By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: October 1, 2007
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept. 30 - Hundreds of Darfurian rebels overran an African Union peacekeeping base in the central Darfur region of Sudan in a surprise raid over the weekend, killing at least 10 soldiers, possibly kidnapping dozens more and seizing supplies that included heavy weapons, African Union officials said Sunday.
Skip to next paragraph The raid, which began late Saturday and appeared to be highly organized, was the deadliest and boldest attack on African Union peacekeepers since they arrived in Darfur three years ago.
It came just as the United Nations has been trying to persuade member countries to commit troops and support to a greatly expanded Darfur peacekeeping force. Aid officials now fear that some of those countries may have second thoughts about participating.
According to Noureddine Mezni, an African Union spokesman, the rebels swarmed the base just after sunset with 30 heavily armed trucks, surprising the guards and overwhelming the peacekeepers with a barrage of machine-gun fire.
"We tried to defend ourselves but we were completely outnumbered," Mr. Mezni said. "Our camp was totally destroyed and they looted everything: guns, trucks, even an armored personnel carrier."
Mr. Mezni said the rebels, whose precise affiliation was unclear as of late Sunday, came at the camp from every direction in what he called a "deliberate and sustained attack."
After the initial assault, they came back a second time to plunder, African Union officials said.
The base, in the town of Haskanita about 100 miles east of Nyala, a major city in Darfur, is on flat scrubland and had been the temporary home of about 100 peacekeepers.
Pictures taken by news agency photographers who reached the site on Sunday showed damaged white, prefabricated base buildings, at least one burned-out armored vehicle and survivors of the assault leaving with what few belongings they had left.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who only a few weeks ago completed a highly publicized diplomatic mission to Darfur to lay the basis for the expanded peacekeeping force and for new peace talks to be held in Libya, issued a statement condemning the attack and called for "the perpetrators to be held fully accountable for this outrageous act."
The attack was the most dramatic display yet of the new kind of chaos that is engulfing Darfur, where the conflict has morphed from a rebellion and brutal counterinsurgency into a free-for-all among dozens of armed groups, with aid workers and peacekeepers increasingly in their sights.
Relief officials said that as those groups splintered, their new factions needed matériel, and that the attack on the peacekeepers might have been intended to seize quality weapons. "It's indicative of the complete insecurity," said Alun McDonald, a spokesman for the Oxfam aid organization in Sudan. "These groups are attacking anybody and everybody with total impunity."
He added that armed groups were "increasingly targeting aid workers to steal their vehicles, radios and logistical stuff." He said the attack on the peacekeepers "sounds quite similar to that, just on a much larger scale."
Mr. McDonald and others expressed concern that the spiraling violence could scare away countries that have been considering contributing troops to the long-awaited United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission, which is supposed to begin arriving in Darfur later this year.
Anticipation of that force, which will expand the number of peacekeepers from 7,000 to 26,000, and the high-level negotiations between rebel groups and the Sudanese government scheduled for October, may be fueling a power struggle that is driving this new round of bloodshed.
Haskanita is embroiled in a three-sided war among two formidable rebel groups and the government. United Nations officials said that the area has become so dangerous that most aid organizations have pulled out.
Recently, Haskanita has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the region. Aid workers said those battles killed more than 300 people, including several dozen mowed down by government helicopter gunships. The government denied killing any civilians.
On top of that, the two main rebel groups in Haskanita, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, have splintered and begun fighting among themselves, driving thousands of civilians from their homes. Many had set up tents around the small African Union base, where the peacekeepers were handing out food and medicine.
"Our job out there was basically humanitarian," Mr. Mezni said.
He estimated that most of the base's troops were Nigerian. More than 50 are still missing, and officials believe they may have been captured. At least seven soldiers were seriously wounded. African Union peacekeepers have been regularly attacked, but this was the first time a base had been overrun.
Mr. Mezni did not specify which rebel faction he thought was responsible. But Sudanese government officials blamed a splinter faction connected to the Justice and Equality Movement.
"We've been told that people in the area recognized them," said Ali Sadiq, a spokesman for the ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He denied that the government had anything to do with the attack, saying: "We can't do that. We're working hand in hand with the A.U."
African Union officials said that there were few government troops in the area and that it was unlikely that government soldiers or militias allied to them had killed the peacekeepers.
The Justice and Equality Movement also denied involvement. "We strongly condemn any attack on the A.U.," the movement said in a statement broadcast on BBC. "They're here to help the people of Darfur."
The group blamed the government for staging the attack.
The Darfur conflict has grown increasingly complex. The violence has often been characterized as government-backed Arab tribes slaughtering non-Arab tribes, and four years ago, when the heavy fighting began, that may have been the best simplification of what was happening. United Nations officials estimate at least 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million made homeless.
But recently, Arab tribes have begun fighting Arab tribes, rebels have begun fighting rebels and armed men who seem to have no allegiances are attacking whoever crosses their path.
In April, five Senegalese soldiers were killed, which, until this weekend, was the deadliest attack on peacekeepers in Darfur.
According to Mr. McDonald of Oxfam, in the last 10 days there have been 14 attacks on aid workers and some included shootings.
David Mozersky, the regional director for International Crisis Group, said the brazenness and scale of the Haskanita attack was "a very bad sign."
"It's a symptom of how much the conflict has expanded," he said. "It's no longer the government versus the rebels. There are just far more actors now."
Jul 20th 2007
The UN Global Compact may be the best way to draw corporations into the development process. Is its optimism justified?
A CERTAIN zeal pervades meetings of the United Nations Global Compact. Not surprising, as its cause is lofty: to harness the power of business to make the world a richer, fairer and cleaner place. The idea is catching on. In early July, the compact's annual summit drew over a thousand delegates to Geneva's lakeside, from government agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and-most importantly-international corporations. But is the optimism and self-belief that imbues such talk-fests justified?
Since its launch in 2000, the compact, with its international legitimacy and unrivalled convening power, has emerged as the world's dominant force for promotion of the (often ill-defined) concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Its modus operandi is deceptively simple: companies agree to adopt ten core principles regarding human rights, labour, environmental and anti-corruption standards, and to report annually on their own progress towards meeting them. So far, 3,000 firms from 116 countries have signed up. This year, six new principles were introduced, for business schools (see article).
The project has its critics. The self-assessment process is neither monitored nor evaluated objectively; critics deride it as a public-relations gift for participants. Alex Wijeratna of ActionAid, an NGO that was an early supporter of the compact but later withdrew its support, argues that it has no teeth and includes firms that adhere to some principles, while breaching others.
A fair point. But the low bar may have been set deliberately. The compact has been able to attract enough members that it can claim legitimacy to set rules in the increasingly crowded and confusing field of CSR. At this stage, simply getting a firm to commit to something on paper-and expose itself to scrutiny-is worthwhile. A more stringent system of evaluation, such as peer review, might become feasible later. And the compact has, at least once, bared its teeth: last year, for the first time, the compact de-listed 500 members who had been sluggish in reporting progress. More are expected to go this year.
Though far from perfect, the compact makes a remarkable effort to a radically shifting debate about sustainability. The battle lines that once separated the hard-nosed champions of profit from the rock-throwing demonstrators are fading, to be replaced by tentative, widening, NGO-corporate collaboration. The compact seeks to provide a framework, now that enlightened NGOs are starting to realise that their goals might be better achieved by harnessing the wealth, reach and dynamism of multinationals rather than by attacking them (though many insist on doing both).
Meanwhile, managers recognise the long-term benefits of paying attention to environmental, human-rights and governance issues-benefits that go beyond defensive public relations. With imagination, and help from NGOs, many firms think they can deliver gains for society beyond their products and services. These positive "spillovers" can be profitable, too-last December, in the Harvard Business Review, Michael Porter set out a framework by which corporations can create "shared value...not only to foster economic and social development but to change the way companies and society think about each other" (see article).
Advocates of CSR try making the case on behalf of its extrinsic benefits-arguing that it attracts better recruits, bolsters share price, eases market entry, helps to win licenses and more. But such claims are hard to prove. Anthony Ling, Goldman Sachs's chief investment officer, and a staunch defender of the compact, admits that investments based on CSR criteria have not always outperformed market benchmarks. It will, he says, take some years to prove whether his bank's new, more sophisticated, approach yields a consistent premium. But there are plenty of examples of mutual gain; Anglo American, a mining conglomerate, battles AIDS not just for moral reasons: the disease can lay waste to staff at all levels.The battle lines separating hard-nosed champions of profit from rock-throwing demonstrators are fading
Partnerships between firms and NGOs are springing up. Oxfam, an anti-poverty group, works closely with multinationals such as Unilever, a consumer-goods giant. Relief agencies have welcomed the help of logistics firms on their rapid-response plans for natural disasters. The development potential of mobile-phone networks in Africa is now widely recognised. Even pharmaceuticals firms, castigated by many an NGO over patents issues, are developing and donating drugs to eradicate trachoma, river blindness, leprosy and other preventable diseases, despite the lack of a market in the West.
Past tensions still exist, however. E.ON, an energy giant that works with Save the Children, echoes firms' frustrations over the persistence an ideological gulf between the different kinds of partners, which is felt even in successful ventures. Henrik Skovby of Dahlberg, a consultancy, says many NGOs display a staggering lack of basic business skills. At the same time NGOs, perhaps wise to be sceptical, are wary of being seen to be bought off by their former adversaries; Jeremy Hobbs of Oxfam warns against getting "too cosy" with big business, stressing "critical engagement" instead. Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Anglo American's chairman, agrees that the private sector sometimes needs to be held in check.
Preserve the system
For corporations, there is also a philosophical dimension to CSR-using business muscle to fight injustice and inequality strengthens the legitimacy claimed by companies and the globalised capitalist system. So it may be in the interests of multinationals to take the broad view. But if a global effort is to succeed, credible leadership is required. The compact, most of whose members come from emerging markets, could be the best realistic option.
Importantly, the compact is not hostile to corporations-a departure for the UN, which is notoriously steeped in traditional development thinking. Credit for this belongs to Georg Kell, the compact's executive director, who is admired both in boardrooms and by NGOs. "The business case for principles-based change", he argues, "is no longer just about avoiding costs for getting it wrong; it is increasingly about the benefits for getting it right."
Future success could depend on three factors: whether the theory of partnerships works well in practice at the local level; whether there is sufficient profit in CSR approaches; and whether the compact can keep drawing in more members from new sectors, developing new problem-solving abilities, and imposing more rigorous monitoring and evaluation. So far, its business-minded focus, coupled with its strong sense of confidence, has made for a vital and potent combination. With progress, and luck, it should be able to maintain momentum.
May 24th 2007
From The Economist print edition
GO ON, check us out then-the more that people scrutinise us, the better. That, roughly, is the message which 17 of the world's aid agencies were sending when, at a recent meeting in Geneva, they unveiled details of a standard of good management to which all of them (and, in due course, other agencies) should aspire.
The hope, presumably, is that next time an earthquake, epidemic or war creates a human tragedy, donors will be able to show their compassion with confidence that their money will not be wasted or diverted. "When you buy a well-known make of car, you assume that it's been tested against some carefully chosen benchmarks," says Nick Stockton, a veteran of the aid business who now runs the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) in Geneva. "Donors to good causes should have a similar assurance."
That is much more than a platitude. Aid workers are still blushing over blunders they made after the 2004 tsunami. In the Indonesian province of Aceh, victims were housed in leaky, termite-ridden dwellings which had to be pulled down; boats given to Indonesian and Sri Lankan fishermen proved unseaworthy; temporary homes for Indian victims proved too hot to inhabit. Such embarrassments have given independent aid bodies a strong incentive to review their own record before governments, or inter-governmental bodies, step in with heavy-handed rules.
In practical terms, getting a HAP certificate (valid for three years) means inviting auditors to take a tough look at your mission statement, your accounts and your control systems-both at head office and in the field. Auditors' reports will be as open to the public as company accounts are.
Among HAP's members, there are some global giants of relief such as World Vision, CARE International and Oxfam; groups with a religious inspiration like Christian Aid, and some state agencies, mostly Nordic. Two bodies have been given their HAP certificates already, on the basis of audits carried out over the last few months: the Danish Refugee Council, and a Senegal-based agency, OFADEC.
The first stage in an audit involves asking whether the organisation deserves to be considered at all: is it a real not-for-profit agency, committed to the relief of suffering? Later stages involve testing the views of beneficiaries, and seeing how complaints are dealt with. The certificate's designers drew on the yardsticks used to test commercial products and services.
"Accountability" has been a buzz-word among providers of succour at least since 1994, when it emerged that refugee camps in Congo were sheltering those responsible for Rwanda's genocide. The notion that "good intentions can have bad results" became a commonplace. And after the tsunami, there was much talk of accountability to victims as well as donors.
One problem, maybe, is that there is no point in the chain that leads from donors to recipients where judgments and motives are always wise and disinterested. As most agencies will admit, rich types with bleeding hearts are not the best judges of where their donations are needed; an agency that simply catered to donors' whims would short-change the needy. A few weeks after the tsunami, some branches of the French-based Médecins Sans Frontières admitted starkly that they could not handle any more donations. Few rival agencies were so honest, though many felt that refugees from the Congolese civil war, a more obscure cause, should have got more help and tsunami survivors somewhat less.
As for the victims of a disaster, they are of course better judges than any bureaucrat of the houses or boats they need; but if they are caught in the midst of a conflict, the "needs" of the victims and the war aims of their tribe or nation are not easy to separate. If a "victims-first" principle had been used in those camps on Rwanda's border, it might have implied pandering to the perpetrators of terrible crimes.
To put it another way, there is no piece of paper that will instantly solve the agonising ethical dilemmas that can so easily arise when handing out aid to the suffering. But the HAP certificate might still do a lot of good if it forces agencies to abide, at least, by the first principle of Hippocrates: First, do no (avoidable) harm.
May 3rd 2007
From The Economist print edition
ONE went quickly and quietly, the other is still fighting his corner. But the two men George Bush picked to lead the struggle against world poverty have both embarrassed the institutions they fronted. Randall Tobias, who directed America's foreign-aid efforts, resigned on April 27th after admitting he was a client of an escort service now being busted for prostitution. Meanwhile, Paul Wolfowitz (left), president of the World Bank, is still enduring a pummelling for his role in sweetening his girlfriend's exit from the bank, shortly after his arrival almost two years ago. As The Economist went to press, he had lost his authority, but not yet his office (see article).
The aid fraternity is fascinated and appalled by these two sorry affairs. But what about Mr Bush and his fellow conservatives? No great setback to their cause, you might think. Doesn't the right, after all, believe that aid is a waste of taxpayer's cash-money down a rathole?
The Bush administration has not taken that view. On Mr Bush's watch, giving to Africa has almost quadrupled, by some estimates. He has committed $15 billion over five years to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). And unlike Ronald Reagan, he picked a somebody, albeit a controversial somebody, to lead the bank.
What accounts for Mr Bush's enthusiasm for a cause so many conservatives have scorned? And, setting aside the personal failings of his two nominees, what of his approach to aid is worth salvaging?
The looser purse-strings owe something to the fiscal permissiveness of big-government conservatism. During six years of undivided Republican rule, Mr Bush splurged on all sorts of things, not just aid. But the new spirit of giving also stems from something deeper: churchgoing conservatism. The right has traditionally been scornful of public charity on the grounds that it is easy to be generous with other people's money. But the religious right, whose constituents feel a duty to the sick, the halt and the withered beyond their borders, want their tax-dollars to follow their prayers.
That charitable impulse is worth preserving. Unfortunately, it comes with some unhelpful strings attached. America's aid agencies, for example, can have no truck with those who promote abortion. They also demand that the groups they fund explicitly oppose prostitution-an illiberal imposition on freedom of speech, even before Mr Tobias's indiscretions undermined the man who enforced it.
America's religious conservatives are also keen to promote abstinence. A third of the money PEPFAR spends preventing AIDS must be devoted to discouraging sex before marriage. Chastity is certainly one way to escape the perils of sexually transmitted diseases, and in some countries, notably Uganda, it has been more successful than many expected. But it is not an end in itself, and PEPFAR should be free to put its money wherever it will do the most good, whether that be drugs, sermons or condoms.
The role of faith remains a lingering worry within the World Bank, too. Mr Wolfowitz's unfortunate choice as managing director, Juan José Daboub, a former finance minister of El Salvador, believes in a "quixotic fusion of free-market magic and profoundly Catholic conservatism", according to a senior bank official. He says Mr Daboub tried, but happily failed, to downplay the bank's role in family planning in its new strategy on health and population.
Religious convictions are not a great part of Mr Wolfowitz's own style of conservatism. But what, if anything, do the neocons, of whom Mr Wolfowitz is a canonical example, have to teach about aid? Not much, was the general consensus among the World Bank's staff when Mr Wolfowitz was named to lead them. The neocons, surely, were about power, not money.
But he arrived at a time when the bank, and other aid agencies, were beginning to acknowledge that power and poverty are linked. As the neocons had long recognised, a due respect for the sovereignty of states should not blind you to the character of a regime. In the past the bank had too often averted its eyes, refusing to see the political effects of the money it lent. As a result, its aid added to the spoils by which feckless governments stayed in power.
The Bush administration professes grand aspirations for aid, which it believes can sow democracy as well as eradicating pestilence and poverty. The World Bank cannot, and should not, go that far. Its goal must remain the apolitical one of raising living standards in the developing world. But in its methods, it should not be naive about the political forces that often stand in the way of that goal. Taking a lead from the neocons, the bank should hope to inspire reform and underwrite reformers, even if doing so ruffles the feathers of some in its member governments. To cling to the status quo-under which the bank was too ready to lend, and too reluctant to offend-would be a meek conservatism of the worst kind.
Mar 22nd 2007
From The Economist print edition
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL is the biggest human-rights organisation in the world, with 70 national chapters and 1.8m-plus members. Its battle honours glitter. It has defended moral giants among prisoners of conscience such as Vaclav Havel and Andrei Sakharov.
Amnesty still champions such causes, rattling dictatorial governments (and governments with dictatorial tendencies). But its mission has also become broader and more ambitious, calling for political and economic improvement as well as freedom from judicial persecution. "Working on individuals is important, but if we don't work on systemic change we just exchange one group of sufferers for another," says Irene Khan, its secretary-general.
Many of the movement's most vocal supporters strongly support this stance, increasingly entrenched in Amnesty's thinking; it also chimes well with the visceral opposition to American foreign policy, and to globalisation, that exists in many parts of the world. All that has made Amnesty more popular in some quarters-but also, perhaps, less effective overall.
Amnesty's website-admittedly not the same as the organisation, but still a shop window for its main concerns-can certainly be disconcerting for those who have not followed the changes of past years. Instead of named individuals locked up by their governments, it highlights a dozen campaigns. Top comes "stop violence against women", including discrimination by the "state, the community and the family". The second asserts: "The arms trade is out of control. Worldwide arms are fuelling conflict, poverty, and human rights abuses." The third-closer to a traditional Amnesty campaign-is "stop torture"; this focuses mainly on abuses in the "war on terror", and links to a campaign to close the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay.
Ms Khan infuriated both the American government and some Amnesty supporters in 2005 when she described Guantánamo as the "gulag of our times". She stands by her statement: like the gulag, Guantánamo "puts people outside the rule of law", she says. Yet the comparison seems odd in scale and in principle: the gulag embodied the Soviet system; Guantánamo is a blot on the American one.
Not that old-style Amnesty was soft on the West. Using the moral authority it had won by confronting both apartheid and communism, it challenged Western governments whenever they seemed to be cutting legal corners; in that spirit, it opposed Britain's policy of internment in Northern Ireland.
But these days America does seem to have a strangely high priority, given the enormity of human-rights scandals elsewhere. One of the four "worldwide appeals" launched in March urges the public to press the American government to grant visas to the wives of two Cubans jailed for acting as "unregistered agents of a foreign power" (in effect, spying). Zimbabwe, scene of bloody repression in past weeks, comes fourth-but the appeal deals not with current events but with the persecution of a movement called "Women of Zimbabwe Arise", an admirable but narrower cause.
Another of Amnesty's 12 campaigns is on "Poverty and Human Rights" which asserts: "Everyone, everywhere has the right to live with dignity. That means that no one should be denied their rights to adequate housing, food, water and sanitation, and to education and health care." A similar theme is struck by the "Economic Globalisation and Human Rights" campaign-reflecting Amnesty's enthusiastic support for the World Social Forum, a movement which holds annual anti-capitalism shindigs. Sometimes there seems to be a desire to be even-handed between pariahs and paragons: Amnesty recently surprised observers of the ex-communist world by producing a critique of the language law in Estonia-a country usually seen as the best example of good government in the region.
The big question in all this is priorities. Cases do exist where violations of political rights and of economic ones are hard to separate; one such case is Zimbabwe, whose government has engaged in politicised food distribution and slum clearance at the same time as judicial repression.
But the new Amnesty is surely open to the charges both that it is campaigning on too many fronts, and that the latest focus comes at the cost of the old one.
Amnesty's website is, insiders acknowledge, a campaigning tool; it does not fully reflect the depth of the organisation's expertise, or its internal priorities. Ms Khan admits a tension in the organisation's "business mix" between high profile and less immediately rewarding work.
But she insists that there is no drift towards America-bashing for the sake of popularity, and that the emphasis on economic, social and cultural rights does not reflect a preference for any particular system of government.
Perhaps unavoidably, the stance taken by Amnesty's increasingly autonomous national chapters in the domestic affairs of their countries is decidedly political. In Colombia, for example, the movement opposes a law that offers reduced sentences to right-wing paramilitaries but made no objections to past proposals for amnesties for left-wing guerrillas.
Amnesty may to some extent be the captive of its need to keep a mass membership enthused with new and compelling causes, even at the cost of narrowing its appeal to those with unfashionably positive views about America or global capitalism. Its expert researchers and analysts still continue in their work, but sometimes feel let down by what the leadership chooses to showcase. Amnesty has to compete for attention and funds with other human-rights organisations: its "unique selling proposition", says Ms Khan, is that it gives ordinary people a chance to participate. Yet the best means of ensuring that-writing letters to, and about, prisoners of conscience-has shrunk.
The collapse of the Soviet empire and of apartheid rule in South Africa cut the number of visible prisoners of conscience. Countless tens of thousands may languish in China's laogai forced labour camps (a system that truly deserves to be called a gulag), and many are incarcerated in places such as North Korea and Myanmar (Burma). But even getting the names of the inmates is hard, let alone embarrassing the governments. Writing letters on behalf of a Havel or Sakharov sparks members' enthusiasm far more than a few blurred pictures of a remote camp with anonymous inmates.
Amnesty's American-based counterpart, Human Rights Watch, has also changed its emphasis, but less controversially. It keeps classic human-rights questions at the centre of its activities and gives only modest attention to other concerns. On weapons, for example, it campaigns to limit the use of cluster bombs, but not against the arms trade in general. It sticks to situations where its fastidious, legalistic approach will work, "namely, the ability to identify a rights violation, a violator, and a remedy to address the violation." That covers arbitrary government conduct that leads to a violation of economic rights (such as the right to emigrate), but steers clear of general hand-wringing about poverty or poor public services.
Current and former Amnesty insiders worry that an increasingly grandstanding and unfocused approach makes it ineffective. Sigrid Rausing, a top British donor to human-rights causes, says she regrets the "blurring" of the original mission: "There are so few organisations that focus on individual prisoners of conscience." Her husband, Eric Abraham, was supported by Amnesty while under a five-year sentence of house arrest in South Africa in 1976.
Some wonder if Ms Khan has been too keen to impress constituencies in what NGO-niks call the "global south": code for developing countries, where opinion-at least among the elite-supposedly favours economic development over a "northern" concern for individual rights. She vigorously contests that. But an organisation which devotes more pages in its annual report to human-rights abuses in Britain and America than those in Belarus and Saudi Arabia cannot expect to escape doubters' scrutiny.
Mar 16th 2007 | NEW YORK
AT A summit in 2005, all the member countries of the United Nations agreed on a principle of a "responsibility to protect" civilians from atrocities. The fine idea suggested that if a state would not protect its own, outsiders must step in, with force if necessary. That same UN summit created a new Human Rights Council which would replace a discredited predecessor, and name and shame abusers of human rights. In May 2006, Sudanese leaders signed a peace deal with some rebels in Darfur, to halt the violence, and later in the year the UN agreed with Sudan to send peacekeepers to monitor the deal.
These facts could give the impression that the world in general, or the UN in particular, has grown serious about putting an end to murder and repression in Darfur, in western Sudan. Yet almost nothing has changed there, except for the worse. International aid agencies reckon that the humanitarian situation has deteriorated markedly since last year's partial peace deal. (Only one big Darfuri faction has signed on, and may now be helping the Sudanese government carry out its crimes.) The Sudanese government continues to refuse the actual deployment of the UN force. Rape and murder remain commonplace, along with the slow starvation of many more victims.
This week, the newish Human Rights Council finally received a strongly worded report on Darfur, documenting abuses recounted by refugees (the mission was denied entry to Sudan). Yet the council's 47-country members are expected to reject the report, largely with the help of votes of the Arab and Muslim states. This will leave the council-after its fourth full session, in a year of operation-having condemned the human-rights record of just one state: Israel. Ban Ki-moon, the UN's secretary-general, has suggested that "the world is watching" to see if it will live up to its commitments. If there is no resolution on Darfur by the close of session on March 30th, it would be right to conclude that the new body is an utter sham.
A vastly more important bit of the UN, the Security Council, could do more than just condemn Sudan; it has the power to authorise sanctions, even, ultimately, the use of military force. Alas, China continues to resist any resolution that would apply real pressure, so the August 2006 resolution, authorising a mixed UN/African Union (AU) force for Darfur, is blithely ignored in Khartoum. China is not only prickly about sovereignty, it also imports a lot of oil from Sudan. Mr Ban described "growing frustration" among Security Council members, but frustration plus a Chinese veto equals no action.
Darfur-watchers are calling on states to act in smaller groupings if the UN cannot. The International Crisis Group (ICG), an NGO, has said that the United States, AU, European Union and other should take measures to squeeze the murderous janjaweed militias and their guardians and enablers in Khartoum. These would include an asset freeze and travel ban on leaders of Sudan's ruling party, the National Congress Party, and sanctions on Sudan's oil exports.
Khartoum has become something of a boom-town of late, thanks to high oil prices. In other words, such a squeeze might actually cause pain. But would it save lives? It is not clear that the truculent regime of Omar al-Bashir will be persuaded easily by targeted sanctions from rich countries of Europe and America, which they would surely dismiss as imperialist meddling. As for the neighbourhood, African countries remain divided between a desire to take responsibility to stop bloodshed and the desire to protect sovereign rulers from outside pressure.
Feb 15th 2007
From The Economist print edition
FOR an era still associated with jingoism, stifling morality laced with hypocrisy and a fondness for stuffing exotic animals, Victorian Britain is a surprisingly fertile source of inspiration for the country's politicians. When pondering how to improve local government they look wistfully at the great Victorian town halls. When trying to get charities to do the work of welfare bureaucracies they remember that Victorian do-gooders managed poorhouses and hospitals. On February 15th the government announced a scheme to match private donations to universities with taxpayers' money, in the hope of stimulating an era of endowments not seen since, well, Victorian industrialists used their fortunes to found new colleges for higher education.
The details of the proposal, which will involve £200m ($390m) of government money over three years, are not so imperial, alas. Each institution's share will be capped, preventing Oxford or Cambridge from scooping the pot. And not all alumni donations will be treated equally: universities which are already good fundraisers (in British terms) will receive less government money for every pound donated, which may sound fair but will also penalise success. This will not make up much of the £10-billion gap between the endowments of Harvard and Cambridge, the richest universities in America and Britain, and is unlikely to inspire British alumni to become as munificent as America's.
When called upon to assist other causes, though, Britons are generous: they come near the top of philanthropic league tables (see chart). America is out in front, but the extra percentage point of its GDP that individuals deposit in rattling tins hardly reflects the much lighter taxes they pay. Most in Europe already show solidarity by financing reasonably comprehensive welfare states; and Britons give more than people in countries with similar overall tax burdens, such as Germany. Medical-research charities consistently come top of the list of favoured causes, along with almost anything to do with animals.
If the question is switched to who gives, rather than how much, however, the picture looks less good. Britain has some philanthropists who are magnificently generous: Sir Tom Hunter, a Scottish entrepreneur who founded a chain of sportswear shops, Robert Edmiston, who made a fortune importing Japanese cars, and Sir Elton John, patron saint of the white piano, all recently parted with over 10% of their recorded wealth, according to the Sunday Times rich list. But surveys, which are the only way of collecting numbers in a country where much of the giving does not leave a paper trail with the taxman, show that giving is actually inversely correlated with income. This leads to odd findings, such as that Sunderland, Blackpool and Motherwell, in Britain's relatively straitened north, are the most generous towns in Britain, measured by the proportion of people who give, and Croydon, Ilford and Kingston-upon-Thames in the prosperous south are among the meanest.
"Charities are increasingly reliant on a small core of givers," says Karl Wilding, of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). His organisation reckons that just over 1.5m people give 42p of every pound that is donated. A separate study, by the Institute for Philanthropy, a lobbying group, shows that the bulk of all giving is done by a discrete group who go to church, identify with one of the main political parties and read a broadsheet (quality) newspaper, all of which have become minority pursuits. Those who do give have to donate more to make up for the decline in their numbers.
This is odd, for Britain has most of the conditions needed to prise open wallets. The first is a tax system that provides incentives to givers. Gift Aid allows charities to claim back the basic rate of tax on donations from taxpayers, and richer taxpayers who give to charities to reclaim the difference between the higher and the basic marginal tax rates. "Payroll giving" allows people to deduct donations from their salaries before tax, so a gift of £100 costs a higher-rate taxpayer £60 and a basic-rate taxpayer £78. Neither of these schemes has had the desired effect. Charities forgo about £700m a year because their donors do not sign up for Gift Aid. And take-up of payroll giving has been poor: more money was raised by raffles last year than was given this way.
Second, Britain has plenty of wealthy potential donors. According to the most recent version of the Boston Consulting Group's annual wealth report, Britain has some 440,000 households with more than $1m in financial assets. America and Japan have more swells, but they also have larger populations. Britain comes third on this international rich list, with 33% more millionaire households than bigger Germany and 69% more than France.
It is hard to know how much of their wealth these super-rich, not all of them British citizens, are giving away. The American-style conspicuous charity that fundraisers for British good causes long for has made a limited appearance. Once a year, for example, Arpad Busson, a French financier based in London, gives a ball at which rich folk outbid each other for donated extravagances. But this has not been enough to transform the overall level of giving, which has just about kept pace with the rate of wealth creation during a 15-year economic boom, but no more than that. The men with bushy whiskers and purposeful stares who founded so many British institutions are not coming back any time soon.
THE ONSLAUGHT OF THE POOR
Today, there are more than 190 million migrants in the world. Many set out in search of adventure, but Africa's poor are fleeing desparation for a life of hope in Europe. Though rarely welcome, neither laws nor walls can stop them from making the dangerous journey. And thousands die each year.
On the one side of this story of migrants, Africans squat in the dust in the Mauritanian port city of Nouadhibou, waiting for a boat to take them to the Canary Islands. They live in "Bidonvilles," slums of concrete, corrugated metal and plastic tarps. They buy their bread at the Boulangerie Mondiale, or World Bakery, which is nothing but a wooden shack with a window through which bread is passed. Nouadhibou's sandy streets lead to a harbor packed with 400 wooden boats. Sixty to 80 people can be jammed into each boat. The sea is a greenish color, conditions are windy, and the police complain that without radios, without speedboats and without helicopters, catching refugees is virtually impossible.
It's 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) from here to the Canary Islands, 1,200 kilometers in these wooden boats called "Cayucos" 1,200 kilometers of treacherous waves and changing currents -- a rough, three to four day journey at sea. More than 11,000 people have reached the other side since Jan. 1, 2006.
The other side is a promised land, a paradise and both the goal and purpose of many desperate lives. For those waiting in Nouadhibou, the other side might be the town of Los Cristianos on the island of Tenerife. It's a place where white people lie roasting themselves pink on the beach, where they drink beer in Irish pubs, play golf, flirt and go out to eat, and where they stroll along the harbor promenade, watching as the boats come in almost daily.
On calm days, 700 Africans people reach the Canary Islands in the span of 24 hours. On stormy days, hundreds drown.
This is the migration Europe fears and has taken measures to prevent. The flight of the African masses began in the 1990s -- and some even travel for years on trucks and buses, on foot and in inflatable boats because they believed that they were entitled to make this journey.
It is the same belief that has driven refugees from Asia's crisis regions to find a new home in Australia and that gives Mexican migrants the confidence to brave the prospect of being hunted down by border guards to cross into the United States. It encourages Eastern Europeans to head westward into the European Union and people to leave any of the world's 24 current crisis regions, often with no idea of where they are going.
And it is the same belief that has always driven mankind to migrate from one place to another.
The history of an eternal search
Human beings naturally seek a place to call home, and yet the lure of adventure draws them into the faraway and the unknown. Man is settled and yet a traveler. He wants peace but wages war, he wants others to refrain from attacking his territory, and yet he drives others out. The history of migration is the history of an eternal search, man's unending search for a place where he can live.
It some cases, it is nothing but a place where he can survive, and in others it is one where he can find a better life.
Man seeks gold, oil and diamonds, but sometimes he seeks nothing more than clean water and rice. He seeks the sea and the sun, but sometimes nothing more than electricity, a school and a strip of land safe from natural disaster. He always seeks peace and security.
In 2005 there were 191 million migrants on Earth, or three percent of the global population. This represents a huge increase over earlier figures of 82 million migrants in 1970 and 175 million only six years ago. Of those migrants, 48.6 percent are women. And 64.1 percent live in Europe and Russia, where they make up 8.8 percent of the population. According to United Nations statistics, the United States has accepted 20 percent of all migrants (38.4 million people) and Germany 5.2 percent (10.1 million).
The history of migration is the history of mankind. If one were to believe what is written in the bible, this history began when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, making them mankind's first homeless people. From the standpoint of evolution, modern man came into being about 200,000 years ago in Africa and, from there, migrated into the rest of the world -- to Asia, Europe, the Americas and Australia. It may have taken a while, but migrating man eventually reached the more remote regions of the earth, places like the Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean, Hawaii and the North Sea island of Sylt.
It is documented that the Philistines came to Canaan in about 1190 B.C., where they introduced the name "Palestine." It is also documented that many Jews were carried off by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. and later released by Kyros, the King of the Persians, in 538 B.C., and returned to Palestine. What is now modern-day Europe has always been the site of the constant migration of tribes and ethnic groups.
Legend has it that Rome was founded because people were seeking a home. Aeneas, the father of the Eternal City, fled there to escape the flames of Troy. The Celts migrated to northern Italy, the Balkans, northern Spain and Portugal. And the Goths, the Gepids and the Vandals went to southern Russia and the Carpathians.
Nowadays the term "migration of peoples" -- or "Völkerwanderung" in German -- touches on sensitive issues for Germans. It comes from the Latin expression "migratio gentium," although the Latin "gens" was more commonly used in connection with the armed members of a tribe, or its army. German nationalists used the German term "Völkerwanderung" to support their claims of the superiority of Germanic tribes. As a result, Germans apply the term to the migrations of Germanic tribes beginning in the 4th century A.D.. The Huns invaded Russia, the Ostrogoths marched into Hungary and Italy, the Visigoths into Italy, France and Spain and the Franks into what later became France. The Langobards, or Lombards, entered northern Italy in 568 A.D. and settled in the region now known as Lombardy.
The Vikings' initial impetus for sailing across the seas was trade. But once they had discovered how affluent the cities of Western Europe were and how easily they could be reached through Europe's many navigable rivers, the Vikings returned to rob their former trading partners.
After the death of the Prophet Mohammed, the Arabs on the other side of the Mediterranean set forth and occupied Palestine and North Africa. The Moors, a Berber people, crossed the Mediterranean to Spain in 711 A.D. It wasn't until 1492, after the fall of Granada, that the Spaniards drove them out of Europe, together with 160,000 Jews. In the same year, Christopher Columbus, his expedition financed by a baptized Spanish Jew, set sail to search for an ocean passage to India and the New World.
Disease, guns and attack dogs eventually killed off most of the original inhabitants of that New World. And when all the Spaniards, Portuguese and English who had emigrated to America needed laborers, they imported slaves from Africa, setting a powerful vortex of resettlement into motion. It was the first forced migration of millions of people.
Sixty-million Europeans emigrated, too. Only they did so voluntarily.
Then came the 20th century, which was to become the century of refugees. There had always been political refugees. In fact, the aristocrats who fled abroad during the French Revolution coined the word "emigrant." But a new quality of hatred and exclusion developed with the emergence of the nation states of the 19th century. Anyone with the wrong religious beliefs, the wrong heritage, the wrong ideology -- in short, anyone who didn't belong -- was either forcibly expelled or fell victim to what had also become a century of ethnic cleansing.
The Ottomans drove a million Armenians to their deaths, after World War I Greeks were forced out of Anatolia and Turks out of Greece and at least a million Russians fled from the Bolsheviks.
Historian Alexander Demandt writes: "The goal, in both acquiring land and expelling others, is to establish a living space for one's own group, a process which has parallels in biology and is associated with victims and violence."
A little more than two years ago Kofi Annan, the then secretary general of the United Nations, established the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM), with Rita Süssmuth, the former German Minister for Families and erstwhile president of parliament, as one of its inaugural members. After traveling around the world and analyzing the relevant data, the commission concluded that migration could become the most important issue of the 21st century. The data available largely bears out this conclusion.
Why do migrants emigrate? Unemployment is one reason, and low pay is another. In sub-Saharan Africa, 45.7 percent of the population earns less than $1 a day. Substandard education at home and low life expectancy in poor countries are two other reasons. Add to that the reasons that have applied for thousands of years: wars, natural disaster and starvation.
This at least partly explains why migrants are constantly traversing the globe, from East to West and South to North. Man is settled -- but only as long as his home is truly a home.
And if it isn't he sets out to find another home.
An exodus from Europe
People were leaving Europe only 150 years ago, leaving countries like Ireland, Italy and Germany -- most of them bound for America. Nowadays, migrants are trekking from Mexico to the United States, from Ukraine to Germany, from China halfway around the globe to the South American country of Surinam (at 20,000 kilometers, or about 12,400 miles, the longest route confirmed by aid organizations), and from West African countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon to Spain, Italy and Germany.
Migrants are rarely welcome. Australia, a country settled by immigrants, now pays large sums of money to tiny island states in the South Pacific so that they can create camps for unwanted refugees. Often they get stuck in these camps for years -- children, too, who are often denied even the most basic care. The situation in Africa is even more dramatic. Some refugee camps in Guinea and other African countries turned into cities in their own right long ago, cities where upwards of 30,000 to 40,000 people live in tents and huts far away from home. Life in these makeshift cities revolves around spending hours standing in line for food, and many residents sink into apathy and destructive behavior. Of course, drugs, prostitution and violence are all part of the mix.
In 1921 the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, named Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen as its first High Commissioner for Refugees. Nansen's first job was to help bring home half a million prisoners of war and find homes throughout Europe for refugees from Russia, Armenia and Bulgaria.
Borders became less porous during the global economic crisis of the 1930s. In 1938, representatives of 32 nations met in Evian, France on Lake Geneva to decide what to do about the Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany. Their conclusion was to do nothing. For the diplomats meeting in Evian, the Jews were nothing but "a burden on the economic situation." Swiss Federal Councillor Eduard von Steiger summed up the general tone of the meeting when he said, infamously: "the lifeboat is full."
The German-American political philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that refugees are homeless, nationless and devoid of rights. About 40 million refugees were traveling through Europe in 1945, and 14 million Germans were driven out of Eastern Europe.
A vague definition
Under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees adopted in 1950, a refugee is defined as any person who, "owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality." Noble-minded as these words may seem, they also provided a common framework for negotiators to uphold the interests of their respective states.
The UN definition, in its vagueness, complicates the definition of refugee status when it comes to the modern-day phenomena of the victims of terrorism, religious fanaticism, paramilitary forces and marauding bands burning down villages. It sometimes boils down to a matter of interpretation, especially when so-called nongovernmental persecution is interpreted in various ways to reflect political alliances and economic interests. Finally, the UN definition does not cover those fleeing from poverty, epidemics and drought.
This complexity produces two classes of foreigners. According to the official definition, a "refugee" is someone who is unable to return to his country, whereas a "migrant" is someone who, at least in theory, could return. Under this definition, only 9.2 million of the 191 million migrants counted by Kofi Annan's commission qualify as refugees. This reflects the reality of the standard war of words in the world of diplomacy. International law requires states to address the needs of refugees, whereas migrants are people who migrate voluntarily and can thus be left to their own devices.
A drastic shift in German asylum policy
In Germany, the country's asylum law was once conceived as a form of atonement for past injustices, and as a symbol of the country's new liberalism. Under Article 16a, Section 1 of the German constitution, "the politically persecuted are entitled to the right of asylum." This sentence was long considered a bedrock principle of German asylum practice. According to Stefan Telöken of the Berlin office of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), "a tacit laissez-faire policy was in effect for years, based on the principle: Anyone who can make it to Europe has made it." But, Telöken continues, "this understanding has since been eliminated."
In 1985, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany signed the first Schengen Agreement, the basic result of which was twofold. First, border controls were gradually eliminated at borders within large parts of the European Union, and these borders soon disappeared for EU citizens living in Schengen countries. Second, and more important for refugees, the EU's external borders became less porous and were turned into the modern equivalent of castle walls. Almost all EU member states gradually joined the Schengen Agreement.
Telöken, who has been working for the UNHCR for 19 years, wears oval glasses and displays the fan paraphernalia of Cologne's football team in his Berlin office. According to Telöken, the signatory states to the Schengen Agreement quickly modified and concentrated their laws relating to refugees and asylum, "and in doing so, the corrections were generally made in a downward direction."
In European Union jargon it's called "harmonization." Sounds pleasant enough.
For the 21st-century migrants headed for Germany, harmonization has produced three significant rules. The so-called country of origin rule means that asylum applicants who come from a country considered safe by German standards, such as Ghana or Senegal, must provide specific proof of political persecution for their individual cases. For migrants far away from home, this is usually impossible, and so most are deported. The "airport rule" means that asylum applicants lacking a passport or those coming from safe countries of origin are kept in the transit areas of German airports until a final decision has been reached on their application. By law, the process must be completed within 19 days. Applicants who are rejected are sent back to the city from which their initial flight to Germany departed.
The third and most important regulation is the "third country rule," which means that foreigners coming to Germany from a safe third country, such as Spain or Italy, are no longer allowed to apply for asylum here and can be sent back to that third country immediately.
This rule is especially useful for Germany, surrounded as it is by safe third countries. Africans trying to reach Germany by sea would have to pass through Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium or the Netherlands -- all considered "safe third countries" -- before reaching German soil at the port of Cuxhaven, where they could apply for German asylum. At that point, German authorities can easily apply the third country rule.
A fast-closing society
The new rules are increasingly turning Germany into a closed society. While the German government claims that it supports controlled immigration, African governments accuse Europe of siphoning off their best and brightest citizens. According to Telöken, "for Africans there are practically no legal options for entering Germany anymore."
The numbers bear out Telöken's statement. In 1995, there were 127,937 applications for asylum in Germany. That number has steadily declined over the years, to 98,644 in 1998, 50,564 in 2003 and, by 2005, to only 28,914 asylum applications. Thirty years ago, half of all applications were approved. Today only one in a hundred applicants makes it -- one in a thousand when it comes to Africans. The industrialized nations should ask themselves "whether the introduction of more and more restrictive measures against asylum seekers doesn't result in the door being closed for many women, men and children," says António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The numbers, says Guterres, reveal that the debate "over a growing asylum problem does not correspond to reality."
Of course, debate or not, migrants keep trying. When politicians create barriers to legal migration, migrants find illegal routes. It's an all-too human solution for people who dream of a better life.
Another factor is the growing gap between rich and poor. Fifty years ago, people in the world's richest countries earned 50 times as much as those in its poorest; today they earn 130 times as much. The result is envy and temptation. One of the consequences of globalization is that the world's poor are increasingly familiar with the lifestyles of the world's rich. Of course, the poor are not about to accept as a God-given fact that Europe is rich and unattainable while Africa is poor and must remain their home until their untimely death. After all, who says that a person's place of birth should always remain his home?
Do migrants harm our societies? No one benefits from migration if migrants are not integrated and not tolerated, and if they are treated with a hefty dose of hypocrisy. Migrants are expensive and, as non-taxpayers, contribute little to the social costs they incur.
But does this have to be a foregone conclusion?
A silent and shameful crisis
Why must they live in the shadows, and why are Africans, in particular, treated with such animosity and aggression in Europe? Historian Wolfgang Benz, 66, is the director of Berlin's Center for Anti-Semitism Research. Sitting in his cluttered office on Ernst-Reuter-Platz, Benz says: "One needs education and affluence to have the capacity for tolerance. In a population that seeks explanations for its problems but is unable to find any rational explanations, the conviction sets in that the foreigners, those who have no rights, are being given something that belongs to us."
In this "us versus them" mentality, the "us" are the whites and the "them" are those against whom the whites must defend themselves: the black Africans.
It's an atmosphere in which the objects of our prejudices turn into the enemy, in which gypsies become rapists, Jews become rip-off merchants, Poles become thieves and Africans become "second-class human beings who must first be taught values like hard work," says Benz.
Language, of course, has a lot to do with the treatment of migrants. Defining them as "illegal" makes them criminal, even when, as in the case of Africans, they have no legal options for reaching Europe. Those who call them "economic refugees" are trivializing their motives for leaving home, their hardships and the dangers they face along the way -- almost painting them as people for whom abandoning their homes is a painless and lighthearted undertaking. Jean Améry, who fled from the Nazis, proves just how wrong that assumption is when he describes the moment of flight in which "the past was suddenly and utterly destroyed, when you suddenly no longer knew who you were."
According to the Global Commission on International Migration, 50 percent of migrants work, contributing billions of euros to the economic outputs of their host countries. Migrants were responsible for 89 percent of population growth in Europe between 1990 and 2000. Without migration the continent's population would have shrunk by 4.4 million within a five-year period. Migrants also help bear the financial burdens of their native countries. In 2004 they sent $150 billion back home through banks (three times the amount of development aid paid worldwide) and about another $300 billion through other channels.
Before ending his term as UN secretary general last year, Kofi Annan, who himself moved from Ghana to New York to take the job, said he wanted to see the EU pursue a "policy of controlled immigration." When asked about the many dead in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, the former UN official said: "This silent crisis of human rights brings shame on our world."
On Thursday, SPIEGEL INTERNATIONAL will start posting Klaus Brinkbäumer's 10-part series, "The African Odyssey," which documents the four-year journey made by African immigrant John Ekow Ampan from Ghana to Europe.
Jan 25th 2007
From The Economist print edition
WHEN the International Criminal Court (ICC) struggled into being, its well-wishers were unsure how long this fragile creature would survive, let alone if it would vindicate its creators' hopes of dishing out just deserts to tyrants.
Aged four-and-a-half, the tribunal is proving a lustier infant than many predicted. Its prosecutors have delved deeply into horrible wars in Congo, Sudan and Uganda. The court's first trial-of Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese warlord, accused of using children as soldiers-is due to start later this year. The first indictments for the mass killings in Sudan's Darfur region are expected next month. Five leaders of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army have already been indicted. One has since been killed, but the other four face trial when caught. An investigation into atrocities in a fourth, as yet unnamed, country is due to be announced soon.
As the court's reputation grows, so does the number of countries that have signed up-104 at the last count. They include all the main European states. Japan, which will become its biggest donor by far, is expected to join later this year. But the real change in the court's fortunes stems from a gradual shift in America's attitude: it has moved from outright hostility to some cautious signals that, in some parts of the world, it sees the ICC as useful.
In the court's early days, the administration devoted huge energy to limiting the risk of American citizens being hauled in. Using threats to hold back economic or military aid, it cajoled about 100 states into signing bilateral accords to keep Americans out of the court's grip. Under these deals, countries vowed that Americans would be immune from prosecution for atrocities committed on their soil-and would in no event be sent to the ICC.
John Bolton, America's erstwhile ambassador to the UN, hailed his country's decision in May 2002 to pull out of the ICC (not to be confused with the World Court, also in The Hague) as the "happiest moment" of his government career. Tom DeLay, the former Republican House majority leader, lambasted it as a "kangaroo court...a shady amalgam of every bad idea ever cooked up for world government". President George Bush called it a "foreign court" where "unaccountable judges and prosecutors can pull our troops or diplomats up for trial".
Despite the court's repeated assurances, American congressmen and officials feared that the world's sole superpower would become the target of politically-motivated prosecutions.
Although some fears remain, the tone has undoubtedly changed. Mr Bush recently waived restrictions on military aid to 21 countries, and curbs on economic aid to a further 14, despite their refusal to sign bilateral immunity deals. Senator John McCain, a Republican presidential hopeful, has said he wants to see the United States in the ICC. In an article in the Washington Post, he and a former senator, Bob Dole, urged America and its allies "to use their intelligence assets, including satellite technology" to help the ICC in Darfur.
John Bellinger, chief legal adviser to Condoleezza Rice in the State Department, has been the driving force behind the change of attitude. He thinks the campaign against the court undermines broader American aims, such as ending impunity for the worst crimes. "Divisiveness over the ICC distracts from our ability to pursue these common goals," he has said. "We do acknowledge that it has a role to play."
Ms Rice has herself urged a softer line, saying America was "shooting [itself] in the foot" by imposing sanctions on those unwilling to sign bilateral immunity deals. Many such states were old American allies who reacted by moving closer to China.
The first sign of a shift came with America's surprise decision not to veto the Security Council's referral of Darfur to the court in March 2005. When Serge Brammertz, the ICC's deputy chief prosecutor, was appointed to head the UN's inquiry into the murder of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister, nine months later, not a grumble was heard from America. Nor did it object when the Security Council voted last summer to transfer Charles Taylor, a former Liberian president, to the ICC's premises in The Hague for trial. And America's ambassador to Uganda has been urging support for the ICC's prosecution of the Lord's Resistance Army rebels, despite criticism from local community leaders who claim that the threat of arrest is impeding the peace process.
On their own, these signals may not amount to much. But together they suggest at least the beginnings of a change of heart. Mixed messages are still coming out of Washington; but the vitriol has gone.
As well as sensing that it may have something to gain from using the court, the Bush administration seems also to have been convinced that the risk of America or Americans being placed in the dock is less than originally feared. Administration officials were impressed by the court's carefully reasoned rejection of the hundreds of allegations it has received regarding America's role in Iraq-including suggestions that it was guilty of aggression or even genocide.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the court's chief prosecutor, argued as follows: first, the war involved states (Iraq and America) that are not members and therefore lie outside the court's jurisdiction, unless the UN Security Council (on which America has a veto) decides otherwise. Second, the court intervenes only when the home country fails to. America has already put some of its own soldiers on trial for crimes committed in Iraq.
Third, the crime of "aggression" is still undefined and thus cannot be applied. Fourth, Mr Moreno-Ocampo found no evidence to substantiate a charge of genocide, defined in the court's statutes as an "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group", or a crime against humanity, defined as "a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population". And though he did find evidence of isolated cases of rape, inhuman treatment and "wilful killing" of civilians, they were not sufficiently widespread to meet the threshold of gravity required.
Huge problems still lie ahead for the court, whose "leniency" towards America may disappoint some members. But it is off the danger list. "We have no more concerns about the court's vulnerability," says Philippe Kirsch, its (Canadian) president.
Even though polls suggest that two out of three Americans favour joining the ICC, America is unlikely to sign up any time soon. The court has been so demonised by the Bush administration (and before that, so quibbled at by the Clinton White House) that it would take years to convince Congress to accept it. But court officials are privately making a bold prediction: one day, America will swallow all its doubts and join.
Dec 13th 2006
From The Economist print edition
Judith Rodin is shaking up one of the world's most venerable charitable foundations
"I AM not a ‘steady as it goes' sort of person," says Judith Rodin, with admirable self-awareness. In the 21 months since she became president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Ms Rodin has shaken to its core the charitable foundation established by John D. Rockefeller, an oil tycoon, in 1913. The 58 people who have left the staff, about one-third of those she inherited, are but the most visible evidence of the thorough change in culture over which she is presiding-or, rather, the most audible evidence, judging by the vociferous public complaints of some of the departed.
Ms Rodin is helping to answer one of the questions raised by a new generation of business-minded philanthropists, led by Bill Gates: whether the older philanthropic institutions would respond, and if so, how. Few institutions are less accountable than charitable foundations, which face no meaningful market pressure to keep them on top of their game. Yet who wants to work for, let alone run, an outfit widely seen as out of date and out of touch, not least by the fashionable new entrants to the industry?
Certainly not Ms Rodin, who joined Rockefeller after a successful career at the top of American higher education-one that briefly established her as the world's highest-paid university president. She is determined to make the foundation fit for the 21st century. She now talks of the "new Rockefeller", while deploying the favourite buzzwords of the new philanthropists, stressing the importance of being "strategic", of "leveraging" the relatively small sums of money at its disposal (it makes grants of around $100m a year) through partnerships, and, above all, of achieving "impact".
As reformers often do, she describes her revolution as returning the Rockefeller Foundation to its roots-in this case to the "scientific philanthropy" of its founder, who said that the "best philanthropy is constantly in search of the finalities-a search for a cause, an attempt to cure evils at their source." Among other historic achievements, the foundation played big parts in developing a vaccine against yellow fever and in the "green revolution", which spectacularly increased farming productivity and reduced poverty in many poor countries in the 1960s.
By the early 1970s most of the Rockefeller Foundation's greatest achievements were in the past and a long period of drift had begun. Ms Rodin inherited a foundation that was no longer the best nor the biggest-in its early years it gave more foreign aid than the American government. There was a danger of "becoming marginal in our impact", says Ms Rodin. "Impact needed to be reasserted as a fundamental criterion for everything we do."
This was not easy, partly because the foundation had been divided into several fiefs (health, arts and so on), each defended with the vigorous politicking at which the charitable sector excels. Several of Ms Rodin's predecessors had arrived expecting to reform the foundation, only to leave disillusioned a few years later. For her part, Ms Rodin was confident of her ability to change an ossified organisation and see off vocal critics, thanks not least to her successful ten-year reign as president of the University of Pennsylvania. There she returned the loss-making medical centre to profit and revived the impoverished community on the university's doorstep.
At Rockefeller, she promptly reviewed its programmes and their effect. She consulted experts, including two former treasury secretaries, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, to identify the big 21st-century trends that the foundation could hope to affect. She also sought advice from groups that are helping the new philanthropists foster a more businesslike approach, including Bridgespan, a management consultancy for non-profit organisations, and the Centre for Effective Philanthropy. The centre's survey of the organisations funded by Rockefeller revealed a high cost structure relative to its peers, cumbersome decision-making and a culture that did not expect high performance or reward it.
Ms Rodin decided that the separate fiefs had to go. Instead, Rockefeller would pursue big strategic projects with specific goals that would bring together people from all the different programme areas as well as outsiders. The change caused alarm and misunderstanding. An article in the Lancet, a medical journal, asked if it meant that the Rockefeller Foundation planned to "reduce or even withdraw its long-standing commitment to public health"-prompting a swift denial from Ms Rodin.
What her new approach means in practice is becoming clearer. Rockefeller has teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote a new green revolution in Africa-the first time two such groups have announced the sort of "strategic partnership" that is increasingly common in the for-profit world. Rockefeller has also bucked up the planning for New Orleans's reconstruction, which had stalled amid political conflict in the hurricane-devastated city. Rockefeller has provided staff to get the politicians talking to each other, sent Ed Koch, a former New York mayor, to advise on building low-cost housing, and provided finance for Spike Lee to make his documentary, "When the Levees Broke". This could not have happened under the old programmatic approach, says Ms Rodin.
Even more striking for an organisation that has suffered from "not invented here" syndrome, Rockefeller is teaming up with InnoCentive, an online business that posts problems and offers rewards to innovators who solve them. Rockefeller will provide funding to adapt this "open innovation" model to helping the poor. Next are likely to be projects on climate change and on the growing economic insecurity that many people experience. Whether all of this will accomplish as much as Ms Rodin hopes remains to be seen. But in the battle to reinvent the philanthropy business, she is giving the new crowd a run for their money.