The Global Citizen

Search form

Category: United States

Global Justice: The Unrealizable Promise of International Institutions

The "Pale Blue Dot" photo of Earth taken in 1990 by Voyager 1 from beyond the orbit of Pluto. We're the tiny dot.

In recent years, we’ve come to recognize that the world is interconnected, perhaps in ways and on a scale that it never has been before. We live together and affect each other on the same small planet and we are all fundamentally equal regardless of where we are born. Global justice is about deciding how the institutions those interactions create, formal and informal, social, political, and economic, should be managed in a just, equitable way, where everyone is treated fairly and no one is abused.

New international institutions were born in the last century to cope with the consequences of depression and devastating wars in a globalizing world. The United Nations was designed to pursue diplomacy on a variety of issues, and its Security Council in particular was designed to prevent great power war. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were designed to rebuild the global economy and keep it stable, so that every state can participate and so that no single state could make a mistake with its economy so terrible that it dooms us all. Institutions keep being birthed, too: a World Trade Organization has formed to help states better manage the flow of goods and services, an International Criminal Court started work just a decade ago to hold violators of human rights to account for their crimes, and more institutions have been created, including regional courts, issue-focused IGOs, and others.

These international institutions do much good, bringing food and shelter to refugees, helping us understand human rights violations, and helping keep the world stable in ways it may not be otherwise.

UN Human Rights Committee Reviewing U.S. Rights Record

The U.S. comes up for the Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council (Photo: AP)

As a U.S. delegation comes before the UN Human Rights Committee this month in Geneva, expect some tough criticism about the United States’ human rights record both at home and abroad. The U.S. record is not spotless and this review offers an important opportunity to review policies and our general approach to human rights.

Every few years, states that are parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) submit reports to the Human Rights Committee (an independent panel of experts created by the Covenant) on “the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized herein and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights.” Those rights include the right to equal respect of each person regardless of race, sex, nationality, or other status, the right to life, civil liberties, freedom from torture and unjust imprisonment, the right to liberty and security of person, and freedom of speech and conscience. While the treaty doesn’t incorporate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many of the same rights overlap, and a state party agrees to respect the dignity and equality of each person. The treaty went into effect in 1976 and was ratified by the United States in 1992.

Why Does America Look so Weak?

"You just do not, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text," said Secretary Kerry on Sunday regarding the situation in Ukraine.

The statement rings a few bells I believe many Americans would agree with. Unfortunately, the statement by Kerry also highlights some confusion in American foreign policy.

First, the United States believes that international disputes should be settled diplomatically if possible. There, the United Nations can play the role of facilitating negotiations and ensuring human rights are respected. However, the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, and subsequent drone strikes, has led to many criticisms of the U.S.’ respect for sovereignty.  

Second, the United States likes the status quo in the world. The only reason for any country to intervene in another should be to protect human rights, and if not for human rights, then to stabilize regions vital to U.S. economic interests. Yet Russia just doesn’t care to wait for a politically-correct pre-text for using military force. Russia has seen America and its Western allies fail to take action even under the correct pre-text, i.e. Syria.

America is war-weary, we all know it. This is largely why Putin can make such aggressive moves. However, if the United States doesn’t plan on using its oversized military, then why is our military budget still more than the next six military budgets combined?  

A Global Focus on Election 2012

With the final ballots cast and the winners and losers decided, it is clear that the people of this nation demand leaders that will address global issues in a realistic way. Because of the overwhelming results of this election, we thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at some of the more prominent winners that realize the importance of an engaged foreign policy strategy. These are leaders that Global Solutions PAC supported throughout the election.

Virginia's Senatorial race was a victory for those that champion American involvement in the international community. Winning 52.4% of the vote, Democratic candidate Tim Kaine edged out Republican candidate George Allen who garnered 47.6%. Allen's history in the US Senate gives us a clear view of his stances on foreign policy. Without fail, he voted against legislation that would have helped to address climate change, increasing funding for the global AIDS prevention services, and US involvement in the ICC. Consequentially, Allen earned a "0" (equivalent of an 'F') in 2004, a "D" in 2005, and a "D" in 2006.

On the other hand, Tim Kaine has pledged to support legislation that would prevent genocide in partnership with other countries, as well as US participation in the UN Human Rights Council. In addition, Kaine has stated that he supports the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, as well as the basic aim of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Looking at Florida's Senate race, Bill Nelson's reelection as Florida's Senator by a margin of over one million votes is a prime example of this call for responsible leadership. Nelson's support of legislation and initiatives such as the New START Treaty, clean technology investment, as well as captured foreign combatant rights shows that he gets the picture. In fact, Nelson's record in Congress earned him an "A" on our Congressional Report Card this year.

Only 24 hours to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

Protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Despite President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline plan, Senate Republicans want to add an amendment to the transportation bill that would mandate construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The vote is expected to take place Tuesday.

Don't let the promise of jobs and cheaper gas prices fool you; as the Natural Resources Defense Council reports, the pipeline company itself stated that only a few hundred permanent jobs will be created for Americans-the State Department estimated fewer than 100 jobs.  This pipeline was created to help big oil companies, not the United States. What Big Oil also fails to clarify is that this pipeline is for export, meaning gas prices in the United States would not become lower but would actually increase.

The environmental damages will be massive. Greenhouse gas emissions and destruction of Canada's great Boreal Forest will prove to be a higher cost to the mythical "benefits" of this pipeline. Since this pipeline would be for tar sands extraction, it will be more likely to spill and harder to clean up.

Tell Congress that you are not fooled by these promises of big oil companies and stop the passage of this bill! Sign this petition: we only have 24 hours to stop this devastating project!

Tea Party foreign policy = U.N. bashing

While the Tea Party owes its origins to domestic concerns, a unified foreign policy has failed to emerge. Tea Partiers often find themselves holding directly opposing views--especially with regard to America's military presence in the world. However, as Peter Baker's Foreign Policy article points out, "[i]f there's one thing Tea Party activists can agree on foreign-policy-wise, it's their aversion to international organizations.

Possibly due to this rare seeing of eye to eye, Tea Party candidates have come out swinging against international organizations like the United Nations. Candidates like Dan Maes of Colorado, Sharon Angles of Nevada, and Rand Paul of Kentucky have each vocalized the call to get the U.S. out of the U.N.

The Unified Security Budget: Getting the Most Bang for Our National Security Buck

As published in the Huffington Post

Here's something you don't hear every day--a Secretary of Defense talking about reducing military spending. Yet Secretary Robert Gates has recently discussed the possibility of eliminating some weapons systems, command structures and other items which are no longer necessary for national security.

According to Miriam Pemberton, a principle author of a newly released report on our nation's security budget, Gates has proposed to "mount the most serious effort to restrain his own budget of any Defense Secretary since the post-Cold War period." Whether these plans are aspirational or will actually be achieved is another story.

While this is noteworthy, it brings up another question: where would the money go? If dollars previously spent on certain military projects are simply shifted to other Defense department programs, is the U.S. really going to be any safer as a result?

This is where the idea of a Unified Security Budget comes in which considers all such spending in one place. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary Gates, in addition to the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have all agreed that this idea makes sense.

Is the United States Treating Iranian Nuclear Threats as a Multilateral Challenge?

It is obvious that the majority of the world wants to live without the threat of nuclear war. Even those who have the nuclear capabilities that could cause war would most likely not want to use those weapons. However, whose responsibility is it to prevent other countries from using nuclear weapons, let alone prevent them from building capabilities?

World Opinion of the U.S. in the Obama Era

A lecture on world opinion towards the United States in its transition to the Obama era was led by Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org and Randa Slim of the United States Institute for Peace on July 7.  Mr. Kull opened the meeting with a series of graphs which depicted the attitudes of numerous key nations regarding the U.S.  The graphs showed that throughout most of the world, there has been an overall improvement in opinion towards the United States since President Obama took office.  However, Mr.

U.S. and Russia Begin Second Round of START Talks

In Geneva, Switzerland today, the United States and Russia began a three-day series of talks to continue negotiating the terms for renewing the soon-to-expire Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). START was agreed upon by both nations in 1991 in an effort to significantly reduce the nations' nuclear stockpiles and is set to expire on December 5th of this year.

While the two countries have suffered a strained relationship over the past several years, President Barack Obama said in his first press conference:

What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everybody will be in danger. And one of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally. I think that it's important for the United States, in concert with Russia, to lead the way on this....I've mentioned this in conversations with the Russian president, Mr. Medvedev, to let him know that it is important for us to restart the conversations about how we can start reducing our nuclear arsenals in an effective way.

Now, for the purpose of renewing this treaty, we need to wait and see if the United States and Russia can get past their respective hang-ups regarding North Korean nukes and the planned U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

TO BE CONTINUED...