UN peacekeeping

This week in conflict…

This week in conflict…

World

  • The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative has recently launched its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a new way to measure poverty in the world. The MPI expands on the previous Human Development Index (HDI) and includes 10 indicators of health (child mortality and nutrition), education (years of schooling and child enrollment) and standard of living (access to electricity, drinking water, sanitation, flooring, cooking fuel and basic assets like a radio or bicycle).
  • The UN is set to transform the way it deploys peacekeeping missions around the world to ensure field operations have the support they need and to improve efficiency and effectiveness of services.

North America

South America

Middle East

  • A suicide bomb attack in Yemen wounded 8 soldiers on Tuesday after an attack on security forces. Al Qaeda has been held as the main suspect of the bombing. The country’s Shi’ite rebels released 100 soldiers and pro-government tribesmen captured in last month’s clashes, a second move towards cementing a fragile truce in the north of the country. Three soldiers were killed at a checkpoint on Thursday in a suspected al Qaeda attack.
  • A gunmen killed five police officers at a Baghdad checkpoint on Tuesday. The attacks took place just after mortar rounds had hit the area. A roadside bomb and then a car bomb killed 12 people and wounded at least 55 in a busy commercial area of Kut.
  • Israel launched a series of air attacks against the Gaza Strip injuring many Palestinians, which they say was in response to a rocket that hit the city of Ashkelon on Friday. Another rocket, possibly coming from Egypt, slammed into a Jordanian Red Sea resort on Monday. It was thought that the rocket was supposed to hit a nearby Israeli resort but went astray. Another explosion, meant to kill the senior Hamas commander in the Gaza Strip on Monday, instead wounded at least 31 people. At least five rockets were fired at the southern Israeli city of Eilat in response. On Wednesday Israeli shellfire killed a Palestinian militant and wounded another on the Gaza strip in an attempt to stop a group of Palestinians who Israel claims had approached the Gaza border fence.
  • Fighting erupted at the Lebanese-Israeli border on Tuesday between the Lebanese and Israeli armies. An Israeli patrol was said by the Lebanese to cross the border unannounced in order to remove a tree that was blocking their visibility, wherein, the Lebanese army began firing rocket propelled grenades. In response, the Israelis fired two missiles at a Lebanese army post killing at least 4 people. Israel claimed they were fired upon while engaged in “routine activity” and threatened retaliations against Lebanon should violations continue.

Asia

  • Recent floods in the Koreas have led land mines from North Korea to wash ashore on South Korean riverbanks, and beaches, causing at least one death.
  • Government troops fired into crowds of protesters demonstrating against round-the-clock curfews early this week in Indian-administered Kashmir, resulting in the death of at least 4 people. Violence has been escalating in recent weeks, with as many as 47 protesters killed in the last week.
  • At least 80 people have been injured during textile workers protests in Bangladesh this week, demanding an increase of their minimum wage (currently around $24 a month) to a livable salary. The workers make clothing for international brands like Marks & Spencer, JCPenney, Wal-Mart and H&M.
  • Afghanis rioted in Kabul setting fire to two US embassy vehicles after NATO SUVs collided with a civilian car killing a number of passengers. A suicide car bomber killed at least 5 children in the southern Kandahar province on Monday and more suicide bombers attacked an air base in Kandahar on Tuesday. A deadly attack on an Afghan-NATO convoy resulted in the deaths of at least 7 police officers. July was hailed as the deadliest month for American forces with a death toll of 66. The Dutch mission in Afghanistan has officially ended and their withdrawal has begun.
  • Nepal’s parliament failed to elect a new Prime Minister on Monday for the third time in less than two weeks, further delaying a peace process that ended a decade-long civil war.
  • Four people were killed in Turkey Monday night after Kurdish separatists attacked a police station with a rocket launcher and automatic weapons. Violence has been said to be increasing on military targets, with nearly 100 soldiers dead since calling off a unilateral ceasefire at the start of June.
  • At least 70  people were killed in Karachi, Pakistan by violent mobs this week following the assassination of a member of the provincial Sindh Assembly from the Muttahida Quami Movement. A suicide bomber killed a police officer in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday, and wounded at least 4 other people; and at least six people were wounded after a grenade was hurled at a mosque during prayers later that evening.
  • Another school attack in a kindergarten in China has led to the deaths of at least 4 people; one teacher and 3 children. This is the sixth in a string of school assaults this year. In an attempt to reduce crime, the poor in Beijing are being locked inside their neighbourhoods at night. Officials call the project “sealed management”.
  • China is said to be developing an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 km.
  • A battle between Indian police and Maoist fighters flared on Wednesday when a police patrol was ambushed in the central state of Chhattisgarh. No word on on the number of casualties has yet been released.
  • The controversial death of Papuan activist Yawan Wayeni was broadcast over the internet, sparking outrage in Jakarta. Police officers taunted him as he lay dying from wounds they had inflicted upon him. The original story surrounding the death of Wayeni, who was killed almost a year ago, suggested that he had been shot while resisting arrest and died on the way to the hospital. Video shows that he was tied to a log and forced to chant before his abdomen was sliced with a bayonet.
  • South Korea has begun naval drills of its western coast. North Korea warned that it will counter any reckless naval firing with strong physical retaliation.
  • Two people died in a bombing at an airport in the Philippines on Thursday. 24 people were injured.
  • Around 1,000 demonstrators were prevented from entering Bishkek to attend a rally in the capital on Thursday and another 3,000 demonstrators are said to have amassed near parliament. National Security Services said that the demonstrators planned to demand the installation of a local politician in a position of power or else seize power themselves. Later, the Kyrgyz authorities arrested opposition leader Urmat Baryktabasov and more than 20 of his supporters on suspicion of a coup plot.

Africa

Europe

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What to do about blood minerals in the DR Congo.

I  may have spoken too hastily in the past regarding conflict resources in the DR Congo. My rage at the inherent abuse led me to think that boycotting and protesting companies was perhaps the best way to go. I realize now, that I was wrong. Starting with the last steps in the chain is the wrong approach to this problem.

Over the past six years, I have delved into this subject more than any other and have even gone so far as to ban all products for my personal use if I didn’t know EXACTLY where they came from and what effect they had. I still feel comfortable with this personal decision. I have become essentially a non-consumer (except for second hand goods) and I like it that way because I cannot fathom my personal choices causing pain in others and could not live with myself and my luxuries at that expense. As such, I’ve taken to growing almost all of my own food, having friends make me new clothes from reclaimed fabric or hitting the second hand shop and living a pretty austere life away from any new fangled gadgets. I have been mocked by other friends who suggest I now live in the stone age (not quite, I still have many older modern conveniences such as my laptop that I’ve had for the past 8 years– she runs just fine!). Frankly, that doesn’t bother me. I enjoy being connected to what I produce and what I consume. It makes me feel whole, but it’s definitely not a plausible life choice for everyone.

Over the past several months, it has become blatantly clear to me that boycotts will not improve the situation for those in the DR Congo, in fact, it will only make things worse for the people on the ground. Nor will creating a certification-scheme for “fair trade” products to help ban all blood minerals and metals. Lobbying governments or companies will create further awareness on the issue, perhaps bringing much needed funding for Congolese humanitarian projects, but it won’t make the lives of the people any better and it won’t stop conflict resources from flooding the market.

It’s hard for me to admit this, especially since I have so vehemently proposed such things in the past and now feel stupid for doing so. I ask myself, how did I not come to this conclusion earlier? The evidence was all there, I was reading it daily, but these conclusions made me feel helpless. Boycotting and calling the governments and companies to change made me more able to do something about the problem. Again, I feel helpless and feel like I am starting from scratch.

So what can people in North America do?

I still advocate that people should be aware of what they are purchasing. They should know that when they buy luxuries, they are affecting more than just their pocketbook. They should not over-consume, and skyrocket demand for mining and resource extraction that may cause environmental degradation, abuse or suffering. But what can they do directly about the problem?

In a country where corruption is king, and violence rampant– certification schemes are going to be corrupted. One only has to look to the Kimberley Process and the recent problems in Zimbabwe to realize that certifications schemes are not all they are cracked up to be. Until corruption and governance can be stabilized, a certification scheme is out of the question. So should we just ban all such resources from the areas of fighting in the DRC?

Criminalizing imports in an area where the majority of the population is reliant on revenues from mineral exports means that the local economy would experience rapid devaluation of their currency, suddenly making their basic needs completely unaffordable. It will also push illegal trade much further underground, making it much harder to track and people will still be subject to abuse for the sake of minerals. These minerals will still end up in our market, only they will have gotten there through much shadier means.

The new Bill C-300 on the table in Canada will open channels for victims of human rights abuses at the hands of Canadian corporations acting overseas and in theory allow them to have more access to justice. The bill would allow guilty companies to be sanctioned, their support withdrawn from Export Development Canada (EDC), as well as any investment by the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in their company shares. In practice, however, given the high risk nature and generally small size of extractive companies, they do not generally even receive EDC funding or CPP investment. Mining companies could feel the sanctions, but as the bill is a private member’s bill, it will not likely be receiving the financial resources it needs to adequately make this function-able in the first place. Not to mention that the average person living in the DRC would probably not even be aware of the existence of said bill to even begin to file a complaint. In its current form, the Bill is clearly problematic and will have little effect on the well-being of the affected population.

The American Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 is meant to push companies to report on any minerals used in their products coming from conflict areas and describe the steps they took to ensure the minerals procurement did not support arms groups. All information would be public for citizens so that they could make their purchasing choices accordingly. This will result in essentially boycotting minerals from the DRC since the cost to the companies will increase with their use and people will avoid buying from companies who use potentially conflict-laden materials. Boycotts, as mentioned above, will have devastating effects for the population. The Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009 also amounts to a boycott.

Ok. Ok. Enough with the bad stuff, what will work?

It’s not that simple. What the DRC needs more than anything is good governance and security. “Without a Congolese state capable of playing its role in controlling and running affairs, how can the minerals of Kivu be de-criminalized?”

Since MONUC, the UN peacekeeping troop in the DRC,  has recently decided to scale back its mandate and reduce its troops by 2,000 to change itself into MONUSCO, the possibility of good governance in the country looks bleak. The latest UN resolution calls on MONUSCO to “support” and act “upon explicit request” from the Congolese government (one of the major human rights abusers in the country, including within the mineral trade), a move that offers no explicit details on how MONUSCO is supposed to support them or deal with abusive officers or improve the behaviour of the forces. The resolution also limits the mandate of civilian protection to only areas where peacekeepers are stationed, clawing back existing assistance. The former head of MONUC has also just retired to be replaced with the surprise choice of Alan Doss, a man with no previous UN experience, potentially leaving the already troublesome command structure weakened.

What can we do about this? Well, the UN already has the largest peacekeeping force in its history in the country, but it would take thousands more troops to really provide some semblance of stability and that is just not likely to happen.

We can petition our governments to push for greater UN presence in the country, to increase their spending to aid these endeavors and increase their arms sanctions or actually enforce them. We can push the UN to increase its mandate so it can try to actually secure unstable territory. We can push them to be more engaged with the local populations and look at ways to more effectively communicate with them (such as hiring more translators or setting up remote radio communication systems). We can push the UN to work on good governance programs, ensure active functioning justice systems, continue its Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration program and thoroughly train the police or in areas where there are no police, do the job of policing to ensure security. We can also push them to rethink their approach and adopt differing strategies that would allow them to better address the realities on the ground  (Séverine Autesserre has some good suggestions)  We can push the UN to hunt down and contain the rebel movements who are destabilizing the country. We can push the international community to actually listen to local solutions and help implement them. We can push our own governments to demand accountability for the billions of dollars they give to the Congolese government each year. We can push for any of our extraction companies in the DRC who are directly committing crimes in the country to be brought to justice and actually investigate all claims made by UN and other reports that implicate any companies in criminal actions within the country. We can push the media to actually show the severity of the conflict to help increase international aid and monitor the progress and to focus more on local solutions and initiatives to the problems. We can inform people of what is happening and encourage them to push their governments and the UN as well.

And we can hope that the world will listen and respond. With enough pressure, anything is possible.

** Update: I received a thoughtful email from Laura at Texas in Africa with some great suggestions who agrees with the idea that “getting a functioning security sector, police who can and will do their jobs, collecting taxes so that salaries can be paid, and getting the judiciary working again” are a top priority.

She stated, “I’ve found that the best thing for me to do in terms of formulating a response is to support organizations that I think are doing a good job, and to encourage others to do the same.  If you’re concerned about women who are victims of rape in the region, Heal Africa, Panzi Hospital, and Women for Women all do a wonderful job of helping them to return to health and rebuild their lives.  The IRC, Doctors without Borders, and Oxfam also do good work, especially in the education and health sectors.  Supporting  NGO work doesn’t solve the bigger issues, but it does help me to feel like I’m making a small difference, even as I work to figure out these issues and educate others about them.”

She also suggested reading over Resource Consulting Services Ltd. ‘s work for ideas on how to legalize and formalize the mineral trade in the DRC. Thanks Laura for your helpful suggestions!