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"Oh no he didn't...!"

Part III: This is the third post from Ariela Blatter, Director of Policy and Programs for GlobalSolutions.org. Ariela is attending the 8th Resumed Session of the Assembly of States Parties in New York City this week.

 Did the US delegation get unfairly singled out today, as the only country that feels that haste makes waste when it comes to the dash to finalize the crime of aggression? Not according to the UK, who stood up in the ICC Assembly to agree with the US concerns on the inclusion of the crime. The US remained silent in the session as the UK took on the Venezuelan delegation's constant attempts to prove that the US stands alone. Today's colorful closing session on the crime of aggression at the UN became an interminable he-said-she-said debate over the language used in the Chair's summary report of the Assembly of States Parties. All of the fuss arose when the states parties were asked to approve the aggression working group report, drafted by Prince Zeid, which stated that "some [countries] cautioned the assembly that in so far as the Rome Statute, the crime of aggression should not be concluded hastily, and should be built on consensus." So in the end, at least in diplomatic "speak," the US may not be in good company with "some" countries in its position on aggression, but it can now return to DC knowing that that the final text reflects that it stands with "a few" countries. Phew- that was a close one!

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Is the ICC greater than the sum of its parts?

By: Ariela Blatter

Part II: This is the second post from Ariela Blatter, Director of Policy and Programs for GlobalSolutions.org. Ariela is attending the 8th Resumed Session of the Assembly of States Parties in New York City this week.

Calling the ICC a "game-changer" in international relations and international criminal law, Ambassador Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein, Chair of the Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression, spoke last night about the US relationship with the Court. Against the backdrop of this weeks meeting of delegates at the UN, Ambassador Wenaweser painted a picture of the ICC as more than just an institution; instead, it is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, the Court is more than the individual preferences and beliefs of the States that support it.  Although he took great pains to remain neutral during his panel presentation at NYU, his remarks were directed at the US, represented by Ambassador Stephen Rapp, to make a leap of faith by putting the need for achieving international criminal justice above any of its own agenda or its "national interests" as it considers its future policy on the Court. That may be a hard pill for the US to swallow, who stated very clearly on the floor of the Assembly and during this panel that there is a lot that needs to be done to bring the Court to the highest level of effectiveness. And top of the US's list of things that still need to be done, with no leap of faith on the horizon, is reworking or removing the crime of aggression.

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U.S. & Russia reach agreement for New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)

After more than eight months of talks between the U.S. and Russia, negotiators have reached agreement on the terms of the New START treaty, reported the Kremlin on Wednesday. The most comprehensive arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia in almost two decades, the treaty calls for reductions of more than one-quarter in the number of deployed strategic warheads and delivery vehicles in both countries.

New START replaces START I, the 1991 bilateral pact governing arms reduction that expired in December 2009. A new treaty was originally anticipated prior to the December expiration of START I, but disagreement over thorny issues such as the American missile defense system in Europe and the verification process for nuclear arsenals prevented the two parties from finding consensus. Officials from both countries have not disclosed detailed contents of the treaty nor have they discussed how these particular issues were ultimately resolved.

The date of the treaty's signing has yet to be determined, though early April seems likely. Prague is the tentative location for the signing in order to commemorate the one-year anniversary of President Obama's famed Prague speech on nuclear non-proliferation. If the signing ceremony takes place in early April, it will precede the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Obama in Washington on April 12-13.

However, some challenges to ratification are anticpated in the Senate, where 67 votes are needed to pass a resolution of ratification and provide "advice and consent" to the President. Some Republicans have stated that they do not intend to agree to a treaty that would restrict the planned missile defense shield for Europe. President Obama has already initiated discussions regarding ratification with Senate Committe on Foreign Relations Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and the committee's ranking minority member Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.).

Should states put everything on the line for the US?

By: Ariela Blätter

This is the first of a series of updates you can expect from CGS's Ariela Blätter who is attending the resumed 8th session of the Assembly of States Parties at the UN in New York.
After nine years of absence from the ICC, the US came out fighting yesterday at the UN giving the world's delegates and ICC States Parties pause. Although couched in soft language or as 'mere' questions, the US position, reading between the lines, is uncomfortably harsh- a demand that the assembly of state parties not to take ANY steps that would cause the US pause, particularly on the crime of aggression. As a non-State Party this is really what you call "chutzpah"- especially in telling Prince Zeid, the chair of these proceedings, that he has not only not built consensus around this issue and hasn't sought answers to the right questions about the functioning of the court. So what to do? Start over? Carry on despite and without US support? Kick the question on aggression down the road five or ten years? Stay tuned till tomorrow...

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Bangladesh becomes an ICC State Party!

Bangladesh ratified the Rome Statute today, becoming the 111th State to do so.  The Rome Statute was adopted by the international community on July 17, 1998 and Bangladesh signed it on September 16, 1999. This leaves twenty-eight states that have signed but not ratified the treaty.  As a State Party to the Rome Statute, Bangladesh now has a vote in the Review Conference which will begin in May in Kampala, Uganda. The Asian Human Rights Commission forwarded a Statement from Odhikar, a human rights organization, congratulating the government of Bangladesh for ratifying the Rome Statute: "Bangladesh has demonstrated its commitment to international justice."

ICC President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, noted that "By ratifying the Rome Statute, Bangladesh will become the first State Party in South Asia. I applaud its decision to join the growing commitment of states to end impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide."

CLICK HERE to see Citizens for Global Solution's interactive ICC flash module.

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World Water Day

Did you know that today is World Water Day?  The UN General Assembly designated the first World Water Day in 1993, and on 22 March every year since, the focus has been on a different aspect of freshwater sustainability. In a statement today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that more people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war.  He further stated that water is vitally linked to all UN development goals including maternal and child health and life expectancy, food security and sustainable development. On behalf of UN-Water a three-day celebration for World Water Day has begun in Nairobi, Kenya, bringing together scientists and policy-makers to discuss how to address the challenges posed by degrading water quality worldwide.

It is children that are most affected by world water problems, one child under the age of five dies every 20 seconds from water-related diseases, according to the UN Environment Program (UNEP).  In a new publication, entitled Clearing the Waters: A focus on Water Quality Solutions, the agency points out that in some developing nations, more than half of treated water is lost to leaks, but by some estimates, saving just half of the water could benefit 90 million people without additional investment.  Additionally they argue that an investment of $20 million in low-cost water technologies, such as drip irrigation and treadle pumps, could potentially lift 100 million families out of extreme poverty.  

"Courtside"! New ICC blog coming soon!

Next week the resumed 8th session of the ICC's Assembly of States Parties (ASP) meeting will begin.  Each State Party has one representative in the ASP, the ICC's governing body.  So far 110 States have ratified the Rome Statute.  Out of them, 30 are African States, 14  are Asian States, 17 are from Eastern Europe, 24 are from Latin American and Caribbean States, and 25 are from Western European and other States. The U.S. has not ratified the Rome Statute but, due to the US signature on the Final Act of the Rome Conference, US representatives may attend ASP meetings as observers.

CGS will have an observer at the meetings who will keep us updated throughout the week.  Check back for "Courtside" CGS's International Criminal Court blog that will be up and running soon!

CLICK HERE to To see Citizens for Global Solution's interactive ICC flash module

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Law of the Sea - "it's time to take our seat at the table"

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) had a meeting about U.S. Ocean Governance on March 8, 2010.  The meeting, which began as a general ocean governance discussion, quickly became focused on the Law of the Sea Treaty.  Moderator, Scott Borgerson of CFR at one point said "this wasn't intended originally to be the Law of the Sea party, but as the author of the report outside the door titled The National Interests and the Law of the Sea, I can't lie that it doesn't warm my heart a little bit."

The meeting began with a showing of the Council on Foreign Relation new interactive Web Oceans Governance Monitor.  CLICK HERE to watch the remarkable video.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island stated: "As the wonderful video said, the oceans really are the dominant resource of our planet, and we've paid far too little attention to it. The economic theory of the tragedy of the commons is being worked out on the ocean at a massive scale, and we see it in the changes that the ocean is undergoing. It's rising. It's warming. It's enduring biological changes as it rises and warms. It is continuing to be bombarded with pollution, and it's facing chemical changes. That's a lot all at once for this resource"

Admiral Thad Allen, the 23rd Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, emphasized that "rules of conduct and how we interact with each other on the water" are "incrementally changed every time there is a new convention that is ratified through IMO, every time a piece of domestic legislation is passed in any country or a time a new set of regulations is issued in the United States. We have a lot of pending work. [we] should start first with ratifying the Law of the Sea treaty."

Obama and Medvedev Discuss Arms Treaty

On Saturday, President Obama and Russian President Medvedev spoke for 30 minutes by telephone about "START" (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991 which expired in December).  The new treaty would reduce the active nuclear arsenals of both countries by more than one-quarter. It would require each side to reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads from 2,200 to roughly 1,600, and reduce strategic bombers and land- and sea-based missiles to below 800, down from the old limit of 1,600.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, who is responsible for leading the treaty through the Senate, said that the "administration administration is appropriately holding out for what we need to make the treaty verifiable and that will help it pass." John Kerry's counterpart, committee ranking Senate Republican Richard Lugar, remains hopeful that it will be signed and that there will be time assigned on the floor for debate and a vote this year, Lugar said he would support the treaty "unless there are extraordinary changes beyond those that I've heard about."

President Obama and President Medvedev tried to resolve remaining differences before forty-four nations arrive for the nuclear summit meeting in Washington DC in mid-April.   In a statement, the Kremlin said "It is now possible to talk about specific dates for the submission of the draft Start treaty for signing by the heads of state." White House spokesman, Mike Hammer, said the leaders "had a good conversation" about "the progress and consensus reached" in Geneva negotiations.  He added that the "results of their talks are encouraging, and both leaders are committed to concluding an agreement soon." While most of the substance has been settled for months, missile defense and verification have proved hard to resolve.

Car-puccino: an alternative fuel?

A coffee-powered car, dubbed the "car-puccino," went on a 250-mile road trip yesterday from London to Manchester.  The vehicle, powered by nothing more than coffee beans, burned the equivalent of more than 10,000 espressos during its journey.

The car is part of a showcase for alternative fuels at the annual "Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair." It is the creation of engineer Jem Stansfield, presenter of the BBC show 'Bang Goes The Theory.'  The car, formerly destined for a scrap heap, began as a 1988 VW Scirocco bought on eBay for £400 (roughly $600). A furnace built into the back of the car roasts coffee grounds to generate flammable vapors that fuel the engine.

The car was cheered through the streets as it battled endless traffic jams and eventually made it to Manchester last night.  The journey took approximately 17 hours and was interrupted by some hiccups along the way, as well as for a coffee refueling stop every 60 miles.  The UK's Telegraph reported, "by lunchtime it seemed more likely to be using decaf." Francesca Bennett, a member of the team responsible for the car, responded by saying: "It's not the most reliable form of transport, but we knew that.This is the first time this has been done and it wasn't about reliability. It was about energy and making people think about how they use it."