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The Right to Change

Last week, the Mexican west coast was hit by “the biggest storm ever recorded in the western hemisphere,” Hurricane Patricia. While Mexico’s response to the disaster has been praised and resulted in less damage than expected, the takeaway for many scientists has been that “in a warmer world…weather extremes will be happening regularly, causing havoc for vulnerable communities.”

This is a thought that is not always talked about when discussing climate change: that while this is an environmental and economic issue, it is also one of equity. Of justice. Of human rights. The effects of climate change, as well as the policies we put in place to curb these effects, have very real implications for the rights of individuals, particularly in poorer, more “vulnerable communities.” 

Hate in Burma Slows but Does Not Stop Democratization

I have written that Burma is still suffering from ethnic and religiously motivated violence, even as it seeks to strengthen its democratic institutions. Democratization has allowed people to express views they did not have the legal rights to under the military regime, especially in advocating for political changes.

Sadly, at the same time, this type of freedom has also allowed hateful elements to boil up to the surface,  including ethnic-religious bigotry which the military regime suppressed to maintain a degree of stability.

Many authoritarian regimes both past and present have discouraged or prohibited discussions about ethnic/racial tension and diversity as if it will make such problems disappear. All this does is smolder the coals for years, even generations, and when liberalization does occur, allows the flames of hate to rage out of control.

Citizens for Global Solutions Announces New Executive Director Earl James

The Boards of Citzens for Global Solutions, Inc. and the CGS Education Fund have announced the appointment of Earl James as Executive Director. He will take up the role effective immediately and will be responsible for implementing the organization's new five-year strategic plan. 

The Board is pleased to appoint Earl James as our Executive Director! As a long time board member, advocate, and staffer, Earl brings experience and passion to our organization. We look forward to working with him to build a strong constituency for world peace and effective global governance.

--Victor Lang, Chairman of the Board (CGS Education Fund)

Earl James has worked for social change in the nonprofit sector for over 40 years, including a previous stint as Development Director for CGS (1994-95), where he was instrumental in establishing and funding a staff position to build a US-based coalition for an International Criminal Court, and in increasing membership in CGS by 40%.

He has also served as an International Election Supervisor in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina, as Executive Director of CGS’s Pittsburgh Chapter, for the Rachel Carson Homestead Association (PA), and for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

As Director of Preservation Services for the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, he launched Rivers of Steel, a National Industrial Heritage Area, and as Director of Programs and Development for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center he organized statewide coalitions working on environmental health issues, and on cleanup and prevention of mining pollution.

Women as Peacemakers

Seeing with eyes that are gender aware, women tend to make connections between the oppression that is the ostensible cause of conflict (ethnic or national oppression) in the light of another crosscutting one : that of gender regime. Feminist work tends to represent war as a continuum of violence from the bedroom to the battlefield, traversing our bodies and our sense of self. We glimpse this more readily because as women we have seen that ‘the home’ itself is not the haven it is cracked up to be.  Why, if it is a refuge, do so many women have to escape it to ‘refuges’? And we recognize, with Virginia Woolf, that ‘the public and private worlds are inseparably connected: that the tyrannies and servilities of one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other. 

Cynthia Cockburn, Negotiating Gender and National Identities

UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for “full and equal participation of women in conflict prevention, peace processes, and peace-building, thus creating opportunities for women to become fully involved in governance and leadership.” This historic resolution, passed October 31, 2000, provides a mandate to incorporate gender perspectives in all areas of peace support. Its adoption is part of a process within the UN system through its World Conferences on Women in Mexico City (1975), in Copenhagen (1980), in Nairobi (1985), in Beijing (1995), and at a special session of the UN General Assembly to study progress five years after Beijing (2000).

Since 2000, there have been no radical changes as a result of Resolution 1325, but the goal has been articulated and accepted. Now women must learn to take hold of and generate political power if they are to gain an equal role in peacemaking. They must be willing to try new avenues and new approaches as symbolized by the actions of Lysistrata.

What's Happening in Paris this Year?

No, it doesn’t involve pastries or the Eiffel tower.

From November 30 to December 11, over 190 nations will meet up in Paris to plan a new global agreement on climate change. This agreement will replace current policies on greenhouse gas emissions, which expire in 2020.

Here’s what you need to know:

1.  What is it?

This conference is formally known as COP21, or the “21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).”

The UNFCCC was created at the Rio de Janeiro Summit in 1992 and adopted in 1994. It has been ratified by 196 countries.

These countries make up the Conference of Parties (COP):  the convention’s decision-making body. Every year the COP meets up and discusses how to meet climate change goals.

This year’s convention in Paris will be the 21st, hence the name COP21.


2.  Why does it matter?

Greenhouse gas emissions cause global temperature rises. The threshold beyond which global warming becomes  irreversible is 2C above pre-industrial levels.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with today’s emissions we are heading for a rise of 5C. There is still, however, time to limit climate change-- just not very much time.

Need I remind you of why this temperature rise could be catastrophic?


Water, Sunlight, Oil, and Sectarianism

In a prior post in the International Affairs Forum, I tried to outline what Western and Eastern polities might want out of the ever-fractious Middle East, using the P5+1 deal with Iran as a focus point.

Basically, this would be peace, prosperity, citizen-centered governance, and openness to global economic and social systems. In other words, we have had enough of this area’s interminable squabbling. We need to aim for more constructive regional and global engagement.

But there is a deeper set of issues and needs. First, let us take water.    

Several analyses suggest that the recent major drought in the area of Syria was a factor in Syria’s unraveling. Water shortages are of even broader scope in the area.

If the people of Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and even Saudi Arabia are impoverished by water depletion, governance systems are likely to destabilize, refugees will multiply, and oil supplies will be prejudiced as a result of civic unrest and violence. 

This would be a disappointing future for those in the area. But why should Americans, Europeans, and everyone else care? The temptation is to think or say that the Middle East was dry before we appeared on its scene, and that is not our responsibility. 

CGS Partners

CGS Banquet Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance Coalition Working Group Richard Ponzio

It’s not uncommon to hear issue advocates claim that different organizations are “siloed”—focused on their approach to the issues that concern their organization. Working every day on any one issue can create tunnel vision and prevent sharing best practices. It’s for that reason that Citizens for Global Solutions is committed to working across a number of issue groups that bring together like-minded organizations working broadly on related issues, but in different ways. It's this work that makes CGS a prime example of an interdependent and collaborative organization.

Citizens for Global Solutions is currently active in seven coalitions or working groups. Personally, my favorite is WICC, the Washington Working Group on the International Criminal Court, but since I'm WICC’s Advocacy Chair, maybe I’m biased. CGS co-founded WICC, which is why as Advocacy Chair, I’ve been happy to keep CGS at the forefront of ICC advocacy on Capitol Hill and continue to bring the CGS brand to many congressional offices. WICC regularly meets with congressional staffers and sponsors briefings and other events to raise awareness of the Court's important work in international justice and human rights.

Put Putin On Hold

Let's take a look at some of the major political and economic crises the world has gone through as of late: Russian and Ukrainian violence, the creation of ISIS, Greece's economic turmoil, and the refugee crisis across the globe. While the United States has made significant efforts to fight the injustices, it has been quiet compared to its roaring attitude to replace Saddam Hussein's Government in 2003 as well as to engage in a war for more than a decade.

A country is solely responsible for maintaining its sovereignty and should not be viewed as weak should it choose to not involve itself in international chaos. Moreover, it is the United Nations that must be in charge of international policy in regards to the political and economic stability of each country on a global level. 

One of the important reasons the UN was created in 1945 was to prevent wars and conflict in the first place, but should they happen, then to eliminate human suffering and avoid the economic costs. There have been several news posts and reports lately saying that Obama is weak, that Putin is going to take over the Middle East, and that America needs to do something.

Neither Vladimir Putin nor President Obama should feel that Russia and America are in charge of establishing and maintaining peace. Because Obama and Putin have strongly different ideologies about creating strategy to establish peace in the Middle East, neither has agreed to compromise effectively.

5 Global Issues No One Is Talking About

With today’s technology, it is easy for us to keep up with what’s going on around the world. We can receive email updates from government institutions, check up on current events from our smart phones, watch the news on our computers, and more.

Although it’s wonderful that we can easily stay informed, there’s one problem with this: sometimes by getting caught up in the “new,” crises that have been occurring for months or years get lost in the crowd.

Here are some of these “forgotten” issues:

1.       Refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab Camp

Dadaab refugee camp is the world’s largest, inhabited by some 350,000 people. The camp, which has been in place for over 20 years, is home mostly to Somali refugees who fled their own country's prolonged fighting and droughts.

Families in the camp struggle to live on the bare minimum provided by aid agencies. The World Food Program (WFP) was forced to drop rations at the camp by 30% this summer due to lack of funding. Hospitals too have suffered, as they can’t afford proper staffing. In Kenya, refugees are not allowed to work for an income, so families survive by engaging in trade within the camps.

Recently, insecurity has been rising in Dadaab. Criminal gangs and Islamic militants frequently attack the camp. The fact that so many young people aren’t able to work or study also contributes to a rise in crime—60% of Dadaab’s population is age 17 and younger. Amongst this chaos, it is not possible for the Kenya police or the UN Refugee Agency to maintain order.

Kunduz Hospital Airstrike: War Crime or “Mistake”?!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_804/image.jpg

On October 3, a US ground-attack aircraft blasted a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan for over an hour, leaving 22 dead and 39 injured. The attack was authorized by nearby US special operation troops after Afghan forces, who were taking fire from Taliban fighters, asked for air support.

Today, there are two opposing views as to what this tragic event constitutes. General John Campbell, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has claimed that the hospital was “mistakenly struck,” and that the troops “would never intentionally target a protected medical facility." How close the targeted Taliban forces may have been to the hospital is not clear. Even if militants had been firing from the hospital, however, US Rules of Engagement (ROE)--the rules commanders must follow while using force--would not have allowed an airstrike as it is a protected civilian facility.  

At the other end of the argument is the international aid group that runs the hospital: Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The organization has demanded that an independent international body conduct an investigation into the events “under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed.”