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Progress on North Korea?

DPRK leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a photo session with soldiers

For the first time, a broad coalition of nations is pushing to refer North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.

This development follows a series of efforts that began six months ago with a commission of inquiry report  documenting the rampant human rights abuses in DPRK.

Several entities, including Citizens for Global Solutions and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, have called on the Security Council to refer DPRK to the ICC. Last week, Japan and the European Union distributed a draft resolution among UN member states asking for the same, to which 43 countries now have signed on in support.

This may signify progress on a previously stagnant situation: despite widespread awareness of and outrage at mass atrocities committed in DPRK—including torture, starvation, forced labor, execution without trial, rape, forced abortion, and infanticide—the government has remained indifferent to efforts from the international community to effect change, with Pyongyang threatening to walk out of nuclear negotiations if the issue was raised.

Will the Nigerian Government Actually #BringBackOurGirls?

The Nigerian government has stated that it has finally secured the release of the more than 200 hundred girls abducted from a school in northeastern Nigeria. Days after this news surfaced, all that remains is confusion and doubt as to its validity.

On April 14, the Islamic militant group Boko Haram raided the Government Girls' Secondary School in Chibok, kidnapping over 200 hundred pupils ages 16-18. Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sin,” released statements claiming they planned to sell the girls into forced marriages.

News originally broke last Friday with the Nigerian military announcing that it had agreed to a ceasefire with Boko Haram and expected the release of the girls as early as Monday. Monday has come and gone, the girls have not been released, and Boko Haram’s leadership remains silent.

Despite the apparent ceasefire, reports have indicated that Boko Haram fighters carried out attacks over the weekend on two villages near the Niger border, killing at least eight.

The ceasefire is said to be the product of negotiations taking place in neighboring Chad, who was mediating the talks. The Nigerian government has come under heavy criticism for its response to the kidnapping, including reports that the government had advanced knowledge of the raid.

Deforestation: The Shrinking Forests of Our Planet

Illegal fires used to clear a forest

When we think of forests, we think of those in the Amazon, China, Congo, Canada and many more places throughout the world. People throughout history have been drawn to forests, intrigued by the mysteries, adventures, and animals hidden within them. Forests today cover about 30 percent of the earth's surface, but each year we lose an area equivalent to the size of Panama.  

Deforestation is the driving force behind the loss of our forests. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, deforestation can be defined as the “permanent removal of standing forests.” There are numerous reasons this occurs. These reasons do vary but deforestation can intentionally or accidently occur.

So how does this affect you? Deforestation has a tremendous impact on everything around us. The effects are plentiful and include loss of habitats, increased greenhouse gases, soil erosion, and the destruction of homeland for natives.

It estimated that in 100 years, there will be no more forests on our planet if we continue at the current rate. The benefits from these forests are irreplaceable and essential to our survival. For example, 20 percent of our oxygen comes from the Amazon, and these forests help regulate the water cycle and keep the soil rich with nutrients. The removal of forests caused by deforestation accounts for 12-17 percent of global annual greenhouse gases emitted into our atmosphere.

The Complexity of Turkish Inaction

kobane, syria, turkey, is, islamic, isis, isil, NATO

If you’ve been keeping up with the news about the Islamic State (IS), you know that there is a strategic battle taking place in Kobane, a Syrian city close to the Turkish border. Currently, local Kurdish forces are doing their best to repel IS militants from the city with the aid of Western air support. The battle is far from over, as the Kurdish forces and the Turkish government have said that more ground troops would most likely be needed to repel IS. This then begs the question of why the Turks aren’t doing anything to impede the progress of IS, as surely Turkey could be their next target.

In quite a childish back-and-forth scenario, the Turkish and US governments have each been prodding one another to take a more active role in the battle for Kobane. We are all well aware of the US’ reputation for intervening in crises such as this, so US involvement should not have shocked anyone. What might surprise some looking in from the outside is Turkey’s seemingly carefree attitude towards a strategic border town, which, if lost, could devestate them.

Comprehensive World Food Policy

16 October is the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization's World Food Day − a yearly reminder that there are people who are constantly hungry due to ineffective agricultural methods, inadequate distribution, poor food storage, and armed conflict.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls for the day to ensure humanity's freedom from hunger. Frank McDougall, an Australian economist and delegate to the League of Nations, had influenced Eleanor Roosevelt, who then persuaded her husband to make food a world priority. President Roosevelt called a Conference on Food and Agriculture in May 1943.  A preparatory commission was set up, and a signatory meeting for the FAO constitution was held in Quebec on 16 October 1945, the date that was later chosen to be World Food Day.

The FAO headquarters was set up in Rome, Italy, where the International Institute of Agriculture (IIA) existed. Having FAO in Rome also was a symbol of Italy’s acceptance in the world community, despite its joining the Allies late in the game. First Director-General and world citizen Sir John Boyd Orr tried to deal with both immediate and long-term issues relating to agriculture, food, and nutrition. He set the pattern for strong leadership of the FAO secretariat on food issues, with most governments dragging their feet.

Ebola and State Failure

Ebola and the potential for failed states (Photo Credit: NPR)

Throughout history, numerous empires, nations, and city-states have suffered from various internal and external dilemmas that have led to their ultimate collapse. Such examples include the Roman Empire, the Soviet Union, and the former British and French empires, all once formidable in history, but ultimately succumbing to downfall. The Fund for Peace attributes “state fragility” to twelve indicators that include economic decline, erosion of legitimate authority, inability to provide reasonable resources, and more.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa may lead to the possibility of failed states, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The nations hit hardest by the outbreak--Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea--are stretched to the limit in providing resources to just to sustain their own people, let alone to combat the disease. As money and resources are diverted, public services decline and populations that relied on government assistance are severely affected and left vulnerable. As the Ebola outbreak grows exponentially, panic has emerged in these countries as people have started to lose confidence and trust in their governments.

While Ebola has strained state resources, the economic impacts of the virus are another reason that the “failed state” idea is plausible. These countries were recovering economically from the onset of civil wars and coups that had hindered their potential growth in the past. Ebola has created another setback for them, and the effects may last years if the outbreak is not contained.

Nigerian Atrocities Go Largely Unnoticed

12.5 million internally displaced civilians, 3 million refugees, 700,000 stateless people.

These alarming statistics are not related to ISIL or Syria or the Middle East. No, these statistics, these people, are in Africa. The international community recently was warned of the risks of overlooking the ongoing humanitarian crisis on the African continent in a high level meeting on refugees in Africa.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres reported that recent strings of conflict in several African countries, including Nigeria, have displaced more than 2.5 million people in the first half of 2014.

The problems run deep in Nigeria.

According to footage obtained by Amnesty International, the Nigerian Military is contributing to the gross human rights violations that are plaguing the conflict ridden state. The Nigerian Military, along with the Civilian Joint Task Force (CTJF) are reportedly shown performing extrajudicial executions and utilizing mass graves in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.

Embargo: United States Against the World

Each year Cuba asks the United Nations to lift the economic embargo the United States imposes on the nation of Cuba.

For the past 22 years, the United Nations has overwhelmingly supported Cuba in this resolution. Last year the resolution was passed188 to 2, with only the United States and Israel voting against it. 

An article in The Guardian points out,

Although many US allies join Washington in criticizing Cuba’s one-party system and repression of political opponents, the Americans have lost nearly all international support for the embargo since the collapse of the Soviet Union. No other nation besides the United States has an economic embargo against Cuba.

The fact that the US stands alone shows the undemocratic nature and ineffectiveness of the UN. Sensible changes proposed by Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World  by Dr. Joseph E. Schwartzberg would be a step forward toward a better world.

US intransigence also shows a lack of openness to new approaches and better ideas. If 188 nations have a different approach in a matter that adversely affects the citizens of a whole nation, isn’t it time that we rethink a policy that seems to hurt everyone--including ourselves?

Human Trafficking: Time for Change

human trafficking, slavery, congress,

 There are more slaves in the world now than at any other point in history. Let that sink in for a second. Whether for labor or sexual exploitation, human trafficking (HT) is a constantly growing problem, which requires a coordinated international response.

HT is defined by the UN as,

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Estimates put the total number of victims of HT somewhere between 14 and 27 million, and those profiting off their exploits are bringing in $32 billion worldwide. Even more upsetting is that the average age of those being trafficked is 12 years old. The average HT victim can be forced to have sex 20-48 times a day.Usually, the victims are promised a worthwhile opportunity in a foreign country. When they arrive, they are physically and mentally abused and exploited against their will.  They are often told that if they try to escape or tell anybody about their situation, their families will suffer. It should therefore come as no surprise that only 1-2% of HT victims are ever rescued and only 1 in 100,000 human traffickers in Europe are ever prosecuted. 

A Side of World Peas, Please

If I learned anything from years of first-day-of-class icebreakers – other than the fact that I hate icebreakers – it’s this: people love food. It’s not only a common topic of conversation, but also a common precursor to conversation: it seems like every time I’m catching up with a friend, it's over a meal of some kind. 

Food is at the center of society. It’s a factor in almost every issue: climate change, human rights, development, etc. Moreover, it’s representative of our culture(s). Cities, states, and entire countries are often defined by their food; travelling has become not only about what you see, but also what you eat.

It’s not that hard to recognize, then, how food and politics intersect. A perfect example of this is the popular dish pad Thai. Often thought of as the quintessential Thai dish, pad Thai’s origins actually lie in a specific political and economic context. In the 1940s, Thailand was allied with Japan and was greatly affected with rice shortages caused by World War II. The dictator of Thailand, looking to reduce dependence on rice and foster a greater sense of nationalism, created pad Thai because it could be made with inferior quality rice. Apparently we aren’t the only country that lets politics invade our dinner plates.