• Toward Gender Equality: Women Farmers Feed the World

    In the developing world, men tend to leave women behind in rural areas as they are employed in the private sector in urban areas.

    Women are expected to grow enough food for their families in a world in which most access to financial and technical assistance is allocated only to men. The critical role women play in feeding the village is often overlooked as it is assumed that men are the farmers not women.

    Women often face many obstacles to farming - from land ownership to seed procurement to a financial system that does not support women.

    In June 2012, world leaders met at a UN Conference for Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro and adopted a resolution  "The Future We Want." The resolution calls for a common global vision for a sustainable future calls governments, NGOs, and IGOS to support a number of gender equality commitments, including supporting women farmers.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     What role does socialization play in determining gender roles and farming?

    2.     What methods and actions should be employed to support women farmers?


  • Drones to Protect the Rhinos in Kruger National Park

    In 1898, the president of South Africa, Paul Kruger, set aside 7,523 sq miles of land to protect the rhino and other wildlife of the South Africa. Today, a very impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals - including some 20,000 rhinos live in the huge tracts of acacia and bushwillow trees in the vast open savannahs and beautiful rivers called Kruger National Park.

    Over 455 rhinos have been killed this year in this world-famous national park.  The rhinos have been poached to meet soaring demand for their horns in China and Vietnam.  Although scientists say rhino horns are made from the same material as your fingernails - and have no proven medicinal properties - many who practice Asian traditional medicine think that the horns to have healing properties.

    Efforts to curb poaching are taking to the air to save the rhino whose horns sell on the black market for about $65,000 - each.

    According to the Guardian, Clive Vivier, cofounder of the Zululand rhino reserve in KwaZulu-Natal province, is seeking funding and permission from the US State Department to buy the state-of-the-art Arcturus T-20 drone to protect the rhinos (click here for the story).  Vivier estimates that each drone would cost roughly $300,000 to keep in the air for two years, making a total of around $9m.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Should the US taxpayer fund the protection of the rhino?

    2.     What other steps may be taken to protect the rhinos in the Kruger National Park?


  • Who should hold the keys to the Internet?

    The Pope is now tweeting. Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has created his own Facebook page. Vladimir Putin wants the keys to the web in his state. At least for now, the Chinese leadership has given in to pressure from bloggers on compulsory censorship software. Digital is changing our global village is changing.

    Last April U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said governments and societies that are open are more likely to be stable and to achieve their targets than governments and societies that are closed and suppress freedoms.

    Above: Customers use computers at an Internet cafe in Taiyuan, China (photo: Reuters).

    Our digitally interconnected global village makes it far more difficult to keep people in the dark. Governments that attempt to keep people in the dark will be risking not only their own security but also the very stability of their societies.

    A new report (here) from the e-governance and access to information team of the United Nations Development Program suggests that Internet and mobile technologies are dramatically reshaping our village.  Mobile phones are bringing about a new wave of democratization as the devices provide access to information and open new channels of communication between people and governments.

    In the history of humankind, no other new technology has been in the hands of so many people in so many countries in such a short period of time. According to the UNDP report the total number of mobile phone subscriptions globally is an astonishing 5.4 billion - in a village with just over 7 billion people (click here for more).

    These little electronic devices are promoting anti-corruption efforts, basic human rights, open and full participation in the electoral processes, an ever increasing civic engagement, access to justice, greater gender equity, and even poverty reduction (click here for the complete report).

    Earlier this month the International Telecoms Union (ITU is a UN organization responsible for coordinating telecoms use around the world) met to update international telecommunication treaties, which have not evolved since 1988, before the introduction of the Internet (click here for more).

    A group of states led by Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates proposed the Internet should be regulated as part of the ITU. The proposed global telecoms treaty would have given national governments control of the Internet. The United States EU's 27 states, and many African nations are firm opposed the proposed treaty.

    The U.S. ambassador to the ITU, Terry Kramer, said the proposed treaty would have given governments "the right to route traffic, to review content, and say that's all a completely national matter", a potentially profound limitation on speech and trade.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     How might telecom treaties and domestic (in-state) legislation hinder the opportunities opened by the Internet?

    2.     Why do you think some leaders might want to prevent full-fledged open government initiatives?


  • How well do you know the world? How well do International Relations Scholars need to know Geography?

    You know Malala Yousafzai, right? You know she is from the Swat Valley in Pakistan? Could you point out Malala's home on a world map? Surveys often find that 18 - to 24-year-old Americans know little about world geography. One National Geographic survey that found that only 37 percent of American college students could find Iraq on a map.

    In the beginning of a course in survey course in international relations professors will often ask students to review maps of the world. Some textbooks will include world maps for student review in the opening chapters.

    Some may think that this is a problem and even call American students "ignorant." I have a different take. If you ask a student to memorize a map of the world, they'll find it boring. Perhaps learning about the world should be done differently?

    Does it really matter if you're good at geography? Do international relations scholars need to know rich countries from poor ones?

    The Guardian has created a cool interactive quiz of geography, world events, and international leaders. Click here if you a ready to quiz yourself with the Guardian's pictures? Click here to play the Guardian's global development games: identify the world's countries and territories; rank them according to GDP (click here).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     In a world with GPS on the phone do students need to be able to locate states on a world map?

    2.     Should geographic literacy be a priority and an important part of understanding and knowing international relations?


  • TIME Runner-Up Person of the Year Malala Yousafzai: Everyone Has a Right to An Education

    In thinking about Malala Yousafzai, I am reminded of this line, "Funny the way it is, if you think about it, One kid walks 10 miles to school, another’s dropping out," from the Dave Matthews song titled "Funny the Way it Is."

    Unknown to those outside her small family and circle of friends in Swat Valley, Pakistan, Malala, stood firm and bravely in the face of evil.

    Malala demanded her right to an education - and was shot by the Pakistan Taliban for standing up for that right.

    Today, she is a global icon and is pictured on the cover of TIME magazine as the 2012 Person of the Year runner-up (click here for more).

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights.

    Drafted in the months after World War II, by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 General Assembly resolution as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. 

    Article 26 of the UDHR states, "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."

    15 year old Malala stood up in the face of known danger - to assert her right to attend school.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do you agree with all or parts of Article 26 above?

    2.     Is the right to an education a fundamental human right?


  • International Migrants Day 2012: Moving for a Better Life

    Would you move for a better life? Today, more than 214 million people are on the move in our global village.

    When she was 7 years old, Maria Lola Melisio, now 18, entered the United States illegally from Mexico with her mother. Maria has a scar on her back from crawling under the border fence.  "We shouldn't have to be embarrassed," Maria says. "It's really not my fault that I came here illegally. I really didn't know anything." Maria says her mother wanted a better life, "so we could have a future" (click here for Melisio's story).  New census data show a sustained drop in illegal immigration, the Pew Hispanic Center (click here). 

    Today, 18 December 2012, is the 12th International Migrants Day. In December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly, in an effort to focus much needed attention on the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day.

    Many states, IGOs, and NGOs use the UN's Migrants Day to share information and promote human rights and fundamental political freedoms of migrants (click here).

    The Census Bureau projects that the U.S. population will gain a total of 41.2 million net new international migrants from 2012-2050. In its 2008 projections through 2050, that number was 65.6 million (click here for the report). President Obama won about 71% of the Latino vote in 2012, compared with Romney’s 27%. 

    Discussion starters:

    1.     What role will the immigration issue play in the US 2016 elections?

    2.     Should migrant workers enjoy the same respect for human rights as citizens?


  • Feminism and International Politics: Women on the World Stage

    Many scholars and even more casual observers have noted that international politics is a man's world.  Even today, few women are seen as primary actors on that stage.  The realm of international politics has been thought to be a man's world.

    Sources tell ABC News and CNN that President Obama has decided that he will nominate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to be Secretary of State (click here).

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a fiery advocate for the empowerment of girls and women. She has focused a significant amount of her time on women's rights and issues.

    John Kerry is a practicing Catholic who has stated that he believes that life begins at conception, but will not legislate faith. Kerry has been a strong supporter of legislation that promotes equal pay for equal work for women.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do you think a Kerry-led Department of State will have a significantly different focus from that of Clinton?

    2.     Do you think the gender of the of Secretary of State makes any significant difference to the world leaders he/she must work with?


  • Give the Gift of Giving and Create Opportunity in our Global Village

    Are you looking for the perfect gift for the person who seems to have it all?

    How about giving a gift of giving to a family in a far off land?

    This would not be a gift to some faceless organization or anonymous person - but rather a specific gift to real person who directly benefits. Your gift is to let your receiver give a gift - to select the person who receives the gift. You would be giving the gift of that beautiful feeling of giving.

    That gift could go directly to Rosenette - a hard working mother of four children - who lives in a poor and underdeveloped state. Rosenette's father taught her how to make a delicious sweet treat made of coconut, sugar, and vanilla called bukayo.

    People come to Rosenette's small one room shop from miles around to purchase her bukayo. Each day she has to turn away disappointed customers, as she simply cannot produce enough of her tasty confections in her small old oven.  She would like to buy a larger oven - but it cost $425 dollars that she just does not have.  All she makes from selling bukayo is spent on purchasing supplies, feeding her family, and paying the rent.

    A key factor in helping people build their own businesses in poor and developing states is helping them gain access to credit. It turns out that providing people in developing countries access to credit creates opportunity in several important ways. As their financial status improves, many other aspects of their lives, their families lives, and the surrounding community are also likely to improve.

    In 1976 Professor Muhammad Yunus, Head of the Rural Economics Program at the University of Chittagong, launched a project to extend credit to the rural poor in Bangladesh. The Grameen Bank Project (Grameen means "rural" or "village" in Bangla language) provides micro loans to those who do not have collateral. Professor Yunus created a banking system for the poorest of the poor based on mutual trust, accountability, participation, and creativity.

    These loans are called "micro-loans" as they are often very small - ranging from $25 to $1000. Micro-loan programs have been extremely successful in lifting people out of poverty. In 2006, Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Grameen Bank.

    In 2004, Matt Flannery and Jessica Jackley created Kiva.org.  Kiva makes it possible for anyone to extend a micro-loan to a person in need anywhere in our global village. Since Kiva was founded in 2005, some 856,522 Kiva lenders have given some $382,666,600 in loans with a staggering 99.00% repayment rate.

    So Rosenette needs a loan of $425 to purchase an oven to make more bukayo and support her family. You need a gift for the person who has it all.  So go to Kiva.org purchase a gift card for that person who has it all and help Rosenette. The person you give the card to will then sit down to their laptop, go to Kiva.org and makes a loan to a Rosenette or which ever entrepreneur they select. Ah, you gave the gift of giving.

    With the demand for her confections so great and a new oven Rosenette will not only pay back her loan, but she will be able to hugely expand sales. Rosenette will be able to provide for her family and even employ other women in her community.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Why do microloans make such dramatic difference in developing states?

    2.     Why do you think that Kiva.org has been so successful?


  • A Right to Play: A Global Village in which Children Play

    Last summer, while flying to London, I sat next to a young American woman (I do no recall her name). As we visited she told me about her work with an NGO called "Right To Play."  She was a soccer player back in the United States and is now working to help girls and boys in one of our global village's poorest countries.  With her soccer skills she was helping children in Ethiopia play. It sounds simple, but her work is to give hope to children who have little - through play. Her job is to help improve the health, build life skills, and foster peace for children living in the Ethiopia by teaching life lessons with soccer.

    In 1989, world leaders created a special convention for the rights of children.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the rights of all children in our global village in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols (click here for the Convention). The Convention spells out the basic human rights that all children have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

    The American soccer player's NGO, Right To Play, is an organization that uses the transformative power of play to educate and empower children facing adversity (click her for more). Johann Olav Koss, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and social entrepreneur, founded Right To Play in 2000 (click here for more).

    Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that, governments shall recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts and all state parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

    Right To Play has programs in: Benin, Burundi, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza), Peru, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda (click here for the Right to Play Facebook page).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do people under 18 years old need special rights and protection that adults do not?

    2.     Do children everywhere have the same rights? Do all children in our global village have the same natural rights - to play, to healthcare, to education, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

  • Change For Good: Supporting Children in our Global Village

    UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, was created at the end of World War II to aid European children who were facing famine and disease. UNICEF was created in December 1946 by the United Nations to provide food, clothing and health care to the children of war-torn Europe.

    Today UNICEF is a strong and active international organization operating in more than 190 countries and territories around the world. UNICEF not only provides aid but also advocates for policy measures that provide children with a good and healthy start in life.

    UNICEF is funded by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments (click here for more www.unicef.org).

    Many airline passengers return to their home states each day with foreign currency in their pockets. Rather than go to the trouble to find a place to exchange it in their home state many take advantage of airline opportunities to donate to UNICEF's Change for Good program.

    Established in 1987, the UNICEF Change for Good program is a fundraising partnership between UNICEF and the international airline industry. Currently nine international airlines support the Change for Good program including easyJet airline, which launched its program in July 2012. Passengers on easyJet flights have donated over $1,300,000 dollars to UNICEF in the spare change and unused foreign currency in just five months.

    In promotion of the "Change for Good" program easyJet has launched a specially painted plane this week. The launch of the plane was celebrated with more than 50 Santa Clauses helping to unveil a branded 'Change for Good' easyJet aircraft.

    Starting tomorrow (12.14.12)and for the rest of the month, easyJet crew members will be dressed in Santa hats to encourage passengers to donate to UNICEF.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Why do Americans seem to so freely give to organizations like UNICEF and at the same time fail to support US AID humanitarian aid?

    2.     Why do you think that NGOs and IGOs have so greatly proliferated in number and have become increasingly influential players in world politics over the past twenty years?


  • Hard and Soft Power: Lessons from Defeating Osama bin Laden's global jihad

    To have power is to have the capacity to do things that affect the behavior of others.

    Above: A still image from a clip of the National Geographic Channel's SEAL Team Six. The film, which depicts the events leading up to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden (here).

    As readers of this blog know, Joseph Nye expanded on this definition of power by defining "soft power." For Professor Nye power is not only defined in military and economic terms, but also is the capacity to influence other nations events through persuasion and attraction, rather than military or financial coercion.

    In this TED Talk video, journalist Bobby Ghosh seems to be making the argument that Navy SEAL Team 6 (hard power) killed the man Osama bin Laden while soft power has ended bin Ladenism.

    David Frum, a former speechwriter to President George W. Bush, calls himself a realist - and fully reject Nye's concept of soft power. For Frum and other realists, soft power is irrelevant and not important for a state, like the United States, that does not have any significant military rivals.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do you agree with Mr. Ghosh, that in the end it was the soft power of public opinion that ended Osama bin Laden's bid for a global jihad?

    2.     What lessons would Mr. Ghosh have us learn from our use of hard and soft power in fighting bin Laden's extremist brand of jihad?


  • Brain Drain: The Migration of the Highly Skilled and Educated

    Immigrants made up nearly one in ten people in the global north in 2010, up by a quarter since 2000 according to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (click here for the report).

    A migrant is a person who moves from one country (or region of a country) to another. People migrate for many reasons. Some are displaced because of violence others are seeking economic opportunities. Employment opportunities in other countries often attract workers.

    An immigrant is a person who travels to a foreign country to become a permanent resident. Migration of this type can, by its very nature, deprive a state or region of some of its most valuable human resources: educated citizens.  A "brain drain" is the migration of highly educated, trained, and skilled people.

    The OECD report provides international comparisons of how well countries are doing in attracting "brains" and on the integration of immigrants once they migrate.

    According to the report, immigrants to many rich countries have generally spent longer in education than their native-born peers. Since 2000 the proportion of recent migrants to OECD countries who have graduated from university has risen five percentage points to 31%; among the native-born population the proportion has risen four percentage points to 29%. States that have succeeded in attracting a higher number of university-educated immigrants have generally implemented immigration policies that actively encourage skilled labor.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     What would be the advantages of attracting immigrants or in keeping them home?

    2.     Why did some states see a decline in the number of well-educated migrants heading their way?

  • Sweatshops and Death in Our Interdependent Global Village: The Real Price of "Always-low" Prices at Walmart

    As you walk into Walmart or Sears to shop for Christmas presents in the coming weeks I would ask you to think about the 112 people (garment workers) who died last week in a fire at a factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh (click here for more). Making cheap clothes for American consumers cost 112 workers their lives. Most of the workers died simply because there were not enough exits for them to get out of the burning factory. Building exits to a factory adds to the costs of your clothing.

    Above: People prepare to bury the bodies of some of the 112 victims of last week's garment factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh (Khurshed Rinku | AP photo).

    Sweatshops have a long and horrible history that is as old as the Industrial Revolution.  The term sweatshop portrays the dangers, harshness, and unimaginable working conditions faced by workers in many parts of the world.

    From an Amazon.com distribution center in the United States (click here) to the Walmart suppliers in China and Bangladesh - workers in sweatshops face hazardous tasks, frequent and serious accidents, extremely low pay, no healthcare benefits, and extremely harsh working environments.

    Of course, Walmart shoppers have an insatiable demand for low cost products and the workers need the employment.  Thus, the existence of sweatshops reflects consumer demand, economic realities, and the values of our interdependent global village. We value cheap products. We do not value the workers or the lives they lead.

    In search of cheap labor, MNCs are exploiting the workers in Bangladesh. The sweatshops of Bangladesh now export about $18 billion worth of garments a year. The workers in these sweatshops are among the world's lowest-paid. Bangladesh government-mandated minimum wage is about $37 a month.

    According the New York Times, a meeting of factory owners, government officials, and NGOs was held in 2011 to discuss factory safety in the Bangladesh garment industry. Walmart officials attended that meeting and according the minutes of the meeting, played a key role in blocking an effort to have global retailers pay more for apparel to help Bangladesh factories improve their electrical and fire safety (click here more).

    According to the minutes of the meeting, which were made available to The New York Times (here), the proposed improvements in electrical and fire safety would have involved as many as 4,500 factories and would be "in most cases" a "very extensive and costly modification." The minutes continued saying, "It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments." In other words, consumers want cheap clothes, MNCs want to profit, and our global village does not value the lives of the workers who must make those cheap clothes in order to eat.

    Since 2006, more than 500 Bangladeshi workers have died in factory fires, according to Clean Clothes Campaign, an anti-sweatshop advocacy group in Amsterdam (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Should Walmart and other MNCs take responsibility for the working conditions in the Bangladeshi factories that produce our clothes?

    2.     Are the sweatshops in our interdependent global village different from the sweatshops in the United States in the early days of the Industrial Revolution?


  • Li mouri bet - What a Stupid Death: Is Healthcare a Human Right

    There are conflicting perspectives on human rights. Human rights are seen by many as basic and fundamental rights that are natural to every human on earth. All people are born with these rights. Universalists or cosmopolitans believe that all people everywhere are entitled to human rights.

    John Locke and Thomas Jefferson were both proponents of natural human rights. All humans, they argued, are entitled to life, liberty, and property.  Of course, a brief look around the world quickly shows that many governments fail to protect or even respect human rights. In some cases, Burma for example, extreme violations have been prevalent.

    Negative human rights are protections of individuals from government. For example, a government does not have the right to torture its citizens. Positive human rights, on the other hand, are the rights of citizens to certain levels of well-being. Positive rights often include education (see Malala), workers rights, and healthcare.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other covenants hold both positive and negative human rights (click here for more).

    In this video Dr. Paul Farmer expressed his belief in the positive human right of healthcare. Dr. Farmer is a founding director of Partners In Health, an NGO that works to provide health care to people living in poverty.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Can we afford and should we provide all humans with the basic positive human right of healthcare?

    2.     Should the wealthy states take on the responsibility of humanitarian interventions in places like Haiti?  


  • Chinese Peoples Daily: Kim Jong-Un 2012 "Sexiest Man Alive"

    China is North Korea's most significant political ally. China provides North Korea with aid and is its most important trading partner. China is certainly holds the most influence over the struggling communist state.  As such it is not unusual to read flattering stories about North Korea and its leaders in the Chinese state-run Peoples Daily news. Such stories of late have been designed to bolster support for North Korea's new young leader, Kim Jong-un.

    Last week however, the People's Daily posted an unusually flattering report - stating that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had been named the 2012 "Sexiest Man Alive." The Chinese Communist Party new source cheered for the Korean leader on its website with a multipage spread of photos complete with supporting quotes from none other than The Onion! 

    "The Onion is proud to announce that North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, 29, has officially been named the newspaper’s Sexiest Man Alive for the year 2012" (click here for complete story).

    The People's Daily editors even posted a multi-page gallery of photos to accompany the report, with photos featuring Kim riding a horse, inspecting troops, and being hugged by female soldiers (click here for more). 

    Yesterday, North Korean officials announced another attempt to launch another long-range rocket later this month. "China ... expressed its concern about the satellite launch plan of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, saying it hopes relevant parties can act in a way that is more conducive to the stability of the Korean peninsula," Xinhua news agency said (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do you think that the People's Daily news service was really this gullible or was it the work of a mischievous reporter and editor?

    2.     Do you think that it is possible that the Chinese reporter was using the Onion's satire to mock and question Kim Jong-un just as others are working to bolster his credentials as a leader?