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The Reckoning Screening

Join us next Wednesday, April 28th, from 7 to 9 pm to watch and discuss The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court. The film follows dynamic ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and his team for three years across four continents as he issues arrest warrants for Lord's Resistance Army leaders in Uganda, puts Congolese warlords on trial, shakes up the Colombian justice system, and charges Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir with genocide in Darfur.

Established by treaty in 2002 in response to the mass atrocities that stained the late 20th century, the International Criminal Court (the ICC) is the first permanent international criminal court created to seek justice for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  However, the Court is not supported by a police force or other enforcement arm and faces major obstacles in pursuing its mission from nations that did not join the treaty.

GlobalSolutions.org will be discussing genocide prevention at our Annual Meeting, May 19th

Senate Climate Change Legislation - The Battle Continues... (A guest blog by Komal Hiranandani)

-A guest blog written by former intern Komal Hiranandani-

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have plans to unveil a comprehensive climate change bill in the Senate next weak, tentatively called the "American Power Act." Running on the heels of Earth Day celebrations, this Senate Bill follows the passage of the House's H.R. 2454 Waxman-Markey Bill in June last year.

A lot has happened between then and now. President Obama attended the Copenhagen climate summit in December, which acknowledged the scientific need to prevent climate change, acknowledged the assistance needed for developing countries to transition to clean energy economies, and saw the U.S. agreeing to pledge aid to developing countries for this purpose. However, the summit failed to produce the binding agreement across nations to take specific measures to fight this threat. The U.S. Senate debated the Kerry-Boxer climate bill that tried to follow H.R. 2454, but this moved fizzled out as Senators refused to come together and other issues clogged the agenda.

Once again, Senator Kerry has attempted to pick up the reins, and lead efforts to complete this process in the Senate. Conjecture has already begun about what this might and might not include. Reports indicate that it will pursue a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, which was H.R. 2454's target. The new bill is expected to move away from the House version's economy-wide cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, limiting itself to the utilities and industrial sectors.  Support for the nuclear industry is also expected. Manufactures can expect to see tax breaks for employing energy-efficiency measures.

Happy Earth Day!

HAPPY EARTH DAY!

 As GlobalSolutions.org, we naturally love the earth.  Today, we are proud to join in celebrating the milestone 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Earth Day was first launched on April 22, 1970 as the brainchild of the late Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who was frustrated by Washington's failure to adequately address environmental issues.  A few months after the first Earth Day celebration, Congress had passed and President Nixon had signed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created.  Ever since the first Earth Day celebration, April 22nd has provided environmentalists with an opportunity to both celebrate the earth and to stress that despite environmental progress, much more still needs to be done to safeguard the health of the planet for future generations.

In the U.S. Senate, a new climate change bill is expected to be introduced early next week to coincide with Earth Day celebrations.  This legislation, sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), is expected to place greenhouse gas emission limits on different sectors of the U.S. economy, and also to expand domestic production of oil and gas, as well as nuclear power.  To learn more about climate change legislation, visit our website at http://www.globalsolutions.org/issues/climate-change.

Adieu, Tuvalu!

Photograph by Peter Bennetts/Getty Images

The island nation of Tuvalu has less than 10 square miles of total actual land area. Those ten square miles of land area hold the 12,000 residents of this tiny nation. Lately, environmentalists around the world have been infatuated with Tuvalu. But why? Tuvalu's islands are mere feet above sea level and the slightest increase in sea level threatens life on the islands. Increases in sea level are caused by the emission of greenhouse gases. Close to Tuvalu, the Federated States of Micronesia have dealt with similar troubles. The Federated States of Micronesia already had to declare a national emergency last year due to a rise in sea levels. The government spent more than 7 percent of its budget and  $42 million to bring rice and drinking water to the islands. Taro, one of the staple foods on the island had been impossible to grow due to the increase in sea levels and rising high tides as the soil has been soured and the aquifer heavily salted. Unfortunately, Tuvalu may be in the same dire straits.

The Federated States of Micronesia, under the principle of transboundary harm, actually lodged a legal challenge to the Prunéov plant, the largest polluter in the Czech Republic, on the grounds that its chronic pollution threatens the nation's existence. Transboundary harm in the sense of air pollution means pollution whose physical origin is situated wholly or in part within the area under the jurisdiction of one Party and which has adverse effects, other than effects of a global nature, in the area under the jurisdiction of the other Party. Micronesia filed a formal objection against the Prunerov Plant under the Czech Republic's environmental impact assessment law.

FDR and the United Nations: An Enduring Legacy

When most Americans think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States - whether they remember him personally or simply learned about him in their U.S. history classes - they are likely to recall a few key things about him: he was our country's longest-serving president (in office for twelve years); was elected more times than any other American president (four); created the New Deal; and served as Commander-in-Chief during World War Two.  However, in addition to these noteworthy achievements, FDR, who died sixty-five years ago this week on April 12, 1945, has another enduring legacy - his role in the creation of the United Nations.

Even as the Second World War was raging across Europe and the Pacific, FDR played the role of "global statesman" by looking not simply to ensure that the Allies won the conflict, but that after the war was over, there would be an international venue for nations to resolve their differences without resorting to war.  A previous attempt to create such a body - the League of Nations - after World War One had proven a failure, in part because the United States never agreed to join the League despite the efforts of then - President Woodrow Wilson.  President Wilson had championed the League but was unable to get U.S. membership ratified by the Senate once the war was over and American attitudes had grown more isolationist.

Determined to avoid a similar outcome, FDR worked throughout the final years of his life to create the United Nations and ensure that the U.S. would play an active role in the organization.  On October 24, 1945, six months after FDR's death, the U.N. officially came into existence once the U.N. Charter was signed by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and a majority of other signatories.  FDR's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, also played a large role in the creation of the U.N. and served as U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

Is Europe the "Second Superpower" of the 21st Century?

Usually, when the topic of European Union foreign policy comes up, responses range from doubts as to whether the 27 - member body can even be said to have a coherent foreign policy, to questions on whether EU foreign policy matters much in a world increasingly dominated by rising powers such as China, India, and Brazil, as well as the United States.  But at a Brookings Institution event on April 8th entitled "The Foreign Policy of the European Union: Assessing Results, Ushering in A New Era," panelists sounded a generally optimistic note on the future of a common foreign policy for the EU, and how Europe might still exert a positive influence on the world outside its borders.

Featured speakers at the briefing were Giuliano Amato, former Prime Minister of Italy and Vice President of the European Constitutional Convention; Daniel Hamilton, Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies; Andrew Moravcsik, Professor of Politics and Director of the European Union Program at Princeton University; and Pierre Vimont, French Ambassador to the United States.  Former Prime Minister Amato noted that Americans are often much more enthusiastic about the EU than are Europeans; however, he asserted that grounds for optimism about the Union do exist.  He pointed out that the expansion of the EU to include twelve new nations, ten of which were formerly Communist states, since 2004 illustrates the "transformative power of Europe" and the attraction that the EU holds for non-member states in the region.  While Europe can play a positive role outside its own region of the world, Amato said that Europeans will have to work with the U.S. in order to tackle global problems, thus making the transatlantic relationship more important now than ever.

Presidents Obama and Medvedev Sign Historic New START

President Obama signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) alongside Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Prague early Thursday morning, which proposes modest cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both countries. The 30% reductions required by the treaty will bring the number of nuclear weapons available to levels not seen since the 1960's. The signing ended more than a year of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia, and President Obama noted that New START has been an opportunity to "reset" relations between the two countries. This constitutes a diplomatic victory for President Obama, who hopes that the Senate will be receptive to the treaty. Still, some advocates insist that the cuts were not deep enough, and hope that priority will be given to securing further agreements on arsenal cutbacks with the Russians.

The treaty and accompanying protocols will be forwarded on to the State Department, where it will undergo an article-by-article analysis. Then it will be sent to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for hearings. There have been relatively few criticisms of the treaty's provisions, and it received bi-partisan support throughout the negotiation process. Still, the treaty is likely to face some trouble once it reaches Senate, where 67 votes are required for the Senate to pass its "advice and consent" on to the President for ratification. Republican roadblocks may lie ahead on the path to ratification, especially when it comes to the U.S. plans for missile defense and the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide

Sixteen years ago, a bloody killing rampage began in Rwanda on April 7th and continued for 100 days. Organized by the majority Hutus, the genocide was ethnically motivated and systematically executed against the Tutsi minority population in Rwanda. The campaign was sparked by the assassination of President Habyarimana, and radical Hutus accused Tutsis rebels of being responsible for his death. Compounded by the country's history of civil war, this led to the widespread rape and murder of Tutsis and even moderate Hutus. The tragic failure of the international community to act rapidly and effectively once the killings began - or even beforehand - left as many as 1 million dead by July 1994. UN Security Council members refused to commit troops to the tiny UN force in Kigali. The horrific episode has left an indelible mark on many, affirming the vow that genocide will happen "never again."

Yet genocide has since raged in Darfur, Burma, and elsewhere, so it is not clear that the "never again" pledge has been fulfilled.  Genocide is preventable and early signs are detectable, but stopping atrocities before they begin requires political will at the national, regional, and international levels.  As we remember the thousands of Rwandans that were killed, we must urge our government to commit to taking action at the first signs of future genocide. For example, GlobalSolutions.org supports the introduction and passage of new genocide prevention legislation which includes funds to prevent or halt emerging genocidal crises. CGS also advocates that Congress fully fund the President's FY 2011 International Affairs Budget request of $2.182 billion.

Nuclear Posture Review sticks to the middle ground

Today the Obama administration released the much-anticipated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), coinciding with the anniversary of President Obama's progressive Prague speech last April. Splitting with Bush-era nuclear doctrine, the NPR renounces the development of new nuclear weapons and states that the "fundamental purpose" of nuclear weapons is deterring other states from deploying them. The NPR is the beginning of a six week focus on nuclear issues, as President Obama signs New START on Thursday, hosts a Nuclear Security Summit in April, and the UN holds the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May.

Yet the NPR might be more of a status quo document than an expression of President Obama's Prague vision, as some advocates had hoped. Despite the its modest advances, there were early expectations that the language in the NPR would be bolder and suggest more concrete numbers for nuclear weapons reductions. The NPR's largely middle ground stance indicates some political signaling to Congress. The Obama administration's nuclear priority in Congress at the moment is to ratify the New START, which will require 67 votes in the Senate, including the votes of key Senate Republicans. More drastic changes to the NPR might have fueled conservative opposition to New START.

April 4: International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action

Sunday marked the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, commemorating victims who have suffered the effects of the deadly weapons. Antipersonnel landmines have been dubbed indiscriminate killers, as they injure and kill more civilians than soldiers. In the wake of armed conflict, women and children often come across these hidden killers - in fields or on the way to school - and are maimed or killed.

The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty prohibits all use, production and trade of antipersonnel mines, provides timelines for destroying stockpiles, and recommends assistance programs for mine victims. Although 156 other countries have signed and ratified the Mine Ban Treaty, the U.S. has not. All U.S. military allies are party to the treaty, and Cuba is the only other country in this hemisphere that hasn't signed the treaty. Given that the U.S. was the first country to call for the elimination of landmines in the 1990s, the U.S. ought to sign the treaty to solidify its commitment to arms control.

In 2009, 67 national organizations asked President Obama to undertake a review of U.S. landmine policy. The State Department announced the beginning of the review in December 2009, and there is hope that it will end with a decision to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is considered one of the most successful NGO campaigns to create momentum around a multilateral arms control instrument. The treaty was signed and ratified in a record 15 months, and over the course of the last 11 years, the weapons have come to be regarded by many countries as illegitimate weapons of war. Click here for more information about the treaty and the campaign.

Still, the U.S. has one of the largest landmine stockpiles, despite the fact that landmines have not been deployed by the U.S. since the first Gulf War.