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Posted on on October 1st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

 Pham Gia Khiemhas, 64,   a PhD from Czechslovakia in Metallurgy, taught Mechanical Engineering and “electrics” at University level, before entering public life.

He made significant contributions in developing science and technology in Vietnam and eventually became head of the Department of Science, Education and Environment. October 1997, Member of the Party Central Committee and Minister in charge of Science and Technology till July 2006, when he became Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, eventually taking over also the Foreign Ministry. His foreign languages are Czech and English.

The event at the Asia Society came about because of Vietnam moving on to become an important US trading partner and Asia Society intends to have a large conference in Hanoi, in 2009.

Today, Vietnam’s growth is 6% and they are applying for WTO membership. This year they are a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and they would like to emulate the China model of economic development. Nevertheless, while in the US the Vietnamese met also Allan Greenspan. Their intent is to build a capitalistic economy with a socialist distribution.

Inflation was 7% in 2007, increased to 16% in 2008 and is expected to reach 20% by the end of the year – this is the price they pay for rapid development. They want to work on reducing inflation by tightening expenditures and asking the people to join the government in tightening expenditures – this tu curb the deficit. It was 3% in the first quarter – increased to 5% and now they expect to bring it back to 3% per month. This while foreign investments increase “exponentially.”

Labor strikes? – Yes. The reasons demand for larger pay, decreasing working hours, “equal pay – for equal hours.”

To the question if they want to be a new China and what they want to do differently? He Answered that China was very good with liberal investment policies but do not delegate to lower levels. Vietnam learned to decentralize by delegating authority to lower levels in economic issues. This so they have even freer relations with investors. There are environmental problems and we take measures in this respect.

Asked about the US elections he said that he hopes work will continue with developing nations and that more technological assistance will be forthcoming.Relations on the base of mutual respect. McCain was shot down in Vietnam – but we forget the past and look to the future.

He spoke of freedom of religion in Vietnam, the X5 increase of tourism, with 5-6 million tourists in the near future – from the present 4 million/year. On the relation with the US, he was reminded by a question that Budha says – “If you do not fight among yourselves you will not get to know each others.

On the nuclear issue – he said Vietnam is against nuclear weapons but wants nuclear power.

He is very much interested in ASEAN and sees in it a turning point for his region – he wants to see it strengthened by 2015, rather te 2020, and he wants to see Vietnam become a more active member. He wants to stabilize the Vietnamese population by a two children family. Vietnam is the only country in Asia that got the World Population Gold designation for its policies.

Asked to describe the Vietnam of 2050, he said this is not easy as they move from a planned economy to a fully market economy as per a 1986 decision.



Posted on on June 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

World Economic Forum: “Dire Situations Call for Bold Measures.”

The World Economic Forum on East Asia wrapped up this week with Ahn Ho-Young, South Korea’s Deput   Minister for Trade, saying it was dominated by “the three F’s”: food, fuel and finance.

A forum survey of the 55 business leaders who attended the two-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, showed that an overwhelming 81% voted for “addressing growing global concern over environmental challenges such as climate change and water” as the top issue facing Asia.

Also of concern were “preventing political and economic instability linked to rising food and energy prices” and “managing the social, environmental and infrastructural implications of rapid urbanization.”
The survey also revealed that the price of rice had more than tripled in Thailand since January. During the same time, diesel prices have risen over 26% in Vietnam.
Water is another issue rising to the fore, with Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board, Nestle, Switzerland, repeating his dire warning: “We will be running out of water long before we run out of oil.”

He lamented that more of the world’s GDP was not being allocated to water: “One out of every five children is dying every 20 seconds because we haven’t been able to solve the problem of clean water today.”

Mr. Ho-Young (South Korea)   urged Asia to do three things: “First, it is important for Asian countries to maintain their open market policies which will enable us to maintain the momentum of economic growth,” he said. Second, he urged Asian countries to pay more attention to the economic and social impacts imposed by the global economic uncertainties. Third, “Asian countries should and must play a more active role in solving global issues,” he said (Xinhua).

In his opening remarks, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah bin Ahmad Badawi referred to fundamental questions, primary assumptions, and revered assumptions, that had to be reviewed and re-evaluated. “Unless we are prepared to address these questions sincerely and take necessary remedial measures,” he said, “our economies and the livelihood of hundreds of millions of people will continue to be vulnerable. Dire situations call for bold measures” (The Toronto Star).

East Asia (generally consisting of Japan, North and South Korea, China, Taiwan, with Vietnam and Singapore) has come to the realization that it is now in a position to react positively, with the best interests of the region in mind, to the world’s economic challenges.


Posted on on May 23rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Shooting the messenger – that is the Press.
May 22nd 2008 from the safe distance of BANGKOK.
From The Economist print edition

The press fights back as two graft-busting reporters are arrested.

THE leaders of Vietnam’s Communist Party say they are conducting a “no holds barred” crackdown on corruption in public life. They implore the country’s newspapers to sniff out and expose the fiddles of officials. In February the party chief, Nong Duc Manh, praised the press for unmasking graft and thereby fulfilling “the people’s desires”. The most notable case was a scandal at the transport ministry in 2006 in which newspapers revealed how officials had gambled around $750,000 of public money on the outcomes of football matches. In the clean-up that followed, the head of a road-building department at the ministry was jailed, along with seven others.

But recent events have cast doubt on the sincerity of the leadership’s claim to be fighting corruption at all levels. The main charges against Nguyen Viet Tien, a former deputy transport minister, who was the highest-level official to be arrested over the scandal, have been dropped. More worrying still, the two leading investigative reporters who exposed the scandal have been arrested, along with two former policemen who were among their sources, on vague charges of “abuse of power” and publishing false information.

Vietnam’s news media, despite an appearance of diversity, remain tightly controlled: their editors have to be approved by the party and are called in for restrictive “guidance” on what they can report. In recent years they have nonetheless been allowed to publish an increasing amount of criticism of government policy—though it always falls short of questioning the party’s “right” to rule. The arrested reporters work for two newspapers, Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre, that were especially fearless in exposing official corruption.

In an unprecedented show of defiance, both newspapers are standing by their reporters. Thanh Nien has run an editorial demanding: “Free the honest journalists.” It says it has been “swamped” with messages of support from the public and some National Assembly members. It challenges the authorities to explain why, if the offending articles had been so inaccurate, none of the police, prosecutors and the ministry of public security had got around to pointing out the errors at any time in the past two years.

It remains unclear why the authorities have suddenly turned against the graft-busters. Were they getting too close to an even bigger scandal? Are party bosses trying to send a message that those above a certain level in the hierarchy are untouchable? Or could it be a visible symptom of strife between reformers and hardliners in the party hierarchy? “People feel that the journalists are maybe the pawns in some larger game but it’s not clear what that might be yet,” says Catherine McKinley, a media analyst in Hanoi.

The Communist Party, like its Chinese counterpart, seems to have won the people’s grudging acceptance for having delivered impressively rapid economic development since ditching collectivism over 20 years ago. Now, however, it is battling against roaring inflation and an incipient balance-of-payments crisis. It may need to take unpopular but vital measures; and economic growth may have to be sacrificed temporarily to restore stability. So the party’s bosses will need the public’s forbearance. One good way to forfeit it is to victimise those who have spearheaded the fight against corruption.


Posted on on May 10th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Aeschylus wrote the original play eight years after having participated in the sea battle of 480 BC, in which 310 Greek Ships under Themistocles beat off the attacking 1200 Persian ships lead by King Xerxes, son of the late King Darius. Xerxes mother appears in the show, Darius’s ghost is acting up also. Aeschylus was on the winning side, so was large part of the audience that saw the play. The Play probes the losers ambitions, the idea of empire, and was probably intended to off-warn similar development in Aeschylus’ own Athens. He achieves his goals of forewarning Athens by presenting a remorseful Xerxes, and by showing his demotion in his openness post-factum, Aeschylus tells generations to come of how war is misery. Dr. Mahmood Karimi-Hakkak explains in the program that in his Siena version, he punctuates scenes with contemporary sounds and imagery, so that by relying on what we know, we can then understand the misery and horrors that Xerxes caused, and how he concludes about himself as “a sad hollow, born to bring home …/ sorrow, sorrow … my heart howling from its bony cage.” But then, on the other hand, to bring the drama even more home to us, when Xerxes finally vanishes under the weight of the shields of the dead, those shields’ backsides turn to us as mirrors – now think – you folks how things are right here in our times!

We see The Persian as a man whose life is devastated by his actions and the effect the fall of his people had to cause his fall, which then effected even further his surviving people. The Editor of this version, Michael Sham, reminds us that Herodotus, the historian, was keen at saying that the World, history itself, as embodied by the Gods, mitigate against imperial designs, an overreaching grasp, an arrogant spirit.

“Xerxes’ recognition that he has gone too far and has angered the gods does not necessarily imply a reclaimed nobility; there is too little time for that.” The cruel end of Xerxes’ monologue reminds us of Oedipus taking the brooches and plunging them into his eyes. That is the spirits lowest ebb. The entropy or time’s arrow, has no return or forgiveness. The Greek tragedy is unidirectional. The play was a warning to the Athenians and to us. We are reminded that we lost our ways in Vietnam, in Iraq, and in Darfur. So, what is our future relation to Iran? Whose posturing in this arena is now tending to reach to the brink?

Again, based on the production’s program – “The Siena production attempts to create a bridge that spans our leaders unquenchable thirst for power and history of their arrogance. It is staged in the tradition of Persian Ta’ziyeh, an annual ritual performed on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussain, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, to help us remember how swiftly we forget the past and thus allow history to repeat itself. The method uses a theater in the round – with actors occupying the central space. In this form the actors at times break the dramatic illusion and speak directly to the audience.”

The Persians invade Greece – We Watch the Persian court:

Will they come home ? – Time Stretches Thin.
The Whole Fleet Went Down:   No War – Peace Now.

Never Again Silence.
Home Again.

Something Not Human Has Cut Our Forces Down.   The TV camera rolls in.   It was the Greek ship that opened the fight and every Persian ship went down.
Our men died of thirst and hunger.
He closed the Bosphorus and had them cross the sea.
How can this not be sickness of the mind that moved your son? Asks the old King that was resurected to hear the chant as happened.

The gate to the underworld is closed.

Q. Where are they now?
A. The sorrow is mine!

Q. My son too. I am stunned. The few that followed your carriage are back.
A. I am the leader – I mispaced.

Q. You Sped of defeat – Ships went down!

They are Gone, Gone, Gone.
They are Dead
They are Gone.

And the women hang on his neck the photos of their dead sons.
The music in the background is from Africa.
The photos weigh him down and they put on him their masks on his shield.

Before entering the enclosed round space of the show, we had the chance to look over stacks of statistics of the unhumanity of man-to-man.

I will just bring one of the 70-80 pages Mahmood allowed me to take with me:


After the show, while waiting for the Director, I spoke with a gentleman connected to the College, whose son was in the cast. The father was in Albany all his life and went to school also at Siena College.
He was here in the sixties. His generation at Siena protested the Vietnam war – Now his son protests the Iraq war. The father is now an environmentalist and gave me the reference to someone else who is                                                                                         now an environmentalist active at the UN. He told me that the war is about oil and this is the wrong war. Is this going to war similar to the Persian King who went for an unexplained war against the Greeks?

This production was entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) and we hope that it will be given the chance to be seen outside its College home.


Posted on on April 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The results of the 4th Global Oceans Conference on the Internet:

From the 4th Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands:   Advancing Ecosystem Management and Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management in the Context of Climate Change, April 7-11, 2008, Hanoi, Vietnam

The 4th Global Conference brought together 430 ocean and coastal leaders from 71 countries, representing all sectors, including governments, intergovernmental and international organizations, non-governmental organizations, the business community, ocean donors, and scientific institutions.   The conference assessed essential issues in the governance of the world’s oceans, with a focus on moving toward an ecosystem-based and integrated approach to oceans governance at national, regional, and global levels.   For the first time, a concerted effort was made to bring oceans policy together with climate change, which, as indicated in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will have profound effects on ecosystems and coastal populations around the world, especially among the poorest people on Earth and in small island developing States.

The conference focused especially on assessing the progress that has been achieved (or lack thereof) on the global oceans targets established by the world’s political leaders at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development:   Achieving ecosystem-based and integrated ocean and coastal management by 2010, reducing marine biodiversity loss and of establishing networks of marine protected areas by 2012, restoring fishery stocks by 2015, among others.

The conference underlined that ocean and coastal managers are at the front line of climate changes.   The climate issues that ocean and coastal leaders around the world will need to face will ineradicably change the nature of ocean and coastal management, introducing increased uncertainty, the need to incorporate climate change planning into all existing management processes, the need to develop and apply new tools related to vulnerability assessment, and the need to make difficult choices in what in many cases will be “no win” situations, involving adverse impacts to vulnerable ecosystems and communities.   Conference participants underlined that we must begin this process now, including altering coastal development that is already in the pipeline–we don’t have the luxury of waiting 10 years before we consider the implications and before we act.

You are kindly invited to view the proceedings of the conference through multiple media, including the following:

The Global Forum, the World Ocean Network, and the World Ocean Observatory have created a special GOC2008 website and YouTube channel designed specifically to inform audiences across the world about the context and work of the Global Forum using rich media.

GOC2008 Website<https:/…;

GOC2008 YouTube Channel…;

Here, you will be able to:
–Explore the proceedings of the Conference and each major ocean issue being addressed.
–View the reports, recommendations, and Policy Briefs of the Global Forum’s 12 Working Groups, involving about 250 experts from 68 countries, which have been mobilizing to provide recommendations on priority next steps that the international community should take on major ocean issues.
–See short video interviews and podcasts of ocean and coastal experts from various sectors around the globe as well as the presentations and movie clips illustrating major ocean issues.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development – Reporting Services provided daily coverage of conference proceedings.   As the publisher of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, IISD Reporting Services (RS) is recognized for its objectivity and issue expertise in the field of international environment and sustainable development policy.   In past Global Ocean Conferences IISDRS has helped the Global Forum to disseminate conference reports containing recommendations on advancing the development of integrated oceans policies worldwide to their mail lists which include 45,000 subscribers.

To read more details about the work of the Conference please see the attached document.

For further information please contact Kateryna Wowk ( kmw at<…)


–Detailed Conference Coverage


Posted on on April 9th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

EU aid chief says rising food prices risk African ‘humanitarian tsunami:’ As food riots sweep the developing world, the EU’s foreign aid chief has warned that sky-rocketing food price rises threaten a “humanitarian tsunami” in Africa, and has promised a boost in aid to support food security.

“A global food crisis is becoming apparent,” said EU humanitarian aid commissioner Louis Michel after a meeting with African Union Commission President Jean Ping, “less visible than the oil crisis, but with the potential effect of a real economic and humanitarian tsunami in Africa.”

By Leigh Phillips, April 9, 2008, the EUobserver, Brussels.

The commissioner said that the EU would boost emergency food aid from the European Development Funds from its current €650 million to €1.2 billion.

In recent weeks, food riots have swept the developing world as UN World Food Programme officials warn that a ‘perfect storm’ of poor harvests, rising fuel prices, the growth of biofuels and increased pressure from a growing middle class in China and India is rapidly increasing world hunger.

The last two days have seen food riots in Egypt over a doubling of the price of staple food items in the past year. Some 40 people died in similar riots in Cameroon in February, with violent demonstrations also recently taking place in Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and Mauritania.

Less deadly protests in the last week have also occurred in Cambodia, Indonesia, Mozambique, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Bolivia.

In the last week in Haiti, five people have been killed in riots over price rises for rice, beans and fruit, with protesters attempting to storm the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday (8 April), while UN staff in Jordan have gone on a one-day strike this week asking for a pay rise to deal with the 50 percent increase in prices.

Elsewhere, China, Vietnam, India and Pakistan are introducing restrictions on rice exports.

The UN’s undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator, John Holmes, on Tuesday said that rising food prices are threatening political stability throughout the developing world.

“The security implications [of the food crisis] should also not be underestimated as food riots are already being reported across the globe,” said Mr Holmes, speaking at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development (DIHAD) Conference, according to the Guardian. “Current food price trends are likely to increase sharply both the incidence and depth of food insecurity,” he added.

Kanayo Nwanza, vice president of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said on Tuesday: “Escalating social unrest as we have seen in Cameroon, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and in Senegal could spread to other countries,” reports AFP.

African finance ministers met last week in Addis Ababa to consider the food crisis. In a statement, the ministers warned that food price rises “pose significant threats to Africa’s growth, peace and security.”

Last month, the head of the UN World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, said that high oil prices, low food stocks, growing demand from China and the push for biofuels are causing a food crisis around the world.

“We are seeing a new face of hunger,” she said. “We are seeing more urban hunger than ever before. We are seeing food on the shelves but people being unable to afford it.”


Posted on on February 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Kevin Rafferty was editor of “The Universe,” Britain’s Catholic newspaper. He wrote for The Japan Times of February 11, 2008, an article about the election of Adolfo Nicolas, a 71-year-old Spaniard who went to Japan as a young man 46 years ago and never left Asia except for going to Rome for further theological studies, as the new “father general” of the Jesuit order.

His choice is potentially of historic significance. Nicolas takes over as Pope Benedict is getting into his stride in his task of bringing erring priests and people back into line, with the zeal of someone who was the Vatican’s theological watchdog before becoming pope. The Vatican gets more conservative!

In the last few months the Vatican issued a warning against the writings of a Vietnamese-born U.S.-based theologian whose writings have tried to bridge the gap between Catholicism and Asian religions. It also refused to accept a divorced man as Argentina’s ambassador.

Pope Benedict weighed in with specific warnings to the Jesuits, and wrote to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the outgoing Dutch father general, who at 80 asked to retire, even though the job is for life. The pope urged the Jesuits to accept “total adhesion to Catholic doctrine.” He singled out “those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons.”

Just in case that was not clear enough, Cardinal Franc Rode, who delivered the homily at the opening mass of the Jesuit congregation, expressed “sadness and anxiety” regarding aspects of Jesuit life and urged them to “think with the Church.” The cardinal told the National Catholic Reporter that he showed his text in advance to “superior authority,” a reference to the pope.

But the new father general Nicolas is no lightweight. On the one hand, in a prophetic paper prepared for the Asian Catholic bishops in 1990, he showed he was a man ahead of his time. He lamented secularization and feared the assault on wisdom from “bias, nonsense and the infinite varieties of selfish or group interests.”

But on the other hand, at the time, he also called for “A new justice for all humans regardless of age, race, gender, physical, financial or social capabilities, also a new justice for the Earth and all its living creatures and their habitats. This translates into a new justice for the coming generations of Asian peoples who will want to encounter the living God and his marvelous creation in the glorious beauty he so laboriously elaborated through billions of years: and not to be abandoned to a boring search for him through the devastated and exploited wastelands we are multiplying at present.”
Rafferty remarks that his plea came almost a generation before it became fashionable to be green.

The real importance of Nicolas is that although raised in Europe, his formative years as a man and a Catholic priest were in Japan, which has few Catholics but much experience in religious thinking. Where the pope seems increasingly concentrated on obedience to the Church and toeing the line, Nicolas stresses the importance of listening and learning.

Further, we write about this because of the concluing remarks by Rafferty: Nicolas said that Japan “has changed me and helped me to understand others, to accept what is different and try to understand why it is different, in what lies the difference and how I can learn from that difference.”

Japan, he added, “has taught me to smile at the difficulties, at human imperfection, the human reality. In Spain I was a little intolerant, thinking in terms of order, of commands, because I thought of religion as fidelity to religious practices, and in Japan I learned that true religiosity is more profound, that one must go to the heart of things, to the depths of our humanity, whether we are speaking of God or of ourselves and human life. Human life is this way, we people are this way; imperfections are so natural that it is necessary to accept them from the very beginning.”

Put his way, Nicolas seems more truly Catholic — in its original meaning of “universal.” His election could offer a marriage of black and white made in heaven. But it remains uncertain whether the wholly Roman pope will tolerate such diversity on Earth.

Comparing the above with the positions of the present Pope – the Germanic Benedict XVI – the Pope being considered historically the “white pope” because of his white robes, and the father general being considered the “black pope” because of his traditional simple black garb – one is left wondering about who is more appropriate to our times, and who has learned a thing or two by having been exposed to Eastern (that is now Asian, not Bizantine) cultures.

The reaction to father Nicolas’ elections are telling: Enter Adolfo Nicolas as the new leader. The first amazing thing about his election was the happiness that greeted the news, sheer joy from Rome to Japan and the Philippines. An elector from Europe asked, “Have we elected a saint?” Another described him as “the wise man from the East.” A Hong Kong woman working with the Jesuits in Cambodia exclaimed, “There is hope for the Jesuits!”

In the Philippines, where Nicolas had worked from 2004 as moderator of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia and Oceania, Bishop Francisco Claver said he was at supper with priesthood students and, “When we got the news, everyone cheered like we were winning a basketball game.”

From Japan, where Nicolas spent most of his priestly life, a nun, Sister Filo Hirota praised Nicolas as “almost perfect, a very fine theologian, very human, with a wonderful sense of humor, prophetic in his vision, but he knows how to dialogue.” She added that he does a very fine impression of Charlie Chaplin.

How very different from the pope, almost a difference between black and white. It is hard to see the austere, stern pope gaining such applause or being called affectionately “Father Nico,” as many call the new Jesuit general.

Our question is now – Will father Nicolas follow up by becoming the GREEN POPE?


Posted on on January 13th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Jan. 13, 2008, The Japan Times, Kyodo News: Japan to give ¥6 billion in aid to four Mekong River nations – Former Indo-China’s Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Japan will provide a combined ¥6 billion in aid to four nations in the Mekong River region for various projects, including the construction of two highways that will traverse the Indochina Peninsula, government sources said Saturday. Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura will pledge the official development assistance to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam at a meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, the sources said.

The meeting, the first of its kind, will bring together Komura’s counterparts from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos.

Japan wants to place emphasis on funneling ODA resources into the Mekong region, which has been lagging behind other Southeast Asian regions in economic development, they said. The aid is expected to help Japanese companies increase business activity in the Mekong.

The projects covered by the aid will include one to build two highways linking Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar that have been dubbed the “Indochina East-West Economic Corridors,” the sources said.

Japan plans to disburse ¥2.2 billion over the next three years to help the Mekong region build road transportation bases from which truck cargo can be shipped to various destinations, and to train local customs officials how to conduct proper customs procedures, they said.

Separately, Japan will provide ¥2.2 billion to help Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam build schools and power generation facilities for poor people in areas traversing the nations, the sources said.

Japan will also provide ¥1.7 billion to support Cambodian poverty-reduction efforts, the sources said.

Komura will hold bilateral talks with the foreign ministers of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos on Wednesday, and with the foreign ministers of Myanmar and Thailand on Thursday.


Posted on on January 2nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Former Pariah Libya now – on UN Securuty Council and UNSC President for January 2008.
from Reuters’ reporting by Patrick Worsnip. January 1, 2008.

Tomorrow, January 3, 2008, Lybia’s Ambassador to the UN, Mr. Giadalla Ettalhi, will hold a press conference to distribute the January Security Council planned for Program. In New York City you can see the Press Conference on UNTV, Chanel 78, at 12:30. We believe that the UN Department of Public Information will indeed show that program live.

UNITED NATIONS — Libya took over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council on Tuesday in a major step back to global respectability after decades as a pariah of the West.

The “Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,” from the African Group at the UN, was elected in October 2007. So were elected Burkina Faso also for Africa, Costa Rica for Latin America and the Caribbean, Croatia for Europe, and Vietnam for Asia – to sit on the council in 2008-09 after the United States, which foiled two earlier bids by Tripoli, decided not to block it this time.

By an alphabetical accident, Libya becomes president of the 15-nation body from its very first day as a member, succeeding Italy. Each country is president for a month, the rotation going in English alphabetical order of names.

Libya and Burkina Faso had been unopposed after being endorsed by the African regional grouping for two African seats that fell vacant on Dec. 31, 2007.

The Security Council is the powerhouse of the United Nations, with the ability to send peacekeeping troops around the world and impose sanctions on specific countries.

Unlike the five permanent members — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — the nonpermanent members have no individual veto. But an alliance of seven of them can stop a resolution even if the big powers want it.

Libya has only recently rehabilitated itself in Western eyes from an accused sponsor of terrorism that organized the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland, which killed 270 people.

The case led to U.N. sanctions on Libya, which, under a gradual shift of course by leader Moammar Gaddafi, eventually turned over suspects and admitted civil responsibility. Also key was Col. Gaddafi’s 2003 decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction programs.

In July, Libya ended a diplomatic standoff by freeing five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor held since 1999 on charges, which Western countries ridiculed, that they infected Libyan children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Libyan and other diplomats said they expected the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region, where the United Nations and African Union are trying to deploy a peace force, to be a key council issue in January. Other countries will be scrutinizing Libya’s handling because of its interest as a neighbour of Sudan.

Another major topic will be Serbia’s Kosovo province. But diplomats said Iran could be less important because big powers must overcome divisions on possible new sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program before the issue reaches the council.

Council presidents can vote as they please, but must follow strict procedures in management of business and be neutral in public statements. Nevertheless they can wield important influence on scheduling the agenda and other formalities.

Libya has been on the Security Council once before, in 1976-77, and diplomats said its envoys had been relearning the role, attending closed consultations in the past two months and bringing in extra staff to help with the presidency.

Countries that left the Security Council on Dec. 31 were Congo Republic, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia.

Remaining on it are Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, Panama and South Africa. That is in Addition to the P5 – or the five permanent UNSC Members (former big powers) – according to the UN Charter.

Libya is thus replacing fellow OPEC member, Qatar, on the traditional Arab seat on the UNSC – but this time the seat comes from the African quota, rather then the more usual Asian quota. So, in 2008 there will be two Muslim countries on the Security Council – Libya and Indonesia. In 2009 Lybia will stay on the Council but Indonesia will have to give up its seat to another Asian UN Member State – clearly not Israel which at the UN is not considered an Asian State, but belongs to Europe and “the others” group. This latter group will have to elect in 2008 two new members to take office December 31, 2008, as replacement to Belgium and Italy. Three States are already in the running for those two positions, and it is expected that there will be a vote in the General Assembly in October 2008. For the Asian seat that will be vacated by Indonesia, it is not clear yet if there wil be a consensus candidate to join Vietnam at the table for 2009, or there will also be the need to have a vote. Africa usually agrees by consensus on a single candidate.


Posted on on December 16th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

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Click here to nominate your favorite natural sites, or to support a favorite. We will soon be announcing the start of the first voting stage, during which we will have a live ranking of the Official Supported Nominees online. This phase will determine the Top 77 nominees, from which the 21 finalists will be chosen. So these steps are really important – think of all the beautiful places you know, and nominate them! Then, since only Official Supported Nominees will be able to receive votes, get an Official Supporting Committee going to support them! Spread the word to your family, friends and encourage them to get involved in the world’s only democratic campaign.

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Please see the diagram at the bottom of this newsletter for the stages and timing of the New7Wonders of Nature campaign.        The first-ever global election revealed some surprising insights, first and foremost that the largest group that took part in the campaign was – contrary to what you may think – not the Chinese or the Indians, but rather the children! Yes, kids worldwide participated by voting, campaigning, submitting artwork, showing how New7Wonders is stimulating intercultural dialogue and fostering an environment of mutual appreciation.
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Posted on on November 10th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (…

Sixteen Asia-Pacific countries will seek to expand their forests by a combined 15 million hectares by 2020 to help fight global warming, according to the draft of a special statement expected to be adopted at their Nov. 21 summit in Singapore.

Kyodo News, Japan Times on line, Sunday, November 11, 2007.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by Kyodo News, calls for “encouraging environmentally sustainable planning and management of the region’s forests while strengthening forest law enforcement and governance to combat illegal logging and other harmful practices.”

It also stipulates that the 16 countries set voluntary energy-saving targets and compile action plans by 2009.

The draft calls on the countries to participate actively in a process for developing an international climate change arrangement after the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The Kyoto pact aims to cut developed countries’ emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by imposing binding reduction targets.

Forests are major absorbers of carbon dioxide.

The draft, titled “Singapore Declaration on Climate Change, Energy and the Environment,” will be the first of its kind to be adopted at the East Asian Summit.

It throws support behind a long-term goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 and calls for promoting the use of nuclear energy and biofuels.

The draft also says the 16 should work toward achieving a regional goal of reducing “energy intensity” by at least 25 percent by 2030.

Energy intensity is a figure used to gauge an economy’s energy efficiency. It is defined as energy consumption divided by GDP. The lower the number the better.

But it is uncertain whether this will enter the final statement. India, which lags the others in energy conservation, strongly opposes such a target, a Japanese official said.

The East Asia Summit features the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam — plus Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.


Posted on on November 10th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Friday night I overheard how a Member of the Board of a very large bank was telling the executive of a foreign bank, whose job is to look for places to invest his clients money, about a country in new Europe where he should invest now. I obviously cannot go into details of that conversation, but this morning I remembered that conversation when going over the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Financial Times. I really was trying to see in comparing the three papers – which one of them can teach me where people invest their money now – a time that investments in the US are not highly recommendable.

My eyes fell upon the fortunes of Harvard Management Co. that is losing now its chief executive officer, Mr. Mohamed El-Erian who was credited for having rebuilt from scratch that management team during his two years in office.

The Wall Street Journal gave us the gossip of why El-Erian is leaving – really nothing more, but The New York Times, posting material they got from Reuters, did provide amazing information in between the lines. To reassure our readers that we do not make up a story – we will attach at the end of this posting the two articles in question.

The Reuters material says that Mr. El-Erian will “REJOIN” THE PACIFIC INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT COMPANY. By saying REJOIN we understand that he came from there. So, this gentleman’s main interest is in the Asia-Pacific region, and we can assume that much of his successful reorganization of Harvard was in his moving the Endowment Fund towards investments in that region.

Further, Reuters says that the former executive, Robert S. Kaplan, who oversaw Goldman Sachs investment management division, and now teaches at Harvard Business School, will start as temporary C.E.O. of the HMC immediately on the coming Monday. Now the clincher about Mr. Kaplan – he earned a Harvard MBA before entering Golman Sachs. He worked there for 22 years and was the manager, “Goldman’s Asia-Pacific investment banking unit.” and co-head of global investment banking, and still is a senior director of the Goldman Sachs Group.

OK, now we know – Harvard University helped along by Harvard Business School, knew that business in the Asia-Pacific area is good for you. Will it still be good in the future? Are there alternatives?

Continuing looking for facts in the open press – I found them in the Financial Times. The paper had nothing about the personnel problems at Harvard – after all why should they care? But the paper was full with articles that will impact the economy:

There is an article about India which after a year of euphoria may be facing big tests. One problem is that India is dependent on imported oil for 73% of its present needs while China has only a 55% dependency. Then China was full of action to assure oil flow in the future, but India did nothing in this respect. On the other hand, China has committed $50 billion to secure supplies of oil since the US “rolled into Bagdad in 2003,” and we know where they went to look for it backed by their government; India’s state-controlled ONGC oil company wanted to acquire 45% stake in the oil-rich Akpo field in Nigeria, but India’s government nixed this on the ground it was “too risky.” On the other hand, when it comes to Indian private enterprise, the likes of the Tata, they are aggressive, and Tata’s takeover of the Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus is this year’s major success story. Besides, other Indian companies own already most, privately owned, global steel producing companies comment).

Another article is titled: “Why China has sparked US soul-searching.” It mentions PetroChina’s recent debut on the Shanghai exchange with its 163% rise in capitalization upon that debut, making it A $1,000 Billion company – biggest in the world – bigger then Exxon-Mobil and General Electric combined. Now China, by capitalization, has five companies among the 10 largest in the world – there was none just 15 years ago! The article tells you to ask the “newly retired” (let us say Forced-Into-Retirement) US C.E.O.s Stanley O’Neal and Chuck Prince about these success stories. The article suggest a serious dose of humility – to US capitalism – something that was also in between the lines of Mr. Sarkozy’s presentation to the joint session of Congress. The weak dollar might help a bit, but without productivity and efficiency gains, the US will not improve.

A third article is about Korea. Here we see that at the end of present President’s term, Mr. Roh Moo-hyum, the changes he brought about in the fight against corruption, are clearly eroding. Corruption remained seemingly endemic in Korea and now the candidate from Mr. Roh’s leftwing political camp, is pointing at corruption charges against both candidates from the party’s conservative camp.

A fourth article – the one with the widest reach, says in the title that business chiefs in Asia expect poor outlook, but when you read the article it turns out that there may be a slight slow-down in growth, but still they will be well ahead of the US or Europe.

India and Vietnam were, and will be the two countries experiencing the strongest growth in terms of planned investment. The importance of India’s economy to the region, according to a survey of CEOs, has risen above that of Japan, though the importance of the US economy to the region, according to these CEOs gets still the highest votes from them ahead of China.

So, when considering how the European Economy is tied to the US economy, the advancing clouds over the US will resonate also in Asia, but much less then in Europe.

From the countries mentioned, and from our own experience this summer in Vietnam, we would say that Vietnam is still a very good bet for investments, this because they still have a long way to go in their development before they start to feel the impact of outside economical downturns, and China because they have a large internal market that they seem indeed intent to stimulate.




Posted on on November 8th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (


2007 Integrity Awards Finalists Announced

Transparency International award recognises those committed to creating a world free of corruption

Berlin, 08 November, 2007 – Outstanding individuals fighting corruption internationally and in Bangladesh, Morocco, Haiti and Vietnam are the finalists for the 2007 Transparency International (TI) Integrity Awards.

“These finalists have taken on petty and grand corruption in different circumstances. The ordeals they faced exemplify the complexity of corruption and the many ways it should be tackled”, said Sion Assidon, Chair of the Integrity Awards Committee and member of TI’s Board of Directors.

“The finalists underscore that courageous and creative work can overcome embedded corruption in both developed and developing countries. Fighting corruption means challenging people and institutions that often wield enormous power and should be recognised”, added Assidon.

Each year the Integrity Awards Committee receives a substantial number of nominations for candidates who have challenged corruption and taken serious risks in the name of justice, human rights, transparency and integrity. But only seldom does their work win the public acknowledgement that it deserves.

The 2007 finalists are:

Claudy Gassant is chief prosecutor of corruption-ridden Haiti. Since his return from a four-year exile, he has taken up the determined fight against corruption in his country. Unimpressed by the power or wealth of the suspects, Gassant holds up the rule of law and the independence necessary for justice. Through his integrity and unremitting stance, he encourages public action against corruption and against those who support it.

Sincere retiring in 1984, Le Hien Duc, a Vietnamese school-teacher, has become a resourceful anti-corruption fighter by filing complaints and helping others to challenge petty bribing and large-scale graft. Her respect for authority ends where corruption begins. Ms. Duc has tracked down high and low-level officials through different means, at home or in the office, to ensure that they cannot ignore the victims of corruption claiming their rights. In spite of many threats, she provides hope and encouragement for stopping acceptance of corruption.

Abdelatif Kanjae, Lhibib Lhaji and Khalid Bouhail are Moroccan lawyers who denounced widespread corruption in the country’s legal system. In an open letter published in the press, a group of lawyers demanded investigation of corrupt practices in one of Morocco’s regional courts, known as the “case of Tetouan” and the legal system in general. Despite subsequent repression and being stripped of their professional credentials, these lawyers gained sympathisers and became a symbol of resistance to corruption. They helped to create public awareness about the importance of an independent and impartial justice system.

Mark Pieth, a criminal law and criminology professor at the University of Basel in his native Switzerland, has provided outstanding leadership in fighting corruption on an international scale. Prof. Pieth has countered corruption not only as a co-founder of the Basel Institute on Governance but as chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions and as a member of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme of the United Nations. His willingness to publicly criticise governments that fail to implement the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and those that did not to provide enough support to identify companies that paid kickbacks in the oil-for-food scandal.

Prothom Alo, a leading daily newspaper in Bangladesh has consistently exposed major corruption at the highest levels of government during the last decade. Led by its courageous Editor, Motiur Rahman, the newspaper’s team of intrepid journalists have overcome threats of criminal prosecution, harassment and death threats to succeed in creating awareness and in turning the page on apathy in regards to corruption. Their fearless reporting sets an example for freedom of the press and in shedding light on how corruption takes place and why it is so detrimental to societies.

Now in its sixth year, the Integrity Awards have honoured individuals and organisations from Asia and Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. These have included journalists and public prosecutors, accountants and government officials along with leaders of civil society.

The TI Integrity Awards Committee consists of 11 individuals from across the world, who have been active in the anti-corruption movement for many years. They serve as the jury for the awards and confer with the TI Board of Directors. Nominations are accepted for individuals and organisations and are subject to independent vetting under the guidance of the Integrity Awards Committee.

The 2007 Integrity Awards winners will be honoured at a ceremony to be held on 10 December 2007.
# # #

Transparency International   is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.


Posted on on October 24th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

A Presentation of The Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asia Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC. The book, just of the printing press, is volume No. 1 in the Asia-Pacific Leadership Series of SAIS, and was initiated by Professor Kent E. Calder, the Director of the Reischauer Center, who also wrote the Forward to this volume. The book is an abridged, updated, focused, translation into English of memoirs Dr. Han Seung-soo wrote in Japanese while a Senior Fellow at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo, 2004-2006, upon retirement from Korean politics. Dr. Han kept a diary during his events-rich year as UNGA President, and his writings, amazingly, are literally the only record about the UN, to-date, written by a person in high position who was not the UN Secretary-General, and as such is an excellent recording of the functioning mechanism of the UN.

The book has 111 pages plus 36 pages of major speeches of the President of UNGA, 19 pages of the listing of major events during that year, and 15 pages of the index. The book can be obtained from SAIS or the UN bookstore and costs $25.

Dr. Han did not write this because he had anything to defend, this is rather a gallant attempt to explain to the reader how the UN functions, and as it happened his year was a very eventful year, so it makes objectively for interesting reading.

As we shall see, Dr. Han had a very interesting career, and he is still active today. His year as UNGA President may not even have been the high-point of his career, and as said he might yet be slated for future high positions. This just to say that we highly recommend this book as what seems to us a very frank recording of the UN with many of its warts exposed, but also with the high potential of the organization being pointed out.

We went to the book-signing event that was held on October 22, 2007, at the UN Bookstore in the basement of the UN Headquarters, because we knew that Dr. Han Seung-soo was one of the three Special Envoys on Climate Change appointed by the current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (The other two were Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway, the person that made famous the concept of Sustainable Development and is now involved in issues of the environment and climate change, and Dr. Ricardo Lagos of Chile, who now is President of the Club of Madrid and President of the Foundation for Democracy and Development that he created after stepping down from the Presidency of Chile.)

In this position as Special Envoy of the UNSG, Dr. Han is a roving Ambassador to UN Member States in the Secretary-General’s effort to drum up a solid program for this year’s meeting in Bali. We wanted to ask him questions on this topic, and so we did; but we will not write about this in the present posting – this because we intended this posting merely as an introduction of our readers to this book, which we are convinced is a MUST READ for anyone interested in the UN – its promise and also the dangers from irrational expectations.

Korea became independent of Japan in 1945, the nation then fell into the 1950-1954 tragedy of becoming first active battle ground between the two ideologies that survived the World War, and stayed divided since. Dr. Han points out that it was the UN Temporary Commission on Korea (UNTCOK), founded by a UN resolution of November 14, 1947, that supervised the democratic election of Korea’s first National Assembly, and the formal establishment of the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948. Then it was UN resolutions that provided the basis for 16 nations, including the US, to enter the Korean War and fight on the side of the South Korean forces. It was the UN Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA) that helped Korea after the war; thus Korea fully appreciates the UN and Korea is one of the few countries where the day of the founding of the UN – United Nations Day – October 24 – is a National Holiday.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) became a member of the UN in 1991, so it was only ten years after admission to the UN that the Asian Regional group backed the Korean Foreign Minister, Dr. Han, to become UNGA President.

Dr. Han was born born on December 28, 1936 in Gangwon Province in a remote village in the mountainside. He had to cross two rivers by ferry to go to school in Chuncheon City, but his hopes were to become part of the world that was symbolized by the UN. He reminds us of a popular song, the United Nations Song, that everybody in Korea knew its lyrics.

He got a Master in Public Administration from Seoul National university and a PH.D. in Economics from York University, York, England where he staid on to teach, and moved later to the Department of Applied Economics at Cambridge. His doctoral dissertation, titled “The Growth and the Function of the European Budget,” was awarded by the Commission of European Communities, in 1971, the Prize as the best doctoral thesis on the European economic integration.

He returned to Seoul National University in 1970 and taught until 1988 and in parallel started work as Financial Adviser on secondment of the World Bank, holding also appointments at the Univerity of Tokyo and at Harvard University.

From 1987 to 1988 Dr. Han served as the first Chairman of the Korea Trade Commission and helped with Tax Reform, Bank Reform, and Tariff Reform. He was also adviser to quite an array of public and private-sector financial and trade organizations.

In 1988 he entered political life winning a place in the Korean National Assembly, assuming an array of functions: Minister of Trade and Industry (1988-90), Ambasador to the US (1993-94), Chief of Staff to the President (1994-95), Deputy Prime-Minister and Minister of Finance and Economy (1996-97), Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2001-02) . It was from this last position that he was catapulted to the UN.

Among his many achievements in those years are most notable his leadership in bringing Korea into the OECD (1996) and in smoothing out relations with the US in an attempt to deflect the North Korean nuclear ambitions (1994).

After his stint at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UN, (2001-2002), he staid in politics until 2004, when after 18 years he retired from political life and accepted the invitation by National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo (2004-2006), which resulted in his writing the book we are reviewing now. All these years he was helped along by his wife, Soja, to whom he dedicates this book. She was present at the book signing event and I appreciated her interest in my questions on climate change. It was clear to me that she intended to convey later to her husband the things I mentioned to her.

Further, his book, among the many truths it conveys, is indeed also an eye opener in explaining the function of a President of UNGA. Many times the President is the Foreign Minister of a country that belongs to a rotating roster of the five regional groups that were created informally at the UN. So, it was the turn of the Asian Regional Group to suggest a candidate for the Presidency, and their decision was to put up for the negotiations with the other regional groups the candidacy of Korea. After the agreement between the five groups, the decision is then to approve the candidacy unanimously. Korea then made Dr. Han its Foreign Minister, and he had to provide assurances to the Koreans that he will be able to juggle the two positions simultaneously. Dr. Han does not hide that the matter was something of a personal ambition of his, and that this was the dream position – President of the UNGA – that he always aspired to. A further point was that in 2001 the US – ROK relations started to fray because of overtures South Korea was making to North Korea. Dr. Han thought that with his experience he could help defuse the situation.

The President’s physical presence at the UN is not necessarily required at all times throughout the year, except for the four months September – December. So, this makes it possible for Ministers to hold the job while continuing to hold on to their regular job. In his case, seemingly there were folks back home that thought he will be neglecting his Korean position, so Dr. Han, was pushed, despite the fact that even during those four months he shuttled back and forth, to bring to New York a large group of Koreans he would trust to run things while he is away. The stuff provided by the UN to the office of UNGA President is in any case ridiculously small. It amounts to four staff personnel – to the Office of the President: two secretaries, one security person, and driver and car for the President’s exclusive use.

Among the people Dr. Han brought to New York was Ambassador Ban Ki-moon, a former Vice Foreign Minister, whom he asked to become his Chef de Cabinet. That is how the UN learned to appreciate the man who is now Secretay-General and who did a lot of “stand in” for his boss. Today, after Dr. Han’s retirement from service to ROK, it is his former protege, now UN Secretary-General, who makes offers to Dr. Han to keep him active in UN affairs.

UNGA is one of six major organs that were created by the UN Charter. The others are The UN Security Council, The UN Trusteeship Council, The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Court of Justice, and The Secretariat.

The Trusteeship Council has pretty much ended its functions and staid on as a fossil. On the other hand, the UN has not made it clear who is the UN Boss – is it the President of UNGA or the Secretary-General. One could assume that the head of the collective of UN Member States is the head of the UN, but then he is appointed only for one year, and mainly as a part-time job. So, the UN Secretary-General, whose appointment to a full-time job extending for five years, has the obvious advantage. Dr. Han, with full frankness, describes his relations with Mr. Kofi Annan – though friendly they had their frictions, in many cases resulting from frictions between staff members. In some cases, there were clear difficulties because the UN Charter was not more explicit. Whatever the stories, cases of previous UN Secretary-Generals were much worse – such a difficulty resulted in the expulsion of the President of UNGA’s office from the glamorous 38th floor of the Secretariat. To his credit, Dr. Han did not ask to return to that floor, but was happier expanding the new location that is on the 2nd floor.

Having been agreed upon to become President of the General Assembly, the actual ceremony of the handover of the job to him was slated for September 11, 2001 – and this was nixed by the events of that day. In effect the UN was without a head of the GA for a full day, and the ceremony was held on the 12th. Was that event what the terrorists had in mind when they chose to attack on 9/11?

The book presents many interesting details of what went on at the UN those days – of extremely interest to us was what is presented in Chapter 2 – specifically sentences on page 31:

“This was a glimpse of the political machinations that go on within the United Nations. I felt as if everyone was testing the resolve of the new President. Discussions within the UN about whether to schedule the General Debate for 10 to 16, 12 to 18, or 14 to 20 November were spinning out of control. There was growing confusion and discord among the Member States.

I believed that if I, the President, did not exercise strong leadership, the carefully achieved concensus would evaporate…”

All of this came about after an agreed set of dates – 10-16 November – and an after the fact intervention by the Vietnamese Ambassador, who acting as Regional Chairman for Asia for the month of September, brought up an Arab opposition to those dates because of a WTO meeting that was scheduled for Doha, Qatar, for 9 to 14 of November. This in full knowledge that there could not be found alternate dates before the end of 2001 – this in part also because of the Ramadan that is important to Muslims.

The use of the appropriate words “POLITICAL MACHINATIONS” and “Testing the Resolve” – this in relation to Arab Member States of the UN at this time of 9/11 is what shows that Dr. Han is out there to describe the UN as it really is – warts and all. This gets further amplified in Chapter 3 when he writes on The Challenges of International Terrorism, when the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, the October Chairman of the Asia Regional Group, backed by the Ambassador from Sudan, the Chairman for October of the African Regional Group, was set up by the Arab States, to interfere with the discussion on terrorism under the pretext that the only resolution that had a chance to pass was too weak – and it had to be “strengthened” in order to make it really unacceptable. Dr. Ban was also confronted by a direct Arab delegation made up of four Ambassadors of the Arab League – one Syrian, two Lybians, and Ambassador Husein Hassouna of the Arab League itself, who using code language of “national liberation movements” made it clear that Palestinians should not be considered terrorists (see page 48 of the book). Dr. Han did not take the bait and was nobody’s fool. Cudos to him and thanks for putting this material in the book.

Chapter 4 of the book deals with “Reform or Not to Reform the Security Cuncil,” and Chapter 6 deals with “Revitalizing the General Assembly.” – both topics of extreme relevance for an organization that grew from an original number of 45 members in 1945 , to 189 members by 2001.

In 1945, with a Security Council that numbered 11 Member States, it was close to 25% of the membership, in 2001, with a total of 15 members of the UNSC – this was only 8% of the membership. That was all old hat to us, but what the book tells us in very clear words is about the existence at the UN of a “Coffee Club” to which belong some 30 countries including – Pakistan, Egypt, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Korea … who oppose increasing the number of permanent members of the Security Council, and by doing so have blocked by then for 10 years the expansion of the UNSC. This opposition is against the front runners, Germany and Japan who are surpassed only by the US in the financial support they give to the UN – in effect each one of them contributes more then the total of the four remaining present permanent members, subtracting the US. What the Coffee Club does, besides Italy and Spain blocking Germany and Japan, seemingly for historic reasons of having also lost in WWII, but they also block the three front runners among the developing countries, those we like to call IBSA at (India, Brazil, South Africa) – with Spanish Latins objecting Brazil, Pakistan objecting India, and Egypt objecting anyone who is not an Arab. The Arab nations, because they comprise 12% of UN Member States, contend that this gives them the automatic right at a permanent seat at the UNSC. Now – that is a further example in the book of “machinations at the UN.” This is a clearly hopeless situation and the Coffee Club wins.

In 2001, Africa counted for 53 UN Member States, Asia for 50, Latin America and the Caribbean for 33, The “Western Europe and Others” group for 27, and the US, Estonia, Kiribati, Palau and Tuvalu not belonging to any group. The rotation for choosing the UNGA President is between the 5 groups and as a result there have been, including Dr. Ban, by 2001, 13 presidents from Asia. The President is supported by 21 Vice-Presidents, such as one from each one of the five Permanent members with one additional from Eastern Europe and two additional from Western Europe – with further 4 from Asia, 6 from Africa, and 3 from Latin America and the Caribbean. It is these Vice-Presidents that actually know the workings of the UN. Dr. Han is not shy to say that the outsider that was parachuted from his capital into the presidency chair, besides the fact that he is part-time only, in many cases he, or she as it lately happened, might not even know the UN, and has thus to “learn on the job.” Dr. Han arranged for meetings on May 16, 2002, chaired by Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdez of Chile, and including Ambassadors from France, Singapore, the Czech Republic, and South Africa, to look into how the UNGA can be “revitalized.” Brazil suggested to move the inauguration of a new UNGA President to January 1st – this so the new learning experience of the new President does not start at the busiest time of year at UNGA – the time of the meetings that include the high-level meetings. Another proposal would have started the year several month ahead of the year’s session so there is no need to change the official date of the take-over. The second alternative was agreed upon, and accordingly on July 8, 2002, the next incoming President, who happened to be Deputy Prime Minister Kaban of the Czech Republic, arrived in New York to start his learning experience for his Presidency of UNGA. This change at the UN is clearly an achievement that Dr. Han can be proud off.

At the book release /book signing event at the UN bookstore, Dr. Han was introduced by Mr. Kiyotaka Kiyo Akasaka and before the book signing event ended, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dropped in to congratulate Mr. Ban.

Further events that are memorable from the 2001- 2002 “Han Year” at the UNGA:

9/11, the day without an UNGA President, the opening of the 56th session, the delayed General Debate of November 2001, we mentioned already.

October 1, 2007, Mayor Giuliani speaks at the UN – this is the first time a New York City Mayor spoke at the UN.

October 8, 2007, while visiting with his wife and with Mr. Ban Ki-moon and his wife, the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, a touristic trip that is a must to any economist, he learned about the US attack on Afghanistan.

WTO at the Doha meeting approved the accession of China on November 11, 2001, and of Taiwan on November 12. Proof that China can be reasonable when it fits its interests.

December 10, 2001, the Nobel Prize for Peace is awarded in Oslo, in equal parts, to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and to the UN organization as a whole. Dr. Han represents the UN at the ceremonies but agrees that Mr. Annan be the only speaker-recipient at the event. The November-December bimonthly publication of the World Economic Forum – “Economic Link” – publishes their yearly “Dream Cabinet” and mentions Dr. Han, together with Secretary of State Colin Powell, as Foreign Ministers in the Dream Cabinet of the year.

January 29, 2002, President Bush makes the “axis of evil” speech that includes North Korea, Iran, Iraq and February 1 suggests talks with North Korea if the latter reduces its conventional weapons deployed around the demilitarized zone. Dr. Hahn is in the middle of things. He also re-engages Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.

January 31, 2002, The World Economic Forum of Davos, Switzerland, in solidarity with New York City, starts its yearly meeting in New York rather then Davos. February 1st there is a symposium on “Constructing Solidarity for a Stable World” at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Dr. Hahn is on the panel together with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Secretary-General of NATO, the EU High Representative for the common foreign and security policy, and the Foreign Ministers of Australia, France, and Turkey. (At we remember the event as we were there) Dr. Han talked about the UN activities following the September 11 attacks including the UNGA debate in which 167 countries spoke, the speech by Mayor Giuliani, the UNSC resolution “authorizing intervention in Afghanistan to punish the Taliban regime, which was aiding and refusing to turn over al-Qaeda terrorists,” and the general UN aggressive response to terrorism – referring also to the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded the UN. He obviously had to pass over the fact that the UNGA debate on “Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism” had to end with a “Presidential Statement” because of the objections put up by the Arab States.

March 21, 2002 the summit-level meeting Financing for Development at Monterrey, Mexico.

April 2002 Dr. Han makes his only official tour of Africa – Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Senegal. He saw a war ravaged Sierra Leone, and was present in Dakar, Senegal, at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) meeting with the leaders of 53 African States present. He saw the worst and what should become the best – but was told that the African’s were disappointed that UNSG Kofi Annan did not attend the NEPAD meeting. President Obasanjo of Nigeria wanted to know why does Africa attract so little investments, despite a high rate of return? Dr. Han was not politically affraid to comment on this question.

May 19-20, 2002 – The Independence Ceremonies of East Timor.

May 31, 2002 – The World Cup of soccer is co-hosted by Japan and the ROC. It is a first for cooperation and for Asia.

July 1, 2002 – The Rome statute of the International Criminal Court to deal with genocide and war crimes takes effect.

August 26, 2007 – the start of the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development (Environment and Development Summit) – that is 10 years since the 1992 UNCED in Rio de Janeiro.


two photos taken by Pincas Jawetz at the book-signing event, at the bookstore in the UN basement – October 2007.

The UnderSecretary-General for Information and Communication, Mr. Akasaka, announcing the previously unannounced drop-in of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moom at the book-signing event with Dr. Han Seung-soo.

Looking at the book is UN Spokesperson, Michelle Montas, from Haiti, and watching is the Korean member of the Spokesperson’s office.


Posted on on September 25th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

I am sitting on the 18th floor of the Renaissance Riverside Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), the former Riverside Hotel Sai Gon, reading about the 30-year War (1945-1975), described as a two-stage war of liberation by Vietnam, fought against the French, supported by the British and the Kuomintang – culminating with the expulsion of the French and the creation of a temporary North Vietnam (this part underlined by the Geneva Agreements of 1954, and then against the US and the South Vietnam forces (this part ending with the formation of the united Vietnam).

I am rather wondering – why did the US effectively displace the French and the British – after all Vietnam was not an oil rich country? OK, I know the US describes the Vietnam debacle in different terms – the US talks of a Cold War with the Soviets that got heated up in proxy wars – but really, how do the French feel about having left to the US their IndoChina colonies, and how do the British feel about having left to the US their Iraq oil posessions? I am intent of continuing reading the Vietnam account of their own place in 20th Century history. I took nevertheless leave from the book and went to read the e-mails.

Surprise – found the attached article about the US and Russia (the new version of the Soviets) reaching an agreement to save the polar bears who hold joint residency – in US and Russian territory. So, it is possible to bend rules of military-industrial economics and reach agreements that result in rather positive results. Could something like this be an example to what goes on in September 2007 in New York and Washington DC? Could the listeners to Schwarzenegger and Al Gore say someting to the powers in confrontation – if you did this for the bears – could we try to do something for other species also?

Polar Bears Shared by U.S., Russia to Be Managed Jointly
WASHINGTON, DC, September 24, 2007 (ENS) –
The United States and Russia have ratified a treaty for the long-term conservation of the population of the polar bears shared between the two countries. These are about 2,000 bears that inhabit the Alaska-Chukotka or Chukchi Sea between western Alaska and eastern Russia.
The treaty unifies American and Russian management programs that affect this shared population of bears and calls for the active involvement of Native people and their organizations in future management programs.
The treaty provides the framework for long-term joint efforts such as conservation of ecosystems and important habitats, harvest allocations based on sustainability, collection of biological information, and increased consultation and cooperation with state, local, and private interests.
Polar bear in the Chukchi Sea
(Photo courtesy U.S. State Department)

Today, habitat loss, illegal hunting, and the diminishing extent, thickness and seasonal persistence of sea ice pose the most serious threats to polar bears.
As a result of these concerns, the polar bear was proposed for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in January of this year. A decision on the proposed listing is scheduled to be announced in January 2008.
“This agreement is a testimony to years of cooperative conservation efforts among biologists and Native peoples from the United States and Russia,” said the Service’s Alaska Regional Director Tom Melius.
“It protects the ability of the Native people of both nations to continue their traditional ways of life, while helping ensure that healthy populations of one of the Earth’s most magnificent marine mammals will continue to wander the Arctic ice for generations to come,” said Melius.
Several joint research and management efforts between the United States and Russia have been successful in the past but until recently the United States and Russia have managed the shared Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population independently.
In recent years, Melius says, a sizable illegal harvest has occurred in Russia, despite a ban on hunting that has been in place since 1956.
In Alaska, subsistence hunting by Natives is allowed as long as this does not affect the sustainability of the polar bear population.
The Russian government is prepared to enact a decree which would legalize a sustainable harvest by Chukotka Natives. Each country would then have the right to one half of a jointly determined annual harvest limit.
Under the treaty, a sustainable harvest by Alaska and Chukotka Natives is allowed, but taking females with cubs or of cubs less than one year old is prohibited.
The treaty also prohibits the use of aircraft and large motorized vehicles in the taking of polar bears and enhances the conservation of specific habitats such as feeding, congregating, and denning areas.
On October 16, 2000, the U.S. and Russia signed the bilateral agreement on the conservation and management of the shared Chukchi/Bering Seas polar bear population. In July 2003, the Senate, through a unanimous vote, provided its advice and consent. Legislation to implement the treaty was passed during the 109th Congress and signed into law.
Melius says this new treaty enhances and fulfills the spirit and intent of the 1973 Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears among the United States, Russia, Norway, Denmark (for Greenland), and Canada.
Polar bears at low densities over vast areas of the Arctic. Current estimates of the world’s 19 separate populations range from 20,000 to 25,000 bears.


Posted on on May 29th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

HANOI, May 29, 2007, as per Reuters:   – “Vietnam said on Monday it had approved a plan with Brazil to produce ethanol fuel in Vietnam.”

Hanoi said in a government directive it had assigned Minister of Industry Hoang Trung Hai to sign an agreement with Brazil, the world’s top ethanol exporter, to share ethanol fuel technologies.
In Brazil, ethanol fuel, a biofuel alternative to gasoline, is produced from sugar cane.

Back 25 years ago, Brazil crisscrossed the world in an effort to get other countries to adopt its technology to produce biofuels. At the time this was an issue of fuel supplies and predicted increases in the price of oil. Some countries in Latin America listened and decided to diversify the agriculture by allowing also for the production of ethanol. Some experimental plants were built and the Organization of American States (OAS) had a hand in this. But outside Latin America and the Caribbean it was basically only South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), that for political reasons of those days, did indeed build ethanol distilleries. Pakistan and India did not make such moves; the Philippines looked into it, but no practical results – so now this announcement from Vietnam seems, may be, a sign of things to come.


Posted on on April 12th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

International Clean-Energy Partnership Adds 20th Member: Vietnam.

The Methane to Markets Partnership marked a major milestone this week as Vietnam
became its 20th country member. Methane to Markets is a public-private
partnership that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by promoting the
cost-effective, near-term recovery and use of methane, while providing clean
energy to markets around the world.

Vietnam joins a growing number of Asian countries that are actively
participating in Methane to Markets. In particular, Vietnam will bring into the
Partnership its interest and experience in reducing methane emissions from
livestock waste.

The Methane to Markets Partnership brings together the technical and
market expertise, financing and technology necessary to advance methane recovery
and use projects in four sectors: agriculture, coal mines, landfills, and oil
and gas systems. Member countries work in collaboration with the private sector,
multilateral development banks, and other governmental and non-governmental
organizations through the partnership’s project network.

With the addition of Vietnam to Methane to Markets, the Partnership now includes
countries that represent nearly 60 percent of the world’s human-caused methane

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is over twenty times more effective at trapping
heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. By 2015, Methane to Markets has the
potential to deliver annual reductions in methane emissions of up to 50 million
metric tons of carbon equivalent, which is roughly equal to the greenhouse gas
emissions from 50 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants.

More than 500 public- and private-sector organizations from around the world
have joined Methane to Markets through the Project Network.

In addition to Vietnam, Methane to Markets Partner countries include Argentina, Australia,
Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico,
Nigeria, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United

Information on the Methane to Markets Partnership:  


Posted on on March 24th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Tautona Times 22/3/07: “The 10 Best Places to Invest” – Botswana Stocks no. 7 in the world on return on investment.

The article says that the following comment was published online by “The Motley Fool” – which is marketed as “the world’s premier multimedia financial education company”. The list, itself, was prepared by Birinyi Associates “a stock market research and money management firm”.

The Motley Fool article by Tim Hanson is titled – “The 10 Best Places to Invest.”
If pressed, could you tell me the country that offered the best stock returns in 2006?

 What about any members of the top 10?
It’s harder than you probably think, because they’re not the countries you might expect.

You call that a bull market?

Investors rejoiced as the Dow crossed 12,500 in 2006, yet the Dow gained just 16% last year. While that’s an impressive number on the surface, it’s abysmal when compared with the rest of the world’s equities.

Without further ado, the top 10 performers:

Country                         Return*
1. Peru                                 168%
2. Venezuela                   156%
3. Vietnam                         145%
4. China                             121%
5. Russia                             92%
6. Costa Rica                   77%
7. Botswana                     74%
8. Croatia                         61%
9. Serbia & Montenegro   58%
10. Morocco                       57%

*Source: Birinyi Associates.

This list is incredible. Croatia? Botswana? Peru? We can learn a few things from this list. First, if you’re an American investor, it’s absolutely crucial to be invested abroad. The potential returns to be had overseas are too good to pass up. Second, the best returns often come from obscure places — not from the countries we read about every day in the papers. And finally, there is some risk involved in investing internationally. For example, with President Hugo Chavez leading a nationalization push right now, Venezuela isn’t exactly a friend to foreign investors.

But the main lesson here is old hat: To get the best returns, you need to be willing (and able) to look where other investors aren’t. That’s why the 10 best domestic stocks of the past 10 years were all small caps.


Posted on on March 23rd, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Our Website has received the following e-mail, and we are quite pleased. We are not in business, but we are happy to pass on information that can help business – we are even more happy if we can pass on information that helps policy.

The attached offer gets us to think about a new outlet for the various carbon financing schemes. Vietnam is a country with heavy air pollution. Part of this pollution is caused by burning the sugar cane bagasse in the fields. Finding a controlled use for the bagasse, even in the context of burning it as fuel, is a step in the right direction. Helping in this via the carbon financing system makes sense. But there is more to it. Why not make paper out of this bagasse – here you have a use that does not involve combustion at all. Cuba used to make paper this way in the 1980s, and perhaps does so even today. They had no wood, Vietnam could save trees. This is even an answer to some of the misgivings Mr. Yvo de Boer had when talking this week at the Press Briefing at the UN Headquarters about sugar cane ethanol.

So here is the e-mail as received by us March 23, 2007:

From:  sonphu at
Date: March 24, 2007 1:07:37 AM EDT
To:  PJ at


TEL:84-8-8982046 FAX 84-8-8980930


Posted on on March 14th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

“Brazil Calls for Ethanol Production by Others” reports Reuters, March 15, 2007, from Tokyo.

Ethanol must be produced by a number of countries if it is to be internationally accepted as a commodity, a development that Brazil hopes will be achieved, Brazil Agriculture Minister Luis Carlos Guedes Pintowas quoted as having said on March 14, 2007. “Brazil has absolutely no interest in monopolising the production of ethanol,” he said.

Guedes said it was important to establish a common standard for ethanol if the renewable fuel is to become an international commodity.

Brazil and the United States are the two largest producers of ethanol, accounting for about 70 percent of world output. Guedes told a news conference that Brazil was prepared to share its experience and technology on ethanol built over the years with countries around the globe including in Africa and Asia.

Brazil, a pioneer of sugarcane-based biofuels, exported 3.43 billion litres (3.4 million kl) of ethanol in 2006, up 350 percent from 2004. Its exports in 2005 totalled 2.59 billion litres.

Guedes said he had met officials in Japan from both the government and private sector, including Japan’s top trading firm Mitsubishi Corp. and third-ranked Itochu Corp., during his visit this week, which ends on Wednesday.

During his talks with Japanese government officials, he said, he suggested the joint establishment of an ethanol production base in Southeast Asia, such as in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia or Indonesia, although no decision had been made. Japan is trying to step up the use of biomass in motor fuels in line with a pledge by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last September.

Japan, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, lags behind many other parts of the world in that in Japan there are practically no users of ethanol-blended gasoline.

Brazil exports about 300 million litres of ethanol a year to Japan for industrial and other purposes, but not for fuel, Guedes said. He said Brazil did not have a target for ethanol exports to Japan.

“We have not received any request from Japan about how much it would like buy or by when,” Guedes said.

Japan’s oil distributors are allowed to sell gasoline blended with a maximum of 3 percent of biomass ethanol, called E3.

Guedes estimated Japan’s ethanol demand at 1.8 billion litres if E3 becomes firmly established in Japan, adding the amount would be well within Brazil’s export capability.
He said he understood that Japan wished to cover some of that demand through domestic production.

“I would like to say that Brazil will have no problems supplying the needed volume when a contract is signed with a Japanese firm,” Guedes said.


Is this Brazilian outing to Japan an effort to bypass the US tariff problems, but still work with an agreable US Administration that promisses not to compete in the global marketplace with US produced ethanol from corn? Brazil may have a free hand in promoting cheaper sugar-cane produced ethanol.