• Is the United States a “good country?” How does one determine a “good” state from a not so good state?

    Is the United States a “good country?” How does one determine a “good” state from a not so good state? Where does my country rank?

    Simon Anholt and Robert Govers, have created a “Good Country Index.” Their index measures how much each of 125 countries contributes to the planet (click here for the complete report).

    Above: The UK ranks 7th in the Good Country Index.

    Anholt and Govers created 125 country balance sheets graded across seven categories, including things like science and technology, world order, prosperity and equality and health and wellbeing. Each of those seven has got five datasets in them. Take for example world order. That includes five data sets representing things like how much each country gives in charity and overseas development, its population growth, and its status of ratification and signatories of UN treaties.

    The authors say they created the index to provide “ordinary people — not politicians” a way to start thinking about whether countries are good or bad (click here for more).

    At the moment all they ever talk about or measure is whether a country is successful. We have fallen into the habit of measuring the performance of countries as if they were islands, as if they had no connection with each other, and as if one country doing well had no impact whatsoever on other countries.”

    “A chicken catches a cold and sneezes in a Chinese village. 20 years ago that would only have been bad news for the chicken and its immediate family; today it threatens the survival of the human species because of globalization. Two small banks fail in rural America. 20 years ago that was no problem except for them and their communities; today it knocks the entire global economic system for six.

    Above: The Netherlands ranks 4th in the Good Country Index.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Does this study do as the authors hope and help start a discussion about what it means to be a “successful” state?
    2. Do we live in an age in which every country, every market, every medium of communication, every natural resource is connected? 
  • Shopping in your global village: slaves working under threat of extreme violence are being used on Thai shrimp boats

    As you walk in the frozen foods aisle at Wal-Mart you should think again before throwing that inexpensive package of shrimp into your cart

    The Guardian has again raised the alarm over slavery in the Thai fishing industry. In an excellent and in-depth piece the Guardian reports (click here) that men are being sold into slavery and forced to work for no pay for years at a time under threat of extreme violence in Asia in the production of seafood. Slaves are being used to harvest shrimp that is sold cheaply in major US, British and other European retailers, such as Wal-Mart.

    The Guardian reporters have established the links and connections of a long and complex supply chain that connects slaves on shrimp boats to your cart in the frozen food aisle at Wal-Mart (click here for the report).

    "If you buy shrimp from Thailand, you will be buying the produce of slave labour," said Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International.

    Although slavery is illegal in every country in the world, including Thailand, some 21 million men, women and children are enslaved globally, according to the Guardian.

    Discussion starters:

    1. What responsibility do you have as a consumer to the men who have been sold like property, forced to work under mental or physical threat, or find themselves controlled by their "employers?"
    2. To what extent does the increased demand from the US consumer for cheap shrimp drive the need for cheap labor/slaves?
  • EU Treaty linked to Cambodian Human Rights Abuses

    International political policies very often change lives for those who are least connected to the actual creation and negotiation of the agreements. In 2001, the European Union concluded an agreement that has had a dramatic and negative impact on the human rights of poor subsistence farmers in Cambodia

    The “Everything but Arms” treaty of the European Union allows all imports duty-free and quota-free into the EU from the Least Developed Countries (with the exception of armaments).

    The EBA treaty has created a “sugar rush” in Cambodia. This sugar rush has attracted powerful investors and the government of Cambodia has set aside millions of acres in three provinces for the production of sugarcane.

    Human rights organizations have reported that more than 12000 people have been forced off their land to make way for sugarcane farms. Homes have been burned to the ground. Thousands of people have been left destitute. Some have been jailed for protesting.

    The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia also concluded in a 129-page report published last September, "there are well-documented, serious and widespread human rights violations associated with land concessions that need to be addressed and remedied."

    Discussion starters:

    1. What are the EU responsibilities for the Cambodian human rights violations?
    2. What might global leaders do to better protect the vulnerable and poor against MNCs and weak states?
  • Despite UN Sanctions Pyongyang continues to focus on missile acquisition and development

    A North Korean propaganda film revealed a newly developed cruise missile, according to Jeffrey Lewis is Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. 

    The missile is believed to be similar to the Russian KH-35 missile, which came into service in 2003 (click here for more).

    While the majority of North Korea's missiles are much larger, longer-range missiles these new missiles are short-range weapons.

    While it does not appear that the North Koreans have successfully manufactured a warhead, most analysts believe Pyongyang is trying to develop nuclear weapons. The United Nations has imposed sanctions on North Korea for Pyongyang’s defiance on nuclear weapons.

    The sale and export by any state would break the United Nations arms embargo against Pyongyang. So where might Pyongyang be purchasing these weapons? There's speculation that maybe the North Koreans obtained their prototype from Moscow or perhaps even Burma.

    Discussion starters:

    1. What role do the United States and or China play in the shaping of North Korea’s foreign policy?
    2. How might the rest of the world help Pyongyang focus policy efforts on the health and progress and health of the North Korean people rather than on weapon development? 
  • The United States and Iran potentially will work together to stop the Isis extremists in Iraq

    For more than ten years the United States has worked to rebuild and stabilize the state of Iraq. In Iraq the US took down a ruthless military regime, rebuilt Iraq’s military, paved roads, built schools, and worked to create an inclusive and stable government.  But all that work seems to be unraveling as Sunni extremists fighters (called Isis) have brutally and violently pushed the nation into a sectarian civil war. 

    The Isis jihadist group has captured Mosul, Tikrit and extensive swaths of Iraqi territory and triggered a new crisis. Reports indicate mass atrocities targeting Iraqi army soldiers and volunteers. Iraq's military has so far proved incapable in the face of the 7000 to 10000 Isis fighters.

    In an interesting change of tone, the US and Iran are now poised to enter into a potentially groundbreaking military cooperation to work together to stop the Isis fighters and stabilize Iraq.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Might cooperation over Iraq significantly alter relations between the United States and Iran?
    2. How might military cooperation between the US and Iran change the nature or efforts of the ongoing nuclear weapons negotiations? 
  • MNCs and Global Interdependence: The US United Methodist Church takes a stand for human rights and divest from G4S

    Last week, the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits members demonstrated an understanding of how their actions (investing) have an impact on others in our global village. The​ US United Methodist Church has followed a decision by the Gates Foundation and instructed ​the​ managers ​of its $20bn pension fund ​to sell all shares in G4S​ (click here for more).​ 

    G4S is a large multinational corporation with operations in more than 120 countries and more than 670,000 employees (click here for more).

    While the UK government is opening an official investigation into the company’s activities in Palestine/Israel the UK based MNC has received many awards: from 100 Most Admired Companies, Fortune to Corporation of the Year, Florida Regional Minority Business Council to the Top 50 Military-Friendly Employer® by G.I. Jobs magazine to General Motors 2013 Supplier of the Year Award and the HR.com Leadership 500 Award 2014.

    The Methodists Church decided to divest from G4S because of the MNCs key role in the Israel’s military occupation and the prison system in which Palestinians are held without trial and subjected to torture. In short, G4S is said to be assisting in human rights abuses.

    “A United Methodist Church fund is divesting from a multinational security firm that activists have criticized for its work in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The church’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is selling its stock in the U.K.-based G4S, which provides equipment and services for Israeli prisons, checkpoints and settlements in the West Bank. The Methodist board, which manages an investment portfolio of $20 billion, has $110,000 in G4S shares, church officials said Thursday.”

    "This is the first time that a United Methodist general agency has included human rights violations related to Israel's illegal settlements and military occupation in a decision to divest from a company," said David Wildman, executive secretary for human rights and racial justice at the church's General Board of Global Ministries. "It's part of our efforts at examining how we are approaching human rights issues and the longstanding Israeli occupation and settlements."

    G4S has publicly stated that it has decided not to renew its contracts to maintain prisons in Israel and the West Bank – in 2017. G4S has also denied any involvement in torture or human rights abuses.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Are those who profit from MNCs who assist in human rights abuses at least indirectly responsible for those abuses?
    2. Is G4S a part of Israel's system of apartheid and colonialism by helping Israel to run prisons where Palestinian political prisoners?
  • United States drones strike militants in northwest Pakistan

    After nearly a six-month break, the United States this week used drone missile strikes in Pakistan. The US Central Intelligence Agency fired missiles at militant hideouts in northwest Pakistan killing 13 suspected militants of the Haqqani network.

    The Haqqani militant organization is believed to have attacked both US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and are believed to have been responsible for holding Bowe Bergdahl, a US prisoner of war recently released in exchange for five Taliban prisoners.

    US officials have said that the Pakistani government and military supported the drone strikes in the past.  But in recent years Pakistani officials have been publicly more and more vocal about their opposition to drone missile strikes. The Pakistani foreign ministry condemns the strikes as a violation of sovereignty.

    The strikes this week were the first since December 2013 as the Obama administration has imposed stricter rules on the use of drones.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Might the Pakistani officials be secretly agreeing with the CIA drone strikes while publicly condemning them?
    2. Might the civilian casualties from drone strikes create further problems for the United States and Pakistan and Afghanistan?
  • Philanthropy and NGOs: Deciding which NGO should receive support is no easy matter

    In 360 BC the philosopher Aristotle wrote, “To give away money is an easy matter in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter. Hence it is that such excellence is rare, praiseworthy and noble.” 

    There are hundreds of thousands of nongovernmental organizations and they vary widely in scope, purpose, and effectiveness. Every year billions of dollars are given to NGOs and charitable foundations, but not all programs are effective.

    So how does a giver decide to whom to give?

    Over the last few years, several college courses have been created to that provide students with the tools, skills, and actual experience of giving to NGOs for effectiveness. Foundations like The Philanthropy Lab have been providing students with the opportunity to distribute significant funds to NGOs.

    Discussion starters:

    1. Do you agree with the Bible verse from Luke 12:48 that “Those to whom much is given, much is expected?”
    2. Is Aristotle correct on the virtues and praiseworthiness of giving?

     

     

  • Is Pepe Mujica a model servant leader or a "veritable freak of nature?"

    The ancient Chinese philosopher and poet Laozi wrote, "A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves." It seems that for Laozi the best leader is one who does not seek the credit, riches, or rewards for her work.

    Ego very often gets in the way leadership. A leader who is free of ego is free to be and do great things. I am currently writing a book about a great man (Governor Bill Ratliff). As I interview those who know him and research his work and life I have become convinced that a great leader is different from other leaders in that he is free (at least for the most part) of ego and takes the role of the servant. Great men have real and lasting impact on society because of what they do - for others. Being focused on others instead of oneself enriches everyone.

    People tend to build all sorts of walls to try to protect themselves from the all too real vulnerabilities of human existence. From the garments we don to our houses and cars to our bank accounts. We tend to believe that things/wealth will bring security in this crazy vulnerable world we inhabit.

    The 79-year-old Pepe Mujica is not such a person. Pepe Mujica is free of needing too much and free of ego.

    Since 2010, Jose "Pepe" Mujica has served as Uruguay's president. Mr. Mujica lives in a one-bedroom farmhouse and donates 90 percent of his salary to charity rejects the notion that he is poor: "Those who describe me so are the poor ones. My definition of poor are those who need too much. Because those who need too much are never satisfied."

    Above: Mujica lives in a small house instead of Uruguay's presidential mansion.

    Belen Fernandez has written a thought provoking piece about leadership, service, and justice (click here for her article). Ms. Fernandez writes, "Amidst the global political class, Uruguay's Jose "Pepe" Mujica looks like a veritable freak of nature."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     What leadership traits should other global leaders learn from Mr. Mujica?

    2.     What do you think allows Mr. Mujica to eschew wealth and ego and truly serve? 

     

  • The GAP and the Struggle for life and dignity in Myanmar

    If you purchase a vest and or a jacket from the GAP's Old Navy and Banana Republic brands you will likely be wearing Burmese made clothes as the weather turns cooler this fall.

    Aung San Suu Kyi said, "The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for life and dignity. It is a struggle that encompasses our political, social and economic aspirations."

    Will the economic aspirations of the Burmese people be helped by the GAP? The US Company will be the first American company to open a factory in the struggling state of Myanmar. The GAP intends to employ over 700 people in its first factory in Rangoon.

    According to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, dozens of U.S. companies are exploring business opportunities in Burma. The following leading U.S. companies are among those that have established operations in Burma: APR Energy · Ball Corp. · Caterpillar · Chevrolet · Chevron · Cisco · Coca-Cola · Dell · DuPont · Ford · Gap · GE · HP · Intel · MasterCard · MetLife · PepsiCo · P&G · Visa · Western Union.

    Myanmar is especially attractive to US firms like the GAP as because the abundant and cheap labor.

    In the last three years, as the Burmese leadership has made steps toward openness and democracy, President Obama has eased the sanctions that had been imposed on the country during its half-century of military rule. The easing of sanctions allows companies from the US and Europe to begin to return to Myanmar.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Will the GAP and other US factories help the Burmese people in their struggle for life and dignity?

    2.     What advice would you give to the executives of the GAP about the working conditions and pay for the 700 people in the new factories they are about to open? 

     

  • Global interdependence: Cambodian garment workers and you

    Our global village is tightly linked. Your life and choices are directly and indirectly linked with those in far off corners of our village. Chances are the shirt you are wearing was made in one of Cambodia's garment factories.

    Last week, the international union IndustriALL and a few major retailers (H&M, New Look and Zara) met with the Cambodian government to discuss better treatment of clothing factory workers.

    Many of Cambodia's 400,000 garment workers have been campaigning for an increase in the national minimum wage and improved conditions. The workers protests and campaigns have been met with detention and intimidation by the Cambodian government. Few trade unions are organized and allowed to operate in Cambodia. The workers are seeking to double the monthly minimum wage to $160 (click here for more).

    According to the Guardian, the Cambodian garment workers have faced brutal action by police. IndustriALL's general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said: "Despite assurances from the government in February, there have since been unprecedented levels of intimidation, violence and a declining respect for the rule of law, which together constitute a grave attack on union and worker rights."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Are global retailers responsible for human and worker rights in Cambodia?

    2.     Did the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 (in which more than 1,100 workers died) change the way you make purchasing decisions?

     

  • The soft power of sport is revealed in the 2014 World Cup

    A World Cup sporting event is never just about who wins on the pitch. Billions and billions of dollars are spent in the host state and around this global event. Global travel increased. Billions of people from all corners of our global village watch the games. People in nations all across the world learn about German coaches and culture, superstars players from Portugal and Nacogdoches, Texas, and witch doctors from Ghana. International relations scholars see soft power at work in many places and forms. As we watch our teams we learn about one another relations among nations...or do we?

    As the national team from Portugal arrives in the United States this week to play two "friendly" matches with Mexico and Ireland the Portuguese are worried about a witch doctor in Ghana and their star player - Cristiano Ronaldo's knee.

    The Brazilian government is concerned about its international business reputation and the threat of thousands of Brazilians who seem likely protest what they see as wasteful government spending for the tournament.

    A witch doctor from Ghana is claiming responsibility for Cristiano Ronaldo's knee injury, which has put the Portugal star's ability to play in question for the 2014 World Cup (click here for more).

    Later this month the Portuguese, Germans, Salvadorans, and the Americans will play each other in Group G at the World Cup in Brazil.

     

    Discussion starters:

    1.     What are the implications of "friendly" soccer matches in international relations?

    2.     International relations scholars have long written about the effects of sport on relations among nations. What effects among nation-to-nation relations might we expect from the 2014 games?

  • Our Global Village as 100 People

    Regular readers of this blog well know that I very often refer to our existence on this planet as a "global village." Thinking of living in a global village better illustrates the close, interdependent, and interconnected nature of our existence. No matter what continent, state, or corner or street we inhabit we all share the very same planet and resources.

    In a similar way, the NGO called the "100 People Foundation" seeks to help us all better understand the complex issues facing our global village by breaking down the numbers from just over 7 billion to a simple 100 person village.  By framing the picture of our global village as a simple 100 people, they hope to make education about global issues more engaging and effective.

    Picture this complex world simply - the world as 100 people.

    If the World were 100 PEOPLE:

    50 would be female

    50 would be male

    26 would be children

    There would be 74 adults,

    8 of whom would be 65 and older

    There would be:

    60 Asians

    15 Africans

    14 people from the Americas

    11 Europeans

    33 Christians

    22 Muslims

    14 Hindus

    7 Buddhists

    12 people who practice other religions

    12 people who would not be aligned with a religion

    12 would speak Chinese

    5 would speak Spanish

    5 would speak English

    3 would speak Arabic

    3 would speak Hindi

    3 would speak Bengali

    3 would speak Portuguese

    2 would speak Russian

    2 would speak Japanese

    62 would speak other languages

    83 would be able to read and write; 17 would not

    7 would have a college degree

    22 would own or share a computer

    77 people would have a place to shelter them

    from the wind and the rain, but 23 would not

    1 would be dying of starvation

    15 would be undernourished

    21 would be overweight

    87 would have access to safe drinking water

    13 people would have no clean, safe water to drink

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Does the picture of our global village as 100 people help your understanding of the global issues?

    2.     Might some issues be under-illustrated or perhaps even exaggerated by the reduction to 100?