The Global Citizen
Without a doubt, Nelson Mandela was and will remain a giant in the history of the 20th century. With his passing at the age of 95, it’s important to take a moment and reflect on what he meant to many and the way that we remember him. Mandela wore many hats. He was an activist and revolutionary; freedom fighter or terrorist according to the U.S. government; prisoner and president; and a hero to many, many people.
But no one is perfect. This is true of private citizens just as it is true of those we hold up as heroes. Nelson Mandela was not perfect. He was not a saint. He was a human being, like the rest of us. In his death we should not put him on a pedestal but instead reflect on his successes and learn from his mistakes.
To use a worn out phrase, actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately in national and international politics there are plenty of leaders who have more than enough words but too few actions. It is one thing to advocate non-violent democratic transitions and non-retaliation against bitter enemies. It is quite another to follow through on these words with deeds. And that is the truly unique aspect of Mandela’s legacy.
In November 2013, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the UN Security Council that communal violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) was spiralling out of control. He backed the possibility of an armed UN peacekeeping force to complement the civilian UN staff, the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA).
The UN faces a double task in the CAR. There is the immediate problem of violence among tribal-based militias in the absence of a national army or central government security forces. The militias basically pit the north of the country against the south. In addition, militias from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and segments of the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army use the CAR as a "safe haven" and live off the land by looting villages.
In the absence of a standing UN peacekeeping force, UN peacekeepers would have to be redeployed from the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area also torn by fighting. Moving UN troops away from the Congo however risks the recent progress that they have made on the security situation in recent months.
The longer range task of peacebuilding and creating a national administration which provides services beyond the capital city, Bangui, is the aim of the BINUCA, but its work is largely impossible in the light of the ongoing violence.
Tomorrow at 10 AM, the General Assembly will hold an extraordinary election to fill the Security Council seat rejected by Saudi Arabia. Because Jordan is the only candidate, it will easily win the election; its record in international affairs would make it a solid candidate in any election. Whether winning is good for Jordan is another question.
The day after its election to the Security Council in October the Saudi Foreign Ministry rejected that seat due to the Council’s alleged repeated failures in the Middle East. While the Saudi decision was baffling, and the implications complex, once Saudi Arabia formally declined the seat a special election was scheduled to place a different member state at the Council.
Two days before the close of the COP19 climate conference in Warsaw, hundreds of climate activists left the conference prematurely to protest the lack of progress. This walk-out and the otherwise dismal effort in negotiating a new comprehensive treaty beg the question of how the process could be fundamentally improved.
The UN's framework convention on climate change, adopted in 1992, declares that change in the Earth's climate and its adverse effects are "a common concern of humankind." Yet this overarching perspective is barely represented in the formal UN process. The mission and primary concern of most country negotiators is to pursue vested governmental interests, some of which might not have to do with climate policy at all.
Another flaw in the process is the requirement of consensus agreements rather than majority voting, which places a heavy strain on negotiators to satisfy all involved parties. The Copenhagen Accord of 2009 couldn't be formally adopted because of the opposition of five small countries. That this minority was able to embarrass the main negotiators sparked suggestions that an agreement might be sought outside the UN framework.
The Oxford Research Group has reported that 11,420 children have been killed in the ongoing Syrian civil war. This number is absolutely staggering and yet represents only 10 percent of the estimated 100,000 fatal casualties of the war.
One of the major struggles that criminal justice systems all over the world face is equal application of the law and successfully prosecuting crimes of the powerful. Another is going beyond the mere processing of cases and adequately addressing the rights of victims. Both of these issues come into play at the Assembly of State Parties (ASP), which is currently meeting in The Hague for its 12th Assembly.
The ASP is responsible for the oversight and management of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Kenya features prominently in this year's discussion, due to the government's attempts to seek impunity for President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto. Both are facing charges of crimes against humanity for their role in the 2007 post-election violence.
We give thanks on Thanksgiving, take advantage of deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday - on #GivingTuesday, we generously give back to the world. We cannot be thankful enough or give enough. So, here's why I am thankful:
I'm thankful to live in a time and place where food is abundant and we can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.
Let us find a way to wisely share our bounty with the almost billion people worldwide who go to sleep hungry and the 19 million children who suffer from acute malnutrition, which kills 3.5 million a year.
I give thanks for shelter that is warm and accessible.
That is the outcome of Sunday's negotiations between Iran and six global powers this past week. During this hiatus, Iran will not enrich uranium past 20% which is the threshold that makes the process of accumulating fuel for a weapon much faster. It also will not produce any more centrifuges, its stockpiles of uranium shall not exceed 7,154 kg (its current stockpile), and any uranium enriched to 20% or more must be diluted or converted below 5%. These stipulations are intended to freeze any progress and provide oversight on their nuclear program, ensuring that any attempt to pursue a nuclear weapon would be promptly detected.
When in his Nobel Peace Prize address (1974), Sean MacBride (1904-1988) cited torture along with the development and acceptance of indiscriminate nuclear weapons, the use of chemical weapons, and political assassination as signs of a "near total collapse of public and private morality in practically every sector of human relationship", he stressed his central theme: the necessity of nongovernmental actions to ensure survival.
Although MacBride had served as the Irish Foreign Minister from 1948 to 1951 and played an important role in the creation of the Council of Europe, it was as a non-governmental organization leader that he made his full mark: as an early chair of the Amnesty International Executive Committee (1961-1974), as Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists (1963-1970) and as chair of the International Peace Bureau. It was in his efforts to highlight the wide use of torture that we started to work together in Geneva. He denounced torture techniques "that make the medieval thumb screw and rack look like children's toys".
He was particularly critical of torture and violence against women. He had been largely raised by his mother, the actress and Irish nationalist Maud Gonne. His father, John MacBride was hanged by the British for his participation in the 1916 Easter uprising when Sean was 12. Violence against women was doubly unjust: because it was violence and because women were to be respected.
Time is running out for countries to forge a new global agreement to address climate change. The intent of the COP19, this year’s meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland, was to lay the foundation of a new agreement. The hope was that then, world leaders would commit to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at a UN Climate Summit in 2014 in New York, with climate accords signed in Paris in 2015 – to come into force by 2020.
However, hundreds of activist walked out of COP19 to protest a lack of progress. The walkout was organized by groups such as Greenpeace, Oxfam, 350.org, the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid International, WWF and Friends of the Earth. Here's a Democracy Now report on the walkout:
Their action followed a walk out by a group of 133 developing nations from an important negotiation. The issue at the core of this controversy is centered on how much responsibility nations that have emitted the most greenhouse gas should have to compensate developing nations that are receiving the brunt of damage from climate induced extreme weather.
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