Archive for the ‘Democracy & Human Rights’ Category


Palestinians mark Nakba Day in Jerusalem

The British vote in parliament recognising a Palestinian state alongside Israel is seen by many as a landmark moment in British policy on the Palestinian question. The vote comes shortly after Sweden’s newly elected prime minister, Stefan Löfven, expressed his readiness to recognise the state of Palestine. But Sweden’s gesture is the more significant one, since Britain’s Conservative-led government has made it abundantly clear that the parliamentary vote will not change its positionon the Israel-Palestine issue.

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Mexico’s Deadly Narco-Politics

Written on October 13, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Op Ed, Security

IGUALA, Mexico — STUDENT protesters in rural Mexico have long dealt with heavy-handed police officers. But on the black night of Sept. 26, students who attended a rural teachers’ college realized they were facing a far worse menace in this southern city. Not only were police officers shooting haphazardly at them, killing three students and several passers-by; shady gunmen were also firing from the sidelines.

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This week, Brazil’s stock index dipped sharply and the national currency, the real, slumped after polls showed incumbent Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff securing a lead in the run-up to Sunday’s first round of voting. This reaction by capital markets reflects misgivings about the continuation of statist policies that have dried up jobs, driven up debt and led the world’s seventh-largest economy into a recession.

Although Rousseff has recovered her lead over the 10 other candidates, she will likely fall short of obtaining an outright majority and will be forced into a run-off Oct. 26 against free-market maverick Marina Silva. And while most observers expect Rousseff to win re-election by challenging Silva’s lack of executive experience, the campaign has exposed profound popular doubts about the president’s own management of Brazil’s economy.

Silva’s steady rise in the polls buoyed private-sector hopes, but markets tumbled this week after a series of polls showed Silva losing her lead over the incumbent in the projected second round of voting. On Monday, Petrobras shares fell more than 11 percent – the largest one-day loss in nearly six years. Shares in the state-run Banco do Brasil fell nearly 8.5 percent, while the real lost as much as 2.5 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar.

Published on Oct. 2nd,

Roger Noriega was U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States and assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the administration of President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005 and is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. His firm, Vision Americas LLC, represents U.S. and foreign clients.


A Turning Point in the Fight for Hong Kong

Written on September 29, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Democracy & Human Rights

HONG KONG — Future generations may well commemorate Sept. 28, 2014 in the history of Hong Kong as the day when the famously apolitical city turned unmistakably political. Tens of thousands of protesters, calling for “true democracy” — that is, no Beijing-led nomination process in the planned 2017 election for the city’s chief executive, its top government official — confronted the police in the heart of Hong Kong. The smell of tear gas hung in the air near Prada and Gucci shops in glitzy Central area. Police in full riot gear marched on thoroughfares normally congested with traffic in the Admiralty district, where the government is headquartered. By midnight, hundreds of protesters blocked the main roads in Causeway Bay and Mongkok, two bustling shopping areas favored by locals and tourists alike.

Even a day earlier, it had not seemed that Beijing’s relationship with Hong Kong, a former British colony and now a special administrative region of China, would deteriorate this quickly. On Sept. 27, university students, joined by some high school students, had called for a school strike and stormed a small plaza in front of the Hong Kong government headquarters, which resulted in forcible removal by police and arrest of dozens. But most protesters were unharmed and were released within hours.

Matters escalated with shocking speed when protesters began to block roads in the Admiralty district on the afternoon of Sept. 28. Riot police arrived en masse and deployed tear gas against the gathering crowd in the early evening. The police even held up signs warning the protesters that they would be fired upon if they did not disperse. Protesters held up umbrellas against pepper spray, and made gas masks using lab goggles and saran wrap.

The protesters were brought together by the student organizers and the Occupy Central campaign, a civil disobedience movement that had threatened to shut down Hong Kong’s financial district in order to pressure Beijing into giving Hong Kong open nomination rights in the 2017 chief executive election. Occupy Central was highly controversial, with many worried that such a movement would taint Hong Kong’s business-friendly reputation and negatively affect its freewheeling markets. Multiple surveys conducted prior to September 2014 all showed that more than half of Hong Kongers did not support Occupy Central, with a significant minority in favor. Two separate surveys released in August 2014 showed that more than half of Hong Kongers were willing to accept the flawed nomination process.

That narrative has now changed for good after Hong Kong police’s rash response on Sept. 28. The images of Hong Kong as a war zone — where police used tear gas, batons, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against unarmed protesters — were deeply unsettling to residents here. Local online discussion boards are now full of discussions of police brutality. Many Hong Kongers on Facebook, a popular social network here, have changed their profile photos into a yellow ribbon in support of the protesters and talked about supporting students with funding and supplies.

 The real action (or inaction), however, is taking place in Beijing, some 1,200 miles north. The current chief executive Leung Chun-ying, commonly known as C.Y.,admitted in a press conference today that he and the Hong Kong government have no authority to request the People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, to withdraw its decision on the electoral plans for Hong Kong as the protesters have demanded.

 And Beijing has shown no sign of budging since handing down the decision on Aug. 31. On Sept. 28, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency called the protests “unlawful,” Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong “strongly condemned” the Occupy Central movement and claimed that the People’s Congress’ decision “cannot be challenged.” The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of China’s State Council also issued a statement avowing that the electoral framework has an “unshakeable legal basis and effectiveness.”

Given Beijing’s intransigent stance, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters are unlikely to get what they want — but many probably also knew that when they organized boycotts or took to the streets. The real battle, still very much ongoing, is for Hong Kong’s people’s hearts and minds. After watching protesters facing down the riot police, C.Y. apparently doing Beijing’s bidding, and students being arrested, even moderate Hong Kongers are likely to become even more distrustful of the Hong Kong government’s willingness to look out for their interests. A sign making the rounds on social media — “I cannot keep calm because Hong Kong is dying” — shows an increasing unease and anger among the population. Governing the special administrative region is about to become even more difficult for Beijing.

By Rachel Lu

Published on Sept. 28 in


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

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