After two weeks of slaughter in South Sudan, UNMISS, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country, faces three possible scenarios: fragile success, prolonged agony and decisive failure. In the first and best scenario, the mission will manage to hold together militarily long enough for more-or-less sincere political talks to end the violence. In the second, it might muddle through in the face of half-hearted negotiations and spasmodic but serious violence, trying to save as many lives as possible. The third, worst-case scenario would involve the fragmentation and rout of UNMISS after repeated attacks on its bases, personnel and convoys. […]

Early this month, Colombia’s inspector general said that if the Colombian government grants impunity to FARC guerillas as part of a peace deal, the International Criminal Court (ICC) should intervene. In an email interview, Alejandro Chehtman, an assistant professor at the Law School of the Torcuato Di Tella University specializing in international criminal law and international humanitarian law, explained the ICC’s involvement in Colombia. WPR: What is the extent of the International Criminal Court’s involvement in Colombia at present? Alejandro Chehtman: The relevance of the ICC in Colombia has slightly decreased since it first announced that Colombia was a situation […]

Does Ban Ki-moon fall prey to the sin of envy when he thinks of Pope Francis? The two men are arguably the leaders of the two most significant global institutions, and idealists have dubbed the secretary-general of the United Nations a “secular pope.” Ban does not subscribe to this grandiloquent self-description. But he may wish he could communicate moral themes as effectively as the new pontiff. Francis impressed even nonbelievers last month with a deeply felt attack on the rising “economy of exclusion and inequality.” Ban, who hopes to forge a new international deal to end extreme poverty by 2030, […]

Exactly one year ago, Egyptian liberals took the streets driven by anguish and anger. The first elected government since the Tahrir Square uprising was stealing the revolution from them. In the dead of night, the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly had approved a draft that many viewed as laying the path to an Islamist state. One year later, with the Islamists out of power and the military firmly in control, a new panel has approved major changes to that constitution. Just as the old constitution revealed the Islamists’ ambitions, the new document offers a window into the long-term aspirations of those holding […]

Often overlooked by some Western policymakers engaged with the Mideast peace process, water-sharing arrangements have served as a significant driver of regional tensions dating back to Israel’s founding in 1948. Control of water resources—vital to all manner of economic development, food production and basic human security—has loomed just beneath the surface of many of the region’s headline-earning events of the past 50 years. For example, one of the myriad outcomes of Israel’s triumph in the 1967 Six-Day War—Israeli control of the Golan Heights—brought control of key sections of the Jordan River watershed, one of the few reliable freshwater sources in […]

Since Ukraine regained independence in 1991, analysts have often described the country as divided between a pro-European west and a pro-Russian east. Over the past two decades, elections and opinion polls have reflected that divide, though with some gradual blurring of the line. An interesting feature of the current political crisis, however, is that while pro-European sentiment grips the western and central parts of Ukraine, no alternate pro-Russian narrative has appeared with any force or passion. Like many things, the east-west divide in Ukraine oversimplifies. It is not strictly a divide between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. The latter make […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s party won roughly half of the votes in municipal elections held this weekend, strengthening the government’s position as it confronts an ongoing economic crisis. Maduro has vowed to continue the socialist project of his predecessor Hugo Chavez, and has been taking steps to counter the “economic war” he claims is being waged on Venezuela by foreign-backed business interests. The opposition secured 43 percent of the vote, less than it managed to capture in the presidential election in April, and complained of government interference. Reacting to the results, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the elections […]

Last month, the governments of Kenya and Somalia signed a tripartite agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agreeing in principle to begin working toward the return of the half-million Somali refugees living in Kenya—mostly in refugee camps—to their country of origin. This agreement has caused a great deal of anxiety among the Somali population, particularly those living in Kenya, as many people feel that it is premature to begin to repatriate people to a country that is still at war with itself and where even the most basic services and livelihood prospects are lacking. It is […]

This summer in Jordan, I met some of the individuals behind the often anonymous news accounts of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war. In Zaatari refugee camp, I met an accountant who carried his six-day-old daughter across the border in the dead of night after his house was destroyed, and a widow who fled with little more than $11 in her pocket after her husband died. And in a hospital in Amman, I met refugees recovering from torture so brutal that even the healing wounds were painful to look at. Despite the horrors they endured, all the Syrian refugees I met […]

Among the most damning criticisms of human rights law is that when it is needed most, it is nearly impossible to enforce. To understand how this is so, think about someone being detained and beaten by police officers in a police station. This probably happens to thousands of people every day all around the world, and it is a very simple matter in international law. It’s called torture, and it is illegal. Always. That’s the theory, anyway. When a system of law is enforceable in practice, it should be possible to turn a clear legal right into something actionable—say, a […]