jordan-US-Europe, and direct training of Syrian opposition forces.

All of this may be enough to tip the balance against the Assad regime, leading to its end sooner rather than later.  But it is not nearly enough to handle the widely expected chaos once the endgame is reached.  What about playing the Russia card?  The greatest fear is that extremist al-Qaeda affiliated groups will get their hands on a variety of weapons caches in the capital and elsewhere, let alone a full-blown civil war that would seriously destabilize the entire region.  Special forces from the aforementioned countries will be needed, but they will likely be operating in an incredibly volatile if not thoroughly unstable environment.

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The Academic-Policy Nexus: a few more thoughts

Regarding my previous post and the very useful comments, first the matter of what do we do once we realize that a policy problem in search of a policy solution is the equivalent of a social scientific puzzle in search of an explanation, for both the solution and the explanation are outcomes. In other words, Step One is to identify the policy problem in question.  Step Two is to search the academic literature for a published study (in book or article form) whose puzzle is essentially identical to the policy problem. For example, the problem of how to end a civil war in Country X is equivalent to the puzzle of how to do so in an academic study.

The explanation of the study is the academic hook to hang the policy solution on. In other words, if there is a published study that explains the outcome of bringing civil wars to an end, this means that the study contains the cause of the outcome and has the evidence to back up the argument thereby matching the cause to the outcome.  Once a study is found it is on to the next step.

Continue reading


UN as Daddy Day Care

Romney apparently said today “we’ve been ‘turning to the United Nations’ to ‘raise our kids.'”

I don’t know if this is true,* but it raises a variety of questions/thoughts:

  • Does the UN have stock in ink?  Kids today seem to like tattoos. 
  • What is the curriculum include at UN Day Care?
  • Learning How to Circumvent Your Parents’ Vetoes?
  • Membership 101: You can join any club you want as long as your name is ok (Taiwan, Macedonia) even if you fall short of standards (Human Rights Commission).
  • The Golden Rule As Applied to Combat: Fire only if fired upon.
  • What is the UN Day Care hours and penalties for late pick up?
  • Do they have local franchises like Kindercare?  Is Kindercare really the UN’s franchise?
  • What do they serve for lunch?  Caviar and lobster (for those who ponder UN waste), Chinese every day (for those who fear the yellow peril’s insidious influence through an organization it does not really like), etc?
  • Do the kids get to ride on the black helicopters?
  • * I follow the code of the West a la The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.


    Peter Piot’s Memoir on Infectious Disease

    I just finished reading Peter Piot’s lively memoir No Time to Lose of his time as an epidemiologist helping identify the Ebola virus in the 1970s through to his service as the first director of UNAIDS. It is an engaging read not least because Piot conveys a profound empathy for those affected by disease. Piot also projects additional warmth and humanity, from his appreciation for Congolese music to good beer.

    More substantively, Piot has a proportionate sense of the outrageousness of bureaucratic politics in the UN system, while recognizing the need to navigate in those shark-filled waters.

    Unlike many memoirs, there is some bite here, with some choice words for donors who talk a big game but don’t provide much money (here, France and Italy were named) to mid-level careerists who put turf before those they are meant to serve, as well as some for campaigners whose occasional “extreme” demands or tactics can backfire (his account of an AIDS activist calling France a shit-hole on a live fundraising telethon was on point here).

    One aspect of the book made me rethink what I thought I knew about transnational advocacy movements, and his epilogue made me question what scope there is for coordination not only in the UN system but also within the interagency process in the U.S. government.

    Who Are the Advocates? 

    When we think of transnational advocacy movements, our paradigmatic actors are activists, the charismatic leaders of groups leading protests and petitions like Greenpeace, Oxfam, ACT UP, and Doctors Without Borders. However, if you go back to Keck and Sikkink’s foundational book Activists Beyond Borders, you will find that the advocacy networks in their view may also include state actors and representatives of intergovernmental organizations (pg. 9).  However, these are the final items six and seven in their list, and in the ten years plus since Keck and Sikkink came out, NGO activists captured the lion’s share of scholarly attention in the literature (This is not a systematic finding but my sense as a reader of that literature). 

    But when you read Piot’s account of his efforts to help cobble together a broad coalition to fight AIDS, you realize that Piot was an advocate and that those change agents inside governments and international organizations deserve more attention as central figures in transnational campaigns. Piot captured some of the breadth of this movement:

    But by the turn of the of the millennium our “brilliant coalition” was taking shape in its diversity and apparent chaos. What could the South African Chamber of Mines, Anglican Church, Community Party, and trades unions have in common with the Treatment Action Campaign, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and UNAIDS? A common goal: defeating the AIDS epidemic and caring for its victims. A powerful joint desire to be a force for change.

    The Piots of this world need to take center stage in our analysis, not least because every activist campaign needs countless Piots inside to have their ideas become policy. 
    Can Organizations Work Together?
    In a sense, this book is a coming of age story, of Piot’s transition from medical professional to skilled political operator. So much of what passes for politics in this book is the jostling for position among mid-level careerists in intergovernmental organizations and within countries. UNDP and UNICEF jockey for turf internationally with similar dynamics at play inside countries with the CDC and the NIH having difficulty at times playing nice within the U.S. government. 
    Among these, Piot comes across as an adult, and for such petty games, Piot has little patience. Nonetheless, he became sufficiently attuned to their inherent part of the game. To survive in this business, he describes his persona as chameleonic (something in common with his UNAIDS successor Michel Sidibe). In an obsessive desire to help those suffering, Piot adopted a healthy, ethical pragmatism and flexibility, of a willingness to work with whoever was needed to get the job the done. 
    But, his epilogue to the book, leaves me uneasy about the scope and capacity for coordinated action. Even if the financial crisis were not leading to more miserly patterns of foreign aid, the collective response of the international system may be largely unmanageable. Here, Piot wrote of his sense that UNAIDS, the “most advanced” attempt to coordinate various UN agencies to “deliver as one” was fraught:

    Over the years I became increasingly skeptical as to whether the current UN coordination governance could ever by effective operationally, despite the goodwill of many, if not most, staff. The two main obstacles for delivering as one UN were the institutional interests of individual agencies — careers, political influence, budgets–and the incoherence and volatility of its member states, which not only had different, sometimes mutually exclusive, interests, but which also lacked internal coherence…

    This resonated strongly with me as this week the Obama Administration issued an enigmatic statement suggesting that the much ballyhooed interagency Global Health Initiative would be reconceived/mothballed, leading analysts like Laurie Garrett and Amanda Glassman to parse what went wrong in this grandiose effort to conduct a “whole of government” response.

    Here, Piot’s conclusions are ones we should take to heart when we think about global and national governance of development, health, and foreign policy writ large:

    My conclusion on UN coordination was that it was a collective failure, and that the international community goes for some bold mergers and acquisitions as the current plethora of organizations is too expensive, or that it accepts that pluralism is a strength, as long as only effective and well-managed institutions are supported and others closed down.

    Interestingly, he suggests that setting up institutions outside of the UN system like the Global Fund is “not a solution” as much as he tried to make it a success. Frankly, I’m not sure what to do with that.

    Any Regrets?

    Aside from the time away from family, Piot’s main regret is whether or not he could have done more   to save lives earlier and faster. Here, I’m struck by the other quasi-memoir on HIV/AIDS that also came out this year Tinderbox by journalist Craig Timberg and public health professional David Halperin. In that book, they charge Piot with late attention to male circumcision, a powerful AIDS prevention technology that took too long to gain currency. 

    Piot at one point, in what might be a veiled reference to the duo, dimisses efforts to identify what prevention strategy worked in Uganda to stem the tide of new infections – was it A (abstinence), was it B (be faithful), or was it C (condoms), writing: “However, some scientists and journalists continue to fuel the debate in a fairly obsessive search for the magic bullet in HIV in prevention…” And to be fair, Halperin has long been obsessive about male circumcision, but as I wrote in a piece for CSIS in 2008, perhaps rightfully so. 

    Was Piot slow to the uptake on the promise of male circumcision? He praises it as one strategy among many that have taken center stage of late on prevention, but I don’t know the internal history well enough to judge. In general though, I agree with those like Mead Over who see the prevention agenda to have largely been a failure amidst this incredible and important turn to treatment access over the last decade. 
    But, I would be wary of blaming Piot for that. While one can quibble on the margins with aspects of his service (I think some campaigners would say he was too accommodating of the branded pharmaceuticals companies), Peter Piot clearly has been on the right side of history on HIV/AIDS with remarkable skill, poise, grace, and pragmatism.

    Six Years of Gay Marriage in Canada and the World Did Not End

    Fact: 6 years after gay marriage
    Happy Cat is still happy.

    It’s the 6th anniversary of gay marriage in Canada and – financial meltdowns in Europe and America aside – the world hasn’t ended. Society has remained intact. Babies are being born, flowers are blooming, a Canadian hockey team still can’t win the Stanley Cup and otters are still cute.

    Actually, Canada is more than fine. In an article in the Calgary Herald, Naomi Lakritz argues:

    While divorce rates have increased greatly since the introduction of Divorce Laws in 1968, actual divorce rates have been decreasing in Canada since the 1990s. The 50 per cent (failure rate) fallacy is false . . . In Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia, the Yukon and Nunavut, the total number of new divorce cases has declined six per cent over the four-year period ending in 2008/2009,” says an IMF news release.
    Indeed, while divorces per 100,000 population reached 362.3 in 1987, they were down to 220.7 per 100,000 in 2005, the year same-sex marriage became law. So much for the myth that same-sex marriage would aid the dissolution of straight marriages. They dissolve quite nicely on their own, thanks to their internal dynamics, such as domestic violence, alcoholism, gambling and infidelity. These figures, by the way, come from such eminent sources as the Vanier Institute of the Family and Statistics Canada.
    And, according to Statistics Canada, “the number of marriages in the country was 149,236 in 2006, down nearly 2,000 from the previous year, but up from 148,585 in 2004.” Looks like some sort of minor demographic blip occurred there in 2006, but that figure is still up from 2004, when much of the silly fearmongering was taking place prior to Bill C-38 being passed.
    Indeed, a November 2009 report entitled Divorce: Facts, Causes and Consequences, by Anne-Marie Ambert of York University in Toronto, found that “divorce rates have gone down substantially during the 1990s and have remained at a lower level since 1997, with minor yearly fluctuations.”

    So clearly ALL of the predictions of the religious right have come true…. in that they haven’t. At all.

    Considering that less than 30 years ago that many people were arrested, committed or persecuted for homosexuality in many Western countries, the progress has been impressive, (no matter what might be coming out of the mouths of Tea-Partiers.) A list of countries/regions/areas/cities with same-sex marriage or civil unions is impressive and growing. Even if it is a little patchy in America, there is clear momentum in support for equal marriage rights. Obama supporting the Respect for Marriage Act is a positive (if slightly delayed) step forward.

    Obviously, it’s not a totally rosy picture. It’s still a crime punishable by death in 7 countries and homosexual acts are outlawed by 113. The Uganda situation is particularly odious. But even the UN Human Rights Council has taken the step of passing its first resolution on LGBT persons in June. Even if there is still a lot of work to do, there seems to be a decent amount of momentum (and opposition).

    And best wishes to New Yorkers getting ready to take the plunge!

    Cross-posted at The Cana-Blog


    UN Routinely Overlooks Male Rape Victims… And Female Perpetrators

    Adam Jones and Augusta del Zotto made this case years ago, and so have I. Glad to note the New York Times has finally taken notice by publishing Lara Stemple’s excellent op-ed:

    AS disturbing new reports of male rape in Congo made clear, wartime sexual violence isn’t limited to women and girls. But in its ongoing effort to eradicate rape during conflict, the United Nations continues to overlook a significant imperative: ending wartime sexual assault of men and boys as well.

    Sexual violence against men does occasionally make the news: the photographs of the sexual abuse and humiliation of Iraqi men at the Abu Ghraib prison, for example, stunned the world.

    Yet there are thousands of similar cases, less well publicized but well documented by researchers, in places as varied as Chile, Greece and Iran. The United Nations reported that out of 5,000 male concentration camp detainees held near Sarajevo during the Bosnian conflict, 80 percent acknowledged having been abused sexually. In El Salvador, 76 percent of male political prisoners told researchers they had experienced sexual torture.

    Rape has long been a way to humiliate, traumatize and silence the enemy. For many of the same reasons that combatants assault women and girls, they also rape men and boys.

    Nevertheless, international legal documents routinely reflect the assumption that sexual violence happens only to women and girls. There are dozens of references to “violence against women” — defined to include sexual violence — in United Nations human rights resolutions, treaties and agreements, but most don’t mention sexual violence against men.

    Ignoring male rape has a number of consequences. For one, it not only neglects men and boys, it also harms women and girls by reinforcing a viewpoint that equates “female” with “victim,” thus hampering our ability to see women as strong and empowered.

    In the same way, silence about male victims reinforces unhealthy expectations about men and their supposed invulnerability. Such hyper-masculine ideals encourage aggressive behavior in men that is dangerous for the women and girls with whom they share their lives.

    Sex-specific stereotypes also distort the international community’s response. Women who have suffered rape in conflict have likely endured non-sexual trauma as well. But when they are treated as “rape victims,” their other injuries get minimized.

    Conversely, when men have experienced sexual abuse and are treated solely as “torture victims,” we ignore the sexual component of their suffering. Indeed, doctors and emergency aid workers are rarely trained to recognize the physical signs of male rape or to provide counseling to its victims.

    ne consequence of the neglect of male victims not mentioned in this article is that it perpetuates a false dichotomy that if women are the victims men must be the perpetrators. While I have no problem believing this is true in probabilistic terms, it is hard to know how strong that probability is given that analysts rarely consider the prevalence of female-perpetrated sexual violence in conflict zones.

    One researcher who has Dara Cohen – has found a significant number of female perpetrators – nearly a third – in her study of Sierra Leone. And a study on the Congo published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found survey respondents reported women perpetrating rape in 41% of cases where the victim was female, and 10% of the cases where the victim was male.

    [cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money]


    UNSC Resolution 1970: Wait, did the UN just kinda do what it was supposed to?

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 is a pretty amazing document. Over the last few days I’ve found myself trying to decide if this a rare example of the UN Security Council doing what it was originally designed to do – or an example of an international organization working because there is a relatively powerless state with no allies involved. I suspect it’s probably both.

    Still, I’ve been following The Multilateralist blog over at Foreign Policy and I think David Bosco has it just about right:

    Last night, the UN Security Council passed unanimously a resolution imposing an asset freeze and travel ban on Libya’s ruling elite, and also referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. None of these measures is unprecedented: the Council has used asset freezes and targeted sanctions with increasing frequency in recent years, and it referred the case of Sudan to the ICC in 2005. But the scope, speed and unanimity of the resolution are remarkable.

    I think this last line is a very significant point – even if it’s about a relatively straightforward situation in Libya, 1970 is a comprehensive resolution that was passed quickly and unanimously. Even more remarkably, China, Russia and the United States voted for it (no abstentions) even if it has the power to potentially put Gaddafi on trial at the ICC – an institution they’re not all entirely chummy with.

    Clearly this will not solve all of the problems in Libya, but I also don’t believe it is merely an impotent angry-worded letter that critics often speak of. And there are a few things in here that I think are interesting and worth highlighting…

    First, the ICC referral. On the surface this isn’t unique, but (as I mentioned above) it is still rather interesting that ALL states on the UNSC agreed to it. The operative clause goes that the UNSC….

    4. Decides to refer the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya since 15 February 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court;

    But the reasons why China, Russia, the US, India, (etc) probably found this acceptable can be found in the 6th clause of the resolution:

    6. Decides that nationals, current or former officials or personnel from a State outside the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that State for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya established or authorized by the Council, unless such exclusive jurisdiction has been expressly waived by the State;

    In other words, if a citizen of the US, Russia, China, India (etc) is somehow involved in crimes against humanity, the ICC will not have jurisdiction over them (or any non-ICC national.) It will be interesting to see if this results in anyone getting away with some nasty stuff.

    Additionally, Bosco makes an interesting observation on this point:

    But it is notable that the resolution references (although in a non-operative paragraph [ed: this means in the preamble, before ‘Action under Chapter VII]) Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which gives the Council the power to suspend ICC investigations if it believes doing so would advance peace and security. It’s not immediately obvious to me why a resolution referring a situation to the court would emphasize this provision. It’s possible that China, the United States and others particularly skeptical of an untethered ICC simply wanted to emphasize the Council’s power to reel in the court. But it could also be a signal that the Council would consider stopping the ICC process in exchange for the peaceful transfer of power.

    This is interesting. There has been some criticism of the ICC that its activities in Africa are actually hindering rather than helping resolve conflicts. So would the threat of a prosecution actually give any incentive for Gaddafi to surrender? And would ICC advocates be satisfied if such a deal was made – transfer power peacefully and we’ll leave you alone? I have my doubts.

    Then again, if I was Gaddafi, I’d probably rather have my fate decided in sombre environment of The Hague than at the armed and rather angry mob that is headed his way. (If nothing else, surely this would give him another platform for crazy speeches and more elaborate hats?)

    Second, there are references to “The Responsibility to Protect” in the preamble of the resolution, and in the comments of the representatives of those who voted on it, but not in the ‘meat’ of the resolution. This is not a big surprise, given how rather toothless the concept has become since 2005’s World Summit Outcome Document (see articles 138 and 139). However, this kind of does seem the ideal time, if ever there was one, to invoke the principle.

    Finally, the voting and accompanying statements. According to the press release, when speaking on the Resolution, the Chinese representative said the following:

    LI BAODONG ( China) said that China was very much concerned about the situation in Libya. The greatest urgency was to cease the violence, to end the bloodshed and civilian casualties, and to resolve the crisis through peaceful means, such as dialogue. The safety and interest of the foreign nationals in Libya must be assured. Taking into account the special circumstances in Libya, the Chinese delegation had voted in favour of the resolution.

    Three points here: First, it’s clear that China agreed to the resolution because of “special circumstances” rather than suggesting it was something they would normally support.

    Second, it’s also clear that he is against an armed humanitarian intervention and is not alone on the Council. The Russian representative, while supporting the 1970, spoke out against “counterproductive interventions” that other states might be tempted to engage in.

    Third, when Russia and China are voting for sanctions against you AND supporting an ICC investigation in your country, it goes to show you just how freaking isolated you are. I suppose at this point it might be the result of neither country having substantial material interests in Libya and realizing they had nothing to lose (and potentially something to gain in terms of UN ‘street cred’) if they voted for it. (Certainly a sentiment, along with hypocrisy, expressed in this cartoon in the Economist.)

    Ultimately, it’s a very interesting resolution and I’ve been using it in my teaching all week. Is it a rare example of the UN doing what it was designed to do in the first place? Even if not, I suspect that scholars will be interested in the reasons for the content of the resolution, the speed at which it was passed, and the effect it eventually has on the crisis – if any.

    PS: Oh and I see that the UN has now thrown Libya off of the UN Human Rights Council. Way to act, guys! 


    Denied-ada. Canada fails to get a UN Security Council Seat. (But how many EU Nations do we need on there anyway?)

    It was Canadian Thanksgiving this past weekend but Canukistan has one less thing to be grateful for today – it failed to get a UN Security Council seat for the first time in 50 years of trying.

    Alas, (eh?), Canada lost out to Germany and Portugal in the Western group (with India, South Africa and Colombia running uncontested for the other three seats.)

    The Harper government, ridiculously, is blaming Liberal opposition leader Michael Ignatieff for the humiliating loss. This makes somewhere between zero and negative sense.

    Instead, there are several factors to blame for this – the EU is a united front whereas Canada needs to lobby hard in the UN. Additionally, the electoral process seems to be pretty sketchy – and heavily dependent on gifts by suitor countries. (Apparently we went with vials of maple syrup. Way to go, guys.)And, as the Globe and Mail points out, the government hadn’t exactly had run a gung-ho campaign in order to secure it.

    But it’s also a fact that Canada has been engaging the world in a very different fashion over the last few years. Where as it was once associated peacekeeping and Lester B. Pearson, it has been actively building up its airforce, accusing the Russians of invading our airspace, actively worked against climate change (and now on my way to work I have to pass around 20 billboards beside London City Hall that basically accuse Canada of systematically raping the earth with its tar sands.) I’m not saying that I necessarily disagree with all of the above, (no one likes hippies) but our national response/PR could have been much better.

    Additionally, as former UN Ambassador Robert Fowler pointed out in a damning critique at the beginning of this year, our African policy is basically non-existent. The days when it could be said that the UN was embedded in Canadian DNA are clearly over. (I wonder if we’ll be taking the peacekeepers off of our $10 bills now?)

    So, let’s be clear. I do understand the UN vote, but I find myself unsatisfied for another reason: There are going to be four EU countries represented on the Council. Is this at all fair? Or a good thing for the UN? I have my doubts.

    But UN Security Council reform is a topic for another day…year… decade….


    UN Passes “Right to Water”: Diplomacy everywhere but not a drop to drink.

    Yesterday the General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution declaring “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life.”

    The vote passed with 122 countries voting and 41 countries abstaining, including United States, Britain, Canada, Australia – but also other nations like Botswana and Turkey. On the other hand, China, Russia, Germany, France, Spain and Brazil backed the resolution.

    This vote comes after many years of debate. Water, increasingly seen as a strategic issue and a natural resource, is not something that countries with large amounts of fresh water (I’m looking at you, Canada) want to be obligated to part with under international law.

    But the idea that water is a fundamental right is something that the UN has been working on for some time. In 2003, the WHO published an argument in favour of enshrining such a right. Their argument follows that a right to water is largely inseparable from a right to health and a reasonable standard of living. Additionally, defining water as a “right” was seen as having the has the following advantages:

    • achieving basic and improved levels of access should be accelerated;
    • the “least served” are better targeted and therefore inequalities decreased;
    • communities and vulnerable groups will be empowered to take part in decision making processes;
    • the means and mechanisms available in the United Nations human rights system will be used to monitor the progress of States Parties in realizing the right to water and to hold governments accountable.
    In other words, establishing a “right” means that there will be the ability to claim that right and demand that someone act upon it. Further arguments in support of the right to water by leading proponent Maude Barlow, (who calls it the “most violated right”) can be read here.

    A couple of observations on this development:

    First of all, I think it needs to be said that not having clean water and poor sanitation is probably an undisputable bad thing. That individuals in poorer counties are forced to drink contaminated water in this day and age is pretty much a terrible tragedy.

    Additionally, while realists or sceptics may argue that defining something as a “right” in international law will basically have little to no impact, recent work by Beth Simmons suggests that this may actually not be the case. Simmon’s recent work on human rights treaties and documents demonstrates that where the possibility to organize exists (even in repressive countries) the human rights situations of some countries measurably improves.

    This “right to water” approach also seems to reflect a “Basic Rights” approach advocated in the 1970s and 1980s by those (such as Professor Henry Shue) who argued that it was not very useful to divide rights up into “political” and “economic and social” but rather to think about, literally, what basic rights human beings need for survival. It’s all very nice to have the right to freedom of speech, but if you’re dying of thirst it’s not particularly useful.

    So, acknowledging the general tragedy of the situation and the fact that change may actually result from this (although more thoughts of the international legal aspect of this below), what are we left with?

    I should say that after about 30 minutes of trying I cannot, for the life of me, find the text of resolution (A/64/L.63/Rev.1) on the internet. I’m assuming that it will be online later.

    However, an accounting of the vote is available here. The major objections seem to be:

    • The US Representative argued that the resolution describes “the right to water and sanitation in a way not reflected in existing international law since there was no right to water and sanitation in an international legal sense, as described by the resolution.” The UK agreed with this, stating that there was no customary evidence that there was such a right.
    • The US Representative also suggested that the resolution was not drafted in an “open” or “clear” way and largely circumvented the traditional processes of developing “rights”. The Australian Representative seemed to agree, stating that his state “had reservations about declaring new human rights in a General Assembly resolution. Indeed, when new rights were recognized, consensus was essential.”
    • The Representative of Canada argued that the resolution “appeared to determine that there was indeed a right without setting out its scope” of that right.

    (For those that are interested, UNDispatch has the full US argument here.)

    What also seems to be the case is that there is a parallel process on going in Geneva where there is an Independent Expert currently undertaking research in this area. This vote occurred before that expert could report.

    However, it seems clear that states are opposed to the idea that human rights can be drafted in non-binding General Assembly resolutions. (In this sense it is interesting that there is so much commentary on the failure to achieve consensus. States who voted in favour regret that consensus could not be achieved and those who voted against seem to argue that the resolution was drafted and pushed through in such a way that consensus was impossible.)

    Also, there is the obvious concern over sovereignty and sovereignty over resources that the Canadian representative (no surprises there) seems to be getting at. Is there an obligation for states with lots of fresh water to provide it for free to states with little?

    Incidentally, my favourite statement in the whole description of the vote was that given by the Albanian Representative who stated “he had not been present for the vote and wished to place on the record that he would have abstained.” Hope it was a nice lunch then.

    There is much that could be said about consensus vs voting, “rights based development”, non-binding resolutions in the General Assmembly, etc. But this is already a long post. So I’ll just leave it to listing some questions that I have, and hope that some will be answered when I do eventually get to read the text – or in subsequent international debate over the issue.

    First – what about cases where states are responsible for polluting their own water? China has basically turned many of its own rivers into toxic, stinking, flowing masses of chemicals through its industrial development and poor monitoring of environmental degradation. Is there an obligation to provide water to nations that have acted irresponsibly? Or to nations that refuse to take steps to improve their own sanitation?

    Second – It seems as if the resolution is not clear as to who is responsible for providing this ‘right’. The ‘emerging norm’ of the “Responsibility to Protect” makes it clear that states are responsible in the first instance. This is the long standing position of China, Russia and virtually all of the Non-Aligned Nations. So does this count for water too?

    Third – Could this have perverse results? Would poorer countries that are water-rich be forced to give water to its potentially richer neighbours? Say, for example, Costa Rica (who voted in favour of the resolution and has a reasonable water/sanitation level for Central America) be forced to give water to wealthier Arab nations?

    Fourth – (and this is more of an observation) in terms of international law this technically does not have much sway. Unlike the human rights treaties that Simmons is concerned with, it’s a non-binding General Assembly Resolution that does not have any enforcement mechanisms nor can it be said to have received overwhelming support. But there will be little doubt that humanitarian and NGOs will use this as evidence of an “emerging norm” regarding the obligation to provide clean water. And it is also clear that states are concerned about the emergence of such a ‘right’ – wherever and however it develops.

    EDIT: Friend and very cool guy Jeremy Youde has provided me with the link! The text of the resolution is here. It is pretty short – consisting of three main points. In this sense I can see why there was some concern over the ‘scope’ of the right. It simply states that there is a right but does not specify who is to provide it or what may be required of states. The only indication is calling upon states to help provide better assistance… but as Jeremy points out in his comment, it does not state what happens if the water is not there to begin with.


    Debates in Canadian Foreign Pol… Wait! Don’t leave!

    I’m in Edinburgh, Scotland this week for the Political Studies Association Conference so my attention to all things blogging and internet is a bit short. However, as the Duck’s official Canadian ex-pat guest-poster, I did want to post this video (transcript here) of Robert Fowler, a former senior Canadian diplomat who gave a rather scathing critique of Canadian foreign policy at a conference this past weekend in Montreal.

    No wait – don’t leave! Trust me on this one.

    In it, he basically blasts both major political parties for their failure to enact any worthwhile international policies beyond that of short-sighted, narrowly defined and selfish national interest. It’s kind of like the equivalent of zombie Adlai Stevenson standing up at the Democratic National Convention and telling all of the politicos that they are full of it. (Although I don’t think that Fowler has ever run for office.)

    Okay, I realize that controversies in Canadian foreign policy ain’t exactly an easy sell (or at all interesting) for non-Canadian (or even Canadian) audiences. But there are some really interesting points here for the politics of middle powers and IR theory/policy generally.

    1. Fowler is making a clear case for an idealist-driven foreign policy. He’s an experienced diplomat who helped to bring about the Kimberly Process to help curb trade in blood diamonds. He also spent a good chunk of the last two years being held hostage by radical Islamic groups in Western Africa. He’s not naive. Yet, to his credit, I think he asserts his case in a powerful and pragmatic way.
    2. His argument rests on the idea that Canada does have an international role to play and a duty to the international community. Certainly, Fowler is not the first to put this argument forward, but he’s the first Canadian leader I’ve heard really articulate it in a long time. (Whether or not it’s true, however, is another story.) While the US often speaks of its leadership role, I can’t think of an American politician speaking of duties in this way. Is this just a Canadian thing? (Like when Dean Acheson called us “the stern daughter of the voice of God”?)
    3. Fowler says that Canada and its western allies simply do not have the ability to stomach the losses and resources required to win in Afghanistan and therefore the war is lost. He suggests that basically that we should cut our losses and leave – but turn our attention to Africa and international development, suggesting it is the only way to really stop al-Qaida from spreading. I find this interesting, because in some ways development in Africa is surely as difficult (if not more so) than nation building in Afghanistan. Certainly we’ve been trying to develop states there for years without much to show for it. I’m not sure he made the case that this is any more realistic or a viable alternative.
    4. Fowler is staking his own version of the “Israel Lobby” in the speech – suggesting that the Tories (the current political party in power) are supporting Israeli policies over the traditional “balanced” view that has been taken by Canada in the Middle East. He suggests that this is because the Tories are trying appeal to Jewish voters (and that the Liberals are also guilty to some extent here as well.) To Fowler, this means that Canada cannot play a useful role in the Middle East. I’ve heard this complaint from Canadian diplomatic-types before (that we were undermining our position), but this is the first major statement I’ve heard spoken so prominently. However, I do have to wonder if Canada (other than the Suez crisis) has ever really played a useful role in the Middle East? I must profess some level of ignorance on the subject here.

    There is plenty more in the speech, but I’ll leave it on those four points. He has, so far, received praise from both the left and the right in the press. But also some really harsh criticism.

    I have a lot of respect for Fowler, even if I feel inclined to disagree with him on Afghanistan (and possibly his arguments on the Middle East). I had the opportunity to meet him once when he was Canada’s representative on the UN Security Council in 1999. One very much had the impression that he was very interested in African issues then as much as now and that he was proud of his work in trying to stop blood diamonds.

    But the fact that this speech, coming from someone who was also a senior UN diplomat, is so critical about Canada, Canadian foreign policy – at a time when Canada is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council may actually put a serious damper on any attempt to actually get it. He openly says that Canada does not deserve the seat – and I would think that all Portugal would have to do would be to show this speech around in order to bolster its attempt to get on the Council.

    It’s probably the best case I’ve heard put forward for an idealist-driven foreign policy – even if it is in scathing terms (the line about “Own the Podium” – OUCH!). If nothing else, it was a speech that was honest and informed – something that always seems to be lacking nowadays.

    So if you’re just dying to know how a middle power debates its foreign policy – you’re welcome.

    As for me, I’ll probably be returning to my regularly scheduled program of blowy-uppy-things next week.

    But first I am going to have to try and survive the crazy weather up here.


    Evaluating Galbraith’s dissent

    Peter Galbraith is now officially out as Kai Eide’s deputy in Kabul. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced Galbraith’s recall/firing this afternoon after he received a letter of dissent from Galbraith about Eide’s performance in investigating allegations of fraud. Here’s a portion of the letter from tonight’s NYTimes:

    “For a long time after the elections, Kai denied that significant fraud had taken place, even going to the extreme of ordering U.N. staff not to discuss the matter,” Mr. Galbraith wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

    “And, at critical stages in the process,” he wrote, “he blocked me and other U.N.A.M.A. professional staff from taking effective action that might have limited the fraud or enabled the Afghan electoral institutions to address it more effectively.” U.N.A.M.A. refers to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

    … “Given our mandate to support ‘free, fair and transparent elections, I felt U.N.A.M.A. could not overlook the fraud without compromising our neutrality and becoming complicit in a cover-up,” Mr. Galbraith wrote.

    Peter has long been a pain to much of the US foreign policy establishment and I have always liked and respected him — even when I’ve disagreed with him. He is impassioned and principled and refuses to back down when he sees injustices — characteristics that don’t always play so well at Foggy Bottom. He pressed harder and more aggressively than anyone in the late 1980s for a robust response to Saddam Hussein’s systematic attacks on the Kurds. He directly challenged Croatian President Franjo Tudjman about Zagreb’s role in both the Bosnian conflict and the purging of Serbs from Krajina region of Croatia in 1995. He was a very vocal critic of the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq — especially the constraints he saw being placed on Kurdish autonomy after Saddam’s removal.

    So, his outrage over the election fraud and Eide’s handling of it are not much of a surprise.

    But, I am really curious about what happens next on this story. This type of policy dissent often gets quite a bit of attention with all kinds of speculation about how it does, or does not, influence policy considerations. I have long wondered whether or not there are any credible methods or measures to assess the independent effects of this type of policy dissent (This would make for an interesting dissertation for some aspiring grad student). So here are a few questions I have:

    1) What will Galbraith do now? Will he go on the talk show circuit to challenge the United Nations and Karzai? Would that have any discernible effect public opinion and elite opinion?

    2) Dissenters almost always become the darlings of the media and a wide range of policy critics. My hunch (and experience) is that dissent can have some limited influence on policy considerations but its role in effecting events on the ground is almost always more limited than is, or will be, portrayed by the media and by policy critics. So, how will his dissent and his removal affect events on the ground in Afghanistan — i.e., how will Afghan citizens and elites respond — and what evidence should we be looking for to make judgments on this?

    3) I’ll wager that we’ll see several stories that assert Galbraith’s dissent and firing will “completely undermine the legitimacy” of both the elections and the United Nations in Afghanistan. But, is this really what we are likely to see and how would we measure it in this context?

    4) And, finally, how does this influence the internal discussions within the Obama administration? Galbraith is known to be close to Holbrooke — what does this do, if anything, to Holbrooke’s position vis-a-vis the McChrystal recommendations?



    Afghan Statebuilding

    I’m generally sympathetic to the letter from the IR scholars on Afghanistan discussed below — though I am most certainly not a realist and I am not averse to statebuilding as a concept or as an occasional practice in foreign policy. I supported the effort in Bosnia (notwithstanding the impression given in George Will’s Washington Post column tomorrow morning — I’ll respond to that later). For me, I have long been persuaded by Tony Smith from Tufts who argues that the question should not be simply: is one for, or against, the enterprise of state building. It is whether or not there is a credible strategy and set of conditions conducive to success.

    In Afghanistan, it has been almost eight years since the Taliban were ousted from power, and on the issue of governance, functionality of state institutions, and civil society development there are very few positive indicators. The recent elections and the UN’s handling of them have been a disaster. The sudden departure this week of Peter Galbraith from his position as the number two UN official in the country after a not-so-private feud with his Norwegian boss, Kai Eide, who heads the UN mission in Kabul reveals the train wreck. From the Times Online:

    Mr Galbraith, a close friend of the US special envoy Richard Holbrooke, left for Boston on Sunday after a heated meeting with Afghan election officials. His “pointed” questions to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) were evidence of a much tougher line towards the Afghan authorities than the “softly-softly” approach of Mr Eide, who heads the UN mission to Kabul.

    “The relationship between Kai and Peter has completely broken down,” said a diplomat in Kabul. “Peter has left the country. The official line is that he’s on a three-week mission to New York. But Kai just turned round to Peter and said, ‘I want you out’.”

    The apparent row illustrates the deepening divisions within the international community on whether to allow President Karzai to claim re-election in the flawed presidential poll.

    Mr Galbraith wants the IEC to annul results from 1,000 of the total of about 6,500 polling stations and to recount results from another 5,000, diplomatic sources said. Mr Eide, a former UN envoy in Bosnia, seeks only a face-saving recount of some 1,000 polling places, the sources said.

    Mr Galbraith’s wholesale recount would virtually ensure a second round in the election, denying Mr Karzai his claimed first-round victory. Harsh winter weather means that the second round could not be held before May, leaving Afghanistan in political limbo.

    Mr Eide’s solution would probably enable Mr Karzai to claim victory, although with a reduced margin.

    There just isn’t anything good to say about this….


    The Security Council Goes Nuclear

    I just finished reading the UN Security Council’s latest Cross-Cutting Report on The Security Council’s Role in Disarmament and Arms Control; Nuclear Weapons, Nonproliferation and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    It’s an excellent overview for non-experts on the relationship of the UN Security Council to nuclear diplomacy. Background sections cover the history of UNSC’s involvement in disarmament and arms control and why it mostly failed during the Cold War; the nature of alternative bilateral and non-UNSC multilateral arrangements to date and their drawbacks; the Security Council’s engagement with a series of WMD crises since 1977; and the relationship between nuclear weapons and other WMD (though the report accepts as valid the socially constructed distinction between WMD and conventional weapons – obviously the authors haven’t read Tannenwald). Anyway, it’s useful reading for anyone wanting the current skinny on disarmament and non-proliferation regimes and where the UNSC fits.

    But the report also includes an optimistic, forward-looking and (I think) a little bit naive appraisal of the Council’s resurgent role in nuclear diplomacy, which was set out in Article 26 of the UN Charter but fell by the wayside for much of the UN’s history:

    “The Security Council has shown… that it has the potential – and the power, if it chooses to exercise it – to contribute to addressing both specific and broader disarmament dimensions of security issues… Clearly there are a huge range of options the Council members can pursue in their national capacities that would have positive impacts on the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda.”

    These, the report goes on, include “national statements in UNSC debates, committing the UNSC to “play a regular role,” an annual high-level meeting, an omnibus resolution bringing together and updating existing resolutions, statement and decisions on disarmament; and “establishing a high-level subsidiary body to support the Council in discharging a strategic-level role in the area of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.”

    But most of avenues envisioned here for SC involvement seem halfhearted and largely rhetorical. On the one hand, the Security Council has one thing going for it that other nonproliferation forums lack: a 2/3 majority voting process rather than a consensus process where every stakeholder has a veto. On the other hand, the P5 veto dilutes this advantage for all issues; and it’s particularly problematic on nuclear policy given that the P5 are all on one side of the disarmament debate. Indeed the report’s appraisal of the SC’s earlier efforts at nuclear diplomacy paints a more somber picture of its ability to exert more than an epiphenomenal effect on political outcomes, for this very reason:

    “The P5 – all of whom have nuclear weapons – seem unusually united about compliance with the nonproliferation obligations in the NPT and preventing other states and nonstate actors from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, the Council’s record of effectively addressing the parallel obligations on the P5 under article VI of the NPT [which requires nuclear states to work in good faith toward disarmament] is almost completely absent in any practical sense… Council action against state proliferation has been uneven and is often criticised as selective… it has acted firmly against nuclear programmes in Iraq, the DPRK and Iran. Nuclear weapons programmes in Israel, Pakistan and India were largely ignored.”

    As anyone schooled in realist theory knows, this is precisely the pattern that would be predicted in the absence of the Security Council.

    So ultimately I think it is naive to place much faith in the UNSC as a bulwark against nuclear proliferation. This doesn’t mean it’s entirely devoid of power. The UNSC is good for three things, all significant:

    First, as Inis Claude famously argued, it functions as a collective legitimation body, so it has some role to play in reproducing norms negotiated in other forums like the Conference on Disarmament. Second, it may be poor at helping states escape collective action dilemmas, but it does constitute a forum for states to coordinate policy responses vis-a-vis non-state actors – perhaps it should be taking the lead particularly on this aspect of non-proliferation policy. Third, as any civil society actor who has attempted to influence a Security Council resolution knows, it functions to securitize issues: the agenda of the UN Security Council is considered a signal to the global community about the significance of threats and concerns, and in this sense alone its re-engagement with disarmament and proliferation issues is important.

    Doesn’t mean we should pin all our hopes on New York, however. I think it is far more significant that the United States is now playing a lead role on nonproliferation issues as well holding the rotating Presidency for the month of September. To the extent that the UNSC has power to play a constructive role, it will be wielded through sympathetic P5 governments.


    A New UN Super-Agency for Women

    From the Guardian:

    This autumn the UN general assembly will vote yes or no to a new “super-agency for women”; $1bn is being discussed as the starter annual budget.

    A major role for the new agency’s work will be to close the gap between rhetoric and reality on existing international resolutions on sex discrimination and women’s human rights. The priorities cover a lot of ground – to help women earn increased income, stay in education longer, have access to proper health care, and have an equal say in decisions that affect their lives and the future of the planet.

    Despite generations of international agreements on women’s equality, responsibility for improving the lives of the world’s women is spread thinner than Marmite across four poorly co-ordinated UN entities – Unifem, DAW, Osagi, and Instraw. Their senior staff are not part of the UN’s main decision-making fora. All have minuscule budgets, little power or influence in the UN system and virtually no operational capacity on the ground. Unifem, the largest of the four, has 47 staff and a budget of $129m to serve the world’s three and a half billion women.

    All organisations within the UN system are officially mandated to address gender and women’s rights. Most treat women’s rights and priorities as optional extras, or entirely ignore their responsibilities to half the world’s population. A few UN agencies and UN missions in some countries do important work on gender equality and women’s rights, but it’s patchy and often depends on an individual champion to push for it.

    Giant leap for womankind? Or just another expensive UN bureaucracy? My two cents: it may make a big difference whether this new agency consolidates/replaces existing UN gender machinery, or whether it simply adds another agency onto the existing mishmash. If the latter, it is likely to increase the visibility of gender issues within the UN, but also increase redundancy, buck-passing and institutional inertia.

    Another thing to keep an eye on will be the power politics involved, once such an agency is established, in defining the UN’s agenda on women’s empowerment. Culled from comments on the Guardian article:

    “The men of Africa are in far more need of help than the women of Europe, America, Canada, Russia, etc. By grouping your “3 and a half billion women” together and claiming they are one big lump of victimhood that has been “let down” you just make a mockery of the whole issue. Perhaps the budget should be targeted at those nations where women really do get a rough deal rather than becoming another plaything of the pampered feminists of the West (a group whose living standards are probably in the top 5% of the world’s population). Western women have far more in common with Western men than they do with third world women.

    Sadly, the form in which such an agency is likeliest to be effective and transformative is also the one it is least likely to take. What is probably needed is not a “women’s” agency but a “gender empowerment” agency. The former approach would focus on women and be contingent on identifying some agenda for all women, which could be politically problematic. The latter would promote gender awareness at all levels of UN policy and could conceivably focus on human rights violations against all gender minorities. Of course, this would be a more radical and far-reaching step (and lots of countries in the UN don’t like the term ‘gender’) so it is politically unlikely.

    So perhaps this is not a giant leap, but at least a small step in the right direction.

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