Ntoto: Life in the Village or Life on the Run

By Erin Weir
I am writing from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country with incredible natural beauty, a bounty of mineral resources and site of a brutal and protracted conflict that has caused the death and displacement of millions of people since the mid 1990’s. MONUC, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the DRC, was deployed here nearly ten years ago, and its current mandate – which includes over 40 separate and complicated tasks – places priority on the protection of civilians, mainly in the DRC’s unpredictable eastern region.  

Somalia: Providing Aid in Difficult Places

By Joel Charny
Somalia may be the most difficult place to provide aid in the world. The needs are tremendous after years of conflict and drought. The central government controls a few square blocks of the capital and is under threat from an Islamist insurgency that includes both local and foreign elements. Infrastructure is badly degraded. In such a resource poor environment, aid itself has a value out of proportion to its actual cost.

Violence Against Women: It's Time for Congress to Act

By May Al-Barzinji
Violence. It comes in many forms. Some of the most brutal and damaging forms of violence are those that are committed against women. Rape, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, domestic violence, honor killings... the list is endless.  These actions do not just hurt the women, or their families and communities, but global society at large. How long will we continue to accept the fact that at least one in every three women worldwide will have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime?

Burma: A Better Future for All Burmese

By Sean Garcia
Earlier today the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific held a hearing on US policy towards Burma. The hearing was held in the interest of exploring options for dialogue and engagement with the government of Burma, and was long-overdue in a Washington policy context that has been dominated by debate over sanctions. Today’s hearing will be followed up next week by a similar hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and also echoes the recently-released State Department Burma policy review which makes engagement the policy of the day. 

Sounding the Alarm: A Civilian ‘Surge’ Needed to Restore U.S. Foreign Policy

By Matt Pennington
The Obama administration is facing a critical juncture in American foreign policy. As U.S. civilian programs have been chronically underfunded and understaffed over the last several decades, there is growing consensus that our approach to global engagement is in dire need of repair. This concern has only grown stronger in the wake of ongoing U.S. military-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and widespread concerns about the reliance on and inappropriate use of U.S. military in non-combat activities abroad. We can no longer afford to view American foreign policy simply through the lens of increased U.S. military might.  The problems around the globe – including humanitarian crises related to displacement -- are too complex and require a multi-faceted approach.

DR Congo: Kimia II's Impact on Civilians

By Camilla Olson
I last visited Mwenga in February 2009. At the time, we went there to see how people would be impacted if the Rwandan and Congolese militaries expanded their operations against the FDLR rebel group into South Kivu.    

In February, people in Mwenga told us that they were very scared about these joint operations. There is a large presence of FDLR in Mwenga territory and people said that any operations against the rebel group would certainly jeopardize their own security. People were also scared of the Rwandan army returning to the area given its history of past abuses against the local population there. They told us, “if we flee, we don’t know where we’d go, because in the forest is the FDLR who have threatened to attack us, and in town will be the Rwandan military who have targeted us in the past.”

Peacekeeping: RI Testifies on Capitol Hill

By Pamela Snyder

Refugees International was back on Capitol Hill yesterday, as Peacekeeping Advocate Erin Weir testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the challenges currently facing peacekeeping and possible improvements to the operations, said committee chairman Rep. Howard Berman. A distinguished group of witnesses gathered for the hearing, including Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr.

Sudan: Progress on Abyei

By Vanessa Parra

Earlier this week a decision from The Hague determined the boundary between north and south Sudan around the town of Abyei. This particular decision stems from an agreement signed last year, but it marks a part of the peace process occuring in Sudan. Benchmark goals like an election in April of next year and a referendum in 2011 are part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – a document that marked the end of 21 years of war.

Iraq: Keeping Our Focus

By Jake Kurtzer
While America’s attention has shifted to the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, recent news reports about the targeting of Christian Iraqis have turned a few eyes back towards the violence within Iraq. The targeting of Iraqi Christians portends a return to the attacks on minorities and ethnic strife that led to the massive displacement of civilians from Iraq.

New Head of U.S. Refugee Bureau Will Face Immediate Challenges

By Joel Charny
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today is holding a hearing on the Obama administration’s nomination of Eric Schwartz as the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration. Schwartz will testify and then respond to questions from the Committee. Schwartz’s nomination was long overdue, and Refugees International hopes that the confirmation process will be swift. With the PRM position held by an Acting Assistant Secretary for over a year, and the USAID Administrator and director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance positions also held by placeholders, the Obama administration’s management of its humanitarian responsibilities has been hobbled.
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