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Comprehensive World Food Policy

16 October is the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization's World Food Day − a yearly reminder that there are people who are constantly hungry due to ineffective agricultural methods, inadequate distribution, poor food storage, and armed conflict.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls for the day to ensure humanity's freedom from hunger. Frank McDougall, an Australian economist and delegate to the League of Nations, had influenced Eleanor Roosevelt, who then persuaded her husband to make food a world priority. President Roosevelt called a Conference on Food and Agriculture in May 1943.  A preparatory commission was set up, and a signatory meeting for the FAO constitution was held in Quebec on 16 October 1945, the date that was later chosen to be World Food Day.

The FAO headquarters was set up in Rome, Italy, where the International Institute of Agriculture (IIA) existed. Having FAO in Rome also was a symbol of Italy’s acceptance in the world community, despite its joining the Allies late in the game. First Director-General and world citizen Sir John Boyd Orr tried to deal with both immediate and long-term issues relating to agriculture, food, and nutrition. He set the pattern for strong leadership of the FAO secretariat on food issues, with most governments dragging their feet.

Ebola and State Failure

Ebola and the potential for failed states (Photo Credit: NPR)

Throughout history, numerous empires, nations, and city-states have suffered from various internal and external dilemmas that have led to their ultimate collapse. Such examples include the Roman Empire, the Soviet Union, and the former British and French empires, all once formidable in history, but ultimately succumbing to downfall. The Fund for Peace attributes “state fragility” to twelve indicators that include economic decline, erosion of legitimate authority, inability to provide reasonable resources, and more.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa may lead to the possibility of failed states, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The nations hit hardest by the outbreak--Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea--are stretched to the limit in providing resources to just to sustain their own people, let alone to combat the disease. As money and resources are diverted, public services decline and populations that relied on government assistance are severely affected and left vulnerable. As the Ebola outbreak grows exponentially, panic has emerged in these countries as people have started to lose confidence and trust in their governments.

While Ebola has strained state resources, the economic impacts of the virus are another reason that the “failed state” idea is plausible. These countries were recovering economically from the onset of civil wars and coups that had hindered their potential growth in the past. Ebola has created another setback for them, and the effects may last years if the outbreak is not contained.

Nigerian Atrocities Go Largely Unnoticed

12.5 million internally displaced civilians, 3 million refugees, 700,000 stateless people.

These alarming statistics are not related to ISIL or Syria or the Middle East. No, these statistics, these people, are in Africa. The international community recently was warned of the risks of overlooking the ongoing humanitarian crisis on the African continent in a high level meeting on refugees in Africa.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres reported that recent strings of conflict in several African countries, including Nigeria, have displaced more than 2.5 million people in the first half of 2014.

The problems run deep in Nigeria.

According to footage obtained by Amnesty International, the Nigerian Military is contributing to the gross human rights violations that are plaguing the conflict ridden state. The Nigerian Military, along with the Civilian Joint Task Force (CTJF) are reportedly shown performing extrajudicial executions and utilizing mass graves in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.

Embargo: United States Against the World

Each year Cuba asks the United Nations to lift the economic embargo the United States imposes on the nation of Cuba.

For the past 22 years, the United Nations has overwhelmingly supported Cuba in this resolution. Last year the resolution was passed188 to 2, with only the United States and Israel voting against it. 

An article in The Guardian points out,

Although many US allies join Washington in criticizing Cuba’s one-party system and repression of political opponents, the Americans have lost nearly all international support for the embargo since the collapse of the Soviet Union. No other nation besides the United States has an economic embargo against Cuba.

The fact that the US stands alone shows the undemocratic nature and ineffectiveness of the UN. Sensible changes proposed by Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World  by Dr. Joseph E. Schwartzberg would be a step forward toward a better world.

US intransigence also shows a lack of openness to new approaches and better ideas. If 188 nations have a different approach in a matter that adversely affects the citizens of a whole nation, isn’t it time that we rethink a policy that seems to hurt everyone--including ourselves?

Human Trafficking: Time for Change

human trafficking, slavery, congress,

 There are more slaves in the world now than at any other point in history. Let that sink in for a second. Whether for labor or sexual exploitation, human trafficking (HT) is a constantly growing problem, which requires a coordinated international response.

HT is defined by the UN as,

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Estimates put the total number of victims of HT somewhere between 14 and 27 million, and those profiting off their exploits are bringing in $32 billion worldwide. Even more upsetting is that the average age of those being trafficked is 12 years old. The average HT victim can be forced to have sex 20-48 times a day.Usually, the victims are promised a worthwhile opportunity in a foreign country. When they arrive, they are physically and mentally abused and exploited against their will.  They are often told that if they try to escape or tell anybody about their situation, their families will suffer. It should therefore come as no surprise that only 1-2% of HT victims are ever rescued and only 1 in 100,000 human traffickers in Europe are ever prosecuted. 

A Side of World Peas, Please

If I learned anything from years of first-day-of-class icebreakers – other than the fact that I hate icebreakers – it’s this: people love food. It’s not only a common topic of conversation, but also a common precursor to conversation: it seems like every time I’m catching up with a friend, it's over a meal of some kind. 

Food is at the center of society. It’s a factor in almost every issue: climate change, human rights, development, etc. Moreover, it’s representative of our culture(s). Cities, states, and entire countries are often defined by their food; travelling has become not only about what you see, but also what you eat.

It’s not that hard to recognize, then, how food and politics intersect. A perfect example of this is the popular dish pad Thai. Often thought of as the quintessential Thai dish, pad Thai’s origins actually lie in a specific political and economic context. In the 1940s, Thailand was allied with Japan and was greatly affected with rice shortages caused by World War II. The dictator of Thailand, looking to reduce dependence on rice and foster a greater sense of nationalism, created pad Thai because it could be made with inferior quality rice. Apparently we aren’t the only country that lets politics invade our dinner plates.

The Midterm Season

politics, midterms, senate, house

November is just around the corner, and since it is an even-numbered year, that can only mean one thing: midterm elections are on the horizon! This year's elections, like most, will be highly contested and have major political ramifications for the coming years. The main talking point this season concerns the potential for the Republicans to retake control of the Senate. Moreover, as the days have gotten closer to November, the question has changed from “Will they retake the Senate?” to “By how much will they retake the Senate?”

It’s easy to get caught up in the media buzz about which party will prevail in the midterms, but not enough attention is focused on the individual candidates running who ultimately end up running the show. Specifically, there are a few interesting candidates that I think deserve everyone’s attention. Working for CGS, it has been nice to reacquaint myself with the political scene, (this time on a national level) and to research the candidates’ positions on various issues, generally concerning global problems. Here are a few globally-minded candidates who could use your support next month, and that I think will do exceptional work for the country:

Divesting to Investing: The Fight Against Climate Change

Marked with enthusiasm and high expectations, the United Nations kicked off its long anticipated Climate Summit in New York City on September 23rd. Geared towards finding solutions and methods to combat climate change, nations converged at the summit while enormous marches in support took place globally. In New York City, over 400,000 people marched to express their grievances toward climate change and iterate the need to act immediately.

Met with optimism, the summit allowed nations to collaborate and address, for the first time in five years, the challenges that they must confront. Attendees included world leaders and celebrities such as Leonardo Dicaprio, an actor and a UN Message of Peace ambassador, who gave a thunderous and monumental speech. He emphasized the importance of our planet, acknowledging the existence of global warming and stressing, “You can make history…or be vilified by it.”

Cities, companies from many sectors, and national governments announced new actions to shift away from fossil fuels to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. Even the biggest economies signaled that they are ready to shift to a low-carbon growth path. The US announced that it will give the World Bank $15 million to help finance a program aimed at reining in methane pollution.

Issues at the United Nations 69th General Assembly


Last week I attended at my first panel on Capitol Hill, which pertained to the currently ongoing 69th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City. The panel was hosted by The United Nations Association of the United States of America, and included guests from the State Department, the Better World Campaign, and Peacekeeping Operations Support Section of the UN. The discussion centered on what the likely topics were going to be at the UNGA, as well as on the role of UN peacekeeping forces around the world.

After the panelists were introduced, they quickly highlighted some of their expectations from this UNGA, and what major issues the US was going to lobby for. The audience was then shown a video of an interview featuring one of the panelists, Ken Payumo, who served with the UN peacekeepers in South Sudan. He described the conditions that political refugees lived in, his role in the operation, and a harrowing story of being threatened by pro-government forces who wanted inside the UN compound to look for political dissenters. Ultimately, he did not allow these forces inside the compound and was taken out of South Sudan for his own security. Though I’m sure it wasn’t intended, a lot of the subsequent audience questions focused more than his story than the issues of the UNGA.

Cosmopolitan Dreams: Why we’re yearning for the APB and why we’ll probably never get what we want

Under Secretary Wendy Sherman and UN Special Adviser Adama Dieng discuss atrocity prevention

The Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) in theory is a cosmopolitan dream. It is the embodiment of the idea that we are connected as neighbors with the world around us. That as a country, we have a unique set of skills and resources that we use in to help our neighbors who might find themselves in harm’s way. The APB allows us to glimpse a world where we focus not on backroom politics, but on honest attempts to halt atrocities before they occur. A world where our intervention in a region is altruistic, and not simply political theater.

This cosmopolitan ideal is what had human rights organizations so excited at the board’s introduction in 2012. The President was finally making atrocity prevention a US priority. No longer were we simply focused on our own national security, but we were acknowledging our moral imperative to help prevent atrocities in the far reaches of the world. We had now created an inter-agency board specifically focused on strengthening early warning systems, building broader prevention strategies, and bringing together national and international bodies to work in cooperation toward better atrocity prevention.

Yet today we are left wondering how that moral imperative is being addressed. The board’s near invisibility has left many questioning what, if anything, it is actually accomplishing, and whether it was ever meant to accomplish anything at all.