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United Nations: Over the past 75 years, the United Nations has sent more than 2 million peacekeepers to help countries move away from conflict, including successes from Liberia to Cambodia and major failures in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda . Today, it faces new challenges in the dozen hotspots where UN peacekeeping forces operate, including more violent environments, fake news campaigns and a divided world that is preventing its ultimate goal: stable governments. restore successfully.
The organization marked the 75th anniversary of UN peacekeeping and celebrated the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Thursday, honoring the more than 4,200 peacekeepers who have died since 1948, when the UN Security Council designated the military A historic decision was taken to send Middle East observers to oversee the implementation of the Israel-Arab ceasefire agreement. For the 103 peacekeepers inducted into the list in 2022, the medals were accepted by the ambassadors of their 39 home countries.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked hundreds of uniformed military officers and diplomats at the ceremony to observe a moment of silence in his memory. And at the start of a UN Security Council meeting on peace in Africa, everyone in the room stood to pay a silent tribute to the fallen peacekeepers.
After laying a wreath at the Peacekeepers Memorial, the Secretary-General said at the ceremony that what began “as a bold experiment” 75 years ago in the Middle East “is now a major enterprise of our organization.” For civilians caught in the conflict, he said, peacekeepers are “a beacon of hope and security”.
UN peacekeeping operations have increased dramatically. At the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, there were 11,000 UN peacekeepers. As of 2014, there were 130,000 in 16 remote peacekeeping missions. Today, 87,000 men and women serve in 12 conflict zones in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said there have been two kinds of successes. They are a long list of countries that have returned to a reasonable degree of stability with the support of UN peacekeeping, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Angola and Cambodia, and countries where peacekeepers not only monitor Rather, they are protecting the ceasefire – like wildfire – in southern Lebanon and Cyprus.
For failures, he pointed to the failure of UN peacekeepers to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and Hutus were killed, and the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica during the war in Bosnia. 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred. Europe’s only acknowledged genocide since the Holocaust during World War II.
The reputation of the United Nations has also been tarnished by numerous allegations that peacekeepers have protected civilians sexually abusing women and children, including in the Central African Republic and the Congo. Another high-profile mistake was the cholera epidemic in Haiti that began in 2010 when UN peacekeepers introduced the bacteria into the country’s largest river by sewage runoff from their base.
Despite this, Richard Gowan, UN director of the International Crisis Group, said “the UN has a surprisingly good track record of peacekeeping.”
While many people understandably focus on the Rwandan and Srebrenica disasters, he said, “the United Nations has done a great job of mitigating crises, protecting civilians, and cracking down on cases ranging from the Suez Crisis in the 1950s to Liberia in the 2000s.” Has done a good job of rebuilding the states.”
Looking ahead, the UN’s Lacroix said that the major challenge to peacekeeping is the divided international community, and especially the division in the UN Security Council, which must approve its missions.
“The result is that we have not been able to achieve the ultimate goal of peacekeeping – to deploy, support the political process going forward, and then slowly roll back when the political process is complete, ” They said . “We cannot do this because the peace processes are not moving forward, or they are not moving fast enough.”
The result is that “we essentially have to be satisfied with what I call the intermediate goal of peacekeeping – maintaining a ceasefire, protecting civilians, hundreds of thousands of us … and of course to do our best to support political efforts wherever we can,” said the Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.
Lacroix pointed to other challenges peacekeepers face: The environments they operate in are more violent and dangerous and the attacks more sophisticated. Fake news and disinformation “pose a great danger to the population and peacekeepers.” And old and new drivers of conflict – including transnational criminal activity, smuggling, drugs, weapons, illegal exploitation of natural resources, and the impact of climate change on increased competition between herders and farmers – also have a “fully cascading effect”. Is.
He said that the United Nations needs to deal with all the challenges in a better way. And it needs to continue improving the effectiveness of peacekeeping and implementing its initiatives on performance, combating fake news, improving safety and security, and recruiting more women as peacekeepers.
Crisis Group’s Govan told the AP that it is very clear that the United Nations is “stuck” in some countries like Mali and Congo where there are not enough peacekeepers to prevent repeated cycles of violence. He said some African governments, including Mali, are turning to private security providers such as Russia’s Wagner Group to fight insurgents.
“I think we should be careful of outright dumping UN operations,” Gowan said. “We have learned the hard way in cases like Afghanistan that even heavily armed Western forces cannot impose peace. The UN’s track record may not be perfect, but there is no one better for creating stability in troubled states.