Archive | July, 2014

Traffic Control: Making Policy Sufficient to Ending a Menace

30 Jul

Editor’s Note:   Today (7/30/14) is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.   To help call attention to this unresolved scourge, Danielle Peck has offered this reflection on UN and member state efforts to eliminate trafficking and restore dignity to victims.  She also offers suggestions on ways to better highlight this crime and eliminate impunity for abuses. 

On July 14, 2014 while attending the special high-level event on “Improving the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons” co-organized by the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), many shocking statistics were brought forward demonstrating the ongoing reality of human trafficking. President John Ashe discussed how human trafficking affects every nation in the world. He called it a most “grotesque and lucrative” crime generating 36 billion dollars per year.  The executive director of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, stated that “victims come from 136 different nationalities and are circulated through 118 different countries.” He also mentioned that 75% of victims are women and girls. UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo said, “Every one victim found represents 100 victims still lost.” Statements like these have led me to ask, “What is our international community doing to prevent human trafficking from occurring?”

The U.S. Department of State created the Trafficking in Persons Report, which holds every state accountable for maintaining minimal standards needed to eliminate human trafficking in persons, though states are obviously not required to sign an agreement to that effect. The ‘minimal’ standards are that each country must make a serious and sustained effort to prohibit and eliminate forms of human trafficking. Stringent punishments are suggested to those who violate trafficking laws. Each country is categorized within a ‘tier system’ based on how well it follows minimal standards against trafficking.

Even though the U.S. Department of State has created international pressure with its ‘tier system’ to eliminate trafficking, that system is often disregarded by other states. It is often the case that a nation does not want to be told what to do by another nation. Many countries have also questioned the way the State Department gathered its information for the Trafficking in Persons Report. For instance, Russia voiced its aggravation at being moved to a tier three (the worst rating within the tier system), and they accused the system of being corrupt.

In addition to US efforts, it is vital that the United Nations has a well-established department to combat trafficking. This would not only create efficiency and accountability when gathering ‘best practices’ and statistics, but it might influence more actions to combat human trafficking. UNODC has an office dedicated to combating human trafficking and has implemented many policies to attempt to combat the full range of such trafficking. Still, there are many challenges the department has faced in part due to the fact that human trafficking covers such a broad range of behavior. The department must focus its attention not only on sex trafficking, but also immigrant smuggling or child labor, just to name a few areas of concern. Within the “Human Trafficking FAQs” section of the UNODC website, there is a list of challenges the UN believes must be further addressed. Here I have taken a few of these challenges and provided some suggestions moving forward.

First, the UN believes that there is a problem with how states and organizations gather accurate information on trafficking. There has been no system implemented within the department that encourages states to gather accurate data. As trafficking is a criminal activity, many states may find the data gathering task beyond their capacity. The UN should implement a system with templates that each state can follow to help gather relevant data. Studies should be done that show how accurate data (on trafficking or related matters) has been gathered in the past. The UN should then take further steps to create an infrastructure that will assure that every state can follow those templates with as much ease as possible. If an efficient plan could be created for every state to follow, there would be more accurate trafficking data throughout the world.

Today there are too many different data-gathering systems yielding a wide diversity of statistics on trafficking in persons for each nation. Thus, my first suggestion is for the UN to create an instruction manual that can guide nations seeking to gather human trafficking data.  Then the UN needs to create a common space/system for nations to share their data. The international community needs better cooperation and coordination in developing an information exchange. If every nation had a system to follow on how to gather accurate information, they would probably be more willing to enter their information into a shared database.

Secondly, despite this fine event, the UN does not yet fully convey the importance of countering human trafficking within the international community. Every state has its own list of priorities in this area, in part a function of local cultures and values. The UN must be clear that countering trafficking should be a high priority for every state. As mentioned above, human trafficking exists in every country and affects or influences every person, directly or indirectly. Trafficking represents a massive corrupt network that cannot be overcome without the entire international community making it a priority. The UN should hold more panels that discuss the facts and methods to combat trafficking, as these get publicity and the attention of leaders, as well as create a space for open dialogue for diplomats and NGOs to discuss solutions. It is the UN’s responsibility to help spread awareness of the scourge of trafficking of persons into the international community.

Third, the UN needs to do more to prevent trafficking at its source. Research needs to focus on the sources of the trafficking industry. The UN should provide outlets for funding locally based NGOs that work with trafficking issues and victims. This will make it possible for NGOs to publicize the reality of human trafficking, show how women and men can avoid becoming involved, or even help to stop the practice. Then the UN could consider exposing the identities criminals involved in trafficking to the international community. This could create international pressure as no country wants to have leaders of the trafficking industry publicized as coming from their nation. The criminals should be brought from underground into the public eye. Impunity for their abuses needs to end.

It is unclear the extent to which the UN and other international organizations are addressing human trafficking on a global scale. We need to make human trafficking one of our main priorities. The UN has the power to organize more global events based on the realities of trafficking. The trafficking industry controls more than we realize. It needs to be confronted robustly by the international community with UN guidance.

Danielle M. Peck, Junior Associate

Gender Equity in Context

23 Jul

Editor’s Note:   This is the first post from Marine Ragueneau who has come to us from France via Seattle  For the past six weeks, Marine has covered extensive UN discussions on security and sustainable development goals in the Security Council, ECOSOC and the Open Working Group on SDGs. Marine’s policy interests include gender justice and here she makes several important points — specifically on the need for full participation by women in sustainable development, as well as on the need to provide space for a much more diverse range of voices and contexts than is normally the case at UN headquarters. 

Coming to Global Action (GAPW) and having studied international relations with a focus on human rights and gender, I was thrilled to see how theory was applied to practice in the UN, a center of global governance. In the last month, I have gotten the chance to attend various meetings and side panel discussions dealing with issues ranging from evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to increasing women’s participation in peace processes and other leadership positions, as well as Security Council meetings dealing with urgent matters from Ukraine to Gaza. The following are personal observations I have made concerning matters of gender, inclusion of marginalized voices in genuinely participatory processes, and the possible implications these realities have on the effectiveness of UN security and development policy.

It is widely agreed upon amongst governments and civil society alike that gender equality remains an urgent and imperative step in furthering the human rights agenda. Last month, a particularly engaging discussion occurred – Maintaining Human Rights Momentum for a People-centered Post-2015 Agenda – at which three panelists assessed improvements of the Sustainable Development Goals compared to the unevenly fulfilled Millennium Development Goals of 2000. The conversation remained on the critical side, however, with Alexandra Garita, the gender specialist on the panel, making noteworthy remarks on the difficulties women continue to face, emphasizing the importance of incorporating context-specific, gender realities into the SDG agenda. More specifically, Garita stated that as women make half of the world’s population and give birth to the other half, greater emphasis on achieving universal, holistic, and accessible health care services is crucial. This would include women having access to information on their sexual and reproductive health, as well as control— access to contraceptives, safe abortion services, maternity care, and resources preventing STIs, HIV/AIDS as well as non-communicable diseases such as breast and cervical cancers.

It became clear throughout the conversation that for a comprehensive, integrated health care approach to be effective, the SDGs need to maintain and further reinforce amendments pertaining to climate change and corporate accountability. Such factors are critical to our current social and political context, and those most vulnerable to the degradation of the environment and economic exploitation continue to be women and children. It is in the interest of the UN, therefore, to work on deconstructing the existing power paradigm in order to create systemic, sustainable, and meaningful progress for women’s rights and human rights as a whole. If the SDGs are to help create a future we want, continued mainstreaming of gender issues is vital to its success.

The mainstreaming of gender issues proves to be useful regarding SDG policy development, but through attending other discussions, I found that mainstreaming gender issues can also be problematic. When discussing issues pertaining to women, it is essential to the legitimacy of the conversation to address and assess the differing experiences of women based on geographical and socio-political situations as well as differences experienced due to race, class, sexual orientation, and disability. In the discussion on Gender Equality in Public Administration organized by UNDP, facts and statistics were provided on the current involvement of women in administrative positions, which was helpful in that it contextualized this particular gender issue. During the Q&A, it was briefly mentioned that diversity is still an issue for women seeking administrative positions, but the topic was not elaborated on. I believe this to be a serious weakness in the gender discourse, as it creates division among women who feel not only excluded by the patriarchal structures of our societies, but within the feminist movement as well.

Specifically, the lack of participatory involvement of rural and indigenous women in UN processes and decision making is a setback in what seems to be an otherwise promising step towards achieving greater gender quality. Giving traditionally marginalized women more direct consultative power within the UN and other international organizations is imperative to making sustainable advancements in women’s rights. In the Economic and Social Council during the panel discussion on Effective Humanitarian Assistance, for example, we were able to see a live webcast from the Philippines where people who had direct encounters with UN assistance were able to openly discuss their experiences. This created a balanced discussion; had they not been present, the conversation would have been largely biased in representation and lacking in necessary, context-specific content. Unfortunately these kinds of appearances by civil society, especially from the Global South, remain scarce. In order to create a more just and representative, as well as ethical and progressive human rights agenda, the UN should consider ways to increase such involvement. It is particularly imperative that this develops in the women’s rights sphere, as it is a great injustice to women worldwide to simplify the female narrative based on just a few experiences, too often from women in ‘western’ contexts.

As a place of convergence for governments, UN agencies, and civil societies alike, the UN is a promising platform for advancing the human rights agenda. But with promise comes responsibility, and the UN should be held accountable to the people it seeks to represent. If policies regarding the health of women are to be effectively implemented, then the institutions responsible for addressing these sometimes dire circumstances must be held accountable. Moreover, if the UN is to effectively address women’s rights issues, voices of women in all contexts and realities have to guide the discussion. It is imperative to the advancement of our international community to ensure that this happens.

Marine Ragueneau, Junior Associate

Council of Doom

20 Jul

For the first time at least in our memory, the Security Council had two discrete ’emergency’ meetings last Friday -one focused on the downing of the Malaysian Airliner and the other on the escalating violence in Gaza occasioned by frightening waves of Hamas rockets and the Israeli decision to launch an invasion into an area that the French Ambassador described as ‘an open air prison.’

It was a long and largely unsatisfying day for Council members and others in chambers. USG Jeffrey Felton had the unenviable task of briefing the Council at both meetings, needing to sound fair and competent in his judgments as events swirled and condemnations of all kinds escalated alongside the horrific images of violence and wreckage.

There certainly were important insights communicated by Council members over this long day of painful disclosures.  Chile’s Ambassador made the unusual request for the Council to rethink the way in which it engages mediation. Jordan’s Ambassador noted the ‘suffocating’ misery in Gaza and demanded that Hamas accept the Egyptian cease fire plan.  The Palestinian Ambassador read off the names of several of the victims (including many children) killed in the Gaza assault.   On Ukraine there were many strong calls for fact-finding and accountability for perpetrators, even if some might have “jumped the gun” when it came to anticipating culpability.

Perhaps the most poignant and sensitive comment was made by the Ambassador of the Netherlands, the country that of course suffered the most casualties from the downing of the Malaysian airliner.   Ambassador van Oosterom vividly described the ‘darkness’ that had descended over his country, but he refused to engage in condemnation pending a thorough investigation into the causes of the crash.   Argentina and others directly supported this profound and mature response amidst deep national mourning.

As we listened over several hours, we wondered (as we often do) how these Council discussions are ‘playing’ to a global public increasingly fearful and frustrated at state and non-state actors’ growing recourse to aggression and disregard for international law.   Indeed, on this day there were several pointed critiques of Council processes.  The Palestinian Ambassador, speaking directly to people back home, told them that they have ‘every right’ to be angry with the Council. Earlier in the day, Malaysia warned the Council that it badly needs to ‘step up its game’ in Ukraine and echoed calls by other states that more must be done to stem prospects for new levels of violence occasioned by what Nigeria referred to as this  ‘apocalyptic’ event.

Despite these passionate remarks, the day was given over to largely redundant statements rather than concrete proposals that could reassure onlookers that the ‘maintenance’ of international peace and security remains in good hands. In fairness, even legitimate caution by Council members is anathema to those thirsty to ‘do something,’ persons whose ‘narratives’ regarding the causes of one or another theater of violence admit of little or no compromise.  Much like the rest of the UN, the Council has to accommodate a variety of perspectives and strategies and, despite its coercive mandate, cannot always move forward with a resolve needed by victims and respected by their advocates.

That said, after hours of statements on Friday, the conclusion is hard to ignore that ‘concern’ and even indignation used up most of the energy that would have been better served by strategic engagement linked to public reassurance.  Few Council members, especially permanent ones, seem able to resist the political spinning of crises for national gain.  Too many in the global public now anticipate ‘spin’ even at those times when Council members do their best to avoid it.

It is a bit unseemly that an air tragedy and an invasion do not seem sufficient to evoke even modest reflection on how Council working methods might be shortchanging anxiety levels of the global community.   Neither has growing chaos in Libya nor late arriving peacekeeping operations to quell the catastrophe in Central African Republic seemed sufficient to force the Council to reexamine its capacity for vigilant and preventive action.  After many statements of interest and concern, successful crisis strategies for both Ukraine and Gaza seemed painfully beyond the available operational skills and capacities of this Council.  More than anything else the public now needs assurance that the Council has what it takes to resolve such disputes or, at a minimum, can describe what else is needed beyond its own resolutions and coercive mandates.

Of course, much of what the Council says and does regarding crises remains beyond the reach of onlookers, and this certainly applies to our office as well.  Like others, we essentially have a prime viewing perch to witness a process about which we have little if any impact. But we know what we see, and what we see now is insufficient diplomatic engagement coupled with a deficit of forthrightness regarding our failures to protect and prevent and what can now be done about each.

It is a gloomy time in the Council.   Even the leaders of the most powerful nations seem overwhelmed by the fires burning in so many corners of the world.  In this space we will soon share some modest recommendations to help reduce combustibility and restore the reputation of the Council to a level at least generally commensurate with its Charter authorization.

Dr. Robert Zuber

The Sahel Crisis: Politics, Prevention and Lessons Learned

10 Jul

Editor’s Note:  The following is the first blog post from Vanessa Mosoti, a talented junior associate from Kenya who has joined us for the summer from Princeton University, where she will finish her undergraduate studies beginning in September. In this post, Vanessa reflects on several UN events, including Security Council briefings, where issues involving states of the Sahel have been addressed.  Vanessa’s recommendations for moving beyond the current impasses and embracing a prevention-oriented framework are wise and worthy of adoption by UN officials with responsibility for Sahel response. 

The eruption of the crisis in Mali, a foreseeable denouement of a decades-long protracted conflict in Northern Mali coupled with a series of internal governance problems, should not have come as a surprise. Despite early warning signs, there is a marked lack of preventive diplomacy in the narrative of the Malian crisis. The international community had specific and identifiable opportunities in which to limit the eruption of conflict, but the statecraft was flawed, inadequate, or absent. Perhaps there is no amount of preventive measures that could have completely preempted the eruption of the crisis in Mali, but there certainly exists a litany of missed opportunities in which timely interventions at several key junctures might have significantly reduced, defused, and contained the violence.

UN dialogue surrounding the Malian crisis focuses understandably on the symbiotic relationship between security and development. And while the recovery of security and the realization of developmental goals must remain a top priority, issues relating to government legitimacy and accountability alongside the creation of a viable economy must also be addressed with similar vigor. As stressed in U.N. event “Countering Violent Extremism and Promoting Community Engagement in West Africa and the Sahel: Strengthening Multilateral Engagement” co-hosted by the governments of Burkina Faso and Denmark on the margins of the June 2014 review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, state fragility remains one of the biggest challenges to sustainable peace in the region. Any coherent response to the crisis must prioritize the building of a coordinated state from the bottom up—with national checks and balances, as well as participation from all citizens. Indeed, seeking a comprehensive response by all relevant actors underscores the challenge that the crisis in Mali is inherently political in nature. Of course, divergent views on the political roadmap to be adopted have had an impact on the crisis response, but continued Tuareg exclusion, as well as the exclusion of other marginalized groups (particularly in the North, where people remain bereft of critical security and social services), in the Malian political system virtually guarantees the continuation of the conflict and/or outbreak of future conflict.

A thorough solution requires that the Malian state address the fragmentation of Malian national identity. They are not alone, however. Issues relating to national identity pose challenges with which no African state is unfamiliar. The global spread of the nation-state is arguably the most significant institutional transformation of the modern era. The world today is a conglomeration of diverse nation-state driven societies. The rise of the modern nation-state, one can argue, precipitated the current world order and, subsequently and perhaps more importantly, modern formulations and understandings of concepts relating to identity—national, or otherwise.

A nation-state can be defined as a form of political organization under which a relatively homogenous people inhabit a sovereign state. Societies create national identities that separate people, suggesting fundamental differences between members of different nations. The formation of states and the ability of states to deploy their powers in a variety of social, economic and security contexts create these concepts of national identity. It is from the construction of a state that a nation is created, and not the other way around.  However, this requires important economic and political processes as a condition for the establishment of this combined nation-state—as it is, imaginably, difficult to create a homogenous community to replace the multiple communities of various faiths, peoples, and languages characteristic of preceding empires/kingdoms/colonies/chieftaincies. The nation-state attempts to form a singular identity from these multiple identities; therefore, national integration, the purpose of state power, requires a strong state—defined especially by military power—and the formulation of an image of a shared past based on some common experience and/or of a projected common destiny. African nation-states, however, are the legacy of Europe’s cavalier partition of Africa and their disregard for the complexities of African social, political, and geographic autonomous orchestration. National integration and the perception of this image of a shared past, reflective of the ability of a state to construct a singular identity and project power and legitimacy to all regions of said state, are especially difficult in the African setting—and the Republic of Mali is no exception. Thus, the eruption of conflict, when viewed in context, is utterly unsurprising.

At the Counter-Terrorism event, speakers also emphasized the need for a national infrastructure for peace—citing Ghana’s National Peace Council as one example. Multilateral engagement is key to sustainable regional peace. The purported goals of various interventions in Mali include at least some aspects of humanitarian aid, peacekeeping, and nation building. The intervening bodies seek to mitigate the conflict, alleviate some of the pressures of desertification, and create some semblance of a functional and peaceful governmental structure with high prospects of longevity. The establishment of security, obviously, also remains a priority. As I attended various U.N. meetings dealing with violent extremism, counter-terrorism, and specifically the Sahel crisis, it occurred to me that there are a series of lessons the international community can gather from these endeavors (implemented with varying degrees of success) that can inform future policies concerning intervention in conflict situations similar to that of Mali (i.e.: in the Wider Sahel):

1. Malians must possess ownership of their own peace processes. Ownership refers to Malians determining objectives, scheduling, and negotiation procedures. International actors, while critical, should play peripheral roles (as facilitators) to local and regional actors during negotiations.

2. There needs to be a thorough understanding of political and cultural norms by all parties involved. There is also a need to understand the range of local and regional actors involved in the crisis. There was, in negotiations and interventions in Mali, a lack of understanding of the nature of the conflict, the diversity of the actors, and the nature of the cultural processes behind individual and collective actions and decision-making.

3. Complete representation in mediation—of the wider Malian community and all parties involved in the conflict, civil society, military, etc.—matters in the success of negotiations. There needs to be a general, nation-wide consensus if there is to exist any hope of easy facilitation and long-term implementation of any denouements.

4. Mediators should develop strategies to better deal with spoilers—intrinsic spoilers (those who don’t want peace as it is not in their self-interest) as well as situational spoilers (those who don’t agree with specific provisions/arrangements but are generally seeking peace).

5. There should be provisions for political space for opposition in which groups can express their unhappiness without being shut out, termed rejectionist, or otherwise excluded from the entire process.

6. Regional bodies should provide adequate support to state institutions in crisis. Long-term commitment to provide resources and support after an agreement has been reached and a framework is implemented may be key to stabilization. This help should come in the form of new/repaired infrastructure as well as civic and civil society building measures, but not necessarily in the form of arms transfers or other incentives to state violence. It is nearly impossible to impose a victor’s peace in Mali, and providing the means for a monopoly on the use of violence to a fragile state increases the probability of the rise of rejectionists and spoilers.  Good societal structures and institutions can uphold the peace, legitimize the government, and establish an effective system of governance that serves as a model for the rest of the region.

7. Responsibility for carrying out any agreed upon terms of negotiations should fall onto local institutions as well as the government. The international community should assist these local actors especially (in ways delineated above) for as long as possible/necessary.

8. All potential solutions to the conflict should be derived from public opinion or they will not hold in the long-term. Negotiators/mediators/facilitators should make sure that the opinions of the public are well represented and prioritized in all peace discussions

As the Malian crisis is but one in a wider regional crisis, the biggest ‘lesson-learned’ is that preventive diplomacy is key. “Actions and inactions of international actors have a major impact on whether domestic actors make a conflict or cooperation calculus”[X]. Early action can lead to early cooperation. Trying to contain a conflict after it has already erupted is much more expensive (in terms of time, money, resources, and lives lost) than trying to prevent the conflict from erupting in the first place. Signals of impending conflict, as was the case in Mali, can be very clear. Policy should be geared towards the execution of preventive diplomacy at this time, before the situation is too difficult to contain. However, it is imperative that efforts of preventive diplomacy do not actually create additional incentives for violence, or exacerbate tensions in already fragile periods. The U.N. tends to act as a response agency instead of a prevention or containment agency—that is, the U.N. reacts to spills, instead of working to prevent the spills from happening in the first place. The world expects more than a glorified cleanup agency. More could have been done early on, so more should have been done.

[X] Hamilton, L. H., George, A. L., Goodby, J. E., Holl, J. E., Hurlburt, H. F., Jones, B., … & Zartman, I. W. (1999). Opportunities Missed, Opportunities Seized: Preventive Diplomacy in the PostDCold War World. B. W. Jentleson (Ed.). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Vanessa Mosoti, GAPW Junior Associate


Reservations for Five:   Building Confidence in the UN’s Peacekeeping Response

5 Jul

GAPW was fortunate to be present in Conference Room 1 on July 3 for a special panel “United Nations command and control arrangements: Progress, opportunities and challenges,” for an audience consisting largely of senior diplomats and military advisers.

The meeting featured Ambassadors from Ireland (the Sponsoring Government) Pakistan (a frequent contributor to PKOs) and Rwanda (current Security Council president) along with USG Henri Ladsous and Lieutenant General Joseph Owonibi, a former field commander from Nigeria.   These five shared perspectives on the range of responsibilities now undertaken by PKOs and how command and control (C2) structures must further adjust if they are to be trusted to meet those challenges.

In many ways the tone of the discussion was framed by USG Ladsous and General Owonibi.  Ladsous had the fewest ‘reservations,’ taking the view that peacekeeping operations are mostly functioning as they should.  He expressed particular pleasure (as he has done in the past) with the Force Intervention Brigade, part of MONUSCO’s operation in the DRC.   As much as we hold DPKO in high regard and have expressed great admiration for its capacity to navigate increasingly complex and demanding mandates with limited resources, we continue to have our own reservations about the implications of the Brigade, about the lack of a robust, preventive architecture at the UN, as well as some of the specifics regarding how the Security Council discharges its ‘business’ of formulating, issuing and assessing peacekeeping mandates.

As the one panelist with significant field experience (and given that there were few contributions from the audience), it was largely up to General Owonibi to provide a dose of ‘field reality.’   Owonibi admitted that PKO demands and challenges have increased since he was in the field, and he was thus properly modest in his assessment of DPKO’s level of response to such demands. Nonetheless, he was able to pinpoint some of the communications problems, mandates inconsistencies, and layers of Troop Contributing Country (TCC) resistance that combine to hamper PKO effectiveness.

One issue that came up was related to training, or more precisely its absence.   Owonibi and others described the almost unimaginable scenario of field commanders responsible for troops with whom they have not previously trained.   To summon up what for some might be a compelling, current analogy, this would be like a football coach sending a team onto the pitch without anyone having a clue regarding the strengths, limitations, career backgrounds, playing habits, etc. of his/her players.  In the life or death scenarios increasingly faced by PKOs, such knowledge limitations can be deadly for troops and civilians alike.

For all of the welcome references to the need for C2 flexibility to respond effectively to new and often sudden security emergencies (such as those emanating from terrorists), Owonibi also communicated the concern that field commanders too often operate in a bit of a policy vacuum, with little access to clear evaluations that can help commanders implement mandates (and protect troops from needless danger) more effectively. Authority, he noted, can be delegated, but it should not be divided.   He might also have added that the application of authority can and must be flexible, but the sources of that authority should be clear, consistent and, as noted by Pakistan, readily available for consultations and assessments as needed.

Another critical issue raised several times during the panel is that of national caveats, TCCs that identify ‘conditions’ for mission participation that become part of the equation that drive responses from field commanders, putting them in the position of not only responding to threats but attempting to do so in a way that does not undermine agreements with contributing countries.  Again, a football analogy is in order here – the puzzling scenario wherein coaches must take into account the contracted limitations of players before deploying them in the match.  While no specific troop or equipment-related caveats were stated by panelists, the need to reduce such caveats within Memorandum of Understanding has been recognized for some time (see for instance  It is challenging enough to find commanders who can lead effectively in multinational security environments. Reducing caveats that can complicate C2 and potentially deflect attention from compelling external contingencies (including civilians under siege) would seem to be the highest priority.

It should be noted that the ‘caveat’ problem was attributed by Owonibi to ‘national interest’ which of course is a persistent and anticipated component of any seconded force.   But perhaps ‘national interest’ as the singular rationale for caveats needs a bit of interrogation in its own right.  Perhaps it would also be wise to take more seriously the logistical and policy impacts when national contingents are deployed in dangerous situations under highly complex mandates with insufficient training and limited equipment, all of which are ‘authorized’ by permanent Security Council members whose direct involvement in PKO command and control is limited at best.  Such scenarios would legitimately raise ‘reservations’ for military leaders from many national contexts.  Clearly, if we want fewer of these ‘reservations,’ we need to demonstrate more sensitivity to their origins.

For many reasons, these are the sorts of briefings that ought to happen more often at UNHQ.   At the UN, among NGOs and within individual missions, there seems to be only modest interest in the logistical successes and challenges of PKOs.   Given how many diverse responsibilities are being heaped on PKOs, the deficiencies attributed to inadequate resources, and the impact of PKO success and failure on the public’s general assessment of the UN’s institutional legitimacy, more system-wide attentiveness inspired by events such as this one would seem to be in order.

Dr. Robert Zuber


Practicing the Art of Youth Involvement

1 Jul

Editor’s Note:  This is the second blog post by Danielle Peck and takes up a primary focus of her interest — youth development and participation.   As noted many times, this is a critical theme for GAPW.  We must make space for new voices, new lenses, new communications technologies, new priorities.  The issue as noted elsewhere on this blog is not that younger voices are innately superior to older ones, but simply that it is their turn now.  We must do as much as we can to ensure that this ‘turn’ is as hopeful and productive as possible. 

Within the last month during my time spent at the United Nations covering events for Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict, I have seen two themes portrayed on several occasions that have struck my interest. These two themes are easily relatable to every individual in an audience. The areas that I am talking about are based around the promotion of art and the involvement of youth. While these areas have been mentioned frequently in recent UN events, they have not necessarily been incorporated together. I would like to show why the incorporation of art and youth is a sensible one towards more peaceful futures.

I have heard time and time again that youth need to be included in current events because we are building the future of this planet and often hold new answers to solving global issues. Furthermore, the arts can combine with youth, media, government and more to help bring awareness and address demanding issues like reaching sustainable development goals. While I agree with both of those statements, I also believe that these two ideas should go hand in hand. The arts should be used to pique youth interest and engage them in the issues that the UN and the rest of the world now face, but also the youth should use art as a tool to relay culture and teach societies the “how’s and why’s” of taking action.

I was first introduced to art promotion and youth involvement while attending the event on “Engaging the Public in Sustainable Development,” co-organized by the Permanent Mission of France and the World Council for the United Nations (WCPUN). This event highlighted the degree to which youth are key to reaching sustainable development, and that they need to have access to the creative tools necessary to ensure that these goals can be achieved.

The event opened with a presentation from Gabriel Gozlan and Hugo Peyron, the winners of a contest between fifth-year marketing students of the Parisian business school ESGCI. The contest was organized by the dean of ESGCI, Dr. Marcel Saucet, who is manager of the street marketing company LCA conseil, and Sahmina de Gonzaga, the board chair of WCPUN. The objective of the team was to raise awareness around sustainable development through a street marketing campaign inspired by the work of Andrea Juan and Maurice Benhayoun, two artists from the WCPUN network. They partnered with Cristian Truca, a Romanian artist and one of the best 3D painters in the world, to create an amazing 3D street piece in Paris. The 3D art consisted of floating ice caps that would interactively put people in the position of a polar bear stuck on a dwindling piece of ice in the middle of the Arctic. The hashtag “climate change” was written on the side for people to spread the word online. Altogether this event attracted 1,500 people and more than one hundred interacted directly with the art. Find the event video here.

This is one example of how youth can use art to influence society in meaningful ways that add to and supports policy decisions made at the UN and within the governments of the world. Artists like Andrea Juan are using their talent and art to bring awareness to global issues such as climate change. Juan has dedicated her life since 2004 to working with photography, digital video, graphic art and installations creating beautiful art on Antarctica based on scientific research related to climate change.

Youth are also starting to reach out to be involved in the policies that will affect their future. They are given a chance through events like The Global Partnership for Youth in the Post-2015 Agenda at the UN, which included open events allowing students to interact and discuss key components to be included in the Post-2015 agenda. With the forces of art and youth combined the possibilities seem unlimited.

Why is art such an important component of helping people address world issues? “It lights a fire in people’s souls.” It is motivational, stimulating and inspiring. It brings out people’s imaginations to help find solutions and it can stimulate the audience on a subconscious level. Art in one form or another is attractive to everyone. It is always bound to catch a large percentage of peoples’ attention. It is a strong tool to create awareness for global issues. Youth are especially attracted to art whether through performance, music, fashion or paintings. Art humanizes people. Artists are not only able to bring fresh approaches to policy issues, but they are able to connect these issues with a broader public. The World Policy Institute is one initiative that provides support for interaction between artists and policy makers. “Their goal is to empower artists to navigate funding and policy structures, while policymakers gain access to creative approaches for reframing policy issues and designing campaigns to effectively disseminate new ideas and outcomes to a broader public.”

After my first few weeks working within the UN, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I felt as though I was drowning in a whirlpool of meetings, people and unresolved issues. While attending the event “Furthering Youth Involvement in the Post 2015 Development Agenda” put on by El Salvador, I was shocked as a dance performance with spoken word from a group called The Healing Movement broke out of the audience. The performance stimulated my emotions and reminded me how amazing and unique every individual is. Every human being is capable of strongly influencing the world. I was able to engage the discussion on development priorities with a new sense of refreshment.

Many groups are already combining art and youth to address world issues. A program called Worldskills has created art out of workplace skills from many industries by creating an international competition among youth promoting education and training, international cooperation and development leading to economic stability. Youth prepare to creatively compete internationally by showing off their work skills whether in welding or floristry. Also, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and the International Organization for Migration invited the world’s youth to submit original and creative videos on migrations, diversity and social inclusion through a partner called Plural+. The videos are created by youth from all over the world telling their own stories, and bringing forward important generational issues. To view the videos, click here.

One in four people worldwide are considered youth, and 40 percent of the world’s unemployed are also youth. What does that mean for our future? Artists and youth are ready to unite, brainstorm and resolve to change the destructive path this world is on. States, organizations, and policy makers should think more about how powerful their message could be if they relayed it through youth and art. Youth and art working hand and hand could become a critical component for the global action to prevent war and the fight against climate change in order to reach sustainable development goals.

Danielle Peck, GAPW