Tag Archives: UN

Even When The Chemical Weapons Are Gone, Violence And Despair Will Endure In Syria

A man bleeds in a northern Syria hospital after a ricochet bullet went through his foot. In a sense, he was lucky that the bullet did not stay in his body, which would have required surgery to remove. The hospital staff told us that until very recently th

Notwithstanding my remarkably horrendous coping with jet-lag, I have been following along — as best I can — with the developments in, around, and regarding Syria. From the hasty deal struck between Russia and the U.S. to account for Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, to the draft resolution currently underway — and meant for an imminent Security Council resolution — involving diplomats from the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain, it seems like the Obama Administration has been able to avert a war, save face, and reinforce everyone’s favourite international norm.

But while it’s a very good thing the international arena is acting in unison over Assad’s use of chemical weapons, it makes little difference to the everyday Syrian — either fighting in the streets, or fighting to stay alive at home. The sad truth is, we’re in the early stages of a bloodletting in Syria that began nearly 94 years ago when one Brit (Sir Mark Sykes) and one Frenchman (Francois George-Picot) divided the Arab provinces — once belonging to the Ottoman Empire — between their two respective colonial powers. The Sykes-Picot Agreement (also known as the Asia Minor Agreement) of 1920 created the modern state of Syria as we now know it. 20130918-110243.jpgNo one living in Syria ever got a say in how their “nation” was constructed — both in terms of territory, and control. Syria was purposefully devised to pit the Shiite Alawite minority against the Sunni Arab majority, with a side-show consisting of Christians, Druze and Kurds (who are also Sunnis). The same principle (divide-and-rule) applied to Iraq, except the minority Sunnis were used to control the majority Shiites. The reason colonial powers constructed these cynical divisions is simple: appeal to the minority, train them, arm them, and use them to control the majority out of fear, oppression, and obligation. It’s how empires are made, and how they endure.

It should come as no surprise, then, that from Syria and Iraq we had (and have) two of the most brutal, horrific dictators of all time: Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad. They were (and are) manifestations of colonial manipulation; the products of two nations created under the weight of permanent warfare, oppression, and sectarian strife.

“Why do we have a brutal civil war in Syria?” is not the question we should be asking. We know why it’s happening. It’s the same reason we still have one raging in Iraq. The brutal and callous decades long oppression of the majority groups in both states broke free, at long last, with the Arab Spring. For better or worse, and due in large part to the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, the bloodletting in Syria has only just begun. It won’t stop if and when the chemical weapons stockpiles are accounted for. Nor will it stop if and when Bashar al-Assad is removed from power. Notice for example how when the United States argues that it’s justified in arming the opposition, they make it plain that they intend to only support “moderate” rebels. What about the not-so-moderate rebels? What role will they play in a post-Assad Syria? The quixotic idea that any two sides in this conflict could reach a political agreement, untainted by blood and terror, is as likely as it was in Iraq — where a decade of occupation and trillions of dollars could not prevent 100,000+ deaths.

Innocent men, women and children are being murdered at staggering rates. Some have been gassed, but 99% have lost their lives to the real “weapons of mass destruction”: small munitions. The images of dead children, and the videos of crying mothers holding their lost loved ones are unbearably heartbreaking. But for every image of an innocent life lost, there’s a video of a rebel, or one of Assad’s soldiers, reminding the world through barbaric savagery that this is a sectarian fight to the death.

And no UN Resolution is going to change that.

(Photo: Freedom House)

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1.2 billion are stuck in the dark

Brad Plumer has the report:

The U.N. has set a big, ambitious goal of making sure everyone in the world has access to electricity by 2030. And how’s that going? Not so well.

That’s one upshot of a new progress report coordinated by the International Energy Agency and the World Bank, which notes that 1.2 billion people around the world are still stuck in the dark. And it’s unlikely that this number will shrink down to zero in the next two decades, the report notes, without a lot more money and effort.

The Economist has a handy chart showing regional access to energy, to put this in perspective:

Basically, population growth has far outpaced the rate of growth in electrification, leaving the IEA and World Bank to admit that the UN won’t be able to meet its 2030 goal if the current trend continues. Worse still is that the report also finds that, “business as usual would leave 12 percent and 31 percent of the world’s population in 2030 without electricity and modern cooking solutions, respectively.”

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To sanction or not to sanction: why is that the question?

By Mnesymone,

With sanctions on Syria, North Korea and Iran, flying left and right, restrictions on Burma almost seem mundane. Burma had long been the recipient of sanctions after being deemed an international pariah and the persistence of these sanctions faded into the international background. But the nation-state took the world by storm recently after a series of democratic reforms. In response to these reforms, the EU suspended most of its sanctions last year that consisted of “a travel ban and asset freeze, while on the economic front the EU had barred investments and banned imports of the country’s lucrative timber, metals and gems.”

Recently, the EU furthered their approval by lifting any remaining trade, economic, and individual sanctions with the prospects of putting a definite end to other restrictions by next week. The only remaining restriction from the EU is an arms embargo.

Suspending sanctions last year was initially meant as an incentive for Burma to maintain its path of reform with the looming threat that they could be reinstated at any time. The act was considered effective after the leader of the opposition who had recently been freed from house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi, was elected into parliament. Calls from Burmese President to lift the sanctions on “one of the poorest countries in the world” did not fall on deaf ears since the EU has agreed to provide economic assistance beyond its 150 million euros and potential preferential trade tariffs provided that minorities in the nation-state are protected.

The question of whether these incentives are truly working to guide reform in Burma is questionable. Several minority clashes persist within Burma with the most recent taking place in its Rakhine state between the majority of Buddhists and minority of Muslims. Dubbed by some as “ethnic cleansing”, an attack on Burmese Muslims surfaced today in which the police not only stood by while the victims burned, but were also considered to be the ones responsible for videotaping the incident. The loudest cry against lifting the sanctions permanently stems from the UK Burma Campaign leader Mark Farmer who chastises the EU for lifting sanctions without Burma having met any of the pre-determined conditions : “an end to all internal conflicts, freedom for all political prisoners, unfettered humanitarian access to the country and an end to persecution of a Muslim minority”.

Maintaining any sanctions on Burma, however, can also prove detrimental towards the goal of coercing them into democratic reforms:

“Some analysts warn that Suu Kyi’s strategy may lose steam as Burma relies on its Asian neighbors for trade and investment. China is building an oil and gas pipeline and is likely to invest in a new Thai-led industrial zone. By contrast, American and European companies have a limited presence in Burma and have been the target of campaigns by exiled Burmese groups allied to the NLD [the opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi].”

Lifting sanctions without providing a different mechanism to coerce or incentive Burma will only serve as a silent seal of approval for conflicts that persist, yet withholding aid could only serve to drive them more towards China. Perhaps the question is not about whether Burma deserves to have sanctions lifted, but how the international community can shape the behavior of a fragile state that has once again opened up to the world after decades of seclusion? There is still a long way to go before Burma can be left alone, and guidance is now needed to ensure these changes are not revoked, yet sanctions may prove to be too harsh a tool to mold the path. Even more importantly, perhaps the world needs to pay a little more attention to Burma since it can very well set a precedent for North Korea somewhere down the line.

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Daily roundup – April 4, 2013

Today on BaddiesBoogie we launched our new and much improved site! Hope you all dig our new digs!

I began the day with a rather hilarious and seriously ridiculous story from Egypt where President Morsi has issued an arrest warrant for Jon Stewart, the Daily Show host, for lambasting him during a really brilliant segment for his government’s harrassment of a political satirist in that country. Then I attempted to reconcile several arguments on the question of whether it’s beneficial for people to marry young, or marry later.

Elsewhere on BaddiesBoogie I lamented the loss of renowned and beloved film critic Roger Ebert, and ended with a searing critique against the United Nations for their role in two separate Cholera epidemics in Haiti and Zimbabwe.

And finally, I wrapped up the day with a short but hilarious video featuring the always missed Richard Pryor. Onwards to tomorrow!

Publius

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The deadly malfeasance of the United Nations in Haiti and Zimbabwe

“To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small. To establish conditions under which justice and respect for … international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”

Those words make up the preamble to the United Nations charter. In a terrible, negligent and harrowing story, Jonathan Katz thoroughly exposes the UN for gross incompetence during a UN peacekeeping mission to Haiti, where they, the UN, were responsible for spreading a strain of cholera that has infected more than 647,000 people and killed about 8,000. The worst part is certainly the infected and killed Haitians but the morally repugnant aspect of this is that the UN initially tried to cover it up, then when exposed, cited legal immunity in order to escape compensating the victims, or accounting for the crime.

The place was Haiti. The mistake: a killer combination of cholera and gross negligence. The peacekeeping mission, known by its French initials, MINUSTAH, had been in the country since 2004, when it was authorized to protect an interim government installed after a coup. Six years later—thanks to a healthy dose of mission creep—the peacekeepers were still there. While rotating troops into what was now post-quake Haiti, the U.N. neglected to adequately screen a contingent of soldiers coming from an active cholera outbreak in Nepal. Upon arrival, the soldiers were sent to a rural U.N. base, outside the quake zone and long known for leaking sewage into a major river system that millions of Haitians used to drink, bathe, wash, and farm. Within days of their arrival, people downstream began to die. The epidemic then exploded, sickening more than 647,000 people, and killing in its first year more than twice the number of people who died on 9/11.

The justification from the UN for citing legal immunity:

The U.N. claimed total immunity from prosecution, liability, and the law. It based this notion on a U.N. convention, by way of a status-of-forces agreement, or SOFA, signed by Haiti’s interim prime minister (a former U.N. official) in 2004. Such agreements make it possible for foreign militaries to work without fear of harassment by local courts or police.

As it turns out, a UN whistleblower exposed a similar incident in Zimbabwe in 2008-09, that left 4,000 dead. This whistleblower attempted to warm his superiors at the United f’ing Nations about the growing epidemic before it accounted for the loss of thousands of lives, but was fired by his superior, who consequently had close friends in the Mugabe government that would have been negatively affected during the country’s election year. At least the UN tribunal found that the whistleblower had been wrongfully terminated and indeed, they were at fault for the outbreak of Cholera that took so many lives. But just as we applaud that, the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs intends to appeal the judgement and reinstate those officials relieved of their posts for allowing the epidemic to rage on.

We began this post with the preamble to the UN charter. We can only hope that the organization we’ve all entrusted with ensuring and maintaining our global polity lives up to its founding words, and takes care of those poor Haitians and Zimbabweans they’ve wronged.

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