Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Clockwise: African Hoopoe, Go-away Bird, Secretary Bird, Lilac-breasted Roller, and the Crowned Crane, Uganda's national symbol. These arent my photos but I have seen all these during my visit, plus many others. Birds dont scatter from gunfire, it seems.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Could France’s new odd couple—Sarkozy and Kouchner—spell the end of French privilege for Africa’s most venal?
Sunday, May 06, 2007
As someone who works on disaster relief programs worldwide, I was invited to come for a month and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various projects in New Orleans and Biloxi, two centers of urban devastation. The experience thus far has been surprisingly positive and inspiring, an unexpected antidote to my entrenched cynicism regarding relief efforts in places like Darfur or Congo, where I typically work.
[...] I've pondered over some perhaps facile but nonetheless empirical truths about the dynamic of human response to extreme disasters.
Read the rest of this post at 3 Quarks Daily...
Monday, April 23, 2007
Monday, March 05, 2007
An AP report from Uganda addresses the professionalism and qualifications of one such organization, Samaritan's Purse, led by Franklin Graham, Reverend Billy Graham's son. Billy Graham was described by Time magazine as an American 'hero and icon' of the twentieth century.
The AP story begins:
"Telephone to Jesus. Hello?" the children of Aler refugee camp in northern Uganda sing, their bare feet thumping the ground as they dance wildly in their concrete chapel. Most camp residents have never used a phone, but they are learning about Jesus. The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, smiled as he watched the children — members of a club run by Samaritan's Purse, the Christian missionary organization he leads.
Critics accuse them of taking advantage of vulnerable communities — forcing people to abandon traditional beliefs in exchange for desperately needed goods and medicine. Graham, though, says his group is meeting spiritual as well as physical needs, and he's proud of what has been accomplished.
Read the rest of the story here.
In 2003, Slate reported on Franklin's global vision as informed by his faith. It is worth a read, and starts thus:
"Franklin Graham is the son of Billy Graham and a far more influential figure in the evangelical Christian community than Jerry Falwell or even Pat Robertson. Graham is viewed as the torch-carrier for his father, who is still among the most beloved figures in American Christianity. Moreover, the Graham family is close to Bush. Billy Graham led Bush to Christianity in the 1980s; Franklin Graham delivered the invocation at his presidential inauguration.
In addition to being publicly allied with the Bush administration, Graham also happens to be stridently anti-Islam. His list of anti-Islam comments is long; his most succinct was that Islam is a "very evil and wicked religion."
Thursday, February 15, 2007
From ICG's new report: "Guinea has been dominated for nearly 23 years by the unique figure of General Conté, corrupt and desperate to hold onto his privileges. The opposition to the Conté regime, begun during the general strike at the beginning of the year, has taken a bloody turn and has mutated into an unprecedented popular uprising.
Guinea now faces two possible scenarios. There is still a chance, though a diminishing one, for a negotiated solution involving key Guinean, regional and wider international actors. Alternatively, if the Conté regime continues to rely on military repression, it could rapidly bring Guinea to a dramatic spiral of violence: full popular insurgency, with increasing chaos that is likely to stimulate a military take-over in a blood-bath, leading in turn to a possible civil war comparable to those that have torn apart its neighbours in the past decade and with uncontrollable consequences.
Western governments as well as multinational firms that benefit from the country’s natural resources value political quiet but they would be making a serious mistake if this led them to support, even by passivity, an effort to retain the Conté system (with or without its creator)."
Read more from the new Crisis Group Report on recent events, called "Guinea: Change or Chaos"
BBC is doing some good reporting as well here.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
"Fifty-eight countries represented at a high-level conference in Paris today committed themselves to stopping the unlawful recruitment and use of children in
[Former child soldier Ishmael Beah holds up the Paris Commitments at the end of the historic ‘Free Children from War’ conference in Paris.]
The Paris Commitments, as they are now known, lay out detailed guidelines for protecting children from recruitment and for providing assistance to those already involved with armed groups or forces. They will complement the political and legal mechanisms already in place at the UN Security Council, the International Criminal Court and other bodies trying to protect children from exploitation and violence.
The conference, which was jointly organized by the French Government and UNICEF, attracted dozens of government ministers, donors, the heads of several UN agencies – including UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman – and many non-governmental organizations."
Read more about the Paris conference here.
And read the recent NYT article on Ishmael Beah and his forthcoming memoir called “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier,” babout life as a child soldier here.
Monday, February 05, 2007
The secretary-general, in an effort to balance posts between major contributors and poor nations, urged 192 member states in the General Assembly to back his proposals to split the peacekeeping department in two and downgrade disarmament affairs but attach it to his own office."
3 Quarks is a happy place, and comes highly recommended from notable big brains Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, even David Byrne.
Editor and friend S. Abbas Raza describes the aim and structure of the site:
On this website, my guest authors and editors and I hope to present interesting items from around the web on a daily basis, in the areas of science, design, literature, current affairs, art, and anything else we deem inherently fascinating. We want to provide you with a one-stop intellectual surfing experience by culling good stuff from all over and putting it in one place. In other words, we are what has come to be known as a "filter blog." And we try not to be afraid of challenging material. Though we are a filter blog on all other days, on Mondays we have only original writing by our editors and guest columnists.
Hope you will drop by for a visit...
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The fundamental flaw of the CERF mechanism is that non-UN aid agencies, like Save the Children, are not allowed to receive direct funding from international donors, despite the fact they are usually first on the ground and deliver more than half of all emergency relief.
Basically, where NGOs like Save the Children traditionally get their money directly from donor governments to implement aid programs on the ground, the creation of large funding pools like the CERF mean the introduction of two new 'middle men' into the equation: the CERF itself (located in Geneva) and the UN agency dispensing the cash in country to the receiving NGO. I recently evaluated a similar fund called the Rapid Response Mechanism and found more positive results in terms of impact for beneficiaries. Donors tend to like the CERF and other UN-created funds because it fits with donor governments' desires to see a more robust, accountable UN. NGOs are divided on whether the new middle men are an added value, and Save is clearly opposed.
Their points about overheads are valid. Both UN agencies and the aid agencies carrying out project work are entitled to take a 7% cut of donor funding to pay for overheads and support. Save the Children’s research finds that, if both the UN agency and the implementing aid agency take overheads, only 86p per pound reaches the beneficiaries compared to 93p if non-UN agencies were given funding directly.
Save the Children is calling on the UN, and specifically the CERF board members, to cut out the middle-man and change the rules to allow aid agencies to access the fund directly in the same way as UN agencies.
Read the SC-UK report here: Exclusion of NGOs: The Fundamental Flaw of the CERF
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
[An MIT rep demonstrates the $100 laptop]
I'm not one to call the kettle black, for the international development and disaster relief business is rife with fantasies and funding dedicated to a 'better world' for the most destitute of the planet. But at Davos, where so many rich people and self-proclaimed visionaries mingle annually, one would expect their underlings to have researched what prior forms of literacy, infrastructure and knowledge are required if a computer is to mean anything other than spacejunk to an subsistence farmer, a former child soldier, or the third wife of a man with 27 children to feed.
I'm soon headed to northern Uganda to research violations against children by the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan National Army. I'll keep one eye skyward for any falling laptops--although such spacejunk is already common in rural Africa. I used to work with Dinka pastoralists in Southern Sudan who decorated their cattle by hanging discarded CDs from their horns. The CDs were recovered from the trash pits of international NGOs working to improve the lives of southerners during the war with Khartoum. Of course they had no idea what the CDs were, other than round reflective disks once used by foreigners. What would the Dinka do with laptops? Maybe trap wild game in the mighty jaws of the hinge mechanism connecting keyboard and screen.
Monday, January 08, 2007
The nexus of conflict and refugee flows between Darfur, Eastern Chad and the Central African Republic continues to boil over, with tragic impact on civilian lives. The Council on Foreign Relations just released this concise summary of the dynamic and its humanitarian consequences.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Rwanda is mediating in talks between a government delegation from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and renegade Congolese General Laurent Nkunda, a Rwandan military spokesman said Wednesday. "This shows the confidence the Congolese government has in the government of Rwanda," he said.
Nkunda launched attacks on Congolese army positions near North Kivu's provincial capital Goma in late November, sparking on-off fighting.
Read the Reuters article here.