On Thursday, July 23, the United Nations General Assembly gathered to debate the responsibility to protect, or R2P, which states that nations have an obligation to protect citizens from mass atrocities if their own government is unable or unwilling to do so. Although R2P was unanimously supported at the 2005 World Summit and the Security Council affirmed their agreement with R2P in 2006 by signing U.N.
The Global Citizen
On Friday, July 24, 2009, President Obama will sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is the first United Nations Convention that Obama will sign in his Presidency. It is estimated that there are 650 million people in the world with disabilities.
This month, Pope Benedict XVI released an encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate, to bring Catholic social teaching up to date on ethical responsibilities. Among the gamut of issues he covered, he talked about the United Nations and the need for reform within it.
On July 17, International Justice Day, Citizens for Global Solutions and Senator Dodd (D-CT) co-sponsored a panel entitled, "A Seven Year Assessment of the International Criminal Court: Accomplishments, Next Steps, and U.S. Priorities." A lstanding room only crowd came in to see the Honorable Patricia Wald, Chair of the American Society of International Law task force on the ICC; Tod Lindberg, author of "Means to an End: U.S. Interest in the International Criminal Court;" and Benjamin Ferencz, prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials and Chief Prosecutor at the Einsatzgruppen Trial.
The distinguished speakers agreed that the U.S. has a vested interest in supporting the ICC and joining its system, which 110 countries have already done. U.S. credibility is at stake when it does not support the only permanent international court capable of trying individuals for heinous crimes, like the genocide committed under the Sudanese President in Darfur. Because the ICC serves as a complement to existing national courts and does not seek to replace them, the U.S. does not compromise its judicial system by strengthening this important international organ.
The U.S. played a big role in the court's formation, and many of its principles and ideals are in line with those of the U.S. It is unfortunate that given these circumstances, the U.S. has still not ratified the Rome Statute, which is the treaty that created the ICC. An ICC review conference in scheduled in 2010 to assess the court's performance and define "crimes of aggression." It is vital that the U.S. attends these meetings and discussions in preparation for it. Without doing so we will not be able to have our concerns addressed in an appropriate manner and at a time when there is still room for negotiations.
On July 22, the Atlantic Council hosted a roundtable discussion on the U.N. Mission to Kosovo (UNMIK), and the future of the U.N. in the region.
On July 8, 2009, Czech President V
Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese President who is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, has cancelled his planned trip to Uganda. Previously, Bashir had intended to attend a Smart Partnership Conference in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. However, Uganda, having ratified the ICC treaty, is legally obligated to arrest Bashir should he enter the nation. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has now reached an agreement with Bashir, calling off the visit by the Sudanese President for fear of causing a harsh diplomatic incident.
The initial announcement that Bashir would be visiting the ICC State Party had created outrage from various organizations, and a reminder from the ICC that Uganda had an obligation to arrest al-Bashir. Joseph Were of the Ugandan newspaper, The Independent, wrote that if Uganda did not arrest Bashir upon his arrival, it "might leave Uganda tied in hypocritical tinsel."
Omar al-Bashir had previously stated that the ICC arrest warrant would not affect his life in any way. It is now apparent that Bashir has been proven wrong.
The African Union [AU], made up of all 53 African states with the exception of Morocco, issued a resolution on July 3, 2009, stating that they would refuse to cooperate with the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court [ICC]. This decision stands in contrast with the AU summit meeting held the previous month, where the countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Rome Statute.
The resolution explains that the AU members have decided not to cooperate with the warrant against al-Bashir "in view of the fact that a request of the African Union [to defer al-Bashir's indictment] has never been acted upon." It also cites Article 98 of the Rome Statute, which indicates that "the Court may not proceed with a request for surrender or assistance which would require the requested State to act inconsistently with its obligations under international law with respect to the State or diplomatic immunity of a person or property of a third State, unless the Court can first obtain the cooperation of that third State for the waiver of the immunity."
While al-Bashir's lawyers and AU members argue that al-Bashir has sovereign immunity under Article 98 as head of state, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has asserted that "there is no sovereign right to commit genocide or crimes against humanity."
On July 10, the Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted a summit on energy security. Experts from a variety of government agencies and organizations discussed the different ways that America can attain a cleaner, more diverse, and more sustainable energy economy. Although the speakers tended to disagree on how the United States can achieve energy security, all agreed that the future must involve a dramatic expansion of renewable energy production. The devil, of course, is in the details.
The first speaker, from the World Resource Institute, spoke of the need for significant improvements in research and development and investment in renewable energy technology. The next presenter claimed that existing technology could start us on the path. He stated that what is most important is strong policy leadership among decision makers that will guide us towards energy security. There was discussion of the new cap-and-trade bill and Congress' failure to go as far with the legislation as many environmentalists wanted. Emerging technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage, which seeks to trap greenhouse gases in storage containers before they can damage the environment, were debated; as was the viability of continuing to use more traditional energy sources such as nuclear energy and coal. What was most reassuring was that despite the differences of opinion among the event speakers, what they had in common was the conviction that in order for both America to remain economically competitive, and for the sake of the world environment, the current situation must be changed.
For CSIS's page on the Energy Security conference, audio and video of the event, and links to the World Resource Institute's report, visit:
After passing through the House, The American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454, has continued to attract much attention and controversy as it awaits Senate vote. Opponents have tried to brand it as a tax-raising, economy-shattering piece of legislation. But this is not so.
Hearings have begun to discuss the climate legislation under the leadership of Senator Boxer and partnering chairs of other Senate committees. Many different views have been expressed, and some have stood out. One such view promotes establishing a cap-and-trade system and imposing a price on polluting. The climate bill puts in place powerful incentive possibilities to spur investment and research in energy technology. Senator Kerry noted that the energy market is a 6 trillion dollar market with about 4.5 billion eligible users. This represents enormous opportunities, and explains why China is currently investing aggressively in alternative energy development. Whoever pushes through this industry and establishes themselves first will be the winner, and this climate bill creates the incentives to make that happen in the U.S.