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Week of September 24, 2002

Program 0239


Myanmar (Burma) | Transcript | MP3

Scottish Independence | Transcript | MP3

Climate Change Study | Transcript | MP3

Islamic Charities | Transcript | MP3

Lee Hamilton | Transcript | MP3

USAID Health | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

Peter Lynch: In the late ’90s public opinion in Scotland was extremely positive, so that we did think in some ways that this was going to deliver all sorts of changes—quickly. Now of course, obviously, that certainly hasn’t.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, Scotland’s independence movement.

KEITH PORTER: Plus, Myanmar’s troubled past and uncertain future.

TIN MAUNG THAW: They looking for a way out from the Burma, you know, economic basket case. So they start thinking of how they can improve relationship with the West, especially with United States and EU.

PORTER: And studying weather from far beneath the deep blue sea.

DR. JOHN TURTON: It’ll make it easier for us to see whether the changes we’re seeing are natural climate variability or indeed a signal of sort of manmade sort of climate change.

MCHUGH: These stories, coming up next.

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Myanmar (Burma)

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PORTER: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. This spring, the military government in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, released the country’s main opposition leader from house arrest. Since then, news has trickled out that there may be a resumption of talks between the two sides, which have been at odds for decades, through bloody protest movements and failed elections. Judith Smelser has this look at the past and possible future of the troubled country.

[The sound of a large and loud street demonstration.]

JUDITH SMELSER: Myanmar’s charismatic opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was greeted by throngs of Burmese when she was released in May after 19 months of house arrest.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: There are no restrictions on my movements. I can go anywhere I like.

SMELSER: Many Burmese view the charismatic opposition leader as the only person who can lead their country to democracy. The military seized complete control of Burma in a 1962 coup after just 14 years of independence from Britain. The military changed the name of the country to Myanmar, but the opposition and dissident communities never accepted the new name.

DAVID STEINBERG: The name of the state is a symbolic indicator of political persuasion.

SMELSER: David Steinberg is the head of Asian Studies at Georgetown University in Washington and a longtime student of Myanmar’s politics.

STEINBERG: The opposition says Burma, the government says Myanmar, the UN says Myanmar, the United States government and state department says Burma.

SMELSER: In the late ’80s, after two decades of military rule, Aung San Suu Kyi became active in Myanmar’s politics. The daughter of the country’s foremost independence leader, she has grown to become the almost legendary symbol of the democracy movement. Tin Maung Thaw is with the US-based Committee for Restoration of Democracy in Burma.

TIN MAUNG THAW: She act like a real hero. When nobody dare to talk against military government, she did. And when nobody dared to complain about what military did, she did.

SMELSER: Aung San Suu Kyi lived the first part of her life outside of Burma and was even married to a British citizen. Professor Steinberg knows her personally and says he’s seen a definite change in her from the first time they met.

STEINBERG: When I first met her in 1985 or 6 in Kyoto actually, I thought that she was sort of a nice quasi-academic. But when I saw her in ’89, just before her house arrest, she had changed. She had become—she had an aura about her. She had a presence, and you felt that presence.

SMELSER: Part of what caused that change may have been the events of 1988. The late ’80s saw the emergence of a student protest movement in Myanmar, which culminated in a bloody police crackdown on demonstrators on August 8th, 1988. Thousands were killed in the event, which Burmese dissidents compare to the Tiennamen Square incident in China that took place the following year. But two years after the crackdown, in 1990, the government made an unexpected move—it held elections. Again, Professor Steinberg.

STEINBERG: I think the pressures were on them to have an election. And they registered some ninety-odd political parties, the idea being that if they split the vote enough, they could control it. That’s why I think they did it.

SMELSER: Tin Maung Thaw also thinks the government thought it could win—because of its monopoly on politics, its wealth, and its strong party infrastructure.

THAW: They believe by using those things for their own party, they strongly believe they can win the election. So, but I think they miscalculated.

SMELSER: Indeed they did. Much to the government’s surprise, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won some 80 percent of the parliamentary seats. But the military regime ignored the election results and Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. Since that time, the government has run hot and cold on the opposition leader, placing her in and out of house arrest. In 1991, she won the Nobel Peace Prize. Nine years later, in October of 2000, the government began secret talks with her—and many dissidents say that was the result of international pressure.

[The sound of street protests.]

SMELSER: Many Burmese democracy activists have ended up in the United States after serving prison terms or undergoing other forms of persecution in Myanmar. They’ve done their best to make their voices heard and to encourage the US government to push for democratic change in their country. Professor Steinberg believes the US did have a hand in the most recent release of Aung San Suu Kyi in May—but by loosening rather than tightening its Myanmar policy.

STEINBERG: In the February 2002 State Department notice on Burma, which it sends to the Congress, it didn’t mention the May 1990 elections for the first time. It did talk about progress towards democracy and better human rights. It said all the right things, but it was less rigid.

SMELSER: Tin Maung Thaw is part of the dissident community in the US. He’s lived here since 1978. But he thinks Myanmar’s decision to open up to Aung San Suu Kyi was driven mostly by its own self interest in getting the country out of its current economic crisis.

THAW: They looking for a way out from the Burma, you know, economic basket case. So they start thinking of how they can improve relationship with the West, especially with United States and EU. So they found the best way is to release Aung San Suu Kyi and to talk to Aung San Suu Kyi.

SMELSER: Those talks have been going on and off since 2000, but dissidents say they haven’t gone far enough. Aung San Suu Kyi herself has expressed frustration with the pace of negotiations, and although more political prisoners have been recently released, Aung San Suu Kyi has issued a statement demanding freedom for all the country’s political prisoners.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Until all our political prisoners are free, none of us can say that Burma is now truly on the road to a democratic change.

SMELSER: The opposition says there are more than 1,000 political prisoners still in Myanmar’s jails. The government disputes that number and points to the ones who’ve already been freed since the start of talks in 2000. Since Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, expectations have been raised that the government may be ready for substantive democratic changes. But Professor Steinberg says the military’s role in society is so firmly entrenched that it’s unlikely ever to completely vacate the political arena.

STEINBERG: You may have a civilian prime minister at some point. You may have ministers of various kinds doing good civilian things. But that does not mean that on the critical issues, the military will not play a role. And they will step in, I think, should they see the country disintegrate or corruption being rampant, because they have very little regard for civilian politicians.

SMELSER: And indeed, civilian democracy activists have little regard for the military. Most dissidents take the government’s recent overtures towards the opposition with a big grain of salt, pointing out that the military has consistently dragged its feet during previous negotiations. Most, like Tin Maung Thaw, are optimistic but not ready to celebrate yet.

THAW: As a Burmese who born and grew up under their rule, I’m very doubtful their sincerity and also, I don’t want to say it’s a crossroads. I want to wait and see more what’s changed.

[The sound of street protests.]

SMELSER: For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser in Washington.

[The sound of street protests.]

MCHUGH: We contacted the Embassy of Myanmar in Washington, DC, for a comment on this story. The Embassy declined our invitation.

PORTER: Scotland’s desire for independence, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude (Scottish bag pipes)]

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Scottish Independence

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PORTER: It’s now three years since Scotland gained back the Parliament it lost in 1707, when England demanded the union of governments as the price for helping to revive Scotland’s collapsing economy.

MCHUGH: The new parliament was to have powers over almost everything except foreign affairs, defense, and national security. And in 1999, it was opened by Queen Elizabeth, in an atmosphere of high expectations among the Scottish people. Max Easterman has been traveling through Scotland to find out if the new-found freedom is living up to expectations.

MAX EASTERMAN: [Reporting from the Robert Bruce Heritage Center, Bannockburn, Scotland] The Scots last gained their freedom from England here, 2 miles south of Stirling, at Bannockburn. On midsummer’s day, 1314, Robert Bruce massacred an English army four times the size of his own, and guaranteed Scottish independence for the next 400 years. So this is a place of pilgrimage for Scottish patriots, to the Robert Bruce Heritage Center. Standing beside the Bruce statue, you can see Stirling Castle in the distance—the symbol of English oppression. So Bannockburn’s as good a place as any to find out what Scots think of the latest attempt to free them from the English yoke—Devolution. Which, of course, some people would like to turn into full independence.

EASTERMAN: [Reporting from outside the Miners’ Social Club.] Bannockburn used to be famous for making tartan cloth, but in the 20th century, it was coal that provided most people with jobs. Well, the mines are all closed now, but the Miners’ Social Club is still here, and that’s where I’ve come to talk about Devolution.

[The sound of an opening door followed by pub-like sounds of people talking and drinking.]

SCOTTISH “MAN ON THE STREET” #1: If there are any problems in the future it will take the pressure away from London.

EASTERMAN: So do you think it was worthwhile?


EASTERMAN: What do you think of what the Parliament’s been doing?

SCOTTISH “WOMAN ON THE STREET” #1: The Scottish Parliament is a farce.


SCOTTISH “WOMAN ON THE STREET” #1: Because it’s still the English that’s making the decisions. What’s the point in Devolution if we’re not getting our own economy?

EASTERMAN: [Reporting from the campus of Stirling University.] The Labor Government held a referendum before Devolution. The Scots were asked two questions: did they want a devolved parliament, and should it have some tax-raising powers? They voted overwhelmingly “yes” to both. But the power to raise taxes is very limited and almost all Scotland’s finances come as a block grant from Westminster. Three years later, people seem very disillusioned and cynical about the new parliament. I’ve driven up the road to Stirling University to see if I can find out why, from Peter Lynch, an expert on Scottish politics.

Peter Lynch: There’s two major problems that Parliament’s got, which are actually in some ways opposites of each other. One is that it’s governed by the same parties north and south of the border. I mean, it’s a Labor government at Westminster and it’s a Labor-Liberal Democrat coalition in Edinburgh. So things have been replicated. Now, the difficulty with that is you start to ask yourself, “What’s the difference?” Devolution was supposed to be different. It was supposed to involve lots of different policies and actually it seems not to be offering very many.

The second big issue is people had very high expectations of the Parliament. In the late ’90s public opinion in Scotland was extremely positive, so that we did think in some ways that this was going to deliver all sorts of changes—quickly. Now of course, obviously, that certainly hasn’t. So people are quite disillusioned with that aspect of it. Although having said that, they’re also disillusioned with politics generally. It’s a brave new experiment launched simultaneously with the lowest levels of public support, trust, in politicians and political institutions.

EASTERMAN: [Reporting from a busy Edinburgh street, on Calton Hill.] The home for the new Parliament has been a problem from day one. First it was going to be the old Royal High School here on Calton Hill, dominating the capital city of Edinburgh. But that was too small. So a brand new site was found, right by Holyrood House, the Queen’s official residence. It was supposed to cost $60 million and be ready two years ago. But it wasn’t—as a result the Parliament’s now borrowed the Church of Scotland Assembly House, up near the castle. Meanwhile, the cost of the new building has rocketed to over $400 million and it’s still nowhere near ready. Tam Dalyell is the Westminster MP for Linlithgow, a few miles west of Edinburgh. He’s been an arch-opponent of Devolution all his life, and he says the mismanagement of the new parliament building was predictable.

Tam Dalyell: As often happens in a small Parliament, the behavior has been absolutely childish. I think I’m right in saying that in a number of the American states they are not very thrilled by what goes on in their own legislature. I had friends last week, from Austin, Texas, who said the standard of debate in the Texas legislature really made them feel ashamed. Well, I feel the same way.

EASTERMAN: Do you not feel that perhaps it’s a bit early to condemn it this way?

DALYELL: Well, maybe it will take a hundred years. All I’m saying at the moment is that the signs are very unpropitious and that perhaps the hopes were unreal in the first place. But it was all paraded as being more adult than these terrible people in the House of Commons. Well, the reverse is the truth.

EASTERMAN: Even Devolution’s strongest supporters, like Canon Kenyon Wright, are not entirely happy with the way the Parliament’s working. Canon Wright was the Chairman of the Constitutional Convention, which drew up the Devolution settlement. One of the first laws the Parliament passed was to forbid corporal punishment on children under three. Well, the Parliament is now three, and Canon Kenyon Wright says it’s time to administer their child a few judicious smacks.

Canon Kenyon Wright: It’s failed to live up completely to the expectation that it would keep the principles which were outlined right at the beginning. Because this is a Parliament built on principle. There was a foundation principle, which is the one that an American audience will be very familiar with—the sovereignty of the people, unlike Westminster, which speaks of the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament. And then there were four working principles. First, power-sharing—between executive, parliament, and people. Secondly, answerability and accountability to the people. Thirdly, partnership and genuine participation by the people in setting policies. And fourthly equal opportunities. Now these have only partly been kept. We’ve had the old adversarial kind of politics, instead of the kind of politics which would try to achieve at least a broad consensus in society wherever possible, and move forward on that, instead of purely on party. But that does demand new institutions and new attitudes. We have only partly had these.

[The sound of questioning time in the Scottish Parliament, with members shouting at one another, Actuality of First Minister’s Question time in Parliament—lots of shouting and noise.]

EASTERMAN: It’s Thursday and it’s the weekly Question Time for the Labor First Minister, Jack McConnell, in the Scottish parliament. Right now he’s being attacked by the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, David McLetchie. The issue is Scotland’s youth justice system. It’s an important matter. But the way it’s being treated is what people like Canon Kenyon Wright are complaining about—what’s known in Britain as “Yah-boo politics”—using every tactic to catch the government out, rather than trying to find common ground to move forward on. Well, it may not be how the founding fathers of the parliament conceived it, but David McLetchie, for one, is not apologizing for that.

David McLetchie: There’s an awful lot of nonsense talked about consensus politics. The visionaries who set up the Scottish Parliament liked to think that it would all be a cozy, cuddly, consensus-type parliament. Well, I for one never believed in that kind of politics. And I’m frankly very pleased that the Scottish Parliament does have a robust interrogation of ministers at its Question Time, to actually put the Government of the day to the test. And that’s what we’re doing. You know, we now have 20 ministers running Scotland. Until we had the Scottish Parliament, we used to have five. You know, this is a huge expansion, and that’s contributed to the disillusionment. So more importantly, get government off the backs of the people—trust the people.

EASTERMAN: [Reporting from outside of Scottish Parliament, in Central Edinburgh, with the sound of pedestrians, traffic, and a distant bagpiper.] Unlike at Westminster, the main opposition party isn’t David McLetchie’s Conservatives, but the radical Scottish National Party. The SNP leader, John Swinney, is against the Westminster-style politics the coalition has reproduced here in Edinburgh. And he has a more fundamental criticism of Scotland’s new political order.

John Swinney: What we’ve got is a Parliament that undoubtedly was a job that was worth doing but a job that is half done. We live in a country today where one in three of our children live in poverty. People, when they elected the Parliament, believed the Parliament would tackle that problem. In fact, the problem is getting worse. Why? Because we don’t have the powers in the Scottish Parliament to change the economic policies and the social security policies and the employment policies that would make a difference to that issue of child poverty. And the debate is about changing that performance. And independence is fundamental to how we tackle some of these social and economic issues that affect all the people of Scotland. And we’ll only do that by having the normal and natural powers of an independent country to allow us to do it.

EASTERMAN: Support for Scottish independence has stuck at around 25% in the opinion polls for the past 20 years. But up here, in the foothills of the Highlands, in Blairgowrie, John Swinney’s constituency, there are warnings that that could change. The Chairman of the Blairgowrie Community Council, Elizabeth Grant, says the reactions of the Scots to one previous conservative prime minister in particular, Margaret Thatcher, are a sign of what could happen again, if a right-wing conservative government came to power in London. It could trigger a political landslide.

Elizabeth Grant: How far we go, whether it’s further Devolution or independence, will entirely depend upon how the Westminster Parliament manages Scotland. Mrs. Thatcher was the best thing that ever happened to Scotland because it made the Scots realize just exactly where the whole thing was at. And that’s why we’ve got Devolution. Because of a right-wing Tory Government in England who treated the Scots with complete contempt. And if we get another one like that, that’s where we’ll go. We’ll be independent.

Frank McAveety: I think the reality is that experience tells you that, you know, the way in which you tackle many of these issues is not by retreating into smaller nation-states but actually to work in partnership, whether it’s within the UK, or more importantly and increasingly within Europe itself.

EASTERMAN: Frank McAveety is the Deputy Minister for Health in the Scottish Executive. He is dismissive of independence, both as a solution to Scotland’s problems, and a real issue in Scottish politics.

McAveety: The job of the coalition parties is to put forward their program, be endorsed by their [constituents], and then try to deliver on them. Now that’s how we will be judged. And I think, you know, overall, I think we’re moving in the right direction. Politicians also come and go and the reality is there’s a longer-term decision making process. So we’ll still be put down. People will value the Parliament because they value some of the more powerful issues that are presently occupying some people’s minds.

EASTERMAN: [Reporting from the central lobby of Westminster, where the British Parliament meets, with the sound of Big Ben chiming in later.] The relationship between the UK parliament in Westminster and the Scottish one in Edinburgh works well enough for the moment, because they’re both led by the same party—Labor. But if or when the Conservatives are back in power here in London, and Labor is still running Scotland, is conflict inevitable? The purse strings are held here in Westminster; in theory, at least, it could overrule the Scots on many issues. For a slightly more detached view, I’ve come to the House of Commons to meet the national leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the Edinburgh coalition. Why? Well, Charles Kennedy is a Scot, a highlander, and he thinks that, whatever its shortcomings so far, the Scottish Parliament is a resounding success.

Charles Kennedy: People that say this is not an improvement from Westminster must have very, very short memories indeed. The Nationalists, the independence party, of course, keeps saying every day of the week on every issue that if only we had more power then things would be so much different. But the biggest thing about the Scottish Parliament was not to promise a Scottish Parliament and it would be the magic wand and solve all our problems tomorrow. It won’t. What it does do is forces the Scots as Scots to take more responsibility for the problems that are facing us. So that we can’t just blame London, we can’t blame Brussels, we can’t blame Silicon Valley in California. That it’s actually our fault. And the man who once said that the Scots are a balanced people to the extent that they have a chip on each shoulder had a point. We’ve got to look in the mirror in the morning and live up to the reality, which we’ve had to do in the last three years on a number of big issues, that it’s our fault and the solution to it lies with us. Now, that is part of the growing up process for a modern nation in the 21st century. And I think it’s a very, very healthy development.

EASTERMAN: [Reporting from back in Edinburgh, with the sound of bagpipes in the background.] Many Scots will say “Amen” to that. And even the many who are disillusioned at their Parliament’s record so far, would be outraged if there were ever a move to stop Devolution. In fact, the Labor Government is now preparing to offer devolved assemblies to the regions of England. So the experiment continues. Critics still maintain this could mean the breakup of the United Kingdom. Supporters say more Devolution will strengthen the Union. Well, the latest opinion polls show that Scots now feel less British and more Scottish. If the British economy were to undergo another recession, and the Scots were to suffer disproportionately, as they have in the past, independence might look a lot more attractive up here in Edinburgh than it does down there in London. For Common Ground, this is Max Easterman, at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

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Climate Change Study

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PORTER: The oceans may be the one part of the planet least touched by man, but some scientists believe the seas could be an important window on how man’s activity impacts the environment. An international collaboration of meteorologists is now underway to monitor climate changes far below the deep blue sea.

MCHUGH: In oceans around the world, 500 computer-controlled floats are drifting freely with the ocean currents. Each one is a cylinder, about a yard long, and looks like a regular gas canister from a science lab. The science program, Project Argo, developed the canisters. The organization is an international collaboration between meteorologists. Using sensors and radio equipment inside each canister, Argo gathers data about the ocean depths. Project technician Dr. John Gould, of the Southampton Oceanographic Center in southern England explains the floats sink to a depth of about two miles, and every so often.

JOHN GOULD: Every 10 days these floats will come up to the surface. They will measure a profile of the temperature and the salinity, the salt content of the water, as they rise. And the data then transmitted back by satellite to centers around the world that are using data like this in computer models of the ocean, of its circulation, and of the climate system in general.

MCHUGH: Using ocean floats to monitor maritime variables is nothing new. Research ships have been towing floats and sensors for many years. But in Project Argo the floats sink and drift freely, without the need for human interference. John Gould says it provides more thorough pictures of the ocean.

GOULD: We now have over 500 of them in the oceans. And one of the things that is important about these floats is that they will go places in the ocean where ships very rarely go. And particularly, we will be able to get measurements in the depths of winter—again, times when ships really aren’t there.

MCHUGH: Over the next three years, Project Argo aims to build and launch another two and a half thousand floats. Internationally, the program is supported by agencies in about 20 countries, including some in developing nations such as India and China. The United States has committed to funding about half of the total floats needed—a substantial contribution, given that the floats cost several thousand dollars apiece. Each country is allowed to put its floats in the ocean area of greatest interest to that nation. They will then be able to compare their data with that produced by another nation’s floats nearby. But Britain has chosen to focus some of its efforts on the distant Indian Ocean, according to Dr. John Turton, of the Met Office, the UK national climate monitoring agency.

DR. JOHN TURTON: Salinity changes in the southern Indian Ocean are an indication of man-made climate change. So that’s one region where we’ve already deployed around about 30 floats on a line from South Africa across to Australia. You know, looking for those sort of long-term sort of salinity changes. So it will make it easier for us to see whether the changes we are seeing are natural climate variability or indeed a signal of sort of manmade sort of climate change.

MCHUGH: The scientists say information on temperature, currents, and water salinity could be important for predicting weather phenomena such as El Nino. And they say the data from Project Argo is being made available to interested climate watchers worldwide. Even amateur, armchair scientists can follow what these remote-sensing floats are seeing, as they drift beneath the waves. John Gould explains.

GOULD: We have a Web site that you can go to and if you look, if you search on the name Argo it will lead you to that Web site and you’ll be able to see where the floats are, you’ll be able to download the data and look at it and see from the comfort of your home or office what the temperature and salinity of the water are in remote areas of the ocean.

MCHUGH: Scientists involved in Project Argo say it’s probably too early to make any firm conclusions about global climate change from the data they’ve collected. But if change is underway, the scientists say the ocean floats may be the first sensors to spot it.

PORTER: If you have questions or comments about today’s program, visit our Web site at, or e-mail us at [email protected].

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. On the Web at

PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, the challenges facing Islamic charities.

Matthew Leavitt: We don’t want to stymie the effort to do good; we want to make sure that people are not doing bad under the guise of claiming to do good.

PORTER: Plus, Lee Hamilton on the responsibility to protect. And celebrating third world medical research.

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Islamic Charities

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MCHUGH: Donating money, clothing, or food to a charity can help bring much needed help to a wide range of people, from the homeless on the streets of America’s big cities to citizens living in remote mountain villages of Central Asia. While most charities are on the up-and-up, the Bush administration is now pursuing some with ties to the Middle East and Islamic world for actually being fronts for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. As Priscilla Huff reports, this has meant changes for some charities who work overseas.

[The sound of vehicle traffic and a donkey clip-clopping down a country road.]

PATRICIA HUFF: These are needed to truck food to the remote mountain villages of Afghanistan. It’s undeniable. Years of war and a closed society have left the nation in desperate straits.

[The sound of a baby crying.]

HUFF: The children are painfully thin and hungry. Groups like the UN World Food Program, Red Cross/Red Crescent Society, and CARE are the familiar faces of giving—transporting donations of food, medicine, blankets, and clothing across the miles to those in need. The images are repeated across the diverse Islamic world. Along with the multinational nongovernmental organizations working around the globe, there are smaller groups like the American Near East Refugee Aid, founded in 1968. Peter Gubser is the president of ANERA.

PETER GUBSER: ANERA’s mission is to reduce poverty and relieve suffering in the Middle East, and thereby improve the lives of the men, women, and children in the area.

HUFF: Immediately after September 11th, the Bush administration targeted terrorist financing. It uncovered the unfortunate truth that some charities purporting to raise money for the less fortunate in the Muslim world were actually diverting funds to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Its a problem with remarkably local impact. At a Senate hearing on Islamic charities, Senator Evan Bayh recounted a brief conversation he had with the US Attorney General assigned to northern Indiana.

Senator Evan Bayh: He was working on a couple of open investigations involving the misuse of charities in the Northern District and the siphoning of funds from those charities to assist Al Qaeda. And my response is, that if its going on in smaller counties in northern Indiana, it must be going on in a lot of places in addition to that, not just the large metropolitan areas.

HUFF: Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth Dam insists the efforts by his agency and the Justice Department are making a difference.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth Dam: We believe that Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are suffering financially as a result of our actions. We also believe that potential donors are more cautious about giving money to organizations where they fear the money might end up in the hands of terrorists.

HUFF: Groups that have been targeted by the Justice Department include the Holy Land Foundation, the Afghan Support Committee, and the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. The Al-Haramain Foundation is also named in a multi-trillion dollar suit filed on behalf of 600 survivors of the September 11th terrorist attacks. For Deena Barnett, whose husband was on United Flight 93, suing this charity, along with the Saudi princes, international banks, and the government of Sudan—well, it’s her only chance.

Deena Barnett: By filing this lawsuit, this is our only source of retribution, our only source of action to help stop them.

HUFF: Despite the intense focus being put on Islamic charities and their role in financing terrorism, Peter Gubser of ANERA says the problem is nothing new. His organization has been working the Middle East for years, where Hamas and other Islamic militant groups operate.

PETER GUBSER: And as everybody knows, there’s a long-term, or middle-term set of violence going on between the Israelis and the Palestinians and in that context, there are a couple of organizations that are involved in terrorism. We have put rules and regulations and procedures in place that help deal with that. And we’ve had those in before 9/11 and basically we’re just sustaining them and trying to make sure that they are fully implemented.

HUFF: The money raised by ANERA funds scholarships for Palestinian children, health clinics, technical training programs, and to build basic infrastructure, such as clean drinking water. Gubser says moving the money is the easy part; the complex part is figuring out who to work with in the region.

GUBSER: We want to build a clinic in a village and our partner organization that’s going to run the clinic for the future will be a local charity, a health charity. So, we’ll work with them to make sure its a solid institution; it’s an institution that’s accountable, has good governance, and that uses its money wisely, and makes sure the money doesn’t go astray—to the bad guys, if you will.

HUFF: Gubser says another important part of implementing programs is the reporting—making sure in the end, the money actually goes to the promised clinics or schools. And he’s not just reporting back to his donors. He also files reports with the government.

GUBSER: We’re registered with the IRS. We have filings with them every year. Those of us that get money from the US government—and ANERA does—we get funds from USAID—one has to be registered with them, report quite strictly to them. Similarly to the other big institutional donors to us, such as foundations or UN. In addition to that, we’re registered with every state that asks us to register.

HUFF: And its this due diligence that helps to ensure the money actually gets to the needy and not to those planning more terrorist attacks. Matthew Leavitt with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says the reality is, despite the publicity, there are very few charities serving as a front for terrorism.

Matthew Leavitt: We don’t want to stymie the effort to do good; we want to make sure that people are not doing bad under the guise of claiming to do good. But even within that small percentage, there is an alarming number of organizations that are involved in financing or facilitating terrorism. And by alarming numbers, it doesn’t have to be hundreds; it can be just a few, a few dozen.

HUFF: The good news for ANERA is because the Middle East remains in news, more people have discovered Gubser’s organization and are giving to ANERA, instead of withdrawing their support.

GUBSER: We have a number of very loyal donors who have sustained their donations to ANERA, throughout the period from 9/11, so that the flow of cash into ANERA has actually stayed fairly solid.

HUFF: With the filing of the immense lawsuit on behalf of the victims of September 11th, the question of how terrorism is funded and what role Islamic charities play is likely to remain in the news. Peter Gubser agrees with others working with charities and nonprofit groups, its a good idea for the donors to check out the organizations they give money to. For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.

MCHUGH: Coming up next, the responsibility to protect. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

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Lee Hamilton

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MCHUGH: Last year a very large report titled The Responsibility To Protect landed on the desks of international policymakers around the world. The book is the effort of an independent blue ribbon panel called The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. The group was organized by Canada and included representatives of a dozen different countries.

PORTER: The American representative was former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton. Hamilton served in the US house for 34 years. He was a long-time member and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Many Americans will recall Hamilton as Chairman of the Select Committee which investigated the Iran-Contra scandal. I asked Hamilton to summarize the report on the responsibility to protect.

LEE HAMILTON: Well, the key recommendation is that the international community has a responsibility to protect populations that are being grossly abused. The international community cannot just stand by and see gross violations of human rights and say, “That’s none of our business” because of national sovereignty. National sovereignty has always been one of the governing principles of international law, if you would, and for a long time the attitude was that what happened inside a country’s borders was of no concern to the international community. This report says that’s wrong, that international law, if you would, international norms, have evolved beyond that. And there is today where the population of a country is suffering grievous harm at the hands of a government, as a result of failure of the government or repression or war or whatever, then the international community has a responsibility to step forward. And the principle of nonintervention because of national sovereignty has to yield to the international responsibility to step in and protect.

PORTER: Are there any particular guideposts that tell us when a sovereign nation has failed in its responsibility?

HAMILTON: Well, yes. The circumstances under which you would intervene really in the Commission’s report are very limited. They are in the first instance where you have a large-scale loss of life. It need not be genocide but it certainly could be genocide. And the other would be large-scale ethnic cleansing. And those are really the only two that the Commission agreed upon. Now, I must say that in my view [laughs] I would have gone a little farther than that. For example, I would think that if there is a gross violation of human rights the duty to protect would arise in that circumstance. I actually argued that point within the Commission. And did not prevail.

PORTER: Are there any particular examples, real life examples, where the international community has exercised this right to intervene?

HAMILTON: I think in the Balkans the NATO did exercise that right to intervene. So there are instances of intervention. There are some times we didn’t do it, too. Rwanda I guess is the principal case. And incidentally the Rwanda situation was very much on the minds of the commissioners. Because they felt there—and I certainly agreed—that the international community let the Rwandan situation get out of hand. And we had horrible loss of life in part because it did not feel a duty to protect.

PORTER: Who has the authority to authorize the kind of intervention that you’re talking about?

HAMILTON: Ah, that’s the key question! In terms of the Commission’s view, it’s really the United Nations and the Security Council. They go beyond that a little bit and say that if the Security Council does not act then you can take it to the General Assembly of the United Nations or you can take it to regional or subregional organizations under Chapter VIII, I think it is, of the Charter. From the standpoint of a US representative on the Commission, this was a, a real sticking point. Clearly the commissioners favored intervention only when the United Nations, acting through the Security Council, favored it. I think all of us would agree that that is the optimum situation.

Now let me speak personally rather than as a commission point of view. I think that authority to reject or approve an intervention should in the first instance be with the United Nations and the Security Council. But if it fails to act—and keep in mind it often fails to act—and with the veto power in the Security Council that can be a huge problem. I do not think the United States can accept the view that we would only participate in an intervention with Security Council approval. In other words, we would reserve unto ourselves the right to intervene in some cases. And I made that argument, too, before the Commission, and obviously did not carry the day. And therefore I insisted in the report that there be in the introduction a few sentences indicating that some of us would go further than the report went.

PORTER: Tied up in the authority question may be the kinds of intervention. Are there different grades or different shades of intervention?

HAMILTON: Oh, there’s all kinds of interventions. People I think immediately think of military intervention. And that I suppose is a kind of last resort. But you can have economic sanctions, you can have rhetorical intervention, you can have monitors of various kinds. But the key question is always the military intervention. And I must say, it’s a decision that ought not to be taken lightly. You have to ask yourselves a lot of questions. Are you using proportional means to the problem? Are you being too aggressive? Is there a reasonable prospect for success? Do you have the right intention when you intervene? Are you in fact doing it as a kind of a last resort, if you’re talking about military intervention?

PORTER: How has your report been received around the world?

HAMILTON: I’m not sure I can answer that. I think, my impression is, that it has advanced the discussion in the international community somewhat at least beyond the view that anything that happens inside a country is a matter of its own national sovereignty.

PORTER: Has there been any particular response here in Washington?

HAMILTON: I don’t think so. I don’t think the report was noted too much in Washington. The United States government, whether it’s President Bush or President Clinton, is not going to be confined to intervention only under the approval of the Security Council. The United States, so far as I can see, under any president would reserve the right to intervene if they thought it was in our national interest to do so.

PORTER: Former US Congressman Lee Hamilton was the American representative on the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. He now serves as Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

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USAID Health

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MCHUGH: Medical breakthroughs and discoveries for deadly diseases often dominate the headlines. And when celebrities lend their name to fighting a disease, it’s a publicity boon for charities and researchers trying to find a cure. But far away from the spotlight, work is far less glamorous for many doctors and researchers in developing countries. They are going door to door, asking questions and compiling data, and building the foundation for many medical advancements. And as Catherine Drew reports, medical data researchers are celebrating their success.

[The sound of a speaker at a busy conference.]

CATHERINE DREW: Doctors, researchers, and public health care experts from around the world convened in Washington, DC, recently to review and discuss the latest technologies, trends, and methods of collecting medical data. But the conference was also something of a celebration. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Demographic and Health Surveys, known in the business as the DHS. In 1972, America’s Agency for International Development, the USAID, decided to invest considerable resources in collecting population and health data in developing countries. Today survey teams still operate in any developing countries that asks for assistance, accumulating data on public health issues, ranging from child mortality to general nutrition—and, since the late 1980’s, people’s sexual habits, in light of the AIDS pandemic. Dr. Duff Gillespie, who oversees the DHS for USAID, says the surveys have come a long way in 30 years.

Dr. Duff Gillespie: I can remember going to endless meetings on whether or not you could ask someone what their contraceptive behavior was, whether or not they were using a contraceptive—anything to do with sexual behavior there was a question. And also things like income, I mean there was just a great debate on that. In hindsight it seems rather naive on our part, but we didn’t know.

CATHERINE DREW: Today Dr. Gillespie admits such squeamishness is a thing of the past, especially as developing countries battle the spread of HIV-AIDS. He says the DHS can identify specifics of a problem, to help governments develop their policies.

Gillespie: We didn’t have an appreciation of how important delaying the onset of sexual behavior would be for HIV-AIDS. And that’s one of the items in the Demographic Health Survey. And in countries such as Uganda, the age of sexual debut has been lengthened by almost two years. Most people feel, and I agree with them, that that’s one of the major reasons why Uganda’s HIV positivity rate prevalence has gone down.

DREW: The surveys are carried out by local health workers at five yearly intervals. They are overseen by USAID partner organizations such as the research company ORC Macro. Dr. Martin Vaessen from ORC Macro recalls how the first survey in Niger, conducted in 1992, was received by the Planning Minister.

Dr. Martin Vaessen: He says, “My God, I look at these data and we are the worst of all the countries since this survey program started! We’re going to have to do something, you know, in order to improve the level of living of our women and children.” And he really never had seen where they stood vis-à-vis other people. In the end, I think one thing these surveys do is they show people where you stand. It’s like a report card.

[The sound of crying babies at a health clinic.]

CATHERINE DREW: Such report cards in sub-Saharan Africa have increasingly tried to help clinics like this one in South Africa, which are struggling to help communities devastated by HIV-AIDS. Dr. Vassen says the surveys now calculate such things as how many orphans will be created by the pandemic, and how many work hours will be lost. Officials estimate the agency has devoted 15 percent of it’s $8 billion budget since 1965 to the survey program. This year USAID will spend around $10 million. That’s a substantial portion to spend on information alone, but USAID’s Dr. Gillespie compares it to the US census. He says host country governments, NGOs, and humanitarian organizations review this unique set of data before making their policies and decisions.

Dr. Akinrinola Bankole, of the Alan Guttmacher Institute of New York, concurs. His group used the data to produce a report on the reproductive health of young people. Dr. Bankole says the report proved very helpful in his native Nigeria, and elsewhere.

Dr. Akinrinola Bankole: Programmers in different countries have told us that it has been very helpful for them in knowing how to understand the need of young people and how to provide for their need.

CATHERINE DREW: USAID officials say one of their main challenges now is accommodating the requests to widen the scope of the surveys even further to include statistics on issues like aging and domestic violence. Requests Dr. Gillespie says they’ll try to accommodate. He says the thirst for information is evidence that the gamble taken 30 years ago to spend significant resources on data collection, has paid off.

Gillespie: I can’t tell you how difficult it would have been to tell the story without the survey data, not just here but in London, in New York, and Paris, etcetera. I mean, this is really something that has had a global impact. To be able to say that the mortality rate in these countries is not ten times higher, but hundreds of times higher than they are in Europe. That’s powerful, that gets people to start saying, “Well we do need to do something.”

DREW: For Common Ground, I’m Catherine Drew in Washington.
Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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