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Richard Morgan, “Beyond Carbon: Scientists Worry About Nitrogen’s Effects,” The New York Times, September 1, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/02/science/02nitr.html?scp=1&sq=Beyon%20Carvon:%20Scientists%20Worry&st=cse, points out, “Public discussion of complicated climate change is largely reduced to carbon: carbon emissions, carbon footprints, carbon trading. But other chemicals have large roles in the planet’s health, and the one Dr. Giblin is looking for in Arctic mud, one that a growing number of other researchers are also concentrating on, is nitrogen. In addition to having a role in climate change, nitrogen has a huge, probably more important biological impact through its presence in fertilizer. Peter Vitousek, a Stanford ecologist whose 1994 essay put nitrogen on the environmental map, co-authored a study this summer in the journal Nature that put greater attention on the nitrogen cycle and warned against ignoring it in favor of carbon benefits. For example, Dr. Vitousek said in an interview, ‘There’s a great danger in doing something like, oh, overfertilizing a cornfield to boost biofuel consumption, where the carbon benefits are far outweighed by the nitrogen damage.‘ Soon after Dr. Vitousek’s report, the journal Geophysical Research Letters branded as a “missing greenhouse gas” nitrogen trifluoride, which is used in production of semiconductors and in liquid-crystal displays found in many electronics (such as flat screen monitors and Tvs). Nitrogen trifluoride, which is not one of the six gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol, the celebrated international global warming accord, is about 17,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Its estimated worldwide release into the atmosphere this year is equivalent to the total global-warming emissions from Austria. ‘The nitrogen dilemma,” Dr. Vitousek added, “is not just thinking that carbon is all that matters. But also thinking that global warming is the only environmental issue. The weakening of biodiversity, the pollution of rivers, these are local issues that need local attention. Smog. Acid rain. Coasts. Forests. It’s all nitrogen.'” “Dr. [James N.] Galloway is developing a universal calculator for individual nitrogen footprints. “It’s Goldilocks’s problem,” he said in an interview. “Reactive nitrogen isn’t a waste product. We need it desperately. Just not too much and not too little. It’s just more complicated than carbon.” He continued, “But we’re not going to get anywhere telling people this is simple or easy.” What is being considered here is “not the inert nitrogen that makes up 80% of air, the reactive nitrogen that Dr. Galloway referred to. In forms like nitric acid, nitrous oxide, ammonia and nitrate it plays a variety of roles. Nitrogen is part of all living matter. When plants and animals die, their nitrogen is passed into soil and the nitrogen in the soil, in turn, nourishes plants on land and seeps into bodies of water. Dr. Giblin is pursuing her research because as the Arctic warms, the tundra’s permafrost will thaw, and the soil will release carbon and nitrogen into the atmosphere. When an ecosystem has too much nitrogen, the first response is that life blossoms. More fish, more plants, more everything. But this quickly becomes a kind of nitrogen cancer. Waters cloud and are overrun with foul-smelling algae blooms that can cause toxic ‘dead zones.'” “Environmentalists face the puzzle of how to deal with multiple problems at once. And some worry that after the hard-fought campaign spotlighting carbon, turning to focus on nitrogen could upset that momentum.” “‘One of the many complexities that complicate the task I’ve undertaken is complexity,’ said Al Gore. Mr. Gore added, ‘Look, I can start a talk by saying, ‘There are 14 global warming pollutants, and we have a different solution for addressing each of them.’ And it’s true. But you start to lose people.'”
The Global Carbon Project (“Heat Trapping Emissions Rise Globally,” New York Times, September 27, 2008) reports that world carbon dioxide (only – not the 13 other greenhouse gasses) production from fuel burning and cement manufacturing rose 3.5% a year from 2000-2007, four times the rate of the 1990s. Looking at 40 industrialized nations alone (excluding developing economies like India and China), a UN report released in November states that in 2006 “global warming causing emissions” (not specified if only CO2, or all officially listed) leveled off (actually dropping 0.1%), after rising 2.5% from 2000-2005, with the warmer winter likely contributing to the leveling off. 2007-2008 figures have not yet been reported to the UN (Elisabeth Rosenthal, “Pollution Has Leveled Off, but the Figures Have Holes, Report Says,” The New York Times, November 18, 2008). Andrew Jacobs, U.S. Report Points to Peril From Noxious ‘Brown Clouds,'” The New York Times, December 14, 2008, states that the UN Environmental Program in Beijing reported in December that “a noxious cocktail of soot, smog and toxic chemicals is blotting out the sun, fouling the lungs of millions of people and altering weather patterns in large parts of Asia.” The plume results from burning coal, slash and burn agriculture, cooking on wood and dung fires, and automobile exhaust. Similar, but much smaller plumes rise over much of Africa and the Amazon Basin.
In the Amazon, despite Brazil making efforts, including using army units, to reduce the increase of deforestation, logging has continued to expand, contributing the more than doubling the rate of cutting down rainforest, in 2008, following a three year decline, environmentalists reported in September. In December, Brazil pledged to half the rate of deforestation in the Amazon over the next 10 years, reducing the loss to 2260 square miles a year, by 2018.
James Kanter, “One in 4 Mammals Threatened With Extinction, Group Finds,” The New York Times, October 7, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/07/science/earth/07mammal.html?scp=1&sq=One%20in%204%20Mammals%20Threatened%20With%20Extinction,%20Group%20finds&st=cse, informs that the environmental group Dot Earth released a report, presented at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, finding that a world wide, “‘extinction crisis’ is under way, with one in four mammals in danger of disappearing because of habitat loss, hunting and climate change.” Julia Marton-Lefèvre, the Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or I.U.C.N., a network of campaign groups, governments, scientists and other experts, commented. “Within our lifetime, hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions.” Jan Schipper, the director of the global mammal assessment for the I.U.C.N. and for Conservation International, while noting that it was hard to draw a direct comparison with the last detailed survey on mammals, in 1996, as new species have been identified and discovered, and the criteria used to assess species have been made more broadly applicable across all animals and plants, it is clear that the current outlook is grim. “Although 5% of mammals are recovering, what we observe are rates of habitat loss and hunting in Southeast Asia, Central Africa and Central and South America that are so serious that the overall rate of decline has steadily increased during the past decade.” The continued loss of species has both specific negative consequences for humanity and poses a general threat of destabilizing the world wide, regional and area environments. Indigenous people point out that a sizable portion of the loss can be stemmed by protecting encroachment on Native people and there lands, especially where the losses are particularly great because of deforestation and development, which is also contributing significantly to global warming. The Global Carbon Project reported. at the end of September, that heat trapping carbon dioxide emissions from burning and cement production world wide increased 3.5% each year from 2000 – 2007, for times the growth rate in the 1990s, with the rise being driven primarily by economic growth in developing countries. The rise in CO2 production has been exceeding the ability of oceans, forests (being reduced by continuing deforestation) and other carbon sinks to absorb the green house gas. The report is available at: globalcarbonproject.org.
In other news about various animal and plant species, Privatization Prevents Collapse of Fish Stocks, Global Analysis Shows” Science, Vol. 321, p. 1619, September 2008, finds that fish stocks are much less likely to be over fished “if fishers own rights to fish them, called catch shares.” Henry Fountain, “Observatory: Bigger Sea Creatures Like Squid, May Feel Effects of Higher CO2,” Elisabeth Malkin, New York Times, October 29, reported, “Mexico Pays Fisherman to Help Save Species,” as the government paid Gulf of California Fisherman not to use nets in fishing, or to stop fishing altogether. Alexei Barrionuevo, “Facing Deadly Fish Virus, Chile Introduces Reforms,” The New York Times, September 4, 2008, notifies us that Chile has introduced measures to improve sanitary conditions in fish farms, in the face of viruses spreading in typically badly polluted fish farms infecting wild salmon, and killing millions of them. Salmon are a major export of Chile. While properly carried, out fish farming can be very beneficial, in most cases to reduce short run costs, the farming is done in overcrowded conditions that create dangerous pollution, which in time even destroys the viability of the fish farm. The New York Times, December 23, 2008, reports that not only coral and ocean species with shells, but large ocean species are particularly vulnerable to the rising acidity of the ocean caused by increasing levels of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Later in the same column, it is reported that “Growing More Corn For Ethanol Makes Pest Control Harder,” in the U.S. mid-West, because increasing acreage for growing corn reduces the number of insect predators that eat aphids, the most significant soybean pest. Retaining diversity around soybean fields helps reduce aphid populations. And on October 21, Fountain reports, “Shortages of Pollinators Is Not Affecting Crops, At Least Not for Now,” as the world wide decline of a number of pollinating insects, such as bees, is not yet showing a visible decline in agricultural production. There is concern, however, that as the acreage of pollinator dependant crops increases, ill effects of pollinator decline may begin to be evident. Ariana Green, “Asian Beetle Spells Death For Maples So Dear: An Infestation In Massachusetts,” tells us that infestations of Asian long horned beetles are killing a great many maple trees in some communities in New England.
email@example.com reported, September 27, that on the third day of the General Assembly’s 63rd Session, in September, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Prime Minister of Norway launched the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program, a collaboration of FAO, UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank. On page 4 and 5 it states that the program could “deprive communities of their legitimate land-development aspirations, that hard-fought gains in forest management practices might be wasted, that it could cause the lock-up of forests by decoupling conservation from development, or erode culturally rooted not-for-profit conservation values.” It is further highlighted that “REDD benefits in some circumstances may have to be traded off against other social, economic or environmental benefits.” “In carefully phrased UN language, the document further acknowledges that REDD could cause severe human rights violations and be disastrous for the poor because it could ‘marginalize the landless and those with. communal use-rights’. This is tantamount to the UN recognizing that REDD could undermine indigenous peoples and local communities rights to the usage and +ownership of their lands.” The inclusion of forests in the carbon market, or REDD has been controversial since it was created at the f climate change negotiations in Bali and funded by the World Bank. An estimated 60 million indigenous peoples are completely dependent on forests and are considered the most threatened by REDD. To read UN-REDD Framework Document go to: http://www.undp.org/mdtf/UN-REDD/docs/Annex-A-Framework-Document.pdf. Discussion of the UN and other carbon trading programs, and what would be a legitimate carbon trading program are in the spring 2008 issue of IPJ: http://www.indigenoupolicy,org.
‘ Elizabeth Rosenthal, “U.N. Says Biofuel Subsidies Raise Food Bill and Hunger,” The New York times, October 7, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/world/europe/08italy.html?scp=1&sq=UN%20Says%20Biofuel%20Subsidies%20Raise%20food%20Bill%20and%20Hunger&st=cse, notifies that United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report, October 6, calling for a review of biofuel subsidies and policies, reflecting that they had contributed significantly to rising food prices and the hunger in poor countries, saying, “current policies should be “urgently reviewed in order to preserve the goal of world food security, protect poor farmers, promote broad-based rural development and ensure environmental sustainability.” In releasing the report, the United Nations joined a number of environmental groups and prominent international specialists who have called for an end to – or at least an overhaul of – subsidies for biofuels. The Food and Agriculture Organization stopped short of proposing that the world end biofuel subsidies, saying, instead, that they should be revised to direct the benefits to developing nations. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found, last summer, that government support of biofuel production in member countries was very expensive, “had a limited impact on reducing greenhouse gases and improving energy security,” but had “a significant impact on world crop prices” by contributing to raising them. OECD proposed that, “National governments should cease to create new mandates for biofuels and investigate ways to phase them out.” During the past eight years, as oil prices and concerns about carbon emissions have increased, a number of countries, including the United States, and the European Union have initiated subsidies and incentives (amounting to more than $10 billion in 2006) to boost the new biofuel industry, helping accelerate biofuel crop production, by more than threefold from 2000 to 2007, on lands that could also produce food. The rapid move to biofuels has combined with population expansion and climate change to bring serious food cost and security problems (including riots, demonstrations and strikes in many countries), serious deforestation and other environmental damage, and stealing of land from poor and indigenous people, while actually increasing global warming because of the relatively large amount of energy needed for biofuel production. The O.E.C.D.’s report said only two food-based fuels were clearly environmentally better than fossil fuels when considering the entire “life cycle” of their production: used cooking oil and sugar cane from Brazil. Sugar cane is far easier to convert to biofuel than most other crops. The European Union has begun to readjust its biofuel policy, stepping back from its target of having 10% of Europe‘s fuel for transportation come from biofuel or other renewable fuels by 2020. In September, the European Parliament suggested that only 5% come from renewable sources by 2015, and that 20% come from new alternatives “that do not compete with food production.”
Mark Cherrington, Cultural Survival Quarterly, |Issue 32.2, August 1, 2008, among other matters, finds, “One of the global climate change mitigation programs that appears most promising is, in fact, likely to further impoverish indigenous communities: a new program from the World Bank that will pay governments for not cutting down their forests, which act as a carbon reservoir. Since the majority of existing forest tracts (and 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity) are on indigenous territories, and since indigenous peoples have long managed their forests as a sustainable natural resource, they should be the principal beneficiaries of such a plan. But the bank set up the program without substantial consultation with indigenous peoples, and they structured it to be a government-to-government system, so the money will go to indigenous communities only if their government decides to pay them for their ecological services, an unlikely scenario. Instead, the money will likely be paid to logging companies to keep them from logging. Moreover, the system counts tree plantations as forest, reinforcing the oil palm plantations that are already displacing indigenous peoples and natural forests.” Alexei Barrioneuvo, “Forest Plan in Brazil Bears the Traces of an Activist’s Vision,” The New York Times, December 22, 2008, reports that the Brazilian government has introduced ambirious targets for reducing deforestation and carbon emissions, as Brazil switches from being resistant to climate change action, to entering leadership on the environment.
In the same issue of CSQ, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Aqqaluk Lynge, “Guardians,” report that the world can learn much about stopping large scale farming from contributing significantly to global warming. “About 45% of the earth’s land mass is devoted to agriculture, and agricultural practices account for 13.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these emissions stem from poor agrobusiness practices. Indigenous practices, such as rotational farming, pastoralism, hunting and gathering, trapping, and the production of basic goods and services, often use environmentally friendly, renewable and/or recyclable resources. For example, the Igorot of the Philippines; the Karen of Myanmar and Thailand; and the Achiks of India continue to practice traditional, rotational agriculture. This practice increases the overall health of forest and jungle ecosystems, which are critical to the mitigation of global warming.” They point out that the same is true concerning destruction of forests. “Deforestation and forest degradation account for approximately 17.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 25% of global CO2 emissions. This makes deforestation the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after energy and industry-related emissions. As of 2005, global forest cover was about 15 million square miles (about 4 times the size of the United States). Between 2000 and 2005, an estimated 7.3% of world forest cover was lost. The proposal to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, if done the right way, might be an opportunity to stop deforestation and reward indigenous peoples and other forest dwellers for conserving their forests. Indigenous agroforestry practices are generally sustainable, environmentally friendly, and carbon-neutral. When the World Bank launched its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in Bali, it received a lot of criticism from indigenous peoples, who had been excluded from the conceptualization process in spite of the fact that they are the main stakeholders where tropical and subtropical forests are concerned. To remedy this weakness, the World Bank plans to hold consultations with indigenous peoples from Asia, Latin America, and Africa.” The authors state that collaboration with Indigenous peoples is vital to reducing climate change, pointing out several successful cooperative projects. “In the northern tropics of Colombia, for example, the indigenous peoples of San Andrés de Sotavento are partners in a project with the Environmental Corporation of the Sinu and San Jorge Rivers, the Colombian National Agricultural Research Organization, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. This clean-development project aims to regenerate 6,500 acres of degraded tropical savanna by reforesting and establishing silvopastoral systems, which combine forestry and animal grazing in a way that reinforces both. This will yield increased income for landowners and a healthier ecosystem. In northern Australia, Aboriginal landowners, indigenous representative organizations, and Darwin Liquefied Natural Gas are partners in the Western Arnhem Fire Management Agreement. This partnership aims to implement strategic fire management practices across 11,000 square miles of Western Arnhem, thereby reducing fire-generated greenhouse gases and offsetting some of the emissions from the liquefied natural gas plant at Wickham Point in Darwin Harbor. (The problem is significant: wildfires in northern Australia release an estimated 240 million tons of CO2 each year, representing 38.5% of the Northern Territory’s total greenhouse gas emissions.)”
Also in the August issue of CSQ, Cameron M. Smith, “Of Ice and Men,” reports that Arctic Inuit, with centuries of experience with, and considerable continuing observation of polar bears, oppose their being listed as an endangered spices, on the grounds that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Data is incomplete and wrong, that the bears are not declining, but adopting as they have in past warmings. Andrew C. Revkin, “Arctic Ocean Ice Retreats Less Than Last Year,” The New York Times, September 16, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/17/science/earth/17ice.html, reports that this summer, The annual retreat of the sea ice cloaking the Arctic Ocean not quite reached last year’s extraordinary recession. Never-the-less, scientists, at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., said that the ice in the Arctic this summer was 33% below the average extent tracked since satellites started monitoring the region in 1979 and that the trend continued toward an ice-free Arctic Ocean within a few decades, as scientists confirmed that two fabled shipping routes, the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia, were briefly open simultaneously. Federal biologists have said that this long-term ice retreat is the main reason they had concluded that polar bears, which hunt seals from the ice, deserved protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Bush administration listed the species, in May, as threatened with extinction. Arctic specialists conclude that the main reason for the melting of Arctic ice is global warming, but many say natural variations in Arctic winds and cloud cover probably had a role in shaping the particularly large ice losses in the past two summers. However, small variations from one year to the next were less significant than the long-term trajectory, which remained toward progressively more open water. “Permafrost May Survive Global Climate Change,” The New York Times, September 23, 2008, reported a Study published in Science gives indication that that ice wedges that from in permafrost terrain have survived long warm periods in the past, and that deep thaw of permafrost – which would release large amounts of the strong greenhouse gas methane into the air – may not occur, or man be extremely retarded as temperatures rise.
Austin Blair and Casey Beck, “Inundation” also in the August 1, issue of Cultural Survival Quarterly, report that a number of Paciric Islands with Indigenous populations, such as Kuria Island, southern Maiana and South Tarawa South Tarawa are already feeling the effects of rising sea levels, dying coral reefs and stronger and more frequent storms, with water overflowing sea walls, and higher seas fouling the only sources of fresh water.
Dean Suagee / Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker, LLP, reported May 9, in the United States, “Each home’s contribution to global warming is slight, but in the aggregate, energy consumption in residential buildings accounts for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. If you add the energy consumption associated with commercial and industrial buildings, buildings account for nearly half of GHG emissions in the U.S. The good news is that we know how to build homes and other buildings so that they use very little energy, including the use of passive solar design techniques such as heating, ventilation, daylighting and shading. Although we know how to do this, it is apparently going to take us some time to make it the standard practice. One organization, Architecture 2030, calls for all new buildings to be carbon-neutral by 2030. This means that not only would all new buildings not consume fossil fuels for heating and cooling, they would get their electricity from renewable sources. Bringing about the transition to zero-net energy buildings – making this the standard practice for new construction – will require regulatory measures, financial assistance programs, and government support for voluntary efforts. The basic regulatory tool is a building code. Since about 1992, the federal government has had a program to help states and local governments incorporate energy efficiency requirements into their building codes. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 added statutory authorization for ”incentive funding” to states that achieve and document a 90 percent rate of compliance with building codes that meet or exceed the 2004 edition of the accepted standards for residential and commercial buildings. The act authorizes appropriation of $25 million per year for this program, including $500,000 for training state and local government officials. This pattern of federal assistance has overlooked the fact that, for buildings on lands within their jurisdiction, it is tribal governments that have the authority to enact and implement building codes. Tribal governments have simply been left out of this federal assistance program.”
Rena Delbridge,”Alaska rivers seen as potential energy solution,” News from Indian Country, August 2008, http://indiancountrynews.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4403&Itemid=1, reports that there is strong interest in generating electricity in Alaska’s powerful river currents using small underwater turbines, called hydrokinetic power, often anchored in river beds or suspended from barges and linked by underwater cables to onshore structures that transfer electricity to larger grids. Proponents say river-generated electricity reduces costs and environmental risks associated with burning diesel fuel. The technology potentially would be very beneficial for rural villages, including Native communities that would no longer have to transport expensive and highly polluting fuel to generate electricity. So far, the technology is relatively unproven, and tests are being undertaken to see how well it works, and what its environmental impact might be. “A small turbine is being tested now in the Yukon River at Ruby, while the Denali Commission is funding a trial project at Eagle next spring. Meanwhile, a Texas company installing its first commercial turbine in a Minnesota river this fall, holds federal permits to place river turbines at about 9 Alaska sites. Meanwhile, the Denali Commission and Alaska Energy Authority are helping Alaska communities – including Native villages – cut food costs by awarding alternative energy grants, with state and federal funds. In June, the groups awarded $5 million to 33 projects around Alaska. For details see, Alex Demarban “Rural communities chase cheaper fuel,” News from Indian Country,” July 2008, http://indiancountrynews.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3987&Itemid=1. Meanwhile, Dylan Darling, “Hatchet Ridge project foes file appeals,” Redding Searchlight, October 8, 2008, http://www.redding.com/news/2008/oct/08/hatchet-ridge-project-foes-file-appeals/, reports that the Pit River Tribe is joining others in asking the The Shasta County Board of Supervisors to reconsider a planned wind turbine project on Hatchet Ridge, overlooking Burney, CA, h contending that the turbines would be built on sacred ground.
Kate Galbraith, “Power From Sea Stirs the Imagination,” The New York Times, September 23, 2008, reports that a push is underway to solve the remaining formidable problems in producing electric power from ocean wave action, which could lead to the building of large wave generating platforms that potentially could supply 10% of U.S. energy needs. Elisabeth Rosenthal, “No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty In ‘Passive Solar Houses,'” The New York Times, December informs that new thickly insolated passive solar houses of a new design in Central Germany remain quite warm in winter without having to resort to their back up heaters, saving huge amounts of energy, and thus reducing pollution.
Jad Mouwad, “Pumping Hydrogen,” The New York Times, September 23, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/business/businessspecial2/24hydro.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Pumping%20Hydrogen&st=cse&oref=slogin, tells that Part of “Business of Green: A special section on business and the environment,” . http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2008/09/23/business/businessspecial2/index.html, tells us that oil companies and automobile companies have cooperated, beginning to produce hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles, while setting up clusters of gas stations providing hydrogen fuel in major cities, such as Los Angeles, Berlin and Tokyo. The first such U.S. station has begun offering hydrogen in Los Angeles, as Honda has decided to lease about 200 of its newly developed FCX Clarity cars over the next three years to selected customers in Southern California, for $600 a month, a fraction of what they would cost to buy. “The experiment underscores the tremendous path that hydrogen must travel before it can nudge petroleum off our roads and highways. Given the prohibitive cost of a fuel-cell vehicle – they are custom-made, not mass-produced – no automaker will be selling them to the public for at least 10 years. And many energy companies remain skeptical of the long-term prospects for hydrogen, arguing, among other things, that even with government help the infrastructure costs would be enormous.” “Honda plans to have a model in mass production by 2018. G.M. aims to put 100 fuel-cell cars on the roads over the next few years, mostly in Southern California, as well. Other carmakers, including Ford, BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler, are working on prototypes. The National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, recently estimated that automakers could be selling as many as two million hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars by 2020, which would represent only 1 percent of all vehicles on our roads. After that, the numbers could rise quickly, reaching 60 million by 2035 and 200 million by 2050. ‘In the long term, hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles look like a major part of the solution,” said Larry Burns, G.M.’s vice president for research, development and strategic planning. “The dilemma is, how do you manage the transition? We don’t have a hydrogen infrastructure like we have a petroleum infrastructure.’ More than 170,000 fuel stations now distribute gasoline around the country, and millions of miles of pipelines and thousands of tanker trucks feed into a huge system that took more than a century to develop. Replacing that infrastructure entirely is unrealistic. Instead, G.M. believes that a hydrogen network can be built at a fraction of the cost by concentrating on select urban centers. In a study released in December, the company said that if 12,000 hydrogen stations were built in the largest 100 cities, that would put a station within two miles of 70 percent of the American population. That number of stations would be enough to fuel one million cars.”
Katie Zesima, “Electricity From What Cows Leave Behind The New York Times, September 23, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/business/businessspecial2/24farmers.html?ref=businessspecial2, reports that Green Mountain Dairy, in Vermont, “is part of a growing alternative energy program that converts the methane gas from cow manure into electricity that is sold to the power utility’s grid,” Central Vermont Public Service. “Four Vermont dairy farms are producing electricity for the utility, and two more are expected to be online by year’s end…. The utility hopes to add six more farms by 2010.” Green Mountain Dairy is also transforming commercial waste, processesing about 500,000 gallons of waste and outdated ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s each year, that the company drops off at the farm at no cost. In addition to electricity, the recycling process separates out liquid manure used as fertilizer, while the solids are utilized for cow bedding, saving the dairy thousands of dollars a month on sawdust, while the excess is sold to garden stores. “Other utilities across the country are purchasing power from farms as part of their renewable energy portfolios. Some, like Central Vermont Public Service, charge their customers a premium, while others do not. Alliant Energy, which supplies electricity to rural customers in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, draws power from four digesters and is working to add more. About 20 independent farms in Wisconsin have digesters and sell electricity to various utilities.” “In Ohio, Buckeye Power went online with a digester at the end of August and plans to turn waste from a chicken farm into electricity next year.”
Peter Maloney, “Solar Projects Draw New Opposition,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/business/businessspecial2/24shrike.html?ref=businessspecial2, says that there is opposition to large scale solar electric generation projects in the Southern California desert from environmentalists because the large areas of flat land used by the projects (The Bureau of Land Management has applications for 78,490 acres for solar electric generation near he Joshua Tree National Forest, in California) is the home of the Mojave ground squirrel, the desert tortoise and the burrowing owl, and to people farming jojoba, a native shrub cultivated for its oil. There has been a huge increase in interest in developing solar power in the area in large part because of a California law that requires that 20% of the state’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2010. Opponents of the desert projects say they are unnecessary, proposing that all the electricity needed would be produced by rooftop solar panels if the U.S. (or at least California) followed Germany’s, policy of offering feed-in tariffs – fixed-rate payments for electricity generated from solar panels. In Germany, which is as far North as the City of Calgary in Canada, and has more clouds, and less sunlight than the U.S. Southwest, the tariff is the equivalent of about 50 cents a kilowatt hour, while the average residential retail rate in the United States is about 11 cents a kilowatt hour, according to the Department of Energy – thus the tariff could be lower in the U.S. to encourage sufficient solar energy development. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation waned, in November, that the U.S. electric grid is not prepared to take on large amounts of electricity from wind and other new green sources, and will require significant adjustments to be able to handle the new inputs without major problems. In some places in California there are reports of thefts of solar panels from residence roofs, followed by attempts to sell the stolen solar collectors on the web. New York Sate regulators, at the end of August, approved a doubling of the amount of electricity that can be produced in the state by wind generation, over the next two years. The states in the Persian Gulf, seeing the limits of oil in their economies, have been investing heavily in clean renewable energy.
Faced with tight budgets, an increasing number of police departments around the U.S. have been buying low fuel using cars (while keeping some faster gas guzzlers) for patrol. In Utah, there has been a surge in the purchase and use of cars fueled by Natural gas, that costs the equivalent of $.87 a gallon. Chrysler has joined the auto companies working to introduce electric cars. There is at least one effort underway to develop a battery exchange program across the U.S., which would allow driving electric cars extended distances by switching batteries at service stations.
A growing number of investment funds are investing in environmentally friendly firms (Elisabeth Rosenthal, “Green Investments Come with a Watchdog Aspect: With the Profit, an Environmental Agenda,” The New York Times, November 28, 2008. An increasing number of firms are advertising the environmentally friendly aspects of their operation. Some have made real environmental improvements, but in many cases the green claims are more hype than reality.
Mathew L. Wald, “Coal, a Tough Habit to Kick,” The New York Times, September 23, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/business/businessspecial2/24COAL.html?ref=businessspecial2, reports that the demand for coal is continuing to increase, as is coal use, because in the short run coal is both more available and cheaper than petroleum and renewable energy for electric generation and manufacturing energy. But as more coal is mined, the available cleaner coal is being used up and more and more coal being used will be more polluting. A large part of the problem, at least in the U.S., is that not enough is being done to increase the efficiency of energy use and of buildings in heating and cooling, so that more electricity is being used. The Energy Department’s annual energy outlook, issued in June, predicted that overall energy production probably would be up 20% from 2006 to 2030, though, depending on what is done about energy efficiency, various types of conservation, and urban and transportation planning, it could increase as much as 36% percent, or even decrease by 5%, during that period. The prediction is, that while alternative and renewable energy sources will become increasingly larger shares of energy production, the use of fossil fuels, including oil and coal, will continue to grow, as escalating sales of air-conditioners, dishwashers and other electric equipment will push up total demand, while carbon output also grows. “Some environmentalists are skeptical that the Energy Department has it straight. “They’ve never been right on anything,” said Bruce Nilles, director of the national coal campaign at the Sierra Club. More and more states are setting renewable energy mandates, and those will surely meet increasing fractions of power demand, so “business as usual” will surely not continue, he and others say. But at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Judi Greenwald, the director of innovative solutions, described the department’s estimate as “a plausible future, if we keep going on the way we’ve been going on.”
One of the most serious aspects of coal mining is that it produces huge amounts of coal ash sludge which contains very large quantities of highly toxic metals. Coal ash is not regulated, which numerous environmental groups are currently campaigning to change, in light of several recent major coal ash spills into waterways, part of a history of on going spills from the beginning of coal mining. On December 22, one billion gallons of coal ash sludge (larger than the Alaska oil spill) and contaminated water, the waste product of coal-fired power plants of the Tennessee Valley Authority, broke through a containment area into the rivers of Kingston, Tennessee, which provide drinking water to a number of communities. In January, another spill occurred in Alabama at the Tennessee Valley Authority Widows Creek coal-fired plant, releasing up to 10,000 gallons of polluted sludge. Coal itself is quite toxic, and in January, a coal train operated by National Coal Corporation over turned spilling approximately 1100 tons of coal next to the New River in Scott County, Tennessee. Eight rail cars, which typically hold 120 tons of coal, were involved. For more go to: www.sierraclub.org/cleanslate.. With rising fuel prices, and a weakening economy, there has been an increase in people heating their homes with coal in the U.S., particularly in coal producing areas.
. The U.N. Climate Change talks, in Poland, in December, with the Bush administration participating, achieved their modest goals in moving toward increased action on climate change in a treaty being developed, while attaining some breakthroughs. It was agreed to credit nations for saving forests, and a fund was established to assist poor countries adjust to climate change. There were complaints, however, that the fund envisioned by the meeting was far too small to be effective. There are indications that the Obama administration will move the U.S. to take world leadership in moving much further and faster in meeting climate change. In October, the UN General assembly began consideration of a draft Convention on Transboundary Aquifers, aimed at protecting 96% of the world’s fresh water resources, which have been increasingly polluted. As part of the treaty development, UNESCO is publishing the world’s first map of shared aquifers.
The Bush Administration, in its final days, put in place a large number of regulatory changes weakening environmental standards and allowing mineral extraction or forest cutting in previously prohibited areas. For example, EPA has put aside consideration of greenhouse gas production in speeding the process of approving new coal powered power plants. Similarly, farms were released from having to report toxic fumes released by manure – a major problem, and indicator of other serious problems, in factory hog farming. In December, The Interior Department Inspector General reported that agency officials often improperly manipulated scientific data to limit protection of endangered species. President Obama ordered federal agencies not to apply newly promulgated rules until they can be reviewed. He also has stated that the government will return to making decisions on the basis of good science. While some Bush administration rules can be quickly overturned, or may be blocked by law suits, procedural requirements for rule making – which delayed other Bush administration action – will now delay reversal of those policies, unless Congress speeds the process. Among the recently filed law suits, nine states sued EPA, in October, to overturn an agency rule, published June 9, that would exempt ‘transfer waters’ from permitting requirements. that In November, the Bush administration recommended to Congress that the nuclear waste repository proposed for Nevada be expanded, and plans for a second repository be abandoned. Congress passed a Great Lakes protection bill, in September, prohibiting almost any water diversion outside the lake’s basin, and requiring the eight states bordering the lakes to follow tightened conservation rules. There is public support for expanding U.S. rail transportation, which is being proposed by a variety of regional authorities. Amtrak ridership increased to a record annual level in the fiscal year ending September 30. In October, Congress appeared set to almost double Amtrak’s appropriation.
Felicity Barranger and Kate Galbraith, “States Aim to Cut Gases by Making Polluters Pay,” The New York Times, September 15, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/us/16carbon.html?scp=1&sq=States%20Aim%20to%20Cut%20Gases%20by%20Making%20Polluters%20Pay&st=cse, report, “Ten states from Maryland to Maine are about to undertake the nation’s most serious effort yet to tackle climate change, putting limits on carbon dioxide emissions from utilities and making them pay for each ton of pollutants. The program is due to get off the ground in nine days, but already there are worries that it may fail to reduce pollution substantially in the Northeast, undermining a concept that is being watched carefully by the rest of the country, by Congress and by European regulators. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, will cap emissions for 233 plants. By putting a price on the carbon dioxide they emit, it gives plants a financial incentive to clean themselves up, with the proceeds channeled to energy-saving and renewable energy programs in each state. The states will set their own limits, with each issuing tradable permits, or allowances, for carbon pollution. On Sept. 25, utilities will start bidding at auction for allowances, which they can later sell – mimicking the so-called cap-and-trade programs that effectively reduced acid rain in the 1990s. The concept has been praised by environmentalists and state officials. But the emissions cap was based on overestimates of carbon dioxide output, which has dropped sharply from 2005 to 2006 and is on a lower trajectory than anticipated. So auction demand may be weak at the start, with millions of allowances the states planned to sell not immediately needed. And with the cap on emissions most likely to be higher, at least initially, than the plants’ actual carbon-dioxide output, it may be many months before utilities have an incentive to cut pollution.” A major problem in getting carbon trading programs right is to set the limits at an appropriate level and to appropriately limit the number of carbon permits that are issued. Issuing too many carbon permits has kept the European cap and trade system for regulating carbon dioxide from even stopping the growth of CO2 pollution. For more, see the several articles in the Spring issue of Indigenous Policy, www.indigenouspolicy.org.
Following the Indonesian government announcing plans to expand palm oil, biofuel plantations, in West Papua, a group of NGOs, based in West Papua‘s largest town Jayapura, urged the Indonesian government not to permit any more oil palm plantations in West Papua. Developing the plantations has been destroying rainforest bringing disastrous consequences for Papuan communities, many of which are Indigenous, said the group of NGOs’ Executive Secretary, Septer Manufandu, Moe information is available at: http://list-manage.com/track/click?u=b14580b05b832fb959c4ee444&id=094935750e&e=CqQTrZoCrQ.
Mary Williams Walsh, “Billions in Storm Damage Claims May Strain Texas Insurance Pool,” The New York Times, September 16, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/us/16insure.html?scp=1&sq=Billions%20in%20Storm%20Damage%20Claims%20May%20Srain%20Texas%20Insurance%20Pool&st=cse, shows that financial damage to property from major storms, using figures adjusted for inflation, has been rising substantially in the U.S., with Hurricane Katrina almost twice the next high at $43.6 billion. The six costliest storms have occurred since 1992, with the four most financially property damaging hurricanes since 2004. In September, Hurricane Ike was preliminarily estimated to have caused as much as $16 billion in property damage, while the Texas state led insurance pool that would pay much of the damage claims had only $2.3 billion, leaving it to the legislature to decide what to do about the rest.
Andrew C. Revkin, “Arctic Ocean Ice Retreats Less Than Last Year,” The New York Times, September 16, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/17/science/earth/17ice.html, reports that this summer, The annual retreat of the sea ice cloaking the Arctic Ocean not quite reached last year’s extraordinary recession. Never-the-less, scientists, at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., said that the ice in the Arctic this summer was 33% below the average extent tracked since satellites started monitoring the region in 1979 and that the trend continued toward an ice-free Arctic Ocean within a few decades, as scientists confirmed that two fabled shipping routes, the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia, were briefly open simultaneously. Federal biologists have said that this long-term ice retreat is the main reason they had concluded that polar bears, which hunt seals from the ice, deserved protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Bush administration listed the species in May as threatened with extinction. Arctic specialists conclude that the main reason for the melting of Arctic ice is global warming, but many say natural variations in Arctic winds and cloud cover probably had a role in shaping the particularly large ice losses in the past two summers. However, small variations from one year to the next were less significant than the long-term trajectory, which remained toward progressively more open water. A study published in Nature, January 22, provides new evidence that, overall, Antarctica is warming (with some areas warming and others cooing)
Increased extreme weather from climate change is continuing, including the worst flooding since 1986 in the Venice area of Italy, in December. It has been found that the biggest storms in 1981 had an average wind speed of 141 miles an hour, while, with global warming, the average wind speed of the largest storms in 2006 rose to 156 MPH. The increase in extreme weather has been fueling a demand for UN disaster management expertise. The number of nations part of UN Disaster, Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) has risen to 67.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies released a report, in November, confirming that rising oceans threaten barrier islands and coastal wetlands in the Middle Atlantic States. John Tagliabue, “A Low Country Seeks Higher Ground,” The New York Times, tells of two commissions in the Netherlands calling for an expansion of the nation’s land seaward, behind higher dykes, and the building of coastal islands as storm barriers, to provide more land for an expanding population and increased farming needs, and to meet the threats of rising seas.
The drop in oil prices, since the petroleum bubble burst has contributed to a decline in prices generally, including for food. However much of the price decline, at least in the United States, is not from reduction in production and transportation costs, but from a drop in demand causing deflation, contributing to worsening the U.S. and the world economies. Food scarcity, and inflated food prices, remain a world wide problem.
Dave Kane, “A Quick, Easy Way to Lower World Food Prices on ‘World Foodless Day,'”The Americas Policy Program, http://www.americaspolicy.org/, (Editor’s Note: The Pesticide Action Network and People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty have declared October 16 “World Foodless Day” (http://app.streamsend.com/c/1600971/26201/jqRxY60/iKs8?redirect_to=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.panap.net%2F313.0.html%3Futm_source%3Dstreamsend%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_content%3D1600971%26utm_campaign%3D%2520A%2520Quick%252C%2520Easy%2520Way%2520to%2520Help%2520>http://www.panap.net/313.0.html) instead of World Food Day. No wonder. More than three billion people on the planet live on less than $2 a day and must spend a full half of it on basic food. The World Food Programme estimates that 100 million people will face starvation as a result of the recent jump in food prices. Instead of meeting the Millennium Challenge Goal to cut hunger in half, World Hunger Program Director Josette Sheeran states, “We’re seeing more people hungry and at greater numbers than before.” International organizations warn that the situation will get much worse before-or if-it gets better.) states, “While most of the solutions to the current crisis of high food prices will require substantial reworking of our global, fossil fuel-dependent food system to create a more localized and organic one, there is one relatively easy solution that could bring quick and significant reductions in world prices. Financial speculation in commodities’ futures markets has increased dramatically in the last three to four years, and especially in the current year, artificially driving up prices of a host of commodities, from food crops like wheat, corn, soybeans, etc., to oil and natural gas, to metals and minerals. This marked increase was brought on by simple policy decisions and can be addressed by similar simple policies.” “After the Depression, a number of laws were passed to regulate markets to prevent another economic collapse. One of those laws was the Commodities Exchange Act of 1936, which for the first time put limits on speculative investors to prevent them from manipulating commodities futures markets. People directly involved in agriculture and food could still participate in the futures market in order to provide liquidity, but outside investors had severe limits placed on the manner and amount they could invest in commodities. These limits were maintained through successive administrations until Ronald Reagan. Pressure from investors and the administration’s predisposition towards deregulating markets led to apparently small changes in commodities laws that are having large effects on food prices today. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC), created in 1974 to regulate commodity futures, fashioned loopholes that allowed outside investors to invest unlimited amounts in commodities.” “Luckily, members of Congress are waking up to this reality and are proposing bills to address the problem. Rep. Collin Peterson’s (D-MN) bill, the Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability Act of 2008 [H.R. 6604] is the best one so far to address speculation in food commodities; most others only deal with energy commodities.”
Laura Carlsen, “Solving the World Food Crisis,” The Americas Policy Program, http://www.americaspolicy.org/, comments, “FAO economist Kostas Stamoulis says, ‘Our estimates show that the poorest, the landless, and the female-headed households seem to be the categories of people in the developing countries that are hurt most by the high food prices.’ Latin America has seen an additional six million people fall into the ranks of the hungry. Small farmers face hardships due to the increased cost of fertilizers and the effects of climate change.” “The PAN declaration puts it bluntly: ‘Actual food production and consumption in 2007 shows that production of most food items is above consumption except for wheat and corn.’ The blame then, falls squarely on the market. ‘Food, which is for nourishment and livelihoods, is now being treated as a commodity for trade, speculation, and profiteering.’ Unfortunately this message has been lost on the FAO. It lists the goals of its ‘Initiative on Soaring Food Prices’ as: ‘distribute seeds, fertilizer, animal feed, and other farming tools and supplies to smallholder farmers’ and while recognizing the impact on the hungry, heralds rising food prices as a boon to small farmers. The description of the initiative does not make a single reference to problems in the international markets. And the proposed ‘solutions’ play right into the hands of the transnational food companies that have been reaping record profits from the global tragedy, since aid money goes to buy their agro-chemicals and genetically modified seed. In Mexico, the food crisis has increased pressure to permit cultivation of genetically modified corn, despite proven genetic contamination of native varieties in the world’s center of origin for corn. This food crisis is not about food scarcity, but about who can reach the shelf. The image poses an easy solution-lower the shelf. There are many ways to do that, from consumer subsidies, to government support policies, to market regulation. All of these proposals have been proven to work in the past but are loathed by the free market system that has been largely responsible for placing food out of reach of the poor.” See also, “The World Food Crisis: What’s Behind It and What We Can Do About it, http://www.americaspolicy.org/.
Somini Sengupta, “India Grapples With How to Convert Its Farmland Into Factories,” The New York Times, September 16, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/17/world/asia/17india.html, informs, “Barely a month before Tata, one of India’s most powerful conglomerates, was due to roll out the world’s cheapest car from a new factory on these former potato and rice fields, a peasant uprising has forced the company to suspend work on the plant and consider pulling out altogether. The standoff is just the most prominent example of a dark cloud looming over India‘s economic transition: How to divert scarce fertile farmland to industry in a country where more than half the people still live off the land. At the heart of the challenge, one of the most important facing the Indian government, is not only how to compensate peasants who make way for India’s industrial future, but also how to prepare them – in great numbers – for the new economy India wants to enter. In recent years, clashes over land have dogged several major industrial projects in virtually every corner of this crowded democracy of 1.1 billion people, most of them rural and poor.” “In nearly all these cases, the peasants who resist most intensely are often those who know they are qualified to do little beyond eke out a living off the land. If that fundamental anxiety feeds their protests, farmers and farmhands, often egged on by the politicians who seek their support, also stage protests to ratchet up the price of the land or to renegotiate deals. The target of their ire is often the government, which in most cases acquires the land and turns it over to industrial developers. The central government has yet to release a long-awaited national policy on how to compensate those who lose their land.” Beyond the issues of just compensation, and providing alternate livings for displaced farmers, there is the larger question, how to insure enough food production, and as part of that how to balance food growing use of land with other uses – industrial, residential, and non food agricultural. It is clear that one factor in the ongoing rise in food prices, causing food shortages, and in turn unrest, for a great many people around the world with lower incomes, has been the taking of land out of food production. This is a critical issue for India and the world.
The world economic crisis is having a variety of negative impacts on environmental related issues. There has been pressure to loosen already ineffective limits on carbon dioxide production by industry and power generation in Europe. In addition, the economic downturn has been a cause of unrest. There have been riots in all three Baltic nations over the collapsing economy, Demonstrations, sometimes peaceful but often violent, set off over an incident involving police mistreatment, but also relating to economic issues, have been widespread in Greece since early December. The one positive note is that a slowed down economy uses up less fuel and other resources and creates less pollution, including CO2.
Kenneth Chang, “Sunspots Are Fewest Since 1954, but Significance Is Unclear,” The New York Times, October 2, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/03/science/space/03sun.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Sunspots%20Are%20Fewest%20Since%201954,%20but%20Significance%20Is%20Unclear&st=cse&oref=slogin, and Andrew C. Revkin, “Climate and the Spotless Sun, The New York Times,” October 3, 2008, http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/03/climate-and-the-spotless-sun/?ref=space, discuss an event that may signify nothing, in terms of global warming and climate change, may have a small significance, or might have a major impact on the world’s temperature. No one knows yet, but the phenomena needs to be watched if it continues. As of the beginning of October, the sun had gone 205 days without any sunspots, and a reduced solar wind. The sun has not had such a long sunspot free period since 1954, when it was spotless for 241 day, while the rush of charged particles continually flowing from the sun at a million miles an hour, known as the solar wind, has diminished to its lowest level in 50 years. This means that less energy is being put out by the sun, causing the earth to cool (or warm more slowly). There are two questions that only the future can answer. First, how long will the phenomenon continue? It will only be significant if it is long term. Second, How great will the reduction in heating be? It could be of small importance, or, as some solar experts speculate, we could have another Little Ice Age, as occurred from the middle of the 17th century to the early 18th, a period when the sun’s output was at what is known as the Maunder Minimum. The current level of reduction is nowhere near what that level is estimated to be, though (not in the Times articles), at least one solar scientist calculates that the sun is overdue in going to another Maunder Minimum. It would be helpful to have some slowing of global warming, and thus some aspects of climate change, from a temporary lessoning of solar radiation. But, first, there is no way of knowing that anything like that may occur. Second, even if warming slows from a drop in solar output, the increase in greenhouse gas production that is continuing, has other environmental impacts. For example, the increased carbon dioxide in the air is making the ocean more acid, which is harmful to many ocean species. There is strong evidence that the ongoing destruction of most of the world’s coral is mostly a result of increasing seawater acidity. As of January 18, solar activity remained quiet, though there were some sun spots, with the current sunspot number at 11 (though SIDC/RWC Belgium was predicting a rise in solar activity: http://sidc.oma.be/products/quieta/. For current numbers also go to: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ftpdir/forecasts/SRS/0119SRS.txt) the unusually cold and snowy winter in the northern United States, and some other places, such as in Holland, where the canals have frozen – and are being skated upon – for the first time in a dozen years, is being taken by some to indicate that the Earth is now cooling. However, the one unverified report received by this writer does not indicate that over all, the Earth is cooling. The record cold in the U.S. and in some other places could also be the result of continuing more extreme weather caused by global warming induced climate change.
Peter Gelling, “Trying to Stop Pollution From Killing a Lifeline,” The New York Times, December 13, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/world/asia/14river.html?em, reports, “BEKASI, Indonesia – The Citarum River, which winds its way through West Java past terraced rice paddies and teeming cities, is an assault on the senses. Visitors can smell the river before they see it.” “The river, considered by many environmentalists to be among the world’s most polluted, is woven tightly into the lives of the West Javanese. It provides 80 percent of household water for Jakarta’s 14 million people, irrigates farms that supply 5 percent of Indonesia’s rice and is a source of water for more than 2,000 factories, which are responsible for a fifth of the country’s industrial output, according to the Asian Development Bank.” “As a result, in stretches of the river near Jakarta, fish have been almost wiped out, destroying the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen.” Environmentalists blame rapid, and unregulated, industrialization and urbanization over the past 20 years for the degradation of the 5,000-square-mile river basin. The environmental damage is already costing lives; flooding, caused by deforestation and drains clogged with garbage, is a constant problem in cities along the Citarum. The list of woes is worrying enough that the development bank committed this month to provide Indonesia with a $500 million, multiyear loan to finance a wide-ranging cleanup and rehabilitation plan devised by the bank and the government. The money would be used clean the Citarum and the West Tarum Canal, which connects it to Jakarta, and to create a long-term plan for how to best use the river. A portion of the loan would go toward setting up an independent organization that would become the steward of the Citarum. But even before the bank has begun to dole out the loan, it has opposition from local civic groups. They fear that the government is taking on too much debt and that there are inadequate protections to ensure that the poor see enough benefits and that the money is not lost to the corruption that is endemic in Indonesia.”
Climate Frontlines (firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.climatefrontlines.org/) carried reports, in November, that climate change is believed to be the cause of considerable flooding on an estuary in Fiji over a number of recent years. There has been a dangerous rise in sediment, mud slides in forests and along streams, and a spread of gravel, that in addition to causing floods, are damaging fisheries. Attempts are being made to counter the movement of earth and gravel by planting selected trees and other plants, including vertiva grass.
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November, with Obama’s election, brought the opening of a window of hope, seen world wide, for turning any number of crisis into opportunities. Cleary the largest crisis is the financial collapse from over speculation, lack of proper regulation, outright corruption, legal – but shortsighted – greed, and lack of sound economic policy, particularly by the United States, but with world wide repercussions. Combined with food shortages bringing dangerous inflation, an increasing energy shortage (somewhat relaxed by the world economic downturn, including temporarily lowering oil prices), growing threats of clean water shortages, increasing climate change from global warming, and other environmental degradation, the economic crisis poses a vast humanitarian, threat that in turn can spark destabilization, violence and war. The hope is that an Obama Presidency can take leadership in moving in new directions for reviving economies, acting greenly on the environment, and toward a more cooperative world. The international dimension of the set of crises exploded just before New Years with the Israeli air attacks, followed by a ground assault in Gaza, which was suspended by a unilateral Israeli cease fire, and then an announced one week cessation of rocket attacks by Hamas, in mid January (see details, in the Asian section, below). In addition to mainstream and the usual peace and Middle East sources for news on what has been unfolding in Gaza, the following information sources may be useful for some basic background information: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4933.shtml, http://www.mepeace.org/forum/topics/the-true-story-behind-this-war, http://www.unitedforpeace.org/downloads/If%20Gaza%20falls.pdf, http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml,. The sites on which these articles are located have likely added ongoing reports and commentary.
At the beginning of the New Year, the International Crisis Group (ICG) found in, CrisisWatch N°65, January 5, 2009, http://www.crisisgroup.org/library/documents/crisiswatch/cw_2009/cw65.pdf, “Four actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and two improved in December 2008.” “As CrisisWatch went to press, a series of diplomatic efforts were underway to secure a ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas” in Gaza. “In Guinea, the death of long-standing President Conté on 22 December was quickly followed by a military coup led by previously little-known Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, whose troops have since consolidated control over government and military command. The new leadership has pledged to work towards democratic elections and appointed a new civilian prime minister, but the coup raised fears of renewed regional instability. The situation also deteriorated in Kashmir, where tensions between India and Pakistan continued to escalate in the wake of November attacks in Mumbai and alleged involvement by Pakistan-based militants. Pakistan reported airspace violations by Indian military jets and redeployed some troops to the Line of Control as the composite dialogue between the two countries was put on hold. Official rhetoric has however remained measured, and both sides also shared nuclear information in a rare goodwill gesture as the new year began. The situation also deteriorated further in December in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The situation improved in Bangladesh, where largely peaceful polls on 29 December saw some 70% of those eligible participate after the government lifted the state of emergency. A new government is due to be sworn in on 6 January, bringing a return to civilian rule after two years under a military-backed caretaker government. And relations further warmed across the Taiwan Strait, as China and Taiwan signed new economic cooperation agreements and Chinese President Hu Jintao offered Chinese support for Taiwan‘s membership of international organizations. For January 2009, CrisisWatch identifies the situation in Somalia as both a Conflict Risk Alert and a Conflict Resolution Opportunity. The resignation of President Yusuf and the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from the country may further undermine stability and hasten the government’s collapse. But Yusuf‚s departure, which followed international pressure on him to step down after he came to be regarded as an obstacle to peace, and the exit of Ethiopian troops may yet promote movement towards inclusive peace in the country. The situation in the Central African Republic also presents a Conflict Resolution Opportunity, following a 20 December peace accord on formation of a new unity government, as does the situation in Burundi, where rebel group Palipehutu-FNL‚s decision to drop its ethnic name may open the door for long-awaited progress on implementation of the 2006 peace deal. A Conflict Risk Alert is also identified for the situation in Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Found as unchanged, were the situations in Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain , Basque Country (Spain), Belarus, Bolivia, Bosnia, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chechnya (Russia), Colombia, Côte d‚Ivoire, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Macedonia, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar/Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Caucasus (non-Chechnya), North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
Looking back over the previous three months, CrisisWatch N°61, 1 September 1, 2008, found, “Twelve actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated in August 2008 and only one improved.” “The outbreak of war between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia had enormous geopolitical implications. Tbilisi’s early August offensive in South Ossetia prompted a massive ground, aerial and naval response from Russia, whose forces later advanced further into Georgia. The crisis also sparked violence in Abkhazia, where separatist forces, assisted by Russian planes, captured the Georgian-controlled Kodori gorge. Heavy international engagement followed, including wide condemnation of Russia’s “disproportionate” response and subsequent recognition of the independence of the two regions. Up to 158,000 people were displaced in the violence and the humanitarian situation continued to worsen as CrisisWatch went to press. Deadly clashes escalated across Somalia, with the southern port Kismayo falling to Islamist insurgents on 22 August after 3 days of intense fighting killing at least 100. The peace deal signed on 18 August was rejected by Al-Shabaab and hardliners in the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, and threatened by tensions between President Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Adde. In Sudan, the ruling NCP’s stance hardened against the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s application for President Bashir’s arrest. August also saw renewed army attacks in Darfur. In Algeria, a series of bombings claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb killed some 80 in the deadliest violence in recent years. The situation also deteriorated in Mauritania, where the military seized power in a coup after weeks of political crisis, as well as in Afghanistan, Bolivia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Fiji, Kashmir, and the Philippines. The situation improved in Nepal, where the Constituent Assembly elected in April finally voted in a new Prime Minister on 15 August, and formed a coalition government. For September, CrisisWatch identifies a conflict risk alert for the Philippines. Violence between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has already displaced an estimated 160,000, may escalate following the abandonment of July’s agreement on the crucial ancestral domain issue. A conflict resolution opportunity is identified in Cyprus, where full-scale reunification talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders scheduled for 3 September offer the chance for a resolution of the island’s protracted political impasse.” Considered unchanged were Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Basque Country (Spain), Belarus, Bosnia, Burundi, Chad, Chechnya (Russia), China (internal), Colombia, Comoros Islands, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India (non-Kashmir), Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Territories, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Macedonia, Mali, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar/Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Niger, Nigeria, North Caucasus (non-Chechnya), North Korea, Pakistan, Rwanda, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somaliland (Somalia), Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan Strait, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
CrisisWatch N°62, October 1, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/library/documents/crisiswatch/cw_2008/cw62.pdf, reported, “Ten actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated in September 2008 and two improved” “In DR Congo, a January peace deal between the government and rebel groups in the east lay in tatters after serious clashes throughout the month between General Laurent Nkunda‚s CNDP rebels and the Congolese army. Following a late August resumption in hostilities, the CNDP advanced from ceasefire positions towards Goma; the UN said 100,000 were displaced in the attendant fighting. Violence surged again in Nigeria‘s Niger Delta, where MEND rebels vowed an ‘oil war’ and led assaults on Shell and Chevron sites in Rivers State; some 100 are believed to have been killed. A ceasefire was declared on 21 September, but MEND threatened to step up violence if provoked. In Pakistan, a powerful bomb at Islamabad‘s Marriott hotel killed 53 people, heightening fears regarding the country‚s insecurity. The bombing came as domestic resentment grew over U.S. cross-border raids, following a ground attack by U.S. commandos in North Waziristan. Concerns over civilian casualties increased in Sri Lanka‚s Vanni region, where the government withdrew all humanitarian agencies as the army made continued advances in its stepped-up offensive against LTTE rebels. In Ingushetia, outrage following the August killing of opposition journalist Magomed Yevloyev led hundreds onto the streets in anti-government protests amid growing violence between security forces and militants. The situation also deteriorated in North Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Yemen. A sharp intensification of Bolivia‘s violent demonstrations over the upcoming constitutional referendum led the country deeper into crisis, and CrisisWatch identifies the situation there as both a Conflict Risk Alert and Conflict Resolution Opportunity. At least 30 were killed in clashes in Pando department early in the month leading to a declaration of martial law there, and the country‚s deep-seated divisions may erupt into further violence. But the opening of talks mid-month between the government and opposition, observed by both the OAS and UN, offers a new opportunity to reach agreement on departmental autonomy and modification of the new constitution. In Zimbabwe, a power-sharing deal was reached between ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC, after 7 weeks of talks. A government of national unity has yet to be formed, however, and the deal leaves difficult questions regarding the distribution of executive power unanswered [and has since collapsed]. The situation also improved in Cyprus, where full-fledged reunification talks began between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders.” Remaining unchanged were Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Basque Country (Spain), Belarus, Bosnia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Chechnya (Russia), Colombia, Côte d‚Ivoire, Djibouti/Eritrea, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Georgia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India (non-Kashmir), Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Macedonia, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar/Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Rwanda, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Western Sahara.
CrisisWatch N°64, December 1, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5793&l=1, found “Five actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and one improved.” “A series of attacks launched by gunmen in India‘s financial hub Mumbai saw over 170 killed in shootings and grenade attacks on the city’s main train station, luxury hotels and a Jewish centre. Hundreds were held hostage in targeted hotels in the attacks, which lasted over three days and tested security forces’ ability to respond. Indian officials cited growing evidence of involvement by “Pakistani elements” and raised the country’s security status to “war level”, and tensions with Islamabad grew, prompting concerns of a confrontation over Kashmir. Thailand‘s political crisis escalated further as thousands of protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy took control of the capital’s two airports, halting all flights to the city. Supporters of the government also took to the streets in late-month rallies amid fears of a coup; isolated grenade attacks on protestors have raised fears of violent clashes. The situation also deteriorated in Nigeria, where at least 200 were killed in two days of brutal religious clashes in central Plateau State, triggered by the victory of the Christian-backed ruling People’s Democratic Party in local state elections on 28 November. And in Nicaragua, a wave of violent unrest followed reports of government fraud in 9 November municipal elections. For December, CrisisWatch identifies the situation in Bangladesh as both a conflict risk alert and a conflict resolution opportunity. The decision of the Bangladesh National Party to join the 29 December elections, after the election commission announced a new poll schedule, heralded increased momentum towards conducting the delayed January 2007 elections, which were suspended amid widespread unrest and subsequent military intervention. Much hangs in the balance: if successful, the polls offer an opportunity to return to civilian rule but they could also, if mishandled by the caretaker government or the political parties, create new instability. A conflict risk alert is also identified in Kashmir and in Thailand.” Identified as unchanged were Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Basque Country (Spain), Belarus, Bolivia, Bosnia, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chechnya (Russia), China (internal), Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Myanmar/Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Niger, North Caucasus (non-Chechnya), North Korea, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Somaliland (Somalia), Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Taiwan Strait, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
Scott Shane, “Global Forecast by American Intelligence Expects Al Qaeda’s appeal to Falter,” The New York Times, November 21, 2008, states that U.S. intelligence agencies believes that el Qaeda could soon decline because of indiscriminate killing and inattention to the practical problems of poverty, underemployment and education. The report also predicts a world of increasing tensions and conflict over food and water shortages, growing differences between rich and poor, unequal impact of climate change, and actions by terrorists and ‘rogue states’. It projects that while the likelihood of nuclear weapons use remains low, it will increase over the next two decades. The report, which did not fully take account of the global economic crisis, saw Russia’s probable reemergence as a world power limited by lack of investment in energy development and corruption, while one unnamed Balkan state (obviously Bulgaria) could have its government effectively taken over by organized crime.
The biggest news concerning Iran is that the U.S. did not attack there, and that the Bush Administration reported that it had refused to give Israel permission to fly through Iraqi air space to bomb nuclear sites in Iran, for which the Israeli air force had carried out a practice exercise. While there is no evidence Iran is currently engaged in direct atomic bomb development, its capacity to do so is increasing. Elaine Sciiolino, “Nuclear Agency Says Iran Has Improved Enrichment,” The New York Times, September 16, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/world/middleeast/16iran.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Nuclear%20Agency%20Says%20Iran%20has%20impoved%20Enrichment&st=cse&oref=slogin, passes on, “Iran has substantially improved the efficiency of its centrifuges that produce enriched uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday, indicating that the nation has overcome some of the technical challenges that had plagued its enrichment program. In a six-page report, the agency charged the Iranians with continuing to stonewall about what some Western governments suspected was Iran’s past research on designing a nuclear weapon. The agency acknowledged that it had failed “to make any substantial progress” in its investigation.” “The report is another setback to an agency initiative begun last summer that gave Iran fixed deadlines to resolve questions about nuclear activities in the past two decades and asked the United States and other countries for patience in pursuing new sanctions. In another revelation, the agency said for the first time that a foreign expert or group of experts may have helped Iran with experiments on a detonator that could be used in the implosion of a nuclear weapon.” “The agency also criticized Iran for continuing to expand its uranium enrichment program in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Iran is now running about 3,800 centrifuges, the machines that make enriched uranium, an increase of several hundred in the past four months, the report said.” Obama says he wants to solve these issues in the course of engaging Iran in diplomatic discussion.
Although there is still considerable violence (including the January suicide bombing of a meeting of Sunni tribal leads gathered to discuss national reconciliation), and the situation remains uncertain, security in Iraq has increased greatly in the past months. U.S. and coalition forces “combat” deaths have been low: September: 25, October: 14, November 17, December 16, and January 1-18: 7. U.S. combat deaths for the entire Iraq invasion and occupation are 4228, as of January 19 (For up to date and past casualty information go to: http://icasualties.org/Iraq/index.aspx). In September, the U.S. turned over control of the Sunni areas to the Iraq Army. The Bush Administration reached a Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government, in November, to withdraw all U.S. combat forces by the end of 2011, that Obama says he will uphold (moving some of those forces to Afghanistan),and possibly speed up, as he has stated he would like all combat forces out of Iraq by May 2010. The agreement gives Iraq jurisdiction over U.S. contractors, and in some circumstances, U.S. military personnel. For more see http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch?query=Iraq-U.S.+Status+of+Forces+Agreement&srchst=cse, http://hotair.com/archives/2008/10/17/sistani-supports-iraq-us-military-agreement/ and http://www.newsweek.com/id/169715?from=rss).
In the critical political area, on and off, and somewhat fragile progress has been made, despite ongoing conflict among numerous factions. Alissa J. Rubin, “Iraq Unsettled by Political Power Plays,” The New York Times, December 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/26/world/middleeast/26baghdad.html, writes, “With provincial elections scheduled for the end of January, Iraq appears to be plagued by political troubles that seem closer to Shakespearean drama than to nascent democracy. There is talk of a coup to oust the prime minister. The speaker of the Parliament has abruptly resigned, making angry accusations on his way out the door. And there have been sweeping arrests of people believed to be conspiring against the government, both in Baghdad and Diyala Province. Beneath the swirl of accusations and rumors is a power play in which different factions within the government – and some outside it – are struggling to gain ground as American influence in the country wanes and elections approach that could begin to reshape the political landscape here. The real struggle is for the country’s identity: how much the government will be controlled from Baghdad and how much from the provinces, who will hold power and who will have to give it up.” “Fresh in people’s minds is the recent detention of 24 employees of the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad, and possibly more from other ministries, who, according to some reports, were accused of plotting a coup. Mr. Maliki’s office vehemently denied that that was the reason for the detention. But the detentions of at least some of the 24 were politically motivated, according to several senior Iraqi government officials. In Diyala Province, about 50 people were detained three weeks ago during a rally protesting the detention of a local Sunni political leader. Ten were members of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni party that Shiite parties in Diyala suspect of having some links to Sunni insurgents and would like to hobble. Equally controversial is Mr. Maliki’s project to form tribal councils that have a direct relationship with his office and are paid from his budget. The groups, known as support councils, are being created both in predominantly Shiite and predominantly Sunni areas. Their mandate is vague, but conversations with members suggest that they are a way to bring powerful tribes into Mr. Maliki’s political orbit so that he has a local power base. Mr. Maliki’s Dawa Party is not particularly influential in the provinces, unlike the parties of some of his rivals. Deep resentment at these attempts to bolster his power and especially his exclusion of all but a small inner circle from decision making is prompting serious discussion of forcing Mr. Maliki out by holding a no-confidence vote in Parliament. A no-confidence vote removes the prime minister and requires the appointment of a new one. In 2007, an effort to depose him failed, but this time the talk seems more serious.” “The parties’ concerns with Mr. Maliki vary. The Sunni parties mostly feel distrusted, slighted and left out of decision making. Many Sunnis remain in detention despite an amnesty law that was supposed to result in the release of thousands from Iraqi jails. The Kurds are furious that despite promises from Mr. Maliki and his government, there has still not been a vote on whether the disputed areas in the north, including Kirkuk, should become part of the Kurdistan region. They are also upset that Mr. Maliki has been rallying Arabs in the north against them, trying to shift the political balance of power. However, if Mr. Maliki agrees to some of their demands – especially for a referendum on Kirkuk – they might fare better with him than against him. Among his fellow Shiites there is a more complicated dynamic. Some parties, like the powerful Supreme Council, agree with the Kurds’ desire to have strong provincial powers, in part to curtail the power of the central government. But other Shiite groups, like those aligned with the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr , are wary of granting more power to the provinces because they have a vision of a national Iraqi identity bolstered by a strong central government.” “A vote of no confidence, however, would not be a coup; it would in fact represent a democratic, orderly way to change the government. But unless there is consensus about a successor, the government could drift for months as it did after the elections in 2005, when there were several months of discussions about who would become prime minister, and in 2006, when the previous prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was removed. There is another problem: the very qualities that lawmakers resent in Mr. Maliki – strong-armed tactics combined with efforts to reach out to select local constituencies – have enhanced his profile on the Iraqi street. The question is, will they do better by sticking with him or forcing him out?” Additionally, corruption has been a pervasive issue, and it was reported in November that Prim Minister Maliki has been quietly firing the U.S. created fraud monitors.
James Glanz and T. Christian Miller, “Official History Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders,” The New York Times, December 13, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/world/middleeast/14reconstruct.html?_r=1, reveals, “An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.” “It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag – particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army – the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.” “Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale.” “The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed. By mid-2008, the history says, $117 billion had been spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, including some $50 billion in United States taxpayer money. The history contains a catalog of revelations that show the chaotic and often poisonous atmosphere prevailing in the reconstruction effort.” “In an illustration of the hasty and haphazard planning, a civilian official at the United States Agency for International Development was at one point given four hours to determine how many miles of Iraqi roads would need to be reopened and repaired. The official searched through the agency’s reference library, and his estimate went directly into a master plan. Whatever the quality of the agency’s plan, it eventually began running what amounted to a parallel reconstruction effort in the provinces that had little relation with the rest of the American effort. Money for many of the local construction projects still under way is divided up by a spoils system controlled by neighborhood politicians and tribal chiefs.” “The United States could soon have reason to consult this cautionary tale of deception, waste and poor planning, as troop levels and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are likely to be stepped up under the new administration. ‘The incoming Obama administration’s rebuilding experts are expected to focus on smaller-scale projects and emphasize political and economic reform. Still, such programs do not address one of the history’s main contentions: that the reconstruction effort has failed because no single agency in the United States government has responsibility for the job.’ … The lessons need to be picked up by Obama for Afghanistan”.
Just as the stress of extended duty has produced high suicide rates among U.S. military personnel in Iraq, Iraqi soldiers are reported increasingly abusing prescription drugs, which are readily available.
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The situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, with falling support for the government because of the other problems: worsening security and rising violence – including in the capital (illustrated by the rising U.S. and other NATO forces official combat death toll: 2206: 191, 2007: 232, 2008: 294, and through January 19 of 2009: 17 – figures from: http://icasualties.org/oef), lack of economic development leaving continuing pervasive poverty, and a high degree of government corruption. The corruption is a major issue with many Afghans. Increasing Afghan civilian deaths continue to undermine NATO and weaken the Karzai government. Human Rights Watch and other Human Rights groups have said the number of civilians killed by NATO actions in inexcusable. U.S. intelligence analysis sees the situation continuing to worsen, while one European diplomat commented. in September. that the situation is the worst it has been since 2001. President Karzai offered to negotiate with the Taliban, this fall, but the offer was rejected. In December, The Afghan government held discussions, in Paris, with its neighbors, with the notable exception of Iran. The UN reports that this year’s illegal opium crop, was less than last year’s record harvest, which helps the Taliban finance their operations. Several NATO nations have rejected having their troops particulate in opium eradication. Some experts propose that it would be cheaper, and more beneficial to Afghans who do not have a sufficient market for other crops they can grow, to have the government (in effect the U.S.) buy the crop. Many commentators say that unless corruption is greatly reduced – which will be difficult to achieve – U.S. and NATO involvement in a military solution may become bogged down in an unsolvable situation. Some commentators want the U.S-NATO military operation to end, to be replaced by targeted economic aid.
One area of the underlying problem in Afghanistan is highlighted by ICG, “Policing in Afghanistan: Still Searching for a Strategy,” Devcember 18, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5824&l=1, which contends, “Corruption and lack of political will in Afghanistan have prevented the comprehensive police reform which is essential to combating lawlessness and popular disillusionment… Despite greater international attention to the sector over the last year than ever before, efforts have not been matched by effects.’ The population is crying out for law and order amid a perception of rising crime,’ says Joanna Nathan, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst in Afghanistan. ‘It is only through making people feel safe and bringing criminals to justice that this government will establish legitimacy.’ Enhanced coordination among the different countries involved in the sector, as well as an adequate number of police trainers and mentors, is still lacking. The European Union continues to hold nominal lead for police reform, but it has failed to come up with a comprehensive approach to unify efforts. It is dwarfed by U.S., which too often view the police as an auxiliary security force. Too much emphasis is still placed on using the police to fight the insurgency rather than crime. The Afghan National Police (ANP) is ill-equipped for this role and has been targeted by the Taliban, with 1,200 killed in 2007 and a similar toll expected in 2008. The goal of the Afghan government and the international community should be a national police force able to uphold the rule of law, and thereby help tackle the root causes of alienation that drive the insurgency. The interior ministry, described as a ‘hub of systemic corruption,’ has been at the heart of the sector’s problems, with personal enrichment trumping merit in the appointments process and systemic resistance to real reform. An accountable, trusted police service can only be achieved with a serious commitment to tackle corruption. Recent leadership changes are positive and should be used to send a clear signal that abuses will not be tolerated.”
Relations between Indian and Pakistan have been tense since the very deadly attacks on luxury hotels and other facilities in Mumbai, India, in November, by terrorists, who investigation increasingly links to militant Islamist groups in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has taken some steps against some leaders and members of the group, but for internal political reasons, has limited its crackdown. India has been restrained, demanding that Pakistan act against the conspirators who launched the attack, but refraining from military action, despite considerable anger by many of its Citizens. The Indian government is taking at least some steps to improve its security, as the Mumbai attack showed its police and security forces unprepared to handle such actions, despite on going problems with bombings and attacks by extremist and separatist groups, and prior warnings that Mumbai was vulnerable to assault. Up to the Mumbai attacks, India-Pakistan relations were improving, with the first trading across the India-Pakistan boarder in Kashmir in 60 years, beginning in October.
Pakistan has made some limited defensive military moves in response to the tensions in India. These have not markedly raised tensions with India, but have drawn forces away from security operations and defense against Taliban, and el Queada elements, and their supporters, in the tribal areas. Richard A. Opel Jr. “Pakistan Moves Forces as Tensions With India Rise,” The New York Times, December 26, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/world/asia/27pstan.html?_r=1&hp, reported, “Pakistan is moving some troops away from its western border with Afghanistan, where the United States has pressed it to combat Taliban militants, and stopping many soldiers from going on leave amid rising tensions with India, senior Pakistani officials said Friday.” “The redeployment came as Indian authorities warned their citizens not to travel to Pakistan given the heightened tensions between the two nations, news agencies reported, particularly since Indian citizens had been arrested there in connection with a bombing in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The senior military official said that the Pakistani troops were being drawn from northwestern Pakistan, where the military is fighting Taliban militants on several fronts. He said that “essential troops in limited numbers are being pulled out of areas where no operations are being conducted,” or where winter weather had already limited their ability to maneuver.” “If the Pakistani troops are being sent toward the Indian border, the action is in sharp contrast to efforts earlier this month to cool hostilities between the two countries, which have fought three wars since 1947. Two weeks ago, for example, Pakistani officials went out of their way to play down as “inadvertent” two incursions of Indian warplanes into Pakistani airspace. Their response to the airspace violations – which the Indian military denied – won praise from United States leaders even as Pakistani officials privately said the incursions were likely a test or provocation.”
Bombings and other violence continue in various parts of Pakistan, as the Pakistani Army has to varying degrees, over time, been pressing the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in the tribal territories. To some degree, the government is employing local militias, which to date are mostly poorly armed. Whether and how to employ militias is a difficult problem. Without sufficient government troops, pro-government, and neutral, local people can not be protected, and given independence from the Taliban and their allies without militias, that are sufficiently well armed. But care has to be taken in arming militias, lest they become a serious problem, as the Taliban did after being armed by the U.S. to fight the Russians. Even so, the Taliban might not have become a major force in Afghanistan, if sufficient economic development had been appropriately provided by the international community after the Russians left. A major problem for NATO is that the most important supply line to Afghanistan gos through the tribal areas, via the Khaiber Pass – historically a place of difficulty for outside armies. The route is dangerous, with Taliban attacks taking place against NATO convoys. NATO has been seeking alternate supply lines. Cross border movement by the Taliban between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been a significant problem for the Afghan government and NATO. But NATO, primarily U.S., attacks in side Pakistan – mostly by air – have caused tensions with Pakistan, which prohibits such attacks, which often cause civilian casualties.
The International Crisis Group, “Reforming the Judiciary in Pakistan,” October 16, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5728&l=1, found, “Return to civilian rule in Pakistan offers an opportunity to restore the rule of law and to reverse state-driven Islamisation, which has empowered Islamist radicals at the cost of the moderate majority.” One legacy of military “has seen superior courts unwilling to uphold fundamental freedoms. Motivated by self-preservation and self-interest, Pakistan‘s superior judiciary has not just failed to oppose Islamic legislation that violates fundamental rights but has also repeatedly failed to uphold the constitution.” Samina Ahmed, ICG’s South Asia Project Director, commented, “The military’s politically motivated constitutional and legal changes that have radicalized swathes of Pakistani society must be reversed. The government must respect judicial independence, and the judicial arm of the state must live up to its responsibility to protect and preserve the constitution.” “In March the Pakistan People‚s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), then coalition partners, released scores of political detainees, including lawyers and judges arrested during Pervez Musharraf’s 2007 martial law. They pledged to enforce human rights, and restore constitutionalism, the rule of law and judicial independence. Before the coalition collapsed, the PPP had put together a proposed constitutional package, aimed at generating a public and parliamentary debate on constitutional reform. While the proposals included useful suggestions on strengthening parliament’s role and undoing the military’s constitutional manipulations, some proposed measures could undermine democratic reform, including judicial independence. The PPP should introduce a constitutional amendment package that focuses on judicial reform. The government‚s democratic credentials and the country’s political stability would also be best served with the ruling and opposition parties reaching agreement in parliament on repealing discriminatory religious laws that restrict fundamental rights, fuel extremism and destabilize the country. The international community should avail itself of the opportunity the new democratic government presents. By unconditionally supporting Musharraf’s military regime in the belief that this relationship would deliver counter-terrorism dividends, the international community had shied away from supporting democratic reform. ‘As the regional implications of Pakistan‚s religious laws become more tangible, so have the costs of international inaction,’ warns Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. ‘The international community could help reverse the tide of radicalism in Pakistan if it fully supports a sustained democratic transition.'”
The year began with a serious, 22 day, conflict in Gaza that is a humanitarian disaster for the Palestinians there, in one of the most densely populated places in the world, and which is seriously impacting the entire Middle East and beyond. Last Spring, Israel and Hamas arranged a six-month cease fire – Israel would not attack in Gaza – Hamas would not fire rockets into Israel. This did not end the siege of Gaza – Israel’s limits on all supplies going into the terribly impoverished and deprived Gaza strip, and there were always some leaks in the truce, which increased in its last months. The truce could have been renewed, and broadened. However, Hamas chose not to extend it and began firing rockets into Israel, in late December, that did a small amount of damage, inflicting some injuries, and at least one fatality. Israel responded with days of bombing of “Hamas facilities” in heavily populated areas, and then followed up with a ground invasion officially aimed at stopping the rocket attacks and the smuggling of arms into Gaza (primarily though tunnels under the border with Egypt). On January 17, the Israeli government halted military operations in Gaza, claiming it had achieved its goals. Hours later, Hamas announced it would stop rocket fire and other actions for one week.
Palestinian Casualties exceeded 1300 dead, at the end of fighting (Tyler Hicks, “Israel Hopes to Complete Gaza Troop Pull-Out by Tuesday,” The New York Times, January 19, 2009). U.N. personnel after first estimating that about one quarter of the Palestinian deaths have been civilians, by January 11 were estimating that half the fatalities were civilians. The Israelis dropped leaflets on some areas where they might attack, warning Palestinians to leave, But they had no where to go. Public places such as schools and hospitals have been hit, including a UN school where some 40 Palestinians taking refuge were killed. UN and Red Cross aid agencies have stated that the conditions in Gaza are deplorable, and that some of their personnel have been fired upon by Israeli forces. The UN halted aid work and both relief organizations criticized Israel for not taking adequate care of the plight of civilians. Israel suffered 13 dead in the Gaza war (http://www.fpif.org/). There were some rockets fired into northern Israel, from Lebanon – believed to be by Hezboalah – but no sustained rocket attack or significant damage.
U.S. President Obama signaled in the first hours of his administration that he will be more engaged in the Middle
East than was his predecessor, appointing seasoned negotiator George Mitchell as Mid-East envoy, and talking on the phone with both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
Amnesty International reported, January 8, statistics update January 12 (http://www.amnestyusa.org): “The latest news from Gaza is bleak. 13 days into the conflict, the death toll approaching 900, with thousands more injured, 1.5 million people, 56% of them children, were trapped inside Gaza — an area about 6 miles wide and 27 miles long — by the Israeli blockade. The UN reported that 750,000 Gazans were without access to water and 1 million did not have electricity. At that time 13 Israelis had been killed. Until the end of the fighting, armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas, continued bombarding Israel with occasional indiscriminate rocket fire. On January 14, a coalition of human rights and peace organizations released the following findings in a news conference, in Israel: “1. The fighting is taking place throughout the Gaza Strip, whose border crossings are closed, so that residents have nowhere to flee, neither inside the Gaza Strip nor by leaving it. Many are unable to escape from the battle zone to protect themselves. They are forced to live in fear and terror. The army’s demand that they evacuate their homes so as to avoid injury has no basis. Some people who did escape are living as refugees, stripped of all resources. 2. The health system has collapsed. Hospitals are unable to provide adequate treatment to the injured, nor can patients be evacuated to medical centers outside of the Gaza Strip. This state of affairs is causing the death of injured persons who could have been saved. Nor are chronic patients receiving the treatment they need. Their health is deteriorating, and some have already died. 3. Areas that were subject to intensive attacks are completely isolated. It is impossible to know the condition of the people who are there, whether they are injured and need treatment and whether they have food, water and medicine. The army is preventing local and international rescue teams from accessing those places and is also refraining from helping them itself, even though it is required to do so by law. 4. Many of the residents do not have access to electricity or running water, and in many populated areas sewage water is running in the streets. That combination creates severe sanitation problems and increases the risk of an outbreak of epidemics.
There have been a number of charges, including by international organizations, of Israeli War Crimes. Here are a few such references. Residents in one village complained that Israeli forces ignored their white flags and bulldozed houses with families inside (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/18/israel-war-crimes-gaza-conflict). It is charged that Israel has used white phosphorous in the heart of Gaza city and then denied it, saying that they use all weapons in accordance with international law. There were complaints that UN headquarters in Gaza city was shelled six times in one hour, despite the fact that GPS coordinates of all UN facilities were given to Israel ahead of its assault on Gaza. During the shelling, the UN was in contact with the Israeli military, pleading with them to ensure the safety of the facility, which was sheltering hundreds of Palestinians and held tons of aid desperately needed for a terrorized population. Israel then, after these pleas, shelled the UN facility with white phosphorous. It is a war crime to use white phosphorous in an area where civilians may be present. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7831424.stm, http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article784 and http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/18/israel-war-crimes-gaza-conflict. It is claimed that a short time later, Israel shelled a UN school – again with white phosphorous – killing two children aged 5 and 7. Israel was well aware that over 1,600 Palestinians were taking shelter in the school at that time (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iM16qR4TzU95nJlL_bJJX7Yu7wdg). There are reports of numerous eye-witness accounts saying Israeli forces deliberately targeted unarmed civilians, often carrying white flags. Some accounts describe situations where Israeli forces ordered families to leave their homes with white flags, then gunned them down at close range as they left the building (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7828536.stm and http://www.gulfnews.com/region/Egypt/10276545.html). “War in Gaza: Israel accused of killing 30 after shelling safe house,” Times Online, January 9, 2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5482850.ece, stated, “The United Nations has accused Israel of evacuating scores of Palestinians into a house in the suburbs of Gaza City, only to shell the property 24 hours later, killing some 30 people. In a report published today on what it called ‘one of the gravest incidents’ of the 14-day conflict, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) complained that the Israeli Defense Force then prevented medical teams from entering the area to evacuate the wounded, including young children. The Israeli military said it was investigating the claim but had no knowledge of the incident.” In another case, it is charged that Israeli forces shelled a UN school where hundreds of civilians were known to be sheltering. In response they immediately stated that Hamas had fired a shell from the building, a statement which was emphatically rejected by Hamas spokespersons (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7814054.stm). A report by David Smith (email@example.com) with other claims of impropriates is at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/4060914/Israel-accused-of-downplaying-food-crisis.html, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11723, http://www.hindu.com/2009/01/08/stories/2009010860041700.htm, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-01/17/content_10675392.htm, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7818953.stm, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/aid-halted-after-driver-killed-by-tank-shell-1242581.html, and http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article775. These are claims that are not proven, but should be investigated. Israel has made outside observation difficult, barring journalists from Gaza during the conflict, and prior to the war, expelling from Israel, UN human rights investigator Richard Falk (an American, some of whose positions on the Middle East Israel did not like).
The PJSA list serve carried the following reports on January 12: Israelis rain phosphorous bombs over Gaza: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10171.shtml; In Gaza, the schools are dying too …the ministry of education was bombed, the infrastructure of teaching destroyed, and schools across the Gaza strip targeted for attack by the air, sea and ground offensives: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/10/gaza-schools; Israeli peace activists face crackdown, 200 still behind bars after taking part in protests against their country’s military offensive in Gaza: http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/568594; Israel bans Arab parties from running in upcoming elections: http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054867.html. The Arab parties were later reinstated by the courts.
On January 5, ICG issued a call for urgent international action to bring about a ceasefire, and then making it permanent (“Ending the War in Gaza,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5838&l=1). For the longer term, ICG proposed, “To be sustainable, cessation of hostilities must be directly followed by steps addressing both sides‚ core concerns: an indefinite ceasefire pursuant to which: Hamas would halt all rocket launches, keep armed militants at 500 meters from Israel‚s border and make other armed organisations comply; Israel would halt all military attacks on, and withdraw all troops from Gaza; real efforts to end arms smuggling into Gaza, led by Egypt in coordination with regional and international actors;dispatch of a multinational monitoring presence to verify adherence to the ceasefire, serve as liaison between the two sides and defuse potential crises; countries like France, Turkey and Qatar as well as organizations such as the UN could play an important part in this; opening of Gaza‚s crossings with Israel and Egypt, together with: return of an EU presence at the Rafah crossing and its extension to Gaza’s crossings with Israel; and coordination between Hamas authorities and the (Ramallah-based) Palestinian Authority (PA) at the crossings.” Nicolas Pelham, Crisis Group Senior Analyst said, “None of this can happen if the international community refuses to shift its approach on Hamas. This need not mean full-fledged, unconditional acceptance but at a minimum, it means engaging the movement – first to reach a ceasefire; next to liaise between it and Israel in Gaza; and finally, building on such steps, to initiate a gradually more productive political exchange. Europe, in light of its expected presence at the crossings, could take the lead in this endeavor.” Robert Malley, Director of Crisis Group’s Middle East Program. Stated. “Gaza‚s two-year story has been one of unmitigated collective failure. Sustainable calm can be achieved neither by the world ignoring Hamas nor by Hamas disregarding basic international obligations. When the guns fall silent, those lessons, too, will have to be learned.”
Julia Chaitin, “Darkness in Qassam-Land,” The Washington Post, December 31, 2008; Page A15, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/30/AR2008123002661.html, comments, This war is wrong. It is wrong because it cannot achieve its manifest goals — long-term “normal” life for the residents of the Negev region. The war is morally wrong because most of the victims are Palestinian and Israeli civilians whose only “crime” is that they live in Negev or Gaza. This war is wrong because it is not heading toward a viable solution of the conflict but is instead creating more hatred and greater determination on the part of both peoples to harm one another. It is wrong because it is leading to stronger feelings that we have nothing to lose by striking further, with greater force. This war is wrong because, even before the last smoke rises from the rubble and the last ambulance carries the dead and wounded to hospitals, our leaders will find themselves signing a new agreement for a cease-fire.” “Since the Israeli air force began bombing Gaza, it has been almost impossible to speak openly against the war. It is difficult to find public forums that welcome a call for a new cease-fire and for alternative solutions to the conflict — ones that do not rely on military strength or a siege of Gaza”.
An important background to the current war in Gaza is the deterioration of conditions there under the Israeli siege. Ramzy Baroud, “Palestinian Economy: From Bad to Wretched,” Ma’an News Agency, http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=32248, reported in October, “The numbers are grim, whether in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian economy is in one of its most wretched states, and the disaster is mostly, if not entirely manmade, thus reversible. The World Bank made no secret of the fact that Israeli restrictions are largely to blame, as poverty rates in the Gaza Strip and West Bank have soared to 79.4% and 45.7% respectively. It concluded: ‘With a growing population and a shrinking economy, real per capita GDP is now 30% its height in 1999.’ ‘With due regard to Israel‘s security concerns, there is consensus on the paralytic effect of the current physical obstacles placed on the Palestinian economy,’ the World Bank report added. With a declining economy, lack of developmental projects and Israeli restrictions, Palestinians are increasingly reliant on foreign aid, which is largely controlled by political interests. For example, the US proved more generous than ever in supporting the Ramallah-based government of Mahmoud Abbas as it led an international regime of sanctions and embargo against the Gaza-based Hamas government. Such funds are often conditioned on such murky concepts as ‘cracking down on the terrorist infrastructure,’ which is duly understood as fighting those who challenge Israel and Palestinian Authority (PA) rule in the West Bank. Nonetheless, even if the PA had no history of corruption and genuinely intended to invest in a sustainable economy, no truly free and independent economy can flourish under occupation, whose very intention is the disempowerment of Palestinian workers, farmers and the middle class. It is these strata of Palestinian society that have led the struggle to end the occupation on the one hand and to resist local corruption on the other. Indeed, Israeli restrictions are not coincidental and hardly confined to the classic rationale of national security. ‘In reality, these restrictions go beyond concrete and earth-mounds, and extend to a system of physical, institutional and administrative restrictions that form an impermeable barrier against the realization of Palestinian economic potential,’ the World Bank said. It concluded that more aid would not revive the Palestinian economy, unless the above restrictions are removed. But these restrictions represent the backbone of Israeli policy; removing them would deny the Israeli government political leverage over Abbas’s government. By extension, the U.S. is in no mood to help Palestinians develop a strong economic base and infrastructure, enough to spare Palestinians the indignity of living on international donor handouts. In the West Bank, Palestinian economic woes are compounded by a terrible water crisis, a nightmare for farmers who are already struggling to endure Israeli water theft and disproportionate water distribution. According to a recent report by the Israeli human rights group B’tselem, an Israeli household consumes on average 3.5 times as much water as a Palestinian household. The group blames Israel for its discriminatory policy and tight restrictions that prevent Palestinians from drilling new wells.” “If the situation is difficult in the West Bank, it’s impossible in Gaza. A report in March sponsored by Amnesty International, Care International UK, Christian Aid, Oxfam and others, described the situation in the Strip as the worst humanitarian crisis since the Israeli occupation of 1967. The report called on Israel to change its policies towards Gaza. A few months following the release of the report, Israel seems to be stiffening its control over the impoverished Strip, rendering its hapless 1.5 million inhabitants more miserable by the day. According to the report, 80 per cent of the Gaza population relies on food assistance. Some 1.1 million people receive their food aid from UN agencies, which are themselves struggling to operate under fuel cuts and the near-total isolation of Gaza.” “Equally disheartening is that the PA in the West Bank has actively shut down Muslim charities, kindergartens, orphanages and schools in the ongoing tit-for-tat action between rivals Fatah and Hamas. It’s intolerable that the animosity between both parties has reached a point of victimizing the most unfortunate in society: orphans, widows and the physically and mentally impaired. Some 82 children didn’t return to school this year – they were killed in the previous year. And over one million students will have to negotiate their way around 600 Israeli military checkpoints. With the shutting down of Muslim charity-run schools, hundreds of students will lose their right to education. But this time, Israel is not the one entirely to blame.” However, economic conditions in the West Bank were reported improved, in December – prior to the Gaza fighting – as tourism increased. Both Israeli and Palestinian officials rep9orted economic growth of 4% to 5%, and a reduction of unemployment of over 3%, while wages were 20% higher than a year ago, and trade up 35% (Isabel Kirshner and Ethan Bronner, “Palestinians Work to Jolt West Ban k Back to Life,” The New York Times, December 24, 3008). Ethan Bronner, “A West Bank Ruin, Reborn as a Peace Beacon,” The New York Times, November 12, 2008, states that the Jennin, in the West Bank, once the location of tough struggle between Israelis and Palestinians, source of a number of suicide bombers and pounded by Israeli tanks, is now policed by Palestinian Authority Police and is engaging in cooperative economic development, including an industrial area to provide jobs primarily to Palestinians and an organic food farm run by Palestinians with marketing to Europe by Israelis.
Nancy Kanwisher, Johannes Haushofer, & Anat Biletzki, “Reigniting Violence: How Do Ceasefires End?” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-kanwisher/reigniting-violence-how-d_b_155611.html# comments, “We analyzed the entire timeline of killings of Palestinians by Israelis, and killings of Israelis by Palestinians, in the Second Intifada…this analysis shows that it is overwhelmingly Israel that kills first after a pause in the conflict: 79% of all conflict pauses were interrupted when Israel killed a Palestinian, while only 8% were interrupted by Palestinian attacks (the remaining 13% were interrupted by both sides on the same day).”
In September, ICG voiced concern that Palestinian infighting was undermining the possibility of attaining peace. “Round Two in Gaza, September 11, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5665&l=1, declared, “The most recent confrontation in the Gaza Strip has left Hamas in firmer control than ever and prospects for inter-Palestinian reconciliation and a sustainable peace process increasingly elusive, as the West Bank and Gaza go separate ways.” Robert Blecher, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict stated, “Hamas’s takeover of Gaza is increasingly complete, and both it and Fatah seem intent on consolidating their gains. The crisis of the Palestinian national movement is only worsening. Palestinians are fed up with the feuding and many are looking for a way out. But they find none.” “After an explosion on 25 July that killed five of its military leaders and a young girl, Hamas launched a broad campaign against the Hillis family, one of Gaza‚s most powerful. It also carried out hundreds of arrests and raids on organizations. This has intimidated families and smaller factions and crippled Fatah’s capacity to mobilize. The downside for Hamas is that it has alienated other Palestinian factions, deepened the chasm with Egypt and reinforced perceptions that it would be an inflexible negotiating partner. But the Islamist movement is wagering that greater internal security and improved governance eventually will bolster domestic popularity; that the peace process with Israel on which its rivals‚ fortunes depend will flounder; and that, in light of new realities, international isolation ultimately will peter out.” “‘A divided Palestinian movement is unlikely to be in a position to make bold decisions,’ warns Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. ‘A weak Palestinian counterpart is unlikely to gain Israel‚s trust or encourage it to compromise. A segregated Palestinian entity is unlikely to become a viable state. Prospects for a genuine and sustainable peace process are bad and getting worse.'” The infighting is continuing, in January, with Fatah leaders claiming Hamas members, in Gaza, have been placing Fatah supporters under house arrest, shooting some of hem in the leg – an act of intimidation.
This fall, there have been mixed developments involving Isreali settlements in the West Bank occupied territory. In early December, following a court order, Israeli army troops removed settlers from a Palestinian owned house near Hebron on the West Bank. Some 200 settlers resisting the eviction struggled with soldiers in an extended battle. The following day, hundreds of settlers indiscriminately attacked and burned Palestinian homes in Hebron, in “retaliation” for the eviction, attacking Palestinians, some of whom were shot at point blank range. The Israeli peace movement responded with a large demonstration at the Israeli Defense Ministry, calling for the arrest of settlers who act illegally and an end to the occupation of Palestinian lands. In November, the Israeli government responded by saying it would cut all direct funding to illegal settlements. Although, aside from that, there has been some Israeli government constraint on settlement growth, with a few removals of settlers from illegal settlement expansion, the settlements continue to grow in occupied Palestinian territory, creating a major obstacle to obtaining peace. “Israeli settlement growth nearly doubles since 2007,” Occupation magazine, http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=28714, stated early last fall, “during the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the settlement watchdog Peace Now said settlement building in the first half of 2008 was double that in the same period last year. ‘Construction in the settlements has increased by a factor of 1.8 by comparison to the same period last year,’ the group said, citing government statistics. ‘The housing ministry initiated 433 new housing units during the period of January to May 2008, compared to just 240 units during the period January to May 2007,’ it said. Another 125 structures, including 30 permanent houses, have been built in the so-called ‘outposts’ — wildcat settlements considered illegal under Israel law which Israel is committed to removing as part of the peace process. The report said around 1,000 new buildings are currently being constructed in settlements in the occupied West Bank which will include around 2,600 housing units. The number of tenders for construction in the settlements has meanwhile increased by 550 percent, from 417 housing units in the period surveyed compared to 65 units in the same period last year. In mostly Arab east Jerusalem, occupied and annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six Day War, the number of tenders has increased by a factor of 38, the group said, from just 46 units in 2007 to 1,761 in 2008. Israel considers the entire Holy City its ‘eternal, undivided’ capital, a claim not recognized by the international community or the Palestinians, who have demanded east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The international community considers all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be illegal, and the Palestinians view the settlements as the main obstacle to reaching a full peace agreement. ‘There is a deliberate policy aimed at making a separation with the Palestinians impossible and this will risk forcing us to live in a single bi-national state,’ Yariv Oppenheimer, the head of Peace Now, told AFP.”
On several occasions, beginning this fall, a full page add has been placed in the New York Times, and some other newspapers, calling for Mid East Peace, setting out the details of the 2002 Saudi peace offer, decorated with the colorful flags of the 22 Arab and the 35 other Muslim countries which have endorsed the offer. In December, the Israeli paper Haaretz contained the same advertisement, placed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). This is the first time the PLO has directly addressed the Israeli people. The Gaza war, however, contrary to the Israel governments expectations, is marginalizing Abas and the PLO, as none of the moderates are able to do anything to protect tha increasingly angry Palestinains. Only Hamas fighters, and other extremists, seem helpful and legitimate to a growing number of Palestinains. The same is the case throughout the Arab world – and to a lesser degree among many Muslims in non-Arab nations. There has been increasing internal pressure on moderate Arab governments to let go of the Saudi peace initiative, and to take a much harder line with Israel. There has been considerable anger at home, and among many Muslims abroad, against the Egyptian government for not fully opening its boarder with Gaza, and providing more aid to Gazans, Turkey is a particularly illustrative case. The Jerusalem Post noted in an editorial, “Defying the Arab League,” that Turkey had signed a military cooperation pact with Israel in 1996. With the Gaza war, however, Israeli-Turkish relations have become strained, with 200,000 anti-Israel demonstrators in a main Istanbul square and PM Erdogan, who cordially hosted Olmert just before the Gaza operation began, stating: “Hamas abided by the truce. But Israel failed to lift embargoes. In Gaza, people seem to live in an open prison. In fact, all Palestine looks like an open prison” (http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=31008).
Shlomo Shamir, “Top UN official: Israel’s policies are like apartheid of bygone era, Haaretz, November 25, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1040614.html, reports, that UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, of Nicaragua, in late November, likened Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians to South Africa’s treatment of blacks under apartheid. Brockmann stressed that it was important for the United Nations to use the heavily-charged term since it was the institution itself that had passed the International Convention against the crime of apartheid. Earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon complained that Israel had refused his request to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. In November, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, reportedly proposed a round-table involving UK government officials, NGOs, and retailers to discuss a possible boycott of products from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The dispute arises from complaints by the UK Revenues and Customs service that Israeli companies label products, especially fruit and vegetables grown on West Bank settlements, as originating within the Green Line. In 2005, Ehud Olmert, then Israeli Finance Minister, and the then-European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson agreed that Israeli EU imports would be labeled with the postcodes of the area where they were produced, enabling governments and retailers to know if they originated on a settlement. The Israel-EU preferential trade agreement only covers products from within the Green Line. Now the British Foreign Office is demanding that Israel identify settlement products more clearly. For more see Anshel Pfeffer, “Livni fears UK-led push to boycott settlement goods,” The Jewish Chronicle, November 6, 2008, updated November 7, http://community.thejc.com/node/7937, or in Occupation Magazine: http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=29941).
Having tendered his resignation, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert stated in a New Years interview, “We should withdraw from almost all of the [occupied] territories, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.” For details go to: http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=29246. Israel will have new elections, February 15. It should be noted that as the Gaza incursion began, all the major Israeli parties and leading politicians support the operations in Gaza. During the fighting, Iran, supported Hamas in Gaza, but did so quietly. The supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khameni, having said that anyone killed defending Gaza would go to heaven as a martyr, refused to let any of the thousands of young men who offered fight, go to Gaza. The Iranians have said for a long time that they wish to talk directly with the U.S., and perhaps are preparing for the possibility of doing so with Obama as President.
Acre (or Akko), an Israeli city, North of Haifa, of mixed Arab an Jewish residents, which has often been one of the places of good active coexistence, was rocked by four nights of rioting and sectarian violence, in October.
In Israel, a first attempt at high school integration has been taking place, with 14 students taking part in an educational experiment that aims to teach Jewish and Arab high-schoolers together. For more visit: http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/1007/p01s01-wome.html.
Prince Feisal of Jordan praised the success of the second Generations for Peace sports camp, staged November 25-December 5 at Al Hussein Youth City near Amman, Jordan. Youth leaders from Africa, Asia and Europe were among participants inspired by the message of the camp. For more go to: http://www.sportsfeatures.com/index.php?section=olympic-articleview&title=Building%20the%20peace%20process%20&id=44618.
“Engaging Syria? Lessons from the French Experience,” January 15, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5866&l=1, predicted, “One of Barack Obama‚s early moves is likely to be to engage in the kind of regional diplomacy his predecessor shunned, notably by ‘talking to the enemy’, but how should he engage Syria concretely?” ICG suggests lessons from the French attempt at diplomacy with Syria. “The experiment is ongoing, its outcome still uncertain, as France looks for further advances with regard to the present Gaza crisis, the Israeli-Arab conflict generally, Lebanese sovereignty, counter-terrorism and the Iranian nuclear dossier. It will become fully convincing, and therefore relevant in American eyes, only if it clearly demonstrates Syria‚s capacity to act as a credible partner promoting regional stability. Already, however, there are important lessons in Paris’s energetic, often impulsive, at times contradictory approach. Following a long hiatus in bilateral ties – a common feature of President Chirac’s and President Bush’s tenures – both sides will require a significant period of mutual observation. Quick results, in other words, ought not to be anticipated. Patience during negotiations is as important as swiftness when opportunity strikes. Secondly, a successful relationship must be based on clear and steady objectives, not endless demands. There should be no hesitation to halt dialogue if events warrant, while maintaining communication to allow quick reaction at the right moment. For the new U.S. team, this means immediately reciprocating positive steps and penalizing negative ones. Finally, though those in the U.S. who bank on a Syrian-Iranian split will be disappointed, Damascus‘s willingness to normalize ties with France suggests it wishes to diversify its strategic alliances, not reverse them. Washington should promote this trend, which would dilute Iran‘s importance to Syria and facilitate a gradual reconfiguration of its alliances.” Crisis Group Middle East Director, Robert Malley, believes, “Ultimately, the Franco-Syrian rapprochement will become untenable if the U.S. is not drawn in. If Washington, after sterile negotiations, were to return to a policy of pressure and isolation, it would become harder for Paris to go it alone.”
Syria and Lebanon formally established diplomatic ties, in October, for the first time since Lebanon gained independence in the 1940s. The North of Lebanon in particular – and to a lesser extent the whole country – remains divided by ethnic tensions that feed extremism. (For more, see Robert F. Worth, Up North, Hot House of Tensions in Lebanon,” The New York Times, October 16, 2008).
Thousands of people have been recently displaced, and the government has made hundreds of arbitrary arrests, as the four year old civil war in North Yemen became more intense, this fall.
The legislature of Algeria, in November, removed term limits on the Presidency, allowing President Bouteflika to run for a third term next year.
.ICG, “Thailand: Political Turmoil and the Southern Insurgency,” August 28, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5640&l=1, prescribed, “Despite its political woes, Thailand‘s embattled government needs to give more attention to tackling the bloody insurgency in the Muslim-dominated Deep South.” “The government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej [now ou of office]… With his hands full in Bangkok – and needing to keep the military sweet – Samak has left southern policy in the hands of the military.” “The army has made some progress in reducing militant attacks over the last eight months,” says Crisis Group Analyst Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, “but it has come at a price: increased human rights abuses and a program of extended detentions which will increase resentment in the longer term.” “Improved security operations will not solve the conflict in the Deep South. The insurgents are far from being defeated. But they are on the defensive for now, making this a good time to address the root causes of the conflict decisively. The longer this is put off, the harder it will become to resolve the conflict and the greater the risk that foreign jihadists might seek involvement. There is little immediate prospect of a negotiated settlement with the insurgents. But there is much the government could do unilaterally in areas such as education, justice and development. It should start giving serious thought to long-term political solutions including ways of granting some degree of self-rule in the Deep South. This requires a unified approach by the entire government, led by a senior political figure, perhaps a deputy prime minister, not a largely unsupervised military. It requires freeing the key conflict-management body, the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, from military control. It requires enhancing oversight and accountability of the security forces, including rationalizing and amending the complex security legislation governing their actions in the South. And it requires holding individual officers to account for past and present human rights abuses – perhaps the single best way to rebuild a measure of trust with the Malay Muslim population.”
Ron Corben, “Thailand to Investigate Rohingya Refugee Abuse Claims, Voice of America, January 19, 2009, “Thailand has promised to investigate allegations government troops had set adrift hundreds of Muslim Rohingya boat people on the high seas. Many of the illegal immigrants may have drowned. The call by Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came during a meeting with human-rights groups.”
After a great deal of turmoil in Thailand, last fall, with government opponents holding demonstrations for many days, seizing government buildings and the capital’s international airport, the government resigned, following a Supreme Court Decision disbanding the ruling party for electoral fraud, and a new coalition government was formed under Prime Minister Abhist Vejjajiva. The coalition government includes numerous former political opponents. On the one hand that makes it fragile in a time of difficulty, but on the other provides an opportunity for bridging the divide. The political conflict involves a broad split in the society, largely along class lines, which will take considerable work to heal. During the height of the conflict, before the old government resigned, ICG, “Thailand: Calming the Political Turmoil,” September 22, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5689&l=1, proposed, “A peaceful and democratic solution is urgently needed if Thailand is to step back from its political crisis.” “In the medium term, constitutional change is needed. The current constitution – drafted by a military-appointed assembly in 2007 – gives far too much power to the bureaucracy and courts to thwart the executive. A consultative and inclusive process is needed to determine the right balance between necessary checks and balances and giving the government enough authority to avoid total paralysis.” Beyond ICG’s September suggestions, policies are needed to bridge the divide which has brought repeated crises in the last few years.
Cambodia and Thailand, as of November, remained in a standoff between poised troops over ownership of the Preah-Vihear Temple on their mutual border. There was one brief fire-fight, in July. Cambodia has increased military spending, indicating a willingness not to back down against the larger Thai army.
ICG, “Burma/Myanmar After Nargis: Time to Normalize Aid Relations,” October 20, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5734&l=1, proposes, “The international community should build on the unprecedented cooperation between the Myanmar government and humanitarian agencies following cyclone Nargis and reverse longstanding, counterproductive aid policies.” “If the current opening can be used to build confidence and lay the basis for a more effective aid structure, it may be possible not only to meet the immediate needs, but also to begin to address the broader crisis of governance and human suffering. “The government‚s initial response to cyclone Nargis shocked the world, with international agencies and local donors denied access to the affected areas. But, little noticed, the situation subsequently improved markedly, to the point where the UN humanitarian chief was able to describe it in July as ‘a normal international relief operation’. Communication between the government and international agencies has much improved. Visas and travel permits today are easier and faster to get than before. Requirements for the launch of new aid projects have been eased. By and large, the authorities are making efforts to facilitate aid, including allowing a substantial role for civil society. The international community should commit to continuing its support for post-cyclone recovery. But Myanmar faces a much deeper developmental crisis, with millions of households living on the edge of survival. Donors should end aid restrictions, which have seen Myanmar receiving twenty times less assistance than similar countries – and which have weakened, not strengthened, the forces for change. This means more aid, but also different aid, aimed at raising income and education as well as health levels, fostering civil society and improving economic policy and governance.” Meanwhile, the Myanmar military government continues to be heavy handed in ruling the country. In November, 14 democracy advocates were eac sentence to 65 years in prison, a day after an internet blogger was sentenced to 20 years for “creating public alarm.”
India continues to suffer ethnic and separatist tensions, sometimes breaking out into violence, including bombings. This included Hindu attacks on Christians in Orissa State, that may partly be fueled by economic differences (Hari Kumar and Heather Timmons, “Violence in India Fueled by Religious and Economic Divide.” The New York Times, September 4 2008). Between May and September 2008, 140 people were reported killed in bombings in four cities, including New Delhi. In October 64 people were killed in a series of synchronized explosions in four towns in the Northeast State of Assam, where the United Liberation Front of Assam has been fighting for independence. But in Kashmir, where many Muslims continue to be unhappy with Indian rule, there has been less violence of late, as many Kashmiris are tired of the fighting. This December they turned to the polls in larger than normal numbers, seeking development in a region of high unemployment.
Bangledesh ended two years of rule by the army with the swearing in of a Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, whose party won parliamentary elections a month earlier.
The Civil War in Sri Lanka has become more intense, as government forces have advanced further into Tamil Tiger territory.
China has put back many of the blocks on the Internet that were removed during the Olympics. While clashes continue in distant regions, such as in Xinjiang Province in he west, where many Uigurs resent rule by Han Chinese, complaints are being raised closer to the center, such as over the deaths of many children in poorly built schools during the earthquake, and environmental degradation, which the government is being more positively responsive to. Concerned about possible unrest from the economic downturn, as well as keeping the economy in as good a shape as possible, the government has embarked on a major economic stimulus program. In October, Chinese leaders announced a major reform in the countryside that would stimulate market economic growth in rural areas with the aim of closing the income gap between rural and urban areas. Meanwhile, Beijing and Taiwan relations continue to improve, with direct Taiwan – mainland direct air service restored in December, after expanding cooperation on charter flights, maritime shipping and food safety, in November.
Tibetans in exile in India debated whether they should push more directly for independence from China, in November, but while there are more who take a militant position, than in the past, the meeting agreed to continue a conciliatory, ‘middle way,’ approach seeking autonomy and fair treatment, even though the Dalai Lama admitst that his attempts to bring improvement though negotiation with China have thus far been a failure.
While the UN reported, in October, that North Korea faced its worst food crisis in a decade, and there were questions about the health of its leader, through the fall North Korea continued its swings between cooperative and complying with agreements on stopping nuclear weapons development with inspections, and being tough and beginning to cease complying. There are still key issues to be resolved over nuclear weapons that will require effective international diplomacy among all the parties in the months ahead.
With the Helsinki agreement leading to the first free elections in Aceh, Indonesia, three years ago, many in Jakarta and the International community believed the region was on a smooth course. However, there are still major issues that need resolution, as ICG pointed out September 9, “Indonesia: Pre-Election Anxieties in Aceh,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5664&l=1, with a new general election coming in 2009, stated, “The immediate goal should be to ensure that the campaign is violence-free,” but pointed out, “long-term, the need is for sustained international attention to Aceh, including international election monitoring, to ensure that the peace holds.” The Indonesian military is worried about Partai Aceh, the GAM party, winning control of local legislatures and challenging Jakarta’s authority. Partai Aceh is worried about interference from Jakarta. Smaller parties are worried about intimidation from Partai Aceh. Many Acehnese are worried about criminality, much of it involving former GAM members. Everyone is worried about the health of the Aceh governor, a GAM leader with unparalleled ability to reach out to all political factions. He has been abroad since early August for medical treatment after apparently suffering a minor stroke.” “The coming elections are also drawing attention to ongoing struggles between the central and provincial governments over what autonomy in the Helsinki agreement means in practice. Three issues are now on the table. The most important are about how the central government will consult with Aceh over policies and laws relating to it and what mechanisms will be put in place to resolve disagreements. There is also a battle over a position called Wali Nanggroe, literally ‘guardian of the state,’ that Jakarta sees as ceremonial and GAM leaders see as political, embodying Acehnese self-rule. Complicating matters is the continued thuggish behaviour of many ex-guerrillas, now grouped in the ostensibly civilian Aceh Transition Committee (Komite Pemulihan Aceh, KPA). The KPA in many areas has become a local mafia, involved in extortion and protection rackets and completely unaccountable.” One piece that may help the legitimacy of the election itself. Is that with some major changes in voting procedure, 3 simulation have been held in Acech, testing that the new system is workable and well understood. The official report of the third simulation, in October was quite positive (http://www.kemitraan.or.id/partnership-events/events-highlight/simulation-of-2009-general-election-in-aceh/).
ICG, “The Philippines: The Collapse of Peace in Mindanao,” October 23, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5740&l=1, is concerned that, “A new Supreme Court ruling has ended hope of a peaceful resolution in the near future to the decades-old conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippines government.” “The immediate task now is to prevent escalation of fighting and discourage the government and local officials from arming civilians. Interested governments and donors should press both sides to keep existing ceasefire mechanisms in place, while quietly urging a return to talks. ‘Peace talks have broken down before but never in this way, with government institutions and the political elite fundamentally rejecting the achievements of the negotiators. It will be much harder this time, even if talks resume, to simply pick up from where they left off,’ says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group Senior Adviser. The court ruling on 14 October, preceded by an injunction on 4 August, effectively killed an extraordinary Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that was the culmination of eleven years‚ negotiation. It acknowledged the Muslims of Mindanao, the Bangsamoro, as a First Nation and gave wide powers to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that was to be set up as their homeland. The agreement was negotiated with little public consultation, and when the extent of the BJE‚s proposed territory was revealed ˆ even though affected communities were to be offered a chance to opt in or out in a plebiscite ˆ local officials demanded the signing be stopped. A few MILF ‘renegade’ commanders then launched attacks on civilians and the military responded with ‘punitive actions’ against them. Renewed fighting has claimed some 100 civilian lives and displaced some 390,000 but remains largely restricted to areas where these commanders operate. Several factors are militating against a return of the two sides to all-out war, but the Supreme Court ruling and the sense that the strategy of talking peace has failed could lead other commanders to join the ‘renegades’. ‘Both sides need to learn lessons from this debacle,’ says John Virgoe, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. ‘The government needs to be more engaged with its own negotiating team, head off potential spoilers through consultation or cooptation, and be prepared to deliver what it promises. The MILF needs to show more backbone in dealing with errant commanders.” The fighting has intensified, since October, and as of early December, more than 300,000 Filipinos had been displaced from their homes. Carlos H. Conde, “Islamic Rebels in Philippines Stage Attacks, The New York Times, December 26, 2008http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/world/asia/27phils.html, reported that in Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the primary group that has been fighting for Muslim self-rule in the predominantly Roman Catholic region since the 1970s, undertook a series of attacks in a week’s time, killing least nine civilian, “in what appeared to be a bid to pressure the government to restart negotiations that have been stalled for months.”
ICG, “Russia vs Georgia: The Fallout,” August 22, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5636&l=1, finds, “The Russia-Georgia conflict has transformed the contemporary geopolitical world. The international challenge is not only to restore peace and stability in Georgia through the immediate implementation of the ceasefire accord, but to seriously address the more fundamental questions the conflict raises for security in Europe. Both Georgia‘s rash miscalculation in attacking its breakaway region of South Ossetia, and Russia‚s disproportionate response in invading large portions of Georgia, make the conflicts over the separatist territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia far harder to resolve. The urgent need is to implement fully the 15-16 August ceasefire, and most significantly, to ensure that Russian troops return immediately to pre-7 August positions [which they eventually did, after considerable delay]. ‘Western states must press Moscow to accept the common understanding of the loosely-worded ceasefire, and not try to use loopholes to retain a de facto occupation of parts of Georgia,’ said Crisis Group Caucasus Project Director, Lawrence Sheets. International monitors should be deployed to observe Russian withdrawal and then help keep the ceasefire in South Ossetia and Abkhazia until the UN authorises an international peacekeeping mission, which Russia should be allowed to join but not dominate. Humanitarian aid must be freely distributed and displaced persons assisted in returning to their homes. More broadly, Russia‘s actions have undermined regional security; threatened vital energy corridors; made claims on ethnic Russians and other minorities that could be used to destabilize other former Soviet republics, including Ukraine; and shown disregard for international law. The crisis raises questions about the compatibility of Russia‚s intentions with the rights of other states on its borders. It has also raised concerns about the capacity of NATO, the UN and EU to address basic security challenges stemming from the aggressive self-confidence of a Moscow that feels the West has, since the Soviet Union collapsed, taken advantage of its weakness, ignored its interests, and maintained NATO in an unnecessarily confrontational way.” Crisis Group President Gareth Evans asserts, “Current rhetoric in Moscow and Western capitals is eerily reminiscent of the Cold War and will do nothing to resolve the crisis on the ground in Georgia or repair the damage done to European security. The West needs to address Russia‚s behavior not by isolating Moscow, but by engaging it in a way that is both hard-headed and conditional.” “The West should deliver a firm message to Russia that if it does not respect the ceasefire deal and cooperate in implementing the international peacekeeping mission, it will be met with a serious response, including suspension of its Moscow’s World Trade Organization application and its participation in the G-8, and a challenge to its holding the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. But if Russia does now significantly moderate its behavior, the message should be that the West is prepared to explore common security interests and ways to bridge differences, on a wide range of regional and global security and economic issues. (See the follow up to these points in discussion of the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis, below)
Georgia offered evidence, September 15, that Russian troops entered South Ossetia a day before Georgia launched its offensive to try to retake the breakaway territory, at which point the Russians counter attacked in force.
ICG, “Kyrgyzstan: A Deceptive Calm,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5627&l=1, warns, “President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has turned Kyrgyzstan in effect into a one-party state, but its surface calm could soon be shattered if he does not deal with its real problems of corruption and economic crisis before winter sets in.” “Deep popular disillusionment with the government has become apparent since the elections, expressed mostly in resigned disgust with the system rather than overt anger. Food prices and inflation are rising faster than expected. Few officials or citizens expect that energy cuts will be limited to unheated homes once the cold weather comes. A further deterioration in living conditions could spark serious anger among a public already worn down by power cuts, the steady increase in fuel prices and the memory of the previous grim winter. If anger turns to violence, it risks being brutal, destructive and xenophobic – and the remnants of the discredited opposition may not be able to channel demonstrations into a more controllable form. ‘The current leadership‚s problems are greater than they appear on first sight, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Crisis Group’s Central Asia Project Director. ‘Signs of dissension inside the ruling group could encourage its opponents, while disunity could prove even more problematic if the regime is confronted with the need to crush unrest.'”
The first visit by a Turkish head of state to Armenia, in September, was a small, but important, step in improving relations and overcoming the bitter history of the “population exchange” – “Massacre” that took place after World War I. For more, see, Hugh Pope, “Turkey and Armenia Inch Forward”, The Los Angeles Times, September 16 2008. In December, a group of 200 prominent Turkish intellectuals issued an apology on the Internet for the World War I massacres of Armenians in Turkey.
International Crisis Group, Amnesty International, EU Office, Article 19, La Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme, Human Rights Watch, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and Open Society Institute,
“Uzbekistan: Media Freedom Needs Action As Well As Dialogue,” October 6,2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/, suggests, “As the EU prepares to reconsider its sanctions against Uzbekistan, last week’s “media freedom” seminar in Tashkent should not be considered as evidence of any improvement in the country’s 17-year policy of suppressing freedom of speech. The event on 2-3 October, entitled “Liberalization of Mass Media – An Important Component of the Democratization of the Society”, was co-sponsored by the EU and the Uzbek government. This seminar, while welcome, cannot in itself be seen as an indicator of a change of attitude by the Uzbek authorities in advance of the EU Foreign Ministers meeting on 13 October, at which the subject of European sanctions on Uzbekistan will be considered. There was no hint of acknowledgement from the Uzbek side that the country’s media are neither free nor independent, that journalists and others are regularly imprisoned for expressing their opinions, that access to critical external internet sites is blocked, and that foreign journalists are not allowed accreditation to cover the country from within.”
European monitors stated that the reelection of Azerbaijan President Alham Alliyev. officially with 88%, of the vote, in October, was seriously flawed, despite improvements. The opposition boycotted the election, saying the election was unfair.
ICG, “Turkey and Iraqi Kurds: Conflict or Cooperation?” November 13, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5777&l=1, finds, “Turkey‘s newly adroit management of its relationship with Iraqi Kurds has resulted in a tentative victory for pragmatism over ultra-nationalism, but many obstacles remain before relations can be normalized.” “Turkey periodically sends jets to bomb suspected hide-outs of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq and expresses alarm at the prospect of Kurdish independence, yet it has now significantly deepened its ties to the Iraqi Kurdish region.” Oytun Çelik, Crisis Group’s Istanbul-based analyst says, “Both Turkey and Iraq‚s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have made a breakthrough in challenging ultra-nationalism. They should continue to invest in a relationship that, though fragile and beset by uncertainties over Iraq‘s future, has become more pragmatic and potentially very fruitful.” “Ankara’s policy toward Iraq is based on two core national interests: preserving that country’s territorial integrity and fighting the PKK, whose rebels use remote northern Iraqi border areas as staging ground for attacks inside Turkey. From Turkey’s perspective, Iraq’s disintegration would remove a critical counterweight to Iranian influence and, more ominously, herald the birth of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq that could inspire Kurdish nationalist passions inside Turkey As a result, it has sought to prevent the sectarian conflict in Iraq’s centre from escalating, Iraqi Kurds from seceding and the PKK from prospering. Political divisions as to how this should be achieved have yielded a measure of confusion, but the result has been a largely effective compromise, combining military pressure, politics, diplomacy and economic incentives. While it has mounted limited cross-border operations against the PKK, Turkey has begun meeting with Iraqi Kurdish leaders and deepened economic ties with their federal region. There have been real benefits for the KRG as well. The warming relationship is based on its realization that U.S. forces may draw down significantly in the next two years, leaving the Kurds increasingly dependent on the federal government and neighbouring states. Turkey can be a useful partner as a bridge to Europe, its suitability as a trans-shipment country for Kurdish oil and gas, its investment capabilities and the relatively better quality of the goods it has to sell.” ICG Middle East Deputy Program Director, Joost Hiltermann, states, “More is required to lay the foundations of a lasting, stable relationship, including a peaceful, consensus-based solution to the Kirkuk question. But, amid the many uncertain prospects facing Iraq, this at least is one development to be welcomed and nurtured.”
Developments in Europe
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The election of Barak Obama as the first African American President of the United states has caused many Europeans to examine the ethnic relations in their own nations. For example, Mohamad Hamidi, former editor of the Bondi Blog, founded after the 2005 riots in Paris suburbs with large immigrant populations, said, “They always said, ‘You think race relations are bad here in France, check out the U.S. ‘But that argument can no longer stand.” (Steven Erlanger, “After U.S. Breakthrough, Europe Looks in Mirror, The New York Times, November 12, 2008).
The European Union, in December, began an initiative to revive nuclear disarmament, including achieving a global ban on atomic arms testing and on the production of fissionable materials. (Steven Erlanger, “Europeans Seek to Revive Disarmament, The New York Times, December 9, 2008).
ICG, “Kosovo’s Fragile Transition, September 25, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5695&l=1, warns, “Kosovo has taken its first steps in state building, but the international community has failed to meet its commitments and prospects for a de facto partition of the state are growing.” “The international community has not found its footing since independence was declared on 17 February. Independence was supposed to be ‘supervised’, based on the plan drafted by the UN Secretary-General’s special representative, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. But supporters have not kept their pledges because of Serbian and Russian opposition, insufficient political will and weak coordination. ‘Major violence has been avoided but the calm is deceptive,’ says Alexander Anderson, Crisis Group’s Kosovo Project Director. ‘Divisions between Albanian and Serb areas have widened. If de facto partition continues, Kosovo’s Serbs south of the Ibar River will be at risk, pressure will mount to redraw borders on ethnic lines throughout the states of the former Yugoslavia, and EU membership prospects for these countries will fade.’ The International Civilian Office (ICO) lacks the supremacy envisioned for it. The European Union agreed in February to set up its biggest security and defence policy operation to date (EULEX), but only a quarter of the expected 2,000 staff are on the ground. The UN still partially functions as an interim administration, and is negotiating special arrangements for Kosovo Serbs with Belgrade. How the UN will pull out and EULEX deploy in Kosovo Serb areas remains uncertain. Serbia’s new government is eager to move toward EU membership, but it does not want an EU presence in Kosovo. It is pressing the UN General Assembly for an International Court of Justice opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s independence. The EU should use candidacy talks with Belgrade to ensure deployment of its mission throughout Kosovo. EULEX must deploy by 1 December and all sides must agree on transitional arrangements, to be reviewed by early 2010. The repercussions on Kosovo from the recent events in Georgia remain to be seen. Russia has cited the Balkans case as part of its justification for unilaterally recognizing the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but it is not yet clear whether Moscow will use its blocking capacities in the UN and encourage territorial fragmentation in the EU’s backyard, or show its cooperative side, after displaying its new and troubling self-confidence.”
Neil MacFarquhar, “Serbia wins Bid to Review Kosovo Independence,” The New York Times, October 9, 2008, reports that Serbia won a vote in the UN General Assembly to have the International Court of Justice review the legality of the process by which Kosovo became independent.
Johan Spanner, “Fears of New Ethnic Conflict in Bosnia,” The New York Times, December 13, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/world/europe/14bosnia.html, reports, “Thirteen years after the United States brokered the Dayton peace agreement to end the ferocious ethnic war in the former Yugoslavia, fears are mounting that Bosnia, poor and divided, is again teetering toward crisis.” “For the first time in years, talk of the prospect of another war is creeping into conversations across the ethnic divide in Bosnia, a former Yugoslav republic that the Dayton agreement divided into two entities, a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serbian Republic. The power-sharing agreement between former foes has always been tense. Now, however, the uneasy peace has been complicated by Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in February, which many here worry could prompt the Serbian Republic to follow suit, tipping the region into a conflict that could fast turn deadly.” “The peace agreement, negotiated at a United States Air Force base near Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995, accomplished its goal of ending a savage three-and-a-half-year war in which about 100,000 people were killed, a majority of them Muslims. A million more Muslims, Serbs and Croats were driven from their homes, while much of this rugged country’s infrastructure was destroyed. But the decentralized political system that Dayton engineered has entrenched rather than healed ethnic divisions. Even in communities where Serbs, Muslims and Croats live side by side, some opt to send their children to the same schools, but in different shifts. And the country’s leaders are so busy fighting one another that they are impeding Bosnia from progressing. Locked in an impasse of mutual recrimination are Haris Silajdzic – the Muslim in the country’s three-member presidency, who has called for the Serbian Republic to be abolished – and the Bosnian Serb prime minister, Milorad Dodik, who is supported by Russia and Serbia and who has dangled the threat that his republic could secede. Bosnia, which has received more than $18 billion in foreign aid since 1995, remains a ward of the West, its security guaranteed by 2,000 European Union peacekeepers. Sketching a worst-case example, Srecko Latal, a Bosnia specialist at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Sarajevo, warned that if the Serbian Republic declared independence, Croatia would respond by sending in troops, while the Bosnian Muslims would take up arms. If Banja Luka, the capital of the Serbian Republic, were to fall, he continued, Serbia would be provoked into entering the fray, leading to the prospect of a regional war. “For the first time in years, people are talking about war,” Mr. Latal said. “They are tired of it, and they don’t want it. But it is not beyond the realm of possibility.” Leaders across Bosnia expressed hope that Mr. Obama would be more engaged in Bosnia than President Bush has been, while emphasizing that the president-elect’s multicultural background made him ideally suited to mediate here.” “Bosnia’s prospects for stability, analysts say, would also be helped if it joined the European Union, the world’s biggest trading bloc. But progress has not been encouraging. In a damning report assessing Bosnia’s readiness to join the bloc, the European Commission, the group’s executive body, warned in November that “inflammatory rhetoric has adversely affected the functioning of institutions and slowed down reform” while corruption and organized crime were significant. The world is so concerned about Bosnia’s stability that the United Nations Security Council has extended the mandate of its senior envoy to Bosnia, who was supposed to leave this year, until June. Still, Miroslav Lajcak, the envoy, said in an interview that while the situation is critical, it was a sign of Bosnia‘s progress that politics now trumped security as the biggest challenge. ” “For the country to progress, leaders on all sides say, the structure established by the Dayton accord must be overhauled. The country’s two entities have their own Parliaments, and there are 10 regional authorities, each with its own police force and education, health and judicial authorities. The result is a byzantine system of government directed by 160 ministers, a structure that absorbs 50 percent of Bosnia‘s gross domestic product of $15 billion, according to the World Bank. While untangling that bureaucracy would be difficult, persuading the country’s leaders to put aside their fundamental differences might be harder. In October 2007, the country experienced one of its worst political crises when Bosnian Serbs protested a new voting system aimed at preventing politicians from blocking major reform efforts by simply not showing up at meetings. Fearing that it could be outvoted by other ethnic groups under the new rules, the Serbian Republic condemned the measures and Mr. Dodik threatened to withdraw his party’s representatives from all Bosnian institutions. The crisis finally ended after some concessions were made to the Bosnian Serbs, and the European Union rewarded the country by initialing an agreement cementing Bosnia’s ties with the bloc.” “‘The problem with Dayton is that it created an ethnocracy rather than a democracy and has become an umbrella under which Slobodan Milosevic’s project of ethnic cleansing is hidden,’ he [Mr. Silajdzic] said, referring to the former Serbian president. ‘If the situation is allowed to continue, the message this sends the world is, ‘Kill thy neighbor and get away with it.’ For Mr. Dodik, the prime minister, such talk just proves that Bosnia’s Muslim leadership is intent on domination.” “Mr. Dodik, a charismatic former basketball player with a large power base in the Serbian Republic, was once a Western darling for his wartime and postwar opposition to Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb nationalist leader now on trial in The Hague on war crime charges. But many Western diplomats say he has since adopted Mr. Karadzic’s nationalist language and they blame him for impeding Bosnia’s progress. Mr. Dodik recently further inflamed tensions by filing criminal charges against a senior United States envoy and foreign prosecutors in Bosnia, accusing them of plotting against his government after they opened a corruption investigation into the Serbian Republic’s infrastructure deals, including one for $146 million government building in Banja Luka.” “Most Serbian analysts agree that secession would be tantamount to political suicide for the prime minister. Beyond the obvious threat of provoking a war, aligning the Serbian Republic with Serbia would diminish Mr. Dodik’s power and lead to further isolation internationally. In the former Yugoslavia, the lives of Serbs, Croats and Muslims were closely entwined for 45 years, with intermarriage not uncommon in larger cities like Sarajevo. But Mr. Dodik said the dissolution of the old state and the war that followed had destroyed whatever optimism he once had about different ethnic groups collectively deciding one another’s fates. ‘Bosnia is a divided country,’ he said. ‘There is not a single event or holiday, except for New Year’s or the First of May, that we celebrate together. I have lost all of my illusions.'”
ICG, “Macedonia’s Name: Breaking the Deadlock,” Jauary 12, 2009, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5862&l=1, cautions, “The dispute between Athens and Skopje over Macedonia’s name puts at risk the European Union (EU) and NATO strategy for stabilizing the still fragile western Balkans.” Although there is no imminent risk of a return to violence between ethnic Macedonians and the Albanian minority, the disagreement between Skopje and Athens puts at risk the progress achieved since the 2001 Ohrid Agreement that ended an incipient civil war in the one-time Yugoslav republic. After Greece blocked Macedonia‚s NATO entry at the April 2008 Bucharest summit, relations between the two countries deteriorated to levels not seen since the early 1990s. Athens now threatens to similarly oppose the start of Macedonia’s EU membership negotiations. The Macedonian government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski shares some responsibility. Renaming Skopje Airport after Alexander the Great and a number of other moves were seen by Greeks as an offensive appropriation of their Hellenic heritage and a direct provocation. “To tackle the issue, both sides must first rebuild trust. Skopje should avoid provocations and accept the UN mediator’s latest proposal to rename the country as the ‘Republic of North Macedonia‘. Skopje and Athens should undertake to examine the common history of the region in order to reach a basic understanding and avoid references in educational curriculums that offend the national sensibilities of either country. Greece should accept the ‘Macedonian’ identity and language of its northern neighbor bearing in mind that this does not imply exclusivity and does not challenge the application of the same adjective to the inhabitants of the Greek province of Macedonia“.
Russia’s recent toughness – shown in its military actions in Georgia – continued in its recent dispute over gas prices with Ukraine – that really involves deeper issues, and particularly Ukraine’s current connection to the EU. Claiming the Ukraine is not paying enough for Russian gas, Russia cut off shipments, but not only to Ukraine, but to much of Europe to prevent Ukraine from taking gas going to Western Europe from pipelines that go through its territory. Settlement of the dispute – also involving the EU – has been on and off a number of times, and on January 19, was still in negotiations – while much of Europe was without heat because of the fuel cut off. For this writer, it would seem, as ICG suggests above, that Russia could benefit from its toughness, if it quickly backed off it, and showed genuine openness to cooperative problem solving, now that its concerns have been heard. But a continued, or unpredictable, resort to, or threat of, military or economic force is likely to make everyone else tougher, and cause the West Europeans to develop other sources of energy, reducing purchases of gas from Russia, that it needs to stabilize, and later improve, its economy.
The issues that underlie the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute concern Russian unhappiness, in part. that the current Ukrainian government is western leaning, and wants to join NATO – which the Ukraine is working harder for as a result of fears stemming from Russia’s military action in Georgia, while the Ukraine wants to insure its independence from Russia. Tied in with these issues, is the status of the Crimea and its port of Sevastopol, for two centuries the primary home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet (which took part in the Russia Georgian action). The Crimea and the port were part of Russia until Ukrainian born USSR President Khrushev transferred the area to the Ukraine in 1954. Its population remains primarily ethnic Russian. When the breakup of the Soviet Union occurred the issue of the port was tenuously settled with the Ukraine and Russia signing a treaty allowing the Russian Black Sea Fleet to continue use the port for 20 years. When the fleet returned from operations against Georgia, Ukrainian President Yushchenko stated that the fleet could only use the port with Ukraine’s permission, which the Ukrainian Defense Minister later said it had. For more see, David L. Stern, “Russian Actions Reignite Tensions Over Strategic Port in Ukraine.” The New York Times, August 26, 2008.
Russia’s actions in Georgia, and subsequent toughness, have had a number of impacts on its relations in Europe and beyond, at least in the short-run. But there are signs of more recent progress. In August, three months after the Bush administration had reached a long sought agreement with Moscow to increase civilian nuclear cooperation, the U.S. President was preparing to drop the project as a result of deteriorating relations with Russia. Long angered by U.S. plans to station anti-missile missiles in East Europe, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev threatened to retaliate by placing Russian missiles on its boarders with other European nations. In November, President Medvedev pulled back, saying he would not so station nuclear rockets if President-elect Barack Obama joined Russia and France in calling for a conference on European security, next summer. In November, the European Union said it would resume talks with Russia, broken off after the Georgia fighting, on developing a strategic partnership agreement. In mid-December, Washington-Moscow discussions made little progress in narrowing issues on U.S. plans for a missile shield in Europe, but both nations committed to negotiating a replacement for the START-1 atomic arms limitation treaty, before it expires next year.
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) stated that the Belarus parliamentary election, in September, did not meet European democratic standards.
Moves for peace and normalization in Cyprus moved ahead, in June, when thirty women from some twenty non-governmental organizations, political parties and unions in Turkey, Greece, Northern Cyprus and Southern Cyprus came together for a course at Bosphorus University (BÜ) in Istanbul, Turkey, in peace culture and using nonviolent solutions in disagreements. For more, go to: http://www.bianet.org/english/kategori/english/107959/women-activists-are-educating-each-other-for-peace. In August, both sides met to arrange restarting unification talks, which began in November.
The Northern Ireland Independent Monitoring Commission announced, in early September, that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) Army Council is no longer functioning and does not pose any threat to peace in Northern Ireland.
Developments in Africa
There were increased attacks, at the end of last summer and the beginning of fall, against oil facilities in the Nigerian Delta, as militant groups continued demanding that people of the region receive a fair share of oil revenues. In the face of the attacks, by mid-September oil production in Nigeria had been cut back by close to 20%, not counting short stoppages because of militant attacks or fighting. There has been one important exception to the violent resistance to extraction of oil by foreign firms in the Nigerian Delta: the nonviolent resistance by the Ogoni. Donald Steinberg and Nnamdi Obasi, “Nigeria: Rewarding Non-Violence in the Niger Delta,” AllAfrica.com, October 3, 2008, http://allafrica.com/stories/200810030586.html, tell us that, “a model has emerged in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta that could allow more than a million barrels per day of production to come back on-stream without additional exploration or even new investment in production facilities – if only the Nigerian government would pursue it. Three months ago the government announced a decision to replace Shell Petroleum Development Company as operator of oil concessions in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta. Shell had been at the center of a firestorm, accused by many Ogoni activists of having been complicit in a system that has provided little benefit in jobs or money from local oil production, and insensitive to the environmental damage caused by numerous oil spills and 24-hour-a-day flaring of gas. Ogoniland is oil rich but dirt poor. Over the past 15 years, the Ogoni people have engaged in non-violent actions to seek to benefit from the oil under their feet, to repair the extreme environmental damage from past production and to have a say in the management of the region’s oilfields. This approach was remarkable, given the brutality of the Nigerian military government in response to their protests, including the execution of author, activist, and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa.” “Many felt vindicated last June when President Umaru Yar’Adua not only decided to replace Shell but also suggested that the Ogoni would be part of an inclusive process aimed at resuming oil production in the area. But this historic opportunity for ending one of the longest running conflicts in the Niger Delta is being squandered. The Yar’Adua government now seems ready to go ahead and identify a new operator for the region without consultations with the local population and without addressing issues of environmental clean-up, community engagement in the operations, or distribution of revenues.” The government is throwing away an opportunity to achieve peace and community development to the region by acting unilaterally. “Two practical steps by President Yar’Adua could make all the difference. First, he could initiate an inclusive process involving community leaders and organizations from Ogoniland in the decision as to which oil firm will have the lead operating role in production in their land. Second, he could commit to negotiating a tripartite agreement between the government, Ogoni representatives and an entering oil company to reinvest a portion of oil revenues in Ogoniland, provide jobs to local workers, control pollution and ensure security of oil company staff and installations.”
The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a similar warning, “Nigeria: Ogoni Land after Shell,” September 18, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5675&l=1, stating, “The peace process in Ogoni land – a major test for efforts to bring stability to the oil-rich Niger Delta – is likely to fail if the Nigerian government refuses to consult local communities about new oil operations.” “If handled carefully, this transition could persuade some of the Delta’s armed groups that non-violence can produce progress on their demands,” stated François Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “If handled poorly, it will not only intensify the Delta armed insurgency but also set the stage for a new crisis between the Ogoni tribe and SPDC’s successor oil company.” “The federal government should take the lead in negotiating a tripartite agreement with the new oil companies and the Ogoni representatives on the benchmarks that must be met before operations begin. Details and modalities for reinvesting a portion of oil revenues in Ogoni land should be included. Moreover, it is vital to implement concrete socio-economic measures to revamp basic infrastructure and increase local training and employment.”
Tai Ejibunu, “Recurrent Plateau crises: The way forward,” Punch (of Nigeria) on he web, December 8, 2008, http://www.punchng.com/Articl.aspx?theartic=Art20081208093675, warns that once peaceful Plateau State, an ethnic miniature of the whole of Nigeria, with its ethnic and religious divisions, and over 40 linguistic groups, is in danger of having its internal clashes escalate. “The question now is, what are the underlying factors behind the recurrent crises, which cannot be separated from two fundamental issues: religion and the concept of indigeneship/settlership. My view is premised on the fact that several years after the creation of the state, its citizens are still wrestling with the divisive tendencies of indigene-ship and settlership phenomena. For instance, in Jos North Local Government Area, the heartbeat of the state, the Hausa communities, whose religion is Islam, have consistently raised the alarm over what they called ‘systematic attempts by the authorities in the state to obstruct them from enjoying their rights and privileges as Plateau State indigenes.’ The concern of the Hausa communities was premised on the basis of issuance of “residential certificates” to their offspring and privies, which make it impossible to get employment and admission into institutions of learning across the state. They also contend that their children are being charged higher and discriminatory school fees at all higher institutions of learning in the state. The recent LG elections in the state only provided the opportunity for the combatants-indigenes and ‘settlers’ to settle old scores which, unfortunately, claimed the lives of innocent souls and property worth millions of Naira. The persistent crises should be a source of worry and of utmost concern to all peace loving people because of the dimension which the dispute is likely to take if not adequately addressed. It is most probable to turn it into Christian-Muslim affair because the principal actors involved are the Hausa-Fulani on the one hand, who are predominantly Muslims; and the Afizere, Anaguta and Berom on the other, who are predominantly Christians. The fear is borne out of the fact that the state, just a few years back, witnessed violence of greater proportions as a result of ethno-religious clashes between Muslims and Christians, with its attendant consequences. There are fears of reprisal attacks in other parts of the country. This should be prevented at all costs! To remedy the situation and bring about lasting and durable peace on the Plateau and in other places in Nigeria where the issue of ‘indigenes’ and ‘settlers’ are still well pronounced,… The following are hereby recommended for those in positions of authority to look into. First, there should be strict adherence to the provisions of the relevant sections of the Constitution, which prohibit the dichotomization of Nigerians on the basis of ‘indigenes’ and ‘settlers.’ The relevant sections are 4(1), (2) (3) and (5) and 25 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In this 21st Century, it saddens one that Nigeria still dichotomizes her citizens on the basis of state of origin. In other civilized climes, this has no basis, as it is anachronistic and demeaning. The Federal Government should use Transcend Approach of conflict transformation to foster unity and oneness of purpose amongst the various ethnic groups in the state.” “It focuses on the real problems and sees how it can be transcended. The combatants in the crisis should know that the ‘war’ cannot be won by the either side; it can only be transcended. In order to transcend it, there must be a change of consciousness on all sides. There should be introduction of Peace Education at all levels of education in the state, so that the youths will learn the basic principles of peace education and imbibe them as they grow up.” “The elite on both sides, with the active collaboration and support of government, should promote passive coexistence and tolerance. This is very present in most diverse multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. It has been repeatedly argued that the elite are the problems of Nigeria. They devise mundane and anachronistic tendencies to keep the common people disunited for their selfish agenda. The efficacy of passive coexistence has been tested and proved in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society like Malaysia, where Buddhism, Islam and Christianity coexist side by side. The government of Plateau State should, as a matter of necessity, promote equity and equal access to state institutions for all — residents and indigenes alike. This should be done with the abrogation of discriminatory school fees and other tuitions.” “There’s also the need to promote active coexistence. It is a form of dialogue which revolves around exchange of information. This could be done through mutual respect and trust among the people of the state; coordination, networking and formation of linkages with all parties; actively building bridges between the different ethnic and religious groups; and changing the climate of war to a climate of peace.” Human Rights Watch charged, in December, that Nigerian troops were implicated in some of the killings in the Plateau State City of Jos.
ICG, “Sudan’s Southern Kordofan Problem: The Next Darfur?” October 21, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5738&l=1, illuminates “the deteriorating situation in this strategic region between North and South, where both members of the Government of National Unity, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP), have been dangerously engaged in ethnic polarisation in advance of national elections scheduled for 2009. The kidnapping of nine Chinese oil workers in Southern Kordofan last week illustrates the volatility of the state.” These are conditions similar to those that resulted in the Darfur conflict. “‘The Khartoum government must rapidly address the worsening situation or face the prospect of a devastating new conflict,’ said Fouad Hikmat, Horn of Africa Project Director. ‘The credibility of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the North-South war in 2005 as a framework for conflict resolution is at stake. If it fails to settle the disputes along the North-South border, it won‚t provide credible solutions for other conflicts, such as Darfur. There has been limited recent progress, but much more is urgently needed.’ The Southern Kordofan state’s inhabitants are armed and feel abandoned by their former patrons, who have not kept their promises to provide peace dividends. Return of internally displaced persons (IDPs), development projects and creation of an integrated state government administration have all stalled. Hundreds have died in disputes over land and grazing rights, with no indication of a sustainable local or national response. There is still time to calm the situation before the elections. The NCP and SPLM must accelerate integration of the state government and combatants within the Joint Integrated Units and pursue disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programs. Reconciliation among the state‚s tribes is paramount. The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the wider international community also have vital roles to play in stabilising the state. UNMIS should become an active partner in local conflict prevention, along with the tribal authorities. Simultaneously, the CPA‚s international guarantors and Sudan‚s bilateral partners should press Khartoum to pay more attention to peacebuilding. ‘Prevention of a new conflict in Southern Kordofan needs to be placed prominently on both national and international agendas,’ says Francois Grignon, Crisis Group‚s Africa Program Director.’„It is dangerously late but not yet too late to show the frontline populations that a new war is not the way to address their grievances.'”
Neil MacFarquhar, “Memo From Abyei: Sudan’s Tug of War Over City Puts Treaty at Risk,” The New York Times, December 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/26/world/africa/26sudan.html?ref=africa, reports, “Much rides on the stability of the nearly four-year-old agreement between the Arab Muslim government in Khartoum and the former rebel movement in the mostly Christian and animist southern Sudan: considerable oil wealth; the calm, such as it is, in Sudan and several neighboring states; the future of Darfur. But Abyei, once a thriving city of 30,000, is now an empty, blackened wreck. It is still smoldering from the first significant outburst of sectarian violence since the peace pact was signed, an eruption last May that destroyed the town and emphasized the delicate health of the treaty.” John Holmes, the emergency relief coordinator for the United Nations commented, “It is fragile but it is fundamental; it is absolutely vital to get it right because if the North-South agreement fails, everything else will also fall apart” “If that goes, you can forget about Darfur; it is just a side show.” “While much of the world’s attention has been focused on the crisis in Darfur, the stakes are much higher in southern Sudan. At more than 40 years, the war in the south lasted longer and was far more brutal than what Darfur has endured. An estimated two million people were killed and some four million displaced in the 15 years before the 2005 treaty.” “The fear in the south is that some small spark – like the confrontation of a few soldiers at a checkpoint in Abyei last May – could reignite the conflagration not just in one town, but across the south. That in turn might draw in combatants from the governments or rebel movements in the countries around southern Sudan, few of them models of stability. They include Congo, the Central African Republic and Uganda. But since the two sides reached the peace agreement in 2005, the world has to some extent stopped paying attention.” “Both sides were dragging their feet in carrying out the peace plan, initially envisioned as a six-year transition culminating in a 2011 referendum on whether the south would achieve independence or Sudan would remain united. Complicated national elections are scheduled before that, with the date depending on an uncompleted census. In theory, there is a government of national unity from both sides overseeing it all, but Sudanese officials and diplomats point out that there is little real integration. That problem was particularly acute around Abyei. The shock of the violence finally prompted both sides to agree to a set of reinforced peace guidelines last June. Among other things, it calls for the integration of police and army units from the north and south, a process that still lags, and the sharing of oil revenues from the area, a continuing problem. Both sides also agreed to submit their border demarcation dispute around Abyei to international arbitration, with a decision due around next June. But progress is slow, and it is not hard to see why both sides would be stalling.” “The most significant oil resources in southern Sudan lie right along the still-unmarked border between north and south, with notable deposits underneath Abyei. The inability to agree on how to share that oil is holding up the peace process. As it stands now, though, if the south votes for independence in 2011, it will take some 80 percent of the reserves with it. It has no way of getting the oil out of the landlocked south without relying on the north, unless it wants to invest billions of dollars in precious resources in building a pipeline to the sea, most likely through Kenya. Thus, diplomats say they believe that the crucial piece of the plan stalling peace is the lack of a long-term deal for sharing oil revenues. ‘The fight over land on the border is a proxy discussion for the fight over oil,’ said Richard Williamson, President Bush’s special envoy for Sudan.”
The Darfur situation continues at crisis proportions, with still not enough peacekeeping troops or equipment for them, though, in November President Bush, announced that the U.S. was sending badly needed helicopters and other equipment, the United Nations African Union peace keeping was expanded in the last months of the year. On January 19, a top African Union Official announced that the peace keeping force would be expanded to its fully authorized level of 26,000 soldiers and police, by June, but more logistical support is need. UN spokesman Noureddin al-Mezini stated, “There is no peace for us to keep.” The International Criminal Court prosecutor, for the first time, in November, requested arrest warrants for Darfur rebels, accusing them of storming an African Union peace keeping camp in 2007 and killing 12 peacekeepers.
As the political crisis in Zimbabwe has continued with President Mugabe managing to cling to power for a seemingly impossible length of time, through various collapsed power sharing negotiations from which he has repeatedly backed away from settlements, the long deep economic and humanitarian crisis has been becoming more desperate, in recent months with a growing deadly cholera epidemic expanding into neighboring countries and threatening to spread much further, if not effectively dealt with at its source. The epidemic is the result of the continuing political and economic collapse bringing the failure of many local water systems in Zimbabwe, leaving large populations to find what polluted water they can.
As yet another last ditch effort to try to effect power sharing was about to unfold, ICG, “Ending Zimbabwe’s Nightmare: A Possible Way Forward,” December 16, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=5822, suggested, “A possible route to end Zimbabwe‚s nightmare is to quickly establish a non-partisan transitional administration to prepare for new presidential elections in eighteen months and address the disastrous humanitarian and economic conditions now facing the country.” “The inter-party negotiations to implement a power-sharing government under the Global Political Agreement are hopelessly deadlocked. The ZANU-PF regime has repeatedly violated the agreement’s premises by resuming a campaign of violence against Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters and making pre-emptive appointments. The MDC considers, reasonably, that without control of key ministries such as home affairs and treasury and a major share of senior civil service and security posts, it would be reduced to legitimizing the status quo. A new approach is required,” in the midst of “the meltdown of vital social services, a cholera epidemic that has claimed 1,000 lives, the flight of a third of the population and a third of its remaining citizens facing starvation.” “Zimbabwe‘s parliament – the only legally elected national institution – would prepare a constitutional amendment to establish the transitional administration and would select its head. Robert Mugabe would stand down, and the positions of president and prime minister would be left empty throughout the life of the transitional administration. Mugabe would be given constitutional guarantees against domestic prosecution and extradition. The notorious Joint Operations Command would be disbanded, and its current members would also benefit from these guarantees as long as they did not participate in activities threatening the country‚s stability. The international community should provide substantial assistance to support the transitional administration as it adopts sound and equitable economic policies and demonstrates that it is exercising executive authority.” Donald Steinberg, Crisis Group Deputy President for Policy, asserts, “It will take patriotism for Robert Mugabe to step aside and Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC to put their leadership aspirations on hold until new elections, but the crisis demands selfless statesmanship,” something that so far, has been quite absent.
ICG, “Liberia: Uneven Progress in Security Sector Reform,” January 13, 2009, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5867&l=1, “Liberia has gone far since Charles Taylor was overthrown, but its security reform has serious gaps, and the biggest challenges are just beginning.” “Despite real progress since the civil war ended in 2003, much more is required to counter public dissatisfaction with the police that has resulted in increasing resort to mob justice. The lack of an agreed strategic concept for use of the new security structures, including the army, means no one knows who would defend the country if a new insurgency broke out or instability spilled over its borders from neighbors.” “After the civil war, the UN, the U.S, and private military contractors set out to rebuild the police and army basically from scratch. The U.S sub-contracted army training to private military companies, in part because it was overstretched globally, and the State Department has provided shoddy oversight for the contractors‚ work. After multiple delays, there are now 2,000 rigorously vetted and trained privates but still only a handful of officers, and the force will probably be unable to work at brigade level before late 2010. Moreover, the government and donors need to do much more to nurture a managerial and leadership core, as well as develop threat assessments to serve as the basis for planning how to prepare and employ the new structures. The police have been recruited, vetted and trained to a far lower standard than the army. Despite the presence of honest and hardworking officers in the ranks, they are still widely considered ineffective and corrupt and are heavily criticised for allowing a recent spate of armed robberies. Dismal community relations and a belief that a still corrupt justice system often returns criminals to the streets within days of arrest have led to the burning of several police stations by angry crowds of citizens and the growth of vigilantism in Monrovia. ‘The police desperately need a combination of managerial expertise, strategic vision, and ˆ once benchmarks have been set for its use – a major increase in resources,’ warns François Grignon, Crisis Grou’‚s Africa Program Director. ‘Unless partners, especially the U.S. and the UN, maintain their efforts to make Liberia more secure and stable for the next few years, the investment made since the end of the war could easily unravel.'”
Raïs Neza Boneza, “The Al-Qaïda-ization of the Somali “Deegaan” conflict,” from Transcend Africa Network, http://www.transcend-nordic.org or www.transcendafrica.net (Mob: +479501673, Skype: rais29), writes “Already earlier in the 90’s; Somalia was engulfed in endless civil war. The clans have multiplied, the political chaos becomes total and, as usual, the population is the first victim. This conflict describes as chaotic and complex has evolved to be an ecological conflict in its early years. Clan and sub-clans shifting alliances has provoked a “deegaan” conflict; a land or resources based conflict. Multiple peace and reconciliation efforts have been held since 1991 with no much result. Shifting alliances were formed between different clans and sub-clans to gain control of strategic deegaan. In particular, the ecological conditions of the Jubaland region in southern Somalia are rich compared with the rest of the country, and provide a major source of income to Somalia. The conflict in Somalia has been basically portrayed as a conflict by warlords or barbaric groups by mainstream media and many academias until today. This vision on the conflict has neglected what was mostly a consequences of land and resources scarcity at it genesis (Deegan). Somalis are a pastoralist people; they speak the same language in majority and practice Islam as their religion. Some live in Ethiopia (Ethiopia-Somalia war 1977-1979), and Kenya, however a small minority of agriculturalist people lives near the Kenya border. The division in Somalia far from being ethnic, but are clan based. Lineages are the very major identity pattern. Such clan based society does not required state institutions to exist or function. It is a society with rules without ruler as describe in “A Pastoral Democracy” by I.M Lewis’ oxford press 1969. However some clans are disadvantaged due to their social status and thus their access to water and fertile land (Deegan). Since then the Somali conflict that was primarily ecologic (deegan) was internationalised in the 1990 until it become Bin laden-alized by 2006.” “The US intervention was the starting point of the internationalization the Somali conflict. The UN/US pursued an extensive military assault to occupy Somalia, and tried to disarm its population. This expensive and abortive aggression fuelled violence as it bought all the Somalis to fight and preserve their traditional system in self-defense.” “After the withdrawal of the US and UN troops between 1994 and 1995, General Aideed was deposed as chief of the Somali Alliance Congress. He refused and created a faction that elected him president, and captured the town of Baidoa; resuming in more clashes affecting Somalia export. Since then Somalia vanished in the spectrum of the Western media until it appear again after the 911 bombing in the U.S, Somalia is among evil countries that support or harbour terrorists according to the Bush administration. In 2004 with massive support of the west a transitional federal government (TFG) is formed in Kenya headed by the Ethiopian backed warlord Abdullahi Yusuf, in December same year Prime minister Mohamad Ali Gedi swears in 27 ministers in Kenya. The government will later have their first meeting home in Baidoa. The TFG weakness and unpopularity in Somalia will bring the US to support various groups fuelling more violence. In 2006, the Somalia Islamic Court Council (SICC) ceases Mogadishu, popular among the Somali, it implements the Sharia law and centralised the power. For the first time after 15 years the SICC bring in the lawless Somalia a “semblant” of peace and stability. Around June 2005, the SICC accused the TFG of selling out the country to foreign enemies, and called for jihad, warning that his faction would not be mere spectators in the Somali crisis. The threat of terrorism in Somalia is indeed a concern but the attempts to instrumentalized the conflict for political gain; by both Somalis leaders and their various backed exogenous supporters have increase its complexity. The main figure in the TFG are accused by many Somali of criminal activities such kidnapping, corruption and extortion. The TFG receive million of dollars from the international Community for their unaccountable use as the money affected to Somalia is not controlled by institution but by individuals.” Since 2006 Ethiopian troops, with U.S. support, entered Somalia, as did an African Union Force supporting the TFG and attempting to act as peacekeepers. But the TFG, and the external forces, have been strongly resisted. “The United Nations has been pushing a peace agreement in neighboring Djibouti that would see a ceasefire, a withdrawal of Ethiopian troops — the insurgents’ main allegation and concern — then bring some sort of power-sharing arrangement. But however much emphasize is put on moderate on both sizes, while hardliners stay strong in their position to fight. The violence is also affecting relief groups from helping Somalia’s several million refugees and displaced.” “After a decade of war and anarchy, no western power or specially the US or Britain may pretend to give a democratic lesson to Somalia… Somalia won its independence in the 1960 successfully, and through it 6 months Union of Islamic Court (UIC) has proven again that through debate and palaver, any people can decide the system and the leaders they aspire for. The UIC started with one court in the Neighborhood of Mogadishu, from the grassroots, inspiring other neighborhood to establish their own independent courts. At the end they created a committee to coordinate the structures. After providing law and order, it attracted business in the city, increasing the popularity and power of the courts. Eventually the court did not succeed in bringing in the flavor of tolerance and acceptance for peace instead they attracted unnecessary attention (religious extremism, bigotry etc..) bringing the war on terror to sabotage what the Somali grassroots have succeed to build after decade of near lawless society. Unlikely most intervention in other Africans country to end wars, Somalis seems anti-interventionists.” “For the sake of stability and Peace the Somali government should relinquish much of his power to localities or villages and let them decide the way the will be ruled. Lets them debates freely, and gather between elders, women, religious and business groups to decide who will be their leaders, how will they organize their security. The very Somalis way of clans and sub-clans consultation should be use such as the Xeer. In conclusion, Somalia should be left to make it own democracy, and that will be not necessary as a western-like of democracy.”
The fighting continues in Somalia, in January, as Ethiopian troops have left and the UN does not currently plan to send peace keepers, having put off doing so until June. In December, the Alhlu-Suma Wal Jama, newly militarized group, began attacking other Islamist militias, who it claims are heretics.
“Burundi’s rival ethnic groups learn to live side by side in UN-backed pilot project,” UN News Service, via Transcend Africa Network, http://transcendafrica.net/?p=214, October 4, 2008, informs, “Displaced people from Burundi’s rival Hutu and Tutsi groups are being resettled side by side under a pilot project funded by the United Nations refugee agency aimed at seeking reconciliation and binding up the wounds of decades of bloody ethnic violence in the small central African country. ‘The returnees and the displaced were, very much from the beginning, willing to live together,’ said Tony Garcia Carranza, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in the eastern provincial capital of Ruyigi, near the new village of Muriza. ‘We do not see any friction between both groups – it is really a non-issue.’ Conflict between the two groups since the early 1960s is estimated to have left more than a million dead and forced hundreds of thousands more to flee their homes in Burundi and its northern neighbor, Rwanda. Now UNHCR is creating Muriza as a village for 98 Burundian families, where members from both ethnic groups who sought shelter elsewhere in Burundi or in neighboring countries, can rub shoulders in peace.” “UNHCR thinks Muriza can be a model for other villages, providing homes and land for returning refugees and IDPs and helping to bring together Tutsis and Hutus. In cooperation with the Government and other partners, it is examining the possibility of expanding the project. ” “Since UNHCR started its voluntary repatriation operation in 2002, more than 450,000 refugees have returned to Burundi from Tanzania and other countries. Most IDPs have also gone home.”
“Muslim and Christian Leaders’ Dar-es-Salaam CommuniquÃ©,” Transcend Africa Network, October 5, 2008, http://transcendafrica.net/?p=220, states, that in October, Muslim and Christian clerics from six East African countries, in conference issued a communiqué reiterating their resolve to remain in unity and work with each other as partners in addressing regional religious, social, economic and political challenges. “Participants focused on the connections between religion and conflict prevention, conflict management, peace building and reconciliation in the region. Together, they rededicated themselves to remain in solidarity with each other in pursuit of peace, justice and reconciliation and reaffirmed that religious leaders have the utmost responsibility to ensure that justice and peace prevail in the region. They also called on political leaders and economic planners to engage religious figures in a constructive manner.” The conference was funded by TrustAfrica and organized by the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA), a pan-African Christian organization that promotes peace and peaceful co-existence among Christians, Muslims, and the wider society.
“Militants Kill 12 Mauritanian Soldiers in Ambush,” The New York Times September 15, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/world/africa/16mauritania.html?scp=1&sq=Militants%20Kill%2012%20Mauritanian%20Soldiers%20in%20Ambush&st=cse, reports, “Militants suspected to be from Al Qaeda killed 12 Mauritanian soldiers on Monday, two senior officials said. The attack, which came after the militants promised to avenge the military’s recent coup, was the worst suffered by the military in three years.” “Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa had called for a holy war to avenge the overthrow last month by the military of President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Mauritania’s first freely elected president.” “The United States had sent dozens of troops to train Mauritania’s military in the far northern deserts, hoping the country could act as a bulwark against the southward encroachment of militants linked with Al Qaeda in North Africa. The United States suspended those programs, along with more than $20 million in aid, after the August coup. In late 2007, gunmen believed to be linked to Al Qaeda murdered four French tourists, prompting organizers of the Dakar Rally auto race to cancel it this year.”
ICG, “Chad: A New Conflict Resolution Framework,” September 24, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5694&l=1, finds, “Chad will face continuing security threats and political crises unless Chadians adopt a new and inclusive approach toward national reconciliation, supported by the international community.” Violence has been escalating along with ethnic tensions, causing Crisis Group to recommend “a new and credible framework for negotiation to address the political and security crisis within the country and in the region. Far from setting Chad on the road to reform, the political agreement signed between the government and the political opposition on 13 August 2007 focused narrowly on electoral reforms and is incapable of providing the basis for fundamental shifts of governance. ‘Major rebel attacks on N‚Djamena just six months after the agreement, which was signed without an inclusive process of national consultation, proved that it cannot offer the way out of deep political crisis and end the armed rebellion,’ says Daniela Kroslak, Crisis Grou’s Africa Program Deputy Director. ‘The single-minded emphasis on this process, by the European Union and France in particular, must be reconsidered.’ Since the return to a multi-party system in 1990, power has been monopolized by a Zaghawa military clan headed by President Idriss Déby. Neither enhanced government revenues from newly exploited oil reserves, nor elections backed by Chad’s Western allies have brought democracy or improved governance. Sudan’s repeated attacks against refugee camps and Darfur rebels in Chad have exacerbated the crisis but did not cause it. Déby‚s decision to back Darfur’s Sudanese rebels became a central element to his political survival strategy. He found a new lease on life in portraying himself as a key asset to the West’s containment strategy against Khartoum and was emboldened by the deployment of two international peacekeeping operations in eastern Chad to protect 250,000 Darfuri refugees. A three-track process of dialogue and substantive action is needed. The first should build on the 2007 agreement by launching new political negotiations with broadened participation, including civil society. A second track should focus on the armed rebellion with the goal of establishing a genuine, permanent ceasefire and integrating rebel forces with the army. Under the supervision of the African Union, a third track should address longstanding disputes between Chad and Sudan, and seek to eliminate a pattern of proxy war and support for each other’s rebels. ‘Without real administrative, economic and security sector reform, Chad will continue to face alienation and recurring threats of violent political takeovers that have haunted the country for decades, says Francois Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director.'” At the beginning of September, the World Bank canceled its efforts to help Chad end poverty, by financing an oil pipeline, because the government, which received more than $1 billion last year in oil revenues “did not allocate adequate resources critical for poverty reduction.” (Lydia PolGreen, “World Bank Ends Effort To Help Chad Ease Poverty,” The New York Times, September 11, 2008).
Civil war continues to rage in Congo, with rebel groups committing civilian massacres and rapes. A UN report, in December, showed evidence of links between senior Congo and Rwanda officials and militias fighting in Eastern Congo. During a lull in the fighting, in November, rebel groups agreed to vacate some areas to allow aid workers to provide assistance in a situation of growing chaos. Lydia Polgreen Congo’s Riches, Looted by Renegade troops,” The New York Times, November 16, 2008, reports that militias have been mining valuable minerals in areas they control in the Congo. In January, there were reports that there were signs of a split in the Tutsi dominated rebel group CNDP. The government of Congo is reported as near collapse in the face of the rebel offensive. In November, the European Union was considering sending troops to Congo. On January 20 more than 1000 Rwandan troops moved into Congo as part of a joint Rwanda-Congo counter offensive against the rebels.
Emmanuelle Bernard, the West Africa analyst with the International Crisis Group International’s West Africa project, stated in Open Democracy, September 13, 2008, http://www.opendemocracy.net/, “Guinea-Bissau is most likely the world’s next narco-state. The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that much of the forty tons of cocaine that transits west Africa every year on its way from South America to Europe passes through the country. The traffickers are attracted by the weakness of Guinea-Bissua’s political and administrative institutions. For their part, aid donors – concerned by political instability and public mismanagement – have been reluctant to provide financial support to tackle these core weaknesses. A brief moment of hope in 2007 that this might change was crushed. It may not return soon.” In turn, the drug trafficking is further eroding the country’s institutions. “The full impact of the crisis will be felt in the run-up to the scheduled elections in November. The early signs are ominous. Soon after the dissolution of parliament, rumors spread in the capital of a coup plot instigated by the navy chief, Rear-Admiral Bubo Na Tchuto. He was quickly put under house- arrest by the head of the army, but he escaped and fled to neighbouring Gambia. There he was arrested again but continues to deny any involvement in plotting a coup. In a country where the army regularly intervenes in the political sphere and where divisions within the armed forces caused a full-blown war in 1998-99, these developments are disturbing. Whether this coup plot was real or imagined, in the present circumstances, the prospect of another coup attempt can hardly be dismissed.” “The cholera epidemic of August-September 2007 in Guinea-Bissua – and other health indicators such as maternal mortality – make clear the desperate health conditions of many people in the country and provides an immediate reason for the international community’s concern. But the world has a wider interest in the future of Guinea-Bissau. for the threat to it goes beyond the transnational effects of drugs; arms-traffickers have also settled down in the area and there is a high risk that terrorist networks may follow suit. Donors must not be satisfied with promises of elections and the occasional arrests of drug traffickers. This will not be enough to stop the criminalization of Guinea-Bissau’s state structures. While the international community cannot dictate how Guinea-Bissau should manage its internal politics, it should be made clear to the local leadership that political stability remains a prerequisite for continued financial assistance. Fundamental changes to the way in which the country is run are required now. Once criminalization has infected the state apparatus, the challenges become infinitely greater.”
A bloodless military coup by junior officers took place easily in Guinea, in late December, after the death of the nation’s long time ruler, who had not designated a successor. There appeared to be little unhappiness from the population at the take over. The new military ruling committee stated they would hold elections in two years. See Jeffrey Gettleman, “Military Coup Succeeds Easily in Guinea,” The New York Times, December 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/26/world/africa/26guinea.html?ref=world.
The Presidential run-off election in Ghana, in December, was mostly peaceful, as opposition candidate John Atta Mills was declared the winner. Voting in the Maldives first multi-party presidential election, in November, was extended to allow those waiting to vote to cast ballots. President Gayoom was running for a seventh term. In Angola, in September, the governing party was reelected by a landslide, in a peaceful election.
While piracy world-wide has declined in the last several years, piracy along the coast of Somalia – along critical trade routes south of the Suez Canal, has been increasing, undertaken by armed groups in small fast boats that are hard to keep track of. A number of major vessels, including a giant oil tanker, and a freighter filled with armaments, have been taken and held for ransom this year. A growing number of navies are moving to patrol the area, and to begin putting troops a shore to catch and dissuade pirates.
The United States established an African Command, for the first time coordinating U.S.
African military activity on the continent. In Mali, the U.S. military has been training
West African army personnel with the aim of staving off extremists.
Shawn Merrithew, “Teaching peace to child soldiers: Expert tells WHS students about rebuilding peaceful Sierra Leone after the horrors of decade-long war,” The Buggle Observer, in eastern Canada, December 23rd, 2008, http://bugleobserver.canadaeast.com/lifestyles/article/520009, reports on Thomas Turay’s talk on his work building a culture of peace with former child soldiers to try to stabilize war torn Sierra Leone.
Peace Education has been introduced as a compulsory subject in both primary and secondary schools in Kenya. The Ministry of Basic Education states introducing and requiring the subject is a response to post-election violence witnessed last year. Learners will go through a set of peace manuals prepared by the United Nations Children’s Fund and curriculum developers at the Kenya Institute of Education. For more information go to: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/476122/-/tkwi6l/-/ and http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/476096/-/tkwhkg/-/.
Developments in Latin America
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A report written, in November, by prominent former policy makers from the United States and Latin America by the Brookings Institution, for Barack Obama, urges greater attention to and engagement of Latin America, including with Cuba, where it suggests that all travel restrictions should be lifted. The writers condemned the war on drugs in Latin America as a failure and called for it to be revised. Proposed that the Congress should approve the Columbia Free Trade Agreement, to show the U.S. is reliable, but for the future urged ceasing to make bilateral agreements in favor of reviving the Doha Round of international trade negotiations.
The drug war in Mexico between the army and drug dealers – launched to end the drug trade and overcome the pervasive corruption of police and government officials – has been deadly, not only to drug dealers, some police and government officials, and a few soldiers, but to many civilians – whose civil rights have often been violated by the army (even as the government has been adding rights protections to the civilian justice process). As of December 2, the number of dead in the drug war in 2008 was listed as 5376, according to Mexico’s Attorney General, more than double the 2007 drug war fatalities, and the number appears likely to increase (Marc Lacey, “Killings in Drug War in Mexico Double in ’08,” The New York Times, December 9, 2008). However, all though they are mostly well known, virtually no local or national drug lords have yet been arrested or killed, nor has the kidnapping and murders by organized crime, that the military campaign was intended to greatly reduce, been stemmed. Mexican law makers, alarmed at the drug related violence, have been considering a large number of proposals to reduce violence, from banning sale of toy weapons – as an educational measure – to legalizing marijuana. Few of the proposals seem likely to come close to passing. U.S. police authorities and the Department of Home Land Security have been developing plans to rapidly meet any spillover of violence across the U.S. border, including having contingency plans for a U.S. military backup, if needed.
Haiti continues to be plagued by poverty, storms, instability and violence. ICG, “Reforming Haiti‚s Security Sector,” September 18, 2008, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5681&l=1, sees, ” Operations led by the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) largely disbanded armed gangs in the slums of Haiti‚s cities, but progress has been undermined by persisting crime, political instability and natural disasters.” “The fall of Prime Minster Jacques-Édouard Alexis during last Apri’s protests, the drawn-out negotiations between President René Préval and parliament over his successor and new Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louiss political difficulties have put Haiti’s fragile governance once again under severe strain. Drug traffickers, organized criminals and corrupt politicians have mobilized the population for their own benefit and a procession of hurricanes in August and September has caused enormous damage to Haiti’s physical infrastructure. HNP vetting needs to be concluded, the number of police cadets has to be increased and officers should receive further training in specific skills, including anti-kidnapping, riot control, counter-drug, border control, forensics and intelligence gathering and analysis. Special crime chambers ought to be created to try serious offenders, and the inhumane prison conditions have to be improved quickly. MINUSTAH should maintain its present military component but increase the number of international police, and deploy UN civil affairs and police personnel with special experience in border control to assist HNP units along the frontier with the Dominican Republic.” Markus Schultze-Kraft, Crisis Group’s Latin America Program Director. Believes, “Haiti urgently needs a professional HNP as a prerequisite and bulwark if the new government is to move the country, with MINUSTAH and donor help, toward stability. But it also needs a justice system capable of upholding the rule of law and programs that provide swift, visible relief to families enduring extremely harsh living conditions and natural disasters.”
In November, Nicaragua was shaken by violent protest with opponents of Sandinista President Daniel Ortega claiming angrily that he rigged the election of the Mayor of Managua, the capital. Before the election, Ortega limited the access of outside election observers. Critics claim that allowed the President to rig the voting.
Human Rights Watch reported, in October, that Columbia‘s President Alvaro Aribe, was attempting to undermine investigations of Paramilitary groups by Supreme Court Justices and prosecutors. The President has been attempting to have investigation removed from the court’s jurisdiction. In November, the Commander of the Army, General Mario Montotya, resigned in the midst of a scandal involving revelations that dozens of troops under his command killed civilians in order to inflate claims of how many insurgents or criminal gang members hey had killed. Also in November, there were riots in towns across southern Columbia for a number of days, that left at least two people dead, while 13 municipalities were under curfew, over the collapse of a pyramid investment scheme that had fleeced hundreds of people out of an estimated $270 million.
The crisis in Bolivia between the central government of President Evo Morales, representing the nation’s Indigenous and poor people, and the authorities in the tropical lowlands, lead by their wealthy constituents, has deepened. At the core of dispute is resistance in the Eastern departments, which produce most of Bolivia’s gas and food, to Mr. Morales’s attempts to redistribute petroleum royalties and to overhaul the Constitution to speed land reform and create a separate legal system for Bolivia’s indigenous majority. The polarization of the country intensified in August after Mr. Morales won 67 percent approval in a nationwide referendum on his continuing in office, and moving ahead with his policies, reflecting intense support for him in the rural highlands and in large cities such as La Paz and Cochabamba. But governors in the eastern departments who urge greater political and economic autonomy from Mr. Morales’s government were reaffirmed in their posts with similar margins. During the weekend of September 13, violent clashes in the northern Department of Pando in which farmers supporting the President were attacked, left 15 dead. Relative calm returned to the department after Mr. Morales declared martial law there and troops dispatched from La Paz seized the airport and other facilities in Cobija, the departmental capital. The department governor, Leopoldo Fernández, was arrested, charged with fomenting was a massacre carried out partly by “Peruvian and Brazilian mercenaries” hired by the governor. Mr. Fernández denied the accusation, asserting that the deaths resulted from clashes between antigovernment protesters and the president’s supporters. Meanwhile, threat of unrest persisted in other parts of Bolivia, and political leaders in the tropical lowlands bordering on Brazil said they would resume protests if killings in Pando continued. Elsewhere in mid-September,, Antigovernment sentiment festered in the lowlands, while regional leaders demanded that control of federal office buildings, ransacked and looted in Santa Cruz by protesters the week before the deadly Pando clashes, be returned to the central government. For example, the headquarters of the federal land reform office remained shut, its windows shattered. Municipal guards stood in front of the building, next to graffiti reading, “Evo murderer.” Morales supporters in Plan 3000, a Santa Cruz slum, vowed to retaliate if the buildings were not quickly returned to the federal government. “We’re prepared to take back those buildings with rocks, machetes, clubs, any weapon at our disposal,” said Eduardo Rodríguez Puma, who leads youth brigades in Plan 3000. In this situation, President Morales called for discussions with the opposition governors. Previous attempts at negotiation have not been fruitful. Mario Cossío, the governor of Tarija Province, came alone, representing three other governors opposed to the president’s socialist reforms and who want a bigger share of energy resources for their regions. Mr. Morales stated, afterwards, that the meeting was a good beginning toward working out a resolution to the conflict.
Bolivians will go to he polls January 25, to vote on President Morales draft constitution, which was approved to go on the ballot, with some modifications, in October. The new constitution provides autonomy for indigenous groups and opens the way for more socialist reforms by a president who has already moved to nationalize the nation’s energy and telecommunications sectors. Morales accepted modifications of several of the constitution’s more controversial sections, including those covering land reform and the authority of indigenous courts, which would augment the government judiciary. Morales, also compromised on term limits, agreeing that he would be allowed to seek reelection to one five-year term, instead of the originally proposed two additional consecutive terms. Most analysts expect the constitution to be approved by the public. Morales would then probably stand for reelection the following December.
More specifically, the text of the new Bolivian Constitution designates the Bolivian state as “pluri-national” (a nation composed of many nations) in recognition of the country’s 36 pre-Columbian indigenous nations and Afro-Bolivians. Article 5 specifies, “The official languages of the State are Spanish and all the languages of the indigenous peoples and nations. The pluri-national Government and the departmental governments must use at least two official languages, one of which must be Spanish and the other will be chosen taking into account the use, convenience, circumstances, necessities and preferences of the population.” Included are some of the rights outlined in the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which supports indigenous self-government and self-determination. Article 289 in the constitution states, “Rural indigenous autonomy consists of self-government and the exercise of self-determination for rural indigenous nations and native peoples who share territory, culture, history, language, and unique forms of juridical, political, social, and economic organization.” Indigenous people organized in an autonomous territory are recognized as having the right to write their own statutes, as long as these do not violate any laws or the constitution. Indigenous communities are empowered to decide how to manage economic and other development, including how to administer local natural resources. Local indigenous governments may also levy some taxes and appropriate the funds. Fulfilling a long-standing demand of Indigenous groups, the constitution upholds the right of autonomous indigenous territories to carry out community justice according to their traditional practices, so long as government laws are not violated. The state is required to fulfill a new set of responsibilities. Citizens have the right to water, food, education, health care, housing, retirement, electricity, telecommunications, and other basic services. The state has the obligation to insure access to such basic services in an efficient and equitable manner. Education must be free and health insurance must be universal. Article 20 establishes access to water and sewage systems as human rights and bans the privatization of these services. Access is guaranteed to pharmaceuticals with the state prioritizing the domestic production of generic drugs. Access to drugs “cannot be restricted by intellectual property rights or commercialization,” and “It is the responsibility of the State to promote and guarantee the respect, use, research, and practice of traditional medicine.” The new constitution mandates the creation of a register of natural medicines as the cultural patrimony of Bolivia’s indigenous people. Article 349 declares, “Natural resources are the inalienable and indivisible property and direct dominion of the Bolivian people and will be administrated, in the collective interest, by the State.” YPFB, the state oil and gas company, will be in charge of the entire productive chain (exploration, exploitation, commercialization), although it is authorized to sign contracts with private companies allowing their participation in productive activities. Both YPFB and Bolivia‘s state mining company are legally barred from privatization. The draft constitution contains provisions that strengthen women’s rights, but does not provide for abortion or same-sex marriage or civil unions. Article 14 prohibits discrimination based on sex, gender identity, or sexual preference. And article 15 contains language against familial and gendered violence. Article 48 guarantees equal remuneration for men and women with the same job. Also required is equal participation of women and men in Bolivia’s Congress. A few protections are included for workers rights, without fundamentally altering worker-employer relations. The right to strike and form unions are recognized, while Article 49 states, “The State will protect job stability. Unjustified firing and all forms of labor abuse are prohibited.” Article 54 establishes that workers in businesses that are going bankrupt or are abandoned in “an unjustified way” will be able to take over such enterprises, with State support, and turn them into “community or social” business if such action is in accord with the law and the public interest. Environmental rights are also included. “all forms of economic organization have the obligation to protect the environment” and it is required that the state and population conserve, protect and sustainably exploit natural resources and biodiversity “in order to maintain equilibrium with the environment.” It remains to be seen how these general terms will be applied, and to what extent corporations and Bolivia’s state-owned enterprises will be held accountable for their environmental impact, particularly in light of the importance of natural resource extraction for state coffers. Following in Ecuador’s footsteps, article 10 of the new constitution explicitly prohibits foreign military bases on Bolivian soil, stating, “Bolivia is a pacifist State” and the country “rejects all wars of aggression as an instrument to solve differences and conflicts between states.” If the constitution is approved, the meaning and application of many of these generally stated provisions will have to be worked out in what will likely be a hotly contested political process, and in the courts, which currently are in disarray. If the judicial system is not repaired, political issues will be harder to resolve, and will likely become more contentious. For more go to Patrick J. Mcdonnell and Oscar Ordonez “Bolivia legislators agree to put draft constitution before voters,” Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/2008/oct/22/world/fg-bolivia22; and Alex van Schaick “Bolivia’s New Constitution,” NACLA, January 21, 2009, http://nacla.org/node/5437.
Heinz Dieterich, a Mexico-based political analyst who writes about leftist movements in Latin America, commented “You have a conflict between a constitutional national power and a de facto regional power that can only be resolved by constitutional force. If Evo does not use the judiciary and the military, there is no way he can govern.” In this kind of crisis, there is always the question of how loyal the Bolivian military would be. In September, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Mr. Morales’s leading international ally, warned that Venezuela could intervene militarily in Bolivia if Mr. Morales were toppled. Shortly thereafter, Chavez said that the Bolivian military seemed to be on strike, allowing instability to continue in some areas. But Mr. Chávez said that hoped a then pending meeting of South American leaders in Santiago, Chile could alleviate the tension. Bolivia‘s neighbors have become increasingly concerned by the conflict in Bolivia, looking to Brazil to mediate between Mr. Morales and his regional opponents, even though leaders in the eastern lowlands are irked by the Brazilian president’s support for Mr. Morales. Shipments of Bolivian natural gas to Brazil were interrupted last week after saboteurs caused a pipeline explosion in the southern department of Tarija.
In the midst of the Bolivian crisis, relations between it and the United States have also deteriorated. In mid-September, President Morales expelled the American Ambassador, Philip S. Goldberg, accusing him of supporting groups seeking greater political autonomy in the lowlands, charging that anti-drug projects financed by United States Agency for International Development had been used to foment rebellion. USaid – claiming to help wide variety of economic interests in Bolivia, does give financing to some opposition groups. The charge has veracity, given the long history of U.S. involvement in Latin American internal politics, including recent support to groups attempting oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez acted in solidarity with Morales, expelling the American ambassador to Venezuela, while Honduras declined to approve the arriving American ambassador. In October, the U.S. suspended Bolivia‘s participation in the trade deal with Andean nations, on the grounds Bolivia was not doing enough to combat drug production and trafficking. Meanwhile, stating concern over the safety of American citizens in Bolivia, as violence rises, the Peace Corps suspended its operations in Bolivia, evacuating 113 volunteers there to Peru, while the U.S. Embassy in La Paz authorized the departure of nonessential personnel. In addition, the Bush administration determined that the country, a major producer of coca, the raw ingredient of cocaine, was no longer cooperating in anti-drug efforts, which could jeopardize about $30 million a year in American counter narcotics aid to Bolivia. Felipe Cáceres, a coca grower in charge of Bolivia’s anti-drug operations, stated that Bolivia might secure new anti-drug money from Russia, adding that the Russian embassy had broached the possibility of offering equipment like helicopters to help interdiction efforts. At the same time, Mr. Morales has fortified ties with Venezuela, Iran and Cuba. Moreover, South American leaders excluded the United States from talks in Chile, to try to solve the Bolivian crisis. For more information see the following New York Times articles (among others), Simon Romero, “A Crisis Highlights Divisions in Bolivia,” The New York Times, September 14, 200, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/15/world/americas/15bolivia.html?scp=4&sq=&st=nyt, and Simon Romero, “Bolivian Troops Arrest Governor of Rebellious Region,” September 16, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/17/world/americas/17bolivia.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Bolivian%20Troops%20Arrest%20Governor%20of%20Rebellious&st=cse&oref=slogin, and Reuters, “Bolivian Leader and Rival Talk in Wake of Violence,” September 13, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/world/americas/14bolivia.html?scp=5&sq=&st=nyt,
Venezuela is set to vote, February 15, on a constitutional amendment that would remove term limits on the office of President. The issue has been hotly contested, including demonstrations, which turned into riots, by opponents of President Hugo Chavez, in January. In November, Chavez won a huge victory in local elections, with his party winning 17 of 22 governorships, 80% of municipal posts, and a majority in all but 3 state legislatures, with a voting turnout of 62%, 20 points above that of the previous local elections in 2004. For an analysis of Venezuelan political developments, encompassing the election, see, Steve Ellner, “Chavez Wins Again: Venezuelans Continue to Support Socialist Leader Despite Corruption Fears,” In These Times, January, 2009. Amidst the global financial crisis and falling oil prices – the major source of national income – inflation in Venezuela rose to an 11 year high of 30.9%, in early January.
Helga Serrano Narváez, “Ecuador Seeks Non-payment of Illegitimate Foreign Debt,” Americas Updater, November 25, 2008, http://app.streamsend.com/c/1961091/31301/jqRxY60/iKs8?redirect_to=http%3A%2F%2Famericas.irc-online.org%2Fam%2F5695%3Futm_source%3Dstreamsend%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_content%3D1961091%26utm_campaign%3D%255BAmericas%2520Updater%255D%2520Obama%2520and%2>http://americas.irc-online.org/am/5695, reports, “Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced on Nov. 20 that his government ‘will seek to not pay the illegitimate, corrupt, and illegal foreign debt,” while at the same time demanding sanctions for those guilty of a series of irregularities in the accumulation of the Ecuadorian foreign debt. He said that “its weight should be transferred in equal parts to those who were responsible for acquiring it with dishonesty, blackmail, and betrayal. Each person will have to take responsibility and pay the corresponding amount with their own assets.’ This was the Ecuadorian president’s response after the official presentation of the final report from the Public Credit Audit Commission (Comision para la Auditoria Integral del Crédito Pública, CAIC) audit regarding Ecuador’s foreign debt. It’s important to note that this is the first official audit that has ever taken place to determine responsibility for the debt. Among the main conclusions, the Commission pointed out that an “incalculable fraud” was produced during the process of borrowing and renegotiation of the debt. President Correa informed sources that he would promote the creation of an International Tribunal for Arbitration of Sovereign Debt in the United Nations and a reform of the international financial framework, through which it will be possible to arrive a comprehensive solution to the problem of foreign debt.”
In Peru, where, where President Morales’ approval rating had dropped to about 20%, in October, there were angry demonstrations – with some clashes with police and dozens of injuries – in five provinces. In one place crowds threatened politicians, in another they set fire to a police station, and elsewhere there were demands that more money from national taxes on local mining go to the localities.
In Paraguay, where the election of left oriented President Fernando Lugo, in April, has given hope to, and encouraged action by, landless peasants. This has caused tensions, and clashes, near the Brazilian border, where many landless peasants seek farmland from large farms owned by Brazilians. Many of the farmers are squatting, and some of the farmers have hired militias. The government said in October, that it would enforce a law making it illegal for foreigners to purchase farmland from citizens. The situation has also raised tensions between Paraguay and Brazil., with Brazil‘s army carrying out some maneuvers near the border, in October. Brazil has also begun increasing the size of its armed forces and buying sophisticated weapons and aircraft. This includes a $12 billion defense agreement with France, in December. that will allow Brazil to develop a sophisticated arms industry, including building a nuclear submarine. This has been a general policy aimed at making the country better able to fulfill its international and domestic obligations.
UN and Other International Developments
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The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) was launched in Vienna, Austria, in September, as a forum for nuclear security professionals from around the world, to bolster efforts to prevent theft of nuclear material that could be used as weapons by governments or organizations. In October, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradel, said that the number of reported thefts of nuclear or radioactive material around the world was, “disturbingly high.” During the year ending in June, 250 such thefts were reported, with most of the missing material not recovered. The amount of stolen nuclear material remains small with all of what was taken in the past year not enough to construct even one atom bomb. But the amount taken is rising. The thefts occur everywhere, but mostly in the former Soviet Union.
In November, Catholic and Muslim leaders met to improve interfaith relations, and develop a plan for a high level seminar. Later in the month, however, the Pope said in a letter that there are limits to interfaith dialogue, because one cannot go beyond a certain point without ‘putting one’s faith in parenthesis.’
Benedict Carey, “Tolerance Over Race Can Spread, Study Says,” The New York Times, November 7, 2008, reports recent studies show that racial prejudice can be overcome, and tolerance spread, by establishing relationships.
In September, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, announced that the UN had received pledges of an additional $16 billion for food, health and other programs indicating that the world financial crisis would not impair aid efforts. But other UN officials remained concerned that not all needs would be able to be filled.
The 19 member Paris Club of nations has agreed to cancel the remaining 20% of Iraq‘s international debt of about $8 billion.
The World Bank announced, in August, that it found that more people around the globe were living in extreme poverty than previously thought, when it adjusted its poverty level standard from $1.00 to $1.25 a day, which seemed proper from examining current price data, The shift shows that in 2005 their were 1.4 billion people – one-quarter of the developing world – living in extreme poverty in the 10 to 20 poorest countries. In 2007 there were 1 billion people living on no more than $1 a day.
A World Health Organization (WHO) report, made public in October, indicated that life expectancy between rich and poor has increased to as much as 40 years in some nations. This disparity can be found not only within and between countries, but within cities
U.S. and Canada Developments
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<What difference will it make to U.S. foreign policy that Barack Obama has been elected U.S, President? Some of his statements in the campaign and during the transition, together with his record in Congress give some indications. Both in the campaign and in developing an economic stimulus package, the President elect has emphasized green economic development and acting strongly to limit global warming. The question is to what extent an in just what ways. He has said he will close the prison at Guantanimo Bay, and both his statements and his Justice Department and CIA appointments indicate that he opposes torture and the Bush Administration’s reductions of civil rights, and related increases in government security power. On his first day in office, Obama ordered Guantnimo Bay closed in no more than one year. It is well known that he has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning and wants to remove U.S. combat troops from the country within months while putting more effort into the war in Afghanistan, including putting in more troops. What is not clear is to what extant he will take a different approach to dealing with Afghanistan. It is clear that Obama wants to take a much more collaborative approach to dealing with world issues, with more expression of respect for all countries, and a greater emphasis on diplomacy. This includes directly engaging Iran – with respect – while making clear the U.S. has certain expectations, including gaining assurance that Iran will not develop atomic weapons. Obama has said that he strongly supports the security of Israel, and likely will be more engaged in finding a Middle East peace. But what his policy will be toward the government of Israel will be is unclear, as it is not clear what he believes is in Israeli (as well as U.S.) real interest. This author guesses the new President be more willing to act to restrain Israel than President Bush has been, but it remains to be seen just how and to what extent. Prior to the serious financial collapse, which Obama has stated will delay or moderate some of his goals, he has said that he intended to double United States annual investment in foreign assistance from $25 billion in 2008 to $50 billion by the end of his first term and make the UN Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, America’s goals. He said he would fully fund debt cancellation for Heavily Indebted poor nations in order to provide sustainable debt relief and invest at least $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS, including a fair U.S. share of the Global Fund. Obama has said he will expand prosperity in poor nations by establishing an Add Value to Agriculture Initiative, creating a fund that will extend seed capital and technical assistance to small and medium enterprises, and reforming the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He said he would launch the Global Energy and Environment Initiative to ensure African countries have access to low carbon energy technology and can profitably participate in the new global carbon market so as to ensure solid economic development even while the world dramatically reduces its greenhouse gas emissions. Obama also favored strengthening the African Growth and Opportunity Act to ensure that African producers can access the U.S. market and will encourage more American companies to invest on the African continent. Obama’s Record as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee showed that he fought to focus America’s attention on the challenges facing Africa – stopping the genocide in Darfur, passing legislation to promote stability in the Congo and to bring a war criminal to justice in Liberia, mobilizing international pressure for a just government in Zimbabwe, fighting corruption in Kenya, demanding honesty on HIV/AIDS in South Africa, developing a coherent strategy for stabilizing Somalia (http://transcendafrica.net/?p=191). Obama also has promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but recently stated this may be delayed by the need to focus on the economic crisis (http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=vuL9764FHkms6Zk8RrwHCze9a7TNTISS). Obama has shown a leaning toward engaging Cuba diplomatically and removing the current travel ban to that country. Obama has stated that his administration will respect and rely upon good science, as has been demonstrated, initially, by his choices for science advisors.
It also seems likely that Obama will respond favorably to a report, “Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World,” produced by 34 leaders drawn from religious, business, military, foreign policy, academic, foundation and nonprofit circles. The group included Democrats, such as Madeleine K. Albright, who was secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, and two former Republican congressmen, Vin Weber and Steve Bartlett, as well as Thomas Dine, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America. One-third of the group were Muslim Americans. The members were selected by the sponsoring organizations, Search for Common Ground and the Consensus Building Institute, which both promote nonviolent conflict resolution. Calling for an overhaul of American strategy to reverse the spread of terrorism and extremism, the report recommends more diplomatic engagement, including with Iran and other adversaries, and a major investment in economic development in Muslim countries to create jobs for alienated youth. It calls on the next president to use his Inaugural Address to signal a shift in approach, to immediately renounce the use of torture, and to appoint a special envoy within the first three months to jump-start negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the Republican leader of the Foreign Relations Committee, has sent the report to his colleagues with a letter saying it contains “constructive recommendations on how we can approach this pressing concern in a bipartisan framework.” For more, see Laurie Goodstein, “Report Seeks Engagement with Muslims by Diplomacy,” the New York Times, September 23, 2008, or go to: http://www.sfcg.org.
Under a 2004 presidential order allowing strikes against ‘terrorist’ groups in 15-20 nations, without their permission, the U.S. military and/or the CIA has carried out nearly one dozen previously undisclosed attacks against al Queda and other groups in Syria, Pakistan and other nations Ceric Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti. Secret Order Lets U.S. Raid al Qaeda in Many Countries,” The New York Times, November, 10, 2008).
U.S. international arms sales rose from $12 billion in fiscal year 2005 to $32 billion in FY 2007.
The FBI has confirmed Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) findings that the number of raciest extremists joining the military has increased, particularly as recruiting standards dropped, and that a number of extremist groups encourage member to enter the military to learn combat skills and gain access to weapons and explosives. SPLC reports that from 2003 to 2007 that the number of hate crimes against Latinos rose 40%, along with an increase in anti-immigrant propaganda, while the number of known hate groups rose from 602 in 2000 to 888 in 2007 (“Intelligence Briefs,” SPLC Report, Winter 2008).
Solomon Moore, “F.B.I. Finds Slight Decrease in Violent Crime for 2007,” The New York Times, September 15, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/us/16crime.html?scp=1&sq=FBI%20Finds%20Slight%20Decrese%20in%20Violent%20Crime%20for%202007&st=cse, reports that the Uniform Crime Report indicated that “Violent crime declined slightly in 2007, reversing a two-year rise, and property crimes declined for a fifth straight year.” Violent crimes, crimes include murder, manslaughter, rape and assault, all decreased, over all by 0.7%. Also decreasing in 2007 were property crimes, by 1.4%, with drops in every crime category – burglary, larceny and theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The property crime category was lead by auto theft which dropped 8.1%. “Cities with 250,000 people or more saw significant decreases in all categories of crime, while smaller cities and towns experienced increases in homicides and robberies. There were 16,929 murders in 2007, compared with 17,030 in 2006, and 90,427 rapes in 2007, compared with 94,347 in 2006, although neither number decreased below 2005 levels. Burglaries and robberies also did not fall below 2005 levels, but big decreases in larceny, theft and motor vehicle theft led to the overall decrease in property crimes since 2002. Firearms remained the weapon of choice for most homicides in most states in 2007. In Alaska, however, there were 43 homicides, and nearly as many homicides were committed using fists and feet (12) as were committed with handguns (13).” Erick Eckholm, “Murder by Black Teenagers Rise This Decade, Bucking Trend,” The New York Times, December 29, 2008, announces a report showing that while homicide rates generally went down, murders committed by Black teenagers rose 34% from 2000 to 2007. The report suggested that the main cause was reduced federal support for community policing, juvenile crime prevention, after school and other social programs, and weakening of gun laws.
At a time when there is an increase in hate crimes against immigrants to the U.S., it is noteworthy that Contrary to popular stereotypes assuming that areas undergoing immigration are associated with higher crime rates, a study by Harvard University sociologist Robert Sampson, published in the winter issue of the American Sociological Association’s Contexts magazine, shows that such areas experience lower violence. Sampson’s article summarizes patterns from seven years’ worth of violent acts in Chicago committed by whites, blacks and Hispanics from 180 neighborhoods of varying levels of integration, along with recent data from police records and the U.S. Census for all communities in Chicago. Sampson finds that concentrated immigration predicts lower rates of violence across communities in Chicago, with the relationship strongest in poor neighborhoods, with violence significantly lower among Mexican-Americans compared to blacks and whites. A PDF of the article can is available at: http://contexts.org/articles/files/2008/01/contexts_winter08_sampson.pdf. Further information on Contexts can be found at: http://www.contexts.org.
The Honeywell company of Morris Township, NJ announced, in September, that it has found a way to make nitrogen fertilizer useless as an explosive, and better for some crops.