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UN Should Deliver Humanitarian Aid Without Assad's Consent

A Syrian refugee girl sits on humanitarian aid boxesin the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Sept. 8, 2013 - Reuters

The number of people needing humanitarian aid in Syria has reached nearly 11 million - half the country's population. Yet with Syria's ongoing civil war, the only way for aid to reach those in need is for the government of Bashar Assad to allow aid workers into affected areas.

To say the least, this is a poor system for ensuring the basic needs of millions of people. With the country in tatters, people must have unfettered access to food, water, medicine, and other necessities: life shouldn't be held up by checkpoints and constant threats. With mounting evidence that Assad has used food and aid access as a weapon of war - to maintain and demand loyalty of Syrians wherever they might be - the international community has clearly needed some way to take control of humanitarian aid away from those who might use its access arbitrarily or maliciously.

In recent weeks world leaders have started work on plans to begin routing access around Assad and the rebels. The UN Security Council has been drafting a resolution in which aid workers, possibly with the legal protections of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, would be able to cross into Syria without consulting the Syrian government. That way people would have access to the resources they need and neither Assad nor the opposition would be able to use access to aid as a weapon of war.

Assad has vehemently protested the news of this resolution, claiming that any such cross-border aid deliveries would be a violation of Syrian sovereignty and would amount to an attack on the Syrian state.

This brings up two important points.

FIFA's Failures

The World Cup is moving into the knockout stages and, rightly so, the tournament has garnered immense attention internationally. I myself have been cheering for the US Men's National Team, though I think that Die Mannschaft (Germany) will ultimately emerge victorious in the tournament. The World Cup never fails to disappoint and this year has certainly been thrilling.

The World Cup is also a moment in which football's governing body, FIFA, is most scrutinized -- and this is for good reason.

Brazil's opportunity to host the World Cup has been a moment of pride for the Brazilian government and is almost too fitting a scene. A country that evokes images of beach parties, carnivale, and joyful people is coupled with a deep appreciation for the rich history of Brazilian soccer -- players like Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Marta, and more come to mind.

Our Global Neighbourhood: If Not Now, then When?

2014 marks the anniversary of the presentation in Geneva of the report of the Commission on Global Governance to an audience of UN Secretariat, diplomats, NGO representatives and academics. The secretariat for the Commission had been in Geneva just across the street from the Graduate Institute of Development Studies where I used to teach. I knew some of the secretariat, and we would discuss how the report was being drafted as the 28 Commission members were all busy with their professional tasks and spread out over the world.

In a pre-email world, the commissioners met four times in Geneva for several days; worked on drafts prepared by the secretariat led by a senior Swedish diplomat, Hans Dallgren; and then made additional suggestions. The report was published as a book in 1995.1

The Commission followed the footsteps of earlier commissions, often known by the name of its chairman: Willy Brandt on development, Olof Palme on disarmament and arms control, Gro Brundtland on the environment, Julius Nyrarre on North-South relations, and Sadruddin Aga Khan on humanitarian issues. The book's name comes from one of the hopes of the UN Charter: “And for These Ends...to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours.” It is unlikely that many of the Charter drafters or the Commission members ever lived in neighbourhoods in which people hate their neighbours and try to avoid them as much as possible.

Our global neighbourhood may not be that different!

A World Cup, But Not A People's Cup

Soccer is a universal sport. It is played around the world in a variety of countries: rich and poor, democratic and nondemocratic, Western and Southern. For millions, it is more than just a game, it is a source of national pride, and competing in the World Cup is one of the highest honors a team can bring to its country.

But while the sport itself may be a unifying force within and among countries, the international governing body that organizes the World Cup, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), is not. In fact, it is the cause of many of the world’s current issues, ranging from corruption to human rights abuses to mass riots. FIFA has gained enough power and influence to become somewhat of a world government, causing it to be dubbed the “United Nations of Football.”

Brazil, the current host of the World Cup, spent $300 million to build just one stadium in a secluded part of the country that does not have a first-class team to play there afterward; it will apparently cost $250,000 per month to maintain. All this comes from a country that suffers from extreme poverty and inequality, a decaying infrastructure, and both healthcare and education programs in need of more funding. The construction has also led to the gentrification of locals, with many enduring rent increases, demolitions, and evictions.

Can We Leave Our Children A Better World?

school children

I came across a BBC article last week entitled "What our descendants will deplore about us." The article considers human beings' trajectories in recent memory and what we are doing in our contemporary world that our children and grandchildren may find unbelievable--and in some cases downright terrible. The apartheid of South Africa and the segregation of the United States, for example, are deplorable to us now as many of the ongoing injustices around the world will look unacceptable to our children.

This article got me thinking about what I would put on a list of issues facing the world at the moment and which of them are critical to address if we want our progeny to look fondly at what we've done and the world we leave them. In doing so, I came up with the following as some of the most important goals for the global community to work toward:

A Final Message as President & CEO

Don Kraus

I’ve sent you many messages over the last 20 years as a staff member and leader at Global Solutions. This will be my last as president & CEO. I love Global Solutions, and I’ll remain affiliated with the organization as a Senior Fellow while I pursue other projects. However, 20 years is a long time for anyone to work anywhere. Before I step down on July 10th I wanted to share some thoughts with you on the challenges our organization faces and some suggestions as well. It has been an honor to serve you and an honor to lead. I look forward to my new role and to continuing to work alongside of you. Thank you for all that you do.

Peace Among the Religions: A Call to Action

interfaith leaders, religion, peace

In my final year of high school, I delivered a speech called "The Rusted Rule." I argued against the opinion that religion was inherently misogynistic, a justifier for war and a prop of regimes. I maintained that the Golden Rule of empathy, albeit rusted by the iniquities of religious extremism, still united world religions in a creed to abolish war and global injustice. I ended with an exhortation to repair the damage caused by all that is wrong with religion and to uphold all that is right with it.

Of course I was delighted to find at the recent Raise Your Global Voice Conference the means to bring to life the vision of peace through interreligious dialogue.

David Oughton, Professor of Theological Studies at St. Louis University and Board Member of Global Solutions’ St. Louis Chapter, spoke on the responsibility of world religions to take an active role in building a firm foundation for world peace and in promoting the ideals of a global community. He argued that the diverse faiths, in addition to articulating mildly different iterations of a common Golden Rule, share six commandments including “thou shalt not kill” and “help the helpless.” These laid the groundwork for the articulation of a Global Ethic, a universal call to action on the basis of collective religious principle, at the Parliament for World Religions in 1993.

Oughton suggested that all the world’s religions join the struggle for peace through interreligious dialogue, a necessity in accordance with Hans Kung’s statement that there can be “no peace among nations without peace among the religions.

ISIS Declares Caliphate: The Worsening Situation and the Role of the International Community

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made a huge move yesterday by declaring a caliphate spanning large areas over Iraq and Syria. ISIS has been capturing Iraqi cities one by one for several weeks now. They have successfully overrun military forces, and in some cases made forces voluntarily retreat.

(ISIS has recognized their caliphate as crossing international boundaries and ridding the countries of lasting colonial-era borders and has therefore changed its name to only “The Islamic State”.)

Abu Muhammad al-Adani, ISIS spokesperson, made this announcement on Sunday, which was also the beginning of Ramadan. In it al-Adani declared ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the imam and caliph (religious and political successor of the Prophet Muhammad) of “Muslims everywhere."

Last week, ISIS had been suspected of overtaking an oil refinery in Baiji, Iraq that would give them control of 1/3 of Iraq’s oil output. Because of this development, President Obama approved 300 troops to be sent to Iraq. These troops are part of what is called an “assessment” mission.

Generation Now

Lazy, selfish, and unmotivated: these are the characteristics commonly attributed to members of Generation Y. Generation Y, or the Millennial Generation, is considered to be all individuals born between 1980 and the early 2000s. Older generations often regard “millennials” as the future leaders of the world who just don’t know what they’re doing. Public opinion polls  have shown that many regard the generation as lacking a strong work ethic and overall feeling of purpose in life.

While such accusations are levied against Generation Y, I have seen firsthand how my generation defies these stereotypes on a daily basis. Just recently at the "Global Solutions: Raise Your Global Voice" annual conference held in DC, multiple college students, including myself, took part in the events hosted by the organization over the course of two days. During the conference, millennials proved that the world’s issues are their issues, and that only by taking an active role in the solution-making process can we fix the global problems we face.

The first day of the conference involved members of both GlobalSolutions.org and the American Bar Association taking to Capitol Hill to lobby for the ratification of international treaties. Despite the fact that older members of the organizations had been familiar with the issues for decades, it was the millennials that took the lead in many of the meetings. Other college students and I showed to the congressional staffers on the Hill that the international issues we inherited from past generations can only be solved if we take action and if our elected representatives do their part in passing legislation.

Iraq: What Does One Do with the Broken Pieces?

Refugees fleeing from Mosul, Iraq

There is typically a sign in shops selling china and porcelain that reads, “Do not touch; If you break it, you buy it.” Rather than portraits of Saddam Hussein, a sign like this should have been hung at the entrance to Bagdad.

With Iraq in armed confusion as sectors of the country change sides and the Iraqi government seemingly incapable of an adequate response other than to call for military help, as concerned world citizens, we must ask ourselves: what can we do?

The forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have broken down a wall on the frontier between Iraq and Syria as a symbol of abolishing national frontiers to be replaced by a community of the Islamic faithful − the umma. In some ways, we are back to the early days of the post-World War I period when France and England tried to re-structure the part of the Ottoman Empire that is now Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Turkey and an ill-defined Kurdistan.

During 1915, Sir Mark Sykes, a Tory M.P. and a specialist on Turkish affairs and Francois Picot, a French political figure with strong links to colonial factions in the French Senate negotiated how to re-structure the Ottoman Empire to the benefit of England and France. Although these were considered “secret negotiations,” Sykes reported to Lord Kitchener, the War Minister, and Picot had joined the French Foreign Ministry as war service.

However, both operated largely as “free agents”. Today Sykes and Picot are recalled for no other achievement than their talent in dividing. The agreement between them was signed in January 1916 but kept in a drawer until the war was over. In April 1920 at San Remo, France and England made the divisions official.