By Salil Shetty, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Salil Shetty is secretary general of Amnesty International. The views expressed are his own.
The resounding victory for Kim Jong Un in North Korea’s parliamentary elections this past week reflects the “absolute support” of people in the country, according to state media.
However, it’s doubtful such support includes the hundreds of thousands of people – including children – that languish in political prison camps and other detention facilities. Or those that have been the victims of crimes against humanity as documented in a chilling U.N. report made public last month. Indeed, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry report was unprecedented, stating: “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations…does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”
When the full horror of the atrocities committed by North Korea against its own citizens was laid bare, support for the Commission’s comprehensive findings was swift among many in the international community. But such statements of support will not bring to an end the systematic torture, executions, rape, or forced labor inflicted upon North Koreans by their own government. Nor will it ensure those responsible for these crimes against humanity are brought to justice.
By Evan Fraser, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Evan Fraser holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security at the University of Guelph and is the author of Empires of Food. You can visit his website here. The views expressed are his own.
This week’s headlines may have been dominated by the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, but three seemingly unrelated stories that have developed over the past week might have much broader and long lasting implications for the international community.
The first story is that of the terrible drought that is currently affecting large parts of the Middle East. According to U.N. analysts, two thirds of the arable land in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian territories are now extremely dry, and the United Nations is expected to declare the winter of 2013-14 the worst in terms of rainfall in decades. This will almost certainly prompt many countries in the region to turn to international wheat markets as a way of compensating for local production shortfalls.
This leads to the second story, namely the escalating crisis in Ukraine, which is significant for two reasons. First, if tensions between Russia and the West continue, it seems increasingly likely that trade sanctions against Russia will be imposed. Second, the disruption in Crimea could affect Ukraine's ability to export wheat since the Crimean region is a major route by which eastern European grain arrives on international markets.
By Global Public Square staff
Take a look at the video at the soldiers in the Congo. The blue helmets are of course a giveaway – they're part of the United Nations peacekeeping force. That's not exactly a terrifying group is it? After all, the U.N.'s peacekeepers have always been seen as a rather hapless, toothless bunch.
But this group is different. They are part of the U.N.'s new Intervention Force Brigade. Unlike the rest of the blue helmets, who are only allowed to act in self-defense, as peacekeepers, these soldiers are on the offense, with the authorization to hunt and attack enemy forces.
This is a first, a historic change for the U.N., and a new strategy in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than five million people have died since 1998 amidst a complex civil war. Over the last 18 months, government troops have been fighting a rebel group called the M-23. The rebels were encroaching deeper into the country, and had already taken over the city of Goma. Meanwhile, the U.N.'s peacekeepers were powerless to intervene – they had no mandate to engage.
By Hillel Neuer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer, is the executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO. The views expressed are his own.
Seven years after the United Nations promised to completely revamp its troubled human rights body, the upcoming election of notorious human rights violators underscores how the world’s most needy victims continue to be let down.
On November 12, the U.N. General Assembly, operating via back-room deals and political vote-trading, is almost certain to return China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia to the 47-nation Human Rights Council, even though these regimes systematically violate virtually every article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Other non-democracies expected to win coveted seats include Algeria, Jordan, and Vietnam. While none of the United Nations’ 193 member states are blemish free, disregard for human rights are intrinsic to the very structure of the aforementioned governments.
For more What in the World, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Global Public Square staff
Amid all of Washington's discussions on Syria and Iran, one other issue seems to have gotten ignored. The U.S. signed an actual international treaty this month, one with vast implications for terrorism and war around the world. The problem is…the treaty needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate – and that's just not going to happen.
Let us explain.
It's the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty – an agreement that aims to control the $70 billion global trade of weapons. Almost every major commodity is subject to some form of international regulation – gold, oil, currencies. But there have been few controls on the flow of weaponry. Countries have wanted to have an unregulated free-for-all in the weapons market. And we are not just talking about guns.
The U.N. treaty covers battle tanks, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships. These are all weapons that are playing a part in ongoing wars in Syria and large parts of Africa. As Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan put it last week, these are the true "weapons of mass destruction" as much as the chemical weapons that were used in Syria last month. And yet everyone – including rogue states, militias, and terrorist groups – seem to have unfettered access to them.
CNN speaks with Fareed about President Barack Obama’s speech at the United Nations, and what it says about U.S.-Iran ties.
Obama said: "We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course given President Rouhani's stated commitment to reach an agreement. I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government in coordination with others."
That was a significant development given the long three decades history between these two countries.
It was a significant development. And he pointed out that they had heard encouraging words from the Supreme Leader, from the president. He also reciprocated by talking about how he wanted to deal with Iran with mutual respect. This is a phrase that Iranians have often used. I think it was carefully chosen by the president.
The Iranians have often said we want you to treat us with respect. We don't like the idea of being told, for example, that there are carrots and sticks as part of the policy. We are not an animal. We are a great nation. So Obama tried, it seemed to me, to mirror the kind of language the Iranians want to hear that accords them some respect.
What I was struck by was this was not a speech, though, designed to make headlines. Both the things you pointed out were the parts that made news, but by and large it was really using the bully pulpit of the United Nations to educate people about what America's policy and what its interests are, particularly in the Middle East. He laid it out methodically, acknowledging criticism, reminding people why the United States had done certain things in Egypt, done certain things in Libya.
By Tewodros Melesse, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Tewodros Melesse is director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
We all want to live in a world without poverty, where people can achieve their potential and where health and education are guaranteed. Or at least I hope we do. But there’s a truth that needs to be spoken as discussions over the next generation of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) – the so-called Post-2015 framework – have gotten underway this week.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights were initially missing from the MDG framework, and that meant that amid all the goodwill and the good intentions money was wasted because a fundamental building brick of development was missing. And that’s before I even get started on the issue of justice.
Of course, political leaders eventually realized their mistake, but the omission was only partly rectified and then very late in the day. In 2007, the addition of the target of universal access to reproductive health by 2015 was made. And guess what? The Millennium Development Goals relating to reproductive health – including access to contraceptives and adolescent fertility rates – made the least progress.
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.