In the midst of deep crisis, cooler heads rarely hold sway — at least in the public discourse. Thus it was that just a year ago, we heard from many experts — and joyous activists — that globalization was on its deathbed: The global economy was on the verge of a great and permanent unraveling. It was to be an inexorable and exact reversal of everything that defined the go-go globalization of the 1990s, replete with social and political unrest of the highest order. In effectively re-enacting the Great Depression of the 1930s, we even faced the incredible prospect of […]

KIGALI, Rwanda — Walking the streets of Rwanda’s tidy capital, it’s easy to forget that just 16 years have passed since this country’s grisly genocide. In this modern city of approximately 1 million, roads are smooth, sidewalks clean, and the crime, pollution and hassle of most African cities absent. Across Kigali, rising office towers reflect GDP growth that has averaged 8 percent over the last five years. In the countryside, though poverty remains rife, small-scale farmers have seen tangible benefits from the creation of cooperatives, increased use of fertilizers, a revival of the export coffee industry, and a unique system […]

MITROVICA, Kosovo — Back in 2003, when U.S. officials optimistically predicted that American forces would be “greeted as liberators” by the Iraqi people, their minds probably conjured images of the mass euphoria that welcomed NATO troops to Kosovo in 1999. During that war, cheering Kosovar Albanians chanted “NATO, NATO!!” as the U.S.-led military force entered the territory after pushing out Serbian forces with a 78-day bombardment. A NATO-led peacekeeping force known as KFOR has remained here ever since, helping the fledgling country get on its feet. But NATO, facing demanding commitments in Afghanistan and potentially elsewhere, is itching to pull […]

Congo wants the U.N. peacekeepers out. Eleven years after one the world’s biggest peacekeeping forces deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo in a bid to tamp down on insurgent violence and oversee the resolution of a bloody civil war, DRC President Joseph Kabila has grown uncomfortable with the sometimes corrupt and ineffective blue-helmeted troops. “Don’t do anything for us,” Lambert Mende, Kabila’s information minister, told the U.N. “We will do it ourselves.” Kabila’s call for an end to the Mission of the U.N. in Congo (MONUC) comes at a time of renewed international interest in the DRC’s overlapping conflicts, […]

A bus carrying around 60 passengers, including at least 20 local policemen, was winding through a thick forest in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Monday when it suddenly exploded. At least 30 people were killed. Most of the rest were injured. Indian authorities were quick to pin the bomb attack on the country’s four-decade-old Naxalite-Maoist rebellion, named for Naxalbari, the town where the group first attacked government security forces in 1967. Naxalite fighters have been known to target security checkpoints along bus routes, and have warned bus operators not to allow police on board their vehicles. The Naxals, […]

Peacekeeping is a tragic business. That may seem obvious, if only because, when reading about United Nations peacekeeping operations, you come across the word “tragedy” a lot. It describes what happened in Bosnia and Rwanda all too neatly. There’s no better word for what took place in Haiti, where more than 100 U.N. personnel were among the 250,000 dead in January’s earthquake. But, as English professors have tried to explain to generations of dozy students, “tragic” is more than just a synonym for “awful.” Great tragedies — Oedipus Rex, Macbeth, Scarface — aren’t just about suffering. They center on protagonists […]

It is now widely recognized — including in the highest-level policy statements of the United Nations, European Union, African Union and NATO — that managing conflict requires a multidimensional, comprehensive, whole-of-government or integrated approach. All these approaches have a similar aim: to achieve greater harmonization and synchronization among the international and local actors, as well as across the analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation phases of the program cycle. One-dimensional or single-facet conflict-management responses are now viewed as superficial and counterproductive, in that they address only some aspects of a wider system. They thus tend to distort, shift or redirect tensions […]

When Timor-Leste’s President José Ramos-Horta survived an assassination attempt two years ago, he forgave the rebel leader behind it. Similarly, he has struck a conciliatory tone with Indonesia, despite its violent 1975-1999 occupation of Timor-Leste, and focused on the growing political and economic ties between the two countries. His leadership has emphasized the value of moving beyond the past. But in this interview, Ramos-Horta, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his nonviolent work toward independence, reflects on the successes and failures of the U.N.’s 1999-2002 peacekeeping mission and of subsequent international aid in Timor-Leste. The U.N., he […]

A subtle evolution of United Nations peacekeeping operations is underway. If the first of these missions kept an agreed-upon peace, and later missions sought to make peace, several countries now use these operations to advance their foreign and economic policy agendas, and raise their global profile. This shift, selective as it is to date, may potentially raise the standard of conduct in U.N. peacekeeping operations increasingly fraught with charges of criminal behavior, corruption, lack of accountability, and general ineffectiveness. However, there are significant downsides to this approach. The global movement of people, information, goods, and services creates new opportunities, but […]

Get a .pdf version of this report. In his state of the nation address to parliament on June 3, 2009, although speaking against a bleak recessionary backdrop, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma was at pains to stress policy continuity, referring to the country’s “functional constitutional democratic system” as the basis for celebrating “our culture of continuity and collective responsibility . . . [which makes] us a unique country in many respects.” Zuma further committed South Africa, among other things, to prioritizing Africa, strengthening regional integration in southern Africa, and supporting peace on the continent. His address was all the more […]

Between Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano and the oil slick in the Gulf, everybody seems to have disasters on the brain lately. Some of it stems from the nonstop global media coverage, while a good portion relates to our growing awareness of climate change. But a lot of this heightened anxiety is simply misplaced. We don’t live in an increasingly dangerous world, whether you’re talking wars, terrorism, disasters — or just the weather. In fact, we live in the safest times yet known to humanity. We just choose not to see it that way for a variety of reasons. First, we love […]

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo — Were it not for the convoys of blue-helmeted soldiers, one would hardly guess this lakeside town is the nexus of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Though its rutted streets are a stark contrast to the newly surfaced, tree-lined avenues across the nearby Rwandan border, the capital of eastern Congo’s North Kivu Province is abuzz with new construction, a testament to Goma’s status as a bastion of stability in a region defined by conflict. On a recent Friday night, cigarette-smoking ex-pats downed Primus beers at Petite Bruxelles, a kitsch new establishment and ode […]

MONROVIA, Liberia — Almost a year ago, President Barack Obama used his long-awaited speech in Ghana to address a question with which the African continent is all too familiar: corruption. “No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves,” Obama lectured his audience in the Ghanaian Parliament. Since then, the question of corruption has taken on added urgency, and not just in Africa. The visit this week to Washington by Afghan President Hamid Karzai highlighted the degree to which U.S. concerns over widespread Afghan corruption have taken a back seat to war-time priorities. […]

It was a rare refuge in a country that had known only war for 19 years: In Afgooye, a town just a few miles outside Mogadishu, the staff of the Dr. Hawa Abdi camp offered food, medical care and protection to as many as 6,000 Somali families at a time. Through two decades of war and occupation, the staff and its charismatic director carefully maintained their neutrality — and managed to preserve the camp’s delicate infrastructure despite the chaos that raged just beyond the walls. On May 5, all that changed. A faction of Islamic fighters occupied the camp, killed […]

An edgy calm has settled over Nicaragua in the aftermath of political violence that erupted in Managua late last month. During a tense three-day period from April 19-22, supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega attacked opposition congressmen — throwing stones and homemade mortars, burning vehicles, blockading roads, and forcibly denying the lawmakers’ entry to the National Assembly, where the legislative body usually conducts business. The immediate cause of the violence was Decree 03-2010. Issued by Ortega in January 2010, the decree allows for a number of public functionaries — ranging from Supreme Court judges to congressmen and electoral commissioners allied […]

Much of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s activities in Washington this week will center on his efforts to secure American support, both diplomatic and financial, for his new peace plan — and specifically, the controversial issue of negotiating with the Taliban. The Afghan government and its foreign backers differentiate between reconciliation and reintegration. The former concept involves negotiating a political settlement with senior Taliban leaders who are willing to break with al-Qaida. By contrast, reintegration entails inducing lower-level Taliban fighters — who might have become Taliban fighters for non-ideological reasons, such as financial incentives — to stop fighting and return to […]

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Tensions ran high in the Balkans on the day, two years ago, that the people of Kosovo announced their momentous decision: “From today onwards,” Prime Minister Hashim Thaci solemnly declared on Feb. 17, 2008, “Kosovo is proud, independent and free.” The streets of Pristina erupted in celebration at the news that Kosovo’s long-awaited independence from Serbia had finally arrived. At the time, however, many predicted yet another Balkan war. More than two years later, Kosovo has defied the prophecies of the pessimists who believed armed conflict would inevitably break out again if Kosovo dared to declare independence. […]

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