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Archive for May 17th, 2012

Forests remain a source of conflict

Posted by African Press International on May 17, 2012

A teak forest in central Java

BANGKOK,  – The world’s largest producer of teak, an Indonesian state-owned company on the island of Java, has again been awarded sustainable forest management (SFM) certification. But the company has a long and sometimes contentious relationship with forest communities in the area, and the forest rights of indigenous communities remain a potential cause of conflict.

“Land rights have long been a source of violence on Java,” Rhett Butler, a leading environmentalist and creator of a leading environmental news website told IRIN. Perhutani (Indonesian state forestry company) exploits 2.4 million hectares of forests in Java – 7 percent of the island area – with earnings of around US$400 million in 2011.

Although Perhutani agreed in 2011 to the voluntary process that promotes eco-friendly management in order to obtain certification, it controls a huge area of forest once used by indigenous communities, many of whom still depend on the forests for their livelihoods.

The company needs FSC certification to access high-value wood markets in the US and Europe, said Muhammad Firman, director of the Forest Utilization Department under Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry.

SFM balances the present use of forests with their preservation for future generations. Certification started in the 1980s and is granted to forest companies by around 60 independent organizations under two main umbrella groups – Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the world’s largest forest certification system, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – with 20 to 30 percent of North American and European forests having certification, and Asia lagging far behind with only 2 to 4 percent.

However, many activists believe SFM certification is geared less towards local communities than towards the environment and facilitating trade between forest companies and Western wood buyers

“When indigenous people have been denied the right to use forests in the traditional way, no ‘inclusion’ programme can fully match their loss. It is not a question of ‘exclusion’ or ‘inclusion’,” said Deddy Raith, from the Jakarta-based NGO, WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

“Today, Perhutani still has full responsibility over the forests,” said Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto, president of the local NGO, Telapak. “What we want is to mainstream community logging as the new trees-management regime in Indonesia.”

Martua Sirait, a policy analyst in Aceh Province for the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre, maintains that the management of forests has ignored the customary land rights of some 40 to 60 million people since the 1960s.

Large-scale illegal loggers were often active in the forests, and local inhabitants were exposed to danger by sometimes becoming involved, or being caught in the crossfire. Between 1998 and 2008 Perhutani’s armed patrols were accused of killing 32 people and injuring 69 in the fight against illegal timber operators, The Forest Trust (TFT),  a Geneva-based international charity, reported.

Perhutani lost its SFM certification in 2002 and required TFT’s assistance to define a course of action to regain it, said Scott Poynton, TFT’s executive director.

The programme, ‘Drop the Guns’, began in 2003, with Perhutani providing a share of timber sales and non-timber forest products to forest communities. In exchange, villagers took on a new role as guardians of the forests. But both parties only laid down all their weapons in 2009, which explained why the deadly fights continued until 2008, Poynton said.

“Peace remains fragile because the underlying cause of unequal forest rights is unresolved. Perhutani can better sell its products, but villagers have received too little,” said Hasbi Berliani, a programme manager at the national good governance NGO, Kemitraan, quoting an ongoing evaluation by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, which shows that poverty among indigenous households has yet to be alleviated.

“Villagers have been given $19 million between 2005 and 2010,” said Bambang Sukmananto, chief executive officer of Perhutani, noting that the 2011 SFM certification was recognition of the company’s efforts.

Providing greater forest rights to indigenous people is a growing trend across Asia, aimed not only at safeguarding the livelihoods of villagers but also at improving environmental protection.

sb/ds/he source

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Concern over attacks on aid workers

Posted by African Press International on May 17, 2012

The suspension of humanitarian operations would affect tens of thousands in need

ISLAMABAD,  – Attacks on humanitarian workers in Pakistan have increased in the last four years, with five personnel abducted in the first two months of 2012, and three killed in separate incidents in Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab Provinces, the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF) has warned.

The escalating risk has forced the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to suspend operations in Pakistan, particularly since the body of an ICRC health programme manager was found on the outskirts of Quetta on 29 April, with a note stating that he had been killed because “demands” had not been met. Khalil Rasjed Dale, 60, had been abducted four months ago.

The decision will have a ripple effect. “It is hard to give an exact figure, but we can say tens of thousands of people will be affected,” Anastasia Isyuk, a spokesperson for the ICRC in Pakistan, told IRIN. Only a single ICRC-run rehabilitation project in Pakistan-administered Kashmir is still operating. “Our projects were mainly in the health, and also the in water and sanitation areas,” Isyuk said. “No timeframe can be put on how long the ongoing review may take.”

Other humanitarian organizations have also been affected by the ICRC decision. “Yes, we are also looking at security and reviewing measures, as are other organizations, but our work in the country is continuing,” Aine Fey, Country Director of the UK-based charity, Concern Worldwide, told IRIN.

This is the first time the ICRC has suspended activities in Pakistan since it began working there in 1947. Offices in the port city of Karachi, and Peshawar, in the north, have been closed. International staff have been recalled to the capital, Islamabad, and national staff placed on paid leave. The Quetta office of the organization has been closed since Dale was kidnapped.

According to the PHF, the list of humanitarian aid staff who have been attacked in the past several years includes eight staff members of two organizations, who were shot in targeted attacks in 2009, and six who were killed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in 2010. Four more personnel were abducted and one murdered in an attack in Balochistan, and 14 were abducted in 2011.

Until now, none of the perpetrators have been captured or brought to justice, said the Forum, and seven humanitarian staff are still being held hostage since they were abducted in 2011 and 2012.

kh/eo/he source

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A quick reaction force moulded by Africa’s circumstances

Posted by African Press International on May 17, 2012

Ugandan AMISOM battle group 8 soldiers about to deploy to Mogadishu

JOHANNESBURG,  – Africa’s crises are both honing and stalling the formation of the African Standby Force (ASF) of the African Union (AU) – a quick reaction force that could eventually number about 30,000 troops to be deployed in a range of scenarios, from peacekeeping to direct military intervention.

Originally intended to become operational in 2010, the deadline for the ASF has been reset for 2015; but despite the delay, the ASF is becoming increasingly woven into the operating procedures of current AU security operations.

The ASF “is very much a work in progress”, African Union Commissioner of Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra told IRIN, but “at the political level there is a strong support for it under the guiding principle of bringing about African solutions to African problems.”

Once up and running, the ASF will be based on five regional blocs each supplying about 5,000 troops: the Southern African Development Community (SADC) force (SADCBRIG), the Eastern Africa Standby force (EASBRIG), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) force (ECOBRIG), the North African Regional Capability (NARC), and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) force (ECCASBRIG), also known as the Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC).

The regional forces are not a standing army like national forces. As the AU Peace and Security Council protocol of the ASF stipulates, they “shall be composed of standby multidisciplinary contingents with civilian and military components in their countries of origin and ready for rapid deployment at appropriate notice.”

The ASF is the legacy and logic of the Constitutive Act of the AU adopted in 2000, the successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). In a complete break from the OAU, which had advocated non-interference in member states, the Act gave the AU both the right to intervene in a crisis, and an obligation to do so “in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity”.

Lamamra said the ASF “Implies the immediate availability of the instruments [of intervention and prevention] to be translated into concrete deeds… when they relate to some kind of enforcing decisions of the legitimate organs of the African Union, such as cases of unconstitutional changes of government… or armed rebellion, such as the terrorist situation in northern Mali.”

''I believe the learning curve for the standby force is AMISOM. We have to deliver on the lessons learned in the AMISOM process''

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was held up as an example of what the ASF could be. “I believe the learning curve for the standby force is AMISOM. We have to deliver on the lessons learned in the AMISOM process – five years of effective presence on the ground under quite challenging circumstances,” Lamamra said.

“The lesson of AMISOM is that Africans should be ready to make sacrifices, and Uganda has wonderfully shown that they are ready to make sacrifices for the common good of Africa.” Uganda has supplied most of the AU troops supporting the Somali government against jihadist rebels.

The AU has deployed 14 staff officers to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, “in the first ever deployment of ASF elements,” El Gassim Wane, AU Commission director of peace and security, told IRIN.

A field exercise – Amani II, following the Amani I mapping exercise in 2010 – is being planned for 2014 and three of the five brigades are expected to take participate.

Article 4 (h)

Lamamra was confident that by 2015 all of the ASF’s regional brigades – with the probable exception of NARC, owing to the disruptions of the Arab Spring – would be operational and able to fulfil all the criteria of AU’s Article 4 (h), which influenced the international development of the UN Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine.

There are six scenarios in Article 4 (h). The lowest rung is the attachment of a regional military advisor to a political mission; then an AU regional observer deployed within a UN mission; followed by a stand-alone AU regional observer mission; and deployment of a regional peacekeeping force under the auspices of a Chapter VI mandate, all within a timeframe of 30 days or less. Scenario five is a multidimensional AU peacekeeping force deployed within 90 days, and scenario six relates to “grave circumstances”, such as genocide, and deployment within 14 days.

Lamamra said the timeline of 14 days for level-six intervention should be reassessed to about seven days. “For instance, resolution 1973 of the UN Security Council was adopted on 17 March and the actual military operation started on 19th March – 14 days would have been too much in terms of protecting civilians.”

In a 2010 paper, The Role and Place of the African Standby Force within the African Peace and Security Architecture, Solomon Dersso, a senior researcher at the Addis Ababa office of the Institute for Security Studies, a Pretoria-based think-tank, notes that “Article 4 (h) not only creates the legal basis for intervention but also imposes an obligation on the AU to intervene to prevent or stop the perpetration of such heinous international crimes anywhere on the continent.”

However, implementation of R2P rests with the Security Council, while the imposition of Article 4 (h) resides with the AU and does not require the Security Council’s blessing.

Scenario six of Article 4 (h) has yet to be used by the AU and Dersso told IRIN he “sincerely doubted” the article would be invoked in the short term against member states, as “it would deprive the AU of any leverage it has over a target government,” and the AU has already “shied away” from implementing the article in Darfur.

He expected the ASF to be close to being able to comply with Article 4 (h) level-five scenarios by 2015, but the development of regional forces was proceeding at different paces.

The two-speed progress of the regional brigades – in which ECOWAS and SADC are recognised as the furthest along the path – is not just a consequence of the two regional blocs housing the continent’s economic power houses of Nigeria and South Africa, AU Commission director of peace and security El Gassim Wane told IRIN.

''Intrinsically, in most of these situations what is needed is a political response, and there is a temptation that if you have a standby force to use it because you have a military capacity''

“ECOWAS and SADC have made tremendous progress, EAS Brigade too, while NARC in the north was lagging behind, but then started speeding up, but the Libyan crisis meant progress had to stop,” he said.

“Money may play a role, but money alone cannot explain that. ECOWAS and SADC focused early on conflict and security issues, so had a competitive advantage in the very beginning. Experience, length of involvement in peace and security issues, have certainly played a key role,” Wane said.

Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, told IRIN the availability of a standby force could cloud judgment.

“Intrinsically, in most of these situations what is needed is a political response, and there is a temptation that if you have a standby force to use it because you have a military capacity… And my concern over something like Mali would be that the military option runs the danger of getting the AU into a Somalia-type situation, where the use of military force five or six years ago by the US and Ethiopia very seriously rebounded. But having said that – yes, in a situation where there is a need for some sort of peacekeeping deployment in the context of a political initiative, it makes sense.”

Alternatives to the ASF?

Analysts have questioned whether 30,000 troops would be sufficient to deal with the continent’s crises, and 2012 has illustrated that such concerns are valid. A range of crises this year erupted within the space of a few weeks, from the uneasy relationship between South Sudan and Sudan deteriorating into border skirmishing, to coup d’etats in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.

Wane said the establishment of the ASF did not necessarily mean it would be the only security option at the AU’s disposal, and the four-country operation against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, (LRA) a rebel movement that started in northern Uganda, could be considered as a useful model for the future.

“It’s not an ASF operation per se, as ASF has its own processes, and it was not really conceived as an ASF operation – it was conceived as an ad hoc, very flexible arrangement to enhance effectiveness to deal with the LRA once and for all. It’s a very flexible and creative way of dealing with a specific security issue… Who knows? We may replicate it elsewhere, where there is a security problem,” he said.

The force ranged against the LRA – comprising soldiers from the Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Uganda – has fought against the LRA in past, but is set apart, as it operates under the aegis of the AU.

Abou Moussa, the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), based in Libreville, Gabon, told IRIN: “The specific nature of this deployment [against the LRA] is termed ‘authorised’ as compared to ‘mandated’.”

“Under authorised deployment, each country provides for the needs and requirements of their respective troops without the AU’s contribution. This is extremely important, as this can be considered as their own contribution towards the determination to put an end to Kony’s actions. It is very costly. However, the AU covers the needs of staff officers – some 30 of them posted to the various coordinating centres.”

The AU task force has three operational centres, located in Dungu, DRC, at Obo in CAR, and Nzara in South Sudan, with its headquarters in Yambio, South Sudan.

“The Regional Coordination Initiative [against the LRA] means more subtle changes in the way the operation is run, with representatives of all four countries involved in the command structure in Yambio,” which sidesteps the politically sensitive issue of the DRC’s refusal to host Ugandan forces on its soil, Ned Dalby, a central Africa analyst for the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution NGO, told IRIN.

In July 2005, the International Criminal Court indicted Kony and four of his commanders, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen, Raska Lukwiya and Vincent Otti, for a variety of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Lukwiya and Otti have subsequently been killed, but the arrest warrants for the remaining three remain outstanding. The LRA has not been active in Uganda since 2006.


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