• UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding the flow of humanitarian assistance to all of war torn Syria

    The Syrian crisis is the most devastating humanitarian crisis our global village is currently facing.

    Reports from the United Nations indicate that both sides are using civilians as a tactic of war.  Horrible human rights violations continue, including massacres, and sexual and gender-based violence against children. The United Nations is specifically seeking to reach out to help civilians caught in this war.

    The refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria desperately need humanitarian assistance. UN distributions to the refugees in Yarmouk came to a standstill for over two weeks.

    The above photo shows residents of the Yarmouk Palestine refugee camp in Syria, as they await a UN food distribution.

    On 22 February 2014, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2139 on Syria demanding, "that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, promptly allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, including across conflict lines and across borders."

    Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resolution but added that it "should not have been necessary" as humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated but allowed by virtue of international law.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     How far should the UN go to bring relief and the badly needed assistance to the Yarmouk refugee camp residents?

    2.     What actions should governments around the world be taking to stop the civilian suffering?

     

  • States in Conflict: Al Jazeera journalists suffer arrest and imprisonment in Egypt

    Just over two months ago, in December 2013, Egyptian state security officers arrested three Al Jazeera journalists.

    Their crime? The reporters were filing news reports for their employer from a hotel suite they used as a makeshift studio.

    According to the New York Times, about 60 journalists have been detained since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi last July (click here for more).

    According to the New York Times, the arrest of the Al Jazeera journalists reflects an intense state-to-state conflict between the Egyptian government and the State of Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera. Egyptian officials have accused Qatar of harboring Islamist leaders, including wanted men, and complain that the Qatar channel provides a platform for Egypt's enemies (click here for more).

    Today, all across social media, Al Jazeera is calling for a global day of action to show solidarity for the journalists imprisoned Egypt. To show your support, join for their campaign (click here http://alj.am/FreeAJStaff).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Will worldwide attention and focus help free the Al Jazeera staff?

    2.     How might the Egyptian or State of Qatar officials work to resolve this problem?

  • Human Rights and US Foreign Policy: Enactment of Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

    Yesterday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, signed a bill into law that imposes harsh sentences (up to life imprisonment in some cases) for homosexual acts in his country.

    "This is a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights," Secretary of State John Kerry said, "Ultimately, the only answer is repeal of this law."

    Above: Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni.

    Kerry went on to say, "For the four years since the bill was introduced, we have been crystal clear that it blatantly violates human rights obligations that Uganda's Human Rights Commission itself has recognized are enshrined in Uganda's Constitution. Today's signing threatens a dangerous slide backward in Uganda's commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and a serious threat to the LGBT community in Uganda."

    In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Monroe saying, "People have a right to be free, and we a right to aid them, as a strong man has a right to assist a weak one assailed by a robber or murderer."

    In December of 2012, Pastor David Dykes of Tyler, Texas Green Acres Baptist Church was in Uganda on a mission trip, when a local reporter asked him about the U.S. threat to pull foreign aid if the anti-gay law was enacted.

    Dykes said, "I think it's not right for our government to put pressure on any government about their moral decisions."

    Above: Rev. David Dykes.

    Yesterday, President Museveni agreed with Reverend Dykes saying, "we never seek to impose our view on others; if only they could let us alone."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Should foreign policy include pressure to conform to accepted human rights law?

    2.     Should the United States withdraw aid allocations from the Ugandan state until they repeal the anti-gay laws?

     

  • A Peace Corps of talented men and women who would foster peace and progress

    This coming week is "Peace Corps Week." This week we will celebrate President Kennedy's establishment of the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961.

    At the University of Michigan in 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy asked the students, "How many of you, who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?"

    The students responded to the President's challenge with a petition signed by 1,000 students willing to serve abroad.

    President Kennedy created "a peace corps of talented men and women" who would dedicate themselves to serving others abroad and making peace in developing countries around the world.

    Peace Corps Volunteers work for progress and peace all across our global village.  

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Has the Peace Corps met President Kennedy's dream of being a significant part of America's history and positive image abroad?

    2.     Does the recent growth of NGOs change the need for US Peace Corps volunteers?

     

  • US Officials Seek Extradition of Captured Mexican Drug Lord

    Joaquin "Shorty" ("El Chapo") Guzman Loera, Mexico's most infamous drug lord, was captured yesterday in Mazatlán, Mexico, 13 years after "escaping" from a high-security Mexican jail (click here for more).

    The high-profile capture of Guzmán, the leader of Mexico's ruthless Sinaloa drug cartel, is being closely monitored by US officials

    Because criminals very routinely fail to recognize state borders states are not always able to enforce their own laws without the help of other states. Governments must rely on an international process of reciprocal cooperation known as extradition, by which one state request a wanted person from another state. Officials in the United States are seeking the extradition of Mr. Guzman from Mexican authorities.

    Above: Guzman is escorted by soldiers at an airstrip in Mexico City February 22, 2014 (photo credit Reuters /Henry Romero).

    When, or even if, Mr. Guzmán is extradited to the United States he will face multiple charges by U.S. authorities.

    "This is the most significant arrest of a drug trafficker in decades," Mike Vigil, the former head of international operations for the DEA, told TIME (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     What roles might the United States be playing in Mexico's drug war?

    2.     What factors might lead to Mexico being willing or unwilling to extradite Mr. Guzman to the United State?

     

  • Globalization: Remittance Flows Around our Global Village

    According to the World Bank, international migrants sent $529 billion back to their home countries in 2012.

    Immigrants in the United States sent the most - sending nearly a quarter (23.3%) of the total $529 billion back to their home countries. India received the most of any state, with immigrants sending home about $69 billion in 2012.

    While $4.5 billion were sent to United States from other countries in 2012 another $123.3 billion were sent from United States to other countries in the same year.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     What does cash flow around our global village say about globalization?

    2.     What might cash flow linkages say about conflict between states with high or low remittances? 

     

  • Refashioning of our world: World Day of Social Justice 2014

    Today, February 20, 2014 is World Day of Social Justice.

    Do you have it marked on your calendar?

    The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice in 2007.

    Social justice is the idea and guiding principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence among the people of our global village.

    According to the United Nations, the principles of social justice promote gender equality, the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants, and seeks to remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.

    Dr. Paul Farmer said, "Our goal is nothing less than the refashioning of our world into one in which no one starves, drinks impure water, lives in fear of the powerful and violent, or dies ill or unattended."

    Discussion starters:

    1. Will you act to promote social justice on this World Day of Social Justice?

    2. Is Dr. Farmer's goal of working toward a truly just world - one mother, one child, one patient, one caregiver at a time - a worthy and or appropriate goal for our village?

  • Global Hunger and Obesity: Funny the way it is, if you think about it

    Our global village faces two oddly juxtaposed problems: obesity and hunger.  In his song "Funny The Way It Is" Dave Matthews sings, "Funny the way it is, if you think about it, somebody is going hungry and someone else is eating out. Funny the way it is, not right or wrong."

    Is it wrong?

    According to the United Nation's World Food Program, one in four of the world's children are stunted from malnutrition.

    On the other hand, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), about 56 percent of adults on earth are getting far too much to eat and are overweight or obese.

    The United States and Mexico sit at the very top of the obesity list with right at 70% of the population overweight.

    According to the (OECD), the United States and Mexico are now the most obese in the developed world.

    What factors push some parts of our global village to be obese while others starve?  According to the World Food Program, 1) poverty, 2) lack of investment in agricultural infrastructure, 3) climate change and weather patterns, 4) war and displacement, and 5) wasted food are all factors leading to 842 million people in the world not having enough to eat.

    Right?

    Wrong?

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Of these five factors leading to hunger which one(s) are directly linked to the behaviors of people in the developed world?

    2.     Which of these factors are we or should or could we develop policies to address?

     

  • Vivienne Westwood's global Climate Revolution supported by stars and photographer Andy Gotts

    Mr. Andy Gotts is a celebrity photographer from London, England. Mr. Gotts has photographed a number of stars in support to Vivienne Westwood's fight to Save the Arctic, part of her Climate Revolution campaign.

    Photograph by Andy Gotts.

    In support of the "climate revolution," Gotts created these black and white portraits of Hollywood actors including Jerry Hall, George Clooney and Chris Martin wearing slogan T-shirts designed by Vivienne Westwood (click here for more).

    Photograph by Andy Gotts.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Given the evidence is so strong against those who deny climate change why do their misinformed beliefs garner such passionate and vocal support?

    2.     Do celebrity campaigns like this one of photographer Andy Gott's help move us toward policy change and action on climate change?

     

     

  • The practice of sport is a human right open to all: 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

    With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics opening today, the Russian police arrested four gay rights activists protesting in St. Petersburg and Google launched its own protest with a new doodle. Google is doing its part to stand for all athletes, gay, straight, or otherwise.

    The Google doodle pulls a quote from the Olympic Charter, "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

    There are seven fundamental principles of Olympism in the Olympic Charter

    1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

    2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

    3. The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world's athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings.

    4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

    5. Recognising that sport occurs within the framework of society, sports organisations within the Olympic Movement shall have the rights and obligations of autonomy, which include freely establishing and controlling the rules of sport, determining the structure and governance of their organisations, enjoying the right of elections free from any outside influence and the responsibility for ensuring that principles of good governance be applied.

    6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

    7. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Is the practice of sport is a human right?

    2.     How should the rest of the world community react to Russian anti-gay laws?

     

  • Transnational and sovereignty issues: chat rooms and the regulation of currency trading

    Imagine that you are a currency trader - specialized in trading the Mexican peso - for a large bank. You sit staring at your three monitors on at your workstation in Singapore or Houston or London.

    You work in the foreign exchange market called "forex," which is our global village's decentralized market for the trading sovereign state currencies. Millions of dollars can be made or lost in a matter of minutes. You need information. You need good information fast - as you will be trading hundreds of millions of dollars today. Your job is to make money for your bank trading for the Mexican peso.

    Currency trading is in part about spotting trends and guessing what will happen to the value of this or that currency. So you are wondering about the value of the Peso and seeking information. Perhaps you think, "Hey, I should create a closed Facebook group or maybe a chat room that will allow my trading buddies from different banks all over the world to share information about trades in ways that benefit our trades."

    The borderless world of finance and the ability to share information has created a regulatory concern for states. Regulators in New York this week launched an investigation into the possible use of chat rooms to manipulate currency markets (click here for more).

    A state's sovereignty over only its currency means that the trading of these currencies has very little regulator oversight. According to Al Jazeera, this week, financial regulator authorities in the United States, Britain, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore have opened investigations into alleged manipulation of foreign exchange markets (click here for more).

    Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, Goldman Sachs and a number of other large banks that the Department of Financial Services regulates are being investigated for manipulating foreign exchange rates.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Perhaps the big banks will act responsibly within these trillion dollar currency trade markers and do not need regulatory oversight?

    2.     Is this yet another transnational issue that erases state borders and calls for global governance?

     

  • A Single Voice on Iran's Nuclear Program: Diplomacy or Sanctions or?

    The Iranian leadership maintains that its nuclear development program is for peaceful purposes - not weapons.

    Last November, the Iranians reached out to Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany in an attempt to conclude a nuclear deal that would at once ease sanctions and satisfy the global security needs of these states.

    In his State of the Union speech, President Obama warned Congress not to send him another set of sanctions for Iran. While he has stated that the road to a deal with Iran will be difficult he intends to give diplomacy a chance to create a real and comprehensive solution. President Obama said, "The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed. If Iran's leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran's leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war."

    In a letter last week to Senator Carl Levin, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed saying, "I have no doubt that this is the time to give our diplomacy the space to work."

    Senator Levin said Clinton's "letter is another strong signal to Congress that we should not take any legislative action at this time that would damage international unity or play into the hands of hardliners in Iran who oppose negotiations."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Is the United States foreign policy stronger or weaker with a unified voice on Iran?

    2.     Should the US trust diplomacy and will there be time to put into place additional sanctions in the future if diplomacy should fail to produce a nuclear free Iran?

     

  • The Elders seek to meet global challenges with ethical and inclusive leadership among the young of our global village

    The Elders have a mission of working toward a "world where people live in peace, conscious of their common humanity and their shared responsibilities" (click here for more).

    These world leaders have several thoughtful and constructive approaches to reaching this noble goal. As outlined in their 2014-2017 Strategic Plan they have adopted three goals with supporting strategies that will form a framework for the organization's activities through to 2017.

    The Elders have outlined these "World Challenges."

    "We live in a world in which:

    1.     Growing inequality is holding back development, as well as leading to civil unrest and conflict.

    2.     A prolonged global financial crisis is shifting attention from international to domestic issues, fomenting nationalism and xenophobia.

    3.     Skepticism and disillusionment with political leadership is widespread.

    4.     Failure of governance at all levels is leaving fertile ground for transnational crime, such as human trafficking, trading in drugs and illicit arms.

    5.     Human rights, gender equality and human development are threatened by rising religious fundamentalism.

    6.     Chronic long-term conflicts remain frozen and forgotten.

    7.     Our inability to tackle climate change threatens to halt or even reverse progress towards poverty eradication.

    With many plans of action outlined to address these challenges I want to bring your attention to one in specific. In order to make steps toward the first goal of a justice and inclusive global community the Elders, will use their influence to promote social and economic benefits of ethical leadership.

    Further they intended to "amplify the voices of and support ethical leaders, particularly among the young, all over the world."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Why focus specifically on supporting ethical leadership among the young?

    2.     What impact might the focus on ethical and inclusive leadership have on the challenges the Elders have outlined?