Archive | September, 2012

That They May Like ‘US’

24 Sep

This is a guest blog post from one of our former interns, Nnamdi Iheakaram, Esq.

A foreign policy that is based on a state’s ability to project force will tend to pursue unilateralist goals. The immense benefit derivable from this strategy is evident when weaker states readily abandon non-essential legitimate claims rather than engage a state that has power advantage and the will to exploit that advantage.  Undeniably, it is well-known that war is more likely when conquest is easy.  However, the interest in question must be essential, such as the threat to a state’s sovereignty, to warrant any state risking the possibility of a direct military conquest. Because most interests are non-essential, it becomes attractive for stronger states to resort to their military might in the event of more essential threats to their interests.

The US has always had a power advantage which it has employed in securing its interests. Not long ago, in 2009, a new US foreign policy approach based on mutual respect of other states and their cultures was pitched to an enthralled audience in Cairo, Egypt. The goal was to reassure the Muslim community that the United States was not an enemy and that the new US government would seek to work closely with all peace loving states in ensuring international peace and security. To give effect to these declarations, the US government gave direct support to protesters all across North Africa and the Middle East during the 2010 Arab Spring and even called on the Egyptian President, an ally, to relinquish power as demanded by the protesters.

While this support may seem appropriate to passionate advocates who are committed to democracy and the self-governance of all people, an objective analysis of the situation may show that supporting a rebel movement that is not clear on its objectives, violates the laws of a legitimate government, and seeks military assistance to unseat a government, is itself unlawful and counterproductive. Accordingly, it was unwonted when the US called on its Egyptian ally to relinquish power as opposed to reestablishing effective control and initiating a constitutional review that would bring about a more representative government structured around the rule of law and secularism. But the US interference, which was based on a new commitment to democratic rule, was undermined by its inconsistent treatment of similarly situated states.

Thus, just as it was difficult to identify any supporters of the continuation of the government of Col. Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, it was equally difficult to identify any law that could support an intervention in Libya while requiring non-interference in Saudi Arabia. The reason is simple: the Libyan government had effective control of its territory while effective control in, for instance, a state likeSaudi Arabia was enabled by external interests. In the 2011 Libyan intervention, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) concept, developed to avoid mass atrocity crimes, was tarnished as it appeared to have been adopted only to justify and legitimize interference in the domestic affairs of a state, which included removal of the head of that state, thereby exposing one of the fundamental flaws of the concept.  While Qaddafi had been accused of killing less than a thousand rebels at the time the “no-fly-zone” was imposed, commentators such as Jordan Street have been clear that “the bombing that NATO embarked upon to protect their initial mandate has also shown to be flawed due to the high mortality rates among civilians.”  .  The killing of Libyans, it appears, is justifiable when effected under an internationally approved political program.

This is the legal and moral quagmire that is encountered when scholars attempt to interpret popular rules or principles of international law without considering the historical backgrounds and the socioeconomic factors determining the purposes or grounds for their application. Accordingly, it is imperative that international action (or more specifically, intervention in states) be framed in a way that makes it consistent and predictable as opposed to flexible and heteronomous. The former (which is consistent and predictable) would ensure that US policies seek to maximize and protect US interests without undermining or diminishing the welfare of other states, while the latter (which is flexible and heteronomous) would ensure that US policies seek to maximize and protect US interests, largely regardless of consequences. The benefit of taking the first approach is that policies aimed at the maximization and protection of interests are not knowingly detrimental to other states and thus, are in line with international law , while the second approach brings about policies that use other states as means to the goal of maximization and protection of interests.

The recent attacks on US interests in Libya and elsewhere, call for concern for the safety of all diplomats. It is unacceptable that individuals representing their nation’s interests should be imperiled for the mere fact that they accepted a responsibility to serve a diplomatic purpose.. There is no justification for the protesters or anyone to take the lives of others on the righteous pretext that the uncivil and supposedly heretical actions of some bigoted, attention-seeking artists provided  sufficient provocation.

Matters regarding religion are emotive and until the denigration of the faith of others is discouraged by non-coercive measures, extremists of various faiths will actively continue to take matters into their own hands in defense of their beliefs. When economic grievances are rooted in sociopolitical problems that cannot be effectively and easily framed as a rallying cry for action, religion is employed as a tool for rallying otherwise diverse groups against an allegedly ‘common enemy.’  Whether such actions are justified is dependent upon the rationale or factuality of their grievance. But one fact remains indisputable, despite the high cost of the US involvement in the Middle East, there is a clear reluctance to adjust the current US Middle East policy. The implication is that conditions which will likely lead to the reoccurrence of violence persist.

While the West viewed the Arab Spring as an effort by an oppressed citizenry to  rid itself of autocratic leaders, anti-western elements viewed it as aimed at removing less effective Western political acolytes. Having declared the Arab Spring a success, it is unclear how a US Ambassador could be assassinated in Benghazi, a city that was the stronghold and capital of the US-supported rebel forces that fought against Qaddafi. What is not in dispute is that the West has interests in the Gulf and has chosen to selectively interfere in the affairs of states in order to secure those interests. The rationale for this position is subject to debate; however, it can be asserted that a legal, purpose-driven approach that seeks to protect the interests of all involved will be more effective in securing long-term peace than a value-driven approach that is subject to the whims and caprices of self-interested foreign interveners.

Thus, instead of trying to capitalize on the current violence for political purposes, US leaders must use the on-going presidential campaigns to develop, articulate and communicate a realistic and reassuring foreign policy aimed at absolute respect for the rule of law on the international scene and less reliance on force as a means of securing interests. Such a change ensuring that power is not an advantage and that weakness is not a disadvantage is necessary in persuading states like Iran and North Korea to abandon realist security measures which increase the risks of devastating  conflict. It is suggested that only a change in US policy will positively affect the perception and attitude of these states, not an increase in its military might.  The US must choose between the better peace that flows from its support for universally recognized, just policies or a fragile peace held together by the fear of its military might.. A just foreign policy may or may not improve the welfare of other states, but an unjust foreign policy will deliberately diminish the welfare of other states.

Speak Up! Girls for Negotiation

18 Sep

This is one of two articles on PROGRESS’s inaugural workshop in Washington DC.  The first article looks at the Institution and concept behind PROGRESS. The second article will describe the workshop and its impact on the participating girls here in Washington DC – written by Jenneth Macan Markar

In a society where young girls are targeted by the media as viable consumers of materialism and women learn to comply with what is expected of them as opposed to what they want or can achieve, PROGRESS stands out as a program intended to effectuate a positive change in society by helping women and girls learn to make better decisions for themselves through negotiation. Teaching “Negotiation skills” are the hallmark of the Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society (PROGRESS) developed at the Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The inspiration behind the workshops developed by PROGRESS is to teach young girls the skill of negotiation, to enable them to make better life style decisions and grow up to be successful women.

PROGRESS is holding a workshop in Washington DC for young girls for the first time at the end of September. The workshop titled “Speak Up” will be a half day program with food, games and activities along with entertainment by the Georgetown University Step Team and Batala Washington. Molly Barker, Founder of Girls on the Run International will be the keynote speaker at the conference.

In the past 4 years since the program has been in operation in several communities in Pittsburgh, girls between the ages of  7-12 participating in half day workshops have been taught negotiation skills in a fun way. The workshops have been held with the help of facilitators from within the community, who are trained by Progress staff prior to the workshop. It is hoped that through the adoption of these skills the girls will learn how to make better life choices by creating positive options for them regarding their safety, health, education, future relationships and jobs. Progress workshops focus on girls from low income and marginalized communities as well as at schools that have the capacity to conduct similar workshops themselves.

The curriculum which is taught to the girls was developed by Ayana Ledford, Executive Director of PROGRESS and Professor Linda Babcock, the James M. Walton Professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon, based on 20 years of  research on gender roles and negotiation which she and her co-author explore more fully in their book “Women Don’t Ask”. Ayana Ledford, the Executive Director of Progress conducts programming and community outreach. Currently PROGRESS conducts research, carries out advocacy projects and implements workshops. The newest long term initiative by PROGRESS is a continuing education program for professional women called the Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women, which is to start in January of 2013.

Although PROGRESS has had many workshops in Pittsburgh this is the first time in Washington DC. Heinz College has a branch here in DC and it seems like the natural step up for PROGRESS to expand its work. Similar to the workshops conducted in Pittsburgh the program will work with girls and community volunteers as facilitators.

Currently PROGRESS has just started a three-year long collaboration with the Consortium for Public Education in McKeesport, PA to track the girls that they work with in this program for several years and study how the workshop has influenced their decision-making. In the future Progress hopes to develop the capacity to conduct follow up programs to follow the progress of all the girls over the years and study the long term impacts of workshops such as this.

Workshop date in Washington DC: Saturday, September 22, 2012

Time: 8:30 AM – 1 PM

To register, call 412.268.8650 or go online to and click on the banner ad titled “Speak Up!”

To find out about sponsorship and advertising opportunities please contact Rachel Koch at    (412) 925-6741

Facebook page: Progress CMU

Twitter account: @PROGRESSatCMU


–Jenneth Macan Markar

Jenneth is a Washington DC based gender and development consultant with a Law degree from the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka and a Master in International Affairs from Columbia University in New York. Originally from Sri Lanka she formally worked at Global Action to Prevent War in New York on Women, Peace and Security issues. She can be contacted at

International Media and the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms

10 Sep

“Sparse” would describe the level of attention international media has been paying to the Review Conference for the UN Programme of Action on small arms and lights weapons (UNPoA). The reasons are manifold and can obviously not be reduced to a general rule of thumb. The personal dedication of the individual journalist willing to push a story or topic that might not be as newsworthy as others in the eyes of the editor or outlet would be one reason. Needless to say, every media representative today, in particular those who are publishing with corporate media outlets, has to deal with an entirely new framework of restrictions and guidelines.

Newsworthiness has been redefined, often but not always to the detriment of quality of information. On the other hand, tangible results are still more likely to make it into the paper than theoretical discourses, which often exclude the every-day-reader. The counterargument for that statement would be the journalist’s ability to break down, analyze and communicate complex, specialized contexts. Not all journalists can, not all of them want to, not all of them have the time to, and not every outlet is suitable for such analyses.

These various arguments can be directly applied to the UNPoA Review Conference.

For many, the failure of the arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiations in July, although different in nature and objectives, has been paralyzing whereby UN stereotypes surrounding effectiveness and pace of implementation have certainly resurfaced. Additionally, discussions on language or meeting details, as has been the case for some of the first week of the Review Conference, are simply of no interest to the every-day-reader, while they are very important in a UN context when multiple cultures with particular political boundaries are trying to come to an agreement on complex political matters, such as national military build-up or the eradication of the illicit arms trade.

Nevertheless, as in most situations in life, there is a way to cover solid middle ground. Numerous side events at the UNPoA Conference have offered a high level of practicality and result-driven implementation that is well -worth communicating to the outside world of political ordinaries. For example, the launch of the publication A decade of Implementing the UNPoA on SALW: Analysis of National Reports by Sarah Parker and Katherine Green from the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) provided a summary of the degree of national implementation of the UNPoA, and although the provision of national reports is voluntary and therefor incomplete, the study could be a basis from which effectiveness or ineffectiveness could be much better quantified.

Another event worth covering was hosted by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which focused on physical security and stockpile management and demonstrated a very tangible and reportable result of UNPoA implementation by coordinating UN actors for emergency response as well as creating national focal points in areas of crisis for humanitarian organizations. As Global Action’s Katherine Prizeman writes, “To date, UNMAS has destroyed over 180,000 landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXO) in Libya through 23 deployed clearance teams.”

What creates international headlines a day after the UNPoA had started is the fact that “The legal international trade in small arms, light weapons, their parts and ammunition is worth at least $8.5 billion annually”— more than double the previous estimate in 2006, according to a survey by independent researchers released at UN headquarters last week. The Small Arms Survey 2012 said the increase from the last estimate of $4 billion is due to several factors — large-scale government spending especially during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, increased purchases of small arms and ammunition from foreign countries by American civilians, and better information and improved methods of calculating the value of transfers”, as UN-Correspondent Edith Lederer writes in Bloomberg’s Businessweek.

What will it take to make peace that profitable and hence newsworthy? According to the Small Arms Survey, there are an estimated 875 million small arms in circulation worldwide, produced by more than 1,000 companies from nearly 100 countries. A concerning situation this PoA conference is dedicated to and would indeed deserve extensive, global media attention.

–Lia Petridis Maiello

UNPoA on Small Arms Review Conference Ends with Consensus Document

10 Sep

After the President of the Review Conference (RevCon), Ambassador Ogwu of Nigeria, provided a third revision of the draft outcome document on Friday afternoon, delegations were able to adopt, by consensus, the compilation document. This document is composed of a Declaration, two implementation plans for the Programme of Action (UNPoA) and International Tracing Instrument (ITI), respectively, and a follow-up mechanism detailing a future schedule of meetings to guide the small arms process. As expressed by the President in her closing remarks to the Conference, the successful completion of the RevCon with a consensus outcome is a welcome achievement in helping to create positive momentum in the multilateral disarmament fora. As the representative of Algeria noted, this RevCon “achieved success where the ATT [arms trade treaty] couldn’t.” Likewise, the fact that member states were able to constructively engage and adopt a consensus document indeed represents a positive reaffirmation of the importance of the UNPoA framework to international peace and security and, more specifically, combating the scourge of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALWs). Undoubtedly, the UNPoA remains the only global framework of practical measures for combating illicit trade in SALWs and its dire humanitarian consequences.

Many delegations took the opportunity to praise the work of the Conference on Friday afternoon, including the representative of Mexico who noted how this success represented a significant step forward since the first RevCon in 2006, and the German delegate who welcomed this “landmark” document. Similarly, the delegation of Switzerland affirmed the document as an impetus for success in the area of disarmament that is “crucial to the work of international peace and security.” While it is true that this RevCon can be hailed as a general success, due in large part to the great skill and dedication of the President as well as the four facilitators, the RevCon on the whole did not thoroughly take stock of progress achieved nor did it provide for an in-depth assessment of implementation to date in order to draw lessons for the future. As has been previously expressed in this Monitor, a reiteration of previous UNPoA or ITI commitments is not sufficient. The various components of the review cycle, including this RevCon, should be integrally linked so that they can incrementally build upon the specific findings and discussions of the preceding debate in the context of the current security circumstances. As noted by the delegate of the UK in his concluding remarks, although the RevCon achieved a significant success in the consensus document, “ambition” in the document was left wanting.

The third revision, and subsequently adopted text, was identical to the previous version with the exception of a paragraph in Annex 1 (under the UNPoA implementation plan) referring to the risk of diversion in the context of export authorizations which was deleted. Following the adoption of the document, many delegations expressed regret over the lack of inclusion of certain elements as well as weak language on others. In particular, many delegations noted with regret the exclusion of language on a gender perspective in UNPoA implementation (EU, Germany, Mexico,) as well as on munitions (Colombia, ECOWAS, Guatemala, Switzerland), parts and components (EU, Ghana, Guatemala, UK),  and a lack of strong language on diversion (CARICOM, Trinidad and Tobago, UK). Also missing from the document were strong references to monitoring and assessment and evidence-based research on implementation as the text refers only to measurability in the context of international cooperation and assistance. Moreover, there were no references to monitoring and assessment of casualties of armed violence through which states could better understand the effects of illicit use of SALWs. Rather, such language was weakened to “…enhancing their ability to monitor and analyze the consequences of the uncontrolled spread of illicit small arms and light weapons and their misuse,” not an altogether terrible substitution, but weaker nonetheless.

While the document was hailed as “fair and balanced” and the best possible representation of consensus, states must use the next 6-year review cycle to achieve more in the way of practical implementation.  Moving forward, the ongoing discussion of how to ensure full and effective implementation of the UNPoA will persist as many delegations called for a return to the many issues previously mentioned that were not addressed in this RevCon. More alarming, however, will be the ongoing debate and inability to convince some delegations of the difference between “reviewing” the UNPoA in order to strengthen its implementation by applying a fresh context in light of changing dynamics and circumstances and “re-writing” the UNPoA.  If left unresolved, it is expected that this division will continue to challenge the process and undoubtedly limit the effectiveness of the subsequent meetings of the review cycle. Adoption of the latter approach, limiting and constraining the process to only that which is explicitly found in the 2001 document, is precisely what future review meetings must seek to avoid.

Prior to adopting the outcome document by consensus, the delegate of Iran stated that although his delegation would not “stand in the way of success,” the document was unsatisfactory as it “lacked clarity and accuracy and at times went beyond the scope of the PoA.” The representative of Syria echoed this sentiment when he shared “reservations” about certain proposals adopted in the document that “were not in the PoA.” Likewise, the delegation of Cuba called references to resolutions related to women as well as the term armed violence “selective and outside the specific framework of the PoA.” This central debate—how to balance reiteration and re-commitment to the “old” language of UNPoA with infusion of “new” forward-looking language that addresses challenges related to national implementation that introduces concepts and recommendations not explicitly found in the original 2001 document—is absolutely crucial to future success. Finding this balance is imperative if the UNPoA can continue and even strengthen its relevance to ending the scourge of illicit trade in SALWs.


–Katherine Prizeman