• Is the occupied Palestinian territory one of apartheid?

    From 1948 to 1994 the South African government maintained a system of racial segregation called Apartheid (meaning "the state of being apart").  Apartheid (strict racial segregation) was the law in South-West Africa and prevented this territory from making any progress toward self-government.  Under Apartheid rule in South Africa black people were deprived of citizenship and self-determination.

    The discussion about applicability of the apartheid label to Israel has again re-emerged.  According to the Daily Beast, in a closed-door meeting last week the United States Secretary of State John Kerry said that Israel might transform into an "apartheid state" without a two-state solution to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

    According to the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the "crime of apartheid" includes "inhumane acts... committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."

    Kerry said, "A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens - or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     A world leader looking to resolve the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis do you see similarities between South Africa apartheid and the policies and actions of Israel?

    2.     Do you agree with US Senator Barbara Boxer's, tweet saying, "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous?"

  • What does the world think of Russia?

    Does public opinion matter in international relations?

    In a week of heightened tensions and saber rattling, Russian military aircraft flew into Ukrainian airspace and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine detained a team of international military observers. The United States has called on Russia "to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation."

    If global leaders take public opinion into consideration when making foreign policy the Russians may be thinking they need to do a little public relations work. In a new survey by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project opinions about Russia are at best mixed - with those favoring Russia in the minority around our global village.

    The Pew survey found only two states in which more than half those polled gave Russia positive marks: Greece (63% favorable) and South Korea (53%).

    According to the Pew survey, the views of Russia vary significantly by age. Young people ages 18-29 often more likely to express positive views of Russia than people 50 and older.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     What might account for the generational differences in views of Russia?

    2.     How might global attitudes about Russia effect reactions toward the Ukrainian crisis?


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

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

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

    Could you do it?

    Discussion starters:

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

    2.     Would your participation help make a difference?




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

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

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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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





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

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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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


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

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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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


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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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


  • United Nations assist Afghanistan's move to democracy

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

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

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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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



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

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

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

    To her surprise she finds a room filled with mirrors.

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

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

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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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


  • Climate Change: Will Global Leaders Act?

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

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

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

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

    Discussion starters:

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

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