Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What happened to the humanitarian corridors? (Christophe Bickerton)

A guest post from Christophe Bickerton:

When Bernard Kouchner was first appointed as foreign minister in Nicolas Sarkozy's government, there was speculation about whether he would be able to stand the diplomatic niceties and constraints that come with the post. Kouchner's career has been built upon appearing to go against the grain, telling governments and world leaders what they don't want to hear. That Kouchner has swum against the tide is dubious. His career has in fact matched the 'rise and rise of human rights', and its place in the diplomatic mainstream is now firmly assured. The difficulty is that acting in the name of human rights doesn't fit very well with the narrow raison d'état of national governments and foreign ministries. In the 1990s, humanitarian intervention was all the rage, but many on-the-ground humanitarian agencies have resented the actions of great powers, whose own human rights agendas have been tainted by the grubbiness of political opportunism.

With all of that in mind, it is interesting to follow Kouchner's recent efforts over Darfur. Up until now, nothing much has happened in terms of concerted Western intervention. The standard explanation is that China is torpedoing attempts to bully the Sudanese government, since Sudan is one of its chief oil suppliers. It's more likely that the war in the Iraq, and ongoing failures in Afghanistan, have sapped the will to intervene. Kouchner has brought to all of this his legendary optimism, and France appears to be taking up the mantle of humanitarianism. Kouchner initially proposed that an EU-led force establish a humanitarian corridor, operating from neighbouring Chad. This was deemed too dangerous. It is also possible that other EU member states didn't like the idea of putting the EU badge onto an operation that was obviously French-led, and smelt a bit too much like old-style French interventionism in its African backyard. Now, Kouchner is pushing for a joint UN-African Union force. Reports are that the Sudanese government has accepted this. However, already, a few groups are expressing their concern that Kouchner may hijack Darfur in order to score a French diplomatic victory, at the expense of doing anything useful on the ground. The French government convened in Paris this week a meeting of an 'enlarged' contact group, which brought together Condoleezza Rice, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Chinese envoy to Sudan, and a host of others. France is clearly positioning itself as new kid on the humanitarian bloc. Watch this space.

-- CB

1 comment:

Susana said...

Tragically, Rwanda is best known for the horrific genocide that occurred in 1994. Nearly a million people, or about 10% of Rwanda's population, were killed. Females represent 70% of Rwanda's population since so many men had been killed. They are now making a living by selling their homemade peace baskets to provide food and shelter for their family. Art is a wonderful thing, especially when made with blood, sweat and tears.

The sale of these beautiful, handmade baskets plays an important role in Rwanda's evolution. These beautiful peace baskets are a great conversation piece for your home and at the same time you can help others help themselves.
See the peace baskets at link below.