August 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Hello dear readers,
A quick note to let our audience know that Kathryn and myself have decided to take the next few months off of this particular blog to devote our energy to other projects.
Blog writing energies will now be directed towards Central Eurasia Standard, a new forum that is a one-stop shop for information and key stories from Central Asia. It acts as a bridge to the region for casual foreign policy watchers – to that end, it is trying to convey key stories in accessible and digestible formats. You can follow me and my efforts at @ingridpederson.
We hope to bring this blog back soon and this will stay up until we get the time to come back to it! Thanks for everyone’s support, please check out and follow Central Eurasia Standard – it’s a fascinating place to study, and we’re really excited about where the project could go.
August 8, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Foreign Policy published an article criticizing USAID for not exercising enough vigilance over their programs, resulting in affiliated organizations committing human rights abuses, examples of which are provided for multiple countries around the world. Crux of the article:
“Despite an extensive process for planning, monitoring, and evaluating projects, USAID has no systematic way of considering unanticipated or undesirable human rights-related side effects of its programming. Essentially, it sets goals and then establishes indicators for meeting them — but it does not monitor for unintended consequences of its actions.”
This undermines USAID as an organization. USAID is a massive bureaucracy and despite Rajiv Shah’s push for reforms, clearly there are a lot of existing projects that aren’t subjected to enough scrutiny. In addition, there’s also the problem of programs outlasting their effectiveness and efficiency – contributing to wasting time and money that could be spent elsewhere.
The article states:
“USAID also has to be willing to drop or find alternatives to non-essential programs in countries where programming is more likely to further repression than provide any real support to vulnerable populations.”
One suggestion is developing a more robust mechanism for monitoring within USAID – this poses obvious problems that come with all internal investigations – or more dialogue with civil society groups in countries where projects are located that can act as watch dogs/monitors/etc. (we could send more people to DynCorp’s training on how to be a watchdog reporter – private security companies just love watchdogs). Again, this brings us back to giving more agency to local groups/entities (where possible), complimenting existing structures rather than fully supplementing them.
However, both of these fairly obvious suggestions are in vain. Regarding the obvious problems with internal monitoring – well – it was deemed too expensive and unnecessary. As for local coordinators – well:
A formerly mandatory policy requiring USAID to analyze a project’s social impact during the planning phase was made optional and effectively discontinued in the early 2000s; it was dismissed as time-consuming and unwieldy, and nothing has replaced it. A position for an indigenous peoples’ coordinator at USAID was also scrapped. Today, no specific mechanisms exist to prevent harm to indigenous people or forcible displacement of local groups in conjunction with economic, agricultural, mining, or infrastructure programs.
This is actually sort of shocking. The first step is to bring back local coordinators and safeguards within USAID. For the ‘what’s next,’ private sector involvement could be a great source of money and advice. I’m sure there will be cries that they are likely to ignore similar abuses or worse, perpetrate them. However, if USAID has a partnership with a company, they’ll be held somewhat responsible for abuses committed by that company via affiliation - a check on the private sector. Private sector involvement could push for greater efficiencies measure, which is a strength they have compared to large, public bureaucracies, as well as local involvement to build better business relationships for the ‘business’ aspect of their in-country roles. There is room here where both sides can improve the other, and hopefully help curtail the incidences of human rights abuses perpetuated by USAID programs.
August 4, 2012 § 4 Comments
It didn’t surprise me today to read that China was irked by Clinton’s recent comments that African nations should be wary of China, as their relationships were based on a need for natural resources bountiful in numerous countries:
“I will be talking about what that means, about a model of sustainable partnership that adds value rather than extracts it,” Clinton told a university audience in this West African capital. “That’s America’s commitment to Africa.”
This need for resources, particularly minerals and oil, could lead to extractive partnerships in which the African nations don’t benefit as much as they potentially could. Additionally, China has not shied away from doing business with nations that the US considers unsavory, the obvious example being Sudan throughout the Darfur crisis:
China’s thirst for oil is causing bloodshed. So says New York-based nongovernmental organization Human Rights First, which on Mar. 13 released a report linking China’s rising imports of Sudanese oil with sales of Chinese small weapons to Khartoum, used to further the deadly conflict in the western region of Darfur.
China’s engagement with Africa supports a broader strategy for China in two main ways:
1. China often presents itself as the champion of developing countries. They grew quickly economically and have become a major player. Often, they present themselves as the juxtaposition to the developed, Western nations, an outsider who has power inside and is always looking out for other developing states. This is very good PR for the country, giving it strength and leadership in international organizations. It can also makes the US look as though they have no interest in the agendas of developing states, an advantage that China manipulates very effectively.
2. Expansion. China is looking to establish and economic, and in some cases, military, presence wherever they can. The String of Pearls refers to China’s extensive lines of communications between mainland China and South Sudan. China has increased economic ties to Venezuela recently. Africa is a place where the US is hogtied by ideals – the government doesn’t want to be seen doing business with dirty players, but it is at the expense of natural resources that are being snapped up by China. China already controls the majority of the world’s cobalt supply, an essential mineral for electronics found in Madagascar and the Congo. The more control they have over the resources available, the more leverage they have over the countries that need them – especially if they have near-monopoly over them.
So, while I am 100% sure that Clinton is very much invested in the human rights aspects of African nations dealing with China, her comments encouraging countries away from the monolithic country are very much about preserving US power. It’s all part of the game.
August 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This story has been reported in a few places but never seems to get too much traction. Hopefully that is changing, as numerous outlets have picked up on an AP story that private prisons are making major profits over the detention of immigrants. Here’s the crux of the situation:
The cost to American taxpayers is on track to top $2 billion for this year, and the companies are expecting their biggest cut of that yet in the next few years thanks to government plans for new facilities to house the 400,000 immigrants detained annually.
The growth is far from over, despite the sheer drop in illegal immigration in recent years.
In 2011, nearly half the beds in the nation’s civil detention system were in private facilities with little federal oversight, up from just 10 percent a decade ago. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 26, 2012 § 2 Comments
Earlier this month, a report from the Global Policy Forum, a UN watchdog, released a report that stated the UN has increased their dependance on private security contractors (PSCs) by 73% between 2009 and 2010. The numbers are dramatic, if true: $44 million in 2009 to $76 million in 2010.
The Global Policy Forum‘s report, Dangerous Partnerships, states that this is a worrying trend due to the lack of impunity enjoyed by PSCs, as well as their repeated involvement in international scandals involving rendition, torture, and sex trafficking. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 23, 2012 § 5 Comments
The debate rages on. Drones – Immoral? Amoral? Moral?
Over the past month, numerous articles have come to light attempting to make sense of this new technology and what the ramifications are strategically, politically and morally. This round up looks at those articles in the mainstream media since July 1, that discuss the morality of drones.
But first – allow me to weigh in.
For me, I think this debate boils down to this central question:
Are lethal drone strikes a last resort, that is to say, have all feasible alternatives really been exhausted? « Read the rest of this entry »
July 21, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Crispin J. Burke and Peter J. Munson discussed an article today on how warfare and the private sector were not alike – it’s a discussion worth looking at more closely due to the growing entanglement of these two spheres. Burke pointed out a few articles, as well as writing one of his own, on the issue. The point that all three authors quoted below are making is that although the military can take cues from the private sector, there are key differences between the two – because they are not the same. Not to rag on the military, as the authors point out (and in my experience) a number of companies have gone overboard in an attempt to emulate the military. If this is forgotten, it’s likely to damage the company or institution in question. That, of course, can have some pretty dire consequences – especially when discussing the military.
So without further ado, I’ll leave it to these three, who have covered the ground very well. « Read the rest of this entry »