The Global Citizen: slangberg
Much has been made of the sizzling weather this summer. You've heard about it around the water cooler and in line at Starbucks. This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that July was the hottest month in United States history. 3,215 daily high temperature records were set or tied in June. More than 63 percent of the country in the lower 48 states is experiencing drought. Whether the high temperatures are caused by a broader climate change trend is unclear, but the heat will inevitably affect short-term crop supply, meat prices, and land arability. Moreover, the heat, if part of a climate change regime, could also affect the frequency, duration, and intensity of armed conflicts.
Saudi Arabian Women Athletes
Saudi Arabia is notorious for its troublesome human rights record and most especially for denying women an assortment of basic liberties. However, in a brief moment of openness, the Saudi government announced it will allow two women athletes to compete in this year’s London Olympics. It will be the first time that women are allowed to compete on behalf of the Islamic monarchy. This represents a dramatic shift in policy given that women are not allowed to participate in physical education classes or attend a gym. Their participation means that all competing countries at the Olympics will have women athletes after Brunei and Qatar relented this year.
The two athletes are named Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani (competing in Judo) and Sarah Attar (competing in the 800-meter race). The women will not be allowed to interact with men, must wear “suitable” clothing, and must be accompanied at all times. While it is an encouraging development, it is unclear whether the announcement will have ripple effects for nearly fifteen million Saudi women.
Social media is now a part of everyday life for millions of people across the world and even more so for young people. Organizers behind the 2012 Olympic Games in London aim to capture this momentum by integrating services like Facebook and Twitter into this summer's games. There are already four official Twitter accounts associated with the event, a Youtube channel, Facebook page, Flickr slideshow, iPhone app, the list goes on and on.
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are only eighteen days away and the famous logo featuring five interlocking rings is appearing daily on television. Throughout the past several weeks we profiled stories of courage, cooperation, and athleticism at the Olympics. The Games are a forum for dialogue and understanding and this week we want to highlight a few emerging trends and institutions that are helping to facilitate effective and inclusive international policy. There are the well-known institutions such as the United Nations, NATO, and Arab League that represent the world's most powerful countries, but several forums and ideas are originating, primarily in the Global South, that promote more participation for burgeoning world economies.
Responsibility while Protecting (RwP)
American runner Tommie Smith won the gold medal in the 200 meter dash at the 1968 Olympic games with a record 19.83 seconds. Australia's Peter Norman came in second at 20.06 seconds and the US's John Carlos clocked in at 20.10 seconds, rounding out the medal winners. As the three runners walked to the podium to receive their medals, Smith and Carlos wore only black socks to symbolize widespread poverty in the African-American community. Carlos also wore a necklace of beads representing African-Americans who were lynched and killed in the United States. Once the three athletes reached the podium and the national anthem began, Smith and Carlos raised their fists instead of covering their hearts. Norman, a critic of Australia's discriminatory policies, joined them in protest by wearing a human rights badge on his uniform.
This was an unprecedented moment in modern Olympics history. The three runners made an overtly political statement that criticized major world powers. The Games were held only months after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and a few years after Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous March on Washington. The salute was a sign of resistance to white oppression around the world, similar to other famous incidents such as Rosa Parks' refusal to sit at the back of a bus, the Greensboro sit-ins, and Malcolm X's revolutionary speeches.
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.
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.
Outgoing International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called on the United Nations Security Council to expedite the arrest of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir yesterday. The United Nations does not have an independent body capable of making the arrest, but they can pressure neighboring states to arrest Bashir if given the opportunity. Bashir currently faces two arrest warrants for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in the Darfur conflict that killed an estimated 300,000 people. His role in the conflict is nearly undeniable, but ICC member states are reluctant to make an arrest because of economic and military geopolitics.
The chief prosecutor's call to action obviously did not sit well with the Sudan's representative to the United Nations Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman. He claims that Moreno-Ocampo is "ignoring the U.N. Charter" by pursuing the arrest warrant against Bashir and other Sudanese officials. At the end of the Security Council session, he went further by calling the chief prosecutor's plea the "statement of a terrorist." However, Moreno-Ocampo countered by saying that the representative's unwillingness to cooperate could implicate him in the crimes as well.
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