Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, June 09, 2006

USAID's Tobias discusses budget

USAID’s new director, Ambassador Randall Tobias, introduced his plans before the committee and answered questions regarding his FY-2007 budget. Ambassador Tobias spoke at length about a better integration between the Sate Department’s objectives and those of USAID, because in the past the money and work on the ground has often run contrary to the stated policy of the United States government. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) expressed concern about the 1400 diverse objectives and voiced a need to focus money and efforts better. The goal of USAID is to help create viable nations around the world who dissuade terrorism and other extremism through sustainable economies and stable governments. He seeks more transparency in funding that allows for a better understanding of where taxpayer dollars are going and if they are working parallel to policy guidelines. Ambassador Tobias also stated that he wishes to work more closely with Congress, improving USAID’s responsiveness to Congressional concerns and questions.

Ambassador Tobias also spoke about the importance of health-related programs, although his budget does cut a significant amount out of efforts to vaccinate third world countries from polio. When pressed by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) on this point, Tobias explained concerns about mismanagement and corruption in certain public programs and the need for accountability and possible restructuring before more money is committed.

USAID’s work in a few specific countries was discussed, including Burma, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The human rights concerns in Burma are great, as are medical issues such as the spread of HIV/AIDS, avian flu, and polio. Ambassador Tobias’s plans in Burma are to partner with already established NGO’s working both in the country and in the border regions to utilize existing structure. Instead of trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel, USAID will assist already strong organizations in their health and human rights work.

Progress in Iraq is slow, but there are promising signs. Ambassador Tobias spoke with enthusiasm about the new Iraqi-run NGO’s that are “the beginnings of democracy” in the region. Local leaders understand what their communities need better than outside NGO’s so there is great promise in this new crop of programs.

USAID plans to focus on short term goals in Iraq that build towards the long-term objective of stability and viability. Ambassador Tobias wishes to set up ninety day progress reports in which specific, attainable goals are set and finished in these short spans. Building x-miles of roads, providing one community with electricity, making a sewage system operational; working with the military, these are the types of short-term goals that USAID can achieve which build towards Iraq’s long-term goal of stability.

In Afghanistan there is a great need for rebuilding the infrastructure that supports economy and government. The focus here is to empower the average citizen through work projects that benefit the communities. Vocational schools are turning out graduates who have basic skills in building, plumbing, and electrical services making them ripe for infrastructure-building projects.

Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) raised concerns about the amount of funding wasted on conferences and discussion sessions that could be better spent on real goods and on-the-ground efforts. Until basic needs like shelter, food, and healthcare are provided, other issues take a USAIDat. U.S.AID needs to focus on these issues, Senator Brownback suggested, before loftier goals are pursued.

The senator from Kansas also made recommendations about involving the American public in USAID’s plans. Partnerships between American corporations and civic groups (religious organizations were specifically mentioned as a prime source for money and manpower) and NGO’s or villages in Africa would reap benefits for those abroad and make Americans feel more connected to the rest of the world. Additionally, youth around the country are interested in helping and are adventurous enough to work on the ground in far-away regions in need. If USAID could work with youth-oriented NGO’s, there is a vast network of ready and able volunteers out there.

Partnering corporations with areas in need can produce a very strong result as is shown in a Starbucks/Rwanda venture. Rwandan coffee growers produced only a small amount of the beans that they were capable of due to a lack of market. Through a partnership with American coffee giant Starbucks, American consumers were introduced to Rwandan coffee and Rwandan growers have a large market for their product. Both partners profit from this type of program, and there are many more opportunities like this around the world, according to Senator Brownback.

Stabilization and Reconstruction Operation in Post-Conflict and Crisis Zones: The Challenge of Military and Civilian Cooperation

A Conference held at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars June 7, 2006

This conference, held at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars brought together decision makers and experts from government, armed forces, non governmental organizations (NGO), academia, and the media to discuss the challenges and opportunities of applying traditional military capabilities to non-traditional stabilization and reconstruction tasks. The discussion centered on the challenges of fostering a secure operating environment for development aid and reconstruction efforts to work effectively. Two groups of panelists provided the discussion.

First Panel-Civil Military Relations in the Field: Challenges and Opportunities

Linda Robinson: Senior Writer, U.S. News and World Report,
Author, Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces
• Says that it is important that policy makers do not “reinvent the wheel”. Old experiences are very important and we should learn from them, not disregard them.
• Believes that most solutions are worked out on the ground. Those actors on the ground have the incentive to solve the issues and are willing to work for long term resolutions. Military may be more inclined to reach short-term solutions.
• Thinks that Special Forces should be used i.e. Foreign Affairs Officer’s (FAO), engineers, etc. Says that a core element of their training is to see these conflicts as non-military conflicts. They are trained to roll over to stability operations (she saw this done in Iraq)—they are required to have cultural and language training, something not all military people have.
• Does not think that all problems can be solved i.e. Somalia and Haiti

H. Roy Williams: President, Center for Humanitarian Cooperation
• “We are locked into our own preconditioned perceptions.” This disables you from being operationally helpful.
• People deal with information from their own structures because it is more convenient to them, rather than learning about other peoples cultures.
• Says that people see the West as intruding where they do not belong.
• Says that no operation begins the day the event happens. It begins with preparations, and that is something that the military is not very good at—preparing.
• Says that we need to achieve a neutral venue that is available to all.
• Believes that the world is compressing and we need to be able to change with it.

Paula Loyd: Civil-Military Affairs Officer
U.N. Mission to Afghanistan
• Says that if we want Afghanistan to succeed, we must move beyond doctrinal debates.
• Says that Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) are an accepted part of the landscape in Afghanistan.
• Believes that Provincial Stabilization Assessments must be used in Afghanistan: how we can all use our resources to stabilize that particular province.
• Says that time frames are an issue: every group that comes in has a certain amount of time there and, when they leave, they want to show that they did something—this can lead to dollars being wasted.
• Another problem is that military does not always understand tribal policies, so this can worsen things if they support one tribe versus another.
• Says that the Afghanistan National Defense Strategy is really good and is doing good things for the country.

Q. How long will all of this take? (fighting, cleaning up, etc)
A. Robinson: That all depends on how much money Congress gives us.
Williams: A decade, if we are lucky.
Loyd: 15 years. We might have to go back in another 30 years.

Second Panel: Lessons Learned: Implications for Policy, Decision-Making, and Establishing Best Practices

Col. John F. Agoglia: Director, U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute
• Believes we need to make better policy, not better soldiers.
• The challenge is to have adequate policy
• Intellectual clarity is essential. Without it, change is irrelevant. To get intellectual clarity, you must know how to define it, then you can achieve it. (he never defines it)
• We do not have intellectual clarity because we do not effectively talk to each other.
• Says that it is a myth that we can work this out on the ground because it is too easy to make mistakes on the ground—at the time you do not realize that they are mistakes—that is why you need good policies.
• Misdiagnosis of problems is a problem—calling them humanitarian problems when they are the country’s government’s problems—referred to Somalia.
• Says that diplomacy is the key and we do not do diplomacy well because we do not communicate with each other—do not work together well.
• Says that ground troops want policy guidelines, not intelligence about the bad guys.—need strategic framework that tells them how to approach the problems that are going on.

Julia Taft: Interim President and CEO InterAction
• She had a lot of stories…
• 1991- issues on neutrality—Gen. Gardner did not know anything about refugees and relied on NGO’s to find out what he needed to do. She tells that a Gen. Campbell said, “The capability that exists and strengthen the civilian’s side is our ticket home.” This is why the military does what they are told to do, when they are told to do it.
• What military does best in a conflict situation:
1. security
2. vital infrastructure
3. demobilizations and disarmament
4. ensure that domestic workforce benefits (a problem in Iraq now)
5. support joint planning of civilian agencies
• Civilians can mobilize support and chare in the burden of problems. They also understand that it is going to take a long time to rebuild. This is why it should be left to the civilians to do the work on the ground.
• Lessons Learned:
1. whichever agency has the money will decide the policy
2. there are many competent institutions that are essential to the success
3. CSIS post conflict reconstruction study
4. military is best at military functions; not civilian. We must support the people of these countries because, in the end, they are not our countries, they are theirs

Robert M. Perito: Senior Program Officer, Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability
• Must focus on provincial reconstruction teams (PRT)—brings together civilians and military
• PRT’s mission is to promote security and reconstruction
• What we learned:
1. U.S. civilian agencies have no capacity to surge agencies in a post conflict environment
2. these operations are not a game for amateurs
3. what will happen when the U.S. forces come down in Iraq and Afghanistan (something we do not know yet)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Higher Education Lags Behind the Times in Vietnam

As reported in this week’s issue of The Chronicle of Education, Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training appears to be the most outdated of all Vietnam’s state departments. While the country’s economy is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world, Vietnam’s educational system has remained extremely outdated.

The success of Vietnam’s economy relies on the amount and quality of skilled workers its society can provide. Because the educational system has not been producing nearly enough minds that are capable of working in a modern day economy, many companies have had to downsize. The economy will soon show signs of peril if the educational system does not start to play catch up.

According to this piece:

“Colorful advertisements for cell phones now outnumber posters of rapturous farmers standing arm in arm with Ho Chi Minh. When BillGates, chairman of Microsoft, visited Hanoi in April, he was given arock star's welcome by thousands of university students, not tomention government leaders, who broke away from an important partyconference to shake his hand. And Vietnam, after a hard-won battle toget the United States' approval, is scheduled to join the World TradeOrganization next month.

“Yet Vietnam's higher-education system is in a time warp: 20, even 30 years, out of date. Economists point to the fact that the country does not have a single university considered to be of international quality. It lacks a credible research environment, produces few Ph.D.'s, and is locked in Soviet-style pedagogy. Students still sit through lectures about the evils of capitalism. And in class, America is referred to as "the enemy."

“Development experts warn that Vietnam's remarkable growth rate of 8.4 percent cannot be sustained unless it can produce the skilled labor a modern economy needs. Several industries are already scaling back production because they do not have enough engineers to design theproducts customers want.

“‘We can't separate higher education from the country's economy,’ says Cao Hao Thi, dean of the School of Industrial Management at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology.”

To read the article in full, click here
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Egypt closes down IRI office in Cairo

As reported by the Daily Star Egypt staff and Reuters, the International Republican Institute (IRI) was ordered by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to suspend its activity in Egypt because, according to the ministry, the Institute and its representatives were interfering with the State’s internal affairs. The article refers to the recent interview published by the Nahdet Masr Daily where Gina London—the director of IRI in Egypt—said that there has been no political reform in the state for the past 25 years and the IRI was looking to speed up the country’s lagging democratization process. The Foreign Ministry also claims that the IRI had no licensed operation agreement with the state and until a legitimate permit is issued by Egypt, the IRI cannot continue its activities in the country.

Before their recent shutdown, the IRI had been conducting numerous training sessions in Cairo to spread democracy and in the fall of 2005 completed an election assessment of both the presidential and parliamentary elections.

According to this piece:

“The Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it had summoned country director Gina London and told her to suspend all activities until the organization, which monitors political systems abroad and promotes multi-party politics, receives a permit.”

Two weeks ago, IRI released a second report concerning the political nature of opposition parties in the country, excluding the Muslim Brotherhood. The report was designed to help give parties an idea of what is and isn't working in the country.”

The IRI also gives training to organizations in order to spread democracy and political activism. Just last week, IRI held a training session for Iraqi women in Cairo, which was designed to help promote NGO's for women in the war-torn nation.”

The ministry statement said London's comments to an Egyptian newspaper, in which she said political reform in Egypt had not been achieved in the past 25 years, were flagrant interference in Egypt's affairs.”

To read the article in full, click here

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Check our Photo Blog!

Be sure to visit LCHR's photo blog to see pictures from Kathryn Porter's recent trip to Iraqi Kurdistan. Check back often as new pictures will soon be added!

UN Forum urges inclusion of indigenous peoples’ concerns in global anti-poverty goals

The United Nations recently held a two week forum in New York City where approximately 1,200 leaders of indigenous peoples were in attendance. The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues expressed that developed countries often implement the Millennium Development Goals within their foreign policy, not their domestic policy. As a result, indigenous communities in developed countries are not able to benefit from social, economic, and cultural rights to the fullest.

The Forum requested developed countries pay more attention to their indigenous populations, especially in terms of health care. Diabetes is the main cause of concern within indigenous communities and the forum believes that developed countries can plan their MDGs to reduce the appearance of this disease.

According to this piece:

“At the meeting, many indigenous leaders voiced their concern that developed countries treat the MDGs as a matter of foreign policy, relevant only to their international aid programs. The MDGs are series of targets set by the world leaders to reduce levels of poverty, diseases, and illiteracy and environmental degradation b y the year 2015.

“The Permanent Forum called for governments, the UN World Health Organization (WHO), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other agencies to adopt targeted policies, programs, projects and budgets to address the “staggering prevalence” of diabetes among indigenous people and put in place “culturally appropriate” health services and treatment and prevention methods.

“The Forum said it fully endorsed the indigenous leaders’ demand that States must recognize their right to self determination and respect the principle of “free, prior and informed consent” with regard to development activities which take place on their lands and resources. The Forum also urged Member States to uphold the linguistic rights of indigenous people.

“UN officials estimate that more than 1,200 leaders, representing some 370 million indigenous peoples in different parts of the world, attended the Forum.”

To read the article in full, click here

Vietnam: Fledging Democracy Movement Under Threat

Human Rights Watch recently reported that hundreds of Vietnamese peoples have publicly called for numerous reforms within the existing regime. Two public petitions were created in early April—the “Appeal for Freedom of Political Association” and the “2006 Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam”—and have been signed by many citizens including former Communist Party Officials, veterans, academics, teachers, nurses, engineers, former political prisoners, Catholic priests, Buddhist monks, etc.

According to HRW, Vietnamese authorities have responded to the recent public appeals for democracy with interrogations and detainments of some of the more well known activists. Yet, the strong public outcry for basic human rights does not appear to be deterred by this.

According to this piece:

“Among the initiators of the April appeals are prominent dissidents and former political prisoners from Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City, including academic Hoang Minh Chinh, teacher Nguyen Khac Toan, Hoa Hao Buddhist leader Le Quang Liem, professor Nguyen Chinh Ket and Catholic priests the Rev. Chan Tin and the Rev. Nguyen Van Ly.

"The group’s first public statement, an “Appeal for Freedom of Political Association," was released on April 6 and signed by 116 individuals. On April 8, the “2006 Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam” was released and signed by 118 people. The five-page manifesto calls for: a pluralistic and multiparty political system; freedom of information and of opinion; freedom of religion; freedom to participate in independent labor unions; and freedom to assemble, form associations and political parties and stand for elected offices. As of May 8 – the one-month anniversary of the manifesto – 424 citizens had signed on.

“On April 30, the activists, calling themselves the “04/08/06 Group” – the date of the manifesto – issued a protest letter signed by 178 people to denounce the harassment of Do Nam Hai, the Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang and Nguyen Van Dai. In that letter, two prominent Catholic priests, the Rev. Phan Van Loi and former political prisoner the Rev. Nguyen Van Ly, threatened to go on indefinite hunger strike if the arrests and harassment continued.”

To read the article in full, click here

WTO may admit Vietnam on October 10

As reported by VietNamNet today, Ngo Quang Xuan—the Vietnamese Ambassador to the World Trade Organization—stated that there is a possibility for the nation to be admitted by the WTO as early as October 10 or 11th.

This announcement came earlier than perhaps expected. It was just last Wednesday that Vietnam and the United States settled a bilateral market agreement—this was a vital step for Vietnam to even be considered as a possible WTO member. However, according to WTO’s General Director, Mr. Pascal Lamy, the biggest obstacle was the bilateral negotiation with the US. Now that the agreement has been settled, Lamy sees no reason why the rest of the admittance process would last beyond early October.

According to this piece:

“The admission ceremony could be organized at the headquarters of WTO in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The first multilateral negotiation for Vietnam’s accession to WTO is scheduled in July 2006. Mr Xuan said that at this round, 28 partners would likely continue to put pressure on Vietnam to reach their final goals. However, now that Vietnam has reached agreement with the US in bilateral negotiation, the multilateral round of negotiation should be swift.

“That’s also the reason for WTO General Director Pascal Lamy’s optimism for Vietnam’s admission to WTO this October. Mr Pascal Lamy agreed with Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen about the negotiation and admission schedule of Vietnam to the WTO, on the sidelines of the APEC Trade Ministerial Meeting several days ago.

“Reviewing the recent bilateral negotiations, Ambassador Ngo Quang Xuan, said that the most difficult partner is the US, followed by Honduras and Dominica.

“According to him, representatives from Honduras and Dominica always seek the right of initial negotiation on every category of goods. Having this right means that said partner can ask to re-negotiate on any type of goods, even once Vietnam is in the WTO. This is unacceptable and difficult to realize because there are thousands of tax lines the require negotiation.”

To read the article in full, click here

“Many Afghans Lost to Hazards of Childbirth”

As reported in the Washington Post by Pamela Constable, Afghanistan is “one of the most dangerous places in the world to be born or to deliver a child.” The U.S. charity Save the Children reported recently that Afghanistan “has the world’s second-highest rate of newborn deaths, 60 per 1,000 births, and that one in six Afghan mothers – 20,000 a year – die during or after childbirth.”

Ms. Constable reports that, “although Afghanistan has had a stable, Western-backed government since late 2001 and foreign donors have spent tens of millions of dollars to improve health care, conditions still conspire to sabotage the chances of healthy and normal births.” Linda Bartlett, a physician and maternal and child health officer for UNICEF in Kabul says that, “it’s really as bad as it can get and still sustain a population.”

“The worst problem is lack of skilled staff,” said Nadra Hayat, director of maternal and infant health at the Public Health Ministry in Kabul. Ms. Constable reports that “delivering babies is traditionally done in Afghanistan by women, and many families do not want male doctors to treat their wives or daughters.”

Ms. Bartlett notes that “health care has improved significantly in some provinces, with new clinics built and staffed in large towns.” However, she says that the problem is at “two extremes: remote regions where medical help is dangerously scarce, and urban areas where hospitals can barely keep up with the population boom.”

While the influx of foreign aid has helped to improve many of the healthcare conditions, improvements still need to be made. “Basic supplies often run out and patients may be asked to privately purchase such items as intravenous drips.” Ms. Constable also reports that “Afghan and foreign aid agencies have focused on increasing the quantity and quality of midwives.” Ms. Constable reports that “in the past three years, a U.S.-funded program has trained hundreds of community midwives and a national midwives association has been formed.”

To read this article in full click here.

Discussion with Iranian Minority Opposition Leaders

In a discussion with Iranian Minority Opposition Leaders held by the Kurdish Human Rights Watch on Monday June 5, 2006 at the Rayburn House Office Building, several distinguished panelists talked about the increasing number if human rights violations that the Iranian government has been carrying out in the past few months. Iran’s minority and opposition leaders have been the victim’s of many of these attacks as a result of their involvement with human rights organizations and some they are reaching out to the international community in search of their support.

Mr. Mustafa Hejri, Secretary General of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan gave his account of Iranian political history and the tactic’s that the regime uses to stay in power. There is no doubt, in the opinion of Mr. Hejri that “the regime is planning to acquire nuclear weapons,” and that the government is telling the Iranian people to support such acquisition as source of national Iranian pride.

Abdulla Mohtadi, for the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan stressed that “Iran is still a multi-national, multi-ethnic, heterogeneous nation comprised of five main nationalities other than Persian,” and that they should be recognized. Mr. Mohtadi feels that the real national pride of Iran should be “the creation of a unified, secular Iran,” not “pride from the development of nuclear energy.”

Roya Toloui, Founder of the Kurdish Women’s Human Rights Organization gave emotional and detailed accounts of her own experiences dealing with human rights issues, along with accounts of how women and children are discriminated against by the regime. Ms. Toloui told the audience about how her brother was gunned down in the street by a revolutionary guard for fighting for human rights. She also discussed how honor killings are allowed and encouraged in Iran. Ms. Toloui said that “the international world has to help us bring about a democratic government.”

Dr. Karim Abdian, Vice-President of the Congress of Nationalities for Federal Iran said that “women and ethnic groups are the most important groups in the repressed society.” Dr. Abdian believes that “it is up to the constituents in Iran to decide what will happen to Iran,” and that he wants a “peaceful, stable country that promotes democracy in Iran and supports human rights and the equality of women.”

Rahim Shahbazi of the Azerbaijani Societies of North America believes that “the human rights issue is rights in front of everyone’s eyes,” but that “no one is paying attention to it.” He also said that he believes that “Iran’s regime has no right to nuclear weapons.”

In the question and answer portion of the discussion they panel made it clear that, as Mr. Mohtadi put it, “no,” the U.S. is not giving any of the panelists’ organizations money, “no,” they do not support a military invasion to overthrow the regime, and they all “want the global community to support the people and their struggle to change the regime internally.”

Young Iranian Girl Sentenced to Death for Killing her Attacker

As reported in an article issued by Wikepedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 18 year old Nazanine Mahabad Fatehi has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging for “stabbing a man who she claims tried to rape her and her 15 year old niece.” Wikepedia reports that Nazanine, then 17 years old, and her niece, Sumayeh, then 15 years old, “were in a park in Karaj, west of Tehran with their boyfriends, when three men started harassing them. The girls’ boyfriends fled from the scene, leaving the girls behind. The men then tried to rape them, and to protect herself, Nazanine took out a knife from her pocket and stabbed one of the men in the chest.”

Nazanine “claims she acted in self-defense” and many organizations, including Amnesty International, are lobbying in her defense. “I think cases like this are illustrative of the fact that there is a serious human rights crisis in Iran. It really is time for the international community to put those issues right at the top of the agenda,” says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.

Critics have pointed out that, “in another country she might be acquitted or receive only a short prison sentence,” but that “Iran has a young age of eligibility for the death penalty – 15 years for males, and 9 for females.”

Wikepedia reports that, “according to Iranian newspaper Hanshari and by order of the Superior Court of Islamic Republic, the death sentence of Nazarine was cancelled subject to payment of dieh (blood money) to the family of the alleged rapist killed.”

To read this article in full click here.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Cairo's Trash Collectors

As reported by Jack Epstein on Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle, the door to door garbage collection business—which has provided roughly 70,000 Coptic Christians in Cairo, Egypt with a means of employment for over fifty years--has been battling major scrutiny from the Egyptian government. The government wants to replace the system with foreign professional sanitation companies.

The Copts began collecting and recycling Cairo’s trash when it became more and more difficult for them to make a living as farmers because the land was so tightly controlled by the Muslim majority. This community of Copts fills the job of garbage collector, (known as a zabaleen in Arabic) because Muslims regard the occupation as “unfit, unclean and shameful.”

The zabaleen face many health risks working amongst Cairo’s garbage. However, because Cairo has no formal trash collection system in place, many residents rely and admire the work of the zabaleen and would rather continue supporting the door-to-door garbage collection service rather than pay the government to hire a foreign sanitation company. The Garbage Collectors Association for Community Development, a nonprofit based in Cairo, represents the zabaleen and has worked hard to protect their ongoing existence.

According to the piece:

“At a school unlike any in the Middle East, 15-year-old Magdi Shenuda learns how to use a computer to track the number of plastic bottles he recycled in the past month.

“The Recycling School, in a Cairo district noted chiefly for its garbage dump, teaches about 100 poor children their ABCs, fundamental health and the arts -- and basic training in the collection and reuse of trash.

“Magdi lives in Manshiet Nasser, one of seven Cairo neighborhoods populated primarily by Coptic Christians who toil as zabaleen -- Arabic for garbage collectors. For more than five decades, city residents have relied on their cheap -- less than $1 a month -- door-to-door service, which hauls away trash by small truck or donkey cart. The zabaleen spend hours sorting glass, plastic, cardboard, paper, tin and torn clothes in their communities and sell it to local factories that wash, compress and resell the materials.

“Many residents of this poverty-stricken settlement of 40,000 in an abandoned quarry at the foot of the Muqattam Hills are descendants of poor farmers who came to Cairo in the 1950s. They turned to garbage collection because the majority Muslim population -- only 10 percent of Egypt's 70 million people are Coptic Christians -- considers such work unclean.

To read this article in full, click here

Identifying the Problems, but Not the Solutions

As reported in an article written in the United States Institute of Peace April/May 2006 newsletter, USIP recently held two meetings of the Afghanistan Working Group to discuss the “possible problems and solutions” in Afghanistan. The problems that they identified included “continuing attacks from the Taliban and other anti-government militias, the need for economic development and justice sector form, and the resurgence of the opium trade.” There was no consensus, however, on any possible solutions.

At the first meeting, security issues were the main point of discussion. The group was briefed by counterinsurgency experts Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation and Colonel David Lamm of the National Defense University. They noted that “despite earlier predictions that the insurgency was dying down, it has, in fact, maintained its presence in the southern and eastern provinces.” The two men noted that the insurgents have adopted new techniques, “attacking ‘softer’ targets such as government personnel and religious leaders rather than the military” and that “beheadings, kidnappings, and suicide bombings have become more frequent.”

The second meeting focused on reconstruction. Alex Their, Senior Advisor to the Institute’s Rule of Law program, and Barnett Rubin, director of studies at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University were the speakers. Rubin spoke about the London Compact. This is an “agreement that outlines the responsibilities of the international community in Afghanistan’s reconstruction.” They focused on reconstruction at the local level. They noted that “the past four years of assistance and state building have had little impact at the local level” and that “many Afghans have become skeptical about the central government and perceive it to be a client of the international community.”

Both men agree that there is still a great amount of work to be done, but that “it is vital that Afghans be given the chance to strengthen their own fledgling institutions.”

To read this article in full click here.

"Will Civil War Bring Lasting Peace to Iraq?"

In an op-ed article posted in the LA Times, Edward N. Luttwak, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says that “history shows that civil wars should be fought without outside foreign interference before stability prevails.” Mr. Luttwak believes that “civil wars can bring lasting peace by destroying the will to fight and by removing the motives and opportunities for further violence.” In his article, Mr. Luttwak uses examples of the civil wars fought in England, the United States, and Switzerland. In each case he notes that “political stability” was the result of civil war. In Mr. Luttwak’s opinion “attempts to stop the killing by U.S. and British forces are feeble.” He notes that the hatred among the Shiites and the Suniis is “theological hatred” and believes that “there is no hatred as strong as theological hatred” and therefore “it is time for outsiders to step aside and let the Iraqis fight it out among themselves, ending with each controlling its own region.”
Mr. Luttwak goes on the say that he believes “the U.S. should disengage their troops from populated areas as much as possible, give up the intrusive checkpoints and patrols and abandon the effort to build up military and police forces.” It is Mr. Luttwak’s belief that “the sooner the Kurds, Sunni, Shiites, Turkmen, and smaller minorities can define their own natural and stable boundaries within which they feel safe, the sooner the violence will come to an end.”

To see this article in full click here.