Burma: One Year After Cyclone Nargis

By Jake Kurtzer
Anniversaries provide us with many opportunities – to commemorate, to remember, to admonish, to celebrate, to reassess. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of Cyclone Nargis, which destroyed 700,000 homes in the Irrawaddy Delta of Burma and killed an estimated 138,000 people. In the press releases that I’ve read in the past few days, a number of organizations are using this anniversary to chastise the Burmese regime for their callousness towards their own population. This is undeniable, but I want to argue that this anniversary should be used for a different purpose – to see what we can do to continue to help the people who suffered from the storm.

Obama’s First 100 Days: A Humanitarian Perspective

By Joel Charny

Assessing President Obama’s first 100 days in office is all the rage in the United States, especially given the high expectations created by his election and the ambitious agenda that he set for his new administration. But the mainstream media are unlikely to apply humanitarian criteria, so it is left to Refugees International to make an initial assessment.

Somalia: Pirates Just a Piece of the Puzzle

By Limnyuy Konglim
More than 3 million Somalis are dependent on external assistance; over 1 million are internally displaced; and another 500,000 and counting have sought refuge in neighboring countries. Yet, as the humanitarian situation in Somalia continues to deteriorate, the world is focused on a lone “pirate” in New York. I can’t help but question where our humanity and moral resolve lies.

Somalia: The Politics of Aid

By Erin Weir
Humanitarianism is built upon the principles of neutrality and impartiality and the fundamental assertion that aid should be delivered strictly according to need.  However, aid itself can and has often been manipulated for political and strategic ends.  Large deliveries of food and supplies have a monetary value, particularly in areas suffering from conflict where people are exposed to large-scale deprivation.  Aid can also have a legitimizing effect, giving political credibility and power to those people and institutions that are seen to be the intermediaries between aid agencies and the general population.

President’s Corner: The View from Inside Iraq

By Kenneth Bacon
Sunday, March 8th

I have just arrived in Iraq with two colleagues to study ways in which the U.S., The United Nations and the government of Iraq can work better together to help millions of displaced Iraqis return home.
Everybody--Iraqis, U.S. and international officials--agrees that security in Iraq has improved dramatically in the last few months, although there are still acts of violence and other security challenges.

Pakistan: The Real Price of Eleven Billion Dollars

By Patrick Duplat

Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has provided Pakistan with $11 billion in military aid, a staggering sum in both absolute terms and when compared with non-military assistance. Not surprisingly, Pakistan wants this financial and logistical support to its armed forces to continue. President Asif Ali Zardari, in a recent Washington Post op-ed, urged the U.S. to “give [Pakistan] the necessary resources – upgrading [their] equipment and providing the newest technology – to fight terrorists…”

Sudanese civil society leaders make call to “seize the final opportunity”

By Melanie Teff

The decision to issue an arrest warrant for President Al-Bashir of Sudan by the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been the source of many intense discussions here in Sudan at the moment. This will be the first ICC arrest warrant ever issued for a sitting president. Since I arrived in Sudan a couple of weeks ago I have talked with many Sudanese people who are members of civil society and human rights organizations, most of whom are no fans of their president, but who have varying views on the  indictment.

Guest Blogger: Senator Edward M. Kennedy on Iraqi Refugees

By Senator Edward M. Kennedy
After the bombing of the Samarra mosque northwest of Baghdad in 2006, a massive exodus and displacement of Iraqis began.  Refugees International called it, “the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.”  Millions of Iraqi men, women and children fled their homes and country to escape the violence in a nation increasingly at war with itself.  They had no refugee camps to go to, where stark television images might have alerted the world to their plight; they were hiding in the slums of urban areas, nearly invisible.

The U.S. couldn’t have solved this problem alone, but we had a responsibility to do more than we did to prevent further destabilization of the region, relieve suffering and save lives.

Many of us tried to do more.  We organized a hearing to bring Iraqis before Congress.  They told chilling stories about being targeted by sectarian death squads because of their faith or their association with the United States.  We passed the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act to increase the number of Iraqis who could be resettled in this country.  We also provided hundreds of millions of dollars to help Iraqi refugees obtain food, education, shelter and health care.

Gain the Trust of the Afghan People

By Patrick Duplat

Vice President Joe Biden visited Afghanistan just one week before the inauguration, indicating the new administration’s foreign policy priorities. It is clear that America’s “to do” list in Afghanistan is a long one. But the first order of business should be regaining the trust of Afghans.

After seven years of international presence, the country is still facing tremendous challenges: a weak government, a fledging economy, a serious humanitarian situation and a growing insurgency. As the Vice President himself said on his return, "The truth is that things are going to get tougher in Afghanistan before they're going to get better.” 

President’s Corner: Holbrooke’s Challenge in Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Kenneth Bacon

Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, knows first hand that peacemaking can be dangerous and difficult.  He dedicated To End A War, his book on the negotiations that ended the war in the Balkans 15 years ago, to three colleagues who died in the early stages of that effort.

In announcing the appointment last week, President Obama said:  “There is no answer in Afghanistan that does not confront the Al Qaida and Taliban bases along the border, and there will be no lasting peace unless we expand spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

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