Tuesday, March 22, 2011


New York, Mar 21 2011  7:10PM
An inclusive dialogue on political, social and economic reform is the only way forward for Bahrain, where Government forces have cracked down after weeks of popular protests, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Mr. Ban said the United Nations is ready to help all sides in Bahrain so as to end the violence, protect civilians and promote what he described as necessary reform.

"The United Nations is in touch with all the Bahraini parties on the ground, including the Government and key opposition parties," he <"http://www.un.org/apps/sg/offthecuff.asp?nid=1756">told journalists in Cairo, Egypt. "I appeal to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint.

"All involved, including Bahrain's neighbours and the wider international community, should seek peaceful means to ensure national unity and stability, and to create an environment conducive for credible reform."

Last week the country's security forces and police reportedly used heavy force against protesters in the capital, Manama, and they also took over hospitals and medical centres, sparking expressions of deep concern from Mr. Ban and other senior UN officials.

The protests are part of a wider wave of unrest across North Africa and the Middle East since the start of the year, with long-standing regimes toppled in Egypt and Tunisia and fierce fighting in Libya.

"It can be hard to see beyond the escalating violence," he said. "But there is no holding back the movements for reform and democracy that have taken root. Leaders must listen to the legitimate aspirations of their people. Open and inclusive dialogue is crucial. So is respect for human rights. People are eager to build prosperous, inclusive, democratic societies under the rule of law."


New York, Mar 21 2011  4:10PM
The African Union-United Nations chief mediator for Darfur and his Qatari partner plan to call an all-party conference next month to launch a bid to achieve a final peace agreement for the Sudanese region, which has been torn by almost eight years of devastating civil war.

The decision, announced today, comes after AU-UN Joint Chief Mediator Djibril Bassolé and Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud received observations from the Sudanese Government and two of its opponents, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), on draft texts submitted by the mediators and based on previous negotiations.

"The mediation welcomes this concrete progress made by the three parties towards achieving a comprehensive peace agreement for Darfur," the mediators said in a statement, urging them to continue working towards the adoption of all the texts submitted so that the mediators can finalize a draft agreement and submit it to them for signature.

As a necessary element of the finalization phase, the mediators said they would organize an all-Darfur stakeholder conference on 18 April in Doha, Qatar's capital, to "enable the establishment of a broad-base ownership" to achieve a final and comprehensive peace agreement.

"The conference will also provide an opportunity for the mediation to seek international support for the implementation of the provisions of the final agreement," they added.

The war between the Sudanese Government, backed by militia allies, and various rebel groups has killed at least 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million others since it erupted in 2003.

Saturday, March 19, 2011



The head of the United Nations agency that coordinates global nuclear safety told Japanese leaders today that they must provide faster and fuller information about the country's nuclear reactor crisis amid reported criticism that they have not been as open as they should.

At the same time the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it does not at the moment have health concerns either in Japan or more widely from released radiation, although that could change if the situation worsened.

On a flying visit to Tokyo, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano met with Prime Minister Naoto Kan, other ministers and TEPCO electricity company officials to discuss how the agency can help mitigate the crisis caused by loss of power to the reactor cooling systems when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was damaged by a devastating earthquake and tsunami a week ago.

"The director general stressed the importance of providing faster and more detailed information about the situation at the nuclear power plants including to the international community," IAEA Special Adviser on Scientific and Technical Affairs Graham Andrew told a news briefing at agency headquarters in Vienna, at which he reported that, as yesterday, the situation remains very serious but with no significant worsening.

"He also emphasized the importance of Japan working closely with the international community to resolve the crisis," Mr. Andrew said, adding that the Japanese affirmed their willingness to strengthen their cooperation with the agency.

IAEA has sent a monitoring mission to Japan, which at the moment is focusing on radiation levels in Tokyo, where first measurements show no indication of iodine-131 or caesium-137, major radioactive hazards present in nuclear fission products. A second sampling was to be carried out overnight. "We will move towards the Fukushima region as soon as possible," Mr. Andrew said.

"We don't have concerns at the moment both in Japan and, if not in Japan, clearly more widely for human health. If the situation changed dramatically, then we'd have to make a reassessment."

He noted that the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said today that international flights and maritime operations can continue normally into and out of Japan's major airports and seaports and that there is no medical basis for imposing additional measures to protect passengers.

On the situation at the Fukushima reactor site, more than 200 kilometres to the north of Tokyo, Mr. Andrew noted that spent fuel ponds at units three and four of the six-unit plant remain "an important safety concern," with information lacking on cooling water levels and temperatures. As for the first three units, perhaps half of the fuel in some cases is uncovered, "which is not positive," he said.

"We want all of the fuel to be covered, but it's not oscillating, it's not going down dramatically. So certainly for the units one, two and three the situation, taking on board the pressure and the water levels, remains fairly stable, which is positive," he added.
Mar 18 2011  6:10PM

Friday, March 18, 2011


New York, Mar 17 2011  5:10PM
The Security Council today <"http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2011/sc10198.doc.htm">voted to exempt the work of humanitarian agencies operating in Somalia from a resolution that obliges States to impose financial sanctions on groups and individuals who obstruct efforts to restore peace and stability in the Horn of Africa country.

Under Security Council resolution 1844 of 2008, UN Member States are obligated to freeze the funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories, which are owned or controlled by the individuals or entities engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security, stability or humanitarian operations in Somalia.

Resolution 1972 passed today says an exemption shall apply if the payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources are necessary to ensure the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance in Somalia, by the UN, its specialized agencies or programmes, humanitarian organizations having observer status at the General Assembly that provide humanitarian assistance, or their implementing partners.

The exemption is for a period of 16 months, according to the text of the resolution, which also requires the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator to report to the Security Council by 15 November this year, and again by 15 July next year, on the implementation of the exemption and on any impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.

A severe drought in Somalia has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation in Somalia, where civilians have been caught up in fighting pitting forces of the country's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which are backed by African Union (AU) peacekeepers, against insurgents with the Al-Shabaab armed group and other militants.

An estimated 2.4 million people – or about a third of the country's 7.2 million people – are in need of relief aid as a result of drought and two decades of conflict.

Somalia has lacked a fully functioning national government and has been buffeted by factional warfare since the toppling in 1991 of the regime headed by Muhammad Siad Barre.

Dealing with Saif Gaddafi: naivety, complicity or cautious engagement?

Dealing with Saif Gaddafi: naivety, complicity or cautious engagement?

How should the London School of Economics have handled its Libyan connections? Fred Halliday strongly opposed engagement, while David Held, Co-Director of LSE Global Governance, has been a major supporter. Is this shown to have been naïve or complicit? No - a risk worth taking, argues the author
About the author
David Held is Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Co-Director of LSE Global Governance.

Ever since Saif Gaddafi delivered his abhorrent speech threatening retribution against Libyans unless they submitted to the Gaddafi regime, a raging controversy has unfolded about the meaning of engaging with someone like him. Saif Gaddafi has become the public face of the regime as it has carried out its murderous onslaught on Libyan citizens. This grotesque image has made him an international pariah and positioned him at the centre of his father's brutal tyranny. He now acts as the mouthpiece of a decaying and violent regime.

For those who knew Saif Gaddafi in a different context, this creates a most disturbing paradox. How could we, who saw in him the potential to project a credible reformist agenda, reconcile this with the man he has become? In this context, I have been at the eye of a storm and accused of many things, including naivety or even complicity. The media has raised important questions about the role of engagement in regimes that are autocratic.

While I was not his formal supervisor nor his examiner, I spoke with Saif Gaddafi on an informal but regular basis while he was a PhD student. Though he was not in my department I met with him every two or three months, sometimes more frequently, as I would with any PhD student who came to me for advice. The topics we discussed ranged over western political theory and liberalism, and I came to believe that he was increasingly thinking and talking about how these ideas could be applied in a Libyan context.

The funding that the LSE received from the Gaddafi Foundation after our agreement of 2009 (raised from European companies) came without academic restriction. It was used to pursue research on changing governance patterns in North Africa, economic diversification, oil and sustainability, developing civil society, and the status of women. The aim ultimately was to create a Virtual Democracy Centre for North Africa, which would have brought together academic and policy resources on the building of democracies, in English and Arabic. We also planned to run a series of civil society training workshops in Libya as well as host a major international conference on political reform in North Africa. In addition, resources were allocated to fund Libyan students to attend LSE Summer School, PhD studentships, and academic exchange with Libyan scholars. This programme of activity sat alongside a diversity of substantial programmes I directed.

The underlying question behind the involvement of the LSE and my own engagement with the work of the Foundation, chaired by Saif Gaddafi, is important, as it reflects on the work of any individual or NGO trying to change an autocratic or repressive regime by helping to empower local people. Was all this misplaced, and grossly misconceived? I should like to respond to the two main charges directly, before suggesting a third interpretation.

The first charge is that any engagement with an authoritarian country is naïve. There can be no question that the Gaddafi regime was brutal, corrupt and repressive. The regime was a peculiar and frightening combination of the rigidly hierarchical and a highly-personalised, informal system of power relationships. This corrosive combination was inescapable to all who lived there and to any visitor.

But countries, even the most repressive, are not just single or monolithic structures. They are often fragmented, with spaces that open up for the nurturing of dissent and the expression of anger. In a country like Libya, these spaces were most often small and vulnerable. They exist nonetheless in any authoritarian structure where people are struggling to push it back and hope one day to overthrow it. I met many Libyans who gave me an extraordinary sense of humility for their sheer bravery in fighting for human rights, publishing dissenting opinion, pursuing free academic research, and protecting a minimal space for their own survival and well-being. These people welcomed dialogue and a bridge to an institution like the LSE, which could help provide a platform and legitimacy and prestige for countervailing popular dissent. Many of these individuals received an umbrella of protection from the Foundation which allowed them to engage with their critical activities.

The second charge against those who engage with regimes such as Libya, or apartheid South Africa, or Communist China, or Soviet Russia, is one of complicity. The charge is that to help "reform" is to become necessarily embroiled in the discourses and interests of the self-serving power elites in these states. But if this were true, no emerging protest movement or revolutionary groups could reach out for help and contact with the outside world. I know many people who served important roles in going in and out of these countries as people slowly struggled for support, voice, and the momentum for change. The bridges to the outside world helped provide ideas, hope, encouragement, and the knowledge that there were people beyond the borders of the country who thought like them.

My connection with Libya never involved Colonel Gaddafi nor would it ever have given his heinous record. But the Foundation represented a space for reform, and had a track record of seeking to enlarge it. The Saif Gaddafi I knew as a student at the LSE talked the talk of liberal values and democratic standards, and he seemed to grapple with how to achieve these in a country like Libya. Indeed, he turned down a number of offers to work directly at the heart of the regime because, he said, such offers had no legitimacy if they were not the results of a democratic mandate.

Moreover, the Foundation advocated these principles in a way that was noticed by many within Libya and outside. From Human Rights Watch to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, it was recognised that the Foundation was the country's sole body for addressing complaints about issues such as torture, arbitrary detention, and disappearances, and that it had intervened in important cases. It was furthermore developing a growing international reputation for nurturing a spirit of political reform and a track record for converting this spirit into reform initiatives. A similar judgement was made by the Director of the Prison Studies Centre at King's College London, in agreeing to work on reforming Libyan prisons after concluding that Libyan reform impulses were credible and in line with international human rights standards.

Furthermore, the Foundation was one of the major entities in Libya seeking the peaceful reform of the regime, and that put human rights on the top of its agenda. For instance, in December 2009, the Foundation assisted Human Rights Watch in conducting its first-ever press conference in Libya which launched a human rights report on Libya. Its Middle East North Africa Director, Sarah Leah Whitson, had earlier written in May 2009 in Foreign Policy that the Foundation "has been outspoken on the need to improve the country's human rights record." Also in 2009, Saif Gaddafi established a new human rights organisation, the Arab Alliance for Democracy, Development, and Human Rights, with a mandate to track human rights abuses across the Middle East. One of the first things it did was approach Amnesty and Human Rights Watch for assistance in becoming an effective human rights organisation. These are not trivial examples. They, along with others, were the beginnings of a different path. This positive record is confirmed by many others, including Britain's former Ambassador to Libya, Sir Richard Dalton (who spoke about it at the Frontline Club on 2 March 2011).

Now to come to the third point: could it be that engagement is not necessarily always naïve or complicit? In my judgement, there was material evidence (as listed above), and not just words, to suggest that a cautious engagement with the Foundation could help enlarge a space for dialogue, criticism, and exchange, which would give some hope for a democratic Libya. I have written all my working life on democracy, human rights, and governance. My dialogue with Saif Gaddafi was always conditional on him helping build the momentum of this Foundation through research, policy developments, and bold initiatives for the transformation of Libya.

It is easy to say, with hindsight, that this engagement could only be interpreted as giving favour and succour to a dictator's son. But Saif Gaddafi had choices. When the struggle intensified, he had neither the courage nor the ability to take a stand on behalf of reform and justice – principles he had once professed. He has become his father's son in ways that were unanticipated even by Libyans close to him. One recently reported to me that while he had known Saif for over a decade, nothing had prepared him for the Saif Gaddafi that emerged on 20 February 2011. Another wrote of Saif, "you fought daily to redress wrongs and to free political prisoners, and succeeded in liberating hundreds of them….[Then] you chose [the side of] lies, after championing the truth for so long…[Our] shock was profound."[1] Everything he has done since his appalling speech has made him the enemy of the people of Libya and the ideals he once claimed to espouse. He has become his father's son in every respect.

Of course, engagement of this kind depends, in many circumstances, on practical judgements about people. Saif Gaddafi's subsequent choice of father, family and power over ideals raises this question in a painful way for many who knew, and thought they knew him. He was certainly capable of intellectual curiosity and intelligent reflection. He was building a record of implementing some of the ideals he professed to hold. In light of the brutality and horrific ruthlessness he has now shown, it is apparent that many who engaged with him neither knew him well enough nor had the true measure of his character at a time of crisis.

There is no risk-free path in engaging with authoritarian regimes, but refraining altogether would also be a mistake. I think it was right to engage and to make a contribution to the dialogue about the democratisation of Libya. But with the terrible knowledge we have now, I would never have countenanced this funding option, nor would the Governing Council of the LSE. It was a mistake that is deeply regrettable.

Fred Halliday and I had a robust exchange of views about the wisdom of engaging in Libya, which he strongly opposed, but agreed that research on the Middle East was of the highest importance, and that complete abstention would be an error. One way of summarising the differences between us is that I thought Saif Gaddafi had choices, and that this, after all, is the space for education and critical dialogue. For Fred, in essence, he was always just a Gaddafi. In my memoir for Tributes to Fred, published on OpenDemocracy, I wrote that while there was much that Fred and I disagreed about, Fred still said that we shared much more in common with each other than we had differences, and we both hoped that the autocratic rulers of the Middle East would rapidly be replaced by popular and democratic alternatives.

History has shown there are different paths to overthrowing regimes, which build up from pressures within as well as from the outside. It is usually the interaction of national and international conditions and processes which create revolutionary situations. This is the context which the Middle East is now in. Autocrats have been swept from power in Tunisia and Egypt and are teetering on the brink in Yemen and Bahrain. In Libya, the fighting has been intensive. Tribe, faction, and fragmentation intersect with the old Gaddafi regime in complex webs of stakeholders, competition and opposition. One can only hope that the Gaddafi regime comes to a swift end, but one fears it may not.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SOMALIA: A crisis in numbers

SOMALIA: A crisis in numbers

NAIROBI, 7 March 2011 (IRIN) - One in three people in Somalia needs
humanitarian assistance as a severe water crisis, linked to the La
Niña weather phenomenon, takes hold across much of the country after
failed seasonal Deyr rains and amid continuing armed conflict. Prices
of cereals and water in many areas have soared.

Here are some facts and figures about this crisis, culled from a
report by the Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Security and
Nutritional Analysis Unit.

The population of Somalia is 7.5 million; of whom 2.4m people require
humanitarian assistance, a 20 percent increase over the last six

1.46m people in central and southern areas (where humanitarian access
is very limited) have been displaced by conflict;

940,000 are in a state of acute food and livelihood crisis;

535,000 are in a state of humanitarian emergency (unable to access
2,100 kcal per day, among other criteria);

45,000 pastoralists are considered destitute, up 7 percent;

241,000 children under five are acutely malnourished (up 7 percent
from six months ago). In the south, this equates to 20 percent of all
under-fives. Across the country, the acute malnutrition rate is 16

57,000 of these are severely malnourished - one in 23 children under
five in the south, and 4 percent nationally, a rise of 31 percent
compared with six months ago;

75 percent of those acutely malnourished live in southern regions;

20 percent of normal cereal crop output was produced in agro-pastoral
and riverine areas of southern Somalia, causing the number of people
in crisis in these areas to rise by almost 70,000, to 440,000. Deyr
crop production was the lowest since 1995;

A 33-47 percent reduction in cattle prices since December 2010 was
observed in all southern areas;

Since 2009, the cost of a household's bare minimum food and non-food
items has risen by 32 percent in the south. This cost fell by 12
percent in the northwest thanks to a bumper harvest in 2010.