Category Archives: International Policy

Baseball Scandal Highlights Ethnic Haitian Difficulties

By Mariel Beasley, Staff Editor

Reports of Marlins’ closing pitcher, Leo Nunez, using fake documents to sign a professional contract adds an additional element to the debate surrounding birth certificates in the Dominican Republic, which has received international criticism for its policies surrounding citizenship for ethnic Haitians. The ease with which Dominican baseball players can get false documents contrasts starkly with the on-going difficulties that Dominicans of Haitian descent have in retaining their valid documents. It will be interesting to see if the Dominican Republic will be able to effectively combat document falsification amidst allegations of human rights violations.

R2P, Libya, and the Implications of Collective Force

Image courtesy of United Nations Photo

By Katherine White, Staff Editor

In its discussion of the repercussions of international-community action in Libya, the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) presents the Libya case as a model for R2P intervention. Designed to “prevent and stop genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” R2P can play a beneficial role in stopping atrocities, although inconsistencies in its responses to various conflicts are cause for concern. Shifting R2P reactions to crimes against humanity demonstrated by collective action in some recent crises (Libya) and not others (Syria) makes clear that UN Security Council members bring their political biases to bear when deciding whether or not to intervene in conflicts. Hence, R2P reflects the inherent conflict between nation-state political interests and effective global governance mechanisms as well as the substantial challenge of melding sovereign government agendas with united international action.

Made In America

By Evan Krasomil, Senior Web Editor

As Republican candidates for president publicly debate the merits of having U.S. military forces directly assist the Mexican government in its fight against drug cartels, it’s unfortunate that such little attention is paid to the prominent role already being played by the U.S., both in terms of the drugs we demand and the guns we supply. Some troubling statistics from a recent Congressional report examining the flow of firearms from the U.S. into Mexico:

- 20,504 out 29,284 firearms recovered in Mexico in the past two years came from the U.S.

- 15,131 of those weapons were made in the U.S.

- 5,373 were foreign made but came through the U.S. (the remainder were of “undetermined origin”).

- The firearms overwhelmingly came from the southwest U.S. The top three states were Texas (39 percent); California (20 percent); and Arizona (10 percent).

- 34,612 people have died in organized crime-related killings since Dec. 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office.

- 2010 was the bloodiest year yet in Mexico. Killings jumped 60 percent from the year before, with 15,273 people killed, up from 9,616.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón recently hinted that, for there to be hope that the cartels will ever be defeated, the U.S. will first need to seriously consider legalizing drugs. My guess is that American politicians (save for Ron Paul, perhaps) aren’t even close to having that discussion. Any discussion of tighter U.S. gun control also seems to be a political nonstarter.

So where does that leave us? Wondering whether we’ll ever need to dispatch U.S. troops to Mexico, I suppose. At least we know what kind of firepower the cartels will have at their disposal. They’ll have bought it from us, after all.

America v. China: Battleground Africa

By Mike Burrows, staff editor

Events in authoritarian regimes across the Middle East have brought additional attention on China’s role in Africa, in terms of both small-scale unrest in the world’s largest centrally-run country and China’s service as financier and presumed backstop of other dictatorial regimes. China is unlikely to introduce full democracy anytime soon, but the chain of events provides a new reason to look more closely at China’s evolving position on the African continent.

While African governments celebrate newfound choice and influence as their countries develop, China highlights its contribution to humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, Western interpretations of this phenomenon often range from cautious reviews of the consequences of Chinese involvement and outright terror. In fact, the Chinese presence in Africa is far from the monolithic economic imperialism, orchestrated coolly by Beijing, that the press often describes.

In addition to the many state-owned enterprises and government representatives operating throughout Africa – often thought of as ‘China Inc.’ – Chinese immigration to Africa is primarily comprised of hopeful entrepreneurs. At least tens of thousands of Chinese have made a living in Africa by providing relatively inexpensive, much-demanded goods and services to Africans across the continent. Complaints about low product quality and undercutting local suppliers notwithstanding, these merchants have by any standard improved African purchasing power by providing less expensive consumer goods. So while China Inc. builds roads and buys oil, China Mart fills the countries shelves with affordable, desirable products.

So in a broad sense, perhaps the United States should not be overly concerned about China forcing itself on the African continent – in many cases it seems that Africa is OK with China. Nor should we project unreasonable fear of humanitarian repercussions: after decades of American support for now-discredited regimes, there is abundant evidence of our own government’s forgivable but thematic realpolitik. If the United States intends to maintain an influential role in Africa’s development, it should follow China’s example of offering things that Africa actually wants – and things that it can do a better job than China at offering

First, while China sends teams of engineers to build roads, the United States can use its world-leading higher education system to build Africa’s knowledge economy. Research partnerships at universities can bring top minds from abroad, augmenting US academic institutions while enabling visitors to take their knowledge and experiences back home.

Second, Chinese merchants sell a wide range of consumer goods throughout Africa, but the Chinese back home still don’t buy much but raw materials from Africa – raw materials that will run out. China’s resource patronage will win short term favor from African states, but the United States will for a long time remain the world’s largest consumer. Targeted American investment can guide African economic development away from pure extraction and toward sustainability.

Third, the Chinese are popular in Africa in part due to their foreign aid, which comes without the fiscal restrictions commonly associated with Western aid. Given the often value-driven nature of American policy, unchaining US aid restrictions in the Chinese fashion is unrealistic. But there are ways to improve our own aid delivery system. Making it focus less on administrative procedures and more on tangible results may be one of them.

Rhetoric fails to accurately portray the Chinese role in Africa, and rhetoric alone won’t keep the United States relevant in Africa. Instead of polarizing the discussion on China’s African adventures, the United States would best serve its own diplomatic desires by better meeting Africa’s development needs.


Many Challenges Ahead in Haiti’s Runoff Election

By Agustina Laurito, staff editor

On November 28 Haiti held a presidential election to choose Rene Préval’s successor. The election was characterized by fraud, corruption and low turnout. After a series of protests, it was determined last week that Michel Martelly will compete against Mirlande Manigat in the March 20 runoff election. Despite this advance, in a country still dealing with the crippling consequences of last year’s devastating earthquake, and where institutional weakness is the norm, the road to the runoff election is full of challenges.

As during the first round, low turnout could be a potential problem. Only 28 percent of voters participated in the November 28 elections. If this situation is repeated in the runoff election it could call into question the mandate of the candidate who wins the race. There is always the challenge that supporters of the losing candidate will take to the streets, extending the instability that has marked this election cycle.

Moreover, given the experience of November 28, a significant problem is how to assure transparent and fair elections. International actors such as NGOs and the Organization of American States (OAS) are calling for close scrutiny and the replacement of poll workers involved in fraud, and the OAS will send at least 200 international observers. News outlets in Haiti have reported that both Mr. Martelly and Ms. Manigat are calling for changes in the much-maligned Electoral Council (CEP) to prevent massive fraud, but they differ about the extent of the reform. Even if there is the political will to carry out such reforms, there are no assurances that they will take place in time for the runoff.

Recently, former Dictator Baby Doc Duvalier returned to Haiti, and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has received a passport to do the same. The arrival of these two controversial figures could add more instability to an already charged political environment and complicate the prospects of a peaceful election and government transition.

President René Préval, on his part, announced that he will extend his tenure in power through the runoff election and until May 20 to oversee the transition. Haiti is at a crucial time in its history; the challenges on the road to the election are just one of the many the country and its people have to overcome. If they manage the transition successfully, it will be a key step in the rebuilding process and perhaps a promise for a better future.

¡Viva la Revolución!

By Jade Lamb, staff editor

The Economist loves a good graph.  In the past week’s issue, it put together a table showing the results of its ad hoc “Shoe-Thrower’s Index,” which measures the likelihood of unrest in Arab countries.  Yemen comes out far ahead, rating nearly 90 on the hundred-point scale; its closest competitor, Libya, comes in around 70.  Confirming the Economist’s place as a leader in current events reporting, popular protests in Yemen have already started.

Why was the Economist’s index so prescient?  The measures it includes are share of population under 25, number of years the government has been in power, corruption, lack-of-democracy, GDP per capita, censorship, and absolute number of people younger than 25.  In essence, the index measures two categories: whether people have cause to protest, and whether the country has a protest-inclined (i.e. young) population.  Yemen, with a government 32 years in power and a median age of 18, fits the bill on both counts.

Yemen’s protests have elicited a promise from President Saleh not to run again in 2013, but 2013 is a long way off.  Protests have already turned violent.  President Saleh’s concessions might be a gambit to appease protestors early on and minimize the damage to his presidency and the country.  Perhaps, however, Arab leaders see the upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt as a genuine wave of change and don’t want to be left behind.  Hope reigns eternal.

Overlooked Solutions for War’s Overlooked Victims

By Jamie Attard, staff editor

“War’s overlooked victims,” as reported by The Economist on January 15, 2011 focuses on one weapon of war that has often been used with impunity throughout history.  The weapon is not a knife, arrow, or stick; it is rape.  The article details not only how commonly rape is used in war, but also how hard it still is to measure, document, and prevent.

Although during war undisciplined soldiers may perpetrate rape, many examples have been noted of rape being used strategically to humiliate and terrorize populations.  Samantha Power, in her book titled “A Problem from Hell,” provides an objective and insightful account into many such horrific examples of rape being used as a tool of ethnic cleansing in the last century, such as in Bosnia and Rwanda.

While living in Uganda last year I heard of a number of accounts of East African women being ambushed and raped as they fetched water.  Certainly, rape does not occur only under the guise of war, but it is during a military conflict that it is often perpetuated with little scrutiny.

In 2008 the UN Security Council officially recognized that rape was being used as a tool of war.  Rwanda’s horror resulted in the first legal verdict that acknowledged rape as part of a genocidal campaign.  The Balkan war crimes court issued the first verdicts that treated rape as a crime against humanity.  These actions however offer little protection for many women today, particularly those living in Congo.

Rape is not an inevitable aspect of war.  International organizations and national governments must take steps to ensure prevention, punishment, and the improvement of social services. While the problem may seem intractable, there are a number of concrete steps that can be taken.

The UN should center global attention on this crime by reconciling the disparate rape statistics and facilitating more accurate and regular reporting of rape cases globally.  To further mobilize global action, the international community must give a voice to war rape victims, allowing them to tell their stories and make their plight known.

In areas where judicial institutions are weak, hybrid courts should be established to travel to villages in order to gather direct accounts and evidence, and to facilitate the quick prosecution of cases.  These hybrid courts need to be sanctioned by the International Criminal Court and supported by national governments.

Foreign aid needs to be directed towards ensuring that adequate prison systems are constructed to detain rape suspects and criminals.  Aid also needs to be directed to train police in the administration of effective laws to protect the rights of women.  Where repeated incidences of rape are not prosecuted locally, the International Criminal Court could threaten to prosecute the heads of states for war crimes.

All aid agencies and UN personnel should be provided training to allow them to identify and report rape cases quickly.  UN personnel at a minimum need to ensure that they regularly visit villages to monitor circumstances and identify potential rape cases.  Ultimately, the UN should ensure it deploys adequate personnel to prevent as many rape cases as possible from occurring.

Finally, aid funding should also be directed to agencies that provide social services to rape victims.  All identified rape victims should be provided with a minimum level of medical and social care to aid them in their recovery and integration back into society.

Ocampo’s New Move for the ICC: Prosecuting Post-Election Violence

By Agustina Laurito, staff editor

On Wednesday December 15 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo announced that the ICC was issuing summons against six Kenyan citizens involved in the post election violence that engulfed the country during sixty days at the end of 2007 and the start of 2008. This is a bold new move for a prosecutor who has been accused of double standards against African countries, but it gains significance when put in the context of the events in Côte d’Ivoire, the many violent elections around the world, and Kenya´s future contest in 2012.

According to the ICC hundreds of women were raped, more than 1,000 people died, over 3,500 were injured and nearly 600,000 became internally displaced during the violent episodes after the 2007 presidential elections in Kenya. These are terrible crimes and, according to Ocampo, they are crimes against humanity. In the document he presented before the three judges of Pre Trial Chamber II, Ocampo denounced deliberate planning to commit the crimes and gain control of certain Kenyan provinces by political party leaders of all camps.

This case represents a departure from the ICC’s previous focus on violations occurring during war and may be a precedent for future cases, as Ocampo’s recent statement about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire seems to show. In many cases post election violence erupts spontaneously. When political parties and leaders use it as a tool to advance their interests in an election, the entrance of the ICC into this new area might contribute to change the incentives to use violence. Knowing that they can be prosecuted for crimes against humanity at the ICC, party leaders may be dissuaded from engaging in planned violence should they face the possibility of an adverse outcome in a contested election.

This is the first case initiated by the prosecutor himself, and it risks fueling accusations of double standards for African countries. Such complaints were raised when Ocampo prosecuted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and it may further alienate ICC supporters in Africa.

Regardless of the final outcome, the ICC’s new venture calls attention to the need for stronger electoral institutions. Democracies need more than free and fair elections; they need adequate legal structures to legitimately adjudicate winners and prosecute those who engage in systematic violence.