The Global Citizen: June 2012
Rio+20, the UN Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro last week to a decided lack of fanfare. Activists hoping for a significant, binding outcome document were severely let down. Others have written much more eloquently than I could on the underwhelming outcome, both focusing on the disappointments and the silver lining, and I encourage you to read further. But for those of you who want the Cliff's Notes version, here are 5 takeaway lessons from the Rio+20 Earth Summit.
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.
Last Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), seeking to gauge the treaty's performance in the time since February 2011, when it first came into effect. Witnesses brought before the committee included the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Thomas P. D'Agostino; the Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security at the State Department, Rose Gottemoeller; and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, Madelyn R. Creedon.
Each of the witnesses offered positive assessments of New START's effectiveness, highlighting the ways in which the agreement has helped to make nuclear relations between the US and Russia more stable and transparent. In her testimony, Gottemoeller remarked that New START has helped to improve the flow of nuclear weapons-related information between the two countries. In particular, she cited the treaty's verification mechanisms, including exhibitions of strategic arms and guaranteed on-site inspections, as concrete examples of provisions that have helped to improve the aforementioned information flow.
UPDATE (6/27/12): Earlier today, President Morsi announced that he would appoint a woman as one of his vice presidents, and a Coptic Christian as his other. On the whole, this move should help to assuage the concerns of those who feared that Morsi's affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood would lead him to adopt radical Islamist policies. In addition, this announcement followed news that an administrative court in Cairo has overturned the military's declared right to make warantless arrests. Overall, a good day for democracy in Egypt, though, of course, much work remains to be done.
This past Sunday, Egypt took another tenuous step along the road to democracy, as the Supreme Presidential Election Council declared the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohamed Morsi, the winner of Egypt's first presidential elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. According to statistics released by the Election Council, Morsi garnered 51.7% of the popular vote, compared with a 48.3% share for his opponent, Ahmed Shafiq.
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.
As major players accompanied their respective heads of state to the beach-laden shores of Los Cabos, Mexico for this year's G20 Summit Monday, those of us remaining were left to question and comment on the body's legitimacy as well as on its unfolding proceedings.
New Rules for Global Finance in partnership with Heinrich Böll Stiftung, envisioned a way to seize this opportunity. In holding their event, "Promises of the G20 Process: Prospects for Enhanced Transparency and Accountability" , on June 18, 2012, the same day as the opening of the G20 Summit, it provided a platform for such debate. Event Chair and New Rules for Global Finance Executive Director, Jo Marie Griesgraber, sought to highlight this significance.
Among the panelists in attendance, a wide array of concerns was noted. Each participant sought to highlight their grievances with the economic super-committee, while some remarked on its advantages.
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.
Rarely are the words "stable" and "consistent" used to describe Somalia, a country that has spent a majority of the past two decades mired in near-perpetual civil war. However, in the case of the Fund for Peace's annual Failed States Index (FSI), the aforementioned adjectives could, unfortunately enough, be applied to the troubled East African state.
For the fifth straight year, Somalia earned the dubious distinction of topping the index, which "ranks instability risks of 177 nations based on 12 social, economic, and political indicators," including "violations of human rights and rule of law," "legitimacy of the state," and "uneven economic development," among others. This year, the Fund for Peace cited Somalia's "widespread lawlessness, ineffective government, terrorism, insurgency, crime, and well-publicized pirate attacks against foreign vessels" as the primary reasons for the country's continued presence at the top of the list.
Last week, the Fifth Committee Peacekeeping Budget, effective from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, was passed. Along with monetary shifting and restructuring of peacekeeping staff, the new mandate reiterates important stances on human rights preservations where missions are present. As the peacekeeping structure in the UN continues to evolve and shift into a more effective system, we have to stay focused on the imperative nature and continual support of peacekeeping missions around the world.
With more effective management, the UN was able to cut roughly $537 million from their budget. In a statement released today by U.N. Ambassador Joseph Torsella, the new focus of funds, "shifts resources from overhead to operations." While the implementation of more effective appropriations of funds and management is a great step towards the future of UN peacekeeping, it is also important to recognize the need for increased funding elsewhere in the peacekeeping budget. Dr. Paul Williams of George Washington University spoke of the need to increase funding for different supplies for peacekeeping missions, including the need for 17 more helicopters to transport troops and civilians around rough terrain yesterday at an event sponsored by Citizens for Global Solutions on the Hill.
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"
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