Monthly Archives: February 2013

Eastern Congo: Changing Dynamics and the Implications for Peace

On February 22, 2013 I attended the discussion on the Democratic Republic of Congo. The co-founder and the policy analyst for the Enough Project as well as representative from Amnesty International discussed the current situations in the Congo.

Collectively, they discussed the current policies that fail to have a large impact on creating stability in the Congo. It was largely aimed at assessing what else could be done to ensure the security of the people and establish a stable government. John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, discussed four points of opportunity to create peace in the region. They were aimed at ensuring conflict-free minerals with the help of international companies, sanctions on those in the region who partake in the cross-border supply of weapons to rebel militias, accountability, and reform of the United Nations peacekeeping missions. I think these four points were significant because they continue to be on the agenda to pursue peace in the Congo, but with lack of implementation they have not been successful.

Later in the discussion they addressed the policies that were already established and how well they were working. One they mainly focused on was the Dodd Frank act that is to ensure that minerals are conflict-free. Many companies are beginning to implement it, but they are still lost as to how to go about making sure they have conflict-free minerals. The panel of speakers made a point that companies need to take their own time to actually go to the Congo and go to the mines and evaluate the situations before buying the minerals. It is an extra step in the process, but it slowly cuts off the rebel militias from profiting in smuggling minerals.

At the end of the discussion, the panel was opened up to questions from the audience. Questions they answered dealt with what is going to happen to the displaced people and what political reform was needed. The political reform they suggested not only dealt with the national, but also the local communities and how they need to be more involved.

Overall it was a very good discussion on what needs to be done in the Congo. The main point out of all of it was that there needs to be more implementation. Agreements are made and policies are established but nothing is being done after that. They need stronger negotiators and more implementation plans after leaving bargaining tables.

Protocolary Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council in Honor of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, visited the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarters in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, February 13, 2013, to address OAS Member States and OAS Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza. During his address, he referred to the OAS as “the world’s oldest regional organization” and stressed its importance in the hemisphere as 22 U.N. member states are from the Americas.

In the global context, Secretary Ban Ki-Moon talked about the recent nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; the situation in Syria, in which over 60,000 people have been brutally killed; the Middle East, in which we must continue to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians; “sustained and systemic crisis” across the Sahel region, Mali; and drug trafficking worldwide for which he said that “The United Nations is committed to working to combat these global challenges.”

Additionally, he placed special attention on the concept of the “complementarity” of the priorities of the UN and OAS, for which he maintained he has identified five areas that need cooperative action in order to make a difference, which are: (1) Sustainable Development, (2) Preventive diplomacy, (3) Supporting nations in transition, (4) Building a more secure world, (5) Empowering women and young people. He argued that this list aligns with the OAS-UN four pillars: democracy, development, security, and human rights.

Secretary Ban Ki-Moon argued that development was important, he praised the progress made in the Americas in reducing poverty, thus pointing out some “structural problems” and the high degree of inequality. Moreover, he stressed the need for solutions to climate change, and summoned the support of the region. He ended his address with saying that it is “crucial to leading us all to a better world of dignity, opportunity, prosperity and social justice.”

Public Education in Post-Earthquake Haiti

This event held in the Wilson Center on February 7th, 2013, was on “Nation Building: The Plan for Public Education in Post-Earthquake Haiti.” The two speakers were H.R. Vanneur Pierre, the Minister of Education of Haiti, and Paul Vallas, a scholar at the Wilson Center who focuses on education reform and serves as education consultant to the government of Haiti.

While I was aware of the fact that Haiti was severely stroke by the earthquake in 2010, I was not really paying attention to the education of the people in Haiti, but in its recovery from the disaster. It was interesting to know that “nearly 50% of the Haitian population is under the age of 18;” therefore, it was understanding that education in Haiti was at the top priority in the Haitian government’s agenda.

The speech by the minister of education Pierre was touching in the sense that he showed great passion and optimism on the educational need in Haiti. He said things like, “turning the disaster into an opportunity for development,” and “we want to give all children in Haiti potentials to contribute to the society.”

An interesting fact among the things he said was that 1 million children were currently learning in Haiti without parents being concerned about tuition fees.

The Peace Process in Colombia

On January 30, 2013, I went to the event “Peace Process in Colombia,” held in the Wilson Center, Washington D.C. The two speakers of the event were Enrique Santos Calderon, the brother of the current president of Colombia and famous journalist, and Marta Ruiz Narajo, another well-known journalist of Colombia. They both talked about the peace process and conflicts that have been apparent in Colombia between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The event itself was interesting because not only was it held in Spanish, but it was not a topic that I had an interest or know anything about before. All the information I heard and learn from the session was new and interesting. The speakers were very informative and kind enough to address point by point. Santos was very detailed in explaining the peace process while Marta showed much fervor about the topic through her tone when she said things like “the dirty war continues to be a threat”. Among the things they talked about were the risks of the negotiations and peace process. They were concerned about the public opinion and frustration of such a long, slow process, afraid that the public would think that this peace process will not get anywhere just like it did in previous times. On the other hand, they said that it is a positive sign to see that the armed forces are not opposing negotiations for the first time. They did not forget to mention that this problem was not only a governmental problem, but local where local participation was needed.