Archive for the ‘Regions’ Category

25
Sep

Winston Churchill once famously said that, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, but only after they have exhausted all of the alternatives.” He could have been speaking of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy.

For six years I have criticized the administration’s policies toward Iraq, Syria, and the wider Middle East (mostly excepting its Iran policy). But since the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State in June, at least where Iraq and Syria are concerned, I can find little to criticize and much to praise. The administration has reversed course in both countries, shifting from stubborn disengagement to smart leadership. Since the stunning ISIS offensive in Iraq in June, Washington’s moves have been uncharacteristically deft: promising greater military support to Iraq as leverage to effect political change there; providing air support and weapons to the Kurds to halt the ISIS offensive; launching a sustained air campaign against ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria; and deploying advisors and weapons to Iraq, to name a few.

The administration’s new approach has resulted in several important developments. Nouri al-Maliki was forced to step down as prime minister of Iraq. That country has a new, more inclusive government that’s committed both to fighting ISIS and accommodating the demands of its alienated Sunni community. Humanitarian tragedies have been averted at Mount Sinjar and Amerli. ISIS has been driven back from Mosul Dam and the approaches to Erbil. And many of the states of the region have signed on to the U.S.-led effort.

These are merely first steps in the right direction, but that in itself is an important achievement. When Mosul fell, the Middle East was plummeting into chaos. Today, at least in some key areas, it has started to pull out of that nosediveeven if it has not yet started to gain altitude. But there is one piece of the strategy that the Obama administration has not articulated and does not yet seem to be preparing for.

We must also start gearing up for nation-building, particularly in Syria.

 Both Iraq and Syria are classic intercommunal civil wars. ISIS is the symptom of that underlying problem, not the problem itself. And unless we stabilize both countries and end the civil wars there, we will never be rid of ISIS or the other threats to our interests in Syria and Iraq. As we have learned from both our successes and failures, healing civil wars requires a long-term process of nation-building. There is no way around that.

In Iraq, the framework of such a process is already in place, left over from the successful period of 2008-2010. Moreover, much of Washington’s heavy lifting already has been about how to get Iraq’s political leadership back on the path toward the stability and political functionality that were created back then. There are still many hurdles, and doing so will take a great deal of effort and luck, but it is of a different category entirely than what needs to be done in Syria.

Indeed, Obama himself recognized this unavoidable reality in his interview with Tom Friedman of The New York Times in August. The president said he learned from the Libyan strikes in 2011 that military intervention that was not backed by a major effort to build a functional state afterward would lead to chaos and new threats to American interests. In the interview, Obama seemed to be imply that this was one reason he didn’t want to intervene in Syria: because he was not ready to commit to such a program for Syria.

Well, the president has now committed to just such an intervention in Syria. Having done so, ensuring that the intervention turns out welland does not create more problems than it solvesmeans that he is also going to have to commit to nation-building there. Read more…

Kenneth M. Pollack is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Published on Sept. 24 in http://www.newrepublic.com/

23
Sep

The Pacific Alliance deserves some applause. Photographer: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

The Pacific Alliance is achieving significant results. Three years ago, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru decided to move toward deeper economic and commercial integration. The effort was based on our common belief that the free movement of people, goods, services and capital can help us achieve greater welfare and social inclusion for our citizens.

Our four countries represent 214 million people, and our economies have a combined gross domestic product of $2.1 trillion, which accounts for 37 percent of Latin America’s total GDP, averaging a 5.1 percent annual growth rate over the past four years. Our foreign trade adds more than $1.13 trillion, and we receive 45 percent of total foreign investment flows in Latin America.

To fulfill our goal of free movement of people, we lifted tourist and business visa requirements for our citizens. Because cultural exchange and education are so important, we put in place special programs to make it easier for our students to study and travel.

We also found ways to expand the free movement of goods and services. A new trade agreement will immediately eliminate tariffs for 92 percent of our common products, and the remaining 8 percent will be phased out, giving extra help to small and medium enterprises.

On the free movement of capital, our stock exchanges are now unified in the Latin American Integrated Market. With the recent addition of Mexico, we are certain that this action will broaden the diversity of financial products that we can offer. More than 750 companies with a market value of $1.1 trillion are represented in our integrated market.

We believe we have come a long way in a short time. However, we want to do more and do it together. We are establishing embassies and trade offices in shared facilities overseas as well as organizing trade and economic missions. We created a fund to promote projects among ourselves and with third parties.

We are particularly committed to working with other countries. With 32 nations now observing the Pacific Alliance, we know there is broad global interest in our shared enterprise and the prospect for wider integration.

We are therefore strengthening our relationship with observer countries by defining projects of cooperation in our core areas. Specifically, we are working on education, trade, small and medium businesses, innovation, science and technology, and infrastructure. More generally, we are open to exploring engagement with other regional integration efforts.

The Pacific Alliance Business Council, which includes representatives of the main private economic institutions of our four countries, is another important partner in our project. As we gather this week in New York City to attend the United Nations General Assembly, we plan to discuss our achievements, challenges and prospects, as well as to deepen a fruitful exchange with the U.S. and the international business community.

If we had to highlight one characteristic of our integration process, it would be this: We firmly believe that the main purpose of the Pacific Alliance is to improve the welfare of all our citizens through the promotion of growth and economic development, and the improvement of the competitiveness of our economies.

Three years ago, we faced the challenge of fostering a process that would strengthen our countries and, especially, help us build a bridge to the Asia Pacific region. This aspiration has now become a reality. We will continue to work together, as partners, to fulfill our common goals and to deepen and extend our vision, for the benefit of our nations.

By  ,  ,  &Michelle Bachelet is president of Chile. Juan Manuel Santos is president of Colombia. Enrique Pena Nieto is president of Mexico. Ollanta Humala is president of Peru

Published on 21 September in http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-09-21/chile-colombia-mexico-peru-better-together

22
Sep

Warning: The 21st century may get a lot more crowded than previously thought.

In a paper published Thursday in Science, demographers from several universities and the United Nations Population Division conclude that instead of leveling off in the second half of the 21st century, as the UN predicted less than a decade ago, the world’s population will continue to grow beyond 2100. (Read “Population Seven Billion” in National Geographic magazine.)

And for the first time, through the use of a “probabilistic” statistical method, the Science paper establishes a range of uncertainty around its central estimate-9.6 billion Earthlings in 2050, 10.9 billion by 2100. There’s an 80 percent chance, the authors conclude, that the actual number of people in 2100 will be somewhere between 9.6 and 12.3 billion.

Chart showing new world population estimate including range of possible values.

NG STAFF. SOURCE: UN

That range “is the truly innovative part,” says John Wilmoth, head of the UN Population Division and one of the authors of the Science paper. “It’s a much more plausible analysis of uncertainty—but we may still be off by two billion.”

According to other demographers, the UN has missed the mark by just about that amount. In a paper in press at Global Environmental Changeand in a forthcoming book, Wolfgang Lutz and his colleagues at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, Austria, use a very different method—one that involves canvassing a large group of experts—to argue that population is likely to peak at 9.4 billion in 2075 and fall to just under 9 billion by 2100.

The UN team estimates there’s no more than a 5 percent chance of that rosier scenario coming to pass.

Both groups foresee India becoming the world’s most populous country, with its numbers peaking around 2070 and declining to around 1.5 or 1.6 billion by 2100. Where they differ most is in their estimates of the coming population decline in China and of the coming population explosion in Africa south of the Sahara—where most of the world’s growth is going to occur.

According to the UN, the population in that region could quadruple, from less than one billion to nearly four billion. Africa in 2100 would be as densely populated as China is today.

“These are not predictions,” says Wilmoth. “These are projections of what will happen if current trends continue. There is still an opportunity to intervene.”

Read more…

Robert Kunzig

National Geographic

PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 18, 2014

19
Sep

The Union now has an epochal chance

Written on September 19, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Europe, News

A Union Jack and Saltire flags blow in the wind near to Glen Coe on March 24, 2014 in Glen Coe, Scotland.

Like the battle of Waterloo, the battle for Scotland was a damn close-run thing. The effects of Thursday’s no vote are enormous – though not as massive as the consequences of a yes would have been.

The vote against independence means, above all, that the 307-year Union survives. It therefore means that the UK remains a G7 economic power and a member of the UN security council. It means Scotland will get more devolution. It means David Cameron will not be forced out. It means any Ed Miliband-led government elected next May has the chance to serve a full term, not find itself without a majority in 2016, when the Scots would have left. It means the pollsters got it right, Madrid will sleep a little more easily, and it means the banks will open on Friday morning as usual.

But the battlefield is still full of resonant lessons. The win, though close, was decisive. It looks like a 54%-46% or thereabouts. That’s not as good as it looked like being a couple of months ago. But it’s a lot more decisive than the recent polls had hinted. Second, it was women who saved the union. In the polls, men were decisively in favour of yes. The yes campaign was in some sense a guy thing. Men wanted to make a break with the Scotland they inhabit. Women didn’t. Third, this was to a significant degree a class vote too. Richer Scotland stuck with the union — so no did very well in a lot of traditonal SNP areas. Poorer Scotland, Labour Scotland, slipped towards yes, handing Glasgow, Dundee and North Lanarkshire to the independence camp. Gordon Brown stopped the slippage from becoming a rout, perhaps, but the questions for Labour — and for left politics more broadly — are profound.

For Scots, the no vote means relief for some, despair for others, both on the grand scale. For those who dreamed that a yes vote would take Scots on a journey to a land of milk, oil and honey, the mood this morning will be grim. Something that thousands of Scots wanted to be wonderful or merely just to witness has disappeared. The anticlimax will be cruel and crushing. For others, the majority, there will be thankfulness above all but uneasiness too. Thursday’s vote exposed a Scotland divided down the middle and against itself. Healing that hurt will not be easy or quick. It’s time to put away all flags.

The immediate political question now suddenly moves to London. Gordon Brown promised last week that work will start on Friday on drawing up the terms of a new devolution settlement. That may be a promise too far after the red-eyed adrenalin-pumping exhaustion of the past few days. But the deal needs to be on the table by the end of next month. It will not be easy to reconcile all the interests – Scots, English, Welsh, Northern Irish and local. But it is an epochal opportunity. The plan, like the banks, is too big to fail.

Alex Salmond and the SNP are not going anywhere. They will still govern Scotland until 2016. There will be speculation about Salmond’s position, and the SNP will need to decide whether to run in 2016 on a second referendum pledge. More immediately, the SNP will have to decide whether to go all-out win to more Westminster seats in the 2015 general election, in order to hold the next government’s feet to the fire over thepromised devo-max settlement. Independence campaigners will feel gutted this morning. But they came within a whisker of ending the United Kingdom on Thursday. One day, perhaps soon, they will surely be back.

By Martin Kettle; Published on 19 Sept. in http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/19/scottish-independence-union-survived-put-away-flags

18
Sep

India’s Soft Power Advantage

Written on September 18, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Foreign Policy, Globalization & International Trade

India’s Soft Power Advantage

During Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent visit to India, he was asked to justify Australia’s signing of a deal to sell uranium to the country. In response, the prime minister said, “India threatens no one” and “is the friend to many.” This was no mere diplomatic nicety, but a carefully chosen answer based on India’s international image. It is an image that is rare amongst great powers of India’s size and strength, and will give Delhi a unique soft power advantage in the future multipolar world.

Much of the globe sees India as a relatively non-violent, tolerant and pluralistic democracy with a benign international influence. Its values are seen as largely positive.

The U.S., with its Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, accorded India special treatment in nuclear cooperation. The deal provided benefits usually reserved for Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatories. Washington justified cooperation with India by highlighting Delhi’s impeccable non-proliferation record. This stance was replicated by other states, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) member states who allowed India’s participation in international nuclear commerce and supported the Indo-U.S. deal. The NSG decided to re-engage with India following an India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA’s Board of Governors endorsed a nuclear safeguards agreement with India by consensus that would permit Delhi to add more nuclear facilities to be placed under the IAEA safeguards framework. India did not have to have an Additional Protocol like the non-nuclear weapons states who are NPT signatories. India also received favorable treatment from Canada (which agreed to supply “dual-use items” that can be used for civilian and military applications), Japan and South Korea.

This cooperation was not merely driven by these states’ strategic relationships with the U.S. Russia has long cooperated with India on nuclear technology. Even China, as a member of the NSG, did not oppose the group’s decision on India. Today, India is the only known nuclear weapons state that is not part of the NPT but is still permitted to engage in nuclear commerce globally.  Read more…

Published in http://thediplomat.com/

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