The Global Citizen: January 2012
Monday night President Obama participated in the first Presidential virtual interview ever! This Google+ Hangout event was part of the White House's continued public outreach following the State of the Union Address last Tuesday. Since the president's address last week, the White House has been requesting that people send in questions via all forms of social media, and has been holding Twitter interviews with many of the senior administration officials. This Hangout was the culmination of that week, and it turned out to be a great moment for foreign policy!
Steve Grove moderated the discussion from Google Headquarters in San Francisco, California, and there were five different people on Google+ in the virtual "room," with the President, who were able to speak out at any time. The event was broadcast on YouTube and the White House website so those of us who haven't stepped into the social media realm of Google+ yet could still hear questions asked and answered. You can watch the recording here. Mr. Grove also had some pre-recorded questions that had been sent in via YouTube either by video or comment earlier in the week.
The Center for National Policy recently hosted a panel discussion on the future of Iran's nuclear program and U.S. options in face of a nuclear armed Iran. Iran's nuclear energy program was originally developed through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Their program has expanded over the years, and eventually resulted in suspicions about Iran's plans for developing nuclear weapons. Many years and IAEA Board of Governors meetings later, sanctions have been imposed on Iran and many other international actions have been taken in response to the country's enrichment activities. Panelists at the discussion indicated that Iran has not yet decided if it will pursue nuclear weapons, but the past two U.S. administrations have stated that a nuclear Iran is not an option.
"No chance, no chance, no chance...ever," said Vitaly I. Churkin, Russian envoy to the United Nations Security Council, in response to whether or not Russia would ever support economic sanctions in Syria.
Today the Arab League will be sending a delegation to the U.N. Security Council to advocate a political transition in Syria. The Arab-European draft resolution will push for President Bashar al-Assad to step down within 15 days of implementation. Morocco will introduce the draft resolution, which also calls for sanctions on Syria, hoping it will push for compliance from the regime. The Obama administration, as well as most European governments, has expressed support for this plan. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she will attend the U.N. Security Council meeting today, as she condemns the escalation of Syrian government attacks on its civilians. Yet Russia is expected to stand in the way of its implementation, promising to veto any resolution that strives to remove Assad's regime.
Although the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for him, Court judges have not yet decided whether the trial of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi will take place in The Hague or Libya. UN Security Council referred the case to ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, followed by the warrant for Saif in June 2011. After months of violence and the death of Moammar Gaddafi (Saif's father), Libyan officials are pushing to hold Saif's trial in their own country and refuse to hand over Gaddafi to the Court or even inform prosecutors of his location. This is causing confusion in the media and showcasing the lack of cooperation between non-member nations and the ICC.
The Tweet-Up was an amazing opportunity to actively participate in the State of the Union address! To give a brief recap, the speech heavily focused on the economy and job creation through American innovation. In fact, the President only devoted 13% of his address to international affairs, astounding considering the United States and the world are facing many global challenges.
In a speech that was full of specific plans and detailed programs on domestic policy, Obama’s commitment to combating violence and intimidation by supporting human rights worldwide was surprisingly bare of specifics. While saying that America has a huge stake in the outcome of transformations happening around the world, there was no explanation of what the U.S. is doing to actually save lives and protect the human rights of those at risk. He could have mentioned progress on the Atrocities Prevention Board he established last year, additional U.S. actions to help the Syrian people or his Administration’s efforts to work more closely with the U.N. Human Rights Council on preventing and monitoring human rights violations.
Just six months ago I was not a huge social media user, and never dreamed that Twitter would turn out to be my ticket to the White House. My coworker Julia Bunting and I were invited to watch the State of the Union address at the White House in a room full of advocacy tweeters, and then participated in a live discussion with senior Administration officials afterwards. The live “Tweet-Up” was an amazing experience and I wanted to give you a glimpse of the action.
We had to arrive at White House at 7:45 to allow for enough time to go through security checkpoints. It was an exciting feeling, to be inside a place that is so instrumental in history and current events. We received a mini-tour on the way to the South Court Auditorium, where the Tweet-Up was held. We got to see (from afar) the Vice President’s office, the Situation Room, and the garage that usually holds the motorcade. There was some construction going on inside, which made the whole place feel a bit more normal - even the President has to deal with the hassle of renovations apparently!
The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced this week that it will try four defendants from Kenya in connection with the post-election violence which broke out in the country in late 2007.
William Samoei Ruto, Joshua Arap Sang, Francis Muthaura and Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta will be tried by the Court for crimes against humanity. Kenyatta and Ruto were both presidential candidates and holders of high-level positions in Kenya. The ICC declined to confirm charges against two other Kenyans who had been investigated.
Following elections in late 2007, violence broke out in Kenya which resulted in 1,2000 deaths and the displacement of 600,000 people, many of whom still have not returned home.
It’s great news that the ICC is moving forward on the Kenya case and working to bring to justice those responsible for the events that occurred four years ago. Hopefully the trials will hold the perpetrators accountable and help ensure justice is served on behalf of the Kenyan citizens who suffered greatly during the violence.
1989 is remembered, among other things, as the year the Berlin wall came down. It was the year the Cold War ended, the year of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and the year of the Baltic Way for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. 1989 was a year that marked a transformation for the world.
Will 2011 be remembered as the same kind of transformational year that 1989 is remembered as?
This question continued to circulate the panel of speakers at Freedom House's (FH) presentation about the Arab Spring last week. Arch Puddington, Vice President for Research at FH, stated that he has every reason to hope this will be the case. He cited Tunisia and Egypt as two cases that support his hope. Until 2011, Tunisia was regarded as one of the least free countries in one of the worst regions and now the country has moved up from FH's Not Free category to the Partly Free category, holding the same ranking as Colombia and the Philippines. The FH rankings take into account the political rights and civil liberties of a country in addition to their status as an electoral democracy. Despite the complexities Egypt faces, Mr. Puddington noted the positive improvements in freedom of expression, the new elections and their constitution-in-progress as reasons to believe it is experiencing positive change.
The United States Mission to the United Nations has issued a statement today that lays out how America plans to lead on U.N. reform in 2012. While the global community has long called for such reform, the statement details some progress that the U.S. has already made, reforming the U.N. budget for only the second time in 50 years, saving American taxpayers $100 million. The U.S. has also pushed for increased transparency, especially promoting public disclosure online of all internal audit reports starting in 2012.
The statement outlines how the U.S. Mission believes the U.N. can move forward on further reforms to make the U.N. more effective and efficient. They suggest several recommendations, including steps to make the U.N. more cost-effective, reduce administrative bureaucracy while increasing accountability, address issues of corruption and unfairness, and increase overall efficiency throughout the U.N. system.
Last week, a video was posted on YouTube, showing four U.S. Marines desecrating the bodies of three Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan, causing an international uproar and several condemnations here at home. The Marines need to know that their actions will not be tolerated by the government or the international community.
The video creates a disturbing picture of the American military displaying callous disregard for human dignity. These images, lasting a matter of seconds, showcase what a Taliban official called "American arrogance and brutality" and serve to undo years of U.S. military efforts to show they are not the enemies of Afghanis or Muslims. These disrespectful acts only incite further violence against our troops and are the best propaganda tool for insurgents seeking out new recruits to fight against us.
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