Those concerned with global justice and the welfare of the most vulnerable citizens of the world will agree that there are several reasons to call for an immediate halt to the NATO/French bombs raining down Tripoli. Among the most compelling is that those countries engaged there could use the vast resources spent on death in that theatre, to save lives elsewhere.
1. UN Security Council Resolution 1973 did not authorize foreign forces to take sides in a civil war. Their actions of bombing government troops and weaponry to ease the way for the rebels are illegal.
2. They went in there ostensibly to enforce a no-fly zone. They have knocked out all of Gaddafi's air force planes and air defenses. They have no more need to be there.
3. The bombs are killing and maiming innocent civilians, including women and children and therefore violate the purpose of Resolution 1973.
4. The bombing is laying Tripoli to waste and is creating severe suffering for innocent people. The country is being impoverished. The naval blockage risks starving women and children, especially in the Western part of the country. The longer this aggression continues, the bigger the mess they will cause.
5. Most of the Western media have turned their attention to the threat of famine in the horn of Africa. Whilst this lasts it provides a "window of darkness" within which NATO can do even more atrocious things – step-up the bombing raids and who knows sneak in ground troops or anything it will take to assassinate Gaddafi and his sons.
6. The Libyan problem can only be solved in a just and sustainable manner through political negotiations, nothing else, not even the assassination of Gaddafi and his children will sort it. On the contrary, killing them will make them martyrs and risks dividing the country between East and West or turning Libya into a failed state of the kind of Somalia.
But perhaps even more compelling, in my view, is the urgent need for significant sums of money to save millions of people facing starvation in the Horn of Africa. This is the greatest "innocent civilian protection" task before the world, and calls for the humanity of all, especially those most able to help. This need is urgent and is entirely humanitarian. Although sorting out the political crisis in Somalia, including a government that accommodates all factions is essential for a long term solution to the humanitarian crisis. For the immediate, piecemeal and drip drip aid responses to the calamity unfolding before our eyes will not do.
We need money and lots of it. Mr Ban Kii Moon, the UN Secretary General announced that it will take at least $1.6bn to effectively deal with the problem. Reports from some humanitarian organizations suggest that at most $300mn dollars of this has so far been committed. If Ban Kii Moon's estimates are right, the humanitarian community are still looking for something in the neighborhood of a $1bn to meet the needs of the hungry and the starving.
Unfortunately the countries and governments that we traditionally rely upon to help out in crisis like this are themselves embroiled in serious economic problems and are scraping every penny to give to Greece, Portugal , Ireland and other euro-zone countries to stave off large scale defaults to the banks and the institutional investors. The American government on the other hand has exhausted their borrowing limits allowed by law and are caught up in high stake negotiations with Congress for permission to increase the limit. Unemployment is a serious and growing issue in all mature economies except a few (Germany of example) and the welfare state is severely under stain. These are also the countries leading the war against Libya, with marginal military contribution from some Arab League countries. Additional money is hard to come by.
Fortunately however, money can and should be re-directed. Some put the estimate of the combined daily cost of the Libyan operation to be around $100 million dollars. If there is some truth in that, a ceasefire for 2 weeks should deliver savings close to the remaining $1bn dollars that the UN Secretary General says is needed to save millions from starvation. If the true daily cost of the invasion is much lower say, $50mn a day (which is unlikely), 4 weeks of ceasefire and scale back of operations will deliver sufficient savings to stave off the starvation without the need to scrape for additional resources.
Let's put some of the potential savings in perspective. A former Christian Aid colleague visited me the other day. She was visiting north-east Kenya and Somalia to assess the scale of the humanitarian disaster. I overheard a conversation between her and a BBC journalist. This was about the nature and scale of the assistance that Christian Aid was planning to provide through its partner organization in Kenya, "Northern Aid". Christian Aid was planning to provide 6000 goats as meat to as many households. The cost of a good sized goat in Kenya plus transport to deliver the goat to a starving person in North-eastern Kenya should be no more than $50 per goat. For the 6000 goats Christian Aid needs, they will be looking for $300,000. To raise this money, Christian Aid would be working sleeplessly to encourage ordinary people in Britain and Ireland to make sacrifices by donating. They will be chasing after the British government in particular to re-direct existing aid commitments. But $300,000 is only one-third of the cost of a tomahawk missile. Britain alone may have fired up to 50 of them and the Americans were reported by the New York Times to have ordered 192 of them. Sacrificing one such missile should deliver 18,000-20,000 goats to Christian Aid. To fire these missiles, it costs the British tax payer another $300,000 to fly one tornado bomber from its base in the UK to Libya and back.
Sacrificing one flight should deliver 6000 more goats.
If the coalition of the willing are generous enough and were to agree to donate to Christian Aid up to 10 missiles with the accompanying flight cost savings, we are talking about at least $13million which buys hundreds of thousands of goats – sufficient to make a real difference.
For what I know of Christian Aid, they are one of the boldest campaigning organizations in the UK. May I humbly suggest a theme for the campaign to feed the hungry in the Horn of Africa: "Please NATO, donate a missile for a head of Goats to Save Lives".
I am a Ghanaian development economist, who has been active in international development for over 20 years; as a researcher and lecturer, as an NGO activist and development professional in several parts of the world. Working with others, I co-founded several development organisations around the world, including the Third World Network, ISODEC and the Centre for Public Interest Law in Ghana. Heading the United Nations Millennium Campaign in Africa, till December 2014. I currently head Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), Ghana.