By Stewart Patrick, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Stewart Patrick is senior fellow and director of the international institutions and global governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.
As Mayor of New York, the late Edward Koch famously asked constituents, “How’m I doing?” He got an earful. But he valued the instant feedback and even adjusted occasionally. As we commemorate Earth Day, we might ask the same question of ourselves – but on a planetary scale. When it comes to addressing the world’s gravest ills, how are we doing?
Not so well. That is the big takeaway from the first Global Governance Report Card, released today by the Council on Foreign Relations. Designed in the old grade school style, Report Card grades the international community and the United States on how they are responding to six big challenges: global warming, nuclear proliferation, violent conflict, global health, transnational terrorism, and financial instability. The grades, available online, reflect input from fifty prominent experts.
Beyond assigning letter grades for each of the six “subject areas,” the Report Card evaluates performance in specific sub-categories. Thus for climate change, it evaluates global progress in critical objectives like curbing emissions or using carbon sinks. It also singles out countries or organizations deserving praise as class “leaders,” as “most improved,” or worthy of a “gold star.” Finally, it calls out actors who undermine global solutions, labeling them “laggards,” “truants,” or (in the case of North Korea on the nuclear issue) “in detention.”
By Charles Armstrong, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Charles Armstrong is the director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University. The views expressed are his own.
North Korea has done it again. For the second time in less than nine months, Pyongyang has fired a long-range missile, this time apparently succeeding in sending a satellite into orbit. What North Korea calls a “peaceful rocket launch,” much of the rest of the world has condemned as a military provocation and a brazen act of defiance against international sanctions. Yet despite tough talk from the United States, Japan, South Korea and other countries, there is little the international community can do to punish North Korea or prevent further such acts. While North Korea’s technological capacity progresses, the policy of sanctions has demonstrably failed. It’s time to take a new approach to North Korea.
It’s important to keep in mind that North Korea has done this primarily for domestic reasons, not to send a “signal” to the world (although there is an element of signaling as well). The timing of the launch is significant. First, it comes just before the first anniversary of former leader Kim Jong Il’s death, and North Korean state media has declared that commemorating the elder Kim’s passing was one reason for the launch. Second, North Korea had declared that 2012 would be the year when the country became a “Powerful and Prosperous Nation,” and a satellite launch was to be a key demonstration of North Korea’s technological progress and power.
By Global Public Square
For more “What in the World,” watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
In the final presidential debate – the one on foreign policy – it was interesting to note the countries that got a mention. Iran was cited 47 times, of course, Israel 34 times, and China 32 times. It was also telling there was only one mention each of Europe and Africa, and none at all of India.
But I was struck by the amount of play one small country got, one that usually doesn't register on Washington's foreign policy radar. Landlocked Mali, with a population of about 15 million, and a GDP 1 percent that of Mexico's.
Why Mali? Here's the story briefly.
By Michael O'Hanlon, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at Brookings (where he was a colleague of Rice’s for several years), teaches at Princeton and Columbia and Johns Hopkins and is a member of the CIA External Advisory Board. The views expressed are his own.
Ambassador Susan Rice has been roundly criticized of late for her comments made on five Sunday morning talk shows the weekend after the Benghazi tragedy in which four Americans lost their lives to a terrorist attack. Because Rice stated her belief that the violence was the result of a mass demonstration gone bad, rather than the planned extremist attacks we now know them to be, some have even gone so far as to demand her resignation from her current cabinet position as United States ambassador to the United Nations.
This is way off the mark and extremely unfair to a dedicated official who has served the country tirelessly and remarkably over her four years in the Obama administration. Rice did not choose all her words perfectly that weekend, even based on what was known at the time, it is true. There should have been a bit more nuance and more acknowledgement of the uncertainty in some of them. But there is no basis for concluding that she sought to mislead, and no reason to think that harm came to the country's interests because of her comments. While there are issues worth debating in regards to Benghazi, to Libya, and to the state of the Arab awakenings more generally, the unkind focus on Rice badly misses the mark.
By Graeme Reid, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Graeme Reid is director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are his own.
The U.N. Human Rights Council recently passed a resolution on “traditional values of humankind” as a vehicle for “promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.” It sounds innocuous, but its implications are ominous. Indeed, it is an immediate threat to the rights of many vulnerable groups – including women and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people. And it flies in the face of the founding principles of universality and indivisibility enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This is the third Russian-sponsored traditional values resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council. The second, in 2011, called for a study, and the resulting draft study is highly critical of “traditional values” as a framework, criticizing the concept as “vague, subjective and unclear.” The third, though, adopted on September 27, affirms traditional values as a valid framework for human rights.
By Fareed Zakaria
Mitt Romney and his campaign feel that they have an opening in the presidential campaign, on foreign policy at least. The unrest in the Middle East the past couple of weeks, including the killing of the American ambassador to Libya and widespread protests over a controversial YouTube video that has been condemned as blasphemous, has left a general sense of turmoil in the region. The Romney campaign wants to take advantage of it.
On the surface, it seems like a reasonable idea. And Obama has made some missteps including the inexplicable decision to not meet with any foreign leaders this week during the U.N. General Assembly. But I don’t think it will work. And one need look no further than President Obama’s speech at the General Assembly to see why.
International events, even crises, typically help the president because they make him look, well, presidential. The symbolism of Obama delivering a speech at the United Nations will have been a powerful reminder to the public that Obama is the president and Mitt Romney is not. This in turn has the effect of conferring a certain gravitas on the incumbent.
By Mark Leon Goldberg
Mark Leon Goldberg is editor of U.N. Dispatch where a version of this originally appeared. The views expressed are his own.
1. Stuck on Syria
“I have 120 bilateral meetings,” Ban Ki Moon told press assembled for his annual briefing on the upcoming General Assembly last week. “Syria is at the top of my agenda.”
Ban’s focus is warranted. Since last year’s U.N. Summit, the Syrian rebellion morphed from a brutally suppressed uprising to an all out civil war. All the while, the Syrian crisis has exposed deep fissures at the Security Council between Western countries on one side and Russia and China on the other. On three separate occasions, Russia and China cast rare double vetoes to block the Security Council from taking measures that might undermine Bashar al-Assad’s tenuous grip on power.
By Brad Adams, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Brad Adams is the Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are his own.
The Afghanistan government appears to have a new policy for dealing with government officials accused of sadistic torture: it rewards them with job promotions.
President Hamid Karzai has announced that he will appoint Asadullah Khalid as chief of Afghanistan’s main intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS). Khalid is no garden variety spy chief. The current minister of border and tribal affairs and former governor of Kandahar and Ghazni provinces, he has been accused of running an unauthorized secret prison in Kandahar where torture was routine. Parliamentary confirmation is by no means a sure thing, but Karzai regularly circumvents parliament’s control over cabinet appointments by leaving government officials in an acting capacity for years.
“This will take the NDS back 10 years, to when they could do anything they wanted while everyone looked the other way, as long as they were killing Talibs,” a diplomat with many years’ experience in Afghanistan told Human Rights Watch. “If the U.S. doesn’t stand up and fight this, it will prove that they have lost all interest in human rights and the rule of law in Afghanistan.”
By Daniel R. DePetris, Special to CNN
Daniel R. DePetris is the senior associate editor of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis. The views expressed are his own.
The highly-publicized trip last week to Tehran by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was supposed to be a prime opportunity for the Iranian leadership to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the country still has a vital role to play in international diplomacy, despite four rounds of Security Council sanctions and tough economic pressure from the United States and the European Union.
Indeed, afraid that a visit to the Iranian capital by Ban would sabotage a steady and persistent campaign against Tehran on a whole range of issues, Obama administration officials and members of Congress spent a considerable amount of time urging Ban to skip the summit and bypass Iran entirely. The Washington Post editorial board, for its part, came out swinging with its own impassioned plea to dissuade the secretary general from making the trip: “By attending the Tehran conference, Mr. Ban will dignify a bacchanal of nonsense.”
By Brian Klein, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Brian P. Klein is an economic consultant and former U.S. diplomat. The views expressed are his own.
Now that Kofi Annan has stepped down from his position as U.N. Arab League Envoy to Syria and peacekeeping troops are being removed from the country one has to wonder – does the United Nations have any role to play in conflict resolution?
The reality is that the Annan Plan, which supported an interim government to shepherd Syria into a post-dictatorship future, was doomed from the start. Bashar al-Assad was to unilaterally step down in the middle of ongoing hostilities while his forces held the momentum against a popular uprising.
Al-Assad of course played the statesman, met with U.N. officials and allowed troops to enter Syria. No one was fooled for long. His military began an all-out assault soon after Annan’s plane took off. Helicopter gunships and fighter jets strafed cities as civilian casualties mounted. Nearly $17 million was authorized for the 150 military observers and 105 civilians. While a paltry sum considering the more than $7 billion peacekeeping budget, that money could have funded, for example, 2,400 water projects for creating wells to bring safe drinking water to over a million people in need.
By Michel Camdessus, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michel Camdessus is former managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a member of the U.N. Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. This is the first in a new series of articles for GPS by members of the Africa Progress Panel, a foundation chaired by Kofi Annan.
Recent discoveries of water reserves under some of Africa’s mightiest deserts raise hopes for quenching African thirst. But the reality is much more grim. From parched desert to tropical forest, roughly 40 percent of Africans, mostly the rural poor, will not get access to clean water any time soon, a fact that exacerbates poverty, hunger, and disease. Indeed, every year, dirty water kills an estimated 750,000 African children under the age of five.
And while rich countries worry about obesity, recent droughts in the Sahel and Horn of Africa have forced millions of Africans to flee their ancestral lands in search of food. To complicate matters further, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects climate change to hit Africa harder than anywhere else.