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Caroline Stauffer: Cambodian Justice — Too Little, Too Late

Wednesday, May 20, marks the annual "Day of Anger" for Cambodians remembering the victims of the brutal five-year reign of the Khmer Rouge. The five defendants to be tried in Phnom Penh are accused of crimes against humanity relating to the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodian lives in 1975-79. It has been more than three months since the ceremonial start of the trials in Cambodia on February 17, intended to bring the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders to justice. Witnesses were first called on March 30 and have only recently begun their testimony. Civil war ended in Cambodia in the 1990s, and Khmer Rouge chief Pol Pot died a decade ago. Justice is only now being sought, some 30 years after the Killing Fields era. At this rate, it might be another 30 years by the time closing arguments roll around. International news reports from the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia in February focused on the historic nature of the Khmer Rouge trials, but most articles mentioned the word "corruption" in their leads, if not in the headlines. Disputes between the international and Cambodian judges who sit on the hybrid United Nations/Cambodian tribunal still remain unresolved, and charges of corruption are now coming from both sides. The Phnom Penh Post reported “a complete breakdown of trust between the two sides” on May 13. The international judges hope to try even more Khmer Rouge members—something the Cambodian side of the court will not permit. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was, coincidentally, a lower-level Khmer Rouge officer until 1977, has said that more trials could send the country back into civil war. Funding for the tribunal from international donors is mostly frozen in a trust fund held by the United Nations Development Program, pending a commitment from Phnom Penh to ensure that proceedings will be free and fair—and that someone besides the Cambodian government can hear complaints. Frustrated by Hun Sen's intransigence, Australia took the rogue step of calling for the release of its donations in April, a request the UNDP denied. The trials likely would not have started at all without a $200,000 bailout from Japan to pay Cambodian staff. Japan then went even further, upping its investment in the court with a $4.17 million donation in April.

Micah Albert: Quenching Yemen's Thirst

I'm headed down to Bab al Mandeb—a narrow strait, spanning only 12 miles from the Middle East to Africa—to spend an afternoon with Abdalla Abrahem, a fisherman. He has spent is life trawling these narrow waters, but now he's forced to venture ever further afield, near Somalia and Djibouti, to support his family. Earning, at best, $10 a day, Abrahem lives along the arid Red Sea coastline in the small village of of Dobaba (pop. 600), a community in dire need of food assistance. I arrived in this area after a three-hour drive from Taiz, about 70 miles away from the coast, descending down more than 4,000 feet through a lush, winding canyon dotted with palm trees and camels. By the end of the journey, the temperature must have increased by at least 30 degrees. Upon arrival, it's shocking to see that a human life actually exists in the middle of this unforgiving landscape. Families try to scrape by on the wind-swept plain. It’s one thing to not have enough to eat, but another thing all together to have to buy your own water. Yemen isn’t just food insecure, it also faces a water crisis. Yemenis consume 2.8 billion cubic meters of water annually, but the nation's aquifers supply only about two-thirds of that. Yemen imports the rest. The western part of the country, where nearly 90 percent of the population lives, is expected to run out of water entirely in only ten years. In search of water, Yemenis are drilling deeper and deeper. The average depth of a well in the village of Dobaba is nearly 1,000 meters—compared with only 40 meters only two decades ago. Nothing about this village is sustainable; but  few can afford to travel the long distance to Taiz. And they can't pick up and move to the city, because their skill sets revolve around the sea.

Obama's First 100 Days — Stephen Schlesinger: The UN

Stephen Schlesinger's article "A New Administration and the UN" appeared in the winter "Dear Mr. President" issue of World Policy Journal. His grade for the new administration's first 100 days follows this update. President Barack Obama has dramatically re-established American relations with the United Nations in his first 100 days. His acclaimed multilateral outlook on international relations, his willingness to listen to foreign leaders rather than lecture them, his admission of "mistakes" by the United States on issues like torture, the economy, the Iraq war, and other global matters—and his general popularity around the world—have created an entirely new atmosphere in the United Nations building. In the seventh week of his administration, he held his first meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the White House, a cordial and highly supportive event. Then, with several specific steps, Obama made crystal clear his re-engagement with the world body: First, he approved the United States joining the newly created Human Rights Council rather than staying outside of it, in order to reorient the body toward its goal of enforcing the essential civil rights for citizens in all states. Second, he asked Congress to appropriate $836 million to pay up our peacekeeping obligations which we have shamefully refused in the past to fulfill. Third, he made a new commitment to helping stop climate change—a key issue at the UN these days. Fourth, he reversed by executive order the Bush administration policy of denying U.S. funds to family planning programs at the UN's Population Fund. Fifth, he renewed and expanded funding to both UNICEF and UNESCO, both organizations long neglected by Washington in the past. Sixth, he publicly endorsed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, among other crucial UN treaties, and pledged to participate vigorously in the UN's upcoming 2010 review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the latter of which the previous administration disparaged. Seventh, he publicly embraced the Millennium Development goals, which Bush viewed with disdain. Obama, however, did duck out of the Durban conference on racism and he has so far not said much about the International Criminal Court. Additionally, he has not been heavily proactive on the Darfur crisis, as of yet. But, in my view, for his first 100 days, he deserves a grade of...



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