Conventional Humanitarian Solutions Fail the Test

by Parastou Hassouri
published in MER286

Syrians experienced the largest single-day exodus of the war on March 15, 2018. Seven years to the day since the start of the uprising in Syria, some 45,000 civilians fled their homes in besieged Eastern Ghouta. The fact that such large-scale displacement took place over the course of a single day as the conflict entered its eighth year is a stark reminder that the displacement caused by the war has not abated and will not end any time soon.

Refugee Rights Hit the Wall

by Sophia Hoffmann
published in MER286

I was in Damascus in early 2007 to conduct research on the situation of newly arrived Iraqi refugees when I went looking for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Syria office. I found it in a two-room apartment downtown, staffed by a single Syrian protection officer. The pressures on the organization were becoming intense, she told me. Earlier that day she had spontaneously handed out some cash to a young Iraqi man who had nowhere to stay so that he could pay for a hotel. The thought of him having to sleep in a park was abhorrent and scandalous. UNHCR Syria’s annual budget was $1.4 million at the time.

UNRWA Financial Crisis

The Impact on Palestinian Employees

by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh
published in MER286

President Donald Trump’s decision to reduce the United States’ contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to only $60 million in 2018—compared to a total of $364 million in 2017 [1]—has been widely denounced as a brutal form of collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Current fundraising campaigns are attempting to fill the gap to keep schools open and medical services available for Palestinians across the region. The campaigns are focused on the rights, needs and dignity of Palestinian infants, children and adults in their roles as patients, students and recipients of emergency cash assistance.

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The Politics of Health in Counterterrorism Operations

by Jonathan Whittall
published in MER286

In the early morning hours of October 3, 2015, a helicopter gunship operated by US special forces circled the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan. It fired precise and repeated rounds on the main hospital building, quickly reducing it to rubble. Patients and staff who survived the airstrikes were shot while fleeing the burning building. By the end of the assault, 42 people had died, including 24 patients, 14 staff and four caretakers. The week prior to the attack on the hospital, the Taliban had taken control of the Afghan city of Kunduz. It was the first time the Taliban had gained control of a provincial capital since its fall from power in 2001 following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The United States’ Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and the Challenge to the International Consensus

by Mandy Turner , Mahmud Muna | published May 16, 2018

On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that the US was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would be moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv in fulfillment of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act. In one fell swoop, the US has seriously challenged 70 years of international consensus enshrined in international law as regards the status of the city, and put the potential for a two-state solution into a tail-spin. In keeping with the general chaos surrounding his presidency, Trump and his administration then announced a series of contradictory remarks regarding this historic decision. The original declaration insisted that the decision did not affect final status negotiations regarding Jerusalem, a position that was confirmed by then secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, a few days later. In so doing, Trump threw the diplomatic equivalent of a Molotov cocktail into the incendiary issue of Jerusalem’s status, but then denied he had done so, arguing that his decision was “nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality. But then Trump contradicted himself in a January 3, 2018 tweet, where he stated: “we have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table.” Deciphering the different meanings in Trump’s statements and language is less important than the implications that this decision will have for future diplomatic policy and practice.

Letter to UN Secretary-General Concerning Saudi Arabia's Removal from List of Armies Charged with War Crimes

published June 29, 2016 - 4:09pm

June 30, 2016

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
United Nations Secretary General

We the undersigned, a group of professors in Europe and North America, are deeply alarmed to learn that the government of Saudi Arabia has coerced you to remove the military coalition led by that country in Yemen from the UN list of armies charged with war crimes in that country. According to the New York Times, you have openly admitted to reporters that you were “threatened with the loss of financing for humanitarian operations in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan and Syria” if you did not capitulate to Saudi demands in this regard.

Open Letter from Scholars of Yemen

published March 31, 2016 - 1:33pm

US Secretary of State John Kerry
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayraut

An Extraordinary Feat of Diplomacy

by Chris Toensing | published August 5, 2015

The nuclear agreement with Iran is an extraordinary feat of diplomacy.

First and foremost, non-proliferation experts agree that the deal blocks all of the routes to making an atomic bomb. There are provisions for rigorous inspections—so if Iran cheats, the world will know.

Second, it isn’t just Washington to whom the Iranians are accountable. All five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany too, signed alongside the United States. The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, will monitor Iranian activities on the great powers’ behalf.

Two Resolutions, a Draft Constitution and Late Developments

by Sheila Carapico | published April 17, 2015 - 8:23am

On April 14, three weeks into the Saudi-led air campaign called Operation Decisive Storm, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2216. This legally binding resolution, put forward by Jordan, Council president for April, imposed an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels and former Yemeni president ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih and his son. There are also provisions freezing individual assets and banning their travel. Russia abstained. It seemed fully to endorse both the so-called Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, brokered by UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar, and Operation Decisive Storm.

Open Letter from Yemen Scholars Protesting War

published April 16, 2015 - 9:21am

We write as scholars concerned with Yemen and as residents/nationals of the United Kingdom and the United States. The military attack by Saudi Arabia, backed by the Gulf Cooperation Council states (but not Oman), Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, the UK and above all the US, is into its third week of bombing and blockading Yemen. This military campaign is illegal under international law: None of these states has a case for self-defense. The targets of the campaign include schools, homes, refugee camps, water systems, grain stores and food industries. This has the potential for appalling harm to ordinary Yemenis as almost no food or medicine can enter. Yemen is the poorest country of the Arab world in per capita income, yet rich in cultural plurality and democratic tradition.