The Global Citizen: Human Rights
The Rio+20 summit, intended to develop a global sustainable development agenda, concluded last week. In the words of author Gwynne Dyer, "rarely has such a large elephant laboured so long to give birth to such a small mouse." 150 world leaders were unwilling and incapable of creating substantive reforms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of a lack of political will and competing economic interests. The United Nations, the G-8, G-20, and other major multinational conferences suffer from many of the same ills. This begs the question, what is the alternative?
Nonetheless, the past few months were busy for the world's major international institutions. The International Criminal Court, which is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, convicted Thomas Lubanga in March marking a major milestone for the international justice community. However, others have not been so successful. The United Nations is struggling to resolve the fifteen-month long crisis in Syria that has killed more than 10,000 people. The most recent G-20 summit also recently concluded in Mexico producing piecemeal economic recovery efforts and meaningless statements about violence in Syria.
Modern tension on the Korean Peninsula dates back to 1945 when the Soviet Union declared war on the current occupiers, Japan. In years prior, the peninsula had been controlled by a series of dynasties, but was invaded and annexed by Japan in 1910. After the end of World War II in 1945, the territory was divided along the 38th parallel between the United States and Soviet Union. Hope for unification faded in June 1950 when North Korea breached the border leading to the outbreak of the Korean War. After three years of intense fighting between American, Chinese, Soviet, and Korean troops, the war officially concluded with the formalization of a interstate border called the demilitarized zone. However, low-level fighting and frequent rhetorical provocations keep the conflict on the radar of many relevant states.
In the past, North and South Korea marched together in the Olympics on three separate occasions: 2000 in Sydney, 2004 in Athens, and 2006 in Turin. Describing the event as "highly emotional," athletes from North and South Korea travelled to the stadium together and marched in the opening ceremonies as one unified entity. Using the flag of the Korean Peninsula, a simple flag with a blue silhouette of the Korean Peninsula and a white background, the group showed one of the very few instances of Korean bilateralism in the last few decades.
Last October, President Obama announced the deployment of 100 United States military advisors to Central Africa. Obama hoped to combat the remaining Lord Resistance Army forces that have committed atrocities throughout the region, primarily in northern Uganda, for the past twenty-five years. The year prior, a billed called the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act bolstered "comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability." Moreover, a viral video launched by the US-based advocacy group Invisible Children last March briefly made the fight against the LRA a national conversation, but attention has since returned to anemically low-levels.
The opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London are merely weeks away. In the weeks leading up to the thirtieth Olympiad, we want to highlight five stories that exemplify global cooperation and international justice. Some of the topics we will cover are North and South Korea marching together at the 2000 games, the human rights salute of 1968, and the relationship between international institutions and peacemaking.
The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 at the Panathenaic stadium in Athens, Greece. It instantly became a universally recognized sporting event involving many countries including Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, Italy, and the United States. However, national teams were not an integral component of the games until ten years later. Despite this, athletes felt a sense of pride in competing on behalf of their country, but prioritized cooperation.
The Olympic Charter, which governs the games, is written to reflect the spirit of cooperation espoused by world leaders every four years. Three "fundamental principles of Olympism" are especially relevant:
"The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity"
A group of experts on the Syrian crisis gathered last Friday at the Turkic American Alliance in conjunction with the Rethink Institute. They discussed the nature of the opposition fighting against the Assad regime and strategies to resolve the conflict. The panel included analysts from the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies, SETA-DC, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a counselor at the Turkish Embassy, and the president of the Higher Revolutionary Council in Syria. As violence continues and news of massacres in Houla and al-Qubeir emerge, the situation becomes more urgent, desperate, and heartbreaking. The experts debated the best course of action for the international community to take going forward. The foundational debate was between those who think military intervention is a necessity and those who want to rely on economic and political pressure.
Between the news of his government's provision of weapons to the murderous Assad regime and his support for legislation that will sharply restrict the Russian people's right to assemble, the past few weeks have delivered a harsh blow to Vladimir Putin's already-dubious human rights record. In an article published late last week, Foreign Policy's Anna Nemtsova shines a light on another one of Russia's continuing human rights abuses, namely, the government's ongoing conflict with Muslim insurgents in Dagestan.
Providing a background to the conflict, Nemtsova writes:
Today featured some more disappointing news from the human rights front in Russia, as the Russian parliament passed a bill that will increase fines for people charged with participating in unauthorized protests.
According to an article by the BBC, the bill will "boost fines for violations from the current maximum 5,000 rubles (£99; $152) to 300,000 for participants and 600,000 for organizers." President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to approve the legislation, having previously voiced support for the bill as a necessary measure to "shield our people from radical actions."
Of course, few would argue that protecting the Russian people from radicalism is truly Putin's motivation for supporting this bill. Since winning a third presidential term, in an election that his opponents claim was riddled with fraud, Putin has faced a series of protests from Russians unhappy with the prospect of another six-year installment of the his presidency. This bill, then, can be seen as an effort to dissuade such demonstrations, intimidating the Russian populace with the prospect of harsh penalties.
"Men want power, women want peace."
Former British Ambassador to Sudan, Alan Goutly quoted this statement from a Sudanese woman in an answer to my question: How important is it to include women in the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan? Such a simple statement sums up what international leaders are now recognizing as an essential element to the peace process: to include women's voices.
Yesterday the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a panel discussion with updates about the ongoing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. After decades of war, South Sudan became its own nation not even a year ago when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in July 2011. Ambassador Princeton Lyman of the United States, former Ambassador Alan Goulty of the United Kingdom, and Marina Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, all gave a tremendous amount of insight into the current conflict and strategies that the United States and the international community can take to avoid an all out war.
While the world focuses on the democratic revolutions in the Middle East, similarly stirring protests in Tibet have seemed to receive less time in the spotlight. The Tibetan people have been protesting the Chinese government for equal rights for nearly 23 years, the longest democratic protest in modern history. As the world shifts its focus away from Tibet, the Tibetan citizens have grown more desperate in their demands for equality and freedom. Since 2009, Tibetan citizens have been setting themselves on fire in order to show the Chinese their dedication to Tibetan freedom. So far 38 people have immolated themselves since 2009, with 25 of these self-immolations happening in 2012. This is a growing trend for protestors, as the most recent self-immolation happened on May 28th and May 31st of this year. Memorials took place in Dharamsala (northern India) for those who sacrificed themselves for the cause they believe in.
Of course, the United States' relationship with China makes this a complicated situation for the U.S. to create a firm consensus on foreign policy. However, this is not an excuse to stand idly by as protestors kill themselves in the name of freedom and equal rights. It's important to support these protestors in order to support freedom, democracy, and civil rights in all situations, rather than only supporting those of political convenience.
No one will blame Kofi Annan for a lack of effort. Over the past few months, the former UN Secretary-General has worked tirelessly to peacefully resolve the ongoing turmoil in Syria. And yet, with the bloodshed continuing to escalate, Annan's peace plan has not come to pass.
The Syrian government's continued defiance of Annan's six-point peace plan, coupled with its ongoing brutality towards its enemies at home, clearly indicates that this regime values power above all else, even if it comes at the expense of its own people. In light of this reality, it is time for the United States and the international community to take firm steps to bring about the end of violence in Syria and secure a transfer of power from the Assad regime before the violence in Syria truly spirals out of control.
- Arms Control (28)
- Capitol Hill (182)
- CGS Political Action Committee (PAC) (19)
- Chapters (5)
- Civilian Protection (161)
- Climate Change (118)
- Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) (2)
- Congressional Report Card (7)
- Election News & Analysis (101)
- Gender Based Violence (32)
- Genocide Prevention (130)
- Get Involved (95)
- Home (2)
- Human Rights (317)
- Human Rights Council (35)
- International Criminal Court (172)
- International Criminal Justice (56)
- Law & Justice (262)
- Law of the Sea Treaty (55)
- Nuclear Disarmament (90)
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) (3)
- Other (92)
- PAC: 2010 Election Endorsements (3)
- PAC: Candidate Questionnaires (2)
- Partners for Global Change (2)
- Peacekeeping (112)
- Prevent War (235)
- Rights of the Child Treaty (12)
- Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) (20)
- Support Us (26)
- Take Action (36)
- Tax Deductible Giving (2)
- UN Funding (71)
- UN Reform & Revitalization (52)
- United Nations (392)
- WFI (25)
- Women's Rights Treaty (CEDAW) (52)