Yemen Peace Talks
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is cause for despair; however, the recent Yemen peace talks in Sweden and outreach programs providing humanitarian aid are offering new hope to those suffering from the conflict. Through the Yemen peace talks, the United Nations was able to negotiate a ceasefire agreement on December 18, putting at least a pause on the war until countries can reach a further agreement. This finally opens the door to providing humanitarian aid.

Opposed to War in Yemen

Despite President Trump’s wishes, the Senate ended all aid in military assistance to Saudi Arabia following the peace talks. Thanks to Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for writing the agreement, the War Powers Act was used to assert Congress’ role in military power, overriding the White House. According to the New York Times, Trump was against the end of military assistance in fear that it would cost America “billions” of dollars in arms sales, putting the fear of losing money in front of regard for human life (a reference to the Saudi Prince having allegedly killed American journalist Jamal Khashoggi).

The humanitarian crisis currently taking place in Yemen was caused by war, and the only way to stop it is to end the war and promote peace. Humanitarian organizations such as Save the Children and CARE, along with several other organizations, wrote a letter to the U.S. government to use their influence to end the war. Providing more military support will only perpetuate the problem; whereas, peace will resolve it. Lise Grande, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, stated that the priority must be to increase access to currency and ensure that Yemenis are able to access shipments of food.

Humanitarian Aid

With the ceasefire in play, the focus can be shifted to the humanitarian crisis and helping the suffering people in Yemen. About half of Yemen’s population is subject to starvation and is in dire need of aid as a result of the war. “The big countries say they are fighting each other in Yemen, but it feels to us like they are fighting the poor people,” said Mr. Hajaji to the New York Times. Hajaji is a father who has already lost one child to starvation and is afraid of losing his second, who is struggling to stay alive.

According to Save the Children’s fact sheet, about 85,000 children are estimated to have died from starvation and disease since the beginning of the war in Yemen. Despite the high numbers of people who have died or are suffering from starvation, organizations like Save the Children are making a difference and increasing the number of survivors. This organization has treated nearly 100,000 children suffering from malnutrition and is operating mobile health clinics in the hardest-to-reach areas.

Ways to Help

People from the U.S. can help alleviate this issue in numerous ways. One such method is by contacting Senators and U.S. representatives through the United States Senate website and urge them to give aid and resources to Yemen. Since Yemen’s famine is income based, the best thing the people can do to aid is to donate money to those in need to survive. Organizations like Save the Children are also distributing cash and vouchers for food to families as well as education and safe spaces for children to keep getting an education despite the harsh circumstances and ongoing recovery from war trauma.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing outreach through healthcare, nutrition, water/sanitation services and by providing financial assistance to those struggling survive. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is providing education, food security, shelter and water outreach to many Yemenis. Volunteer and/or donating to these organizations will help their work reach more people.

The resolution of the Yemen peace talks to enact a cease-fire and the U.S. halting its military assistance to Saudi Arabia serve as a positive catalyst for change in the right direction. The ongoing battle is now the aid for Yemenis in an attempt to end their critical condition of poverty. Organizations such as Save the Children, IRC, NRC and UNICEF are providing outreach and saving people’s lives, making significant progress in the work to end Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

– Anna Power

Photo: Flickr

War with FARC in Colombia

June 23, 2016 marks the historic ceasefire between Left-wing FARC rebels and the Colombian government, concluding the fifth and final item of negotiation. While peace talks have been ongoing since 2013, the peace deal witnessed by five South American presidents and a U.N. official should bring an end to the half-century war with FARC in Colombia. The U.N. will oversee the disbandment of FARC and hopes to collect all weapons by December 27, 2016.

Colombia’s long civil conflict was caused by many class tensions that hail back to its colonial history. The social classes are highly stratified between rich landowners of primarily Spanish decent and the poorer, generally mixed-race majority.

The power imbalance led to the formation of left-wing guerrilla groups like FARC. Drug trafficking financed their weaponry, significantly escalating the violence in the 1980s. Because the state was unable to defeat these groups, a right-wing paramilitary group called AUC (United Self Defence Forces) formed in reaction. While the AUC was disbanded in 2006, FARC has continued to be in conflict with the government.

Both left-wing and right-wing groups have been criticized for horrible human rights violations. It is estimated that seven million people are victims of massacres, disappearances, kidnappings, murders and forced displacements perpetrated by both sides during the war with FARC in Colombia. Internal displacement alone currently affects 224,000 people, more than any other country in North or South America.

Five topics have been resolved over the last three years:

Rural Reform

Because much of the war with FARC in Colombia between the factions was fueled by social inequality, the agreement takes measure to balance land distribution to reduce poverty.

Political Participation

FARC’s leftist leanings caused the government persecution of nonviolent groups with similar political ideologies. FARC has argued for fair channels of political participation.

Illicit drugs

Drugs, particularly cocaine, have funded FARC and increased violence. The government is encouraging crop substitution and, most importantly, differentiating between rural growers and criminal groups driving trade.

Victims

To bring justice to the U.N.’s estimated seven million victims, Colombia’s government will allow an “international justice tribunal and a Truth Commission.” A Victim and a Land Fund will provide financial reparation. Amnesty will be given to FARC rebels who have not committed human rights violations and are willing to participate in justice.

Disarmament

This final phase began on June 23 with the official ceasefire. The U.N. hopes to have completely disarmed FARC by the end of the year.

While the ceasefire will not end all the Colombian people’s troubles, the agreements between FARC and the government provides a concrete end to the atrocities that have plagued them for decades and a plan toward peace.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: BBC

impoverished_North_Koreans
North and South Korea have finally reached an agreement—putting an end to the tense military standoff that could’ve pushed the rivals to all-out armed conflict. In a joint accord, the two countries showed cooperation. Continued cooperation in the future could place South Korea in a position to help impoverished North Koreans.

In the newly established accord, North Korea “expressed regret” for the recent mine blasts injuring two South Korean soldiers. It also agreed to end its “semi-state of war” by pulling back troops deployed on the frontline. Likewise, South Korea agreed to turn off loudspeakers playing taunting propaganda messages across the border.

The two sides also agreed to work towards reuniting families separated by the Korean War. This is an especially significant step in the right direction, as it has remained a recurring point of contention for more than half a century.

Technically, the two Koreas have been at war for the past 60 years, since the Korean War ended with a ceasefire that was never officially ratified by a formal peace treaty. This technicality helps offer insight into the ambiguous, untrusting nature of Korean international relations over the past few decades.

Although countless issues between the two countries remain unsolved, things are at least looking up. South Korea’s lead negotiator, National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-Jin, explained that the agreement could provide a “new momentum” for future inter-Korean relations.

While he could have been alluding to a general improvement in their international relationship, his statement potentially carries even more meaning. Improved international relations between the two Koreas could specifically signify major changes for struggling North Koreans unable to escape poverty on their own.

In recent years, South Korea has become an increasingly influential power in global arenas. Rapid industrialization, economic modernization and an essential transition from dictatorship to democracy all worked together to achieve this important transition.

South Korea has emerged as a bridge connecting developed and developing nations.

Key leadership positions fulfilled by South Koreans have worked to solidify the country’s new role in world affairs. In March 2012, the Obama administration nominated President Jim Yong Kim, born in Seoul, Korea, as president of the World Bank. Presently, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea serves as secretary-general of the UN.

The original vision of the United Nations was to achieve an important balance: The UN was established in order to address the goals of the most powerful nations while still achieving inclusive global representation for underdeveloped countries. Leaders like Ban and Kim are working to achieve such global inclusion.

More and more, market economies and fairly representative governments are characterizing developing nations. Given this new trend, South Korea is ideally positioned to play a leading role in reducing global poverty.

Although it is tough to predict exactly what this means for North Korea, agreements like this are at least a step in the right direction. As our world becomes more interconnected, transnational issues like poverty can more feasibly be tackled from multiple sides.

Looking ahead, if the two Koreas were ever to reach a point of full-on cooperation, issues like hunger and poverty could become a thing of the past.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Haaretz, Desert News, BBC, News Yahoo
Photo: Pixabay

central african republic ceasefire
After a year and a half of vicious bloodshed, Christian militia and Muslim Seleka rebels have drawn up a ceasefire in response to the deaths of thousands in Central African Republic. Requests have been subsided for both groups, with one of the failed demands being that the country is split based on the religious line on behalf of the rebel forces.

The warring groups traveled to the Congo to have the ceasefire initiated by the Congolese president, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, the formal mediator of the conflict. After the signing, President N’Guesso made a statement to the press: “We have taken the first step today. The journey is long, but we have made promises. After what has happened here, I am confident.” Both groups hold hope for future democratic elections to replace multiple informal and interim leaders.

The effects of this violence have not gone unnoticed, with over 1 million people fleeing their homes due to the conflict. While the Central African Republic ceasefire appears to be the first step to a different future, both sides took precautions at the signing ceremony with heavy military representation in case the other forgot their capabilities.

Both sides have shown their willingness to enforce the ceasefire, and those that are caught breaking the truce would face arrest.

Head of the Seleka delegation made a statement after the signing. “We have signed this ceasefire agreement today in front of everyone. Our commitment is firm and irreversible,” said Mohamed Moussa Dhaffane.

Seleka’s violent rule began back in March of 2013 when they rose to power, a group made up of various northerners from neighboring countries like Chad and Sudan. The “tit for tat” aggressions quickly developed the anti-balaka militia and the two warring sides immediately fell into an endless cycle of battle, even after the Seleka government stepped down in early 2014. Since then the violence has continued to affect Central African Republic, causing death tolls in the thousands for both sides.

Both the Seleka and anti-Balaka leadership appear willing to concede to the changes required by a ceasefire, but the amount of work to be done to bring the country together will take much more than a few agreements and a little time. The future of CAR is cloudy as both groups are forced to work with one another again and put on a united front for their people, as well as the rest of the world.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, Big Story, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

ceasefire_in_ukraine
A 10 day truce ended on July 1 when Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko ended a unilateral ceasefire in Ukraine between the government in Kiev and separatist rebels. As a result, Ukrainian fighter bombers and tanks have already begun storming the eastern part of the country, which is home to 7 million people.

The truce, which was designed to help end the armed conflict between separatists that have been stoking an increasingly violent and complex movement for the region to gain more autonomy and have closer ties to Russia, was only tenuous at best and was violated several times over the course of its 10 day existence. The separatist rebels have been scattered throughout the eastern part of the country ever since Russia annexed Crimea in March earlier this year. There have been fluctuations in the amount of violence that this conflict has caused, but the statement by President Poroshenko opens the doors to a very wide scope of violence that is about to take over the eastern part of the country.

In his most recent address to the nation, Poroshenko said, “After examining the situation I have decided, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, not to extend the unilateral ceasefire. The separatists’ leaders have demonstrated their unwillingness and inability to control the actions of the terrorist units and marauding gangs under their control.” His statement came after a conference call with leaders from Russia, Germany and France who were all trying to convince Poroshenko to extend the ceasefire and continue indirect talks with separatist leaders.

As of now the 11-week conflict has already claimed at least 450 lives, halted a fragile economy that is largely dependent on coal mines and steel mills, and caused even more people to flee their homes. The death toll and amount of refugees and displaced persons only stand to rise in the wake of Poroshenko’s decision to halt the ceasefire. There have already been multiple reports of citizens fleeing over the border into Russia. Heavy tank battles have already started taking place in the Donetsk region, and other intense clashes have been reported throughout the eastern countryside. Because the separatist rebels have been using residential buildings for shelter, many civilians lack adequate safety and could potentially stand in harms way. Three residential buildings and a school in the Kramatorsk region have already been hit with heavy shelling.

While there has been no immediate word on the amount of casualties that this new offensive by the Ukrainian government has caused, the situation only stands to get worse from here.

– Andre Gobbo 

Sources: Al Jazeera, CNN, Reuters
Photo: Reuters

City_of_Homs
The Syrian peace talks in Switzerland at the start of 2014 have had little success. Members of the West insist on a transitory government away from the present Assad regime, yet that is a non-starter for negotiators from the regime. In the meantime, the Syrian people are still being killed, starved and stuck in the midst of battlefields. Relief organizations looking to bring in goods to the region have had repeated difficulties in doing so.

The one major development from the talks has been the agreement for a ceasefire at the city of Homs.

The city has been besieged for the greater part of the war, and while it is currently held by rebel groups, the people remaining in the city were still subject the whims of Assad’s forces.  The city had been under siege by Syrian Army troops for 600 days. This city where such horror has taken place was the one area where peace was actually achieved during the Switzerland peace talks.

During the week of evacuations, at least 1,400 Syrians were evacuated from the city.There were projected to be about 3,000 people in the city at the start of the conflict, with many women and children involved.

The effort was focused on getting those groups out of the city, yet some men aged between 16 years old and 54 years old were included as well.Issues arose around these men, who were detained and interviewed by the regime. Some were allowed to leave after declaring their allegiance to the Assad government, bu the evacuation was not extended in part due to the detainment of some.

Even with the ceasefire, there were reports of violence in the war-torn city. Belying the difficulties of administering relief during a time of war, some convoys were fired upon by unknown sources. The United Nations reported that 10 people were killed during the operation, though none were relief workers.

Despite the difficulties, a U.N. team leader said food supplies sustainable for 2,500 people for up to a month were delivered to the city.

The evacuation of Homs is an important first step for the Syrian peace talks, though it is not nearly enough for the international community to deserve praise.

The work that relief organizations did during the operation shows what can be achieved if these groups are given the chance. However, there is not enough work being done by governing bodies to give the people of Syria a fighting chance; it is up to advocacy groups to push governing bodies to do this work.

Despite obvious tensions on both sides, the soldiers on either side were operating in close proximity and there were no blows exchanged for the time of the evacuation. While fighting raged on in other parts of the embattled nation, in Homs there was at least peace for a week. This week showed that these two sides can at least peacefully coexist for a time, and hopefully is an example that could be used to better the situation of all Syrians soon.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: Los Angeles Times, International Business Times, CBS News
Photo: Daily Mail