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An Escalating Cycle of Violence in Israel and Palestine

2. Februar 2023 - 10:09

We are in the midst of an escalating cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine. On Thursday, January 26 Israeli forces killed at least 9 people in a raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. The following evening, a Palestinian gunman killed seven people outside a Synagogue in East Jerusalem. More violence followed over the weekend.

I caught up with journalist Dalia Hatuqa who has reported from Israel and Palestine for many years. We kick off discussing some of the broader context from which this escalatory cycle of violence  has emerged. This includes a ten month old series of stepped up raids by Israel into the West Bank and Gaza. We also discuss why this current violence may or may not lead a to a so-called Third Intifada, and the link between Israel’s new far rightwing government and the apparently devolving crisis.

To listen to this episode on your favorite podcast player, go here. 

The post An Escalating Cycle of Violence in Israel and Palestine appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How to Catch a Dictator

30. Januar 2023 - 16:32

My guest Reed Brody is a veteran war crimes prosecutor and author of the new book “To Catch a Dictator: The Pursuit and Trial of Hissene Habre.”

Hissene Habre was the brutal dictator of Chad from 1982 to 1990, when he was ousted in a coup and fled to Senegal.

The book tells the story of Reed Brody’s years long obsession to bring Habre to justice, and his partnerships with African lawyers and victims rights advocates who secured a conviction.

We kick off discussing the abuses of Hissene Habre and the successful legal strategy that resulted in a life sentence. We then take a step back and discuss the lessons learned from this successful trial that might be applied to other abusive leaders elsewhere.

To listen to this episode on your preferred podcast player, go here




The post How to Catch a Dictator appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How to Prosecute Vladimir Putin for the Crime of Aggression

26. Januar 2023 - 11:42

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, 2022 there have been numerous examples of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russian soldiers. Many of these crimes are being investigated and prosecuted by local Ukrainian courts and the International Criminal Court.

But the crime of launching this illegal war in the first place is not, as of yet, under any court’s jurisdiction. Oona Hathaway is seeking to change that. She is a professor at Yale Law School who has been advocating for the creation of a UN-backed special tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression committed by Russian leaders in Ukraine. In recent weeks and month, this proposal is gaining some traction.

We kick off discussing and defining what we mean by the “crime of aggression” before the discussing the politics of creating a special internationally backed mechanism to prosecute specific Russian leaders, including Vladimir Putin, for the crime of aggression.

To listen to this episode on your preferred podcast player, go here

The post How to Prosecute Vladimir Putin for the Crime of Aggression appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Crisis in Peru

23. Januar 2023 - 16:57

Peru is in the midst of the worst political violence experienced in the country in decades. Protests began in December following the ouster of former President Pedro Castillo. He was impeached and arrested following his effort dissolve congress in a brazen attempt to stay in power through a self-coup. Castillo’s supporters have staged large protests which were violently suppressed by security forces, resulting in dozens of deaths so far.

I spoke with reporter Simeon Tegel just as protesters were moving en masse from rural parts of the country to the capital city, Lima. Simeon Tegel is a freelance journalist and contributor to the Washington Post. We kick off discussing the scene in Lima before having a longer conversation about the causes and consequences of this mounting political crisis in Peru.

To listen to this episode on your preferred podcast player, go here

The post Crisis in Peru appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Why Young People May Determine the Outcome of Major Elections in Nigeria

19. Januar 2023 - 11:50

On February 25th, Nigeria will hold federal elections. Nigeria is the largest democracy in Africa and one of the largest multiparty democracies in the world. Incumbent Muhammadu Buhari is respecting term limits and stepping aside, leaving and open field.

In recent history, Nigerian politics has been dominated by two parties. But with about one month before elections there is a surprising third party candidate, Peter Obi, who is leading in the polls on a surge of support by young Nigerians.

Guest Cynthia Mbamalu is director of programs for Yiaga Africa, a civil society organization that works to promote democracy in Africa.  She explains how and why young people in Nigeria may determine the outcome of Nigeria’s elections.

We kick off discussing the major candidates before having an in depth conversation about the youth vote, including how a protest movement against police brutality has inspired a youth political awakening.

To listen to this episode on your favorite podcast player, go here.

The post Why Young People May Determine the Outcome of Major Elections in Nigeria appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Growing Global Backlash Against US Sanctions

16. Januar 2023 - 13:55

Agathe Demarais was a treasury official in the French government working in Moscow and Beirut when she saw, first hand, some of the unintended impacts of US sanctions. Agathe Demarais is the global forecasting director of the Economist Intelligence Unit and author of the new book Backfire: How Sanctions Reshape the World Against US Interests. The book makes the provocative argument that an over-reliance on sanctions as a tool US foreign policy is making sanctions a less effective tool of US foreign policy.

In our conversation, Agathe Demarais explains how US sanctions are sort of like antibiotics in which overuse can cause resistance.

To listen to this episode on your favorite podcast listening app, go here. 


The post The Growing Global Backlash Against US Sanctions appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Why Are So Many African Countries Facing a Huge Debt Crisis Right Now?

12. Januar 2023 - 12:47

According to the International Monetary Fund, 22 countries in Africa are either in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress –that is, they are unable to fulfill their financial obligations to creditors. This is nearly double the number of countries in Africa in some form debt crisis just a few years ago.

Why so many African countries are facing a fiscal crisis today and the implications of debt distress for economic and social development is explained at length by my guest today Mark Plant, senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development.

We kick off discussing why Ghana and Zambia are illustrative of broader fiscal trends in Africa and then have a discussion about the policy conundrums facing countries as they navigate fiscal crises and seek to satisfy creditors without sacrificing substantial gains in economic and social development.

To listen to this episode on your favorite podcast listening app, go here. 


The post Why Are So Many African Countries Facing a Huge Debt Crisis Right Now? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Bangladesh: Protests, Crackdowns and a Coming Election

9. Januar 2023 - 11:52

In December protests erupted in cities across Bangladesh, including the capital Dhaka. The proximate cause was skyrocketing inflation triggered in part by Russia’s war in Ukraine. But as my guest Michael Kugelman explains these were not mass protests, but rather highly partisan events ahead of elections scheduled for this year.

Michael Kugelman is director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington DC.  We kick off discussing the significance of these protests. We then have a longer conversation about how these protests fits into broader trends in Bangladeshi politics and economy — including Bangladesh’s remarkable economic growth and its increasing authoritarianism under prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

To listen to this show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite listening app, click here.

The post Bangladesh: Protests, Crackdowns and a Coming Election appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Geopolitics of Microchips | “Chip Wars” Author Chris Miller

5. Januar 2023 - 11:00

In this episode, I sit down with Chris Miller, author of the new book: Chip Wars: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology. The books tells the story of microchip, including its history and profound impact on international relations and geopolitics today.

Chris Miller is an Associate Professor of International History at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. We discuss why the microchip is central to our world today, how Taiwan and South Korea became the two major international hubs for the manufacture of specialized chips, and the geopolitical implications of a chip manufacturing supply chain that relies on just a few key nodes. We also discuss efforts by the US to prevent China from building a domestic advanced chip manufacture industry.


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The post The Geopolitics of Microchips | “Chip Wars” Author Chris Miller appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Top Global Crises to Expect in 2023 | David Miliband

3. Januar 2023 - 14:00

As 2023 begins the world is beset by crises driven by conflict, climate change and the nexus of the two. But some places are expected to be hit harder than others as the year unfolds and this conversation with David Miliband offers listeners key insights into where humanitarian needs are expected to be most acute in 2023.

David Miliband is the President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, which at the very end 2022 released a watchlist of the top global crises it foresees this year.

We kick off with a brief discussion about the methodology of creating a crisis watchlist like this before having a extended discussion about several of his top crises of concern, as well as solutions to confront humanitarian crises across the world.

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The post The Top Global Crises to Expect in 2023 | David Miliband appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A New Study Shows How to Counter Violent Extremism Through “Social Cohesion”

26. Dezember 2022 - 4:00

The border region of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger is home to violent extremist groups eager to recruit young men to their ranks. To counter the lure of groups like the Islamic State, officials have experimented with programs and projects that more deeply root young men to their communities and reduce inter-ethnic conflict. This kind of peace-building work to strengthen what is known as “social cohesion” often flies under the radar, at least compared to high profile military activities targeting terrorist groups, but there is growing evidence that such programs are effective.

In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Siaka Millogo who ran an experiment testing the impact of social cohesion programs in villages in rural Niger. He is the director for Burkina Faso and Niger for the aid group Mercy Corps. From 2019 through 2021, Mercy Corps and local partners identified 40 villages at risk of recruitment by violent extremist groups and undertook social cohesion programs in half of those; while the other half was a control group. And in our conversation we discuss how this experiment worked and what it can teach us about the value and impact of hyper local programs to combat violent extremism.

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Transcript lightly edited for context

What is the Tillabéri Region of Niger?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:01:00] Can I just have you describe the Tillabéri region of Niger for those unaware? Where is it and what’s the impact of violent extremism in this region?

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:02:57] Tillabéri is one of the eight regions of Niger, in northern Niger, and has also what we call the three borders, Burkina Faso and Mali. It is around these three borders that we have the highest number of terrorist attacks and also a great number of internally displaced people. So, regarding this situation, we developed and submitted to USAID to get this program to implement activities to prevent the impact of violent extremism.

Which terrorist groups are active in Niger and the Tillabéri region?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:03:37] Before we get into a discussion of your programs around peacebuilding and preventing violent extremism in the region, what are the groups that are active in this area and what do their attacks look like?

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:03:54] The group active in the Tillabéri region is in fact the Islamic group in the “Grise Sahel.” They are affecting some populations. They are asking them to provide some deal, some ration sometimes. And also, their operation model is, in fact, to focus on the government so that the way they are operating in this region is the same as the central Sahel area in general.

How does the program Preventing Violent Extremism Actions through Increased Social Cohesion Efforts work?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:04:25] So you have essentially an offshoot of the Islamic State that is active in this region, the Tillabéri region of Niger, which, as you said, is on the border of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali. And it is in this region that you begin a project called Preventing Violent Extremism Actions through Increased Social Cohesion Efforts, which brilliantly invokes the acronym PEACE. How does this peace program work?

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:04:59] [The program exists] to combat all of these problems caused by the violent extremism and as an action to support the potential victims of these actions of terrorist groups and also to allow young people to be more involved in development of their communities. But we have developed this program and also negotiated funding with the USAID. So, the PEACE program was meant really to facilitate what we have to do with young people in terms of trying to involve them more in some activities that they can initiate that can help them to enhance their social cohesion. So doing some activities together that they themselves have identified. Also, we just provided them with the resources and also the capacities to be able to implement this program by themselves. They have been at the bottom line of identification of all these micro projects we have identified, which were linked in fact to social cohesion, to be together, gathering them around the same objective of belonging to their communities.

What is social cohesion?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:06:15] So what are some of the micro projects, as you described them, to encourage social cohesion in specific communities?

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:06:27] I would like to take this example of this community where they just have one traditional well, so where animals and human beings were both getting water. And that created, most of the time, a lot of conflict between the groups. And this project had been selected by themselves where they asked for some material to be able to dig this well better, to improve it. And that is a kind of project that we have been doing with them. It’s just one example.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:06:59] So building a well seems like a very straightforward community infrastructure project. Are there others you could explain as well? Just to give listeners a sense of what projects we’re talking about when we are discussing initiatives aimed at boosting social cohesion in potentially at-risk communities.

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:07:22] Yeah. You know, also in these communities, they used to have a somewhat traditional event, for example, that were gathering young people to share a common discussion around their story and also have courses, something like that. That is in their traditional way of living. They have these kinds of events in the past that used to gather them.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:45] Just like community or life cycle events.

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:07:48] Yes.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:49] Things like that.

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:07:50] Yes. So, they were no longer doing that, you know, and the project tried, in fact, to come back with that and to get young people and also their elders around the peace activities so that they can also take advantage of the presence of their elders to transfer some values of the communities that were, in fact maintaining social cohesion in the past. The fact that they were no longer doing that, meant the young people didn’t have all these opportunities to get to know each other and to be complementary to each other and also to be more tolerant to each other. So, these are something also that has some great impacts on the communities.

Do social cohesion activities encourage peace?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:08:30] So you’re supporting infrastructure building like wells, community building efforts like the events you just described all under the rubric of this PEACE program. So, using this program, you created a random trial in which some villages deemed at risk of violent extremism recruitment were exposed to the PEACE program, and some were excluded for a period of time to act as sort of a control group. Can you briefly describe your methodology and then we’ll get into your findings?

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:09:08] Yes. So, we have a control group and also contact group. Both groups have been informed on the objective of the PEACE program, so they know what they have to do. Also, we provided capacity building to the contact group and all of these activities we are talking about — gathering the youth and also involving them in the identification of the micro project and the implementation. Even in the joint evaluation, we have capacity building that we’re giving to them. So, at the end of the day, in the joint evaluation phase, we noticed that this group, contact group, they have this willingness to do things together. So that was very high. And we have also some anecdotal feedback from young people. In one place they were in fact entertaining some conflict, but they couldn’t even explain why this community and this one was in conflict. Young people were entertaining that because the elders had told them okay between us and these communities, we are in conflict, but no one knows why, what had been the reason of this conflict? So, when we tried to put together a peace community with young people from the two communities to gather around a social event, and they have been able to know each other, even the elders, who went saw that the young people from the two communities where in fact dealing together, they come back said, okay, we can’t even explain why we were in conflict. And the young people told them, this is no longer our problem because we know that today all the young people in the two communities, they are facing the same reality. So, they need to be together and to face this similar reality to find a solution. So that has been in fact a great success because we had two communities that had been in conflict for a long time, and the young population said we don’t understand well the origin of this and that is not really our problem. All our communities, we have the same problems; we have to deal with these problems together, find common solutions. And that is thanks to this program because we have trained them; we have discussed it with them on why it is important that they be together to face the same issue of their communities.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:11:38] So that’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that conflict between two different communities were reduced through this program. But you also conducted a very large survey — I think the sample size was like 1800 participants — and based on that survey, is there any statistical evidence to suggest that communities that participated in the peace program were indeed less likely to be susceptible to recruitment by violent extremist groups?

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:12:19] Yes, because, in fact, when we conducted this evaluation, with all the activities we have conducted with the communities, at least 70% of young people there, now have something to do and they have this feeling of belonging. You know, that is very important when you have the feeling that you belong to the community, you are in fact sensitive. You are contributing to these communities in terms of economics and also in social activities. So, this is very, very important for young people. We gave them some confidence on themselves and also, we have been able to break this misunderstanding with the elders because they have brought them together with the elders to be able to transfer to them all of these values. So that has been something great.

Do peacekeeping efforts help communities trust their government more?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:13:12] And the objective of an organization like the Islamic State, they conduct recruitment activities in order to pursue some broader agenda against government authorities. Does your evidence suggest that communities which received the PEACE program were more trustworthy or more willing to support authorities? Or did it have any meaningful impact one way or the other?

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:13:41] You know, in the course of implementation of this program, we have involved the government bodies in charge of social cohesion. So, from the bottom line to the upper level — because in Niger, for example, we have what we call the high commission in charge of social cohesion. They have been involved in all the phases of the program, meaning that we have created the right environment and opportunity for these young people to talk directly to the government, you know, on social cohesion and also for the government to explain their vision on social cohesion for these young people. So, I think that the opportunity has been great for them because they understood more what is going on, because sometimes people don’t have the opportunity to interact directly with the government. And the PEACE program has been the opportunity, in fact, for the young people to interact more with the government on this specific question of social cohesion and related to youth and also women. The most important thing also is within the communities we have seen some bad governance aspects and we have created what we call Community Action Committees, which we have composed of all these sensitivities in the communities, so that we’re able, in fact, to reduce the frustration created by the government.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:15:20] So I wanted to speak with you because having covered these issues for so long, it’s my impression that very local, hyperlocal peacebuilding efforts, like the one you describe and the one that you have created, tend to be both the most impactful, but also tend to fly under the radar. They don’t get a lot of attention. Whereas on the other hand, military operations against the Islamic State and against bad actors, they get the money and the attention. I’m curious to learn from you what implications your findings have for the international community in general and maybe donors in particular.

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:16:12] You know, the finding for us is if we involve communities in all the actions, we are undertaking for them starting from the design phase and through all the phases, we get a better result and better involvement. The other thing also I would like to underline is this kind of program, this short-term program, can have some impacts, but we have clearly noticed that the duration was one of the limiting factors. It is about a behavior change which is not something that we can see in two years significantly. The other thing is, in fact, the additional program component that we should be having. These terrorist actions are continuous, and in the program, we didn’t add the humanitarian assistance part of it. So, what the international community needs to know from this finding is in fact that it’s good for program to think holistically to add some humanitarian assistance there while also dealing with the root causes of the conflict through the social cohesion activities and also thinking about the fact that we are not going to feed people. We need also to add some development activities so that they can be resilient. If we have added some development programs to this program that mean that we should have been always with these communities. The fact that we didn’t have that and just had social cohesion programs, it was like a standalone program, without humanitarian assistance or development was a limiting factor. So, the takeaway is that: just think holistically to hope to have the most impactful social cohesion programming.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:18:19] And it seems that part of thinking holistically is understanding that programs aimed at boosting social cohesion, at boosting individuals’ commitment to their own communities, is also a way of building resilience if those communities are hit by food shortages or conflict. It seems to be at root of how one builds resilient communities and thriving communities.

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:18:50] Absolutely agree with that, so that is where we need to go especially for the case of the Sahel, where we have this dynamic and we need also to add to all of that the research component because the situation is so dynamic that we need also at any moment to have some relevant and pertinent information on the situation, to anticipate the action we need to undertake. We need to add also continuing pressures on the situation to be able to provide good information, relevant information, pertinent information for anticipated decision making, because we need to anticipate the evolving context.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:19:34] Dr. Siaka, thank you so much for your time and for your work.

Dr. Siaka Millogo [00:19:39] It is my pleasure.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:19:48] Thank you for listening to Global Dispatches. Our show is produced by me, Mark Leon Goldberg, and edited and mixed by Levi Sharp.

The post A New Study Shows How to Counter Violent Extremism Through “Social Cohesion” appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Do People Like Having US Military Bases in their Country? New Public Opinion Research

22. Dezember 2022 - 4:00

The United States has several hundred military bases scattered across the world. But how do citizens within countries hosting US troops feel about those bases and US military personnel? 

In this episode, we are joined by Carla Martinez Machain, who conducted groundbreaking public opinion research on how exposure to a US military presence in an allied country impacts attitudes towards the US government, military and Americans more generally. 

Carla Martinez Machain is a professor of political science at the University of Buffalo and is co-author of the new book “Beyond the Wire: US Military Deployments and Host Country Public” Opinion, with Michael A Allen, Michael E Flynn, and Andrew Stravers. 

We discuss the sheer scope of US basing around the world before having a broader conversation about the relationship between US bases, public opinion, and foreign policy. 

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The post Do People Like Having US Military Bases in their Country? New Public Opinion Research appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A New Plastics Treaty Is Being Negotiated at the UN: What You Need to Know

19. Dezember 2022 - 4:00

Negotiations for a new Global Treaty on Plastics formally kicked off in early December. Delegates from around 160 countries met in Uruguay for the first round of talks aimed at reducing the harmful impact of plastics on both the environment and health.

António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, has called plastics “fossil fuels in another form.” And called on governments to support a treaty that not only dealt with plastic waste and recycling, but also the entire life cycle of plastics, including measures to control the production of plastics.

In this episode, we are joined by Andres Del Castillo, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law, who attended the negotiations, which took place in the seaside city Punta Del Este.

We discuss why regulating plastics through an international agreement is necessary, as well the process for these negotiations and the stances thus far of key governments around the world, including the USA, China, the European Union and countries in the global south.

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Transcript lightly edited for clarity

What Is a Plastics Treaty and Why Is It Needed?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:02:32] Can I just have you make the case for a plastics treaty? What is the harm from plastics and why is international cooperation required to mitigate that harm?

Andres Del Castillo [00:02:59] First, let me set the scene and give you a little bit of the context of where we are with this idea of having a plastic treaty. We are talking about a complex material consisting of mixtures of chemicals like additives, processing aids and unintentional added substance, which are out of control, mainly because of two reasons: the first reason is the complexity of the material and the second is the proliferation. So, on the complexity, just to give you a scale of where we are, we are talking about 200,000 polymers that are in the EU market only with more than 10,000 associated chemicals, meaning that plastics are complex and we are not just talking about seven specific resins, but about an infinite number of combinations of chemicals. This complexity makes plastic difficult to deal with. This idea of proliferation is what we see in a huge number of applications and sectors of the economy, but as well, we are seeing that on the environment, on the biota and recently on human beings. There are recent studies that shows that there are microplastics in human placenta, human lungs, blood, and the last scientific studies show that there is microplastics in breast milk. So sometimes I refer to the absurdity of where we are in this crisis by quoting a UN scientific report that was launched last year that said that some evidence suggests that the use of microplastics in offshore oil and gas activities could be substantial, and microplastics are known to be used in production and drilling processes in oil and gas activities. For me, this absurdity shows that this idea of microplastics or plastic that are less than five millimeters are everywhere and it is not only a question of waste, but also question that the industry is using that every single day for different applications.

Why is plastic bad for the environment?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:05:14] But this is more than a microplastics treaty that is envisioned; this is a plastics treaty. What, generally speaking, is the harm that plastics impose on the environment?

Andres Del Castillo [00:05:30] So since the sixties or seventies, there are documentation of physical harms. At the beginning it was more to animals by ingestion of the debris but more and more, we have specific evidence on the chemical or the toxicity of those plastics in human beings and also in biota and in the environment in general. So, it is because of this idea of complexity that we say it is not only a question of plastic waste or the physical items or products that we see on the beaches or on landfills but is also the material itself that is a problem. And this is something that was identified by different countries as a priority, as a common concern of humankind.

How did the idea of a plastics treaty begin?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:06:21] So I’d love to have you explain to me the origin story of this potential plastics treaty. Is there a civil society movement behind it? I ask, because a pattern that I’ve seen over the years reporting on the United Nations is that whether it’s banning landmines or banning nuclear weapons, these ideas percolate among civil society, then make their way to sympathetic governments who take the ball from there. Is that what’s happening here? How did this idea for a plastics treaty originate and get us to the point where we are today?

Andres Del Castillo [00:07:03] Yes. So first we (when I say we, I mean from the civil society world) we consider that our role has been showing evidence through scientific methodologies or citizen science or just with different activities, showing the gravity of the situation that was at the beginning more this is what is going on in different places around the world, but also intentionally, there are different coalitions or groups from civil society that from the beginning were calling for global control measures to plastics, saying voluntary or national legislation is not enough; we need something more comprehensive because the transboundary dimension of the problem and because we need countries to establish and set rules. So I will affirm that, yes, there is the civil society and other specific stakeholders behind this, calling for specific global rules, but that is not possible to advance if you don’t have, as you mentioned, some specific countries or regions that are champions and what is specific for this idea of plastic pollution and measures is something, even from the regulatory level, we see champions in different countries apart from the global north. For instance, Bangladesh was the first country to ban single use plastic bags and many African countries have identified that plastic was a problem, and since the nineties, we have specific legislation in Africa banning or controlling plastics. So, we see in different countries around the world this idea of championing the concept of global rules for the plastics as products and as materials.

What is in the potential United Nations plastics treaty?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:09:01] So I’d love to have you discuss process and where we go from here. I’ve been covering the United Nations for a long time, and one lesson I have learned is that process dictates outcomes. Could you explain the context in which negotiations for a potential plastics treaty are taking place? I take it you just returned from Uruguay, where the first round of these negotiations occurred?

Andres Del Castillo [00:09:31] Yes. So, Uruguay was the result of a dream for many of us, having all the countries of the world of the majority, more than 160 countries just talking about plastics. And this is only the first round of negotiations but taking a step back, I can say that the origin of these mandates — that is the way the UN works for developing treaties — was adopted last March during the United Nations Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, where more than 175 countries agreed on a mandate on the minimum elements that a body called INC, or Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, should look at when negotiating a plastic treaty. In March, we started with a specific mandate with a list of topics that the countries wanted to see reflected in a final treaty but then they also clarified that we have a deadline to finish the discussions in the last part of 2024 and have a potential diplomatic or plenipotentiary conference — that is the conference that closes the meeting for adoptions by different countries — in early 2025. So, the rules and the recipes and the ingredients for making this treaty were given, then the mandate clarified that we need to have a specific meeting on preparations for the negotiation itself and that happened in June in Dakar, Senegal, where countries met to set the rules of the game, called rules of procedures, and set also specific logistic and administrative matters. Then at Uruguay, we touched on both procedural issues, last week, but also on substantive issues that will be discussed along these two years on the plastic treaty.

When might the UN adopt a plastics treaty? What would be included in the plastics treaty?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:11:42] So essentially the meeting in Uruguay was the kickoff for a substantive negotiation leading to one kind of big conference that will happen sometime in 2025 to hopefully adopt some sort of international mechanism, potentially a treaty on controlling plastics. So, say it’s 2025, what would in your mind as an advocate on this issue, a maximally ambitious plastics treaty look like? What would it cover; what would it compel governments to do?

Andres Del Castillo [00:12:25] Well, the good news is it is already in the mandate that I was referring to. We already have the specific elements and the scope of the agreement that is to cover the full lifecycle of plastics, and this can sound tautological, saying full lifecycle, but it was necessary to understand that the problem of plastics is not only a problem of plastic waste, but a problem with the whole lifecycle of plastics as a material.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:12:54] Like the development of plastics itself requires a lot of fossil fuels, for example, and that the idea is a treaty should not just deal with better ways to recycle or reuse plastic, but indeed how to construct plastic in a more environmentally conscious way.

Andres Del Castillo [00:13:14] Exactly. You said it right: what we use at the international level is “upstream, midstream and downstream stages of the lifecycle.” And on the upstream part, that this is really beginning of plastics, what we expect for the treaty is to recognize that plastics lifecycle starts at extraction point and that so far 99% of plastics are made with fossil fuel. But in the future, considering that the treaty is a long-term policy, there will also be the ideas that cover also agricultural feedstocks, for instance. So, we call this first stage sourcing, meaning extraction, but also cultivation and this isn’t a specific recognition, it doesn’t mean that that will be a priority for the next round of negotiations. And on the priority, what we want to see, of course, is a specific common objective that includes not only the environmental aspects, but also the human health and human rights aspects of the problem that need to be addressed through this mechanism. Mainly what we are advocating for is more upstream measures, meaning reduction of production of primary or virgin plastics. That needs to be a means to achieve an end that these measures end plastic pollution, right? But we don’t see reduction only as a consequence of different policies, but as a means. For reduction, we need to talk about caps on production, on plastics, then also a moratorium on new facilities or even on the expansion of existing facilities, petrochemical facilities that produce plastics, and also a reduction on fossil fuel subsidies and banning the specific types of plastics. Those are the reduction measures that we consider means for the upstream part. Then, of course, we have other specific aspects to cover, that is not only the polymer or one of the main materials for plastic, but also the additive and the toxicity of those additives meaning there are chemicals of concern, harmful hazardous dangers, also persistent organic pollutants that need to be controlled through these mechanisms. And finally, the midstream part that is more related to the design of plastic or some material, right? What needs to be included and the design of products and how much recyclable material needs to be used and rules of no entry into a market for new plastics without data. So, it’s a principle that comes from the European Union regulations on chemicals: “no data, no market” means if you want to put something into the market, you need to show and to be transparent and to share the information that the product and the material is safe for consumers and for industrial use. And finally, the downstream part, that is the part that many people are talking about, reusing systems and also at the end, if that is not possible, the recycling part.

Which countries are advocating for the plastics treaty?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:16:38] So I take it there is a quote, high ambition coalition of countries that broadly subscribe to this maximally ambitious idea of a plastics treaty that encompasses the entire lifecycle of plastics. What countries are in that coalition and how are they approaching negotiations thus far?

Andres Del Castillo [00:17:06] There was a first move led by Norway and Rwanda, when the mandate for the negotiation was adopted, to create an ambition coalition. So far there are 55 members of that coalition, including the European Union, the European Union members, more than nine countries from Latin America. We have seen how Latin America is a champion region for the plastic treaty, but also there is a phenomenon, if I’m not wrong, that there are some countries that we don’t consider as high ambition but are entering into the high ambition coalition because their aim is to have something ambitious, but the question is how they’re going to concretize that with the specific policies and proposals. So far, they have shown that they want to end plastic pollution by 2040, and they say that already this date is ambitious, and they want some specific measures to be taken more top down, meaning control measures at the global level that will influence what’s happening at the national level. So, this is where we are with this high ambition coalition.

Where do the United States and China stand on the UN plastics treaty?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:18:20] So there’s a significant number of countries, and you said it includes all of the European Union that are seeking this more expansive view of a plastics treaty. What is the position thus far of the United States and China, which I take it are probably two of the larger international producers and consumers of plastic products?

Andres Del Castillo [00:18:43] So for the United States and China, what we see is that they’re really interested in the topic. We can measure that by just saying the number of delegates or negotiators that were present at the first round of negotiations in Uruguay. China sent 24 delegates and the US sent around 30 delegates for the negotiation. This is an indication of how interested they are in the topic but when it comes to the concretized idea of how the treaty will work, we see in the US a lack of ambition in some specific parts, meaning they want to privilege a Paris Agreement style for this plastic treaty, meaning that it will depend on national circumstances and on national capabilities and on national prerogative, the way whole countries will address this crisis.

What is the difference between a treaty and an agreement?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:19:47] So just to emphasize that point, the Paris Agreement model is distinct from a treaty, the Paris Agreement is a political agreement, the core of which includes voluntary actions taken by each country that is part of that political agreement. It is not a treaty which is a legally binding agreement, countries legally agree to take certain actions as opposed to voluntarily agree to take certain actions. And it is the United States’ position at these early stages that they would prefer to see at the end of negotiations not a draft treaty, but a draft political agreement, encouraging countries to take certain steps within their national borders.

Andres Del Castillo [00:20:36] Exactly. What they are trying to put forward is this idea of having national action plans as the backbone of the plastic treaty, meaning in a few words, a Paris agreement style where you have nationally determined contributions, and then they also are asking for specific monitoring and transparency measures. But so far, we don’t see the point of meeting and spending thousands of millions of dollars to talk about voluntary measures, because this is what we have right now. We have many national action plans but it’s not working.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:21:18] So I guess I, to a certain degree, understand America’s point of view here. Just knowing what I know about American politics, it is exceedingly unlikely that if at the end this plastics treaty is opposed by the plastics and petrochemical industry, that you will have the sufficient two thirds majority of the U.S. Senate vote to ratify this treaty. So, it’s one of those treaties that could be out there, as there are many, that the United States might never, ever ratify. So, what’s better here, having the United States agree to voluntary contributions or having a treaty that the United States lives outside of?

Andres Del Castillo [00:22:09] This is a good question that we were trained to deal with during the first rounds of negotiations and this is the idea of flexibility, right? That we find flexibility features not only in the Paris Agreement style and apart from national politics — where we think that the US, even if we have a Paris agreement style, will be unable on the internal level to adopt and ratify this treaty — we see also this idea of countries trying to say let’s go for something more global but if the US is not a member, and not only the U.S., but other countries that are more alienated with fossil fuels, lobby to have other tools. For instance, Mexico put forward as one of the tools that need to be included in the plastic treaty is a close of parties, similar to what we have under the Basel convention, meaning that even if a country doesn’t ratify or is not part of the treaty, they will be affected because they can’t trade or be in negotiations with the parties of the treaty without complying with the safeguards or provisions of the treaties. So, this is also a feature that has been used and put forward as a way to say, well, if the U.S. is not part of the treaty, at least they will be affected by it. And this is the case of the Basel convention, where the U.S. is not a party of the treaty, but there are effects that affect them.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:23:50] What is the Basel convention?

Andres Del Castillo [00:23:52] The Basel Convention is a transboundary movement of hazardous waste and other waste. It is a global convention, mainly on chemicals that is ratified by almost all the countries from the United Nations minus the US and Haiti and Sudan.

Why is the United States not a part of The Basel Convention?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:24:11] And how currently is the U.S. existing outside The Basel Convention impacting America’s ability to interact with countries that exist within it? Just to see how listeners can view this as a potential model for the future plastics treaty.

Andres Del Castillo [00:24:31] Yes, we saw already in 2019, when it the specific amendment or modification of the Basel convention to include plastic waste and classify certain plastic waste as hazardous was adopted. When that happened, there was then an amendment to control plastic waste that before 2019 was not a part of the scope of the convention, and now if there are parties that want to export plastic waste to other parties, they need to apply the prior and informed consent, for instance. And this is something that has been modified for that convention and even if the US is not part of the convention that affects them, because all the parties that the US wants to enter into a negotiation with need to pass on this specific agreement with the same safeguards of The Basel Convention. So, this is the case, for instance, with the US and Canada passing on this specific agreement on the exports of plastic waste in 2020 or 2021 trying to comply with these Basel Convention rules.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:25:47] Because Canada is compelled to comply by it.

Andres Del Castillo [00:25:50] By the Basel Convention, yes.

What is the Chinese policy position on plastic pollution?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:25:52] So could you explain how you see China’s position going forward? You said that they sent a large delegation to that first negotiating conference. What do we know thus far about how they might approach, number one, this question of whether it should be a treaty or not or some sort of political agreement, a la the Paris agreement, what do we know about China’s position?

Andres Del Castillo [00:26:16] First, we know that the question of plastic pollution is high on the agenda of China. We know that because in 2018 they passed an internal, or national, law called the National Sword, where they banned the imports of plastic waste into mainland China. This has been an accelerator or driver of what we see today as a phenomenon, to understand that China received almost 50% of plastic waste from the world until 2018, where they banned the imports of plastic waste. So, we saw many countries and people form the understanding that the way of they were trying to recycle and sorting different plastic waste was not working because many of the products were sent abroad, mainly to China, for disposal or recovery activities in China. So, China under environmental grounds, banned the import of plastic waste in 2018. So, there is an interest from China to work on that. We know also that the National Action Plan of China for Human Rights includes this idea of microplastics and how to deal with that for soil fertility, too. And also, the World Trade Organization — China, together with Fiji and 75 countries, are leading this Pacific initiative called Dialogue on Plastic Pollution, so it’s not only the negotiations scenario where China has been present or active, but it’s another scenario with China has been demonstrating that this is high in their agenda. Now on the negotiation of the plastic treaty, this is the first time that China is sending delegates in person for this negotiation. For instance, when the mandate was adopted, China was really active, but remotely, because of their internal policy regarding COVID. But this time the negotiators, they were putting some specific language or some specific ideas over the counter. For instance, this idea of let’s have all the elements before we enter discussions, but also, we can see that China was trying also to open the rules of procedures that establish a specific mechanism for voting, and they were trying to push for a consensus-based negotiation.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:28:44] That’s interesting. So, they are engaging procedurally and to a degree substantively as well. So, we are speaking just a few days after this first round of negotiations concluded. What comes next and what will you be looking towards in the coming months and even years as the world builds momentum towards that 2024 deadline for these negotiations to conclude?

Andres Del Castillo [00:29:16] So first, we are seeing rising interest by many countries, and we saw that last week where more than 74 countries took the floor in the first days, for instance. This is kind of a record. Everybody wanted to take the floor on behalf of their countries or on behalf of the region, meaning that there is interest in that. We saw also international organizations coming forward and bringing their expertise on the topic and the main outcome of the meeting last week, was a request for UNEP or for the INC Secretariat to develop a specific document listing all the potential elements or options that need to be included in the treaty. And this negotiation is good because it’s giving a rhythm of what is going to happen at the INC 2, or the second round of negotiations, that will take place in Paris in the last week of May. And this idea of having a gravitational document where people will refer and talk about that document during the negotiation is important instead of not having anything so people can come and just talk. Now we are going to have specific a specific document by UNEP with a list of the potential countermeasures, obligations, scope, and different elements for a plastic treaty that, if everything goes well, will result in zero draft for the negotiations for the INC 3, or the third round of negotiations, that will take place in November in Nairobi, Kenya. And this is kind of where we are right now. On the specific request for UNEP to work on a document listing potential elements, hey will use all the inputs received during the last week with the opinions from many governments, but also by stakeholders and there will be a possibility to send in written submissions so they can take that into consideration when developing this specific document, that is a list of all the potential provisions.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:31:32] And just to be clear, UNEP is the United Nations Environment Program, and you are saying that basically negotiations in these first two rounds are kind of building up towards what’s called a zero draft in these situations, basically a very rough draft of a potential treaty or outcome document of some sort. And that’s what you’re looking out towards in the coming months.

Andres Del Castillo [00:31:56] Exactly. This is where we are right now and of course, it will be intense in the next two years, because we all know that the topic is complex, and the task is difficult. So, we will see many intersectional discussions or a discussion that happens outside these formal rounds of negotiation schemes where countries by region will come together to start developing and concretizing what they want to see in a plastic treaty.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:32:33] All right. Well, Andres, thank you so much.

Andres Del Castillo [00:32:36] Thanks to you, Mark.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:32:44] Thank you for listening to Global Dispatches. Our show is produced by me, Mark Leon Goldberg, and edited and mixed by Levi Sharp.

The post A New Plastics Treaty Is Being Negotiated at the UN: What You Need to Know appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A Major UN Biodiversity Conference Seeks New Goals to Save Nature

15. Dezember 2022 - 4:00

Delegates from nearly every country in the world are meeting in Montreal for the UN Biodiversity Conference known as COP15. Their goal is to come up with a new global action plan to preserve nature and global biodiversity. Top among those goals is agreeing to a new global target to protect for conservation 30% of land and 30% and marine habitats by 2030.

To discuss the importance of this UN Biodiversity Conference, Ongoing at time of recording, we are joined by John Reid, co-author of Ever Green: Saving Big Forests to Save the Planet (co-authored with the late Thomas Lovejoy), and the senior economist and partnership lead at the non-profit Nia Tero

We discuss the recent history of global efforts to protect biodiversity and its link to climate change, as well as the key issues at play at COP 15 in Montreal.

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The post A Major UN Biodiversity Conference Seeks New Goals to Save Nature appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

What the Latest Data Tells Us About The Global Fight Against Malaria

12. Dezember 2022 - 4:00

On December 8, the World Health Organization released its latest annual report on the global fight against Malaria.

The World Malaria Report found that progress against malaria has begun to stabilize after COVID related setbacks. Specifically, after a sharp rise in global malaria deaths during the first year of the pandemic, deaths have now begun to decrease — though not yet to pre-pandemic levels.

In this episode we are joined by Martin Edlund, Chief Executive Officer of the non profit organization Malaria No More, to explain what this data shows about humanity’s progress against malaria. We discuss the impact of the COVID pandemic on the fight against malaria before discussion the broader landscape in which malaria is evolving to become a more resilient foe. We also discuss exciting technological innovations that may enable humanity to reach the goal of reducing malaria cases and deaths by 90% by 2030.

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Transcript lightly edited for clarity

What Did Malaria Numbers Look Like Right Before the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Martin Edlund [00:00:00] The upshot is we need to continue to innovate. We’re in a constant arms race with nature in deploying these tools, both in terms of insecticides and the drugs that we use to treat the parasite. You know, if you look back over the last 15 years, Mark, we’ve seen historic progress in the malaria fight. What we’re talking about here is really humanity’s oldest, deadliest disease, something that you can find in the fossil record 20, 25 million years ago, and something that by many estimates, has killed more human beings than any other cause on the planet. And yet, in the last 15 years, we’ve seen remarkable progress. So, since the year 2000 we’ve saved nearly 12 million lives, prevented 2 billion cases of malaria; unlocked about $2 trillion in economic benefits for some of the poorest communities on the planet. In that time, 21 countries have eliminated malaria, so gone from annual transmission to no malaria whatsoever. And, you know, it’s because we have had really simple cost-effective tools, things like insecticide treated bed nets, rapid diagnostic tests, a $1 full course of treatment that if you get it, you do not die from this disease. And the combination of those effective tools and the progress we’ve seen have really led the world to recognize malaria as arguably the single most cost-effective way to save a human life on the planet by preventing people from getting malaria. So, the effective altruism movement, donor countries and certainly endemic countries have prioritized this as a way to save lives and improve livelihoods in their countries.

How has COVID affected the fight against malaria?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:05:08] So things were trending well for the last 20 years, then in 2019 and 2020, 2021 COVID hit, and based on the interviews I’ve done over the years, COVID interrupted a lot of progress on a variety of global health and development indicators. How did COVID impact the fight against malaria?

Martin Edlund [00:05:35] So, as in so many other areas, COVID was hugely disruptive to the malaria campaign. There were actually concerns right at the outset of COVID that you might see a doubling of deaths from malaria due to COVID disruptions. The concerns were that these massive distribution campaigns each year, about 200 million insecticide treated bed nets are distributed, that those would be disrupted due to supply chain issues and workforce issues. One of the other big concerns, of course, was that COVID is a febrile illness — you show up with a fever as the first symptom — so is malaria, and we’ve seen in cases like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, that when there’s a novel disease that looks like malaria, people stop showing up to get tested and treated. They don’t want to be infected. They don’t want to be quarantined. So, there was a huge risk that you’d see testing and treatment rates fall dramatically. And so those concerns kind of spurred the malaria community and campaign into action. The good news is we managed and mitigated many of those risks. So, of the bed net distribution campaigns that were planned in the early months and the first year of COVID, about almost 90% of those went ahead as planned, so we were able to get the nets out. We actually saw initially some pretty troubling statistics on declines in testing and treatment rates for malaria, particularly in high burden settings like Nigeria, which is the single highest burden place for malaria in the world, but also kind of large population centers like India. And the good news is, over the last 18, 24 months, we’ve really reestablished high levels of fever testing and treatment. You know, in many ways, it’s taken some time. It’s taken a lot of work and heroic efforts by everyone from donors stepping up to frontline health workers taking the risk to deliver these interventions, but we’ve stabilized the effort post COVID.

Why have malaria deaths increased in recent years?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:32] Yet the progress that you are seeing, at least according to data reported in this newest World Malaria report, seems to indicate that indeed, over the last few years, progress stagnated, deaths increased.

Martin Edlund [00:07:48] They did indeed. So, for the second year in a row, for the first time since this global campaign began 15 or so years ago, we’ve seen malaria cases increase. And COVID certainly played a role in that, but I think COVID arrived at a time when progress was fragile and stalling anyway. And so, what we’re seeing in the malaria campaign, I think, first of all, is where we get these highly effective tools out, we continue to see gains. So, every year that we sustain these efforts, more than a million lives are saved. More than 185 million malaria cases are averted. So, the tools work when we get them to the people that need them most. But we’re seeing some challenges. There are still huge gaps in coverage. Almost a third of people aren’t seeking testing and treatment when they have a fever. An even higher percentage of people don’t have access to a mosquito net to sleep under on a nightly basis. And then there are new challenges, emerging challenges. For instance, drug and insecticide resistance are beginning to erode the effectiveness of these tools that we describe. We’re also seeing that malaria really thrives on chaos. It thrives on disruption. So, any time you have conflict or climate related severe weather events, malaria resurges, and we’re seeing growing evidence of that.

What are the key findings of the World Malaria Report 2022?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:09:13] And so this newest report seems to provide some evidence that a confluence of factors, displacement by natural or manmade causes, climate change, conflict, all are contributing to the latest data in this report. What are some of your key topline takeaways from the World Malaria Report?

Martin Edlund [00:09:38] Several things: one, I would say we’ve stabilized the effort since the onset of COVID, so cases did rise again, but deaths didn’t rise this year, in fact, deaths declined slightly. So, in 2021, they estimate that there were 619,000 deaths from malaria, down from 625,000 the year before. So that’s great. At the end of the day, our vision and our goal are to stop people dying from mosquito bites.

Where is malaria most deadly?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:10:06] So basically, as you said, you know, for the last 15 years, generally speaking, deaths declined. Then COVID hit, deaths started to increase, but now this latest report, you’re showing that deaths are stabilizing and even slightly on the decline once again.

Martin Edlund [00:10:23] That’s right. So, cases rose for a second year in a row, but deaths have declined slightly in the past year. So, another lesson from this World Malaria Report is that malaria is increasingly heavily concentrated in a small number of countries. So, 95% of cases, 96% of deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa, and in fact, 50% of all deaths from malaria globally are in just four countries: Nigeria, D.R., Congo, Uganda, and Mozambique. We continue to see gaps in access, as we talked about a moment ago. Net coverage isn’t where it should be; testing and treatment rebounded, but still one third of people, children with febrile illness in sub-Saharan Africa, don’t seek any timely testing or treatment for their illness. One bright spot in the report: there’s an intervention called seasonal malaria chemoprevention. So that’s a mouthful, but essentially what we’re talking about is at the onset or just before the arrival of the rainy season or the monsoon season, you do drug-based treatment and try to eliminate the parasite in the population and give people some prophylaxis, some resistance against infection.

What is seasonal malaria chemoprevention?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:11:41] And is this a relatively new intervention?

Martin Edlund [00:11:45] No, it’s something they’ve been testing for a while, but it’s really gone to scale in recent years. So, in the last year, covered by this World Malaria Report, 45 million children were treated on average with seasonal malaria chemoprevention in 15 African countries, and that’s up from about 33 million a year before, 22 million the year before that. So, we’re seeing big increases and particularly in some of those high burden countries that we talked about, places like Nigeria, Uganda, Mozambique. These are some of the countries that are benefiting most from this intervention.

Does malaria affect rural or urban populations more?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:12:19] And in those countries, Nigeria, DRC, Mozambique, and Uganda, are you seeing a distribution of cases and of deaths that skews largely rural, or is this also something that you’re seeing impact urban populations as well?

Martin Edlund [00:12:36] I mean, historically, malaria is often talked about as a disease of the rural poor, and that’s because that’s where it’s most tropical; that’s where you see standing water; that’s where you see people working in agriculture, in forested areas that are most conducive to mosquitoes and therefore malaria. You know, a number of cities are in tropical areas where you see transmission. One of the challenges that we need to solve for is testing and treatment in urban settings and in the private sector. Nigeria and Uganda, two of the four highest burden countries that we just talked about, have a huge proportion of the public that seeks treatment when they have a fever, not through public sector clinics, but rather through private pharmacies and drug shops and so forth. And the levels of testing and treatment in the private sector are not nearly what they should be. So that’s a challenge to focus on. The other thing we’re seeing is some changes in the vector, the mosquitoes that transmit malaria, there’s a vector that has emerged in Africa in recent years called Anopheles stephensi that is unlike most of its sisters, most of the other Anopheles mosquitoes, it’s actually an urban vector. And so, it breeds and bites in urban settings. It looks like pushing the boundaries of that biting window. Historically, Anopheles mosquitoes only bite at night. That’s why mosquito nets are so effective. If you sleep under a mosquito net, you’re not exposed to the risk of those infectious bites, but they’re now biting in cities where people stay out longer and may not use nets as much and are also biting earlier in the evening and later in the morning when people are less likely to be under nets.

How are mosquitos adapting to manmade malaria prevention methods?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:14:22] So the mosquito is adapting to our interventions.

Martin Edlund [00:14:27] It is indeed. We’re seeing mosquitoes adapt in a number of ways, and we talked about kind of where and when they bite, but also that they’re becoming resistant to some of the tools that we use like insecticide treated bed nets. So, of the 88 malaria endemic countries that provide data, 78 had detected resistance to at least one class of insecticide that’s commonly used in these nets. And so, this kind of miracle tool, long lasting, insecticide treated nets, that are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the lives saved and the historic progress that we’ve seen, they’re becoming less effective against some of the mosquitoes.

Why are insecticide-treated bed nets now less effective against malaria-carrying mosquitos?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:15:09] I feel like that’s a point worth emphasizing. You know, as long as I have been reporting on these issues, which stretches to the early 2000s, insecticide treated, long lasting bed nets were seen not as like a silver bullet, but as the most impactful and cost-effective way to prevent malaria deaths and illnesses. And you saw that reflected in the data since the early 2000s when these net distribution programs really got to scale, we saw this huge dramatic decline in cases and deaths. But you’re saying that now there is mounting evidence that these nets are indeed less effective? How concerning is this?

Martin Edlund [00:15:53] It’s quite concerning. The first thing to emphasize is that these tools still work. As the recent World Malaria Report shows, a million lives were saved just last year from the use of these tools. So, they’re still highly effective; they’re still arguably the single most cost-effective way to save lives on the planet. But we are seeing the spread of insecticide resistance in mosquitoes, and that means they’re not as effective as they once were. The upshot is we need to continue to innovate. We’re in a constant arms race with nature in deploying these tools, both in terms of insecticides and the drugs that we use to treat the parasite. The good news is that through investments and a lot of ingenuity, we have next generation nets. We have some new dual action nets that are highly effective. The challenge is that they’re slightly more expensive. And so, whereas we benefited over the last decade from volume growing, we went from about 17 million nets a year of being distributed to now more than 200 million distributed every year. And with that, the cost per net went from about $7 and then down to under $3. And well, now we’re seeing that price tick up. Whereas we’ve been able year over year to cover more and more people with the same funding for nets, now we’re going to have to prioritize or find new resources to maintain those high levels of coverage.

Is there a vaccine for malaria?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:17:20] Another key innovation in recent years was the advent of an impactful and effective vaccine against malaria that’s now recommended by the World Health Organization. What’s the status of that vaccine and its rollout, and where is it being rolled out?

Martin Edlund [00:17:41] Yes, so last year was really a landmark moment in the malaria campaign. For the first time, the World Health Organization in October of last year endorsed and recommended for wide use the first malaria vaccine. People are accustomed to the story with COVID of how quickly — Operation Warp Speed — how quickly vaccines were developed for COVID, but it’s taken about 30 years of research and effort to get to this first malaria vaccine. The challenge is malaria is a parasite and parasites are wily and harder to develop vaccines for. So, this was really a landmark moment to have the first W.H.O. endorsed vaccine for malaria and really vaccine for any parasite. The reality is it’s still not nearly as effective as we’d like. Over the long term, it’s only about 30, 35% effective, so it’s a great addition to the arsenal of current tools, but it’s not a silver bullet. It’s not something that’s going to replace the nets, testing treatment, seasonal malaria chemoprevention, the tools that we currently have. Nonetheless, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement for this. And so, three countries took on the initial distribution of this vaccine: Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. They all saw good results from it, and so they’re expanding those programs now in those three countries, and a number of other countries are lining up to distribute the vaccine as well. The challenge is we have limited doses. GSK, who developed the vaccine, has only committed to about 15 million doses a year and people will require 3 to 4 doses over the course of a year. So, you’re really only talking about 5 million people protected. The reality is we need many times that. The true demand to protect the at-risk population would require more than 100 million doses annually. So, there’s a gap between the efficacy of the tool that we need; there’s also a gap in terms of the availability of the tool to really address the problem. Now, the exciting part is this has really sparked and spurred a whole range of innovations. There are subsequent vaccines which look to be even more effective that are rapidly moving through field trials. There’s a vaccine called R21, developed by Oxford’s Jenner Institute, working with the Serum Institute in India, that looks really compelling. We’re also seeing that BioNTech, one of the companies responsible for the COVID vaccines, is now trying to apply mRNA vaccine technologies, the same things that were used for COVID, for malaria, and actually trying to put those into clinical trials as quickly as they can.

How can we reach the World Health Organization goal of reducing malaria deaths by 90% by 2030?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:20:23] So broadly speaking, the trends over the last couple of years have shaken progress towards the W.H.O. goal of reducing deaths in cases by 90% by 2030, which is also embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals. Is accelerating progress towards that goal, at this point, simply a matter of scaling up the variety of interventions that you’ve previously discussed, like the seasonal prophylactics, the better bed nets, the more expanded use of the vaccines. Is it just a matter of scaling all of those up?

Martin Edlund [00:21:09] I think there are a couple of things. So maybe we can talk about risks and opportunities. On the risk side, we’ve got to get those next generation of tools out in the field and get them to the people who need them most. That requires more money; that requires investing in things like frontline distribution, community health workers who live and work day to day in the communities where malaria flourishes. Those are some of the opportunities that we have. We also know that malaria thrives on disruptions. We’ve seen, for instance, really compelling and devastating evidence of severe weather events being followed by severe health events. As many listening will be aware, Pakistan had really terrible flooding this year and there was so much talk about how devastating that was, kind of the physics of it. It washed out so much agriculture and people’s livelihoods. But what you see is a couple of weeks later, these severe health crises and malaria very much among them. There was a huge upsurge in malaria cases in parts of Pakistan. In one sample district, the Sindh Province, confirmed cases of malaria from August of this year reached about 70,000, compared to fewer than 20,000 the year before. So more than a tripling of malaria cases. And this is in a context of devastation. Roads being washed out, people not being able to access that routine care that they normally would. And so, climate is something we’ve got to think about increasingly with mosquito borne diseases and infectious diseases more broadly. But there are some exciting tools on the way, and maybe this points to one of the broader opportunities beyond just better nets and the next generation of treatments and so forth. There’s a pipeline that’s bursting with exciting new technologies. In fact, we think in the next five years that we’re going to see a suite of technologies that can equip the world to drive a big, not just elimination campaign in countries, but possibly eradication campaigns where in the space of a decade or so we could actually eliminate this disease once and for all.

What are monoclonal antibodies and how could they reduce malaria cases?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:23:27] What are some of those tech innovations that you’re referring to? Are there any, like, particularly promising ones you could tease for the audience?

Martin Edlund [00:23:35] I can, indeed, there are some very promising ones. So certainly, the vaccine candidates that we talked about are some of those. There are also monoclonal antibodies — people spoke about those a lot in the context of COVID — but when you think about a highly seasonal disease like malaria, that’s especially powerful. So, the National Institutes of Health and the US government and its partners have been developing some monoclonal antibody candidates that are in field trials now. They look to be more than 80% effective. So, contrast that with some of the lower efficacy levels that we talked about with vaccines, and they appear like they may last six months or more. So, when you actually look at the malaria endemic map and you look at those places that have intense seasonal transmission, those rainy seasons don’t last six months, so if you could go in, give people a single shot in the arm, protect them for an entire six months, you are essentially taking them out of circulation as potential victims and carriers of malaria for the entire rainy season. So those are two examples. A third one, and this one’s gotten a lot of coverage in the media, there are some really exciting technologies and approaches that can take mosquitoes from being the villain of the malaria story, the ones that transmit malaria to actually being part of the solution: genetic modification, and some other approaches that could prevent mosquitoes from transmitting malaria to people. And those are looking really exciting, both in the lab and in what they call these large trials. And so, we’re looking to see how those develop and ultimately whether they’re embraced by communities and can be taken up at a larger scale.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:25:20] So do you think by 2030, if we’ve reached those targets of reducing malaria instances and deaths by 90%, it will be due to technologies that don’t yet exist or at least exist at scale today?

Martin Edlund [00:25:38] I think, broadly speaking, there are three things we need to do to get back on track and even to accelerate progress to end this disease once and for all. As you know, my organization is called Malaria No More, so we’re looking at the end game. How do you ultimately eliminate this disease altogether? The first thing we can do is fill gaps with current tools. There are still large swaths of at-risk populations that don’t have access to these $3 nets, $1 treatments, and $0.35 rapid diagnostic tests. So, we have to fill those gaps to save lives now. The second thing we need to do is invest in frontline delivery, community health workers, scaling up highly effective tools in private sector clinics and pharmacies is a big part of how we reach the last mile and the people who ultimately need these interventions. And then on top of getting current tools out to the people who need them, we need to accelerate the technology pipeline. A child dies every minute from a mosquito bite, so we can’t wait 30 years for the next malaria vaccine candidate. We need to see more effective successor vaccines coming on much more quickly. We need to see the exciting progress around things like monoclonal antibodies moving from field trials into actual use very, very quickly. And then we need to be deliberate about it, but we need to explore the potential opportunities around genetically modified mosquitoes and some of the more novel techniques that could save lives now.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:27:10] Well, Martin, thank you so much for your time and for putting this most recent World Malaria Report in context. I appreciate it.

Martin Edlund [00:27:19] Thank you, Mark. Great to talk with you.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:27:28] Thank you for listening to Global Dispatches. Our show is produced by me, Mark Leon Goldberg, and edited and mixed by Levi Sharp.

The post What the Latest Data Tells Us About The Global Fight Against Malaria appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Ukraine: Prosecuting War Crimes and Russian Aggression in Ukraine

8. Dezember 2022 - 4:00

This episode of Global Dispatches is a bit different than usual. Rather than the host, Mark Leon Goldberg interviewing someone, he is the one being interviewed.

Moderators at the WordNews page on Reddit invited Mark to share some of his expertise on international justice issues in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Specifically, what are the prospects of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Russian war on Ukraine.

Mark has reported on the International Criminal Court and other issues related to war crimes and crimes against humanity for nearly 20 years and took questions from moderator Akaash Maharaj, ambassador-at-large for the Global Organization of Parliamentarians against Corruption and a fellow at the Munk School at the University of Toronto.

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The post Ukraine: Prosecuting War Crimes and Russian Aggression in Ukraine appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Protests in China and the Death of Jiang Zemin

5. Dezember 2022 - 4:00

Rare protests broke out across several cities in China in recent weeks. Demonstrators took to the streets to protest the government’s extreme Zero Covid policy, which imposes harsh lockdowns in an effort to stamp out the virus. In some cases, the protests took aim at the government itself, calling for Xi Jinping to step down.

Protests of this kind are extremely rare, so this movement understandably caught the attention of the world. It also apparently caught the attention of the government which has since signaled an easing of its quarantine policies.

In this episode, we speak with Kaiser Kuo, host of The Sinica Podcast, from The China Project. We spoke just hours after it was announced that former president Jiang Zemin had passed away at the age of 96. We discuss Jiang Zemin’s legacy on China today and how his death may serve as a catalyst for further protest in China. We then have an extended conversation about the rationale of Xi Jinping’s Zero Covid policy, and what may come next for this policy and the protest movement.

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Transcript lightly edited for clarity 

Who was Jiang Zemin? 

Kaiser Kuo [00:00:00] The lockdowns themselves in this particular building, in this particular area, really contributed to the inability of firefighters to get the fire under control and to save people from dying.

Excerpted News Reports [00:01:04] “The protests were triggered by a deadly fire Thursday at an apartment building in Urumqi, the capital of the far western province, Xinjiang.” “A lot of the folks as well, you can see they’re holding these white pieces of paper. This is a symbol of anti-censorship.” “We don’t want any coronavirus test, this woman says. We want freedom. We have human dignity. We are human, says this man. We are Chinese. We need constitutionality.”

Kaiser Kuo [00:04:01] Jiang was picked as the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party after the removal of a guy named Zhao Ziyang. Zhao had been the general secretary during the Tiananmen protests of 1989 and was removed from power during that process and spent the rest of his life in house arrest. So, Jiang was handpicked by Deng Xiaoping, who was then the paramount leader, and he really took China into a very different era, the whole post Tiananmen era, where you saw China really boom economically. So, he was in charge of things for a full decade, all the way up until 2003 when he passed the baton to Hu Jintao.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:04:45] And this includes milestones like China entering the World Trade Organization, right?

Kaiser Kuo [00:04:50] So, yeah, I mean, you know, he was certainly involved in architecting the formal accession to the WTO, but it didn’t happen until 2001. But yeah, absolutely, that was one of the major milestones. He also oversaw some difficulties between China and the United States, like the downing of the EP3 plane in 2001, like the Taiwan Straits crisis in 1995 and 1996.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:05:15] And the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade as well.

Kaiser Kuo [00:05:18] That’s right.

Was Jiang Zemin a popular political figure?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:05:20] How is Jiang Zemin perceived popularly within China today?

Kaiser Kuo [00:05:25] Well, it’s tough. I mean, on the one extreme, there are people who actually have a positive personality cult around him. They kind of semi tongue in cheek worship, the great toad, the toad king. He has a kind of well, let’s face it, a kind of frog like or toad like appearance, you know but less ironically, I think a lot of people credit him for having really saved the Chinese Communist Party. He has this signature piece of theory called The Three Represents and most people can’t recite to you what these three represents actually are you know, they’re things like the party represents the most advanced forces of production, the party represents the most advanced cultural forces, and the party represents the overall blah blah of, you know, the Chinese people, right? So, nobody will sort of quote that to you chapter and verse but what it really means is that he brought the intellectuals and entrepreneurs into the party, and he did this in a way that really ended up saving the Chinese Communist Party. Let me put it this way. Prior to this idea, there was very little representation by leading entrepreneurs or by real intellectuals, and the party was still heavily technocratic already, but the rank-and-file party members tended to be quite low class. I remember my father used to tell me a really interesting anecdote about a company in China’s Silicon Valley in the Northwestern part and it was a company that employed, you know, 2700 people or something like that. But the only party members were a cook and a driver. So, the idea was that, you know, he wanted to bring what he would call the most advanced forces of production — that is serious engineers and scientists and people like that into the party. Jiang himself was a real technocrat. He had actually been the minister of the Ministry of Electronics, which no longer exists but at that time he was in the early 1980s.

Could Jiang Zemin’s death stoke further protests in China?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:30] So the death of Jiang Zemin at this particular moment of protest in China may potentially harken back to the death in April 1989 of former party leader Hu Yaobang. He was an outspoken reformer, and his death was the spark that led to the Tiananmen Square demonstrations that year. Is there something meaningful in that comparison? And to what extent might party leadership today be worried that Jiang’s death may add fuel to these ongoing protests?

Kaiser Kuo [00:08:02] Well, they’re certainly worried, and there’s certainly people who are already going immediately for that comparison. There were calls earlier for a candlelight vigil in Shanghai in remembrance of Jiang, and Shanghai was where you had sort of the most vociferous slogans being chanted. Shanghai had, of course, really suffered badly in the spring and early summer during their lockdowns. So, there’s a lot of public anger and as far as, you know, the actual comparison between the two, Jiang was a very, very complicated guy Hu Yaobang was, too but, you know, Hu had been ridiculed prior to his death, but immediately after he died, that all dried up and went away and people sort of only remember him as sort of this martyr to reform. He had been removed as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party after he failed to crack down hard enough on an earlier round of student protests that happened in 1986 and 1987. So, he was removed in 1987 as general secretary, but he kept his seat on the Politburo Standing Committee. So that meant that after his death, they were obliged to organize a formal state funeral for him. And that gave a bit of time for people to be able to ostensibly mourn his passing, you know, an act of patriotism but it was very clearly just a fig leaf for quite critical demonstration. They’re afraid of the same thing happening right now but this time they’ve seen this play run before, so they sort of know how it goes and they’re not going to allow that kind of thing to happen, to have Jiang’s death be a signal for this now. It’s interesting that they seemed to have announced it immediately after it happened. There are other times where, in sensitive moments where they fear something like this, they might have kept it under wraps for a little while before letting out the news. Funnily enough, it was just maybe ten days ago that there was another round of pretty serious rumors that Jiang had passed, and we all kind of laughed that off but now this time for real.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:10:02] So you’re saying that authorities are certainly prepared for protesters to potentially use the death of Jiang Zemin as a pretext for demonstrations that, while ostensibly would be mourning the death of Jiang Zemin, would really be a way to get people protesting lockdowns out on the street.

Kaiser Kuo [00:10:25] Yeah. Yeah, that’s exactly right. Now, nobody really thinks of Jiang as sort of an archetype of liberal reformer. Now, he did oversee a lot of really important reforms, but they were mostly in the realm of market liberalization. He broke a lot of the eggs that needed breaking to make the modern Chinese economic omelet. He and his especially his Premier, Zhu Rongji, they oversaw a period where a lot of inefficient, state-owned enterprises were allowed to fail or were obliged to let go a large number of workers. He was sort of the time of the smashing of the iron rice bowl. He did a lot of things that were popular, like, you know, pushing the People’s Liberation Army out of the business world. You know, the PLA used to own a lot of businesses. And, you know, he sort of put an end to that. But he’s not regarded as some icon of political liberalization, although, I mean, maybe he deserves to be in some regards because he did do a lot to advance intraparty democratization and things like village elections, local elections.

What happened in the Urumqi, China fire?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:11:37] I’d love to have you go back and trace the source of this current protest movement. I take it it’s sort of the spark of this current protest movement was a fire in authorities handling a fire in Urumqi. Can you explain that incident and how that has led to protests throughout much of China today?

Kaiser Kuo [00:12:04] Sure. I think we need to go back a little bit further than that, just a little bit of context. You know, fires happen and sometimes they have people really, really angry but this particular fire happened in sort of a context of really, really severe lockdowns in many Chinese cities. And of course, there is the allegation, and I think pretty strong evidence to suggest that is indeed the case, that the lockdowns themselves in this particular building, in this particular area, really contributed to the inability of firefighters to get the fire under control and to save people from dying. Ten people at least died in that conflagration. But three years ago, when it broke out, China cracked down on the virus really severely. And it was, you know, feeling a little triumphalist by April or May of last year. There were a lot of photos circulating and being circulated deliberately by Chinese propaganda authorities to show, hey, look, we’ve got this thing quashed now. Zero COVID has worked. We’re throwing gigantic pool parties now. No one has to wear masks indoors. We’ve got rock festivals. You know, the bars are open; they’re going to restaurants. But when Delta and Omicron, especially the Omicron variant, hit China, although the outbreaks are really, really small, even right now, the current very large outbreaks by U.S. or other, you know, Western countries standards are very, very small. But the potential for it is huge. So, they’ve cracked down. They’ve, you know, instituted very, very strict lockdowns in many, many cities.

What is China’s Zero-Covid policy?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:13:37] Can I ask, what do these lockdowns look like by those who are experiencing them?

Kaiser Kuo [00:13:44] So what happens typically in, you know, a typical Chinese city is there will be a positive case. Sometimes that’s external transmission. Somebody came back and somehow, after many days in quarantine, they didn’t have symptoms or they didn’t, you know, show positive. And then there’s a transmission or sometimes it’s a false positive. So, what happens is they will lock down either a building itself or sometimes an entire compound. Often, apartment buildings are part of big blocks of, you know, multiple buildings. And so, they’ll lock down that whole neighborhood or adjoining buildings or adjacent buildings or even buildings just, you know, a block away. And they will, you know, in some severe cases, put chains on doors or actually weld gates shuts or limit the number of egress or entry points to a compound or to a building. They try their level best, I suppose. I mean, we can take this on good faith that they ensure that people are delivered food and other necessities, but no one comes in and out of the buildings except with special permissions.

Why are there protests in China right now?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:14:52] So if this has been more or less the standard procedure for many, many months now, why is it that protests have suddenly erupted?

Kaiser Kuo [00:15:04] Well, two things. One, that you mentioned, the Urumqi fire is certainly one of them, but the other is the Foxconn demonstrations in Changzhou in Hunan, where there’s an enormous Foxconn plant that employs hundreds of thousands of people.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:15:18] And this is a company known mostly for making iPhones.

Kaiser Kuo [00:15:23] I mean, they’re a contract electronics manufacturer, the biggest in the world. They’re actually a Taiwanese owned company, and they do, yeah, most famously, Apple products. They’re an extraordinarily sophisticated operation, obviously, and their Changzhou operation, Hunan is the central Chinese province in sort of north central China, a huge city, huge population, and population in that province the size of Germany. It’s only the size of the state of Missouri so it’s quite small. My ancestral province, in fact.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:15:52] Mine is Ukraine.

Kaiser Kuo [00:15:55] Yours, I’m sure, was Ukraine at one point, Lithuania, maybe Poland.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:15:59] Bessarabia, it was called.

Kaiser Kuo [00:16:01] Bessarabia. Yeah, you know, that’s kind of standard Ashkenazi history, right?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:16:05] Precisely.

Kaiser Kuo [00:16:07] So this was really widely publicized where because lockdowns had been announced, a lot of workers panicked because there were some cases there and either they wanted to escape lockdown, or they wanted to avoid infection. It was different when you talk to different, you know, workers who fled, but they got out and they walked, you know, in some cases, many dozens or even hundreds of miles or they set out to walk those distances to get home. And so, there’s a lot of really, you know, fascinating footage of people just pushing their way past guards, walking down these freeways. It’s kind of nuts. So, there was a lot of sort of solidarity with them. The Urumqi Fire: when these images of these impotent fire trucks trying to blast water from quite far away because there were cars blocking their access to the actual building; cars that couldn’t be moved because their owners had either left town or were in lockdown. You know, anger really bubbled up. So, there was a lot of pent-up frustration over all this time in lockdown, a lot of, you know, mental health crises, people who had other health issues that couldn’t be addressed in local hospitals because they couldn’t leave their buildings easily. There’s a lot of economic pain as well. People who can’t simply work from home and who had lost their jobs or hadn’t been paid for months. So, I think it’s quite understandable how frustrated people were.

Why are there anti-government protests in China?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:17:33] So the protests that have erupted from this I’ve seen alternatively described at least in Western media, as anti-lockdown protests, but sometimes also anti-government protests, and presumably there’s some overlap between the two. How would you characterize the protests based on what you’re seeing, your own reporting, your own sort of analysis of the situation?

Kaiser Kuo [00:18:01] So there have been protests now in many, many cities and even some very small communities, and some of them are quite localized, some of them are just limited to one, say, neighborhood that’s been locked down. For example, there’s an enormous housing complex called Tiantongyuan in the north part of Beijing. I mean, there are probably a million people who live just in that one compound, and they had a fairly localized protest that focused just on lockdown restrictions, and they actually won; their restrictions were lifted. Others have been very overtly political and bigger. What’s interesting is that mostly I would say they’re local in their scope, but the issues that concern them are ones that are felt pretty uniformly across the country, you know, more severe in some places where lockdowns have been bad, where there have been bad outbreaks, and where management of the lockdowns themselves have been poor. But what’s interesting is that they’re happening simultaneously or that they happened. So, let’s just be clear. By today, they almost entirely petered out. And in fact, by Monday night they had pretty much petered out. So, it’s maybe not correct to speak of ongoing protests, but we’ll see. I mean, they still might flare up. Who really knows? In any case, they’re not by any means, all overtly political. There’s only one city that I’m aware of right now where the chants were things — there’s some debate over how it’s translated — but literally in Chinese it means Xi Jinping get off the stage like I mean, down with Xi Jinping, or it can be like we’re calling you to step down and the Communist Party get off the stage or down with the Communist Party.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:19:49] The message is clear.

Kaiser Kuo [00:19:50] Yeah. So that’s only one city that’s in Shanghai. So, Shanghai’s obviously a very important city. It’s the most economically important city in China. So again, it’s quite diverse in size and scale in the kinds of demands they’re talking about in their scope. Very, very diverse.

How does the Chinese government suppress protest movements?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:20:09] Have the protests petered out precisely because the authorities are so good at suppressing dissent at this point? You know, the much-vaunted electronic surveillance systems, are they able to, like, track down the protesters using their facial recognition technology and so on, in order to prevent these protesters from returning to the streets?

Kaiser Kuo [00:20:35] That’s certainly part of it. I think it’s really hard to say really accurately, because, again, there are so many people protesting for different motives and not protesting for different reasons. I’d say that part of it is, as some guests that I spoke to who lived in Beijing and have been there for a very, very long time, have said, is that part of it is that people just wanted to sort of blow off steam and they’ve done that so there’s maybe not as much steam. They’ve, you know, opened the pressure cooker, and let it all out. So, it may take time to build up again. Maybe it won’t. But there are other people who would say that no it’s because the police presence has been really, really huge. One of my guests, he said basically they’ve gone to DEFCON f around and find out, which I thought was a really clever turn of phrase. And then part of it, I think, also is just the weather. I mean, in especially the northern cities there was a gigantic cold snap so that it was like with windchill minus ten or even colder on Tuesday.

Why is China continuing it’s Zero-Covid policy despite protests?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:21:37] So Xi Jinping is paying a decent, it seems, political and economic cost for the Zero-Covid policy. What do you suppose drives his dedication to that rather extreme policy at this point?

Kaiser Kuo [00:21:56] Yeah, I think it’s pretty simple. I mean, I think they do a lot of modeling there. There have been a lot of models that have been done, including one that was just published earlier this week in Nature Medicine — this was done in May so conditions may have changed between then and now — but as of May, had they allowed basically COVID to run, you know, if they had stopped the Zero-Covid policy, it would result in an estimated 1.5 million deaths, 77% of which would have been among people 60 and older who are unvaccinated. So, they’re also aware that vaccination rates have been quite low among the elderly, and there’s all sorts of reasons for vaccine hesitancy, but they’re looking at an immunologically naive population and a very big, very dense one. They saw what happened in Taiwan when Taiwan let go, when they saw 48,000 cases a day and had numerous deaths. So, they project from that, and they think, you know, the same people who are criticizing us right now for this strict crackdown, they’re going to turn around and they’re going to say, hey, we are a country that, as you always remind us, you know, cherishes the young and respects the aged, where’s your respect for the aged now, you’re letting them all die. So, you know, they feel like they can’t really win. And I think that, you know, there’s an old, stupid saying, they always say oh out in Asia, life is cheap. That’s clearly not the case.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:23:20] I’ve never heard that.

How many people in China have died of Covid?

Kaiser Kuo [00:23:22] They care very much about deaths. They do not want to see anything like that, especially when one of their big talking points in the last few years has been this million plus deaths in the United States and they can point right now and honestly say they’ve kept deaths to about 5000 in a country of 1.4 billion.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:23:44] I saw a statistic that something like 20% of Chinese are over the age of 60. Basically, you know, what you’re seeing is that the political price and the economic impact of the zero-lockdown policy is something that Xi and party leaders are willing to tolerate because they think that loosening restrictions would cause an even greater political headache and they would pay a steep price for large number of elderly Chinese dying.

Kaiser Kuo [00:24:16] That’s exactly right. There’s a sort of grand utilitarian calculation there. They are making, you know, some hundred million people grumble really, really unhappily but meanwhile, there are, you know, another 1.3 billion in the surrounding area in China, right? The rest of the country is perfectly happy to be able to lead relatively normal lives. Now, that 100 million happens to be a very important piece. And let me just say, I mean, they’re constantly updating this. They’re not locked into one set of policies. Already, we’ve seen the Chinese Centers for Disease Control issue new guidelines. Let’s remember also that the first week of November, right after the party Congress, they released this 20-point set of guidelines. There were many points in there that had to do with, you know, loosening. In fact, there’s been some theorizing that says that in that very act of showing a little bit of softening, that maybe emboldened critics, this is something that China always fears. They think that this is the pattern. If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, that kind of thing.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:25:17] And so it was that softening that also inspired people to come out into the streets thinking that maybe an even deeper softening is possible.

Kaiser Kuo [00:25:27] I don’t know whether that’s really the case. I’m saying that there are people who think that it might be. I don’t think there’s any easy way to sort of empirically establish whether that is in fact the case.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:25:37] So how sustainable is the Zero-Covid policy? You know, assuming that protests do sort of peter out as they seem to have been, how sustainable is this zero-covid policy?

Kaiser Kuo [00:25:51] Well, I think that they’d be foolish if they didn’t realize that it’s not very sustainable in the long run. They’ve painted themselves into a corner. I mean, they’re victims from their early successes, right? I don’t know what they thought was going to happen, to imagine that COVID was just going to go away in the rest of the world and that they would be able to, you know, like reopen without the threat of COVID. Clearly, they did not use that vaunted state capacity for what they should have used it for, which is, you know, really getting a lot of shots in a lot of arms, especially among the vulnerable elderly population. Now, there’s a big plan to do that, and we all anticipated that that was going to be announced after the party Congress, that that was part of the reopening plan, that they would have to really start using that coercive capacity to immunize people.

Why are women taking the lead on recent lockdown protests in China?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:26:36] So there is this kind of rich tradition of Chinese online activism that skirts censorship through clever means. And I guess what’s significant to me as an outsider looking in is that, you know, these protests that we saw over the last week or so seem to be like a physical manifestation of the sort of online protest universe in an interesting way.

Kaiser Kuo [00:27:05] Absolutely. This is true O to O, online to offline, as they say in China. They were using many of the same kind of memes and techniques that they would have used in the online world. Of course, a lot of it was organized online so yeah, the same kind of snarky cleverness and like weaponized passive aggression and which is just, you know, something that must never be underestimated. The other thing I would say about the protests and people have remarked on this, I think it’s really interesting is how many women are not only taking part in, but leading the protests and leading, you know, conversations about this, not only offline but online as well. And people have wondered why that is. I have a couple of explanations for it. One is just that during these years, I mean, China did enjoy a couple of years where its lockdowns were much less severe than in the rest of the world but let’s not forget that there was still a lot of restriction and, you know, online education was the norm in China for a very long time, even after the rest of society had opened up. So that put a lot of burden, of course, on women who were the primary caretakers of school age children. There were during the lockdowns themselves, you know, spikes, as there have been in the United States, in other countries of spousal abuse, of domestic violence. Women have had to bear a lot of the brunt of this. They were often in the jobs that were deemed nonessential, unfortunately, and so they lost jobs when they were under more economic duress than many of the men in the country. So that’s one reason. The other, I would say, is that across these decades of relative, you know, political quiescence in China, one area where we have seen really bold activism is in feminist causes, whether it’s, you know, MeToo stuff or domestic violence or in gender equality issues, more generally about pay and other things. We’ve seen women really, really show an admirable bravery in confronting political authority. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re out in front in this as well.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:29:16] Lastly, in the coming weeks, is there anything you’ll be looking towards that will suggest to you whether or not these protests might revive or indeed if they have petered out?

Kaiser Kuo [00:29:27] Yeah. I mean, you know, the obvious thing is just simply watching whether there are, you know, further instances, seeing if this trickles down into lower tier cities, seeing where the protest organizers now direct their energies. It’s hard to identify who they are and, of course, you know, in doing so, you may be putting them in danger. But I’m just going to continue, as I have been doing, to watch Chinese social media and, you know, even looking for specific lacunae, because it’s often those dogs that are forced not to bark that sort of give you clues about what’s actually happening. So, looking at where the censorious efforts of authorities are placed.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:30:08] Well, Kaiser, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Kaiser Kuo [00:30:11] Thanks so much, Mark. It’s been a real pleasure.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:30:20] Thank you for listening to Global Dispatches. Our show is produced by me, Mark Leon Goldberg, and edited and mixed by Levi Sharp.

The post Protests in China and the Death of Jiang Zemin appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Why is Turkey About to Invade Syria?

1. Dezember 2022 - 4:00

On November 13, six people were killed in a bombing in Istanbul, which the government of Turkey blamed on a Kurdish militant group based in Northern Syria. Shortly thereafter, Turkey began targeting Kurdish positions in Syria and Iraq, with President Erdogan threatening an imminent ground invasion of Northern Syria.

In this episode, we speak with Lisel Hintz, assistant professor of international relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, to discuss this bombing and this escalating conflict, which comes amid a profound shift in Turkey’s relationships with other countries in the region.

We begin by talking about what we know about the November 13th attack and the Turkish government’s attempt to control the narrative before having a broader conversation about how this crisis informs, and is informed by, recent changes in Turkey’s foreign policy. This including a warming of relations with former regional adversaries like Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Lisel Hintz also explains the domestic political considerations that may be driving Erdogan’s decisions on the use of force in Syria ahead of elections next year.

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Transcript lightly edited for clarity 

Why was there a bombing in Istanbul on November 13?

Lisel Hintz [00:00:00] And if the government calls a state of emergency, it has a much sort of larger tool kit with which to shape the conditions for its potential reelection in the elections in June.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:02:15] This is an evolving situation at time of recording. Turkey had not yet invaded, though my guest, Liesl Hintz, believes it’s only a matter of time, as she explains in this episode. And of course, whatever happens, this conversation will give you the context you need to understand events as they unfold in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Lisel Hintz [00:05:01] So we know that a bomb went off on November 13th in a crowded section of Istanbul in Istiklal, which is a main shopping thoroughfare. We know that six people were killed. We know that many, many were injured. We know that relatively soon after that, the Turkish government claimed that it was the action of the YPG, which is the people’s protection units or the Syrian Kurdish militia that the Turkish government views as a terrorist group, as linked with the PKK, which is the Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey. So basically, the Turkish government is claiming that this is a Kurdish terrorist group that is carrying out an attack on Turkish soil. And very soon after that, they released a photo of a woman that they claimed who had planted the bomb. They said that it was very clear that she had YPG ties. And so, one of the things that I think has been frustrating for observers is that there doesn’t seem to be trustworthy evidence or very clear evidence that this is of the YPG. Both the YPG and the PKK have denied responsibility for this attack. For those who study those organizations, it doesn’t seem like the kind of attack that they would carry out. It doesn’t seem like they have the motivations to do so right now. And so, there’s a lot of suspicion, there’s a lot of uncertainty and compounding that suspicion and uncertainty was the broadcasting ban that the Turkish government put in place, which did not allow news media organizations to cover the incident. It was an attempt for the government to try to control the messaging on this. This is a pretty common tactic that the government uses when there’s some kind of disaster or some kind of violent episode. The government kind of goes into spin mode and tries to control the flow of information. There was also a noticeable slowing of social media. Some social media sites were blocked, and so there was a very concerted attempt by the government to try to ensure that people were not perhaps speculating on who could be the source of this or were not sharing information that the government did not want them to share. So the fact that the government immediately claimed that this was the YPG, PKK, the fact that they immediately detained someone whose YPG links have been found to be quite questionable, and the fact that they put a broadcast ban and some social media blocks in place have led many to question who actually is behind this attack and whether the government is sort of trying to benefit from this for its own domestic political purposes.

What are the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:41] Generally speaking, over the years has the PKK, which is an internationally recognized terrorist group that’s distinct from the YPG, which is a U.S. backed militia in Kurdistan section of Syria, in the past have those groups claimed responsibility for attacks when they happen?

Lisel Hintz [00:08:04] In the past, the PKK has claimed responsibility for attacks. I would note that the PKK also has several offshoot organizations that have claimed responsibility for the attacks, so perhaps it was like a youth militia wing of the PKK rather than the PKK itself. I would note that there are reasons, legitimate reasons for linking the YPG and the PKK. They have organizational ties; they have social ties, networks among them, so it’s not a completely off the wall suggestion for the Turkish government to make that these organizations are linked. But in terms of the kinds of attacks that they carry out, this doesn’t seem to resonate as having the mark of a YPG or PKK attack.

How has the Turkish government responded to the bombing on November 13?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:08:48] So yet, you know, this attack happened. The government very quickly seemed to claim the narrative, blaming the YPG for the attack and then began mounting airstrikes in northern Syria on YPG targets. Can you describe what those airstrikes have been like and what the government’s narrative has been thus far?

Lisel Hintz [00:09:14] So the Turkish military has been carrying out airstrikes against Kurdish targets in northern Iraq and northern Syria. The Turkish government has been claiming that there’s going to be a new ground incursion since late spring, early summer, in order to try to push the YPG back from the Turkish border. So, the Turkish government has been claiming that there is a legitimate security threat, that the YPG, which again they claim is this sort of brother organization of the PKK — and they have reason to do — but they claim that there is a legitimate security threat that needs to be addressed and so they’re using airstrikes to do so. There have been a number of civilian casualties for this, and there’s a concern that a ground incursion could have a much, much larger human cost to it. One of the things that we’ve seen in terms of the way that Turkey has been trying to convince the international community of this security threat has been even the objection of the Turkish government to Sweden and Finland’s NATO’s accession. The Turkish government has repeatedly been saying that the international community needs to take the fact that the YPG poses a legitimate security threat to Turkey seriously. So, it’s been carrying out airstrikes, it’s been threatening a ground incursion, and it’s been trying rhetorically to set up an international context in which those kinds of further campaigns are possible.

Why does the United States financially support the YPG (People’s Protection Units)?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:10:41] And how has the United States responded thus far? The United States has backed the YPG in its fight against ISIS in northern Syria and Iraq, and apparently YPG has been rather effective against ISIS. What have we heard then from the U.S. in terms of how it’s trying to manage this apparent crisis?

Lisel Hintz [00:11:06] The US is in a difficult position, and it’s put itself in a really difficult position. The decision to arm the YPG as part of a broader Syrian Democratic forces fighting unit that could fight ISIS in order to avoid U.S. boots on the ground to do so was a decision that the U.S. government hoped was not going to anger Turkey to the point that it did. And so, you have a number of issues that are causing tensions between the U.S. and Turkey. But from the Turks perspective, the YPG is absolutely number one. They say, how can our NATO ally, how can a country that claims to be our partner and take our security concerns seriously, arm a terrorist group that we see as having a very threatening presence directly on our border? So that’s the Turkish perspective. Why on earth would the U.S. choose to arm a Syrian Kurdish organization in its fight against ISIS? Now, from the U.S. perspective, Turkey was not willing to step up to the plate in terms of fighting ISIS. The U.S. was trying to avoid another major American military presence in the Middle East, and they knew that the Syrian Kurdish forces could be very effective in their fight against ISIS, and they proved to be. So, the U.S. made that choice. But now they have Turkey saying, you know, this is a stab in the back. How can you do that to us? You’re exacerbating our security concerns. And again, the point was to create these larger Syrian democratic forces but from the Turks perspective, that was a fig leaf. This was largely populated by Syrian Kurdish forces. So, the U.S. recognizing that the YPG has played a significant role in combating ISIS and, by the way, in maintaining the prisons in which ISIS fighters are currently housed, do not want to see them moved out of those border regions of Syria, do not want to see a further military incursion by Turkey. They’ve been very adamant that they have been concerned about a future incursion, although I will note that under the Trump administration there were some mixed signals that were being given to Turkey. And a lot of people would say that the Trump administration kind of greenlighted Turkish military incursions in Syria. We saw Defense Secretary Mattis and Brett McGurk resign over that green lighting. So there have been some mixed signals from the U.S. but under the Biden administration, the message has been very firm. You know, Turkey should not carry out military incursions in Syria. They certainly should not engage in a ground incursion. And what we’ve seen is that the Turkish government has been hinting that this has been coming since June, but they’ve been unable to get the green light from the U.S. and from Russia. It looks as though they’re negotiating with Russia right now as to whether they can get the permission to be able to carry out that particular campaign or will Russia allow Syrian government forces to come back in? But from the Turks perspective, there needs to be a clearing out of the YPG from its borders whether it does it, Russia does it, or the Syrian government does it.

How is Turkish president Erdogan responding to the November 13 bombing?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:14:10] So we’re speaking on Tuesday, November 29th. This ground invasion is much anticipated but hasn’t happened yet. However, as you said, there have been stepped up airstrikes. How do you perceive that Erdogan perceives the situation in terms of managing his foreign relations? What are some of the politics that are driving his decisions right now in terms of whether or not to go ahead with this ground invasion?

Lisel Hintz [00:14:46] So I think there are a lot more domestic political motivating factors, but they are intimately intertwined with the international foreign policy considerations so it’s a good question to ask. So, Turkey or Erdogan, specifically in terms of being the one calling the shots, is on one hand trying to extract some concessions from the United States. It very much wants to purchase F-16s from the United States. It has been given signals from the Biden administration that it may be able to purchase F-16s from a domestic or military capacity standpoint. It very much needs those F-16s and upgrade kits that would come with them. And of course, part of that is because Turkey lost out on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program because of its purchase of an S-400 missile defense system from Russia. So, the sanction coming from the United States was we’re going to kick you out of the F-35 program. So, of course, it now finds itself in a situation to upgrade its military capacity. It needs these F-16s. The Biden administration, again, has indicated that may be possible, but Congress has strongly objected. So that’s something that Turkey is considering. Does it go ahead with this campaign knowing that that may harm its chances to get the F-16s? Or does it think probably we’re not going to get those anyway so let’s not let that be a constraining factor for us. So, again, thinking about the S-400 and the Russian side, Turkey has a number of ways in which its government and its economy and its energy sources are intimately connected with Russia. There, of course, is the aspect of Russia controlling Syrian airspace, of controlling a lot of the politics of what goes on in Syria and of supporting the Assad regime. So, one of the things that you’ve seen in recent months is Erdogan’s government, who called Bashar al-Assad the president of Syria enemy number one for a long time, has now said, well, you know, perhaps we can reestablish relations, just as he’s been able to attempt to reestablish relations with President Sisi in Egypt. So, you’re seeing kind of an about face on a number of the relationships that had hardened quite a bit following the Arab Spring.

Why might President Erdogan be trying to improve relations with Syria?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:17:03] Can I ask you about the two about faces? We saw this very warm embrace of Erdogan to Sisi at the World Cup in Qatar the other day, which was a very public demonstration of Erdogan’s shifting priorities. Previously, Erdogan supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi, which are enemies of Sisi in Egypt, but now you saw Erdogan and Sisi embrace each other at the World Cup. Similarly, you just noted that Erdogan has been signaling a warmth towards Assad in Syria. What accounts in particular for this about face towards Turkish Syrian relations?

Lisel Hintz [00:17:50] Yeah, and it’s funny because in some cases it’s an about face after an about face so Erdogan and Assad had been quite close friends, you know, they vacationed together, their wives shopped together, and then, of course, in the wake of the Arab Spring, when Erdogan was not able to convince Bashar al-Assad to stop cracking down on his people and was trying to say, hey, international community, I’ll be able to negotiate this; let me use my political capital. But then he wasn’t able to pull that off. Then they become, you know, these arch enemies, and Turkey is, of course, supporting Syrian opposition forces that are trying to oust Assad. So, you go from very good friends to arch enemies to now, okay, let’s try to sort of pragmatically negotiate how we can manage this relationship. And, you know, Sisi and Erdogan never had that close relationship and, you know, politically and ideologically, they were never going to. But the factors that are driving these sorts of attempted rapprochement, which I don’t like that term, because I think it sort of assumes that things are going to be normalized when it’s more of a really tense, pragmatic relationship that I think we’re seeing, it’s very much due to what I mentioned earlier, which is kind of Erdogan’s domestic political calculations. And part of that has to do with the immense economic crisis that Turkey is undergoing with the free fall of the lira, with skyrocketing unemployment, with massive foreign debt. The fact that you also have Turkey, which of course doesn’t have a whole lot of its own energy resources and therefore would like to be able to partner on gas exploration, on oil pipeline — I mentioned earlier its energy ties with Russia — so economic and energy concerns, I think, are the ones that we can think of as really driving the need to establish these relationships. We’ve seen a bit of an about face with a bunch of Arab countries as well, in addition to Syria and Egypt, that Turkey has undergone. Part of that is sort of in the wake of the Abraham Accords but again, there is this identified need to try to find export markets, to try to find energy sources, to try to find some way of getting swap deals. You know, it has had a similar softening of relations with the UAE, which had been another state in which it had very, very tense relations and even with Israel. So, I think it’s difficult to understand this kind of charm offensive that Erdogan has been trying to undertake without looking at the economic and energy issues that are underlining that. And of course, all of that culminates in Erdogan’s need to remain as president in the 2023 elections.

Why would Turkey launch a ground invasion into Syria?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:20:32] So if economic malaise at home, which is deep and profound —I did an episode on this podcast not long ago about the tanking lira and the unconventional economic responses by Erdogan, which seems to have made things even worse if those considerations are driving this about face in Turkish foreign policy. Is there similar sort of domestic political motivations for wanting to invade Northern Syria, for wanting to mount a major ground invasion across the border?

Lisel Hintz [00:21:12] There are absolutely domestic political considerations for Turkey wanting to undertake a military campaign in Syria, and there’s a number of them. Again, I think that Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies are so intimately intertwined, and I think this is one of these cases in which we can see that. My colleague has just written an excellent book on this topic, the intertwining of domestic and foreign policy, specifically when it comes to Turkey’s campaigns against Syria. If we’re thinking about what Erdogan may be able to gain from this kind of an incursion, I think we have to remember that he is extremely adept at turning crises into opportunities. In turning the 2016 coup attempt into a way to not only sort of rally around the flag and bolster national sentiment and create a lot of national unity, if relatively temporarily, but also to purge opponents from the military, from the civil service, from institutions that could serve as positions for challenging him. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned into an opportunity for Turkey to position itself on the world stage as being able to broker a green deal, as being a mediator, which of course is a very convenient position for Turkey to be in because as a mediator you cannot choose sides between Ukraine and Russia, and that’s exactly where Erdogan wanted to position Turkey. So, when it comes to Syria, the Kurdish issue, of course, is one of the main issues that comes to the fore. When we’re looking at elections in 2023, we see that his party and he as the presidential candidate are facing major challenges from the opposition and that Kurds have previously played a very pivotal role. I would say not even just important, but pivotal role in the Opposition’s ability to carry out victories at the polls. We saw that in the 2019 local elections where Kurds were integral to the opposition’s ability to not only win Istanbul but win Istanbul twice in a rerun election that was forced because the government had the Supreme Electoral Board annul the previous election in an attempt to hold that seat. So, Kurds are a key political player in Turkey. Now, the challenge for the Turkish opposition parties, and we have a group of six of them that have united to try to unseat Erdogan, is that not all of those parties can agree on the Kurdish issue, essentially. And among those parties, those six parties, there are nationalist parties that do not want to see Kurds as part of their cohort, as part of their alliance, that have campaigned on anti-Kurdish policies previously, that have voted to remove parliamentary immunity from Kurds. And so, this is a really sort of tense and contentious issue in terms of how the opposition parties can reach out to Kurds. So, what does that have to do with the potential for a military incursion in Syria? So, by carrying out a military campaign, the issue of Kurds as an enemy, the issue of Kurds as a security threat becomes one that the government can inflate, becomes one in which the government can continuously reference Kurds, and not just Kurds who are members of these militant organizations, but Kurds more broadly. There’s this terrorist paintbrush that the government is able to use and does use in order to marginalize Kurdish political actors and also those opposition parties that are willing to partner with those actors. And as you can see that can then create a wedge between opposition parties. Do we partner with the Kurds or do we not? If we do, are we painted as collaborating with terrorists? How do we negotiate that space? How do we negotiate that space legally when we may be targeted by the government with a court case? How do we negotiate that space with voters and how are we trying to communicate to them and make sure that we’re garnering as many votes as we can? So that becomes a much more contentious issue. It’s already a balancing act that the parties have been trying to negotiate, but with a future incursion, that becomes even more difficult.

Why is Turkey’s 2023 election important?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:25:31] So by invading northern Syria, by fomenting nationalism, you potentially divide the political opposition and make his own position stronger ahead of elections next year. So, it all could be viewed through that domestic political lens.

Lisel Hintz [00:25:52] I think a lot of it can be viewed through the domestic political lens, but there’s even more so he can rally nationalism, although I think it’s worth noting that when Erdogan makes a fiery speech about Greece, right, or threatens another military incursion, he can get a nationalist bump in the polls, but it’s relatively little and it doesn’t last a long time. This kind of a military incursion in which a lot of the population has harbored anti Kurdish sentiments that can be stirred up, so that can have an effect. It can also have an effect in dividing the opposition parties, again, as we said. But it can have a further additional effect, which is alienating Kurdish voters from voting at all. So, you know, maybe they were thinking about voting for the opposition parties, but no, they’re just going to stay away from the polls completely. So, you can alienate Turkish voters who are uncomfortable with how the opposition parties are negotiating the Kurdish issue and then you can also alienate Kurdish voters. I would say that there’s even an additional factor to consider when it comes to this, and this is perhaps looking too far down the road and is perhaps too pessimistic. One of the things that I worry about is if there is another military incursion, if there is unrest that follows from that in Turkey or that spills over the borders, if there’s cross-border violence, that can give the government the pretext to call a state of emergency. And if the government calls a state of emergency, it has a much sort of larger toolkit with which to shape the conditions for its potential reelection in the elections in June. So, we know that the previous presidential election in 2018 was held under a state of emergency, and it was lifted relatively soon after. So, the state of emergency had been put in place following the 2016 coup. It’s lifted soon after the 2018 presidential elections, which Erdogan wins. So, there is a track record of being able to carry out election victories under a state of emergency. The potential for unrest or for violence in the Syrian situation means that there’s the potential for that kind of state of emergency that could lead the government to postpone elections, to cancel elections in the Kurdish region, to have more impetus for closing the HDP, the People’s Democratic Party, which is the pro-Kurdish party in Turkey. It just basically gives the government more tools to use in terms of configuring the domestic playing field in its favor. And that’s something that I worry about quite a bit.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:28:24] In the near term, are there any indicators or inflection points that you’ll be looking towards that will suggest to you whether or not that pessimistic scenario, as you call it, will indeed play out?

Lisel Hintz [00:28:36] I mean, the most obvious one is, is there a military incursion? And I think that there will be. I had thought that before there was a bombing on November 13th, so perhaps that’s why I’ve had kind of a cynical view of the way in which the government has tried to benefit politically from that attack. So, we’ll be looking for whether there’s an incursion, even though we currently see Turkey sort of negotiating with Russia as to whether Russia can clear the YPG from the borders. That doesn’t necessarily seem like something that the YPG is willing to agree to, so we’ll have to see how that plays out. I would also note that one of the extra additional factors that a military incursion in Syria might be able to contribute to when it comes to Erdogan’s domestic popularity is that he has claimed that he can use those spaces as a way to repatriate Syrians. And we know that the Syrian refugee issue or the 4 million Syrians who are living in Turkey, not technically under refugee status, but temporary protection status, has been a major source of criticism of his government and an issue that the opposition has been pushing very, very hard on. So again, lots and lots of different domestic political considerations for this. But in terms of the inflection point, so, A, is there an incursion? And even if Russia is able to clear the YPG from one of the towns in northern Syria, say Tal Rifaat, which they have been trying to convince the YPG to withdraw from, Turkey has also cited a number of other northern Syrian towns that the YPG currently holds, including Manbij and Kobani. So, it seems as though the potential for an incursion is high again, given all of those domestic political motivations for carrying out such a campaign. So, we’ll be looking for that. I think we’ll be looking to see whether there is any kind of violence that spills over. Are there rocket attacks that are coming landing on Turkish soil? Are there protests in Turkey, largely Kurd organized protests or other protests? If there are protests, are the police forces cracking down on them violently? All of this is, I think, for a lot of Turkey observers recalling 2015, which was the summer in which you saw the reignition of the war between the PKK and the Turkish government. There’d been a ceasefire that they’d been working on for several years, but that fell apart once the AKP had lost its parliamentary majority in the June 2015 elections.

What is Turkey’s AKP political party?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:31:06] And the AKP is Erdogan’s party?

Lisel Hintz [00:31:09] Yes. So, the AKP, Erdogan’s party, loses its parliamentary majority for the first time, and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party actually is able to get quite a lot of members into parliament. So, there’s sort of political reasons for why that cease fire breaks down but what happens in the meantime over that summer is that there are a number of ISIS attacks, there are a number of Kurdish protests that are cracked down violently. There’s a lot of unrest and there’s a very hard nationalist turn by the AKP, Erdogan’s party, so that by the time you have new elections in November, you have this high, high amount of nationalist rhetoric that’s being used, and Erdogan is both able to draw more votes for his party and is able to partner with another nationalist party. So, all of that is to say a lot of people are looking at the current situation with concern because of the amount of violence and the hard nationalist turn that occurred in Turkey, in Turkish politics in 2015. There’s a concern that we might be seeing a rerun of that now with the AKP having learned the lesson that they can gain more votes in that kind of a situation of tumult.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:32:19] Well, thank you so much for your time.

Lisel Hintz [00:32:20] You’re most welcome.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:32:29] Thank you for listening to Global Dispatches. Our show is produced by me, Mark Leon Goldberg, and edited and mixed by Levi Scharff. Before you go, do take a moment to show your support for the show by becoming a premium subscriber. If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, you can do so with a couple taps of your thumb. If you’re listening elsewhere, you can go to We rely on support from listeners to continue to do what we do far into the future and by becoming a premium subscriber, you will unlock access to our entire archive of hundreds and hundreds of episodes. Please rate or review the show on Apple Podcasts.

The post Why is Turkey About to Invade Syria? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Senator Jeanne Shaheen on Congressional Support for Ukraine and Shoring Up Democracy in The Balkans | Live from the Halifax International Security Forum

28. November 2022 - 4:00

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat from New Hampshire, lead a large bi-partisan Congressional delegation to the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia in mid-November. We just days after the US House of Representatives was confirmed to flip to Republican control following the US mid terms. With that change in power comes a degree of uncertainty around the extent to which Congress can be relied upon to continue its support for Ukraine’s defense.

Senator Shaheen discusses how Congress’ approach to Ukraine may change when the Republicans gain control of the house next year, as well as the situation in the western Balkans, where Senator Shaheen recently returned from an official trip to the region in which she observed the Bosnian elections. She explains how Russian meddling may undermine democratic gains in the region and how Congress can better support democracy in the region.

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Transcript lightly edited for clarity

How Will the New Congress Treat US Aid to Ukraine?

Senator Jeanne Shaheen [00:00:00] Anyone in Serbia who thinks that their future may lie with Russia, they just need to look at what’s happening in Ukraine and question whether that’s the future they want. That [changes in aid] remains to be seen, but certainly there is strong bipartisan support for the United States’ involvement in the allied effort to support Ukraine. And we reiterated that yesterday. I’m here with a bipartisan delegation from Congress, both six senators, three members of the House. My co-lead of this delegation is the ranking member, so the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. Every place we have been, we have pointed out that the voices that have raised concerns, raised questions about the U.S. support for Ukraine are the small minority, they are the extreme voices, and that there continues to be a strong bipartisan majority in support of Ukraine.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:03:22] As we enter the new year, what do you foresee being Congress’s top priorities regarding Ukraine?

Senator Jeanne Shaheen [00:03:30] I think continuing to ensure that the resources are there, both humanitarian and the support for weapons systems and continuing the diplomatic effort. I think one of the things that has been so important has been the exchange between Ukrainians who have come to meet with members of Congress, members of Congress who have gone to Ukraine even after the war to see what’s happening there, to point out to President Zelensky and the Ukrainians that we continue to support them, and talking about why this support is important, I think is really critical. One of the stories that I have told my constituents in New Hampshire is of a meeting that I had with some women of the Ukrainian military. And one of the things that one of those soldiers said to me I found so urgent. She said, we are here to ask you for weapons so that we can fight the Russians, so that you don’t have to. And I think it’s that connection to our own national security, to the importance of defending democracy around the world that we need to continue to remind people of.

How does Congress fund humanitarian efforts in Ukraine?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:04:47] Beyond the provision of military aid and funding military aid, are there other opportunities you foresee the incoming Congress could have regarding other types of funding, humanitarian funding, or more broadly supporting diplomatic efforts around Ukraine?

Senator Jeanne Shaheen [00:05:04] Well, I think all of the above, it’s certainly supporting those diplomatic efforts. We had a hearing with a member of our State Department in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this past week. And one of the questions that she got asked was about the morale in Ukraine. She had just come back from a visit to Kyiv to meet with our embassy staff and leaders of Ukraine and she talked about how high the morale was there in the embassy and that we recognize the sacrifices that Ukrainians are making; that personnel from the United States, from other countries who are serving in Ukraine are making, and we are here to stand behind them to support that. So those are diplomatic efforts. There is a lot of discussion about how we continue to support the grain shipments out of Ukraine so that the people in Africa and other parts of the world that are experiencing famine can get the food they need and help them understand that it is Russia that is trying to prevent those shipments from getting out of Ukraine. So, I think there are a lot of efforts that continue partly in official ways, like through the committee hearing process, but also through individual meetings that members have with each other and that we’re having with people from other parts of this allied effort, but also from Ukraine.

How has the Western Balkans been affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:06:33] So I know earlier this year you traveled to the Western Balkans. This is an area that has for many years been particularly vulnerable to Russian meddling and Russian malign influence. Are you seeing evidence of that in the wake of Ukraine? Or perhaps to put this another way, what political impact have you seen unfold in the Western Balkans stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Senator Jeanne Shaheen [00:07:00] Yeah, absolutely. We continue to see Russian efforts to destabilize the Western Balkans, particularly to look at ways to stir up tensions that already exist in the region, to stir up conflict. I was there the beginning of October for the elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and one of the things we heard as I was visiting polling places and talking to people was about the disinformation that’s coming out of Russia to try and stir up those ethnic conflicts, support for the Republic of Serbs and their leader in trying to urge them to secede from the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. So those continue. We see that in Serbia, where they’ve had historic ties to Russia, and China, by the way, is operating in the region in ways that are destabilizing.

How is China involved in the politics of the Western Balkans?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:56] Can you elaborate on China’s operations in the region? This is not something you hear too often about. What did you see?

Senator Jeanne Shaheen [00:08:03] Well, one of the things that we heard about is the effort to set up cultural centers to provide funding for an infrastructure project, something that we’ve seen across as part of their Belt and Road initiative. We’re seeing those conversations happening in the Western Balkans as well. I had a chance this morning to meet with the defense minister from Kosovo, and it’s one of the things he talked about that they’re seeing.

How can Congress support democracy in the Western Balkans?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:08:30] So what could Congress do to shore up Democratic gains in the Western Balkans? You know, the soft underbelly of Europe, it’s often called. What opportunities, what can Congress do to support democratic gains there?

Senator Jeanne Shaheen [00:08:43] Well, one of the things we need to do is pay attention to what’s happening. That’s at the most basic level, and that means going to the region. I was pleased that when I went in April, we went to Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia Herzegovina, and it was a bipartisan delegation. There were three senators who went. One of them had never been to the Western Balkans before. And so, making sure that we understand, have a better understanding of what’s going on there and what the people are asking for support. One of the things I heard this morning from the defense minister was the importance of Western investment in Kosovo, and I think that’s true across the Western Balkans. I have legislation that would try and encourage that kind of investment from the U.S. into the Western Balkans. So, I think we need to look at how we can encourage economic support, trade, obviously, and how we can continue to support efforts to make sure that stability continues in the country. So, efforts to try and encourage Kosovo and Serbia to resolve the differences that exist between those two countries, to try and encourage Croatia to play a positive role in the region, to try and look at things like the U4 mission that just got reauthorized at the U.N. to ensure that there is a European military force that continues in Bosnia Herzegovina so that it helps maintain stability. So, there’s a whole range of things that we need to do, and we need to continue to focus on that.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:10:15] In the coming year, from your perch in Washington, D.C., are there any indicators you’ll be looking towards in the Western Balkans that will suggest to you whether or not the democratic gains will be consolidated, or alternatively, if perhaps Russian meddling is accelerating?

Senator Jeanne Shaheen [00:10:34] Well, certainly a breakthrough between Serbia and Kosovo would be critical, I think, to see progress, looking at a breakthrough in Bosnia Herzegovina that allows them to form a government and move forward after their recent elections. They have been years without being able to form a government. Looking at Croatia and the role that they’re playing in Bosnia and hope that that would be positive in ways that would encourage stability in the country.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:11:02] I’m wondering if perhaps paradoxically, you think Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has maybe encouraged Serbia to perhaps engage more directly with Kosovo? You saw at the United Nations, for example, Serbia really vocally supporting Ukraine on some key votes. Have you seen any evidence that Serbia is more willing to negotiate with Kosovo beyond that rhetorical support that Serbia has given at the United Nations?

Senator Jeanne Shaheen [00:11:30] Well, I think that remains to be seen. There’s actually a meeting happening in Brussels tomorrow between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo with the European Union high representative. And hopefully one of the lessons for the Western Balkans of Russia’s unprovoked, brutal war in Ukraine is that that could happen to them. And for anyone in Serbia who thinks that their future may lie with Russia, they just need to look at what’s happening in Ukraine and question whether that’s the future they want. Do they want a future where there is a brutal dictator who can come in at any time, who can kill people, rape people, destroy cities? Or do they want the Western values that are being offered by the EU and NATO that say we are going to respect human rights, we are going to give people the opportunity for good jobs and prosperity in the future, and we are going to support those efforts. I think that’s the choice that people are facing.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:12:37] Well, Senator, thank you so much.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen [00:12:39] Thank you.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:12:47] Thank you for listening to Global Dispatches. Our show is produced by me, Mark Leon Goldberg, and edited and mixed by Levi Sharp.

The post Senator Jeanne Shaheen on Congressional Support for Ukraine and Shoring Up Democracy in The Balkans | Live from the Halifax International Security Forum appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Meet Jamila Afghani, 2022 Laureate of the Aurora Prize For Awaking Humanity

21. November 2022 - 16:00

In this episode, we speak with Jamila Afghani, the 2022 Laureate of the Aurora Prize For Awaking Humanity, which is a prestigious annual award conferred to grassroots human rights defenders.

Jamila Afghani is a the founder of the local Afghan NGO Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization, which among other things supports girls education in Afghanistan. She founded the organization as a refugee in Pakistan but then established it in Afghanistan just months after the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001. For the last twenty years, her NGO has supported girls and women throughout Afghanistan — and even today, with the country back under Taliban, the work continues.

In our conversation, Jamila Afghani explains how and why she began work as a civil society leader, which also includes a leadership position with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She also discusses how she fled Afghanistan in August 2021 and continues to lead her NGO, but now as a refugee in Canada.

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The post Meet Jamila Afghani, 2022 Laureate of the Aurora Prize For Awaking Humanity appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english