Food Fight–Continued

Obviously, somebody is eating all that food. According to the latest UNCIEF Report,

With a rate of 46 per cent, the levels of children underweight in South Asia are staggering. Three countries – India, Bangladesh and Pakistan – account for half the world’s underweight children, despite having just 29 per cent of the developing world’s under-five population. Underweight prevalence in the region declined from 53 per cent in 1990 but the average annual rate of 1.7 per cent is insufficient to meet the MDG (UN Millennium Development Goals) target..

At 46 percent, South Asia has the world’s highest underweight average. Hmmmm….somebody is buying up all the food and eating them, but obviously not these children. Where in the world is the all the extra food going?

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LOST-Battle Over State Sovereignty

Interestingly, the administration of George W. Bush is urging the United States to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, popularly referred by the acronym LOST. The objective of this treaty is to provide universal legal standards for shipping, fishing, mining, and managing the environment of the high seas.  In addition, the Law of the Sea Treaty also harmonizes navigation and transit principles in the high seas that are already part of the customary international legal practices among states, and some legal experts argue that it will also enhance United States National Security.  However, significant opposition is growing among conservative organizations and some US Senators have expressed serious reservations against ratification of this treaty because of the fear that it will erode American sovereignty and prevent dominance of the high seas.  This ratification battle underscores the constant struggle between international organizations and states, where each attempt to structure the rules of international games to their advantage.  Interest groups within hegemonic states such as the United States are strongly pushing back as what is termed the growing global legal jurisdiction over sovereign states.

 

Take a look at this illuminating video primer for starters:

 

 

Sudanese Intransigence, Unabated Genocide, UN Impotence, and American Silence

A beacon of human rights in the world, obviously I am talking about the Islamic Republic of Sudan, which has arrested a mild-mannered British schoolteacher, Ms. Gillian Gibbons. Her blasphemous sin was that she created a class exercise in which young children came up with a favorite name for a teddy bear. Collectively everyone came up with the name Mohammed. Viola! Wow! You have seriously committed a sin. Because, you see god needs to be protected by us human beings. The Sudanese government pounced on this hapless schoolteacher and charged her with defaming the prophet and inciting religious hatred. She now faces 6 months jail sentence, 40 lashes, and a substantial fine.

Now, this bizarre move is particularly concerning when the Sudanese are demonstrating extraordinary intransigence in allowing the United Nations Security Council sanctioned 26,000 peacekeepers into Darfur to prevent the further extermination of the Fur people and other non-Arab minorities. Sudan has already eliminated Scandinavian countries, particularly Netherlands from the list, for their role in publishing the high controversial cartoons depicting Islam in a poor light. The various efforts made by Sudan to block the non-African countries from actively participating the peace mission is a complete reversal of the agreement that Sudan made with the UN Secretary-General earlier this year.

Obviously, Sudan is making every effort to block the scheduled start of the UN Peacekeeping on Jan 1, 2008. Maybe they can wipe out few thousand more in the interim.

It is really galling about the whole thing is that the United States and the United Nations are dancing to the highly unpredictable beats of the Sudanese government; they are dilly-dallying by making vacuous and empty threats. Where are the F-16s, F-18s, and F-22s when we need them most? What Sudan badly needs is some serious Shock and Awe or a kick in the shins. Unfortunately, gutless Washington politicians seem to be stuck in Groundhog Day mentality and the toothless UN does not have the moral courage or the necessary authority to stop the ongoing genocide.

And for the record, the United States official deemed what is happening in Sudan as “Acts of Genocide,” according to the statement made by US President on Sept. 9th, 2004.

Apocalypse of Unending African Wars

I spent the last few days reading a lot of material on U.S intervention in foreign wars, humanitarian intervention, and genocide in different parts of the world. Presently, I am researching the unending conflict in the Horn of Africa; these conflicts are mostly between Ethiopia–Eritrea and Somalia–Ethiopia. Off course, Sudan, Djibouti, and Kenya are regional players in these conflicts wittingly or otherwise, and the complex array of militias or rebel groups make things that much more complex. We have to spend some separate time on Sudan because we are witnessing genocide in progress in the Darfur region in Western Sudan, and the world is sitting and watching the systematic extermination of ethnic Sudanese by the Arab majority.

Now returning to our focus on Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia are in one of the most famine and conflict prone regions in the world. The question before us is this: do militarized conflicts cause famine or does famine and drought lead to militarized conflict? This question is not trivial and it is not necessarily a chicken and egg problem. There are definite causal chains that produce wars, famines, and large-scale social destabilization. For instance, Somalia has been in near continuous state of conflict since the late 1980s and Ethiopia has experienced famines and drought of Biblical proportions.

I am not even going to pose the question is there hope for these countries, but instead ask how do we break the continual cycle of conflict, destabilization, and famines. Second, what should be the role of international relief and various UN agencies, and what role should the UN member nations play in intervening in these types of complex humanitarian crisis?  Something we will ponder in the remaining few weeks of this semester.

Genocide and Complex Humanitarian Emergency

The UN brokered peace deal, which would bring in 27,000 UN peacekeepers into the conflict-riven country of Sudan, especially to its western province of Darfur can’t come any sooner. Since the conflict began in the early part of this decade at a minimum 200,000 people have died and at least 2 million have been displaced and according Jan Egeland of the United Nations, a monumental humanitarian problem is growing that is affecting more than 4 million people in the middle of resource-rich North-Central Africa. 

Recently, African Union troops who were maintaining a very fragile peace came under fire and 10 African Union troops were killed by none other than Darfurian rebel forces. In a sustained attack the AU camp was completely overrun and the weapons cache was looted by the rebel forces. The AU troops are there to protect the Darfurian people (or the ethnic Fur group), but with the attacks the AU troops have vacated their base camp. This does not augur well for refugees and other unarmed civilians; they are likely to bear the brunt of the violence and catastrophic human rights violations. With the Darfurian rebel groups, the Sudanese military, the Sudanese government backed Janjaweed militia, and the African Union troops, the situation on the ground is extremely volatile.  Many states may now develop cold feet and fear sending their troops into harms way.

If this tells us anything, it tells us that humanitarian interventions are complex and costly. But, more importantly, it indicates that more than 50 years after independence, Sub-Saharan African states are struggling to construct a viable and functional nation-state that can offer a modicum of basic security that would allow the people to go about their daily business without being killed or maimed. If the UN is to successfully implement its ambitious Millennium Development Goals, it has to definitely start with the very basic, but extraordinarily complex task of building peace from the bottom up. In this case, the presence of UN troops is a short-term solution, in the long-run the African states have to figure out how to divide their wealth, compromise and live peacefully, instead of playing out their ethnic hatreds. However, this is easier said than done.

Human Rights Conference Report

Okay, here is my conference report. It was great to be a part of an intellectually invigorating and thought provoking Human Rights Conference at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. The weather was beautiful and the campus was neat, big and open, and the university seemed to be resource endowed. But, I spent most of my time in conference rooms slamming cups of coffee. Listed below are the panels that I attended. Would you like to guess what panel I presented in?

  • Human Rights and Restorative Justice
  • Gender and Human Rights
  • Rights of Immigrants
  • Media and Human Rights
  • Health and Human Rights
  • War on Terror and Human Rights
  • Human Rights and Economics
  • What are Human Rights?
  • UN and Human Rights
  • Human Rights and Religion

By the way looking at this list of panels should give you some ideas for paper topics. Anyway, the highlight of the conference, especially in the context of our First Year Seminar, is my brief meeting with Samantha Power, the author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. We are going to be reading her book in our class in a couple of weeks. Look forward to some good discussions in our class tomorrow.

Also, don’t forget tomorrow evening after our Model UN class at 7:30 pm Anne Fadiman–The author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down— is scheduled to give a talk at the Atwood Hall auditorium. Be sure to attend. I am positive this talk will bring perspective to the various discussions we had on Faidiman’s book during the orientation week.

List of Daunting World Problems

The UN Secretary General has come with up a list of daunting world problems, and I strongly agree with him.  Here is the summary version of the list that he presented at the start of the General Assembly Session at the United Nations today

  • Combating global warming
  • Fighting poverty
  • Ending the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region
  • An end to violence, an end to occupation, the creation of a Palestinian state at peace with itself and Israel, and a comprehensive regional peace between Israel and the Arab world
  • Fixing Iraq, “the whole world’s problem”
  • Promoting political negotiations and national reconciliation, and dealing with drug trafficking and terrorism in Afghanistan

 Let me add a few more items to the list that Sec-Gen Ban Ki-Moon did not mention: 

  • Dealing with Unstable Iran
  • Dealing with Polluting China
  • Dealing with China’s growing influence in the developing world and its reluctance promote democracy and freedoms in various parts of the world.

 Did I miss anything? Feel free to add to the list of daunting global problems.