TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 8

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Quotas can cause lasting change. Rwanda’s new parliament is more than 60% female.

By Eleanor Whitehead in This Is Africa

2. With open communication and smart procedures, we can contain Ebola.

By Atul Gawande in The New Yorker

3. A simple plan to begin saving for college at kindergarten helps families thrive.

By Andrea Levere in the New York Times

4. Teach For America is sewing seeds for education reform in unlikely places – by design.

By Jackie Mader in Next City

5. How Bitcoin could save journalism and the arts.

By Walter Isaacson in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME foreign affairs

Soldiers From Poor Countries Have Become the World’s Peacekeepers

Undated photograph released by Hanin Network, a militant website, shows Fijian UN peacekeepers who were seized by The Nusra Front on Aug. 28, 2014, in the Golan Heights.
Undated photograph released by Hanin Network, a militant website, shows Fijian UN peacekeepers who were seized by The Nusra Front on Aug. 28, 2014, in the Golan Heights. AP

It is an unfair burden for troops who are less well trained, under-supplied and ill equipped

On Aug. 28, rebels from the al-Qaeda-allied al-Nusra Front stormed the Golan Heights border crossing between Syria and Israel, home to one of the oldest U.N. peacekeeping operations. While two contingents of Philippine peacekeepers managed to flee the rebel attack, 45 Fijian troops were captured and taken away by the rebels to parts unknown.

The Fijians were finally released on Sept. 11, but the two-week crisis crystallized a persistent yet under-reported fact: while the U.N. calls upon the international community to act in times of crises, it is often soldiers from developing nations who shoulder the stiffest burden.

In 1994, on the heels of the Rwandan genocide, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (China, Russia, France, the U.K. and the U.S.) provided 20% of all U.N. peacekeeping personnel.

But by 2004, Security Council nations contributed only 5% of U.N. personnel. This July, amid a tumultuous summer of violent conflicts, that figure had dropped to a miserly 4%, while the governments of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Fiji, Ethiopia, Rwanda and the Philippines provided a staggering 39% of all U.N. forces.

Critics can counter this charge with stats of their own. After all, they say, the permanent members contribute 53% of the U.N.’s annual budget, far outstripping financial contributions made by countries of the global south. But recent years have also seen sluggish rates of payment from wealthier nations — delays that further strain an overburdened system supporting 16 peacekeeping missions around the world.

On balance, the troops contributed by developing countries are more likely to be less well trained, under-supplied and ill equipped for the missions. Delays in financial contributions only complicate the challenges of modern peacekeeping.

So does the fractured nature of modern conflicts. Military experts, like General Sir Rupert Smith, have noted the shift from “industrial wars” of the past to today’s “war amongst the people.” Modern conflicts involve combatants whose ends are not merely the control of territory or the monopoly of politics. They wage war with their own rules, without concern for the U.N.’s mission to referee.

In response, peacekeeping has been hurriedly ramped up: more comprehensive mandates are issued and troops are cleared to use force in defense of civilians. But in the end, peacekeepers are redundant where there is no peace to keep.

The Golan Heights are no exception. The U.N. Disengagement Observer Force was set up 40 years ago precisely to observe the contentious border between Israel and Syria. Today, the threats aren’t even nation states. The peacekeepers in Golan must contend with spillover from Syria’s three-year-long civil war, and the aggression of al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front. They are forced to become soldiers on the front lines of a perpetually asymmetrical conflict, treated as mere machine-gun fodder whenever the international community seeks to stem the spread of terror by piling blue helmets in its way.

In a New York Times op-ed of Aug. 29, Secretary of State John Kerry discussed U.S. intentions to use its position as president of the Security Council to coordinate a response to terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East.

“The United States … will use that opportunity to continue to build a broad coalition and highlight the danger posed by foreign terrorist fighters,” Kerry wrote, adding that “President Obama, addressing the Security Council, would construct a plan to deal with this collective threat.”

For observers, however, events in Golan should serve as a warning. If the U.N. and its leading members intend to tackle collective threats, it is time to address how best to equitably divide the collective risk. In service of international stability, leaders of the developed world have become far too comfortable asking developing countries to put their troops in the line of fire.

Adam McCauley is a Canadian writer and photographer currently based in Hong Kong. His work has appeared in TIME, the New York Times, Al Jazeera and online in the New Yorker.

TIME Foreign Policy

The U.S. Will Spend $110 Million a Year on African Peacekeeping Efforts

Uganda
A soldier from the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) engages in weapons training at the Singo training facility in Kakola, Uganda Monday, April 30, 2012. The camp provides different training courses run by the U.S. Marines and also by instructors contracted by the U.S. State Department. Ben Curtis—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The plan is to help fund African rapid-response forces that will deal with armed Islamist groups

Correction appended, Aug. 7

During the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington on Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled plans to invest $110 million annually over the next three to five years to help six African countries create rapid-response forces, Reuters reports.

At a summit news conference, Obama said the funds the funds would boost African Union and U.N. operations in crisis spots around the continent, using peacekeepers from Ethiopia, Uganda, Senegal, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ghana.” Obama said that the funds are meant to remedy the current “gap in systematically supporting these peacekeepers to help them deploy more quickly.”

The U.S. has become more involved in supporting African military efforts to combat Islamic extremists recently, training over a quarter-million African police and military.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., added that the U.S. hoped to create “troop-contributing countries” that would fight off extremist groups like al-Shabab, al-Qaeda affiliates and Boko Haram, which has killed over 10,000 people since it began its uprising in Nigeria in 2009.

Obama also announced intentions to spend an initial $65 million on strengthening security efforts in Niger, Tunisia, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Kenya. Along with the funding, Obama unveiled a plan called the Security Governance Initiative, which will help bolster security sectors and other infrastructures that offer crises resolution in Africa.

[Reuters]

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified countries as crisis zones where African Union and United Nations peacekeepers would be deployed.

TIME the Democratic Republic of Congo

African Foreign Ministers Give Rwandan Rebels Six Months to Disarm

United Nations peace keepers record details of weapons recovered from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militants after their surrender in Kateku
U.N. peacekeepers record details of weapons recovered from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda militants after their surrender in Kateku, a small town in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 30, 2014. Kenny Katombe — Reuters

The rebel FDLR group has been accused of massacring civilians in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo for nearly two decades

In a meeting in Angola on Wednesday, foreign ministers from African nations announced a six-month suspension of military intervention to allow the dissident Rwandan group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), to disarm and end years of fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The FDLR, a rebel group that opposes the Rwandan government and is based along Congo’s eastern border, includes members who initiated the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The rebel group has been accused of massacring civilians in Congo for nearly two decades. The Rwandan military has also regularly entered Congo to fight the rebel group, causing additional turmoil in the country.

Although the FDLR agreed to disarm and engage in dialogue on May 30, it is estimated that only about 200 out of around 1,500 rebels have put down their weapons. U.N. officials said in a report on Thursday that the FDLR was continuing to train new recruits despite promises of peace.

Angola’s Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti told the Angola Press News Agency that the rebel group’s efforts would be reassessed in three months. “The results of this surrender (of FDLR arms) are not sufficient,” he said. Lambert Mende, Congo’s government spokesman, said the army was prepared to continue military operations if the rebels did not honor the disarmament agreement.

Rwandan officials are meanwhile angered that the FDLR has continued to be admitted to international talks as a separatist group — representatives were recently at a conference in Rome with U.N. officials. “I am completely bored and disgusted by this (rebel) problem,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said at a news conference on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Although over 25,000 members have left the FDLR since 2002, the group has maintained stable numbers over the past few years. If the disarmament and demobilization of the FDLR is successful, it could allow Congo — a country rich in gold, copper and diamonds — to regain much needed stability.

[Reuters]

TIME Rwanda

An Apology for the Rwandan Genocide, 20 Years Later

Colin Keating
Former New Zealand ambassador Colin Keating addresses an open session of the United Nations Security Council on April 16, 2014. He apologized for the council's refusal to recognize that genocide was taking place in Rwanda and for doing nothing to halt the slaughter. Evan Schneider—ASSOCIATED PRESS

The New Zealand diplomat who was president of the Security Council in April 1994 admits the U.N. "utterly failed" to prevent the slaughter of up to one million people in Rwanda. He was speaking at a council meeting held to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide

The New Zealand diplomat who was president of the U.N. Security Council at the start of the Rwandan genocide in April 1994 has apologized for the council’s refusal to recognize and halt the slaughter, in which up to one million lives were lost.

Colin Keating’s apology was issued at a council meeting Wednesday, held to both commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the genocide and review what had since been done to prevent similar atrocities.

Keating recalled that “most” veto-empowered nations, including the United States and France, rejected a call to condemn the killings, and that warnings sounded by U.N. Human Rights Commission on the possibility of genocide never came before the council.

“The genocide against the Tutsi highlighted the extent to which the U.N. methods of prevention utterly failed,” he said.

The U.N.’s increased commitment to human rights work was noted during the session, but the organization was also widely criticized for its failure to prevent current atrocities in Syria, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.

[AP]

TIME Africa

France Pulls Out of Event to Mark Rwanda Genocide

Rwanda Prepares For 20th Commemoration Of 1994 Genocide
Rwandan President Paul Kagame looks on at his office in Kigali, Rwanda, on April 6, 2014 Evan Schneider—UN/Getty Images

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira canceled plans to attend events after Rwandan President Paul Kagame accused France of playing a "direct role" in the genocide 20 years ago that killed 800,000 Rwandans

The French government has withdrawn from Monday’s 20th-anniversary commemorations for the genocide in Rwanda, after the country’s President accused France of participating in the 1994 mass killings.

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira canceled plans to attend the events in Kigali on Monday following Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s denunciation of the “direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide,” the BBC reports.

President Kagame’s remarks were made to the French-language weekly newsmagazine Jeune Afrique in an interview on March 27. The French Foreign Ministry said Kagame’s remarks hurt the reconciliation process between France and Rwanda.

More than 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda — mostly ethnic Tutsi, but also moderate Hutus — after the death of President Juvénal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, on April 6, 1994. The violence only ended after Kagame’s Tutsi-led group defeated government forces in July 1994.

Kagame’s faction, which has held the government since, has long blamed France for aiding the genocide. France was an ally of Habyarimana’s government, and a Rwandan commission found France helped train ethnic Hutu militias, who prepared in the mass killings, and was aware of preparations for the genocide.

France has acknowledged serious errors it made during the genocide, but has said its forces protected civilians during the violence.

[BBC]

TIME Africa

U.N. Chief Visits the Central African Republic

CAFRICA-UN-FORCE
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waves as he visits a camp for internally displaced persons in the Central African Republic on April 5, 2014 Miguel Medina—AFP/Getty Images

The quick visit on Saturday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during which he detailed atrocities that have divided the conflict-torn Central African Republic for months, came one day before he planned to mark two decades since the genocide in Rwanda

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Central African Republic on Saturday amid an uptick in deadly street violence in the capital, Bangui, pledging to focus global attention on the conflict that has killed untold thousands and pushed much of the country’s Muslims into neighboring countries.

The visit, which lasted just a few hours, was Ban’s first since street attacks in December left about a thousand dead, many at the hands of the mainly Muslim rebel coalition Séléka that seized power in a coup in early 2013. Thousands of foreign peacekeepers were sent to stabilize the chronically poor state, wracked by decades of corrupt governance, but the retreat of Séléka and step-down of the President resulted in a power grab by largely Christian militias called anti-balaka, who have heavily targeted the Muslim minority. Hundreds of thousands have since fled to Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ban traveled outside the secure area of the main airport, which is guarded by French troops and adjacent to a mass-displacement camp, to meet with interim President Catherine Samba-Panza and visit one of the capital’s last operational mosques. He also spoke to the transitional council tasked with preparing the country for elections by next February.

“There is a hole in the heart of Africa. Every day, I wake up thinking about your trials and troubles,” he said. “Everywhere, I have called on leaders to step up their efforts. Some say this is a forgotten crisis. I am here to help make sure the world does not forget.”

The U.N. chief forcefully spoke of hearing “horror stories” from those who have been uprooted, warned of food insecurity and the risk of malaria ahead of the rainy season and detailed atrocities that have gripped the landlocked, mineral-rich country for more than a year. “The security of the state has been replaced by a state of anarchy,” he said, mentioning a rise in sexual violence and instances of lynchings and decapitations. “There has been total impunity — zero accountability. This must change.”

Aid groups that frequently criticize the U.N. for not doing enough to stem the violence say words have little impact and more troops are needed to both restore order and help the government implement the rule of law. Former colonial power France has 2,000 soldiers on the ground, and the African Union has contributed 6,000 peacekeepers, but regional power broker Chad began pulling its contingent of 850 troops after being scolded for recent clashes that left about 30 civilians dead.

Ban commended foreign troops for their work but said they’re “underresourced and overwhelmed” given the enormity of their daily challenges. He applauded the E.U. for its impending deployment of the hundreds of peacekeepers it promised months ago and said he hopes the U.N. Security Council approves the 12,000-member peacekeeping and police force he recently proposed.

His visit came one day before he marks two decades since the genocide in Rwanda. “The international community failed the people of Rwanda 20 years ago, and we are at risk of not doing enough for the people of CAR today,” he told lawmakers. “It is your responsibility as leaders to ensure that there are no such anniversaries in this country.”

TIME

David Guttenfelder: A New Look at North Korea

This post originally appeared on TIME’s LightBox blog.


Since the 1948 creation of separate governments for North and South Korea after World War II, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North has remained behind an iron curtain, an isolated and secluded state. Our image of the country has been pieced together from pictures taken across the border at the DMZ, photographs provided by government news agencies or unauthorized surreptitious photographs taken by western photographers inside the country—until now.

In January, the Associated Press opened a bureau in Pyongyang for full news coverage within North Korea. AP’s Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder—who first traveled to North Korea as a pool photographer in January 2000 to cover the visit of Madeline Albright—has made a dozen trips to the country over the past 18 months as part of the negotiating team and on reporting trips with Jean H. Lee, AP bureau chief for the Koreas, taking photos each time. Guttenfelder’s approach to showing North Korea to the world has been shaped by his long and prestigious career with the AP.

Guttenfelder has just received two honors from the Overseas Press Club, which announced their annual awards this morning. The Olivier Rebbot Award for best photographic reporting from abroad, in magazines or books, and the Feature Photography Award for best feature photography, published in any medium on an international theme, recognize his recent work from last year’s Tsunami aftermath in Japan and his work inside North Korea.

In 1994, Guttenfelder traveled to the former Zaire to cover the Rwandan refugee crisis as a freelance photographer. “I thought if I ever wanted to do something more serious, this was it,” he says. Guttenfelder stayed in Africa for five years, stringing for the AP, among other outlets, and eventually became an AP staff photographer. He hasn’t lived in the States since. In the ensuing years, he has worked all over the world, from Kosovo to Israel and Iraq to Afghanistan. In 1999 he became AP’s Chief Asia photographer and moved to Japan.

Guttenfelder says when he first worked in Asia he wondered if he had made the right decision. “In the beginning it was really hard, I’d only ever covered conflict and had not done anything else,” he says. One of his first assignments was covering family reunions between North and South Koreans in Seoul. “I wasn’t used to taking photographs in an organized event surrounded by other photographers in such a modern context,” he says. “Now I look back and it was really important work. I only really spoke one language at that point—fighting, refugees and hard news—so it was an important transition for me.”

Fittingly then, when Guttenfelder was in Iraq during the U.S. invasion, he focused on trying to cover the Iraqi side of the war rather than embedding with U.S. troops. “I always thought of myself as the guy on the other side of things,” he says. Then, a year later, when Baghdad fell, Guttenfelder found himself confined to the Palestine Hotel and his role and means of covering the conflict changed again.

“We needed local photographers to cover the streets, someone who could bring back regular pictures of normal people’s lives,” he says. He solicited photographers, but found that they needed extensive training. Although the people Guttenfelder worked with barely knew the fundamentals of photography and worked with primitive equipment—including a camera that used floppy disks—they produced important work. Several of the regional photographers that Guttenfelder and his AP colleagues trained, Khalid Mohammed, Samir Mizban and Karim Kadim, became Pulitzer-Prize winning photographers when AP received the award for breaking news photography in 2005.

Iraq was not the only place Guttenfelder worked training and developing regional photographers; he also did so in Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine. His work in Afghanistan, which he considers the most important of his career, included the recruitment of Farzana Wahidy, the first Afghan woman to work as a news photographer after the fall of the Taliban. Between 2001 to 2010 Guttenfelder made at least 20 trips to Afghanistan, staying for as long as six months to a year at a time. Early on he covered the first election, and projects on the Afghan civilian side of things. But from 2007-2010 Guttenfelder focused on embeds and did multiple military trips including a stint in the Korengal Valley and was part of all of the major U.S. Marine operations into Helmand.

Guttenfelder eventually moved back to Japan in 2006, and he still lives there today. His first news photography in Japan came in March 2011, in the aftermath of the tsunami. Although his work there is highly regarded, he says he feels that his photographs could not capture the magnitude of what he saw.

Still, his experience with being dropped into a new place and quickly capturing the sense of its culture proved invaluable. “There is a known language to disaster pictures; you see the same things, people reaching through chaos, people reaching for food, a lot of emotion. Photographers were trying to find those pictures that existed in other places. It’s just not like that here. That’s just not how it is in Japan,” he says, noting that the emotionally moving picture embedded here, of a woman, on her knees, caressing and singing to her mother’s body, would seem subtle in another place but is a very “loud” picture for Japan.

March 19, 2011. Tayo Kitamura, 40, kneels in the street to caress and talk to the wrapped body of her mother Kuniko Kitamura, 69, after Japanese firemen discovered the dead woman inside the ruins of her home in Onagawa, Japan. David Guttenfelder—AP

Although he continues to be based in Japan, Guttenfelder has spent much of the past year in North Korea in preparation for the new AP bureau, which opened in January. Guttenfelder has been part of the negotiating team at meetings that have taken place in Pyongyang and New York over the last eighteen months. “At the first meeting, we left with an agreement that we would hold a photo exhibition and workshop and work towards an AP office in the country,” he says. The joint exhibition, Window on North Korea, on view earlier this month at the 8th Floor Gallery in New York, featured images from both AP and the KCNA archives and a workshop held in North Korea offered an opportunity for KCNA photographers get technical training, for the AP to recruit staff and for the two parties get to know one another.

“We are starting from zero in a system that is so different from anything we’ve done before,” he says. The photo exhibition and workshop were an overture to build trust and collaborate on something, and Guttenfelder has already begun working with a regional photographer, Kim Kwang Hyon. But the most interesting result of the collaboration is the opportunity it has afforded for Guttenfelder to photograph inside North Korea.

Although he is accompanied by a guide wherever he goes and has to request in advance where he wants to go, the daily life photographs that he has taken—often one-off shots made on the way to or from an event—provide a stark contrast to the highly orchestrated government news-agency photos that are more commonly seen out of North Korea.

Despite the normalcy portrayed in these photographs, Guttenfelder says they are actually the most important images because they paint a picture of a place that has been hitherto a mystery. And that can open the window for understanding in both directions. “At the beginning I would take a picture in the street of people standing waiting for the bus. I could tell they didn’t really understand and thought it looked bad, looked poor,” he says. “I would spend a lot of time explaining that people wait for the bus and commute to work everywhere in the world and that someone beyond North Korea could make a connection—that picture breaks down barriers.”

Recently, a select group of photojournalists from western agencies have been allowed into North Korea to cover the celebrations of the birth of the country’s Eternal President Kim II-sung and a missile launch. How long they will be able to stay is in question, but Guttenfelder and AP are committed for the long term. “It’s a really good time to have an office here and to see how things evolve,” he says. “I feel a huge responsibility because this is the first time the country has allowed this much access to one of us.”


David Guttenfelder is AP’s Chief Asia Photographer. To see more of his work, click here.

To see more of AP’s coverage of North Korea, click here.


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