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How Rivalry Between China and the United States Will Drive Global Development

17. Dezember 2018 - 17:05

An infrastructure “arms race” is emerging between the China and the United States over access to the developing world.

Competition over the building of ports, roads and railways are becoming more and more commonplace. These projects seek to connect established and emerging markets with manufacturing hubs and areas rich in natural resources.

This competition will have a big impact on development outcomes for years according to Seth Schindler, a senior lecturer in urban development and transformation at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester. He studies large scale infrastructure projects and as he explains, geopolitical rivalry between China and the United States will be the key factor driving the development of these massive projects.

In our conversation we talk through the implications of this trend, which has accelerated since China launched a massive global infrastructure-building strategy known as the Belt and Road Initiative. It was in response to this Chinese strategy that the US Congress passed a law known as the US BUILD ACT, in October 2018 which established a new International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC).

We kick off this conversation talking about both the Belt and Road Initiative and the new US International Development Finance Corporation, before having a broader discussion about the ways this rivalry will manifest itself around the world and its impact on global development.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify

The post How Rivalry Between China and the United States Will Drive Global Development appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Yemen Agreement Demonstrates the Continued Relevance of the United Nations

14. Dezember 2018 - 3:33

Representatives of Yemen’s warring factions signed an agreement in Sweden in the first major diplomatic breakthrough of Yemen’s devastating civil war. The agreement is not a peace deal. Rather, the parties agreed to a ceasefire in the key port city of Hodeidah and also to establish a humanitarian corridor for aid to reach residents of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city.

This is a crucial humanitarian breakthrough that the UN mediators expect to lead to more comprehensive peace talks to resume next month. In the short term, this agreement may ensure that famine does not strike the people of Yemen.

The agreement asks much of the United Nations.

The agreement sets up a “Redeployment Coordination Committee” to be chaired by the United Nations and composed of representatives of the warring factions. This committee is responsible for overseeing the redeployment of armed forces outside of the port city to agreed upon locations. This kind of mediation and coordination is something that the UN has a good deal of experience conducting and so long as parties are cooperative would not be the heaviest of lifts.

This is in contrast to another role crafted for the UN in this agreement, which is to oversee operations of the port of Hodeidah and also expand its inspections of cargo ships that dock in the port. The Saudi-lead coalition will not let a ship enter the port of Hodeida until it receives clearance from the inspectors with the UN Verification and Inspection Mission in Yemen, known as UNVIM. Ostensibly, this is to ensure that no arms or military goods are smuggled to Houthi rebels. But the effect has been to seriously disrupt the shipment of food, aid and other goods. Presumably, enhancing the inspections would give the Saudi’s the assurances they need to let more ships dock at the port, which is responsible for some 80% of all food imports in the country.

Finally, the agreement vaguely calls for “A strengthened UN presence in the city of Hodeidah and Ports of Hodeidah, Salif, and Ras Isa.”  It adds no further details to that end.

The warring parties, and their backers, are turning to the United Nations to help implement and monitor this agreement. But now, the UN needs the Security Council to back it up. Two weeks ago, the United States pulled its support from a UK drafted resolution calling for a ceasefire in Hodeidah. The timing was curious, but the official explanation was that a ceasefire resolution would be pre-mature pending the outcome of the talks in Sweden. Now that the sides have agreed on a ceasefire, though, a Security Council endorsement of the ceasefire would strengthen the agreement. It is expected that after a Friday briefing by senior UN officials tomorrow, the UK will quickly draft a new resolution.

This flurry of diplomatic activity, in which the United Nations is playing a central role, will not end the conflict in the near term. But it will help avert a famine in Yemen that threatens hundreds of thousands of children, who are the first to die in a famine. But because of UN mediation, in particular from the Secretary General’s special envoy Martin Griffith, that worst case scenario may be avoided. And because of the guarantees that parties expect the UN to provide to ensure the implementation of the agreement, there is a decent chance that this ceasefire agreement may lead to something more enduring and comprehensive.

Just last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted the United Nations in a speech in Brussels, claiming that it had outlived its usefulness. But this agreement on Yemen is a good demonstration of just how valuable the United Nations continues to be.


The post The Yemen Agreement Demonstrates the Continued Relevance of the United Nations appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Yellow Vest Protests in France Have Big International Implications

13. Dezember 2018 - 16:47

A protest movement in France known as the Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, has become a political crisis for French President Emmanuel Macron. The protest movement began over a hike in a fuel tax, but has grown into something much more and is now threatening to further weaken President Macron, whose popularity was already sinking in France.

On the line with me to discuss the origins of this movement and its political significance both in France and throughout Europe is Arthur Goldhammer, a senior affiliate with the Center for European Studies at Harvard University. He is also a translator of French works into english. If you are one of the many people who read Thomas Picketty’s book Capitalism in the 21st Century, you read Art Goldhammer’s translation.

We kick off discussing the origins of this protest movement.  We then have a wider discussion about the roots of Macron’s unpopularity in France and the implications of his unpopularity for Europe, the European Project and liberal democracy more broadly.

If you have twenty minutes and want to learn the broader international implications of the Yellow Vest movement, have a listen.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify

About Arthur Goldhammer

Arthur Goldhammer has a B.S. and Ph.D. in Mathematics from MIT and has taught at Brandeis University and Boston University. He has translated more than 125 books from French, for which he won numerous awards. His most recent award was for Thomas Piketty’s bestseller Capital in the 21st Century. At CES, he is Co-Chair of the Contemporary Europe Study Group and Chair of the Visiting Scholars Seminar.

A long-time observer of French politics, Goldhammer regularly contributes commentary on France and French politics on his blog site “French Politics.” He writes regularly for The American Prospect, The Nation, Democracy Journal, and Foreign Policy and serves on the editorial boards of The Tocqueville Review and French Politics, Culture, and Society.

The post The Yellow Vest Protests in France Have Big International Implications appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

European Union Releases Facts and Figures for Migrant and Refugees Arrivals in 2018

11. Dezember 2018 - 20:58

The European Commission released updated statistics about the numbers of refugees and migrants who tried to make their way to Europe in 2018, via the Mediterranean sea.

In all, there were about 134,000 migrant arrivals to Europe in 2018, which is actually a significant decrease from 2017, which saw nearly 180,000 arrivals. Spain was by far the biggest destination for migrants and refugees in 2018, having received some 60,000 migrants and refugees this year. This compares to nearly 46,000 in Greece and 23,000 in Italy.

Source: European Commission

Migrant Deaths At Sea Also Decreased in 2018

The number of refugees and migrants who died at sea trying to reach Europe decreased in 2018 as compared to 2017. According to data from the European Commission, 2,160 people died trying to reach Europe in 2018 as compared to 3,129 deaths in 2017.

This daya



An infographic from the European Commission


The European Commission released this data as delegates from over 180 countries, including most of the European Union, are meeting in Marrakech, Morocco to launch the new UN Global Compact for Migration. This compact seeks to create a platform for international cooperation around issues relating to international migrations.

To learn more about the Global Compact for Migration and how it may enhance efforts to confront the challenge of migration across the Mediterranean sea,  have a listen to this Global Dispatches Podcast interview with Alice Thomas of Refugees International.

The post European Union Releases Facts and Figures for Migrant and Refugees Arrivals in 2018 appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Global Compact for Migration, Explained

10. Dezember 2018 - 5:09

Over 180 countries are endorsing what is known as the Global Compact for Migration. The text of this non-binding agreement was finalized over the summer, and countries are meeting in Marrakech, Morocco on December 10th and 11th to formally launch the Compact.

There is a great deal of misinformation being spread, mostly by right wing governments in Europe in the US, about what this agreement entails.

In this episode of the podcast, we set the record straight about the Global Compact for Migration

This agreement is not a treaty. Rather, it is an agreed set of principles and creates a kind of platform for multilateral and bilateral cooperation around issues of international migration.

On the line to explain the Global Compact for Migration, better known around the UN as the “GCM” is Alice Thomas of Refugees International.  I caught up with Alice Thomas from Marrakech where she was participating in civil society forums around the Compact. We discuss both the content of the Compact and its potential impact on destination countries, origin countries and migrants themselves. We also discuss the impact of the non-participation of a few countries in this compact, including the United States and some countries in Europe.

If you have 20 minutes and want to a primer on the Global Compact For Migration, have a listen –>

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify

About Alice Thomas

Alice Thomas is the Climate Displacement Program Manager at Refugees International. An expert on vulnerable communities displaced by extreme weather and climate change, Ms. Thomas has more than 15 years of experience in international environmental law and policy and humanitarian affairs. She launched the Climate Displacement Program at Refugees International in 2010 to advocate for solutions to address the impact of disasters and climate change on forced migration of vulnerable communities around the globe. Since joining RI, Ms. Thomas has conducted over a dozen independent assessments of the response to humanitarian crises brought on by extreme weather events including in Puerto Rico, Haiti, Somalia, and the Philippines. She has presented her findings to government and UN officials, and at numerous think tanks including the Brookings Institution and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She is a member of the Advisory Committee to the Platform on Disaster Displacement (Nansen Initiative) and of the Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility, which provides technical support to state parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Prior to joining RI, Ms. Thomas was a staff attorney in the International Program at EarthJustice where she devised legal strategies to mitigate climate pollution and address climate impacts on vulnerable populations. She has also held several positions at the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative including as Deputy Director of the Asia Law Initiative. She started her career in private law practice. She received her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a B.A. in History from Princeton University.

Twitter: @AliceRThomas

The post Global Compact for Migration, Explained appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: What “Elections” in Bahrain Can Teach Us About Politics in the Middle East

7. Dezember 2018 - 8:47

The Kingdom of Bahrain is the smallest country in the Middle East. It is an island in the Persian Gulf connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway. It is home to the largest US Naval base in the region, which houses the Navy’s fifth fleet.

Bahrain is also in the midst of a years long crackdown in which political opposition figures, human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers have been languishing in jail. And it was in this context that last month Bahrain held elections that were a total sham, according to my guest today, Brian Dooley.

Brian Dooley is a senior advisor at Human Rights First and as he explains, the politics and international relations of Bahrain can teach us a lot about broader trends in the Middle East. In our conversation, we discuss why these recent elections in Bahrain matter and what the international community can do to restore a semblance of representative democracy to Bahrain.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify

The post PODCAST: What “Elections” in Bahrain Can Teach Us About Politics in the Middle East appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered what was billed as a “major address” in Brussels in which he took aim at the liberal international world order. He missed. 

5. Dezember 2018 - 22:27

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered what was billed as a major address in Brussels yesterday in which he took aim at the liberal international world order.

He missed.

Stewart Patrick from the Council on Foreign Relations does an excellent job dismembering Pompeo’s speech point by point. 

Much of Pompeo’s address was a selective and tendentious critique of international institutions that depicts them as invariably antithetical to national sovereignty. Sure, he conceded, the European Union has “delivered a great deal of prosperity to the continent.” But it has since gone badly off track, as the “political wake-up call” of Brexit showed. All this raised a question in his mind: “Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats and Brussels?”

The answer, as one listener shouted out, is “Yes!” The secretary, like many U.S. conservative critics of European integration, is unaware that EU member states continue to hold the lion’s share of power in the bloc, which remains more intergovernmental than supranational. Pompeo seems equally unaware of how disastrously Brexit is playing out. With each passing day, the costs of this catastrophic, self-inflicted wound are clearer. In its quest for complete policy autonomy—on ostensible “sovereignty” grounds—the United Kingdom will likely have to accept, as the price for EU market access, an entire body of law and regulations that it will have no say in shaping. So much for advancing British sovereignty.

Pompeo similarly mischaracterizes the World Bank and IMF as having gone badly off track. “Today, these institutions often counsel countries who have mismanaged their economic affairs to impose austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors.” This is an odd, hybrid critique. It combines a shopworn, leftist criticism from the 1990s—that the international financial institutions (IFIs) punish poor countries with structural adjustment programs—with the conservative accusation that the IFIs are socialist, big-government behemoths. Both are ridiculous caricatures. They ignore how much soul-searching the IFIs have done since the 1990s, as well as how focused they are on nurturing an enabling institutional environment for the private sector in partner countries.

Pompeo also aims his blunderbuss at the United Nations. He complains that the United Nations’ “peacekeeping missions drag on for decades, no closer to peace,” ignoring the indispensable role that blue helmets play in preventing atrocities, as well as a recent Government Accountability Office report documenting how cost-effective such operations are compared to U.S. troops. Similarly, Pompeo claims, “The UN’s climate-related treaties are viewed by some nations simply as a vehicle to redistribute wealth”—an accusation that is both unsubstantiated and ignores the urgent need to mobilize global climate financing to save the planet.

Bizarrely, Pompeo also turns his sights on the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU), for alleged shortcomings. Has the OAS, he asks, done enough “to promote its four pillars of democracy, human rights, security, and economic development?” Um, no. Could that have something to do with the lack of U.S. leadership in the Americas on democracy and human rights? Yes. Might it have helped if the Trump administration had filled the position of assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs before October 15 of this year? Probably.

Equally puzzling is Pompeo’s single line riff on the AU. “In Africa, does the African Union advance the mutual interest of its nation-state members?” Presumably the answer is yes, or its members would be headed for the door. The AU continues to struggle in financing its budget, but it has made great strides since its founding in 2002 to better advance security, stability, and good governance on the continent.

“International bodies must help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world, or they must be reformed or eliminated,” Pompeo declared. Sounds reasonable. But where is this “free world” of which the secretary speaks, and what standing does the United States today have to defend, much less reform it? In the two years since he took office, Donald Trump has never expressed any interest in defending the international order, much less “returning [the United States] to its traditional, central leadership role in the world,” as Pompeo claims. Indeed, the phrase “U.S. leadership” has rarely escaped Trump’s lips, and he has gone out of his way to alienate longstanding Western allies and partners in venues from NATO to the G7.

I would only add that a US Secretary of State to delivering remarks in the heart of Europe about re-invigorating a liberal democratic world order should be a very welcome thing. The liberal world and rules based world order was created by the United States in the wake of the devastation of World War Two. In order to function properly, the rules based international needs US leadership.

But in two short years, the United States has largely abdicated that responsibility. To make matters worse, the US president displays a kind of illiberalism on a near daily basis.

So, when standing before colleagues in Brussels, the United States Secretary of State has very little credibility upon which to lecture others about the liberal world order. The lack of US credibility creates a big problem: the system depends on US leadership, but thanks to the words and deeds of the US President and members of his administration, the US may no longer be looked upon to lead.  And without US leadership, the future of the post war international system is very much uncertain.

The post The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered what was billed as a “major address” in Brussels in which he took aim at the liberal international world order. He missed.  appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The UN Releases Its Estimate of How Much Money Will Be Needed to Pay for Humanitarian Crises in 2019

4. Dezember 2018 - 17:23

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, better known as OCHA, is the branch of the UN system that facilitates global responses to humanitarian crises. Today, that office released its forecast of manmade and natural disasters that will demand international responses in 2019.   

According to the report, known as the “Global Humanitarian Overview” some 132 million people around the world will need some form of humanitarian assistance next year. Of these, the United Nations and partner organizations will aim to reach 93.6 million people with food, shelter, medicine or other form of life saving assistance.

More than anything else, what is driving this humanitarian need are ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. OCHA also cites humanitarian challenges in the DRC, Ethiopia, and Nigeria; an escalating crisis in Cameroon; and drought in Afghanistan as being top drivers of humanitarian needs in 2019.

In all, OCHA estimates that humanitarian agencies will need a combined $21.9 billion in 2019 (though this number excludes needs for Syria because that assessment has not been completed yet.) The actual figure will be around $25 billion.

As you can see from this chart from OCHA, that number would be a similar figure to 2018.

The gap that you see is the amount of money requested and the amount of money actually received. It is in this gap that most of the unnecessary misery from war and disaster occurs. When a disaster strikes, the OCHA puts together a needs estimate against which donors can make pledges. When donors do not meet the full amount requested, it means that individuals affected by the crisis lack food, medicine, shelter and other basic relief items and services. It is this gap that causes the most pernicious suffering among people who are already affected by some horrible disaster. The 2019 needs assessment does not suggest that this gap between what is required and what is provided will shrink in any meaningful way.



The post The UN Releases Its Estimate of How Much Money Will Be Needed to Pay for Humanitarian Crises in 2019 appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

PODCAST: What You Need to Know about COP24, the Big UN Climate Conference Underway in Poland

3. Dezember 2018 - 16:50

Diplomats, scientists, advocates and other concerned parties are gathering in Katowice, Poland for a major international climate conference that is serving as a followup to the Paris Climate Agreement. The meeting is formally called the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is better known in UN lingo as COP24 and it stretches from December 2nd to the 14th.

This conference is a big moment in international diplomacy and a key inflection point for the implementation of the goals set forth in the Paris Accord.

On the line with me to discuss what is happening at this conference and why it matters is Yamide Dagnet, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute. And as she explains, there are three main tasks before delegates to this conference, which together are intended to facilitate global cooperation toward the Paris agreement goal of limiting the pace of global warming.

We also discuss how the United States fits into these negotiations given that it is both a major emitter and that President Trump has decided the US will pull out of the Paris Agreement.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn the major tasks — and stakes —  of this key moment in the global effort to confront climate change, have a listen.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify

The post PODCAST: What You Need to Know about COP24, the Big UN Climate Conference Underway in Poland appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

George H.W. Bush Was the Strongest Supporter of the UN of Any Modern US President

1. Dezember 2018 - 11:35

President George H.W Bush passed away today. He served as US President from 1989 to 1993 and was the only US president to have previously served as US Ambassador to the United Nations.

President Bush was among the strongest supporters the United Nations of any US president. In 1990, when Saddam Hussein’s army invaded neighboring Kuwait, the United States assembled wide support at the United Nations to mount a military campaign to evict Iraqi forces and liberate Kuwait. This was a broad multilateral response, lead by the United States, to confront a violation of international law and an affront to the principles of the UN.

At the time, he also developed a very strong personal relationship with then-Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

A few years ago, a reader was sifting through the President George H.W. Bush Library archives and passed along to UN Dispatch a few interesting links to conversations between President Bush and Secretary General Perez de Cuellar.  There were a range of issues discussed in these conversations (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq). And it’s clear that an apparent personal relationship between President Bush and the Secretary General was quite strong.

Bush would call de Cuellar for advice on worldly issues, and de Cuellar would feel bold enough to call the White House directly and ask the USA to pay its bills at the UN. The two men were on a first-name basis.

Here is a September 1990 call between de Cuellar and President Bush. This was before the start of the (first) Iraq war and the Secretary General had just returned from a trip to Baghdad. de Cuellar knew that Saddam was not going to give an inch, but thought that the show of diplomacy was important nonetheless. President Bush agreed, and called the Secretary General to get his opinion of the situation in Iraq.

The President: Javier, how are you?

Secretary General: Hello, George. How are you?

The President: Welcome back, world traveler.

Secretary General: You know by the press about my trip — disappointing but as expected. But I wanted to expose them.

The President: You did a wonderful job. As we discussed before you left, it was a difficult job. But the fact that you went communicates interest in diplomacy while keeping our principles. On the surface, we agreed you were not going to get any progress. But the fact you went shows that we were willing to follow the diplomatic route. I think you had it right. Iraq is just locked into to its position. But actually, Javier, I called to get your insights and views.

Secretary General: I had two objectives: not to concede a word, not even to save time. They didn’t want to break the talks, but I didn’t want to be used either. I didn’t want to cede political points to them. I repeated to them international public opinion. I was not prepared to conceal the truth. I told him I would give him a change to go check with his leader to see if he could get something positive. I proposed that we go to Geneva in the next 2-3 days once he had a reaction from his leader. I was persuaded that he wanted to maintain his position,but not to break the channel of communication.    I told him I was at their disposal provided they did something positive.

The President: I don’t know where we go from here. He makes that I should talk to him. But I make that the United Nations should be the conferee and the Secretary General should keep his hands on this. I will help him to keep communications open with you. No one has been killed yet. And I think we need to continue to enforce sanctions. He gave a terrible speech today, Javier.


The President:    I want to thank you on the part of everyone for your leadership. If you ever want to talk to me about what we should do or shouldn’t do, I would appreciate a call. Are you in New York?

Secretary General: Yes; I just got back this morning. I had a difficult time with the- flu.

The President: One last thing, what about their guests, or the hostages, as we call them? What he is doing is a crime against humanity.

Secretary General: I told him it was not sufficient to keep women and children and hinder freedom of movement.    They are all human beings. I told him I can’t accept this human shield concepti it is against human rights. He said they were reconsidering on the question of the embassies in Kuwait. But it is not true. There has been no give at all. I think they are starting to feel the sanctions.

The President: That’s encouraging.

Secretary General: They asked me to convey to the Security Council — and I will do this tomorrow — their need. They want the paragraph in the resolution discussed so they can receive medicine. They asked me to do this. They also asked me to tell the President of the United States that they are not going to ignite a war. They asked that you withdraw immediately, and I said in the case of what. Why should they leave when they have no reason to unless you give them something in exchange? You must make the first step.

Mr. President: Well done. Thank you again for your mission.

As this conversation shows, de Cuallar and President Bush had a close relationship. A few months prior to his Iraq mission, the Secretary General called the White House to directly as the USA to pay its membership dues to the United Nations.

Perez de Cuellar: I want to ask you a favor. I’m having difficulties with my budget.

The President: Yes, I’m humiliated…

Perez de Cuellar: There is the $60 million that the U.S. has not paid on its 1989 commitment. I ask as a personal favor for you to exert your influence on the Senators, especially Domenici and [did not catch the second name], that they accept the bill for UN funding.

The President: I feel terrible. We’re in a big fight with Congress … I will personally do all I can to see that the bill is passed when they get back from vacation

there is no excuse. We’ve requested the funding … Congress is being stubborn. Javier, I didn’t understand what you said about the $50 million. . .

Perez de Cuellar: I wrote you a letter a few weeks ago, I don’t know if you saw it, it’s about the $60 million still unpaid on your 1989 UN dues.

The President: We can cover the funding if the bill gets through the Senate. I will personally work on it when the Senators get back … it is a priority.

The U.S. ought to pay its debts … I’m sorry ‘we’ve caused you this worry.

This (below) is from a September 1991 meeting at the United Nations between Secretary General Perez de Cuellar; UN under-secretary general Ron Spiers; President George H.W Bush, his secretary of State James Baker, UN Ambassador Thomas Pickering, and John Bolton, then the Assistant of State of State for International Organizations.  After chatting about the UN’s conflict mediation efforts in Afghanistan (the Soviets were on board!) and the impending breakup of Czechoslovakia, the Secretary General brought said he faced a financial crisis because the USA wasn’t paying its bills on time.

Secretary General Perez de Cuellar: I want to tell you that the UN is facing immediate cash flow problems.

The President: What is the status of our appropriations request?

Assistant Secretary Bolton: Appropriations are moving well in Congress and we should get full funding for the assessment and slice of arrears later this fall. The authorization conference is next week, so it is a matter of time.

The President: If there is a continuing resolution, can we get the Secretary General some money?

Assistant Secretary Bolton: We want a larger chunk than that.

Secretary Baker: There are large peacekeeping operations coming up for funding.

The President: Hungarian Prime Minister Antall told me that Czechoslovakia may split up as soon as next week. The Hungarians are also worried about refugees coming from Yugoslavia.

Secretary General Perez de Cuellar: We have no reserves (funds).

Under Secretary Spiers: There is a tough structural problem because the fiscal year of the US differs from the UN year. So the assessment payment comes late in our year.

Assistant Secretary Bolton: That is the result of a one-time budget maneuver in the previous administration. The only way to change it is to move it back a year, thus entailing a double payment in one year.

The President: We should look for opportunities to return to the prior appropriations schedule. The way to do it may be to get a big win out of Iraq and have Congressional emotions high.

In foreign policy circles, President Bush will be remembered for doubling down on his engagement with the United Nations and liberal world order at a time when US global power was at an all time high, un-matched and unrivaled.  The Soviet Union had dissolved and Saddam Hussein was successfully evicted from Kuwait in a US-led military operation. The world became uni-polar under his presidency —  but even as US power was unparalleled, he maintained a deep commitment to the United Nations and understood that a strong United Nations was a profound complement to American power.

The post George H.W. Bush Was the Strongest Supporter of the UN of Any Modern US President appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

What is on the Agenda for the COP24 Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland

30. November 2018 - 15:39

The UN’s followup to the Paris Climate Agreement kicks off next week for the Conference of Parties climate negotiations.

This site of this year’s meeting, known as COP24, will be in Katowice, a city in southern Poland surrounded by a coal-mining region that is one of the most polluted in Europe. And it comes amid rising alarm about the impacts of climate change, some of which are visible daily, and the worse effects that are in store if nations don’t dramatically reduce global emissions. A grave UN report, released in October, focused attention on the threat posed by inaction in a way that few past UN reports have.

Yet the momentum the world had going into the Paris deal negotiations in 2015 appears to be running out. Confidence in the deal was shaken by President Donald Trump’s election and his announcement in 2017 that the U.S. intended to pull out of the agreement. Brazil’s election of Jair Bolsonaro this October delivered yet another setback: On the campaign trail, he promised to follow in Trump’s lead and pull his country out of the agreement as well. He later walked back that statement, saying he hadn’t yet made up his mind whether he would leave the deal or not, and that he would uphold it if it allowed him to implement his agenda.

And while countries with emerging economies remain committed to the deal in theory, the world continues to be heavily reliant on coal, with coal use increasing in China in 2017 and 2018 after appearing to fall in 2016. (Coal would need to be phased out of the global energy mix by 2050 in order for the world to hit the 1.5 degree target.) Very few countries are on track to meet their goals, and many critical, high-emitting countries, including the U.S., continue to push the world toward a high degree of warming.


The key agenda item at this conference will be finalizing the rules that govern the Paris agreement. Though the broad strokes were figured out in 2015 and 2016, the fine print that will control how the agreement is implemented in practice remains un-finalized, and drafting it has led to a number of disputes.

Drafting the rule book requires negotiators to make decisions about how nations report their progress toward their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the Paris agreement’s term for emissions-reduction goals, and rules for how the UN audits those reports to determine that they’re accurate. Most nations agree that there is a need for some flexibility in how countries report their progress, but the degree of flexibility remains hotly debated. The EU and the U.S. want a common set of reporting rules, but a contingent of developing countries, led by China, are less enthusiastic about that idea. They argue that assessing their progress is a task that they can’t do with the same level of accuracy as more developed countries, and they have suggested that some reporting requirements apply only to wealthier countries.

There’s also an open question as to the extent that countries will include assessments of how much damage climate change has already caused in these reports. Wealthy countries worry that assessments of loss and damage could lead to calls that less affected and wealthier countries help foot the bill.


Speaking of which: Climate finance is not where it needs to be under the Paris agreement. Wealthy countries only mobilized some $55 billion to help poor countries prepare for and respond to climate change — or $70 billion if you count funding from private sources in those countries — according to the Financial Times. That falls far short of the $100 billion that countries are supposed to be delivering annually by 2020.

In a statement on Friday, India, China, Brazil and South Africa called out developed nations that were “far from realizing their climate finance commitments of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020.”

Michal Kurtyka, an official at Poland’s energy ministry who will serve as the president of this year’s Conference of Parties, said he wants countries to make climate financing a priority at this year’s summit.


The fight over whether developing countries should be held to different standards than developed countries flared up during negotiations in Bangkok this September. But it is a long and bitter debate that dates back more than two decades, to the Kyoto Protocol. Amjad Abdulla, a diplomat from the Maldives who is the head negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, summed up the crux of this argument in a September interview: “Developed countries are responsible for the vast majority of historic emissions, and many became remarkably wealthy burning fossil fuels.”

But not all developing countries are as disadvantaged as the severely threatened small island states. Take, for instance, China, which some developed countries say can hardly be considered “developing” when it is perhaps the key economic player in the world.

But China’s positions — which often align with those of developing nations — are influential. It has emerged as a chief power broker in climate negotiations, rivaled by the EU, following Trump’s election. (Before 2016, an agreement between the U.S. and China to cooperate on climate laid the groundwork for the Paris deal; the U.S. has since become a less important player.) In the run-up to the the Katowice summit, China is hosting diplomats from both the EU and the U.S. to make its positions known.

China has historically had a dual identity in climate talks: The country’s leadership is worried about climate change and is rushing to implement sustainable fuels, yet China continues to hold fast to coal, at least in part because the national government’s position does not always filter down to regional governments, which continue to push coal projects forward. What once appeared to be a Chinese trend away from coal has stopped — Chinese-funded coal plants continue to come online, both in the country and beyond its borders as China invests in less developed nations through its One Belt, One Road initiative.

With China at the helm, taking the mantle the U.S. dropped, climate talks could move more slowly, and could be more lenient on countries like India, which takes a similar position to China’s: Its economy is still emerging, and, to continue growth, it wants to rely on fossil fuels even as it embraces cleaner forms of energy.

In the meantime, the U.S. continues its bipolar approach. State Department officials, including many career civil servants who worked on climate change under President Barack Obama, when the deal was initially cut, are continuing to negotiate the agreement. “The White House seems to have taken the view that it’s important to let technocrats complete the work of the rule book,” one source familiar with the U.S. delegation’s plans told Reuters. “It’s in the U.S. national interest to be at the table and see an outcome that emphasizes transparency, holds countries accountable.”

Notably, leadership at the State Department has changed since 2017 — now Mike Pompeo, an opponent of the pact and a climate change denier during his days in Congress, is at the helm of the department; he’s taken over from Rex Tillerson, who supported the agreement.

Though the U.S. has announced its intention to leave the Paris agreement, it can’t formally do so under the rules of the agreement until November 4, 2020 — four years after the agreement went into effect and, by coincidence, one day after the U.S. presidential election. In the meantime, alongside negotiations, the U.S. delegation will be running its usual sideshow, hosting events aimed at highlighting the role it believes fossil fuels, including coal, can have in a clean-energy transition.

The post What is on the Agenda for the COP24 Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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PODCAST: What Cultural Norms Around Rule Breaking and Rule Following Can Teach Us About International Relations

29. November 2018 - 17:05

Michelle Gelfand is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland and author of the new book Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire our World. The book, which is written for a popular audience, is based on a scientific study conducted by Gelfand in 33 countries in which she examines cultural norms around rule following.

As she explains, certain countries have a higher tolerance for norm and rules breaking than others–and these differences can have important consequences for international relations.

Dr. Gelfand’s study is a groundbreaking way to look at key cultural differences between countries. In this conversation we discuss what accounts for cultural proclivities for following rules, and what accounts for certain cultures to be more tolerant of deviance.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify

The post PODCAST: What Cultural Norms Around Rule Breaking and Rule Following Can Teach Us About International Relations appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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The Trump Administration Supported a Ceasefire in Yemen and Then It Did Not

28. November 2018 - 17:35

The Trump administration has put the breaks on negotiations in the Security Council over a UK-drafted resolution calling for a limited ceasefire in parts of Yemen. The thing is, this ceasefire resolution was drafted largely in response to calls by Senior Trump administration officials for a ceasefire.  

On October 30th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis both called for cessation of hostilities to preceded peace talks to be held in Sweden. Their call was inspired by a dire warning from the top UN Humanitarian official Mark Lowcock, who days earlier warned of a catastrophic famine. Meanwhile, pressure had been mounting on Saudi Arabia for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

After nearly four years of conflict, it appeared that there was some real diplomatic momentum for a ceasefire and peace talks.

The United Kingdom, which like the United States supports the Saudi-led coalition, began working on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in certain key cities and humanitarian access to parts of the country. According to news reports, Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Mohammad Bin Salman “threw a fit” when he learned of its details from UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on November 17th. Two days later, on Monday the 19th, the UK formally circulated its draft ceasefire resolution.  The very next day, President Trump issued an exclamation point laden statement absolving Saudi Arabia of responsibility over the Khashoggi murder and doubling down on US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

The timing of Trump’s statement suggests that the circulating Security Council resolution triggered Trump’s decision to stand firmly by MBS.

Now, one week later, the United States is reversing itself at the Security Council. According to news reports, the US Mission to the United Nations has sent an email to colleagues at the Security Council stating it would not participate in negotiations over a ceasefire resolution before peace talks begin in Sweden. This is an about face from the prior calls by Mattis and Pompeo for a ceasefire to take place ahead of peace talks.

The thing is, there is no guarantee that these peace talks will actually happen. UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths is spearheading a diplomatic effort to bring waring parties to Sweden, but it is far from certain that he will be successful in bringing the parties together in Sweden. And more the point: the only thing that would convince the Saudis to meaningfully attend these peace talks would be pressure from the United States.

The Trump administration’s new position on Yemen —  delaying negotiations over a ceasefire resolution pending the start of peace talks — could have the effect of indefinitely perpetuating the war.

The one thing that may change this equation is US Congress. The US Senate is expected to pass a resolution that would suspend US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. A similar resolution failed last March, but the murder of Jamal Khasshogi has inspired several senators to switch their vote. After the New Year, when Democrats control the US House of Representatives, a law to end US support could be sent to the White House for the president’s signature. At that point, Trump will once again have to decide whether or not to continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with MBS.

The post The Trump Administration Supported a Ceasefire in Yemen and Then It Did Not appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Is there a Responsible Way to Make Contact with “Uncontacted” Indigenous Peoples?

27. November 2018 - 16:34

The recent death of an American missionary at the hands of tribespeople on North Sentinel Island in India has brought the issue of uncontacted peoples back into the news. Often referred to as some of the most vulnerable people in the world, uncontacted tribes are both a legacy of the past and the responsibility of policymakers today as doing what is best for them often means trying to stay as far away as possible.

The Sentinelese are just one group that is classified as uncontacted. It is believed that there are over 100 uncontacted tribes in the world today, largely in South America and remote, rugged locations like West Papua in Indonesia and neighboring Papua New Guinea. Despite the term “uncontacted” some of these groups have experienced contact with the outside world, albeit such contact is generally negative and rarely voluntary. In the case of the Sentinelese, contact with the British led to the kidnapping of six Sentinelese in 1880, two of which became sick and died shortly after their capture. While the other four were allowed to return to the island unharmed, it is unknown what impact their exposure to British and Indian pathogens had for the rest of the tribe. However since then, the Sentinelese have made clear they want no part of dealings with outsides, regularly shooting arrows at boats that get too close to shore and passing helicopters surveilling the island from the air.

Reports on the Sentinelese often describe them as savage, violent and a remnant of the stone age. While they are believed to be descended from some of the first human migrations out of Africa, they have also demonstrated an adept ability to adapt to new situations and conditions. One of the only people to have made repeated contact in recent history views them as peaceful, but understandably protective of their land and people.  Rather than primitive, surveillance footage shows them to be healthy with a thriving society, a condition that is dependent on remaining isolated from the outside world.

This is because the rest of the world poses a much bigger threat to uncontacted peoples than they pose to us.

Their long-term isolation, ranging from centuries to millennia, means they have no immunity to modern diseases. When Europeans came to the Americas, they brought diseases ranging from the typically benign like influenza and strep to the more fatal smallpox. They also brought diseases like the bubonic plague, itself an import to Europe from Asia that ultimately killed possibly as much as half of medieval Europe’s population within a decade. For indigenous Americans, all of these diseases posed an existential threat. Over the next 500 years, an estimated 90% of the indigenous population would be killed. Certainly some of this is due to the other legacy of European colonization: massacres, mistreatment, enslavement and military campaigns. But it was common disease that brought about most of this death.

Many of the uncontacted tribes in South America actually fled these developments centuries ago. But the diseases and massacres they left back then still pose a threat today. In 2014, Brazilian authorities made contact with members of the Xinane tribe. But within a day of this casual conflict, observers noticed that several members of the tribe were coughing and looking ill. It turned out some members contracted the flu and doctors were able to immunize those directly infected, but the tribespeople disappeared back into the rainforest after a few days, still carrying the potential to infect other members. The experience highlights the difficult decisions facing governments, researchers and anthropologists when it comes to even voluntary contact with these groups.

The protection of unprotected tribes often depends on governments finding their existence as worth saving.

The recent election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil may imperil the uncontacted indigenous groups there. The indigenous population of Brazil – which numbers around 900,000 people – was a frequent target of his on the campaign trail, and he has repeatedly stated his intention to shut down existing indigenous reserves and open up the Amazon to more commercial activity such as logging and mining.

Already activists say that his election has emboldened illegal operators in the Amazon that have threatened indigenous groups for years. This is an issue for all indigenous groups in Brazil, but it is the estimated 113 uncontacted tribes in Brazil who stand to lose the most. Many of the contacts initiated by tribes in Brazil and neighboring Peru in recent years are suspected to be a result of hunger and desperation as deforestation threatens their communities and livelihoods. Bolsonaro’s promise to increase resource extraction and commercial activity – as well as shut down the country’s agency for indigenous affairs known as FUNAI – will only speed this clash of cultures with little evidence that Brazil is ready to engage with uncontacted tribes in a responsible way.

Similar economic conflicts exist in other countries such as India where keeping uncontacted tribes separated often means giving up potential expansion in tourism. In 2010 the Supreme Court of India blocked the development of a resort in the Andaman Islands just three kilometers from a protected reserve for the isolated Jarawa people. The creation of a major road near the reserve in the 1970s and emerging contact in the 1990s led to several outbreaks of measles, mumps and even malaria among the Jarawa.  There is a growing concern over encroachment as more of the Andaman Islands become developed for tourism. But despite numerous court rulings and laws that make contact illegal, the tribespeople themselves have become attractions in a type of “human safari” for several local tour companies. It is not only disease they now have to fear, but basic exploitation by those who are supposed to protect them.

Thus, even with the best intentions the outside world presents significant risks to uncontacted tribes and the potential harm increases substantially when the needs of the uncontacted conflict with the economic interests of others. If the past is prologue, then we are all too aware of the devastation that faces these groups from unwanted outside intervention and forcing foreign cultures onto their societies. It is also important to acknowledge that they have the same human rights to land, cultural preservation and self-styled development as other indigenous groups as recognized under international law. That doesn’t mean contact is never warranted or can’t be done responsibly, but we need to recognize that these people require different considerations based on their circumstances.

The post Is there a Responsible Way to Make Contact with “Uncontacted” Indigenous Peoples? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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PODCAST: What You Need to Know About Slums Around the World

26. November 2018 - 4:08

My guest today, Diana Mitlin, is a professor of global urbanism at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester.

Much of her work focuses on issues surrounding informal urban settlements, commonly known as slums. In this episode we discuss why slums present such a profound challenge for global development–and how getting policies around slums right can lead to big progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

We kick off this discuss talking more broadly about the scope of the challenges surrounding the nearly 1 billion people around the world who live in what might be considered a slum. We then discuss what policies work to uplift people who live in these informal urban settlements and how successful policy is being implemented by some cities and local governments around the world.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify

This episode is part of a content partnership between the podcast and the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester. For the next several months we will be featuring from, time to time, experts from the Global Development Institute who will discuss their research and also the pressing news of the day as it relates to global inequalities and development. If you’d like to learn more about the Global Development Institute you can go to or click on the add on


The post PODCAST: What You Need to Know About Slums Around the World appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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After Decades of Authoritarian Rule is Ethiopia Really on the Path Toward Democratic Renewal?

21. November 2018 - 15:49

Ethiopia has been getting quite a bit of attention in the news lately for taking seemingly significant shifts towards become an open democracy.

Earlier this year, intensifying protests led to the sudden resignation of the prime minister, who took office following the death of Ethiopia’s longtime ruler Meles Zenawi in 2012.  Parliament made a surprise pick to replace the outgoing prime minister with Abiy Ahmed, a member of the oromo ethnic group that long claimed to be excluded from decision making, despite being the largest single ethnic group.  Since taking office, he’s embarked an ambitious set of reforms.

The government of Ethiopia has faced international criticism for some time, particularly in the months leading up to the resignation of Abiy’s predecessor, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. In 2015 and 2016, security forces killed over 500 demonstrators at peaceful protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions, according to Human Rights Watch. Reuters reports that “The government of Abiy’s predecessor… detained around 30,000 people, often under harsh anti-terrorism laws, in response to three years of protests. Detainees included students, opposition leaders, journalists and bloggers.”

In late October, after the resignation of the president, members of parliament elected Ethiopia’s first female president, veteran diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde. Soon after, on November 1, Parliament appointed and swore in the first female Supreme Court chief, human rights lawyer and women’s rights activist Meaza Ashenafi.

So are these recent changes simply a ruse to improve the country’s international image and reputation?

Whether or not the reforms will have their desired effects beyond the short term remains to be seen, but the intentions behind them appear to be genuine.

The new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, is Oromo, with an Oromo Muslim father and an Amhara mother who converted to Islam from Christianity. The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, but – like the Amhara – have been politically and economically marginalized for decades. It is therefore a promising sign that the ruling coalition broke with historical tradition and chose him as the first Oromo prime minister.

Furthermore, the pace of change has been swift as Abiy began to put his promises into action as prime minister. Almost as soon as he assumed the post, he ended an internet blackout that had been in place for three months. In February the ruling coalition imposed a six-month state of emergency, which banned public protests and what the defense minister called speech that could “incite and sow discord,” according to Al Jazeera – Abiy lifted it two months early.

Abiy admitted that Ethiopian security forces tortured their own citizens, and enacted an amnesty to free political prisoners. According to Reuters, “Local journalists say tens of thousands of detainees have been released since April… Parliament also ruled that the Oromo Liberation Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front, two secessionist groups, and the ‘Ginbot 7’, an exiled opposition movement, were no longer terrorist groups.”

In mid-October, Abiy announced his new cabinet, which is ethnically diverse and 50% female – including the new national defense minister, Aisha Mohammed. Abiy also made great strides toward peace with Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea. Just a few months after assuming the post of prime minister, he reached out to Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates to help him establish diplomatic contact with Eritrea. The New York Times describes the rapid transformation of this decades-long conflict:

In early June, [Abiy] agreed to hand over a disputed border town to Eritrea, a sticking point for 20 years. The next month, the two countries officially declared an end to their war. By mid-July, the longtime Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, visited Ethiopia for the first time in two decades. In a gesture of good will, Mr. Abiy gave him a camel, Eritrea’s national animal. In September, border crossing points reopened, paving the way for trade.

Finally, Abiy has initiated economic reforms, loosening state control of the economy and encouraging donors and investors to return to the country. In 2005, after a disputed and problematic election where some 200 people were killed in the aftermath, donors suspended direct budgetary support. But in August, after he announced his reforms, the World Bank agreed to provide Ethiopia with $1 billion in direct budgetary support.

Moving away from Abiy himself for a moment, the election of President Sahle-Work is also a promising development. She is obviously not just a token – she is an experienced, high level diplomat with years of experience representing her country in international forums. The presidency in Ethiopia is essentially a ceremonial post; but Sahle-Work will be the face of the country on the international stage, so it is hard to imagine a better person for the job.

Something similar can be said for the new Supreme Court President, Meaza Ashenafi – a former advisor on gender and women’s rights at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, former High Court judge, and founder of the the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association. With such a background, she will surely be a powerful force for the promotion of gender equality in the country.

Fitsum Arega is Prime Minister Abiy’s Chief of Staff


The Challenges Ahead

The new leadership in Ethiopia has inspired a lot of hope, internationally and in the country itself, but there are still some major challenges to deal with.

For one thing, Prime Minister Abiy has promised that free, fair, multi-party elections will go ahead on time in 2020 and the myriad reforms taking place in the meantime will not delay them. This sounds great, but as Maggie Fick reports for Reuters, “Some in the ruling coalition oppose Abiy’s reforms because they could lose from a planned sell off of state enterprises… Abiy could also face a stiff test at elections in 2020 from opposition parties empowered by the reforms.”

Also, like most places in the world, ethnic identity and politics in Ethiopia comes with a lot of historical baggage. In September, at least 23 people were killed in violence targeting non-Oromo minorities in an Oromo stronghold just outside the capital. This was shortly after members of the Oromo Liberation Front, formerly exiled, returned from Eritrea at Abiy’s invitation. Some 200 people were arrested, and angry protests erupted in Addis Ababa shortly after. Despite being Oromo himself, Abiy responded that the government would not tolerate lawlessness. While it is promising that he is not kowtowing to ethnic allegiance, these developments highlight the work that has yet to be done if Ethiopia is to realize a greater degree of national unity, cohesion, and positive peace.

As Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban reported for Africa News in August: “Abiy’s talk of reconciliation and inclusiveness has largely calmed the tensions but a spike in internal insecurity has gotten some political watchers and human rights groups worried… Human Rights Watch in a recent statement noted that Abiy’s reform ambitions could be gravely affected by the rising insecurity situation.”

The Upshot

Yohannes Gedamu, lecturer of political science at Georgia Gwinnett College, is, I think, right to be skeptical that the new leadership in Ethiopia will be able to stay the course with reforms while simultaneously ameliorating land conflict and dealing with federal representation and ethnic politics: “the ruling coalition is still a conglomeration of four ethno-nationalist parties. Despite Ahmed’s newly adopted reforms, which lean towards the rights of the individual and citizenship politics, the ruling coalition remains fixated on the group-rights agenda. This agenda has always privileged division over unity.”

However, despite all these challenges, I remain optimistic (for the moment). I am hoping 2020 multi-party elections will indeed go ahead on time and that they might usher in a new constellation of diverse viewpoints that will lead to sustainable, inclusive, and conciliatory solutions to the country’s most pressing ethnic and political dilemmas. And I am interested in seeing how this new direction of Ethiopia will influence political dynamics elsewhere on the Horn.

The post After Decades of Authoritarian Rule is Ethiopia Really on the Path Toward Democratic Renewal? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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PODCAST: Trump Fought International Law…and the Law Won

20. November 2018 - 16:50

Another day brings another example of one of Donald Trump’s initiatives being thwarted by international law. A judge in California has blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to prevent people from making asylum claims at the Southern US border–a move that is in direct contravention to both US law and international law.

This latest ruling provides good evidence for the thesis offered by Harold Hongju Koh in his new book “The Trump Administration and International Law.”  The book surveys issues in which the Trump administration has clashed with international law, including immigration and refugees, human rights, and climate change. Koh concludes that forces of international law are far more resilient than we might expect, and in fact, Trump’s power has been constrained by international law.

Harold Hongju Koh is one of the America’s leading scholars of international law. He is the Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School, where he formerly served as the dean. He’s also served as the Legal Advisor in the State Department and was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

In this episode, Professor Koh explains the process through which international law has so far been able to blunt some of Trump’s more aggressive impulses.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify

The post PODCAST: Trump Fought International Law…and the Law Won appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Map of the Day: Where Malaria Has Been Defeated

19. November 2018 - 15:52

Today’s map comes from the World Health Organization’s flagship malaria report, which was released today. It shows the countries around the world that have defeated malaria, those that are on their way to eliminating malaria, and those in which malaria still routinely sickens people.

Overall, the numbers are not excellent. The WHO report finds that in 2017 there were an estimated 219 million cases of Malaria worldwide, which is a decrease from 239 million in 2010 but an increase from 217 million cases estimated in 2016.

This leads the report to conclude that from 2015–2017,  “no significant progress in reducing global malaria cases was made in this timeframe.”

Like many global health issues the disease burden is concentrated in just a few countries.

The report finds that “fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India carried almost 80% of the global malaria burden. Five countries accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide: Nigeria (25%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (11%), Mozambique (5%), India (4%) and Uganda (4%).”

On the bright side, the WHO finds that the South East Asia region saw a massive decrease in the disease burden, “from 17 cases of the disease per 1000 population at risk in 2010 to 7 in 2017 (a 59% decrease).”

To see all the data read the report. 

The post Map of the Day: Where Malaria Has Been Defeated appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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PODCAST: South Sudan’s High Risk, High Reward Peace Process

15. November 2018 - 16:28

On October 31, South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar entered the capitol city of Juba for the first time in two years to attend a peace ceremony. This was a significant moment in South Sudan’s civil war, which is among the deadliest and most destructive in the world.

The ceremony in Juba was intended as a confidence building measure toward the implementation of the peace deal to end this conflict.  Earlier this summer, Machar and South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir signed that peace deal, formally ending a civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced over a million more. But the extent to which this deal will succeed where others have failed is still very much uncertain.

On the line with me to discuss the peace deal is Alan Boswell. He is a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group who has been following events in South Sudan for years. We discuss the roots of the conflict, what lead to this peace agreement, and what can make this new peace agreement take hold.

Download this episode to listen later. You can subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and Spotify

The post PODCAST: South Sudan’s High Risk, High Reward Peace Process appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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A New Law Passed by Congress is “The biggest step forward in U.S. development policy” in 15 Years

14. November 2018 - 15:25

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is on a mission this week to win the hearts and minds – and cooperation – of Southeast Asian leaders. He’s doing so with the help of a recently passed bill that creates a new U.S. development bank that will help American businesses invest in developing economies.

In a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, Pence said the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act will “spur renewed private investment in regional infrastructure.” And it will more than double the U.S.’ current development finance capacity to $60 billion.

Politically, many analysts say it’s a move to counter China’s growing influence in developing countries, as China has financed and built hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure and other development projects over the last couple decades. Pence himself described it as part of the Trump administration’s “Indo-Pacific strategy.”

But experts and organizations within the global development sector are also praising the passage of the BUILD Act as a much-needed move to modernize U.S. development efforts. The Center for Global Development called it the “the biggest step forward in U.S. development policy” in 15 years.

What is the BUILD Act?

In short, it will consolidate the U.S.’ existing development finance institutions –  the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Development Credit Authority  – into one new agency. That agency will be called the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (USDFC).

The new bank will not only have a much higher investment ceiling than the current institutions, but it will also offer technical assistance, give “preference” but not be limited to U.S. investors and have new finance capabilities, like making limited equity investments (buying shares of stock in companies). Doing so will give the U.S. “more flexibility to support investments in developing countries to drive economic growth, create stability, and improve livelihoods,” says OPIC.

The new bank also aims to have a stronger focus on low-income and low-middle income countries, be more transparent with project-level reporting and maintain stronger human rights, labor and environmental standards.

To be clear, the push for a new agency wasn’t because the existing agencies were defective. In fact, in 2016, the Center for Global Development described OPIC as a “high-performing, if still little-known, agency.” That year was the 39th year in a row that OPIC, running at a profit, paid into the U.S. Treasury. OPIC says that over the last decade, it has contributed $3.7 billion to reducing the deficit. It just hasn’t been significantly updated since it was founded in 1971.

“OPIC is a very influential development finance agency, but it operates using old methods and outdated authorities,” wrote Daniel Runde and Romina Bandura, senior vice president and senior fellow, respectively, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “OPIC needs a remodeling to allow it to fully compete in today’s global economy.”

And that’s why more than seven years ago, the Center for Global Development proposed a new consolidated finance agency. Sponsored by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Representatives Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Adam Smith (D-WA), the BUILD Act was finally signed into law on October 5. By October next year, the bank is expected to be operational. Meanwhile, the president, Congress, OPIC and USAID will work on a reorganization plan.

In a press briefing with Asia-Pacific media, OPIC Executive Vice President David Bohigian called the BUILD Act a “legislative miracle.” Just last year, there were rumors that OPIC was on the Trump administration’s chopping block. This was especially concerning as other countries have continued to step up their foreign direct investments because of its appeal as an alternative to aid that avoids fostering dependence.

China, in particular, has poured billions into what’s largely seen as a bid to expand trade and influence through its “Belt and Road Initiative.” Last year, China announced that it’s planning to invest $30 billion just in Haiti.

But OPIC says the Development Finance Corporation will be different than China: It will offer contracts that are transparent, sustainable and “financially viable over the long haul.”

“The DFC will help countries sidestep opaque and unsustainable debt traps being laid by Beijing throughout the developing world and help more American businesses invest in emerging markets, including many places that are of key strategic importance to the United States,” the agency’s website says.

According to some development finance experts, adhering to that focus on development and best practices will be the best and only way for the new agency to compete with China.

Still, it seems that most organizations and experts in the sector are optimistic about this long-awaited change to U.S. development finance.

In a press release, Aria Grabowski, senior policy advisor on aid and development finance at Oxfam America, said, “The BUILD Act has the potential to showcase the best of U.S. overseas lending: building up the economies of developing countries to create the trading partners of tomorrow for American companies and goods.”

Whether it can reach that potential now rests on how well the current agencies can come together to form a new one.

The post A New Law Passed by Congress is “The biggest step forward in U.S. development policy” in 15 Years appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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