Burma: Opening the Door

By Sean Garcia
The dialogue is changing. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and his deputy Scot Marceil visited Burma and held talks with Burmese officials and Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. It is the highest-level visit to Burma in more than a decade, and follows the State Department’s September announcement of its Burma Policy Review, which began shortly after President Obama took office. 

Pakistan: Inconvenient Truths

By Patrick Duplat

“When they realize you’re a Mehsud, they treat you like a suicide bomber who’s wearing an explosive jacket.” -A displaced Pakistani from South Waziristan, quoted in Dawn

Stronger Humanitarian Plan Needed in US Policy Review

By Limnyuy Konglim

The long awaited release of the new US policy on Sudan outlines several key points that lay the framework for lasting peace there. With a focus on a comprehensive approach to Sudan, the US administration recognizes the importance that peace in Darfur, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and border safety play in establishing and maintaining stability for the people of Sudan. It is refreshing to see a US strategy that takes a holistic approach, recognizing the commitment made to all Sudanese people and the strength of US leadership in the international community.

Pakistan: An Update from the Field

By Andi Palley
On Tuesday at the Brookings Institution, Refugees International advocates Kristele Younes and Patrick Duplat presented on their recent mission to Pakistan. The country is facing a complex humanitarian emergency, and many people who were displaced by the military operations during the summer are still unable to return home. Moreover, the humanitarian community and the United Nations face many challenges in working with the Pakistani government to deliver aid.

Somalia: Providing Aid in Difficult Places

By Joel Charny
Somalia may be the most difficult place to provide aid in the world. The needs are tremendous after years of conflict and drought. The central government controls a few square blocks of the capital and is under threat from an Islamist insurgency that includes both local and foreign elements. Infrastructure is badly degraded. In such a resource poor environment, aid itself has a value out of proportion to its actual cost.

Burma: A Better Future for All Burmese

By Sean Garcia
Earlier today the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific held a hearing on US policy towards Burma. The hearing was held in the interest of exploring options for dialogue and engagement with the government of Burma, and was long-overdue in a Washington policy context that has been dominated by debate over sanctions. Today’s hearing will be followed up next week by a similar hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and also echoes the recently-released State Department Burma policy review which makes engagement the policy of the day. 

Sounding the Alarm: A Civilian ‘Surge’ Needed to Restore U.S. Foreign Policy

By Matt Pennington
The Obama administration is facing a critical juncture in American foreign policy. As U.S. civilian programs have been chronically underfunded and understaffed over the last several decades, there is growing consensus that our approach to global engagement is in dire need of repair. This concern has only grown stronger in the wake of ongoing U.S. military-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and widespread concerns about the reliance on and inappropriate use of U.S. military in non-combat activities abroad. We can no longer afford to view American foreign policy simply through the lens of increased U.S. military might.  The problems around the globe – including humanitarian crises related to displacement -- are too complex and require a multi-faceted approach.

DR Congo: Hope for Greater U.S. Attention

By Jennifer Smith
On my recent trip to eastern DR Congo with my colleague Camilla Olson, we overlapped with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she visited Goma. The visit of such a senior U.S. official to a place people often say the world has forgotten about was encouraging. For those of us working on Congo issues, it was a rare source of hope that greater attention would be paid to the never-ending cycle of violence that has led to the deaths of millions of civilians and exhausted donors and aid workers.

A Sad Look at the Africa Bureau

By Ron Capps
The Department of State's Inspector General recently released an inspection report on the Bureau of African Affairs. The report highlights resource shortcomings, policy failures and is a damning indictment of the past few years' leadership in the bureau. It is also a testimony to the dedication and competence of the foreign and civil service officials within the bureau. (Full disclosure, I served in the bureau for several years as a Foreign Service Officer.)

The inspectors cited "an undercurrent of dissatisfaction" and "uneven quality of leadership" leftover from the previous regime but noted that the team that took over on January 21 enjoyed "almost universal respect." "Morale," the inspectors noted, "is on the upswing."  That's good because there remain huge problems for the new team and the staff to overcome.

DR Congo: Kimia II's Impact on Civilians

By Camilla Olson
I last visited Mwenga in February 2009. At the time, we went there to see how people would be impacted if the Rwandan and Congolese militaries expanded their operations against the FDLR rebel group into South Kivu.    

In February, people in Mwenga told us that they were very scared about these joint operations. There is a large presence of FDLR in Mwenga territory and people said that any operations against the rebel group would certainly jeopardize their own security. People were also scared of the Rwandan army returning to the area given its history of past abuses against the local population there. They told us, “if we flee, we don’t know where we’d go, because in the forest is the FDLR who have threatened to attack us, and in town will be the Rwandan military who have targeted us in the past.”
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