International Relations


International Relations



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UNICEF challenges you to "Live Below the Line" from April 28 to May 2

04-23-2014 9:41 AM with no comments

About 1.2 billion people in in our global village live below the extreme poverty line. That's four times the population of the United States spending less than $1.50 per day on food and drink.

UNICEF challenges you to "Live Below the Line." For five days, April 28 to May 2, you are invited to spend only $1.50 on food and drink per day and use the money saved to make donations to poverty-fighting charities.

Could you do it?

Discussion starters:

1.     Will you to get involved? Why? Why not?

2.     Would your participation help make a difference?




Posted by robert.sterken

The UN Commission on Human Rights has written a letter to Kim Jong-un warning that he could face trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity

04-22-2014 2:41 PM with no comments

According to a United Nations report (click here) the North Korean state has and is continuing to commit a wide array of crimes against humanity against its own people. In a highly detailed report the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights has documented "unspeakable atrocities" are arising from "policies established at the highest level of State."

"The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world," reports the Commission.

 "These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation," the report says, adding that "Crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place."

The UN Commission send a letter to Kim Jong-un, that stated that the Commission is referring the situation to the International Criminal Court "to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for the crimes against humanity referred to in this letter and in the Commission's report."

Discussion starters:

1.     With such "unspeakable atrocities" what actions should be taken by the international community to address the human rights situation in North Korea?

2.     What impact might the UN Commission's letter have on the North Korean leadership?





Posted by robert.sterken

Diplomacy and Connection in International Relations: "If we look deeply at the garbage, we see the rose?"

04-22-2014 1:57 PM with no comments

In 1988 the Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote, "In the West you have been struggling for many years with the problem of evil. For many years, the United States has been trying to describe the Soviet Union as the evil side. Some Americans even have the illusion they can survive alone, without the other half. If we look at America very deeply, we see the Soviet Union.

And if we look deeply at the Soviet Union, we see America. If we look deeply at the rose, we see the garbage; if we look deeply at the garbage, we see the rose. In this international situation, each side is pretending to be the rose, and calling the other side garbage.

Survival means the survival of human kind as a whole, not just a part of it. You cannot leave the job to the governments or the political scientists alone. You have to do it yourself.

Discussion starters:

1.     Do you agree with Thich Nhat Hanh that we are all connected and need one another?

2.     At what level of analysis is this approach to understanding relations among nations?


Posted by robert.sterken

It's Earth Day 2014: What action will global leaders (and you) take?

04-22-2014 1:30 PM with no comments

On this Earth Day scientists from all around the world are warning that our global village is at a turning point. We must make dramatic changes and substantial investments in our environment and our fight against carbon emissions and climate change.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama said, "The overwhelming judgment of science tells us that climate change is altering our planet in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind. Already, longer wildfire seasons put first responders at greater risk. Farmers must cope with increased soil erosion following heavy downpours and greater stresses from weeds, plant diseases, and insect pests. Increasingly severe weather patterns strain infrastructure and damage our communities, especially low-income communities, which are disproportionately vulnerable and have few resources to prepare. The consequences of climate change will only grow more dire in the years to come."

However, budget cuts at the federal United States Environmental Protection Agency have led to fewer inspections of polluting industries. States could, of course, pick up the tab, but many of them are grappling with cuts of their own.

Discussion starters:

1.     How might was promote global action to address climate change?

2.     What tax policy would you like to see put into place to support the EPA and or state efforts to enforce environmental standards? 


Posted by robert.sterken

Climate change: What message(s) would you send?

04-21-2014 10:00 AM with no comments

World leaders will be meeting to establish a new international climate agreement in Paris in December 2015. The Elders are hosting an open discussion tomorrow (Tuesday, 22 April) to listen to you.

If you could send one message to world leaders ahead of the major climate conference in Paris, December 2015, what would it be?

Discussion starters:

1.     What message would you want to share with world leaders about climate change?

2.     What power do young people have in the global climate change conversation? 



Posted by robert.sterken

Diplomats succeed in Geneva in creating "concrete steps" for the Ukrainian crisis

04-17-2014 2:39 PM with no comments

At a meeting of more than seven hours of intense negotiations in Geneva today, the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union agreed to a plan aimed at defusing the conflict in Ukraine.

The foreign ministers agreed to put on hold for now at least additional economic sanctions against Russia.

"All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including antisemitism," the joint statement said.

"All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated."

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry said, "if the US and EU did not see progress, new sanctions would follow."

Discussion starters:

1.     Does it appear that the Russians are concerned about the sanctions being imposed by the United States and others?

2.     Why did the Russians agree to take these steps in Ukraine? 


Posted by robert.sterken

United Nations assist Afghanistan's move to democracy

04-13-2014 12:37 PM with no comments

The Afghani people are facing the challenge of making a democratic transfer of power. Despite rainy weather and threats of violence by the Taliban, more than 7 million Afghans, including women and many young people, voted in polling centers across Afghanistan on April 5.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is an IGO that seeks to connect countries to knowledge, experience, and resources to help people build a better life. The UNDP program is seeking to support the transfer of power by helping the Afghans hold elections that are legitimate.

The April 5th election is a success - in part - by the UNDP as one of its major goals is a project called ELECT II. ELECT II is seeking to help Afghans find solutions to global and national development challenges and to support national electoral institutions and to conduct credible elections.

ELECT II has a budget of US$ 338,157,793 funded by Australia, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

For the first time in Afghanistan's history Afghans voters facilitated the transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another in solid repudiation of the militant Taliban in the conflict-ridden country.

Discussion starters:

1.     What does a successful democracy in Afghanistan mean for the rest of the world?

2.     Is this collective IGO effort in Afghanistan worth the millions being spent?


Posted by robert.sterken

Diplomacy in the Middle East: "Why don't we try one more time?"

04-10-2014 10:04 AM with no comments

Yesterday in Austin, Texas President Jimmy Carter told an emotional story about the near failure of his attempt to broker a historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

Upon taking office in 1977, President Jimmy Carter and many others considered the Middle East the most likely flashpoint for a superpower war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Middle East was highly unstable with Israel at war with its Arab neighbors.

While the Egyptians sought to reclaim the Sinai territory seized by the Israelis in 1967, the Palestinians fought the Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza territories. In a historic ceremony, on September 17, 1978 in Washington the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Jimmy Carter signed the Camp David Accords.

The three leaders agreed that Israel would withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula in stages and agreed to meet further to work to resolve the Palestinian question. They would work toward solutions at a table rather than in war.

President Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in part for this achievement in 2002.

Discussion starters:

1.     Why do you think Israeli Prime Minister Begin changed his mind about the talks after looking at the photographs?

2.      What roles did Carter's focus on detail and the work of Ms. Susan Clough play in this historic peace agreement?



Posted by robert.sterken

Does state behavior and attitude shape outcome of relations among nations?

04-06-2014 12:38 PM with no comments

There is a story of two dogs. Both at separate times walk into the same room. One comes out wagging his tail while the other comes out growling.

A woman watching this goes into the room to see what could possibly make one dog so happy and the other so mad.

To her surprise she finds a room filled with mirrors.

The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him while the angry dog saw only angry dogs growling back at him.

What you see in the world around you is a reflection of who you are.

If we are fearful, we will very soon find many things to fear. 

If we are peaceful, we find peace all around us. 

If we are warlike, we find war and conflict all around us.

Discussion starters:

1.     Does this story of personal outlook work in the world of relations between nations?

2.     Does a warlike nation create its own warlike world?



Posted by robert.sterken

Saber rattling in the South China Sea: The United States sends in two ballistic destroyers

04-06-2014 11:36 AM with no comments

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel did a little saber rattling as he delivered a warning to North Korea and to China on Sunday (April 6, 2014) (click here for more).

Secretary Hagel, in a show of military power, announced that the United States is sending two additional ballistic missile destroyers to Japan to counter North Korea's threats in the region and to send a signal to the Beijing about respecting neighbors.

The American warships are just the latest move by the United States to step up a military presence in the region.

"We must be very careful and we must be very clear, all nations of the world, that in the 21st century this will not stand, you cannot go around the world and redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion and intimidation, whether it's in small islands in the Pacific or large nations in Europe."

Discussion starters:

1.     Is the threat or implied threat of military force by the United States at odds with seeking to promote North Korea and China to resolve the disputes peacefully?

2.     Is Hagel correct in comparing China and North Korea relations within the Asian region with those of Russia and the Ukraine?


Posted by robert.sterken

Climate Change: Will Global Leaders Act?

04-01-2014 7:07 AM with no comments

The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a 2,600-page report assembled by more than 300 scientists on Monday (31 March 2014). The events predicted in the report when taken all together are overwhelming (click here for the full report).

The UN report focuses on the importance of action and the ways in which climate change will affect our global village in coming years. As quoted in the Wall Street Journal, "The key new finding that they're emphasizing is that climate change is being felt by people and not just by polar bears," said Myles Allen, climate scientist at the University of Oxford. 

According to the UN report, "Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger."

As the global food supplies dwindles the scientists expect the poor to be hit the hardest. But that does not mean the rich in the global north will not be affected. All of these changes will create an unstable world.

Discussion starters:

1.     Is it likely (or even possible) for world leaders to do as the report suggest and stave off the worst affects of climate change by move quickly to cut emissions?

2.     Will you and world leaders take up UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's challenge to "innovate, scale-up, cooperate and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement?"


Posted by robert.sterken

Maps of our global village: maps worth thousands of words

03-29-2014 10:44 AM with no comments

The NGO ONE has assembled eight maps of our global village that will probably change the way you look at our planet (

In the above map we see global Internet use.

In the above photo we see the world at night (created from photos from NASA).  

The night shot of our global village shows stark contrasts in access to electricity - especially when comparing the continent of Africa with the global north.

Discussion starters:

1.     How might access to the Internet shape the opportunities for people?

2.     How does the lack of electricity effect health care, or economic growth, or education, or simple safety?


Posted by robert.sterken

As the West considers further action toward Russia some Ukrainian women impose their own sanctions - denying Russian soldiers sex in protest

03-27-2014 3:47 PM with no comments

Many claim that the referendum vote by the people of Crimea to leave Ukraine for Russia is illegitimate.  One group of Ukrainian women are fighting back and urging their countrywomen to "fight the enemy in any way!"

This group (click here for their Facebook page) of Ukrainian women are campaigning to "deny Russian men sex" and selling provocative t-shirts to draw attention to alleged Russian misdeeds in Crimea with attention-grabbing slogan: "Don't give it to a Russian."

The protest shirts sell for just $23 with all of the proceeds going to the "needs of Ukrainian army."

According to a report in Foreign Policy the campaign organizers are saying, "What Russia is doing in Ukraine is terrible, but the world sees their actions primarily through the prism of the pro-Putin propaganda."

Discussion starters:

1.     Given Europe's economic dependence on Russia's oil, will sanctions actually come together and how might that circumvent the situation?

2.     What effect if any might the Ukrainian sex boycott have on Vladimir Putin?



Posted by robert.sterken

MY World: The United Nations global survey for a better world

03-25-2014 9:55 AM with no comments

Government that includes all voices and is accountable to the people is necessary and critical for ensuring more equitable development and for the effective realization of human rights for all across our global village. The United Nations is in the process of developing and agenda for our future and is seeking your thoughts, priorities and views, so that global leaders can act on the will of the people.

The UN "MY World" website includes a survey for all citizens that aims to capture a better understanding of need and desires as they begin the process of defining the new development agenda for the world.

The UN survey asks you to select which six of sixteen possible issues you think would make the most difference in your life (click here for the survey).

The results of the survey will be provided to the UN Secretary General´s High Level Panel for Post-2015 before their meetings in Monrovia, Bali and New York.

Discussion starters:

1.     Do the sixteen issues selected by the UN inclusive of all the important priorities - or did they omit an important issue?

2.     Do the sixteen issues selected by the UN specifically represent the needs and desires of the world's poor and marginalized communities?



Posted by robert.sterken

We are all connected: emotional contagion across global social networks

03-18-2014 10:53 AM with no comments

Our global village is growing ever closer together.

In the mid-1990s Thomas Friedman and others pondered the effects our global connections might have on international relations and conflict. Friedman's idea was that "no two countries that both have a McDonald's have ever fought a war against each other." For many scholars the ever-tightening human and economic bonds would make cooperation more and more necessary.

Above is a map showing global concentrations of McDonalds restaurants in 2012. 

While Friedman's McDonalds bond is significant, a new study (recently published in Plos One) by scholars at the University of California, Yale, and Facebook highlights an even more important connection across our global village.

This study found that moods spread virally through social media all across the globe. "What people feel and say in one place may spread to many parts of the globe on the very same day." This finding implies that "emotions themselves ripple through social networks to generate large-scale synchrony that gives rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals."

As a result, we may see greater spikes in linked global emotions that could generate increased volatility in everything from our political systems to financial markets.

Coviello L, Sohn Y, Kramer ADI, Marlow C, Franceschetti M, et al. (2014) Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks. PLoS ONE 9(3): e90315. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090315

Discussion starters:

1.     How might caring and providing better care for those who are suffering in Bangladesh or Mississippi effect others?

2.     What public policy implications might be drawn from the phenomena of emotional contagion across global social networks?


Posted by robert.sterken

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