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Author: renholm

Imagining International Agreements to Limit Cyber-Warfare

The threats of cyber-terrorism or cyber-warfare have been discussed in ever widening circles for some time.   As modern society and commerce rely increasingly on digital technology, we recognize the growing scale of the damage and disruption that could be caused by malicious attacks on networks and computers.  Potential targets often cited include power plants and power grids, banking and financial networks, water and sewage facilities, public transportation systems, and communication networks.

The role that global institutions might play in limiting cyber-attacks is less frequently discussed.

UNDP Panel Discusses Human Development Index

(With Patrick Fiedler)

Colleagues from and we attended a panel discussion on Thursday, January 28, 2010, hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) entitled "Rethinking Human Development - Part One."  The "Part One" indicates that this is the first of a series of such presentations to be offered during the year.

The panelists were Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of the Office of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department; Kemal Dervis, former Administrator of UNDP currently at The Brooking Institution, and Jeni Klugman, Director of UNDP Human Development Report Office, all moderated by David Yang, Senior Advisor in the Washington Office of UNDP.

The focus of the panel was UNDP's "Human Development Index" (HDI), a ranking of nations that relies on measures of education, health and income, seeking to measure human well-being rather than merely economic growth.

The "Sarkozy Commission," headed by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, has spearheaded a push to further legitimize the HDI and recommended that the HDI include improved and expanded  indicators.   In the panel discussion, Dr. Dervis suggested a greater reliance on "medians" rather than averages or "means" to make data more comparable.

Each of the panelists referred to a December address at Georgetown University by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton in which she expressed the importance of a U.S. foreign policy that emphasizes ensuring human rights.  U.S. foreign policy, she said, should adhere to American values "including the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the prerequisite for building a world in which every person has the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential."  From this perspective human rights are not merely a complement to foreign policy - considerations of human rights help guide the foreign policy decisions.

Supreme Court Ruling Changes Advocacy Landscape

Yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United holds tremendous implications for and our supporters.  As you read the editorials in newspapers and online and listen to the pundits on television, I invite you to consider how this decision fundamentally changes the advocacy landscape in which we often operate.

This morning, I will leave it to the law professors and historians to put this decision in context and to dissect the constitutional principles in play.   I will put aside the "pros" and "cons" of the decision to focus on this:  As a practical matter, the financing of political speech and advocacy in the U.S. will immediately change.

Citizens United, the plaintiff in this case, is a nonprofit corporation that has historically opposed on issues relating to United States respect for international law and customs, such as ratification of the Law of the Sea. takes seriously our responsibility to represent in Washington the interests of our members and supporters and to educate and empower  our members and supporters on the issues of U.S. leadership in building international institutions and respect for rule of law.  We will continue to do so as we analyze and adapt to the consequences of this decision.

For those who value true "citizen" input into the American political process, one lesson is clear:  Organization like will need your sustained support more than ever.

Global Cooperation Needed in International Air Security

It is axiomatic that "global problems require global solutions."  International institutions have been created to resolve a whole range of practical problems, including the issues created by international air travel and, specifically, screening passengers and luggage for explosives. 

In reaction to the attempted detonation of an explosive device on a flight landing in Detroit on Christmas Day, the United States has unilaterally imposed additional screening requirements on certain travelers.  As a short-term emergency measure, there may be some merit in this.  In the heat of the moment, we should not lose sight of the fact that America's ultimate security in screening international passengers rests on international cooperation.

The United States participates in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an international body that establishes and regularly updates security requirements for international air travel.  To the extent that evaluations now conclude that additional of different screening requirements should be imposed, the U.S. should work within the framework of the ICAO to make these the new standard.