Matthias Witt, who studied post-conflict reconstruction and humanitarian response at Georgetown University, currently works in public health and emergency programming for an international NGO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s Ituri district. He reports:
The DRC has been covered in the news extensively since fighting flared up again in November 2012, when the M23 rebel movement took over Goma. This was yet another reminder of the international community’s failed efforts to stabilize the region and keep the “peace.”
The events were not without consequences; they led to the Kampala peace negotiations between a variety of armed groups and the Congolese government, and they catalyzed an African Union summit paper aimed, as so often before, at supporting regional stability. It also led to the creation of yet another UN post – the Special Envoy of the Secretary General to the Great Lakes, a role now occupied by Ireland’s Mary Robinson – and the extension of the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The Security Council added some extra firepower in the form of a “Special Intervention Brigade” authorized to seek out and eliminate armed rebel movements in the country’s troubled East. The almost comical international legalese of this particular resolution aside – the mandate of the Special Brigade is apparently “unprecedented, yet without setting a precedent” – the dynamics coming out of this decision could make for some dramatic developments in the region, for better or worse. Read more…
While Tzipi Livni was lifting spirits at the American Jewish Committee, the New America Foundation hosted Israeli journalists Linoy Bar-Geffen and Uri Misgav this week to discuss how Israeli media ignore the occupation of Palestine. Both are hoping to change this attitude and increase dialogue on Palestinian issues in the Middle East and in Washington.
Uri Misgav of Haaretz explained that coverage of the conflict and the occupation of Palestine has diminished significantly in the past decade. Positive coverage of relations between Israelis and Palestinians peaked during the period of the Oslo Accords of 1993. Young Israelis actively tried to meet and learn from Palestinians. The media attempted humanized stories about the conflict. Coverage wasn’t balanced, but at least it was widespread.
The current lull in violence between Israel and Palestine has failed to resuscitate positive stories and instead has halted all media coverage. News stories about Palestine don’t sell. The Israeli public does not welcome and is not interested. Sarah Wildman, foreign policy correspondent with PoliticsDaily.com noted that, just like in America, reports of suicide bombing and extremists sell papers, but more nuanced coverage of human interest stories does not. Read more…
Yesterday’s report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syria to the UN Human Rights Commission is an extraordinary piece of work, even if I find myself balking at its treacly opposition to arms supplies. Do they really think blocking the availability of weapons to the opposition would limit the violence?
But that is a quibble. The report in many other respects is a paragon of international community virtue. It catalogues the horrors of the war with precision and restraint:
This report documents for the first time the systematic imposition of sieges, the use of chemical agents and forcible displacement. War crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations continue apace. Referral to justice remains paramount.
While documenting abuses on both sides, the report is clear about proportions:
The violations and abuses committed by anti-Government armed groups did not, however, reach the intensity and scale of those committed by Government forces and militia.
I spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon with the leading lights of Kosovo’s “Self-Determination” movement, Albin Kurti and Shpend Ahmeti. They appeared with Albanian flag lapel pins at a SAIS panel moderated by Mike Haltzel, with our colleague Ed Joseph (formerly OSCE deputy in Pristina) and me commenting. I apologize in advance for an inadequate writeup: I find it hard to take notes on an event in which I also participate.
I had to admit being out of my intellectual depth, as Albin launched with reference to a decade-old speech of Carl Bildt and an equally obscure reference to Robert Cooper’s (don’t worry if you don’t know who he is) work. I confess I lack such erudition. But his point was that these luminaries concern themselves not with building states but improving relations between them. Albin and Shpend view the international community as too focused on short-term stability. They would prefer to devote their energies to the economic and social development of Kosovo and its entire population, rather than its relations with Belgrade or its relationship to the Serb-occupied northern bit of the country. They fear creation of an autonomous Serb “entity” in Kosovo (like Republika Srpska in Bosnia) and want reciprocity with Serbia, not Serbian interference in how Kosovo governs itself. There is a risk that the agreement will separate rather than integrate.
That would all be dandy, but circumstances have not allowed those who do govern the luxury of ignoring Serbia, which is Kosovo’s biggest neighbor, greatest security threat, largest potential market and occupier of 3.5 of its northern municipalities. There really is reason to be concerned about stability. So the Kosovo government negotiated an agreement with Belgrade that Albin and Shpend dislike, claiming it obligates only Pristina, not Belgrade, and fails to get Kosovo either recognition or UN membership. The EU is not a neutral third party, they claim, because it also plays an executive role in Kosovo through its rule of law mission (EULEX). Read more…
Too often the discourse surrounding the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict focuses on divergent narratives. Complex ideas loaded with emotional and historical baggage are rarely unpacked but often used as rhetorical crutches to score political points. Among the most common, casual observers often hear about Greater Israel, the naqba, the right of return, terrorism, and even victimhood. While these narratives stem from legitimate sources, their (mis)use often merely serves to complicate attempts at ending conflict.
Moving away from such common narratives, US Secretary of State John Kerry is attempting to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. With numerous trips to the region since January, Secretary Kerry has renewed enthusiasm in the international community, raised expectations, and will attempt to succeed where so many before him have failed. Both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have yet to show any sustained confidence in the renewed process and no new rounds of negotiations are currently scheduled. Read more…
1. Democracy Think Tanks in Action: Translating Research into Policy in Young and Emerging Democracies, National Endowment for Democracy, Monday, June 3 / 12:00am
Venue: National Endowment for Democracy
1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004
Speakers: Sami Atallah, Orazio J. Belletini CedeÑO, Maksim Karliuk, Sally Roshdy
Think tanks in democratic societies play a vital role in generating policy research, promoting ideas, and fostering discussion between the public and policymakers. In young and emerging democracies, however, think tanks face a number of obstacles that make the achievement of reform especially challenging.
2. YaLa Young Leaders: A Palestinian and Israeli Discuss the Future, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Monday, June 3 / 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Venue: Woodrow Wilson Center
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20004
Speakers: Ohood Murqaten, Nimrod Benze’Ev, Aaron David Miller
Facebook has revolutionized the world and the Middle East, too. Join us for a presentation by two representatives of YaLa Young Leaders, a Middle East Facebook organization bringing Arabs, Israelis, and Turks together in virtual and direct contact designed to breakdown old stereotypes and promote a new dialogue based on mutual respect and dignity.
Register for the event here: