On the [il]legality of a military intervention in Syria

Since reports started coming out that the Syrian army was using chemical weapons, it’s becoming increasingly likely that there will be some kind of military intervention in Syria by the US, with support from the UK and France, maybe as soon as tomorrow (Thursday). For some background on the alleged chemical attacks and the on-going situation, the BBC has a good overview here. There is also a very useful article outlining military options.

I won’t reiterate what is being said very eloquently elsewhere, so instead, here’s a round-up of various analyses of the legality (or illegality) of a potential military/humanitarian intervention in Syria by the US, the UK and/or France, without UN Security Council approval.

The Legality of a Syrian Military Intervention: Russia, France, and the UK Weigh In” – post by Julian Ku on Opinio Juris

It sounds like the UK and France are both going to need to come up with some international law theory to justify their support for an attack, and the UK seems interested in the “humanitarian intervention” justification.  If the U.S. goes along with this, it would be interesting to see if the “invisible college of international lawyers” will endorse this legal theory.

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France Calls for Action in Syria after Reports of Devastating Chemical Attack

La Jeune Politique reports on the possibility of France intervening in Syria in the aftermath of reports of chemical attacks. Something to follow closely!

France Calls for Action in Syria after Reports of Devastating Chemical Attack.

Prince William wants his son to grow up in the bush … sort of

Prince William is hoping to pass along his love of Africa to his newborn son, Prince George, starting with his son’s nursery. William, 31, told CNN that George’s room will be decorated with an African theme. “I’ll have toy elephants and rhinos around the room,” the new dad said in CNN‘s one-hour special, “Prince William’s Passion: New Father, New Hope.” “We’ll cover it in, you know, lots of bushes and things like that. [We’ll] make him grow up as if he’s in the bush,” he added.

CAR gets brand-new AU peacekeeping mission, no one cares

Two days ago, on August 14, the UN Security Council (UNSC) met to discuss the on-going situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) – which is just getting worse and worse, without anyone paying any attention. Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, in her briefing to the UNSC, describes the overall situation as follows:

The Central African Republic is not yet a failed State but has the potential to become one if swift action is not taken […] If inadequately addressed, this crisis threatens to spread beyond the Central African Republic’s borders and to further destabilize a region already facing significant challenges.

For those unfamiliar with the African continent, CAR is bordered by Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Cameroon – none of which can really afford to have CAR’s conflict spreading across their borders. And within the country, the situation is pretty dire:

All 4.6 million Central Africans had been affected by the crisis and 1.6 million people were in dire need of assistance, including food, protection, health care, water, sanitation and shelter, [Amos] said.  More than 206,000 people had been internally displaced and nearly 60,000 had sought refuge in neighbouring countries.  Many people continued to hide in the bush and remote areas in poor sanitary conditions and without access to basic services or clean water.

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Voluntourism – some personal opinions and resources

Living in Cambodia, I hear from so many well-intentioned people who want to “do good” for a few weeks (or worse, a few days, a few hours …) by volunteering in Cambodia (or other developing countries). There has been tons of great articles and opinion pieces written lately about why this is not necessarily a good thing, so I won’t reiterate why here. That being said, short-term volunteering and “voluntourism” keep growing as an industry so there is a clear need to continue talking about it, as it seems that not enough people are being exposed to the counter-arguments.

In brief, however, I strongly believe (based on my experiences working in a developing country for a local NGO) that short-term (read: less than three months) volunteering is, in the great majority of cases, not a good idea. That being said, I would identify the following as key points to keep in mind when considering volunteering:

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