Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

4
Feb

Arab

On Friday 31 January, the IE School of International Relations and the Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITpax) had the honor of hosting a fascinating panel discussion entitled An Overview of the Political and Social Transformation in the Arab Region.

Three distinguished guest speakers from the region composed the “A Team”, as Ambassador Emilio Cassinello, Director General of CitPax quipped.  The panel included  Marwan Muasher,    Vice President for Studies at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan; Nassif Hitti, Senior Arab League Official, former Head of the Arab League Mission in Paris, and permanent observer at UNESCO; and Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute and Head of Program at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

Mr. Muasher began the seminar by presenting his latest book The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism. The Second Awakening is a referral to the First Awakening in the Arab region that started as an intellectual movement in the mid-20th century. It later led to the independence of many Arab states, but not to democratic rule in these countries. If the Second Awakening that is taking place today in the Arab world is to be a successful continuation of the First one, it must necessarily lead to the creation of a pluralistic government. Three years after the Arab Spring, achieving pluralistic rule is no easy task. What we see today is the struggle between religious and secular elements that are exclusionist in their desire to control power. Yet Islam as a solution in the Arab world has lost its appeal. The “Arab street”, as Mr. Muasher calls it, does not want more religion (they are quite religious as it is). What they want is a better economy, an improved livelihood. In his words, performance trumps ideology. People will judge whomever is in power not by their religion or values but by how the economy is doing under their mandate. In the end, neither a theological government such as the one seen in Iran or a secular dictatorship such as the Mubarak regime is the solution. Both types oppress the people and strip them of their rights. A pluralistic government should be the end goal.

How long will a successful transition to democracy take in the Arab world? According to Muasher and his co-panelists, perhaps decades. Democracy took centuries to get established in Europe, so how can one expect it to be firmly consolidated in the Arab region in only just 3 years? This is an unrealistic expectation.  Pluralistic rule will be achieved over time through toil and sacrifice.  For this, education is fundamental and this entails teaching the youth critical thinking , not just absolute truths as it is being done today.

What are the threats to a transition to pluralism? All three panelists agree that a big problem in the Arab region is the lack of national unity or national identity. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya were created as states without taking into account the different nations or minorities that composed them. The result is a lot of sectarian violence within these countries and a struggle for citizenship. Another threat is the rise of extremism. Indeed the road to democracy means that everyone has a voice including extremists that use ideology and demagogy to control power. Linked to this is the threat of transnationalism as we are currently seeing in Syria, where jihadists from other countries come to fight the secular oppressor but only add to the turmoil.

To conclude: is there reason for optimism? Yes. In spite of many problems and obstacles, the road to democracy is being paved by the new generation. This generation will need leaders who are willing to sweat and toil in order to make pluralism a reality. Tunisia is an example of an Arab state that is slowly transitioning to a democracy without the interference of the armed forces or the West. Let us hope this model is followed in the rest of the region.

29
Jan

New forms of political conflict have emerged that are resistant to traditional prescriptions

Faced with a dangerous political threat, governments the world over tend to place their faith in the same magic medicine – economic growth. When world leaders try to address the roots of terrorism, for example, they instinctively assume that prosperity and jobs must be the long-term answer. And when a regional conflict threatens to get out of control – in east Asia or the Middle East – the standard political response is to call for greater economic integration. From Europe to China, governments place their faith in economic growth as the key to political and social stability.

But just as doctors fear the emergence of superbugs that will not respond to existing drugs, so world leaders are beginning to witness the emergence of new forms of political conflict that are resistant to their traditional prescriptions – more trade and more investment, washed down with a good dose of structural reform.

Three political superbugs are causing special concern. The first is the spread of conflict in the Middle East. The second is the growing rivalry between China and Japan. The third is rising inequality in the western world – and the threat of social conflict that goes with it.

Delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which ended last week, are the classic believers that capitalism and globalisation are the best antidotes to conflict. This belief is so deeply ingrained that it no longer even needs to be articulated. You can just see it in the way in which a Davos audience responds to political leaders.

This year it was President Hassan Rouhani of Iran who was received with great enthusiasm, largely because he seemed more interested in trade and investment than in nuclear weapons. Mr Rouhani did not shift Iran’s position on the difficult political issues – such as Syria, Israel or nuclear weapons – in any important way. But he sent a significant signal by beginning his speech with a statement of his ambition for Iran to become one of the 10 largest economies in the world. The Iranian leader also stressed the need to improve his nation’s relations with the rest of the world in order to achieve that goal. This emphasis on economics suggested to those in the audience that President Rouhani is literally a man you could do business with.

As a result, Mr Rouhani is in the novel position, for an Iranian leader, of being regarded as a voice of reason in the Middle East. But the president’s elevated status in the eyes of the Davos crowd is also a sign of how bleak things look elsewhere in the region.

No appeal to economic rationality is likely to end the war in Syria – where both sides are fighting for survival. It is also clear that the jihadists who are flourishing in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere are unmoved by the fruits of globalisation. Unless something goes seriously wrong, they will not be showing up in Davos any time soon.

Many still hope that an improvement in the economic situation of the Middle East will assuage the economic despair on which militant Islam is assumed to flourish. Yet not all jihadists hail from poor countries or impoverished backgrounds. Some of the militants showing up in Syria have travelled from Europe. Others have come from Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states. Jihadism is a disease that does not respond well to the traditional economic drugs.

The rise in tensions between China and Japan is an even more graphic illustration of the fact that economic self-interest is not a cure-all for political problems. China is now Japan’s largest trading partner and the biggest recipient of Japanese foreign investment – facts that many analysts still hope will make conflict between the two nations significantly less likely. Yet in some respects, China’s growing prosperity is actually driving the increase in international tensions in Asia. That is because the rise of China has altered the balance of power between Beijing and Tokyo and – combined with the bitter history between the two countries – that explains why relations are getting worse.

In Europe and North America it is the threat of political and social tensions within nations, rather than international rivalries, that are worrying the global plutocracy. A central element of the Davos creed is the faith that globalisation is good for both the western world and for emerging powers.

However, it is now almost conventional wisdom that the globalisation medicine has had an unpleasant side-effect. Even if it raises overall growth levels it has also powerfully contributed to wage stagnation and increasing inequality in the west. As a result, European politicians are worrying about a possible resurgence of the nationalist right and the radical left. And the Americans are increasingly worried about the gap between the richest 1 per cent and the rest – and the political consequences should the gulf keep widening.

It is easy to mock the global plutocracy – fretting about war and inequality – as they sip fine wines, behind a security perimeter high in the Swiss mountains. Yet global bankers and business people are, at least, largely immune to the viruses of xenophobia and nationalism. Their unofficial slogan is “make money, not war”. And they treat foreigners as potential customers rather than potential enemies.

In that sense, the idea that capitalism and globalisation are the best antidotes to political conflict – for all its flaws – retains a lot of attraction. Even if the old economic treatments for political conflict are losing some of their potency, they are still the best we have.

 By Gideon Rachman As published on Jan. 27, 2014 in http://www.ft.com

 

28
Jan

A New Franco-German Foreign Policy?

Written on January 28, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Foreign Policy, Op Ed

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, may have had some diplomatic successes recently. But the implementation of the EU’s new foreign policy structure can hardly be called a triumph. The main culprits are the big member states, which are too hesitant to use the new service and breathe life into it. When it comes to major issues, France, Germany, and the UK still prefer to act on their own instead of working with their peers and the EU institutions to develop a joint approach.

That’s why a recent initiative by the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to work more closely with France on foreign policy is most welcome. It has the potential to raiseEurope’s foreign policy game.

In a joint declaration on January 21, Steinmeier and his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, agreed to consult each other before EU summits, to travel together to “regions of particular interest to both countries and the EU,” and to cooperate on early crisis identification and prevention.

For their first joint trip, Steinmeier and Fabius intend to visit Moldova and Georgia, the two countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership that are most interested in strengthening ties with the EU. A trip to West Africa is planned as well.

Good intentions are welcome but not enough; the Steinmeier-Fabius initiative needs to be backed up by substantial political will. There are incentives for closer Franco-German cooperation on foreign policy.

France feels overburdened with its military engagements in Africa, and Paris is eager to play a bigger role in the Arab world. That is becoming more urgent in an era in which the United States is trying to retreat from its regional leadership role. To sustain its engagement in sub-Saharan Africa and fill some of the vacuum that a disengaging United States leaves in North Africa and the Middle East, France needs the support of its European partners. Berlin is central for that support, because of Germany’s own resources and because it holds the key to turning French foreign policy ambition into a common European policy.

However, the challenge for France is to overcome its traditional unilateralism in foreign policy making and to Europeanize its approach. That means including European partners and the EU institutions at an early stage of policy planning and developing joint policies instead of going it alone first and pushing for support later. Read more…

Posted by: ULRICH SPECK FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2014 in http://www.carnegieeurope.eu

27
Jan

Rusia ha derrotado a la UE en Ucrania. Mientras nos lamemos las heridas, recordemos. Empecemos con un poco de historia. Volvamos a la Crónica General del Rus (a.D. 860). “A estos vikingos se les conocía como rusos, lo mismo que a otros vikingos se les llama suecos, normandos, anglos o godos (…) Rurik llegó a ser el Señor de todos ellos (…) Dos de los hombres de Rurik, Askold y Rir, navegaron Dniéper abajo y, en el curso de su viaje, vieron una pequeña ciudad sobre una colina (…) Askold y Rir se asentaron en esta ciudad y, después de reunir a muchos vikingos, reinaron sobre el país de los polacos (Polianis). Rurik reinó en Nóvgorod”.

Así pues, vemos que Kiev y Nóvgorod son los dos puntos políticos originales de Rusia. Nóvgorod subsistió como república propia, sobre el modelo hanseático, hasta los días de Iván el Terrible. Kiev cayó antes. Ante la imposibilidad de defender la ciudad de las invasiones mongolas (a.D. 1.280), los rusos abandonaron la urbe y se protegieron de la Horda Dorada parapetándose tras los bosques de Moscú. Ucrania se recuperó para Rusia a finales del s. XVIII con Catalina la Grande. Desde entonces, y hasta la caída de la URSS, formará parte de la polis rusas.

Estrategia. Dejando aparte los Caballeros Teutónicos, el corredor ucraniano ha sido el lugar privilegiado de todas las invasiones que Rusia ha conocido. Lo que se le opuso a Rusia en este frente fueron enemigos epónimos, todos ellos parte nuclear del relato nacional. Los polacos de Tarás Bulba; los jesuitas italianos de Boris Godunov; los suecos que retrató Von Heidenstam, y a los que mandaba un rey temerario como Carlos XII; los turcos a los que derrotó Potemkin mientras leía, moribundo, las cartas de amor de Catalina la Grande; los revolucionarios franceses de Guerra y Paz de Tolstói y la Obertura 1.812 de Tchaikovsky; y, finalmente, los nazis de Vasili Grossman o los nacionalistas ucranianos de la “Guardia Blanca” de Bulgakov. Recomiendo al lector el testimonio de Chaves Nogales para la I Guerra Mundial (El maestro Juan Martínez que estaba allí) y, para la II Guerra Mundial, a Jonathan Littell (Las benévolas). Leer mas…

 

Escrito por el Ambajador José A. Zorrilla el 25 de enero en El Confidencial http://blogs.elconfidencial.com/espana/

22
Jan

Three Myths About Global Poverty

Written on January 22, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in International Development, News, Op Ed

By Bill & Melinda Gates

By almost any measure the world is better off now than ever before, in part thanks to foreign aid. By 2035, they predict there will be almost no poor countries.So why do so many people seem to think things are getting worse?Much of the reason is that all too many people are in the grip of three deeply damaging myths about global poverty and development. Don’t get taken in by them.

MYTH ONE: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.

They’re really not. Incomes and other measures of human welfare are rising almost everywhere – including Africa.Take Mexico City, for instance. In 1987, when we first visited, most homes lacked running water, and we often saw people trekking on foot to fill up water jugs. It reminded us of rural Africa. The guy who ran Microsoft’s Mexico City office would send his kids back to the US for check-ups to make sure the smog wasn’t making them sick.Today, Mexico City is mind-blowingly different, boasting high-rise buildings, cleaner air, new roads and modern bridges. You still find pockets of poverty, but when we visit now, we think, “Wow – most people here are middle-class. What a miracle”. You can see a similar transformation in Nairobi, New Delhi, Shanghai and many more cities around the world.

In our lifetime, the global picture of poverty has been completely redrawn. Per-person incomes inTurkey and Chile are where the US was in 1960. Malaysia is nearly there. So is Gabon. Since 1960,China‘s real income per person has gone up eightfold. India‘s has quadrupled, Brazil‘s has almost quintupled, and tiny Botswana, with shrewd management of its mineral resources, has seen a 30-fold increase. A new class of middle-income nations that barely existed 50 years ago now includes more than half the world’s population. Read more…

This is an edited text from the forthcoming annual letter of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, of which the authors are co-chairs. Mr. Gates is the chairman of Microsoft. To receive the annual letter go to gatesfoundation.org. http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2014/01/21/three_myths_about_global_poverty.html

 

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