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Sudan – Southern Secession, Oil, and Debt Relief

This post also appeared on the Huffington Post.

Next week, President Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and other global leaders will meet with Sudanese leadership to discuss the upcoming referendum. The stakes are huge. In January, southern Sudanese will vote on whether to secede and launch a new, independent country. It’s hard to imagine them not supporting the breakaway vote given their decades’ long fight for independence. Roughly 2 million people died in that struggle. The multi-million dollar question is – what will Khartoum do? Will they let the referendum happen? Will it be fair and transparent? If so, will they respect the results? The meeting next week will grapple with these critical issues.

Clearly, Khartoum has a lot of lose.

Kimberley Process Keeps the Door Open for Zimbabwean Democracy

This blog post also appeared on the Huffington Post.

For four days, forty-nine Kimberley Process members were holed up in Tel Aviv contemplating Zimbabwe’s future. Countries like South Africa, Israel, the European Community, and the United States were deadlocked over whether to continue their existing export ban on Zimbabwean diamonds. What’s at stake is much bigger than diamonds. It’s about corruption, repression, and freedom. A vote to rescind the diamond ban could have slammed the door shut on a truly democratic future for Zimbabwe’s people. It would have been a massive coup for Robert Mugabe and his security force allies. And a death blow to those who have sacrificed everything for change. Thankfully, the Kimberley Process members sided with the forces of democracy. The diamond ban will stay.

UNESCO’s Dictator Prize Put on Hold

This is a joint posting with Julia Barmeier.

Today, UNESCO’s director-general, Irina Bokova, announced that the UNESCO-Obiang Prize would be suspended so that UNESCO’s executive board can study the situation. The Board will take up the issue again in October. Ms. Bokova released a statement saying:

“I have heard the voices of the many intellectuals, scientists, journalists and of course governments and parliamentarians who have appealed to me to protect and preserve the prestige of the organization. I have come to you with a strong message of alarm and anxiety. I am fully aware that the Executive Board made a decision two years ago (to establish the prize), but I believe that given the changing circumstances and the unprecedented developments of the past months, we must be courageous and recognize our responsibilities for it is our organization that is at stake. Therefore I will not set a date for awarding the UNESCO-Obiang Prize for the Life Sciences.”