Peacekeeping: The Island Disease

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February 10, 2012:  A lot of the unrest around the world is found on island nations. Let us just consider six of them (the Maldives, Madagascar, Comoros, Fiji, New Guinea, and Haiti). All these are the scene of much unrest but little media attention or international outcry for intervention and peacekeeping.

The latest bit of unrest is in the Maldives, where the first democratically elected president resigned when an attempt to remove corrupt officials sparked demonstrations and the threat of civil war between the army and police. What just happened in the Maldives is not unusual but there will not be a call for peace keepers, or pleas from neighbors for help, or UN permission to invade. That's because these island nations have only fish for neighbors, have small populations, and not much resources to fight over. The world tends to leave these islands to sort out their disputes on their own and at their own pace.

All these places are poor, as islands tend to be. The Maldives, southeast of India, have only 400,000 people. Madagascar, southeast of Africa, has 21 million. Madagascar is an odd place, first visited by humans only 2,000 years ago and home to a wide variety of ethnic groups and cultures. Democracy has led to a rapid turnover in governments, since the various groups have been unable to achieve long-term compromises. The smaller Comoros, off the east coast of Africa, have only 800,000 inhabitants but a similar lack of consensus. Fiji, east of Australia, has 850,000 people, with about half the original Fijians and the rest more recent arrivals from India. Disputes between these two groups have caused years of stalemate and unofficial military rule. New Guinea, north of Australia, has 9.9 million people and is spilt into two political entities (the nation of Papua New Guinea in the east and the Indonesian Papua provinces in the west). Both suffer from a lack of education and economic development and an overabundance (several thousand, actually) of tribal groups who are unable to get along with each other. And then there is Haiti, on the western half of the Island of Hispaniola southeast of the U.S., with a population of 9.7 million and two centuries of independence and bad government. Haiti is currently occupied by UN peacekeepers. This is not the first time and probably won't be the last because the Haitians are still unable to form a stable government.

There are many other islands in need of peace and not likely to see any peacekeepers anytime soon. Isolation has its benefits and burdens as well.

 


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