Crisis Watch Report #92, 1 April 2011

One thing I can depend on is the ICG Crisis Watch Report dropping in my inbox on a timely basis. A thumbnail guide to world conflict, it is designed to reach policy makers and journalists so that another impending humanitarian crisis never goes unnoticed again.

I read one comment here on DK which rather dismissively described the ICG as another of George Soros’ creations, and I want to deal with this later on because I think it both over-simplifies and is a bit disingenuous.

Kossacks are generally better than this.

A snapshot of the world as of 1 April 2011:

Unchanged Situations Deteriorating Situations Improving Situations
Afghanistan Bahrain Niger
Albania Benin  
Algeria Bosnia  
Armenia Burkina Faso  
Azerbaijan Cote d’Ivoire  
Bangladesh Libya  
Basque Country (Spain) Nigeria  
Belarus Syria  
Bolivia Yemen  
Central African Republic    
Democratic Republic of Congo    
India (non-Kashmir)    
Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories    
Kuril Islands/Northern Territories (Russia/Japan)    
Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan)    
North Caucasus (Russia)    
North Korea    
Saudi Arabia    
Sri Lanka    
Sudan (Northern)    
Sudan (South)    
Western Sahara    

I’d say the world has gone to hell-in-a-handbasket, but neither all these situations have blown up into full-fledged conflict not are all of these situations new by any means. Which might just go to show that perhaps we’ve been in hell all along.

Half-empty or half-full? I have days when it is one or the other, and days when it depends on a coin-toss either way.

If you are interested in more detail, every country situation described above is the subject of reports put together by ICG staffers including general backgrounders and those on topical events. I find ICG reports to be a fabulous source for pertinent information anyone can get to fairly quickly. One of my reasons for writing these diaries is my hope that more people invest more time in digging, and then can better evaluate (and refute!) the disinformation and slanted reporting we so often get from the MSM.

Information is power.

So who is the ICG and what are they all about?

Crisis Group was founded in 1995 as an international non-governmental organisation on the initiative of a group of well known transatlantic figures who despaired at the international community’s failure to anticipate and respond effectively to the tragedies in the early 1990s of Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia. They were led by Morton Abramowitz (former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and Thailand, then President of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace), Mark Malloch Brown (later head of the UN Development Programme, UN Deputy Secretary-General and UK Minister), and its first Chairman, Senator George Mitchell. The idea was to create a new organisation – unlike any other – with a highly professional staff acting as the world’s eyes and ears for impending conflicts, and with a highly influential board that could mobilise effective action from the world’s policymakers.

1995: the year after the Rwandan genocide and the failure of the international community to address the unfolding tragedy there.

It is a measure of how much that experience resonates today, that we still grapple with the issues of intervention. In Libya, and quite possibly in Yemen as well. The history of intervention is closely linked with the reporting of events, no better illustrated than by this post by Adam Curtis, writing for the BBC. (MAJOR H/T to cotterperson for unearthing and sharing this. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an eye-opener. It was for me.).

So the ICG is essentially a reporting organization, using the gravitas and presumed integrity of the heavyweight names associated with it to get a foot in the door in ways that someone like Human Rights Watch does not, and to generate media buzz when called for. Is it interventionist in its very nature? Yes. Well, so is the United Nations, and many, many other multinational bodies. Does it come with its own internal baggage? Of course. These “heavyweights” have long histories of serving their respective country’s interests against all others. Which, when you think about it, gives their combined voices even greater weight when they bring their focus to specific crises. I applaud their willingness to let their names be used in this way in fact. They could be out there shilling for GE nuclear reactors after all. Some of them may be doing so, in fact. Like any other organization, it is subject to abuse, but I find the ICG to be narrowly focused in its methods. It is, as I said before, a reporting organization built to ensure that if a conflict goes unreported, that this is not due to the fact that basic information is unknown to editorial boards. That excuse won’t fly anymore.

So who is the ICG? Some of their members include

  • Thomas Pickering: former US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Christopher Lord Patten former European Commissioner for Foreign Relations
  • Louise Arbour former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Martti Ahtisaari former President of Finland (1994–2000), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and United Nations diplomat and mediator, noted for his international peace work
  • George Mitchell who should need no introduction, but who was our guy on the ground in the process that led to the Belfast Peace Agreement
  • Gareth Evans who co-chaired the International Comission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) which eventually produced the Responsibility to Protect Final Report, representing a broad international consensus on establishing the ground rules for humanitarian intervention
  • Wesley Clark who someone here will no doubt condemn for something in his past. If he invented algegra, then as far as I’m concerned, he has earned my everlasting enmity!
  • George Soros the boogeyman of Beckistan
  • Morton Abramowitz who held a number of diplomatic posts in the years from 1959 to 1983.
  • Kenneth Adelman who may be now trying to atone for his sins as an advocate of the American invasion war of aggression in Iraq.
  • Kofi Annan who issued the call for what Canada eventually took upon themselves when they initiated the ICISS process.
  • Jan Egeland former

    United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator from June 2003 to December 2006. Egeland was appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and succeeded Kenzo Oshima. He traveled extensively, drawing attention to humanitarian emergencies.

  • Mohamed El Baradei former head of the IAEA
  • Uffe Elleman-Jensen European right wing politician

These are just the names I recognize, some of them barely. There are many more.

Has the ICG become another organization used to punch a career ticket and burnish one’s humanitarian credentials? Without doubt. The thing is, ICG has somebody whose phone calls will be taken when something erupts, and that’s a lot of clout right there.

We can debate the merits of humanitarian intervention on lots of levels, however it is a practice with a centuries old history about which serious debate should continue. Start with the Responsibility to Protect (pdf) and we can work out the details as we go along.


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