Thursday, July 30, 2009

The 2009 Arab Human Development Report

Mark Lynch of the Abu Aardvark mideast blog ( his new blog is here ) writes a great review of the 2009 Arab Human Development report. You can check the original post here or read it below :P.

Grading places

The fifth Arab Human Development Report is a bold intellectual contribution to the Arab world’s deadlocked reform debate. Marc Lynch wonders whether anyone will read it and, if they do, whether its conceptual insights will translate into change.

In 2002, the United Nations Development Programme released the first Arab Human Development Report (AHDR), which ruthlessly enumerated a host of problems afflicting the Arab world – and galvanised debate over the urgency of political, economic, social and cultural reforms. Arabs and westerners alike were transfixed by the team of dedicated, intelligent, and fiercely independent Arab scholars and analysts, and by the candour with which they criticised their own societies.

Seven years later, a fifth AHDR has been released. But it suggests that despite all the public attention devoted to the question of reform since 2002, the deficiencies outlined in the original report have only become deeper and more complex.

The 2002 report became a focal point for debate about Arab reform, widely quoted in both the United States and the Arab world – but for very different reasons. Reading coverage of the report in the western media, one might have been forgiven for thinking that no Arab had ever before spoken or thought about the question of reform. Of course, these discussions had long been ongoing: an avalanche of taboo-shattering Al Jazeera talk shows in the late 1990s and early 2000s confronted issues like the justification for states of emergency, the failures of democratisation and the plague of endemic corruption. Arabs welcomed the 2002 report not because it broke new ground but because it gave substance and international recognition to their long-standing arguments about the need for reform.

The euphoric American reception of the 2002 report was driven in large part by the post-September 11 fixation on the pathologies of the Arab world – and the conviction that it was these woes, not American foreign policy, that were the primary cause of terrorism. The report was received enthusiastically across the political spectrum, but neoconservatives in particular seized upon the delicious spectacle of an Arab-authored report that appeared to endorse their own views. Its findings, one pundit crowed, “lend credence to almost everything brave scholars like Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes have been saying for years”. The report was quickly appropriated to buttress the planks of the Bush administration’s “Freedom Agenda”, from aggressive “democracy promotion” to regime change in Iraq. American policymakers took little notice of the political orientation of the report’s own authors, who shared a widespread Arab distaste for the intolerable status quo but were equally critical of Israel and sharply opposed to the invasion of Iraq and the war on terror.

From the start, the American embrace of the Human Development Report posed political dilemmas for Arab reformists; they argued openly and often about whether to accept American assistance in reform efforts. Sceptics contended that the United States could never be a reliable partner for true reform, because genuine democratisation would necessarily threaten American interests in the region. Others, such as the Egyptian dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim, countered that only the United States had the power to force Arab regimes to change and that its help should therefore be welcomed.

The new AHDR offers a gloomy verdict: the American retreat from democracy promotion after the Hamas electoral victory in January 2006 “has confirmed the worst fears of Arab reformers... from the perspective of outside powers democracy in the region only matters to the extent that it achieves their own security and other goals”.

The new report has already generated a fierce controversy. Mustafa Kamal Sayed, the principal author, abruptly resigned his post and angrily denounced the document shortly before its release, claiming that United Nations officials imposed fundamental changes without consulting the authors. One contributor claims that the chapter on “identity” is devoted to Darfur alone because Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait objected to the report’s treatment of Sunni-Shia conflict. Another complains that the chapter on foreign interventions was relegated to the penultimate spot at the insistence of the United States. Some commentators in the Arab press have further alleged that the report adopts a pro-Israeli perspective. The controversy is highly reminiscent of one which greeted the release of the third AHDR in 2004, when its lead author Nader Fergany blasted the UN for muting the report’s criticisms of the United States in Iraq and Israel in Palestine.

But these criticisms appear overblown. While critics claim that the final version of the report minimises the importance of the American and Israeli occupations, in fact those concerns are clearly evident throughout the report. A long, detailed chapter lays out the devastating impact of occupations on Iraqi and Palestinian civilians, while other chapters brutally catalogue the contribution of the “war on terror” to legitimating and justifying abuses against human security. Few readers could fail to note that the report exposes the inconsistencies of American “democracy promotion”, which combined bold talk about freedom with the continued toleration – even promotion – of human rights abuses in the name of counter-terrorism. It is a pity that the debate about the report has thus far revolved around whether the chapter on foreign occupations is at the beginning or the end.

Because once these political tempests are set aside, the new report makes a bold intellectual and political contribution which could potentially offer a path out of the currently deadlocked Arab reform debate. The authors argue that the problems of human development in the Arab world can be traced to profound human insecurity – “pervasive, often intense and with consequences affecting large numbers of people”. The report casts a wide net, with chapters devoted to seven areas where threats to human security are prevalent: the environment, the authoritarian state, vulnerable populations such as women and refugees, unemployment and poverty, hunger and food shortages, health, and occupation and military intervention.

Authoritarian states are not the cause of all of these problems. But, the report suggests, the obsessive focus on state security and regime maintenance in Arab countries systematically distorts all efforts to address the myriad threats to individual well-being. It therefore calls for moving away from a “state-centric conception of security” to one which focuses on “the security of individuals”. Such a move allows for a clear vision of the direct and indirect linkages between political dysfunction and the other dimensions of human development. And it throws into sharp relief how unlikely it is that the current authoritarian states will, of their own volition, reform in any meaningful way, or create the conditions in which moderate alternatives might emerge.

The litany of abuses and failings detailed in the report could easily have led to a fundamental rejection of state institutions themselves. But the authors recognise that only a state can provide for the security which allows human beings to thrive and prosper, and they pointedly insist that human security and an appropriately conceived state security should be mutually reinforcing. The task is not the abolition of the state but rather its reform into an institution that protects rather than crushes human dignity and opportunity. The report refers infrequently to democracy, focusing instead on the need for a fundamental transformation in the conception of citizenship and the obligations of states to their citizens. Given the limited results of nearly a decade of western efforts to promote democracy in the Arab world, this is a useful paradigm shift.

What emerges is a coherent narrative that links the authoritarianism of Arab states – and the chaos produced by international military interventions – to the failure to achieve acceptable levels of human development. Rather than an abstract discussion of democracy, the report opts for a detailed analysis of the many ways in which security-oriented states violate the security of their citizens. It criticises the abuse of states of emergency and martial law, the violation of the right to life by torture and mistreatment, and the practice of illegal detentions. The report gives particular attention to the problem of executive-branch infringement on judicial independence, and to the threat posed by “security and armed forces that are not subject to public oversight”.

The report is scathing about the corrosive effects of the “war on terror” – showing clearly how Arab authoritarian regimes reconfigured and expanded their repressive power at precisely the time when the Bush administration spoke the loudest about its “Freedom Agenda”. The authors do not need to resort to discussing Guantanamo to make this point brutally clear. They describe the anti-terror laws passed in many Arab countries, in which “imprecision and ambiguity form a threat to basic freedoms”, and note that states have clearly “failed to find the required balance between the security of society and the preservation of individual rights and freedoms”. It is this legacy that Arab reformists – and those in the West who wish to help them – now must confront. The “global war on terror” will not fade so easily away.

The greatest problem with the report, however, is the rather fuzzy, overly broad conception of human security that it employs. Chapters on the environment, the economy, and food are rich with statistical analysis and offer a compelling case for the multifaceted nature of the threats to human security faced by Arab citizens. But such a broad case offers few guideposts for action. The authors seem unable or unwilling to identify which challenges are primary and which are secondary. Why, for instance does the first substantive chapter focus on the environment? Is it because this is the most pressing threat, or simply because this is a way to avoid having the political threats appear first? How can the conflict in Darfur stand alone as the only example of identity conflict? Why, if the Arab region is home to 46.8 per cent of global refugees who live with a sense of “omnipresent danger”, is their plight relegated to the second half of a chapter on “vulnerable groups”?

Unfortunately, the controversies engulfing the report may doom it to irrelevance. Americans may tune out a document that they see as still too critical of their policies or as blaming outsiders for Arab problems, while the Arab reception may be dominated by the allegations that western states intervened to suppress discussion of their role in the region (despite the fact that a full chapter is devoted to such issues). This would be a shame: the report serves a valuable purpose by identifying the tension between state security and human security in the Arab world, and it eviscerates the claims of authoritarian states who propose to provide security in exchange for freedom. For the Obama administration, the report could provide a path toward effective reform strategies that suffer neither the rhetorical fog of the “Freedom Agenda” nor the corrosive underpinning of the “war on terror”.

It is far too late, alas, to take any comfort in the simple fact that these issues are being discussed in reports like this one. There have already been far too many international conferences on Arab reform – and far too little actual reform. Airing the problems facing the Arab world, it is now clear, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for solving them – and the AHDR offers precious little guidance about how that might be done, at a time when it is badly needed.Marc Lynch is associate professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He writes a blog on Arab politics and media for Foreign Policy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Opening up the Mobile Market

The development and growth of the Libyan Telecoms market has been highly stifled by tight government control and the quasi-monopoly that has risen from that control and oversight. A lot of Libyans complain about the bad customer support and low quality of service and have always attributed both to the lack of real competition and there have been many rumors flying around that mention the entry of a third mobile operator into the Libyan market ( we already have two Libyanna and Madar ). Most of the rumors centered around the possibility of Etisalat becoming the third operator; which is the biggest operator in Dubai. Funnily enough when the rumors started Etisalat had just started its operations in Egypt with a Libyan Project Manager :P, I think Libya has a stake in the company or something as Libya has a lot of investments in Dubai. There were even rumors about Q-tel trying to get access into the Libyan market; but it was all just rumors .... at least until now .
According to two reports from the Tripoli Post ( 1 2 )and a report from Reuters there has been a tender for a fixed and mobile license in Libya and the two companies that have submitted a bid thus far have been Etisalat and Turkcell ( third largest mobile operatro in Europe ). Actually an Etisalat executive said that they might spend as much as $500m; which would be, I think, a lot more than what the any of the other operators already in Libya have spent and I'm sure it would create much more jobs and allow a lot more transfer of knowledge in a much shorter period. Not that Libyanna and Madar aren't a huge jump for Libya, given the sanctions and lack of access to any technology made after - I think - 1986; but it's always good to share experiences and knowledge with other people ;).
That being said their might be other bids for the license so I'll probably update the post if anything new pops up. Oh and we still need at least one other new ISP if things are really to improve technologically wise in Libya !

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Equal Rights for Men

Equal Rights for Men ( source )

by Jodi Kasten

There are many, many ways I can think of that women are not yet equal to men. We still only make a fraction of what men do on a per-dollar basis. (76 cents I believe?) We are not allowed into full combat in the military. We are judged on our ability to be mothers and housekeepers before our ability to do our jobs. All of that is real and I am the last person to say there aren’t a million other reasons that women have not yet attained equal status with men.

However, I have a bone to pick with my female counterparts. Feminism is all about each woman having the right to choose her own path. We should be allowed to do whatever we want in this life and not be judged by society’s arbitrary sex roles, right? Absolutely.

What about men? Do they enjoy this right?

Some examples:

Bob and Jane are a middle class couple. They have two children. They get an amicable divorce. There is a custody hearing. Both of them are good parents. Both of them want to be the primary custody holder. Who gets the children? Seriously, every single time, unless Jane lights up a crack pipe in the courtroom she will get physical custody. Bob is expected by society to be happy with every other weekend and two weeks in the summer. Don’t believe me? What would you think if you heard that a woman only saw her children every other weekend and a few holidays? I PROMISE you would think, “What did she do to lose her kids?” But, with men, that’s just the way it goes, right?

What message does it send to men about what sort of fathers they should be when it's made clear by the courts and their ex-wives that their most important contribution as fathers is a timely child support payment?

Even in less weightier arenas men lose out. If you drive by a house with a dying lawn, is your first thought about what a crappy homeowner the WOMAN is who lives there? Doubt it.

How about at work? Women can openly talk in the break room about the hot new guy in Receiving. What kind of pigs are the men who talk about the hot new manager who happens to be a woman? If a woman asks a male co-worker out on a date, the worst that can happen is rejection. For a man, the worst that can happen is the loss of his job and a sexual harassment suit. Is that gender equality?

Women can wander the world and hug every child they see without suspicion. If a woman gathers the neighborhood children together to organize a community garden, she’s a saint. If a man does it, people wonder if he’s a pedophile. Don’t believe me? Imagine you’re in a toy store and a woman shopping alone comments on what a beautiful little girl you have. You are pleased and flattered. You fill in the woman’s story in your head. She’s probably an overworked mother out to buy toys for a birthday or holiday. What about the middle-aged man wandering that same store alone? Wouldn’t it at least cross your mind that he could be a pervert? Of course it would.

It’s completely okay, even applauded, when female writers, comediennes, singers, song writers and talk show hosts make sweeping generalizations about ALL men being stupid, sex driven, lazy assholes. How do we feel about men who say that women are all crazy, hormonal, irrational, ditzy, frigid bitches?

Thousands of men in America today are routinely physically abused by women. What shelter do they show up at with their children and the clothes on their backs? What would it take to get you to believe that a six-foot-tall, 200 pound man is abused by his tiny little wife? But, every single one of us has seen a woman who could easily beat her husband’s ass being smacked around by a wiry little Napoleon-like man. What would you think of a man you heard say, “I am afraid of my wife?”

What a wussy, right?

I must say, I don’t know a single man, NOT ONE, who thinks I am a lesser person because I have a vagina. The men I know see women as mysterious, alluring and even holy. Men are now often the stay-at-home parent. Women have the option of being the sole breadwinner in a way they have never been allowed before in human history. I know my husband would do that for me in a second.

People want what they can’t have. Women are sent the message that any man will sleep with them because sex is all they think about. Sex makes them stupid, right? Men are told that women will “hold out on them.” We all want the unattainable, what we can’t have.

What would you think of a man who told a woman he would give her diamond jewelry if she had sex with him? How is that different than “holding out” on a man because he doesn’t give you jewelry? Or take out the garbage? Or mow the lawn? There should be no "price" on intimacy.

We will only have equal rights as women when we FULLY recognize that each person is a human being, regardless of sex, with the same wants, needs and feelings as everyone else. Sure, we’re hooked up differently. But, how can we expect to be treated equally as women when every man is characterized as Homer Simpson?

One final thought - I was clothes shopping with my almost-12-year-old daughter the other day. We saw t-shirts that said, “Girl Power!” – “Girls Rock!” – “Boys Suck!” – and my personal favorite “Boys Are Great, Every Girl Should Own One!”

I also have an almost-11-year-old boy. If he went to school with a shirt that said “Boy Power!” or “Girls Are Great, Every Boy Should Own One,” how long would he last? I guess it just goes without saying that boys can do anything, including staying silent while girls are brought up in a culture that has swung from female empowerment to male bashing.

I suppose all I really want to say here is that it is wrong to judge any sex as a whole. Men and women are individuals. We all begin as children and children do what is expected of them. If we expect men to be stupid, sex-crazed frat boys, many will comply. If we expect girls to think “Boys Suck,” they will comply.

We do NOT have to stand on the backs of men to get ahead.
We can go forward together.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Judeo-Christian Tradition in the Middle East

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Christian Zionists that U.S. policies in the Middle East must be "firmly grounded" in Judeo-Christian principles.

"Reaching out to the Muslim world may help in creating an environment for peace in the Middle East, but we must insist as Americans that our policies be firmly grounded in the beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which this country was founded," said Cantor (R-Va.), the House minority whip and the only Jewish Republican in Congress, in a speech to the Christians United For Israel annual conference in Washington.

Ahh innocent, peaceful Christians and Jews ................ you just can't beat them !

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Libyan Childhood Memories

I got these in a viral email and I'm sure they'll bring back some great childhood memories to anyone who grew up in Libya or spent any small amount of his childhood years there, so check them out and tell us what you can relate to. ;) .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So why Libya?

Opinion: Newcomer to Tripoli… and I Like It!
By Sophie McBain
22/11/2008 15:16:00 ( source )

"So why Libya?" I am asked for about the three-hundredth time. And I must confess that, for about the three-hundredth time, I am momentarily stumped. Tripoli is not the most obvious choice for a young British girl who is fresh out of university and speaks no Arabic.

I mutter something incoherent about the flagging job market in the UK, my boredom of London and a minor mid-life crisis that came twenty years too early. And yet, if I am still confused about my motives, I have no regrets about my recent move to Tripoli.

Perhaps I had too little time to think things through during my whirlwind last few months in Britain. After the chaotic scramble for a visa, a hasty stuffing of bags and a few rushed good-byes, there was no time left for contemplation.

Before I knew it I was facing the Libyan customs official, peering at him nervously through a blue haze of smoke as he examined my visa, a cigarette dangling precariously from his lower lip. He conversed quickly in incomprehensible Arabic with his colleague and, ever the awkward Brit, I found myself praying that I would not have to face the humiliation of being sent straight back home. But suddenly I was let through.

I had no idea what to expect of Tripoli. A rushed read of the Lonely Planet guidebook had not helped me much. In any case, I have stopped taking guidebooks seriously since one once advised me that 'if you experience a serious earthquake, the best strategy is to curl up and kiss your ass goodbye.'

One thing I had not anticipated was the friendliness and generosity of the people here. To someone who has not yet been to Tripoli, this might sound overly trite. Anyone who doubts that these things make a difference, should visit London. You could easily spend a year living in London and still feel like a stranger to the city.

The British government recently had to put up posters on buses to remind commuters to give up their seats to old people and pregnant women. Rest assured Libyans do not need reminding of such duties.

I have been in Tripoli for just one week and already I feel welcome. I have experienced a myriad of small acts of kindness.

From the people I barely knew who invited me into their homes and plied me with coffee and cake, to the shopkeeper who insisted on carrying my six huge bottles of water home for me and looked embarrassed when I even tried to thank him.

Other newcomers to the city have noticed this too. One friend recounted how she once accidentally left some very expensive electrical equipment in the back of a taxi.

A few hours later, the taxi driver turned up bearing the forgotten goods and apologised whole-heartedly for his delay in returning and for the fact that he’d opened up the bag to see what was inside. In London, this same event would be nothing short of a miracle.

So, I have swapped the bright lights of Oxford Street for wandering around the old city. It is truly refreshing to be able to explore a middle-eastern souq without the constant pressure to buy endless trinkets at "Asda price, spice girl."

In place of evening bar-crawls I go for cappuccinos on the seafront, and I am sure that if they could see how beautiful the beach looks at sunset, my pub-dwelling friends would be jealous. Maybe I will even start enjoying Celine Dion, who is played almost everywhere, but this might take a little longer.

I still need to make a few adjustments to my Tripoli life. I have to learn how to cross roads like a Libyan, so that I don’t spend ten minutes hesitating by the roadside, until a local crosses upstream from me. It would help if I could pronounce my 'ain without resembling a strangled cat and could manage my raa' without sounding like an inebriated Frenchman. Taxi journeys could be a bit easier if I could just remember exactly where I live.

But for all these miscommunications and dodgy directions, I am happy, for the moment at least, to leave London behind.

Friday, July 10, 2009

News Report on the Linux Day in Libya

Even though the event covered in this video is a few months old; but it still provides some insight on some of the technological trends in the country and highlights a different, and mostly under reported, segment of the society. Unfortunately for the non-Arabic speaking it's in Arabic :P.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Don't use Twitter

While we're on the topic of heat, there's this funny post that has been floating around the internet for a while now, check it out below :

And that warning doesn't apply to this post :P.

* just in case anyone is going to get self-righteous on me, yeah I did edit the original post alot :P, and trying to read such small font is really pathetic of you. Edited : Damn it isn't that small .

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hot !!!!!!!!!!!

It's nearly midnight and the temperature is 30 degrees centigrade with 40% humidity, you can literally feel the heat radiating out of the ground and tomorrow's peak is reported to be 41 degrees with 12% humidity. The whole week is going to be in the 40s range ............... #:-S

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kufra a humanitarian outpost

Nicely written article, even though it has as usual some biases; but a good read nonetheless :

Kufra, A Remote Human Settlement in Libya‏ ‏‎ Helps WFP Deliver Aid to ‎Hundreds of Thousands
20/04/2009 15:16:00

By Sophie McBain

The small town of Kufra, close to the Egyptian, Sudanese and Chadian borders in ‎southeastern Libya, is undoubtedly one of the most remote human settlements on ‎earth. Built on an improbable natural groundwater supply in the heart of a virtually ‎impenetrable stretch of the Sahara, the nearest town is over 600 km away. The climate ‎here is unrelenting. Kufra has not seen a drop of rain since 1977.‎

Since 2004, Kufra has also hosted a vast United Nations World Food Programme ‎‎(WFP) operation to deliver essential food aid to Sudanese refugees and internally ‎displaced people in Chad. In 2008 21,700 metric tonnes of food aid was offloaded ‎from ships in Benghazi, 1,300 km away, and transported by truck to Kufra. The road ‎ends 200 km outside of Kufra. ‎

Once in Kufra, the food aid is stored in warehouses to be delivered by desert trucks ‎for the remainder of the journey to western Chad. The mission contributes to the ‎feeding of 250,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad, 180,000 Chadian internally displaced ‎people and 57,000 refugees from the Central African Republic.‎

Moreover, the crisis in Sudan has worsened and the number of refugees is increasing ‎exponentially. This year alone, the refugee population caused by the Darfur conflict ‎has doubled and Jacques Collignon, WFP senior regional logistics officer, estimates ‎that this number may yet increase by another 300,000. To make up for this, he ‎believes that the Kufra mission will have to increase its current output, which ‎currently fluctuates around 5000 tonnes per month, to 8,000 tonnes a month. ‎

The magnitude of these operations is already breathtaking. WFP has 20 hangers in ‎Kufra, each holding 1,300 tonnes of food aid, but some food has had to be stored ‎outside, protected by tarpaulin covers, due to a shortage of storage space. The ‎operation has around 300 trucks in circulation at one time and each truck carries at ‎load of 25-27 tonnes.‎

Photo: WFP has 20 hangers in Kufra, each holding 1,300 tonnes of food aid.

Scaling up operations in Kufra will never prove easy. "People think of the numbers ‎and these are impressive enough, but they don't really take into account the logistical ‎complexity of this operation" Brian Gleeson, United Nations in Libya Resident ‎Coordinator, commented. ‎

The journey from Kufra to Abeche in Chad takes 4-6 weeks to complete; progress is ‎slow when the desert trucks are carrying their massive cargo over shifting desert sand. ‎During this time the drivers must carry with them all the food and water needed for ‎the journey.

There are no more stopping points before Abeche, over one thousand ‎kilometres away. If anything goes wrong with the trucks, and by all accounts this is ‎not a rare occurrence, the drivers must fix the problem themselves.‎

When it comes to navigating through this hostile terrain, however, the drivers excel. ‎Many come from Kufra or Chad and their knowledge of the Sahara is unrivalled. ‎Abdelmenam Saleh Benali, Logistics Assistant at WFP Libya tells the story of when ‎he invited an expert from Egypt to monitor the drivers' abilities.

Somewhere along the ‎route from Benghazi to Kufra, long after the asphalt road has given way to sand, the ‎Egyptian lost his glasses. He didn't notice until his arrival in Kufra at midnight, at ‎which point he gave up all hope of being able to continue the journey fully-sighted. ‎

But a driver offered to pick them up and drove through the other-worldly darkness of ‎the desert at night to retrieve the stranded spectacles. He found the glasses without ‎deviating from his course once. These are men of the Sahara. They know the desert ‎like the back of their hand. ‎

It is not only the geographical landscape that makes the journey so arduous. The area ‎the trucks pass through is extremely politically volatile and often the drivers have to ‎plan their route according to different tribal territories in Chad. ‎

Recently, the Libyan government has provided a free military escort to the Chadian ‎border and from there on the convoy is escorted by Chadian troops. This does not, ‎however, prevent incidents from occurring.

Photo: Brian Gleeson, L, UN Libya Resident Coordinator, and Omar Ali, WFP Program Coordinator reviewing last minute arrangements before the departure of the convoy.

The convoys of up to 100 trucks may be ‎spread out over many kilometres and the military can only ensure a rapid response ‎mechanism, not round-the-clock protection. Abdelmenam Saleh Benali reports that ‎whilst no drivers have been killed, many have to hand over their phones and their ‎money to armed rebels, some of whom are as young as fourteen or fifteen.‎

These are not the only dangers faced along this journey. In early 2008, one young ‎driver was killed by a landmine in South East Libya, close to the Chadian border. The ‎incident happened at night and his horrified companions were stuck to the ground, ‎unable to risk immediately retrieving his body, as Islamic custom requires.

The border ‎areas are filled with landmines, a legacy of the Second World War battles that took ‎place here and the 1970-1980 wars with Chad. The United Nations Development ‎Programme in Libya is overseeing the escalation of the Libyan government's de-‎mining activities, but the risks remain significant. ‎

Interested to hear more about the WFP driver's perspective on this dangerous journey, ‎I head down to the warehouses to interview a few of them as they are making their ‎final preparations for departure. There are two people per truck, a driver and an ‎assistant, and they show me the tiny double bunk installed behind their seats, their ‎home for the next few months.

On the side of their truck a small kitchen arrangement ‎is installed, 'my restaurant' one of them jokes. Some drivers take a sheep with them, ‎tied to the top of the truck, to provide some meat for on the journey.‎
‎ ‎
‎"The desert is insufferable. It is always too hot or too cold. Sometimes there are ‎sandstorms and you sit down to eat your lunch and all you eat is sand. The first time ‎you do this trip is the worst. In the desert you think of nothing. It's OK now, but you ‎think of nothing" one driver, Mohammed, explains. Another driver, Hakim, tells me ‎he has a wife and six children in Kufra. "It's very hard to leave them for this long, but ‎I have to feed them" he explains.‎

Bound together by a shared fate and quite often blood ties, the camaraderie between ‎the drivers is evident. The trucks travel in groups of around five, and the drivers take ‎it in turns to cook and are on hand to provide assistance if one truck breaks down. In ‎the evenings some listen to tapes and dance.

Mohammed is clearly a Francophile, he ‎learnt his French at school in Kufra and speaks it excellently. His favourite artist is ‎Jacques Brel, though his friends prefer Egyptian and Sudanese music, he assures me. ‎

Others enjoy less entertainment. Moatasser says he does little but drive and sleep for ‎the long four to six weeks in the desert. He is surprised when I even ask how he finds ‎his job. "It's the desert, of course it's hard." he replies.‎

So what exactly motivates these drivers to undertake this difficult task? Some of them ‎have never even seen the beneficiaries of their food aid. "But we do hear things" adds ‎Mohammed "sometimes you really get the impression that if you don't get things ‎transported quickly these people will just die." ‎

Others do make it to the camps and Abdelmenam Saleh Benali describes how the ‎drivers are changed by the experience. "At first these guys are in it for the money. ‎They are hard desert people and they are not easily moved, but when they return their ‎mentality completely changes." Hakim tells me he has seen the camps and that's why ‎he keeps working for WFP, even if he could get higher rates elsewhere.‎

There is no denying however, that in a small, isolated town like Kufra, WFP is big ‎business. Omar Ali, WFP Programme Coordinator, estimates that since the launch of ‎WFP operations in Kufra, it has injected over 60 million Libyan dinars into the town's ‎economy. These changes are evident, in the large amount of building work taking ‎place, the proliferation of new shops and supermarkets and the satellite dish on every ‎rooftop, a valued commodity in a country that was long cut off from the outside ‎world.‎
‎ ‎
Indeed, the Libyan government and WFP enjoy a somewhat symbiotic relationship. ‎The government provides the warehouses, a free military escort and a 25% discount ‎on fuel. In return, WFP provides jobs to an area where other opportunities are ‎minimal. ‎

With the crisis in Sudan showing no signs of abating, WFP's operations can only ‎expand. These complex missions have played a critical role in the region and not only ‎for the hundreds of thousands whose survival depends on their success. It has also ‎transformed Kufra from an isolated stopping point for the lonely few who venture this ‎deep into the desert, into a vibrant hub of activity. Amidst a conflict of devastating ‎proportions, WFP's activities represent a noteworthy triumph for humanitarianism.‎