On September 23, 2011, President Mahmoud Abbas submitted an
application to the U.N. Secretary-General for Palestine's admission as a full
state member of the United Nations. This application is very strongly opposed by
Israel and the United States.
Last year, Palestinian officials began pursuing a new
diplomatic strategy: asking individual countries to recognize an independent
Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. Now they want the UN to admit them as a
full member state. Currently the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) only
has observer entity status.
United Nations recognition would have significant political
implications for the Palestinians and the Israelis. It would allow Palestinians to join UN
agencies and become party to international treaties, such as the International
Criminal Court, where they could take legal action to challenge the occupation
of territory by Israel.
Yesterday, September 29, The European Parliament adopted a resolution
that declared the Palestinian people's "legitimate right to create an
independent state." The members unanimously approved the document during the
European Parliament session.
However, President Obama has sought to prevent this step and
has threatened a veto in the UN Security Council. There have even been calls
(from some members of Congress) for a suspension of U.S. aid to the Palestinian
Authority over the matter. The Palestinians currently receive more than $500
million per year.
The United Nations Security Council agreed Wednesday to send
the Palestinian application for statehood to its admissions committee for
review. The first meeting of that committee, which includes all 15 members of
the council, is set for today (September 30, 2011). Today's review is expected
to be symbolic in the face of a promised U.S. veto.
What status and effect do you expect the
European Parliament resolution to have in the United Nations?
Why does the United States oppose granting
statehood to the Palestinians?
Surya P. Subedi, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of
Human Rights in Cambodia (UN Photo).
From national security to humanitarian relief foreign aid is
allocated to developing countries for many different reasons. Increasingly,
donors allocate foreign aid to very specific areas within developing states -
such as environmental protection, democratization, or the protection of human
rights. NGOs often are used to carry out
the donor's conditions and requirements of aid allocations. In turn, recipient
states are often wary of this form of development aid - some claim that the conditions
placed on such aid is nothing short of a form of neoimperialism.
One way for a recipient government to regulate or control
such donor intervention, with its foreign aid, might be for the developing
country to regulate the NGOs that distribute the aid and services. Currently, the government in Cambodia is
seeking to do just that. The Cambodian government has drafted a law that would
require NGOs operating in Cambodia to register (the law has a very complex
registration process) and gain approval before the NGO could operate in the
More than ten NGOs have written to the foreign secretaries
of state in England, the United States, and Australia seeking donor government
pressure on Cambodia's council of ministers. The letters from the NGOs urge the
donor governments to make it clear to the Cambodian government that, if the
proposed changes are adopted, they will reassess their aid programs and urge
multilateral aid agencies (like the World Bank) to review their development assistance.
Today, a United Nations special rapporteur has called on the
government of Cambodia to change this draft law. NGOs that work in Cambodia
along with human rights groups say the Cambodian law (as drafted and if passed
in its present form) threatens to severely restrict the rights and freedoms
NGOs. Click here for the UN new release.
Of course, donors are frustrated by what they perceive as
attitudes in countries like Cambodia that prevent development - such as
corruption. Because of this frustration, conditionality is often placed on aid.
A tie to aid simply and clearly limits
how a recipient country can use the money.
Cambodia, one of Asia's poorest countries, receives between
$50m and $70m a year from the World Bank. In 2010, United States aid to
Cambodia totaled approximately $70 million for programs in health, education,
governance, and economic growth. Interestingly, Cambodia is increasingly
turning to China for aid and development.
Foreign aid dollars play an important role in countries
like Cambodia. What are the arguments for and against foreign aid allocation?
On balance, is aid allocated for the good of the
donor or the recipient or both? Why do donor states allocate foreign aid?
On Sunday, September 25, 2011, Mama Wangari died. Wangari
Maathia - the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize - died at a
Nairobi Hospital after a long battle with cancer. Most Americans people think
of Ms. Maathai as an environmentalist who planted trees - if they know of her
However, Ms. Maathai's life was about far more than planting
trees. She was indeed an environmental activist but her holistic approach also
served to empower women in Africa and elsewhere. She was a powerful advocate for democracy, women,
and for protecting the earth.
Environmental degradation is a product of the individual
pursuit of private gain. The metaphor of the tragedy of the commons explains
how individuals acting in their own best interest can have a destructive
collective impact. In recognition of this, Ms. Maathai founded the "Green
Kenya's former president called Maathai a mad woman. She was
seen as a threat to the rich and powerful and was beaten, arrested and vilified
for simply planting trees. Maathai believed planting trees could reduce poverty and conflict
and launched a one-woman campaign to reforest Kenya. She hoped to help stop
soil erosion and to provide a source of lumber for homes and firewood for
Maathai distributed seedlings to rural women and set up an
incentive system for each seedling that survived. She encouraged farmers, most of
them women, to plant protective "green belts" to stop soil erosion,
provide shade, which would become a source of timber and fuel.
Mama Wangari's Green Belt Movement has now planted more than
30 million of trees in Africa. Her Green Belt Movement has spread throughout
the world, from Africa, to the United States, to Haiti, and beyond.
Click here to see her speech at the UN.
1. Developing countries such as China and India are rapidly increasing their emissions as their economies have grown. How should the world’s problems be prioritized?
2. Despite people like Maathai expressing concern about the global future, why do so many national leaders fail to make firm commitments to sustainable development?
Poverty and inequality have existed throughout recorded
history, but today the levels of inequality have reached unprecedented levels.
The division in power and wealth between (and within) states comprising the
Global North and Global South poses both moral and security problems. Poor and
failed states are often fraught with terrorism, mass migration and refugee
movements, drug trafficking, and disease.
In order to address both growing poverty and inequality
around the world, it is critical to address not only the results of such
poverty (violence, terrorism, criminality, and drug and human trafficking) but
the underlying roots of these symptoms. When states fail to function, they fail
to provide basic public goods for their populations (including the under-fives).
The people living in failed states are likely to experiences steeply escalating
problems that spill over to the rest of the world.
In September 2000, world leaders came together at United
Nations Headquarters in New York to address the roots of global poverty. They adopted
the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new
global partnership to reduce poverty. The Millennium Declaration set out eight
time-bound goals - with a deadline of 2015 - that have become known as the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Click here for the MDGs.
Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
Achieve Universal Primary Education
Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases
Goal 7: Ensure Environmental
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for
At what point in a person's life do her chances at living a
life beyond poverty begin? Do life chances start with access to education? Does poverty and inequality matter in a
person's life chances?
Reuters Staff Photo
Research released (Lancet.com) last week may indicate a need
to rethink at least the approach to some of the MDGs. The research shows that inequality
between and within populations has origins in adverse early childhood development
and experiences. In short, a child's early biological and psychosocial
experiences affect brain development. Poor nutrition, substantial maternal and
family stress, and poverty affect a child's brain development from the prenatal
period onward. If children are denied basic support in their early years, their
academic aptitude, cognitive development and ability to generate income as
adults will suffer. The Lancet authors
argue, "Unless governments allocate more resources to quality early child
development programs for the poorest segment of the population, economic
disparities will continue to exist and to widen."
What might the moral arguments be for addressing
global under-five early childhood development?
2. Might the economic successes or failures of
developing countries have any effect on the gains or loses from trade and
investment in the United States?
On Thursday, 13 October 2011 the Organization of Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) will host a working group meeting on the international Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign
Public Officials in International Business Transactions. This meeting will
be a consultation with the representatives from the private industry and civil
society (it will be held at OECD headquarters in Paris and will be followed by
a cocktail reception).
The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention establishes legally binding
standards to criminalize bribery of foreign public officials in international
business transactions. The 34 OECD member countries and four non-member
countries (Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, and South Africa) have adopted this
international Convention. Click here for a complete fact sheet on the Convention.
Above, at the OECD offices in Paris, Ms. Melanie Reed (top left), a lawyer with the Anti-Corruption Division of the OECD discusses the Convention with political science students from the United States. The OECD regularly holds working group meetings to
enable the exchange of information and best practices in relation to the
implementation and enforcement of the Convention.
Companies and individuals engage in the bribery of foreign
public officials when they offer, promise or give a bribe to a foreign official
to win advantages in an international business transaction, such as reduction
in taxes or the winning a contract. The OECD reports that every year, millions
of dollars are lost to bribes paid to public officials in exchange for business
Bribery hurts people by allowing the construction of weak
and crumbling bridges, buildings such as hospitals and schools that are
dangerous for the occupants, and food and drugs that do not meet safety standards.
Too few people realize that bribery of officials carries stiff penalties and
that ignorance will not protect companies and individuals from
The US is a signatory to the Anti-bribery Convention and the
OECD is currently working to make sure that private business leaders around the
world understand the Convention. In 1977, the United States Congress passed - and
President Jimmy Carter signed - the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The FCPA prohibits the offer or payment of
anything of value to a foreign official for the purpose of influencing any act
of that foreign official in violation of the duty of that official, or to
secure any improper advantage in order to obtain business. In short, paying money (or anything else) to
a government official in order to do business is illegal under US law.
In 2005, two Houston executives at American Rice, Inc. (ARI),
David Kay and Douglas Murphy, came to fully understand the harsh reality of FCPA
non-compliance. Kay and Murphy had paid Haitian government officials to reduce duties
and taxes on their rice imports.
Kay and Murphy were exporting rice to Haiti in a time of great
political turmoil and rampant corruption in that failing state. At that time in Haiti - and currently in many
other parts of the world - paying government officials to escape obstacles to
business was "business as usual." The paying of bribes was so much
part of routine business in Haiti that Kay actually volunteered the information
that he regularly paid bribes to his company lawyers - explaining that doing so
was just part of doing business in Haiti.
ARI lawyers then informed their board of directors who in-turn
self-reported the bribes to United States Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC). The SEC then launched an investigation into ARI, Murphy, and Kay. Murphy
and Kay were eventually indicted on twelve counts of violating the FCPA and
later Kay was sentenced to 37 months in prison and two years supervised
release, Murphy to 63 months in prison and three years supervision.
Workers unload rice (photo Reuters UK Telegraph).
Currently, the OECD has a three-year initiative underway
that includes a worldwide media outreach campaign as well an outreach to business, political science, and law students to include course materials on foreign
bribery to educate the next generation of leaders about the
Does state sovereignty (the idea that there is
no legal authority above the state) preclude effective international law? Because
state sovereignty places the interests of the state over the interests of the
global community many argue that international conventions such as the
Anti-Bribery Convention do not really matter.
Critics of international law say it suffers from
the lack of a legislative body capable of making binding legal rules. Does the
fact that 38 states have signed the Anti-Bribery Convention indicate at least
the early creation of a law?
Could it be true, as some argue, that the
Anti-Bribery Convention is an instrument of the powerful to oppress the weak
Money and energy flow wherever our attention goes. We spend on the things we value.
Republican presidential candidates, from left, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, businessman Herman Cain, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, stand together before a Republican debate Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
In 2010, the world military expenditure is estimated to have
been $1630 billion US dollars. Military spending continues to grow and has
increased over seventeen-fold in the last decade, a growth rate far exceeding
that of world population, the rate of expansion of global economic output, and
perhaps most importantly the expenditures for public health and welfare. The
United States' national defense budget category is currently just over half of
the United States discretionary budget each year.
On 17 January 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered
his Farewell Address to
the people of the United States. In that speech (click here for the complete
speech) Eisenhower warned of a growing ''military-industrial complex.'' This
"complex" would be a powerful linkage between government and those who profit
from the production of the weapons of war.
Eisenhower warned of the power and interests of the ''conjunction of an
immense military establishment and a large arms industry" in the American
experience and went on to say, "the total influence - economic, political, even
spiritual" would be "felt in every city, every State House, every office of the
federal government" and that "we must not fail to comprehend its grave
On 12 September 2011 at the Republican debate in Florida,
presidential hopeful Ron Paul (R-Texas) spoke passionately about current
military spending and the reach of U.S. military forces around the world today. Paul said, "We're in 130 countries. We
have 900 bases around the world. We're going broke." Ron Paul argues that the U.S. needs to spend
far less of its budget on the military (click here for complete discussion of Ron Paul's statistics).
A U.S. Marine of 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines, carries his second rifle, a machine gun, atop his backpack, as he arrives on foot at a small outpost, Patrol Base 302, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Thursday Aug. 25, 2011. The Marines living in austere conditions at PB-302 exchange fire regularly with Taliban who attack from multiple directions. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In 2010, the United States outlays for 'National Defense'
plus State Department outlays for Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and
International Military Equipment and Training (IMET) amounted to $698
billion. According to the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute, the United States' military spending
accounted for 43 per cent of the world total military spending in 2010,
followed distantly by China with 7.3 per cent, the UK with 3.7 per cent, and
France and Russia with 3.6 per cent.
The "guns versus butter" debate encapsulates the tradeoffs
necessary between military spending and human development and welfare.
While some realists say a state can never spend
too much on its military, others argue that this costs is too high a price to
pay and does not allow for government spending on social welfare and other
needs. Does High Military Spending Lower Human Security?
Supporters of America's high military
expenditure often argue that United States provides global stability with its
high spending and allows other nations to avoid such high spending. Is this a
burden the United States must carry to maintain a peaceful world that is safe
for trade and business?
(Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) A woman cared for her malnourished child in the Dadaab camp.
Anais Nin once said, "we don't see things as they are, we
see things as we are."
In your study of international relations it is particularly
important to check and recheck your worldview. As it is our own view of the
world of politics, problems, and issues that shape how we interpret and understand
events. Through a process known as
cognitive dissonance, we tend to reject information that contradicts previously
acquired images and personal experiences.
It is often very hard for us to let new information reshape older longer
Our world is so complex and often so difficult to understand
that we create mental maps to simplify it.
These maps categorize our understanding of the world - matching what we
see with images and experiences in our memories of past events.
If you were paying attention to international events in the
early 1990s you probably have a mental map of the famine and horror that
unfolded in Somalia. You may even have images of the horrible deaths of
American soldiers. Those old images
could lead the world to watch 750,000 Somalis starve to death in the coming
months. The United Nations is warning that
a drought-induced famine is once-again creeping across Somalia. While thousands
of Somalis have already died, a militant group (the Shabab) is blocking most
aid from the areas it controls. In the next few months three-quarters of a
million people could run out of food.
During the Somali famine of the early 1990s, many donor
states from around the world accepted the need to give food and assistance. Today,
however, many people claim that theft, corruption, and violence are just part
of the Somali history and culture and claim that aid and assistance just does
not work. They argue that the food aid
given in the 1990s went directly and only to the militias, set off conflict
between them, and created a criminal network that made millions from the stolen
Since it is so very difficult to understand the size and
difficulties facing the Somali people - we've created mental records using past
information and images - like those from the movie Blackhawk Down. These long
held images now make up most people's understanding of the Somali famine. These
images might be wrong.
It might be time for a new set of images of Somali, as aid
agencies and workers now have a more complete understanding of the situation
and are better able to practice the of feeding thousands and thousands of
starving people. Yes, the World Food Program and other NGOs are still handing
out food, but they are doing so with individualized food vouchers rather than
the actual food. The vouchers enable hungry people to buy their own food and
supplies. They can purchase exactly what they specifically need and support
local private Somali suppliers.
Do you expect the world's aid donors to step up
and help the Somali people? Or will we sit by while thousands and thousands of
people starve to death?
Do the wealthy of the world have a duty or
obligation to help the people of Somali?
World War II reshaped our world. The changes in the
international community brought about by WWII cannot be overstated. The
victorious leaders of that war knew and understood the devastation and horrors
of world war. They had seen so much death and destruction that they vowed to
make a better world. They agreed that they would not make the same mistakes
that the world leaders had made at the end of World War I. In that fervor to remake
international relations the United Nations (UN) was born. In 1945, fifty-one
countries came together and committed to working together to maintain
international peace and security.
Much has changed since 1945.
In the 21st century, communications, transportation,
technology, and economic interdependence (just to name a few) have reshaped
relations among nations and the peoples of the world. How does an organization,
created in the 1940s, adapt to the new and sweeping changes to the landscape of
current global relations? How does a large bureaucracy with lots of members,
with many different interests, and concerns reform or reshape itself?
Yesterday, September 13, 2011, the UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon embraced (for the first time) one of the changes brought about by
technology. The Secretary-General answered questions submitted directly from
individual citizens from around the world through Facebook, LiveStream, Twitter
and other social media networks on issues ranging from social justice and the
Middle East conflict to poverty and food security.
Interestingly, the first question, submitted in Spanish via
Twitter, asked the Secretary-General when the United Nations would be reformed
to match the needs of the 21st century. Mr. Ban responded by
stressing the complexity and difficulties of decision-making in an organization
numbering 193 members.
"To make this Organization more effective and efficient is
our great challenge and great target," he said. "We've been trying to make this
Organization much more mobile, and efficient, and accountable and transparent."
Where international relations was once the purview of states
only and the actors were state leaders and diplomats, today we find many
individual citizens acting and shaping international politics, issues, and
concerns in ways never dreamed of in 1945.
With so many changes taking place the demands for a reformed UN
organization are ever growing.
With its universal and inclusive membership does
the UN provide a unique platform for international action?
Does the structure and ability of the UN to
provide critical services - peacekeeping, security, and stability - make it an
organization that the world's states should continue to support?
Does knowing that UNICEF vaccinates 40 per cent
of the world's children - saving 2 million lives a year - change your answer(s)
to the above questions?
Imagine you are the administrator of a health clinic in a
poor and developing country. Every morning, people line up ill at your front
door. Some have walked for miles and miles carrying a sick child. Some have diseases that are easily treated
with a drug and others have HIV/AIDS or TB and need daily doses of expensive
medicines. You are operating on a tight
budget of funding from IGOs and NGOs from around the world. The need for drugs
is far greater than your ability to purchase. In making your drug purchases you can select
from expensive brand name medicines or from quality generics.
Affordable, quality medicines are critical to treatment
programs in developing countries. About
80 of the HIV medicines that Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres,
MSF) uses are generics. MSF routinely relies on generic drugs to treat TB,
malaria, and a wide range of infectious diseases.
It is easy to see why all the major treatment providers
(including The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, UNITAID, and
UNICEF) rely on affordable generic drugs for the programs they support.
The first generation of HIV drugs has become far more
affordable over the last ten years as these drugs are now produced in India,
Brazil, and Thailand where they are not patented. The drop in price has helped
in the treatment of more than six million people in developing countries. About
80% of anti-AIDS drugs (92% of drugs to treat children with AIDS) in the
developing world come from these three countries.
This week in Chicago, leaders from the United States,
Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam
are meeting behind closed doors to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership
A leaked draft (click here for a copy) of the United States'
position indicated that the US is seeking an aggressive intellectual property
provisions. The United States is seeking protections for drug companies. The
United States is seeking provisions that effectively delay the introduction of
generic medicines. These provisions include "patent extensions" that extend
monopolies beyond 20 years, "patent linkage," which delays approval of generic
drugs, and expanded "data exclusivity," which restricts access to the clinical
data necessary for generic drug approval.
Oval Office, Sept. 7, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
"The Obama administration is coordinating and deploying
trade policy tools to help reduce potential barriers to access to medicines,
while also supporting innovation and the development of new medicines by the
U.S. pharmaceutical and other health industries," the U.S. Trade
Representative's office said in a paper obtained by Reuters.
TPP negotiators are striving to have an outline of the
agreement in time for the November 8-13, 2011 meeting of APEC leaders in
Do you think that the TPP states should
negotiate these provisions in secret or should the agreement negotiations be
public? Why or why not?
Do you think that the Obama administration is
turning away from public health provisions or protecting the drug company's
Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff). Click here for full article.
As the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks
approaches many are reflecting on the events, the lessons learned, and how we
might have changed as a result of the attacks.
In the semesters and years following deadly attacks, in
which more than 3000 people were killed, enrollment in international relations
courses jumped across the United States as American's sought to understand the
people of societies beyond their own. Immediately, the attacks taught us just
how little we understood about the world outside American borders and focused
our thoughts on a religion and people we'd not even considered before the
In the years that followed 9/11 some Americans came to view
those of the Islamic faith itself as the enemy. Around the country, some
Americans became fearful and intolerant of Muslims, some even vandalized
mosques, and people who just appeared to be Muslim or Middle Eastern were often
harassed or worse.
Immediately following 9/11 and in the years since there have
been several concerted efforts to both educate Americans about Islam and other
cultures as well as bridge the gap between religions. Many colleges and
universities have begun to "globalize" their institutions, thereby giving
students the opportunity to learn about and experience cultures other than
their own. A Pew Research survey (http://pewforum.org/Muslim/Public-Remains-Conflicted-Over-Islam.aspx)
found that college graduates (by a margin of 47% to 28%) expressed favorable
opinions of Islam while those with less education express unfavorable views.
Many spiritual leaders across the country and around the
world have sought to create ties and connections with other faiths and
religions. For example, immediately following the attacks, Rabbi Ted Falcon
called Sheikh Jamal Rahman, a Sufi imam and invited the imam to speak at his
synagogue. Eventually, Rabbi Falcon, Sheikh Rahman, and Pastor Don Mackenzie, held
a series of open and honest discussions about their values and beliefs. These discussions
have inspired a radio show, a pair of books, and worldwide speaking tours (http://interfaithamigos.com).
Leaders such as Eboo Patel (who has started the Interfaith
Youth Core (IFYC) argues that is not enough to be know of and just be tolerant
and accepting of religious pluralism. Patel demands that people push back
against intolerance and stand up as leaders (www.ifyc.org).
While education and spiritual leaders efforts are under way,
these lessons of the 9/11 attacks have yet to change many Americans. Even now
ten years from the attacks, a Pew Research survey found that most Americans say
they know very little about the Muslim religion. Currently, 55% of Americans say they do not
know very much or know nothing at all about the Muslim religion and its
practices. While 35% of Americans say they know some about the religion, only
9% say they know a great deal about Islam. Sadly, these numbers are largely
unchanged from 2001.
Above is General Momcilo Perisic, who commanded the Yugoslav Army during the wars in Bosnia and Croatia in the 1990s.
Over twenty years ago, ethnic conflict erupted in the
former state of Yugoslavia - a multicultural state created after WWI by the
Western Allies. Yugoslavia was composed of ethnic and religious groups of people who had
been neighbors (living side-by-side for generations). But old historical
rivalries turned neighbors into bitter enemies and saw the Serbs (Orthodox
Christians), commit genocide against the ethnic Albanians (Muslims) in Bosnia.
In 1995, in the town of Srebrenica, Serb forces separated civilian unarmed Muslim
men and boys from women and killed about 8,000 en masse.
The Peace Palace, International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Yesterday (Tuesday, September 6, 2011), in The Hague,
Netherlands, the International Court of Justice handed down a sentence against Momcilo
Perisic. Perisic, 67, the former chief of the Yugoslav army, was sentenced to
27 years imprisonment for providing crucial military aid to Bosnian Serb forces
responsible for the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities. Click here to read the full statement by the Court.
Perisic is the first senior official of the former Yugoslav
government found guilty by the war-crimes tribunal. In the mid-1990s, Perisic
was one of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic's closest
allies. Milosevic was being tried on similar charges when he died in custody in
the Netherlands in 2006.
Do war-crimes convictions such as this have real
and significant impact on decision-makers?
It is often said in regard to international law,
"winners try losers." How might this apply (or not) to Momcilo Perisic?
In May 2011, anthropologist and physician, Dr. Paul Farmer
gave a speech to he Harvard Kennedy School of Government graduates. Farmer, who works daily and directly with the
people of Haiti, explained a real and significant problem of only a short-term
outpouring of help in a time of crisis - once the Haiti earthquake disaster
faded from the headlines so did the help and support the Haitians so badly
needed. Farmer argued that we owe it to those who need our help to stick with
them - not for just a brief while - but as long as they need us.
someone," Dr. Farmer said, "is to go somewhere with him or her, to break bread
together, to be present on a journey with a beginning and an end...There's an
element of mystery and openness...I'll share your fate for awhile, and by
'awhile' I don't mean 'a little while.' Accompaniment is much more often about
sticking with a task until it's deemed completed by the person or person being
accompanied, rather than by the accompagnateur." Click here for the speech.
Can NGOs, governments, and individuals "accompany" or "stick
with" those who are in such dire need for the long-term?
Governments around the world, NGOs, and individuals are
today seeking to "accompany" those living in the worst humanitarian crisis in
the world today - in the Horn of Africa, where 12.4 million people are now in
acute need of food assistance.
Last month Dr. Jill Biden lead a delegation of US officials
to a tour of Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp. Biden also met with top
Kenyan government officials including Agriculture Minister Sally Kosgey and
In a speech about the Horn of Africa crisis, Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton stated, "President Obama has announced that in light of
the current crisis, we are making available an additional $105 million in
emergency funding with another 17 million on top of that with 12 million
designed specifically for helping the people of Somalia. That brings the total
U.S. humanitarian assistance to the region to more than $580 million this
year. " Click here for the complete speech.
The crisis extends across parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya
and Uganda. Some areas in the region are experiencing their worst drought in 60
years. More than 10 million people have been affected across the Horn of
Africa. Acute malnutrition has reached 37% in some parts of northeast Kenya and
child refugees from Somalia are dying of causes related to malnutrition either
during the journey or very shortly after arrival at aid camps.
The NGO Care International has worked in Dadaab since 1992
and is distributing emergency food rations, blankets, water containers,
sleeping mats and plastic sheets.
By Natalie Angley, CNNAugust 18, 2011 10:36 a.m. EDT
What percentage of the United States Federal
budget is allocated to foreign humanitarian assistance? Should this number be
increased - why or why not?
Dr. Paul Farmer has witnessed first hand the
outpouring of humanitarian assistance only to see it stop once the crisis is no
longer in the headlines around the world. How can policy makers better
"accompany" those in need?
Around the United States yesterday, nurses marched on Wall
Street, the offices of major federal legislators, and other venues to call for
a Robin Hood Tax - a tax on Wall Street financial institutions to, in their
words, "heal the nation." In major cities (Boston, Chicago, San
Francisco, and Orlando, as well as smaller ones, such as Corpus Christi, Texas;
Bakersfield, California; and Dayton, Ohio) nurses marched to "support a Wall
Street transaction tax that will raise sufficient revenue to make Wall Street
pay for the devastation it has caused on Main Street."
Imagine a global citizen effort to fight poverty on main
streets in countries like the UK, Germany, Spain, France, the United States, as
well as in developing countries around the world. Why tax Wall Street?
In 2009, taxpayers around the world bailed out the banks
and other financial institutions (see derivative instruments). For example, the
US Treasury invested about $200 billion in hundreds of banks through its
Capital Purchase Program in an effort to prop up capital and support new
lending. Today, many around the world
(including American nurses association) are calling for a tax on those very
same financial institutions. More than 25 governments and globally millions of
people are supporting a Robin Hood Tax. So, what is a Robin Hood Tax?
Of course, the tax has different names in different
countries - the Germans call it 'Steuergegenarmut' or 'tax against poverty',
and it is called "La Tasa Robin Hood" in Spain, but they are all
talking about the same tax of about 0.05% on financial transactions like
stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives.
The IMF has studied who will end up paying transaction taxes
and concluded that the tax would in all likelihood be 'highly progressive'. Meaning
that it would fall on the richest financial institutions and individuals around
the world (in a similar way to a capital gains tax).
Of course, most Americans have not yet heard of this tax,
which is being championed largely by civil-society NGOs, President Sarkozy of
France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain, as well
as George Soros and Warren Buffet. Thousands of economists including Joseph
Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, and the Earth Institute's Director Jeffrey Sachs have
endorsed the tax that they say would raise hundreds of billions every year to
fight poverty and climate change.
What interest groups are likely to appose a tax
on financial transactions? Why would a
nurse association march in favor of such a tax?
What are civil-society NGOs and why might they
support a Robin Hood tax?