As NGOs like Partner's In Heath seek to improve the lives of
those who are most in need in our village they often find that medicine alone
is insufficient in helping. Simply providing a clinic without a way to get to
it does not help those who most need it.
Aid agencies - governments, IGOs, and NGOs - seeking to provide needed
assistance must decide how to best help - where to spend the monies.
Above: A group of children near the home of a patient
receiving HIV care in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda. Read more about Partners In Health's
work in Rwanda: http://ow.ly/s1OyM
For decades the United States has focused on strengthening
and democratizing the unstable and weak governments of Africa.
In an Star Tribune's John Rash wrote a piece just
before Christmas (click here) in which he argues that the Chinese are
making better decisions with assistance than the Americans. Rash writes, "America comes with democracy.
The Chinese come with roads."
Rash explains that in Africa the Chinese are focused on
infrastructure projects while the Americans are focused on health care,
education, and democracy.
Are the American and Chinese approaches to
Are the Chinese focused on profit only and
perhaps benefiting from years of US building of stability in the region?
Are we humans learning to get along? Has our global village
gotten more peaceful?
The Dalai Lama's Facebook status today reads, "I feel
optimistic about the future because humanity seems to be growing more mature;
scientists are paying more attention to our inner values, to the study of mind
and the emotions. There is a clear desire for peace and concern for the
Above: the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi after a meeting
in London, England, on June 19, 2012 (photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL).
Professor Steven Pinker is also optimistic. Writing about
the overall human movement toward peace, Pinker has argues, "Human ingenuity
and experience have gradually been brought to bear" driving the worldwide rate
of death from interstate and civil war downward.
In his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Professor Pinker shares the data for this trend. "From
almost 300 per 100,000 world population during World War II, to almost 30
during the Korean War, to the low teens during the era of the Vietnam War, to
single digits in the 1970s and 1980s, to less than 1 in the twenty-ﬁrst
century, the worldwide rate of death from interstate and civil war combined has
juddered downward" (click here for more).
What might some of the reasons be for smaller
percentages of people being killed in war?
Could the optimism be warranted? Might humans be
learning to better handle conflict?
Could a visit by Japanese prime minister to a shrine created
in Meiji era (1869) be an act of aggression?
On Thursday 26 December 2013, Japan's prime minister, Shinzo
Abe, did just that - he made an official visit to a shrine in Tokyo.
His visit prompted a furious response from Chinese and South
While the Yasakuni shrine is a memorial for fallen Japanese
soldiers dating back to the 1860s it is those Japanese war criminals that were
enshrined there in the 1960s and 70s that are so controversial.
In the late 1970s, fourteen "Class A" war
criminals, including wartime leader Hideki Tojo, were honored with
enshrinement. These men ordered and
oversaw Japan's brutal war in China and South East Asia. Many people around the world believe that the shrine wrongly commemorates the 14 men convicted of war crimes after Japan's
World War II surrender.
According to The Guardian, China's foreign ministry said "The
Chinese government expresses strong indignation at the Japanese leader's
trampling on the feelings of the people of China and the other war victim
nations, and the open challenge to historical justice ... and expresses strong
protest and serious condemnation to Japan."
Is it possible the PM Abe is seeking to provoke
China, and that China has reacted just as Abe wanted it to?
As the Japanese and Chinese tensions have flared recently in the South China Sea over the small groups oil rich islands might this visit
have been a shrewd political move?
Through sport states often seek to reshape domestic policy
within other states.
With sport a nation can reach out and touch many people - in
a way that military hardware simply cannot. Sporting events - like the
Olympics - bring people together both within a nation and across borders and
are often used as tools in diplomacy. The 2014 Winter Olympic games to be held in
Sochi, Russia are yet another prime example.
While the Russians are getting ready to host the 2014 winter
games they are also seeking to head off criticism of their human rights
records. This past week the Russian government granted amnesty to the band
members of *** Riot and to the thirty Greenpeace activists who were
protesting drilling in the Arctic (click here for more).
Interestingly, while making these two public relations steps
the Russians have also also ramped up anti-gay laws (click here for more).
The anti-gay policies have generated significant
international protest (click here for more). President Barack Obama has openly
named openly gay athletes to represent the United States in the opening and
closing ceremonies. Tennis champion
Billie Jean King and ice hockey champion Caitlin Cahow are both openly gay athletes
who have identified publicly as part of the ***, gay, bisexual and
How might Billy Jean King and Caitlin Cahow's
attendance at these ceremonies shape the relations between the United States
What human rights signal has President Obama made
with the appointment of this delegation?
The men and women who toil in American National Security
Agency (NSA) have made decisions to cast a wide net in the collection of
information. In the name of national security they targeted a very
comprehensive list of people and organizations.
Partnering with the British intelligence agency the NSA was
collecting data on/from the European Union's competition commissioner, German
public officials including the mobile phone of the German chancellor, Angela
Merkel, and, according to a new report from The Guardian, the heads of IGOs and
NGOs that provide humanitarian and financial assistance around the world (click here for more).
The Guardian is reporting that the NSA was targeting the
United Nations development program, the United Nation's children's charity
UNICEF and even Médecins du Monde, a French organization that provides doctors
and medical volunteers to conflict zones (click here for more).
What might be the reason(s) that the NSA spied
on the leaders of IGOs and NGOs?
What might be the long-range implications of the
NSA's efforts to make the United States more secure?
Can this possibly be true?
The Guardian is reporting that Japan's whaling fleet departed
this week for the Southern Ocean, where it hopes to kill about 1,000 whales
One thousand whales!?
The Japanese claim that the hunt is for 'scientific'
reasons. What scientists could possibly need to kill a sample of 1000 whales
for a study?
In 1986 the International Whaling Commission banned whaling
but allowed research hunts. These hunts are a de facto return to commercial
A clause in the IWC moratorium allows meat from the research
hunts to be processed and sold legally in Japanese restaurants and markets,
The work of the Sea Shepherd - and NGO - has clashed with the
Japanese whalers in many times over the past several years has been credited or
blamed for limited the Japanese whalers to 103 whales last year (click here for
Fortunately, the Japanese public's appetite for whale meat
is declining sharply.
What factors keep the international community
from adequately protecting the whales?
Beyond making donations, what steps can you take
to help protect the whales?
The impact of domestic actors on international relations is
complex. The nexus of domestic and foreign policy is further complicated in a
constitutional democracy. While the United States Constitution divides foreign policy
powers between the President and Congress it is often that those powers
overlap (click here for more).
How much legally can and or should individual members of
Congress shape or even engage in US foreign policy? Is a trip by several
members of Congress a step into the President's Constitutional role? This week, three United States House members - Reps. Michele
Bachmann (R-Minn.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Steve King (R-Iowa) - traveled to the Middle East (click here for more).
Congress members in Tripoli (Photo: Libya TV).
The Libya Herald reports: "Three rightwing Republican
members of US Congress - Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert and Steve King - made
a lighting trip to Libya to assess the situation in the country. All three have
been particularly forthright in their criticism of the US government following
Ambassador Chris Steven's killing at the US diplomatic offices in Benghazi in
September 2012. They accuse the Obama administration of covering up facts in
the case. Last week, Steve King said that the attack in Benghazi was ten times
bigger than Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandals together."
The US Constitution sets important, unique, and overlapping
foreign policy roles for the US legislative and executive branches. The Constitution establishes the President as
the chief spokesperson in all foreign policy.
The President is to direct, conduct diplomacy, and articulate U.S.
While in Libya, Congress members Backmann, Gohmert, and King
met with the General National Congress and with Congress President Nuri Abu Sahmain.
The US Congress does hold the power of "oversight" of US
laws - including foreign policy. With
this oversight power Congress can affect the course of foreign policy through legislation.
Is it appropriate for a small or large
delegation of the members of Congress to travel abroad (even privately) to meet
with foreign heads of state?
Would it be Constitutional for members of
Congress to contradict the official foreign policy of the United States while
meeting with foreign officials?
Sociologist W. I. Thomas wrote, "It is not important
whether or not the interpretation is correct - if men define situations as
real, they are real in their consequences."
Scholars of international relations make interpretations of
global affairs through the lenses of the theory or theories that they select
are true. Practitioners of global
relations also frame their interpretations and actions in the light of their
own educations, understanding, and experiences.
Could it be that scholars and or practitioners in global
relations have defined their world-views in such a way that predetermines the
outcome of all they see and do? For
example, might the scholar who has come to define relations among nations in
realist terms have created the environment that results in the real
consequences of the realist theory?
In short, might the IR practitioner or policy maker's
interpretation of any given global situation cause a real action - have real
consequences - even if that interpretation is incorrect?
Most scholars and practitioners explain global relations
using one or more of the three dominant IR theories: realism, idealism, and
Realists view the world of global relations as a permanent
struggle among self-interested states for power and the limited resources that
support that power. This view may be the most widely accepted paradigm in
Idealists view relations among the people of our global village
through a cooperative paradigm. Idealists interpret global relations in
cooperative and positive terms - not as an unending struggle. Idealists tend to see opportunity for the
coming together and the unity of humankind. The idealist worldview can be seen
in the Zulu phrase "umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu", which literally means
that a person is a person through other people. The philosophy of "Ubuntu" views
the world's people as a community, a common humanity, as all one.
Constructivism, on the hand, is a loose paradigm that builds
on the above quote from W.I. Thomas. Constructivists
see global political relations in terms of accepted images of reality.
What images of reality dominate and why?
What if the realist view of the world were the
only or the predominate view taught to future policymakers?
How might global relations be different if all
future global leaders were taught the constructivist's paradigm and or the
philosophy of Ubuntu?
Should oil companies be permitted to drill in the artic?
Three months ago 30 Greenpeace activists were arrested while
protesting at an Arctic oil platform. The activists were jailed and charged
first with piracy (a silly charge) and then with hooliganism (click here for
more). It looks as if the Russian
government will finally be releasing the activists as the Duma has voted for an
amendment that grants them amnesty.
These Greenpeace activists were striving to bring attention
to the many impacts of drilling for oil in the Artic. It almost goes without
saying, but the impact on on marine life is disastrous.
A report released today by NOAA (click here) finds that dolphins
are suffering due to oil spilled in the oceans. The report details the effects of
oil on dolphins in Barataria Bay. Dolphins are suffering from a higher
prevalence of lung disease and adrenal effects.
The NOAA study found that almost half (48 percent) of the
dolphins sampled in Barataria Bay warranted a "guarded or worse prognosis." The
scientists classified 17 percent as being in very poor or grave condition,
meaning the dolphins were not expected to survive (click here for the full
Above: Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, numerous
dolphins were documented encountering oil, such as those in this photo from
July 2010 (photo from NOAA).
Should we humans move to end the era of offshore
Should world governments - or international law
- prevent oil companies from creeping into the Arctic, where conditions are
much harsher and spilling oil more likely?
There are now over 7 billion of us on this pale blue
dot. With many humans facing real
struggles for survival the world environment and specific endangered species do
not easily rise to the top of the list of urgent priorities. How can we raise
the protection of endangered species (like sharks) to the top of our list?
As anyone who watches Shark Week will tell you, sharks are
mean and scary creatures. But they are now endangered (click here for more).
While sharks are a vital part of our ocean ecosystems they are being over
fished and cut to into pieces for shark fin soup - a delicacy in China. According
to LiveScience, fisheries kill an average of about 100 million sharks each year
(click here for more).
China's authorities recently published a regulation that
explicitly ruled out dishes containing shark fins in official state dinners.
While this is a nice and small step the Chinese did not create this regulation
to protect sharks - but rather to save money as shark fin soup is very
expensive (click here for more).
What domestic factors shape the international
regulation and protections of sharks?
Will the Chinese ban on shark fin soup likely
help in the global fight to protect sharks?
The struggle for human rights is very often a struggle
against the existing, substantial, and entrenched power structure in a state. A state that has denied rights to a people is
often the very reflection of a larger systemic power structure and the norms of
those in power. To fight for human rights in such a state is to fight the
existing status quo. How does one fight the power of the state?
When Martin Luther King Jr. led the fight in the United
States he was leading a fight against the establishment. When Nelson Mandela
led the fight in South Africa he too was leading a fight against established
and entrenched power. Both men were imprisoned for their work.
To fight the existing power structure for human rights takes
great courage (much can be lost in the battle) of both individuals like King
and Mandela as well as organizations.
The world lost a courageous and fearless human rights leader
last week in Nelson Mandela (click here for more). President Carter said, "I am deeply saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. The people of
South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great
leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of
oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of
the world's leading democracies."
Not only does the struggle for human rights rely on the
courage of individual giants like Mandela and King - but also on millions of
unsung heroes (like you). Many
individuals work to create and run very effective human rights organizations
that work day-in-and-day-out to fight for rights of individuals all over our
Today there are several hundred NGOs (Amnesty International
being the best known) that work to promote the rights of humans around the
world. I have written about the work of
The Elders here before. The Elders is an NGO created in 2007 by Nelson Mandela that
works for global peace and human rights.
Much has been written about Mandela in recent
days. While Mandela himself said that he was "not a saint," was it wrong for
the man who promoted human rights to believe in the armed struggle?
Was King's approach of nonviolence superior to Mandela's
belief in armed struggle?
The USS USS Cowpens was forced to come to a "full stop" in
the South China Sea last week to avoid a collision with an aggressive Chinese
Navy ship (click here for more).
The Chinese commander while
in direct conversation (bridge to bridge) with the commander of the USS Cowpens
made a highly unusual and deliberate act of aggression toward the US warship (click here for more).
Tensions are high in the South China Sea over a group of
small-uninhabited islands that are the site of tense disputes between China and
Japan, both of which claim the islands. The Chinese recently imposed a Air
Defense Zone over the islands. The Chinese claim much of the South China Sea as being within its territorial waters, but the Japanese, South Koreans, and the Americans do not recognize that claim.
State leaders have increasingly used "saber rattling" as a
tool in foreign policy. Saber rattling is the threat or implied threat of
Is the USS Cowpens simply responding to the Chinese
Might the Chinese and or American leaders be reacting
to domestic pressure in making the decision to rattle sabers in the South China
Today, Sunday 1 December 2013, is World AIDS Day (click here
Do you often hear people refer to African as if it is a
single country? And do you hear references to "AIDS in Africa" as if the
disease has been uniformly spread and addressed across the vast African
An NGO cofounded by Bono called ONE, works with activists, policymakers,
and political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases across the vast
continent of Africa.
ONE has issued a new optimistic report with data that suggests
that the beginning of the end of AIDS could come as early as 2015, and 16
African countries have already surpassed the tipping point (click here for the
The ONE report suggests that the phrase 'AIDS in Africa' has
become an anachronism. "It's time to
retire the phrase, 'AIDS in Africa'," says Erin Hohlfelder, ONE's Global Health
Policy Director. "Our analysis shows major distinctions between leaders and
laggards, and that a one-size-fits-all approach to tackling AIDS on the
continent does not make sense."
In what ways does it harm the policy discussion
to refer to "AIDS in Africa?"
As the crisis of AIDS subsides, do we run a risk
of lost focus and efforts and resources?