Friday, May 1, 2009

U.S. Department of State Delivers $5 Million in New Mine Action Aid for Afghanistan

U.S. Department of State Delivers $5 Million in New Mine Action Aid for Afghanistan
US State Dept, Office of the Spokesman, Washington, DC, April 30, 2009

The U.S. Department of State is responding to an international funding shortfall for mine action in Afghanistan by providing an additional $5,000,000 to six humanitarian demining groups, including five Afghan non-governmental organizations. This emergency U.S. funding will enable 34 more mine action teams to remove the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) across Afghanistan. For Fiscal Year 2009, the Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs is contributing more than $20,000,000 to mine action and conventional weapons destruction in Afghanistan.

Our implementing partners for mine clearance, Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC), Demining Agency for Afghanistan (DAFA), Mine Clearance Planning Agency (MCPA), Mine Detection Center (MDC), Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghanistan Rehabilitation (OMAR) and The HALO Trust, will receive these additional funds.

The 34 teams feature expertise in both manual and mechanical demining and explosive ordnance disposal and will clear three square kilometers of suspected hazardous areas in 19 communities. Afghan beneficiaries include a cluster of villages in Paktya province, in southeast Afghanistan, where 1,162 families living in the area have suffered 78 mine-related accidents in the last few years. These additional funds, which will ensure more than 650 mine action jobs, will safeguard the population from the threat of landmines and ERW and enable them to return to grazing their livestock and growing crops, thereby improving Afghan livelihoods.

To learn more about the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program in Afghanistan, visit

US Cooperates in Pandemic Preparedness Initiative

US Cooperates in Pandemic Preparedness Initiative
USAID, April 29, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is convening a group of civil society organizations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in a regional exercise that will kick off the implementation stage of its Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative. The three-day exercise seeks to advance global capacity to thwart a humanitarian disaster in the event of a pandemic.

As recently emphasized by outbreaks of swine flu and H5N1 avian influenza, the likelihood that an emerging infectious disease will spark a global pandemic remains a significant threat. In a pandemic, communities will need access to food, water, and care for both pandemic and non-pandemic illnesses. Through the Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative, USAID is working with a group of partners including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, U.N. agencies, host-country governments, and non-governmental organizations to develop comprehensive national plans to help ensure countries can mount an effective humanitarian response to such needs in the event of a pandemic.

With this week's exercise, these plans will be put into action for the first time. An emphasis will be placed on regional coordination and communication within the context of national plans in East Africa. In addition to helping identify gaps and what kinds of challenges may arise in a pandemic, the exercise will also allow participants to learn about cutting-edge resources designed for pandemic response in the region.

Dr. Ronald Waldman, coordinator of the USAID Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative, stressed the importance of pandemic readiness. "We don't know which disease will cause a pandemic, but considering historical evidence and epidemiological data, we know there is a likelihood that one will occur," he said. "Testing and strengthening preparedness plans through exercises like this now will help ensure communities have access to uninterrupted care for pandemic illnesses as well as other diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis that will continue to affect people in the event of a pandemic. This will help reduce excess mortality and mitigate a large-scale humanitarian crisis. The investments we have made thus far are proving beneficial as there is a strong synergy among groups involved in pandemic prevention and preparedness. This will help ensure a sound response to pandemic threats such as swine flu, which is of current concern."

Exercise participants will include organizational leaders from nine countries in East Africa - Burundi, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda - who would likely lead emergency response efforts across the region during a pandemic. A review session will be conducted after the exercise in East Africa to allow participants the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned and provide feedback on strengthening pandemic preparedness. Following the review, a report will be drafted and will serve as a reference to facilitate the development and strengthening of pandemic plans. USAID plans to host similar exercises in other regions through the Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative to ensure national plans are sound.

Since 2005, USAID has committed $543 million through its avian and pandemic influenza program to support pandemic prevention and preparedness across the globe. Including distribution of non-medical commodities for disease surveillance and response, this support has reached nearly 100 countries. For more on USAID's avian and pandemic influenza program, please visit

Does a Move To Greater Internationalism Jeopardize American Free Speech Values?

Does a Move To Greater Internationalism Jeopardize American Free Speech Values? By Eugene Volokh
The Volokh conspiracy, April 7, 2009 at 6:09pm

Well, let's listen to Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh, now nominated to be the Legal Advisor to the State Department, in his On American Exceptionalism, 55 Stan. L. Rev. 1479 (2003):

By distinctiveness, I mean that America has a distinctive rights culture, growing out of its peculiar social, political, and economic history. Because of that history, some human rights, such as the norm of nondiscrimination based on race or First Amendment protections for speech and religion, have received far greater emphasis and judicial protection in America than in Europe or Asia. So, for example, the U.S. First Amendment is far more protective than other countries' laws of hate speech, libel, commercial speech, and publication of national security information. But is this distinctive rights culture, rooted in our American tradition, fundamentally inconsistent with universal human rights values? On examination, I do not find this distinctiveness too deeply unsettling to world order. The judicial doctrine of “margin of appreciation,” familiar in European Union law, permits sufficient national variance as to promote tolerance of some measure of this kind of rights distinctiveness.

Good to hear that American free speech tradition isn't "too deeply unsettling to world order." But wait -- check out the footnote following this paragraph:

See generally Louis Henkin, Gerald L. Neuman, Diane F. Orentlicher & David W. Leebron, Human Rights 564 (1999). Admittedly, in a globalizing world, our exceptional free speech tradition can cause problems abroad, as, for example, may occur when hate speech is disseminated over the Internet. In my view, however, our Supreme Court can moderate these conflicts by applying more consistently the transnationalist approach to judicial interpretation discussed infra Part III.C.

And what is this "transnationalist approach" that can help "moderate these conflicts" caused by American constitutional protection for "hate speech ... disseminated over the Internet"? Here are the opening paragraphs of the discussion of "the transnationalist approach" is Part III.C:

What is transnational legal process? While most legal scholars agree that most nations obey most rules of international law most of the time, they disagree dramatically as to why they do so. As I have explained elsewhere, I believe that nations obey international law for a variety of reasons: power, self-interest, liberal theories, communitarian theories, and what I call “legal process” theories. While all of these approaches contribute to compliance with international law, the most overlooked determinant of compliance is what I call “vertical process”: when international law norms are internalized into domestic legal systems through a variety of legal, political, and social channels and obeyed as domestic law. In the international realm, as in the domestic realm, most compliance with law comes from obedience, or norm-internalization, the process by which domestic legal systems incorporate international rules into domestic law or norms.

Under this view, the key to understanding whether nations will obey international law, I have argued, is transnational legal process: the process by which public and private actors -- namely, nation states, corporations, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations -- interact in a variety of fora to make, interpret, enforce, and ultimately internalize rules of international law. The key elements of this approach are interaction, interpretation, and internalization. Those seeking to create and embed certain human rights principles into international and domestic law should trigger transnational interactions, that generate legal interpretations, that can in turn be internalized into the domestic law of even resistant nation states.

In my view, “transnational legal process” is not simply an academic explanation of why nations do or do not comply with international law, but, more fundamentally, a bridging exercise between the worlds of international legal theory and practice. My time in government confirmed what I had suspected as a professor -- that too often, in the world of policymaking, those with ideas have no influence, while those with influence have no ideas. Decisionmakers react to crises, often without any theory of what they are trying to accomplish, and without time to consult academic literature, which, even when consulted, turns out to be so abstract and impenetrable that it cannot be applied to the problem at hand. On the other hand, activists too often agitate without a clear strategy regarding what pressure points they are trying to push or why they are trying to push them. Scholars have ideas, but often lack practical understanding of how to make them useful to either decisionmakers or activists.

And so it is with American exceptionalism. Like so many aspects of international relations, this phenomenon has generated a tragic triangle: Decisionmakers promote policy without theory; activists implement tactics without strategy; and scholars generate ideas without influence. If transnational legal process is to bridge this triangle, how can we use that concept to press our government to preserve its capacity for positive exceptionalism by avoiding the most negative features of American exceptionalism? Let me illustrate my approach with respect to three examples from the September 11 context: first, America and the global justice system; second, the rights of 9/11 detainees; and third, America's use of force in Iraq....

Full text at the link above.