To Build Regional Community, Southeast Asian Leaders Advocate for “Responsibility to Protect”

The headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Gunawan Kartapranata/Wikipedia)

States belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) joined the whole membership of the United Nations in making a solemn commitment to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle at the World Summit in 2005. As ASEAN now seeks to integrate more closely by 2015, a High Level Advisory Panel chaired by the former ASEAN secretary-general and foreign minister of Thailand, Surin Pitsuwan, is arguing that R2P offers an important pathway to the establishment of an ASEAN Community. The panel (for which I serve as secretary) will launch its report on Mainstreaming the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday, September 9.

Operation Barkhane: A Show of Force and Political Games in the Sahel-Sahara

French President François Hollande (R) and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) review French troops at Kossei military base near N'Djamena, Chad, on July 19, 2014, after visiting Operation Barkhane's headquarters in the capital. (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

On July 15, 2014, French President François Hollande launched Operation Barkhane, a counterterrorism force intended to hunt down terrorist groups in Sahel countries and prevent them from re-forming. This new mission is the continuation of Operation Serval, which was launched on January 11, 2013 in Mali and had the following three objectives: to stop terrorist groups’ offensives; to ensure security in Bamako in order to protect French nationals; and to preserve Mali’s territorial integrity. According to Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, France has fulfilled its mission, but has to prevent “the emergence in another regional state of a threat similar to that which prompted the 2013 intervention.”

New UN Peacekeeping Mission Faces Uphill Battle in Central African Republic

Bags of rice being distributed at one of the camps for ex-Seleka combatants in Bangui, July 15, 2014. MINUSCA's Security Institution Unit has coordinated weekly food distribution by the International Organization for Migration to over 2,000 ex-Seleka combatants in the capital. (UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina)

September 15 will mark the beginning of the latest peacekeeping intervention led by the United Nations, when blue helmets take over from African Union forces in the Central African Republic (CAR). Since 1997 there have been 13 regional and international peacekeeping operations deployed to end violence, disarm combatants, and restore peace in CAR. As the UN launches yet another mission, it is clear that none of the previous interventions was able to address the root causes of the country’s instability, which range from fractured and predatory state structures to deep-seated feelings of marginalization in some communities, particularly where public administration has been historically weak.

Dubious Election Produces a Divisive New President in Abkhazia

Raul Khadjimba casts his ballot for the presidential election in Sukhumi, the capital of Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia, on August 24, 2014. (Artur Lebedev/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

On August 24, the de facto republic of Abkhazia chose a new president, Raul Khadjimba, by a wafer-thin majority. This was not just another election in the post-Soviet sphere. It was a referendum on two conflicting narratives of what happened in this disputed territory during the last week of May this year, when an opposition alliance that included Khadjimba ousted the elected president, Alexander Ankvab.

For many, the overthrow of President Ankvab was a coup that flagrantly breached the constitution and established a dangerous precedent for regime change in Abkhazia. For Khadjimba and his supporters, this new electoral victory legitimates Ankvab’s ouster and brings an unhappy chapter in Abkhazia’s recent history to a close while providing an opportunity for national rejuvenation.

Key Global Events to Watch in September

At the start of every month, the Global Observatory posts a list of key upcoming meetings and events that have implications for global affairs.



September 1: Mali, northern rebels resume peace talks after two-week delay, Algiers

Representatives from the Malian government and northern Tuareg tribes are due to meet in Algiers beginning September 1 to initiate a second round of peace talks that implement the roadmap agreed upon by the parties in July. The first round of talks took place from July 16-24, and in late August, Tuareg members and Arab militias met in Burkina Faso to agree on common principles prior to the meeting in Algiers. A third round of talks is slated for October.

September 1: Iranian foreign minister meets EU foreign policy chief, Brussels 

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will discuss a framework for renewed nuclear talks in Brussels on September 1. The meeting was announced late August, after the expiration of an August 25 deadline for Iran to abide by an International Atomic Energy Agency’s nuclear probe. A November 2013 interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany was set to expire on July 20, 2014, but the parties extended the talks until November 24 hoping to clinch a final, long-term deal. The P5+1 are seeking assurances that Iran’s nuclear program is not being used to develop nuclear warheads, a claim the Iranian government has denied, insisting that the program is for peaceful purposes. 

September 1: Newly elected Turkish President Erdoğan visits Northern Cyprus, North Nicosia

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will pay his first official visit as president of Turkey to the territories of Northern Cyprus on September 1, where he is expected to reiterate Turkey’s support for the Cyprus peace negotiations. The island has been partitioned since 1974, with Greece and Turkey controlling the south and north, respectively. In February this year, the leaders of the island’s two communities resumed peace negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations for the sixth time since the island’s division 40 years ago. 

Oil Rich but Lacking Institutions, Libya Struggles to Build a State: Q&A with Dr. Younes Abouyoub

A partial view of the terminals at the Zawiya Oil Refinery, some 40 km west of Tripoli, October 27, 2011.  (Alessio Romenzi/Corbis)

On Sunday, Islamist militants consolidated their hold on the capital city of Libya and its international airport after a week of intense fighting against rival militia groups. Clashes between the militants over control of Tripoli erupted in July and are the most serious episodes of violence in the city since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The clashes come in sharp contrast to the quick recovery of the country’s oil sector in the east, where on Wednesday last week, the state-owned oil company said that Libya’s largest terminal in Es Sider was resuming its exports. The announcement came after a year-long stoppage and stated that a tanker was ready to leave port with 600,000 barrels of oil on board. 

Yet Libya’s oil wealth has created obstacles on the country’s road to democracy and statehood, said Dr. Younes Abouyoub, a Political Adviser to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

“Ironically, it’s a curse in a way, because Libya does not have an economy—it has wealth,” he said. “For 42 years under Gaddafi, it was used just to buy allegiance, not to build the state, the nation, the institutions, and the economy.”

Truce in Mozambique Offers Tentative Peace and a Return to Politics

Frelimo supporters dance and sing during a visit by Mozambique's President in Catandica, Barue district, October 29, 2013. (Jinty Jackson/AFP/Getty Images)

Following months of conciliatory talks, Mozambique’s Frelimo ruling party and the Renamo opposition party agreed to a ceasefire on Sunday, August 24. The deal between the government and the former rebel group formalized a peace agreement brokered between the two parties earlier in the month. It provides for the implementation of a number of measures aimed at finding a binding and peaceful solution to the recent political impasse, ahead of presidential elections due to take place in October.

Over the past 24 months, Mozambique witnessed the worst outbreak of political violence since the country’s 15-year-long civil war ended in 1992. Akin to that conflict, the recent hostilities again placed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, known by its Portuguese acronym Frelimo, at loggerheads with the Mozambique National Resistance, or Renamo.

While disparities in ideology and policy between the two groups were settled at the ballot box rather than on the battlefield in the two decades following the war, the situation changed in October 2012 when long-serving Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama formally disengaged from electoral politics and returned to the movement’s wartime headquarters in Mozambique’s Gorongosa Mountain range. Dhlakama claimed that his decision was based on Frelimo recanting the core principles of the country’s post-war pluralist democracy.

Nigeria: Federalism Works

A woman casts her vote during the presidential elections in Lagos, April 16, 2011. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye/Nigeria)

One hundred years after British colonialists unified two protectorates to create Nigeria, the problems inherent in lumping together myriad different peoples and regions continue to provoke debate and controversy. This is often directed at Nigeria's federal system.

State authorities frequently clash with the federal government, political battle lines and alliances are often made with regional and ethnic divides in mind, and accusations of inequalities in the country's federal structure rarely die down. The issue can even get so controversial that in his opening speech at Nigeria's National Conference, convened to discuss the state of the nation, President Goodluck Jonathan explicitly barred any discussion about dissolving the federation.

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What to Watch in 2014

Key Global Events in September
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.

2013-multilateral-602014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.