Matthew Russell Lee writes in relation to the election of the new one year President of the UN General Assembly – Vuk Jeremic’s party is now out of power in Belgrade and his political opponents at home divulge the unnoticed facts of how a UN election is won.
As Jeremic Accused by opponents in Serbia of “Bribes” To Be PGA, Witness Qatar, WEOG, Ban …
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, July 9, 2012 – Presidents of the UN General Assembly usually campaign for and stealthly gain the position with the unequivocal support of their government.
In the case of monarchies – Qatar and Bahrain – this of course was no problem. Nor for Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, or long-time Daniel Ortega ally Padre Miguel d’Escoto of Nicaragua.
But with Vuk Jeremic it is different. His Democratic Party is now out of power in Serbia, and opponents internal and external are leaking information about Jeremic’s campaign and prospective funding of his year atop of the General Assembly. (Click here for Inner City Press’ July 6 story.)
Now in Serbia it is alleged that part of the $2.4 million Sebian first allocation is for “bribery” to help Vuk gain the position. The irony here is that this is how UN elections are contested and won.
Witness the current Western European & Other Group race of Finland, Australia and Luxembourg for two Security Council seats. Finland gave out chocolates (and more, including trips to a mediation conference); Australia through a reception in the “Ambassadors’ River View” tent facing the East River; Luxembourg is working the field.
One might also compare it to what Qatar spent a year ago to beat Nepal for the Asia and Pacific Group nomination, or what Lithuania spent this year in unsuccessful opposition to Jeremic. Or even to what South Korea and Ban Ki-moon spent to win the Secretary General post.
But Vuk’s party is out of power, and the present mayor of Belgrade is gunning for him. How much will be spent on his office this coming year?
As noted, Inner City Press has reported on Switzerland paying for the housing of PGA Joseph Deiss (despite the oath nearly ubiquitous in the Organization to serve the UN and not one’s country), and has inquired into the fundraising of Srgjan Kerim (beyond the $1 million from his government.)
Now incoming PGA Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, whose election Inner City Press predicted with 97 votes (he got 99) is under some fire at home, for a reported $7 million request.
Jeremic’s rival in the Democratic Party (DS), Belgrade Mayor Dragan Dilas, has put the figure at $7.5 million and called it disgraceful. For now, it’s said that only $2.9 million have been approved, prior to the vote for PGA, but running only throw December.
In order to asses Jeremic’s reported estimate, Inner City Press asked the office of the current Qatari PGA:
“This is a press request to know the budget of the current President of the General Assembly for his year in office, both from UN and non-UN sources.
“To explain, there is now a controversy in the press in Serbia about the incoming president’s proposed budget from his country… in this context, and generally for UN transparency, I am asking you for the total PGA budget for his year, broken down as much as are willing to.”
The answer that came back so far did not have the number from Qatar, only from the UN:
“Dear Matthew, The Office of the PGA receives $250,000 for each presidency from the regular UN budget. This amount has been set in 1998 by Member States. The national government of the PGA may contribute to the funding of the operations and activities of the PGA/OPGA.
“There is also the Trust Fund established in support of the Office and used to cover the costs of PGA initiatives such as specific thematic debates. Member States can make voluntary contributions to this Fund – but during this session the Fund received no contributions.”
There is another wrinkle, raised to Inner City Press by another UN source: beyond the now-outdated $250,000, the UN pays for some of the PGA Office’s posts, and others are seconded by other countries. Still, it has become harder and harder for poor countries to be PGA: witness Nepal losing out to Qatar. Now there is Serbia. Inner City Press has reiterated its request for the actual Qatari number. Inner City Press promises to stay on the case.
Summer days in Vienna and life is fun – so former Vice Chancellor from the OEVP and Women’s Minister, Member of the Parliament, Ms. Maria Rauch-Kallat decided that time has come to change the National Anthem which in one of its lines says “Homeland of Great Sons” – what about daughters, she asked? Surely she was not the first to asks this, but always with so much else one has to worry about – nobody did stake out a position on this.
Ms. Rauch-Kallat persisted and her party managed to get the Parliament vote and these days an honored singer Ms. Ildiko Raimondi has sung three variations on this theme: “Homeland Great Daughters, Sons” or “Homeland Great Daughters and Sons” or “Great Daughters, Great Sons.” The verdict is that when Ms. Raimondi sings it is all great no matter what she says – so now the debate will continue after the people will listen to the U-tube presentations.
Why do we write about this?
Because this sort of public discussion makes people not notice that Austria has extended a friendly hand to some not so nice regimes – just so that there is some benefit for Austria in oil terms while some other European Nations or the US may shun doing so at this time – and that is one of our main interests as our readers know.
So what am I talking about?
First there was the issue of Mr. Rakhat Aliyev former Ambassador of Kazakhstan and former son in law of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nasarbajew. The accusation is that he was involved in the abduction, extortion, and the killing of two bank directors from Kazakhstan. This happened in 2008 but the bodies were found only May 2011. The families of those killed have an Austrian lawyer – Gabriel Lansky – and he asks how is it that Aliyev lived peacefully in Austria after his former father in law fired him. What are the personal problems between the two? Whom were the Austrians owing a favor In the meantime Aliyev moved out of reach to Malta – he says it is all fabricated against him.
Then exploded the Lithuanian problem that pits now all three former Soviet Baltic Republic against Austria. It all started with a KGB murderer – Michail Golovatov – against whom was an international hold order, passing through the Vienna airport. He was correctly arrested but the Austrians did not wait to get the details of the order against him translated into German from the original – presumably Lithuanian – and let him continue to Russia. Lithuania, fellow members in the EU, withdrew their Ambassador from Vienna – the other two Baltic EU members – Latvia and Estonia are following same protest – but Austria’s Foreign Minister who is also Minister for Inter-European Affairs insists that the border people dealt correctly by not waiting to see the documents. Was this so that Austria avoids a confrontation with Russia, like it avoided confrontation with Kazakhstan in the previous case.
Now comes a third case – a tour of two Sudanese Ministers - Ali Ahmed Karti, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Sudan and Yahia Hussain, State Minister for International Cooperation of the Republic of Sudan, that came to campaign for better relations with Austria after the split-of with South Sudan. The word oil was all over, and it is about the exports via Port Sudan. The problem that this was the wrong Sudan – it was the remaining North Sudan that has just lost to independence of South Sudan which has 60% of the oil and is much better advised to figure out its own pipeline to places like Djibouti, Mombasa, or some better located terminal in between. After all – South Sudan’s new allies will be to the East and West rather then to the North. Austria’s OEMV oil company will be in the running, like it is in relations with the States that were part of the former Soviet Union. Will Austria now run after the oil in complete disregard of who the partners are and what sort of behavior one can expect from them? Does Austria attribute importance to the concept of “Responsibility to Protect” – the all important R2P that asks States to act responsibly towards their own citizens?
To top all of this, an opposition leader Heinz-Christian Strache, a follower of Joerg Haider in the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOE) sends another party official, David Lasar, to meet right now with a son of Gaddafi – with whom and with Gaddafi’s oil-money, that party has long standing relationships. The argument was that they try to bring about peace – we ask for whom?
So, this is a little comment about weighty issues we see and do not like.
The EU is not so hot anymore and looks at working together with the new States formed from the Soviet Union. Turkey has completed its RESET and Foreign Minister Davutoglu feels free for a pay back to the EU for having been rejected by some EU members – this takes the form of blocking appointment of former Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik from the position of General Secretary of the OSCE.
Turkey must have figured it out that it neither has the chance nor is interested anymore in EU membership, unless, also viewing the changes in the Arab World it thinks that the Turkic States in Central Asia will accept a Turkish leadership.
Anyway, Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister, Mr. Michael Spindelegger of the OEVP party is fuming and one can be assured that all Austrian parties will back him on this. The 1.80 m Ms. Plassnik has the backing of the US, Canada, the UK and all other members of the Vienna based organization that is dedicated to the security and cooperation in Europe, and has a 56 State membership. It is said that when Turkish President Gull was in Vienna May 2nd 2011, it was agreed between him and the Austrian President that the two countries will not block each other in any way. That is now old water under the bridge, and the underlying assumption is that the Turkey of 2011 is not capable to get itself to agree to a woman head of this organization that has also military tasks to perform.
We wrote previously about the Turkish policy RESET and we feel that the process has now been completed in the eyes of the Turkish Administration. The Turkey of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is now a matter of the past and the example that Turkey is offering to the Arab Summer may be different from the one Kemalists were hoping for.
The remaining candidates for the OSCE position are Lamberto Zannier of Italy, Joao Soares of Portugal, and Ersin Ercin of Turkey. With the latest development taking out Portugal and Turkey from the running this leaves the Italian candidate and in this respect it was interesting that there were Turkish-Italian recent contacts in which Turkey informed Italy first of its decision to veto Ms. Plassnik. Lithuania holds now the OSCE Presidency.
Nick Hodge talks of resurgence of nuclear power.
Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Part of the “Energy and Capital” Weekend Edition.
He writes – I can’t start this Weekend Edition without mentioning one of the hottest investment videos of the year…
It’s about a 75-cent company making big waves in the nuclear industry — importing Korean reactors, selling nuclear desalination units, and more.
As it happens, nuclear is actually a very relevant topic this week, illustrating the fierce dichotomy of the current energy market.
In South America, Argentina was once a pioneer in the nuclear industry, opening the first plant there in 1974. But the country’s ambitious plans stalled — as did most — after the Chernobyl disaster.
Now, with a new generation of reactors ready for deployment worldwide, Argentina is once again turning to nuclear…
The country just finished a long-stalled third plant and will build two more by 2025, when it aims to get 15% of its power from nuclear.
Argentina will also resume domestic uranium mining and start a program to enrich it, making it only one of five countries that has access to soup-to-nuts nuclear energy production. So keep an eye out for plays from that area.
Even in Germany — home to the world’s largest solar market and third-largest wind market — nuclear is making a comeback.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition has agreed to extend the operating life of the country’s 17 nuclear plants by an average of 12 years.
It was good new for utilities, since they won’t have to spend capital to build new capacity. And the three largest in Germany — E.ON (XETRA: EOAN), RWE (XETRA: RWEA), and EnBW (XETRA: EBK) — were each up sharply on the news.
Opponents of the plan say it will take away from the country’s expansion of renewable energy…
But in a time of fiscal uncertainty, decisions boil down to cost. And right now, nuclear is still cheaper in Germany.
For a variety of analyst opinions on the matter, check out this report from Reuters.
Also in Europe, Lithuania has invited bids to build a nuclear plant to reduce its dependence on Russian energy imports. The contract is estimated at around $6 billion, and will be open to bidding from five shortlisted companies.
And the last nuclear news this week comes to us from Kuwait — a country I’ve already covered this week. OPEC’s fifth-biggest producer, it’s announced plans to build four nuclear reactors by 2022.
This should be viewed as another step Middle Eastern countries are taking to protect their dwindling oil reserves.
Saudi Arabia has already announced nuclear plans, and the UAE bought 4 of the very same reactors discussed in this video from the Koreans for $20 billion.
Further in Krakow – Hillary Clinton pointed out: “Every Fourth of July Americans affirm their belief that all human beings are created equal, that we are endowed by our creator with unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, as a community of democracies, let us make it our mission to secure those rights.”
Sat, 03 Jul 2010 18:29:32 -0500
“Civil Society: Supporting Democracy in the 21st Century,” at the Community of Democracies.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
July 3, 2010
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am delighted to be here with all of you. And I thank my friend, Foreign Minister Sikorski, for hosting us here in this absolutely magnificent setting, and for an excellent speech that so well summarized what the agenda for all of us who are members of the Community of Democracies should be.
The idea of bringing together free nations to strengthen democratic norms and institutions began as a joint venture between one of Radek’s predecessors and one of mine: Minister Geremek and Madeleine Albright. And they were visionaries 10 years ago. And it was initially a joint American-Polish enterprise. And I cannot think of a better place for us to mark this occasion than right here in Krakow. Thank you, Madeleine, and thanks to the memory of Minister Geremek.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think you heard from Foreign Minister Sikorski some of the reasons why Poland is an example of what democracies can accomplish. After four decades of privation, stagnation, and fear under Communism, freedom dawned. And it was not only the personal freedoms that people were once again able to claim for their own, but Poland’s per capital GDP today is nine times what it was in 1990. And in the middle of a deep, global recession, the Polish economy has continued to expand.
By any measure, Poland is stronger politically, as well. We all mourned with Poland in April when a plane crash claimed the lives of Poland’s president, the first lady, and many other national officials. It was one of the greatest single losses of leadership suffered by any country in modern history. But it is a tribute to Poland’s political evolution that, in the aftermath of that accident, the country’s institutions never faltered. And tomorrow polls will move forward with selecting a president through free and fair elections.
Now, I would argue that this progress was neither accidental nor inevitable. It came about through a generation of work to improve governance, grow the private sector, and strengthen civil society. These three essential elements of a free nation — representative government, a well-functioning market, and civil society — work like three legs of a stool. They lift and support nations as they reach for higher standards of progress and prosperity.
Now, I would be the first to admit that no democracy is perfect. In fact, our founders were smart enough to enshrine in our founding documents the idea that we had to keep moving toward a more perfect union. Because, after all, democracies rely on the wisdom and judgment of flawed human beings. But real democracies recognize the necessity of each side of that three-legged stool. And democracies that strengthen these three segments of society can deliver extraordinary results for their people.
Today I would like to focus on one leg of that stool: civil society. Now, markets and politics usually receive more attention. But civil society is every bit as important. And it undergirds both democratic governance and broad-based prosperity. Poland actually is a case study in how a vibrant civil society can produce progress. The heroes of the solidarity movement, people like Geremek and Lech Walesa and Adam Michnik, and millions of others laid the foundation for the Poland we see today. They knew that the Polish people desired and deserved more from their country. And they transformed that knowledge into one of history’s greatest movements for positive change.
Now, not every nation has a civil society movement on the scale of Solidarity. But most countries do have a collection of activists, organizations, congregations, writers, and reporters that work through peaceful means to encourage governments to do better, to do better by their own people. Not all of these organizations or individuals are equally effective, of course. And they do represent a broad range of opinions. And, having been both in an NGO and led NGOs and been in government, I know that it’s sometimes tough to deal with NGOs when you are in the government.
But it doesn’t matter whether the goal is better laws or lower crime or cleaner air or social justice or consumer protection or entrepreneurship and innovation, societies move forward when the citizens that make up these groups are empowered to transform common interests into common actions that serve the common good.
As we meet here on the eve of our American Fourth of July celebration, the day when we commemorate our independence, I want to say a word about why the issue of civil society is so important to Americans. Our independence was a product of our civil society. Our civil society was pre-political. And it was only through debate, discussion, and civic activism that the United States of America came into being. We were a people before we were a nation. And civil society not only helped create our nation, it helped sustain and power our nation into the future. It was representatives of civil society who were the first to recognize that the American colonies could not continue without democratic governance. And after we won our independence, it was activists who helped establish our democracy. And they quickly recognized that they were a part of a broader struggle for human rights, human dignity, human progress.
Civil society has played an essential role in identifying and eradicating the injustices that have, throughout our history, separated our nation from the principles on which it was founded. It was civil society, after all, that gave us the abolitionists who fought the evils of slavery, the suffragettes who campaigned for women’s rights, the freedom marchers who demanded racial equality, the unions that championed the rights of labor, the conservationists who worked to protect our planet and climate.
I did begin my professional life in civil society. The NGO I worked for, the Children’s Defense Fund, helped expand educational opportunities for poor children and children with disabilities, and tried to address the challenges faced by young people in prison.
Now, I would be the first to say that our work did not transform our nation or remake our government overnight. But when that kind of activism is multiplied across an entire country through the work of hundreds, even thousands of NGOs, it does produce real and lasting positive change. So a commitment to strengthening civil society has been one of my constants throughout my public career as First Lady, Senator, and now Secretary of State. I was able to work with Slovakian NGOs that stood up to and ultimately helped bring down an authoritarian government. I have seen civil society groups in India bring the benefits of economic empowerment to the most marginalized women in that society. I have watched in wonder as a small group of women activists in South Africa begin with nothing and went on to build a community of 50,000 homes.
President Obama shares this commitment. In his case, it led him to become a community organizer in Chicago. Both of us joined in the work of civil society because we believe that when citizens nudge leaders in the right direction, our country grows stronger. The greatness of the United States depends on our willingness to seek out and set right the areas where we fall short. For us and for every country, civil society is essential to political and economic progress. Even in the most challenging environments, civil society can help improve lives and empower citizens.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Now, it may seem to some of us like a very nice, but perhaps not essential presence to have just one woman from each country be here. But I can speak from personal experience that, just as civil society is essential to democracy, women are essential to civil society. And these women speak for so many who have never had a chance to have their voices heard.
So, along with well-functioning markets and responsible, accountable government, progress in the 21st century depends on the ability of individuals to coalesce around shared goals, and harness the power of their convictions. But when governments crack down on the right of citizens to work together, as they have throughout history, societies fall into stagnation and decay.
Over the last 6 years, 50 governments have issued new restrictions against NGOs, and the list of countries where civil society faces resistance is growing longer. In Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, physical violence directed against individual activists has been used to intimidate and silence entire sectors of civil society. Last year, Ethiopia imposed a series of strict new rules on NGOs. Very few groups have been able to re-register under this new framework, particularly organizations working on sensitive issues like human rights. The Middle East and North Africa are home to a diverse collection of civil society groups. But too many governments in the region still resort to intimidation, questionable legal practices, restrictions on NGO registration, efforts to silence bloggers.
In Central Asian countries, constitutions actually guarantee the right of association. But governments still place onerous restrictions on NGO activity, often through legislation or stringent registration requirements. Venezuela’s leaders have tried to silence independent voices that seek to hold that government accountable. In Russia, while we welcome President Medvedev’s statements in support of the rule of law, human rights activities and journalists have been targeted for assassination, and virtually none of these crimes have been solved.
And we continue to engage on civil society issues with China, where writer Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year prison sentence because he co-authored a document calling for respect for human rights and democratic reform. Too many governments are seeing civic activists as opponents, rather than partners. And as democracies, we must recognize that this trend is taking place against a broader backdrop.
In the 20th century, crackdowns against civil society frequently occurred under the guise of ideology. Since the demise of Communism, most crackdowns seem to be motivated instead by sheer power politics. But behind these actions, there is an idea, an alternative conception of how societies should be organized. And it is an idea that democracies must challenge. It is a belief that people are subservient to their government, rather than government being subservient to their people.
Now, this idea does not necessarily preclude citizens from forming groups that help their communities or promote their culture, or even support political causes. But it requires these private organizations to seek the state’s approval, and to serve the states and the states’ leaderships’ larger agenda.
Some weren’t engaged in political work at all. Some were not trying to change how their countries were governed. Most were simply getting help to people in need, like the Burmese activists imprisoned for organizing relief for victims of Cyclone Nargis. Some of them were exposing problems like corruption that their own governments claim they want to root out. Their offense was not just what they did, but the fact that they did it independently of their government. They were out doing what we would call good deeds, but doing them without permission. That refusal to allow people the chance to organize in support of a cause larger than themselves, but separate from the state, represents an assault on one of our fundamental democratic values.
The idea of pluralism is integral to our understanding of what it means to be a democracy. Democracies recognize that no one entity — no state, no political party, no leader — will ever have all the answers to the challenges we face. And, depending on their circumstances and traditions, people need the latitude to work toward and select their own solutions. Our democracies do not and should not look the same. Governments by the people, for the people, and of the people will look like the people they represent. But we all recognize the reality and importance of these differences. Pluralism flows from these differences. And because crackdowns on NGOs are a direct threat to pluralism, they also endanger democracy.
More than 60 years ago, Winston Churchill came to the United States to warn the world’s democracies of an iron curtain descending across Europe. Today, thankfully, thanks to some of you in this room, that iron curtain has fallen. But we must be wary of the steel vise in which many governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit.
Democracies don’t fear their own people. They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate, to remind those entrusted with governance that they derive their authority from the governed. Restrictions on these rights only demonstrate the fear of illegitimate rulers, the cowardice of those who deny their citizens the protections they deserve. An attack on civic activism and civil society is an attack on democracy.
Now, sometimes I think that the leaders who are engaging in these actions truly believe they are acting in the best interests of their country. But they begin to inflate their own political interests, the interests of that country, and they begin to believe that they must stay in office by any means necessary, because only they can protect their country from all manner of danger.
I ran a very hard race against President Obama. I tried with all my might to beat him. I was not successful. And when he won, much to my surprise, he asked me to join his Administration to serve as Secretary of State. Well, in many countries, I learned as I began traveling, that was a matter of great curiosity. How could I work with someone whom I had tried to deprive of the office that he currently holds? But the answer for both President Obama and I was very simple. We both love our country. Politics is an important part of the lifeblood of a democracy. But governing, changing people’s lives for the better, is the purpose one runs for office.
Second, the United Nations Human Rights Council needs to do more to protect civil society. Freedom of association is the only freedom defined in the United Nations declaration of human rights that does not enjoy specific attention from the UN human rights machinery. That must change.
Third, we will be working with regional and other organizations, such as the OAS, the EU, the OIC, the African Union, the Arab League, others, to do more to defend the freedom of association. Many of these groups are already committed to upholding democratic principles on paper. But we need to make sure words are matched by actions.
And, fourth, we should coordinate our diplomatic pressure. I know that the Community of Democracies working group is focused on developing a rapid response mechanism to address situations where freedom of association comes under attack. Well, that can’t happen soon enough. When NGOs come under threat, we should provide protection where we can, and amplify the voices of activists by meeting with them publicly at home and abroad, and citing their work in what we say and do. We can also provide technical training that will help activists make use of new technologies such as social networks. When possible, we should also work together to provide deserving organizations with financial support for their efforts.
As part of that commitment, today I am announcing the creation of a new fund to support the work of embattled NGOs. We hope this fund will be used to provide legal representation, communication technology such as cell phone and Internet access, and other forms of quick support to NGOs that are under siege. The United States will be contributing $2 million to this effort, and we welcome participation and contribution from like-minded countries, as well as private, not-for-profit organizations.
For the United States, supporting civil society groups is a critical part of our work to advance democracy. But it’s not the only part. Our national security strategy reaffirms that democratic values are a cornerstone of our foreign policy. Over time, as President Obama has said, America’s values have been our best national security asset. I emphasized this point in December and January, when I delivered speeches on human rights and Internet freedom. And it is a guiding principle in every meeting I hold and every country I visit.
My current trip is a good example. I have just come from Ukraine, where I had the opportunity not only to meet with the foreign minister and the president, but with a wonderful group of young, bright Ukrainian students, where I discussed the importance of media freedom, the importance of freedom of assembly, and of human rights. Tonight I will leave for Azerbaijan, where I will meet with youth activists to discuss Internet freedom, and to raise the issue of the two imprisoned bloggers, and to discuss civil liberties. From there I will go to Armenia and Georgia, where I will be similarly raising these issues, and sitting down with leaders from women’s groups and other NGOs. This is what we all have to do, day in and day out around the world.
So, let me return to that three-legged stool. Civil society is important for its own sake. But it also helps prop up and stabilize the other legs of the stool, governments and markets. Without the work of civic activists and pluralistic political discourse, governments grow brittle and may even topple. And without consumer advocates, unions, and social organizations that look out for the needs of societies’ weakest members, markets can run wild and fail to generate broad-based prosperity.
We see all three legs of the stool as vital to progress in the 21st century. So we will continue raising democracy and human rights issues at the highest levels in our contacts with foreign governments, and we will continue promoting economic openness and competition as a means of spreading broad-based prosperity and shoring up representative governments who know they have to deliver results for democracy.
But we also believe that the principles that bring us here together represent humanity’s brightest hope for a better future. As Foreign Minister Geremek wrote in his invitation to the inaugural meeting of the Community of Democracies 10 years ago, “Regardless of the problems inseparably associated with democracy, it is a system which best fulfills the aspirations of individuals, societies, and entire peoples, and most fully satisfies their needs of development, empowerment, and creativity.”
I think often about the role of journalists. Journalists are under tremendous pressure. But a journalist like Jerse Tarovich, a son of Krakow, asked tough questions that challenged Poland to do better. And Pope John Paul II, who, as Stalin would have noted, had no battalions, marshaled moral authority that was as strong as any army. We all have inherited that legacy of courage. It is now up to us.
Every Fourth of July Americans affirm their belief that all human beings are created equal, that we are endowed by our creator with unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, as a community of democracies, let us make it our mission to secure those rights. We owe it to our forebears, and we owe it to future generations to continue the fight for these ideals.
17 States of Europe, starting October 8, 2010, will be part of an ongoing Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers covering pollutants to air, soil and water, from industry, traffic, agriculture and other enterprises. Surprise – it requires also data on Green-house Gasses.
New pact to let European public track pollutants.
The 17 states that have ratified the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers are: Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. The European Commission is also a party.
GENEVA (Reuters) – Friday, July 2, 2010 – European citizens will be able to find out what dangerous substances are emitted in their neighborhoods under an environmental treaty to go into effect in 17 countries in October, the United Nations said on Friday.
Participating states will have to issue public inventories of major pollutants that their industries, traffic, agriculture and enterprises spew into the air, soil and water, including greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Some 86 categories of substances — ranging from mercury and other heavy metals, benzine, asbestos, pesticides including DDT, and dioxins — are covered under the pact.
“These inventories are made available to the public over the Internet and generally also through a downloadable map that helps people identify major pollutants that are traveling through their neighborhoods to discover what is in their backyard …,” Michael Stanley-Jones, an environmental expert at the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), told reporters.
“It doesn’t cover all chemicals, but it does cover the major releases of chemicals,” he said.
The pact, signed in 2003 by 36 countries, enters into force on October 8 after being ratified recently by a 17th country (France), according to the Geneva-based agency. It is open to all U.N. member states for ratification.
“It is truly a global instrument, part of a global movement initiated in the 1980s after the major accidents in Bhopal and Chernobyl,” said Stanley-Jones.
A catastrophic industrial accident in central India killed nearly 8,000 people in 1984 when tons of toxic gas leaked from a pesticide plant of Union Carbide, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co, the largest U.S. chemical maker.
The Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986, the world’s worst civil nuclear accident, sent radiation over most of Europe.
The protocol to the 2001 Aarhus Convention enables citizens to voice concern over pollution to industry or regulators.
“As the major greenhouse gas pollutants are included in the protocol, this will give decision-makers and the public powerful new tools for identifying the major industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions,” Stanley-Jones said.
“Major exceptions are for national security (facilities) and also the nuclear industry — radioactive substances are not covered by the protocol,” he said, noting that countries may add further substances and facilities to their national registers.
Countries outside of Europe, including Chile and Mexico, have developed their own registers and China’s industrial region of Shanghai is also drawing one up, according to the expert.
The 17 states that have ratified the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers are: Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. The European Commission is also a party.
The Passing Of A Witness To Nazi Barbarism: Relatives, friends and diplomats attended a memorial service in Tokyo on November 9, 2008 – by coincidence the date of the Kristallnacht – for Yukiko Sugihara, the widow of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who like Oscar Schindler, helped save thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution.
Monday, Nov. 10, 2208, Kyodo News.
Sugihara died of cardiac arrest on Oct. 8 at the age of 94.
“Yukiko has continued to stand as a heroic, brave woman, a true humanitarian, and a righteous person, whom the world should never forget,” Spielberg said in the letter.
He has praised Chiune as “Japan’s Schindler,” comparing his deeds to those of Oskar Schindler, the German factory owner in Poland who provided Jews with safe haven during World War II and was depicted in Spielberg’s film, “Schindler’s List.”
Chiune, who was the consul general in the then Lithuanian capital of Kaunas from 1938 to 1940, is known for rescuing 6,000 Jews from the Holocaust.
Kaunas was sandwiched between Germany and the Soviet Union. After German leader Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Nazi armies invaded Poland and Jewish refugees streamed into Lithuania.
Chiune repeatedly sought permission from the Japanese Foreign Ministry to issue visas for the fleeing Jews, but his request was turned down.
He then issued them with transit visas on his own initiative. Records show that the recipients traveled via Siberia and Japan to eventual safety in the United States and other destinations.
While The US GOP Plays at Presidential Games – Europe Faces A Chinese Economic Invasion (see Chinese Airline Hainan Attempting to Buy Brussels Charleroi Airport and Brussels Airlines) and Russia’s Troops Invasions of Georgia and The Ukraine (Try a New State of Crimea for the Russian Naval Base at Sevastopol); Travels by Oil’s Cheney Are Not The US Policy That Europe Is Waiting For. Why Not Try At This Time Also US Disengagement From Oil?
Chinese company wants to buy Brussels Airlines and its Airport.
But shareholders in Brussels Airlines believe the carrier is worth at least â‚¬200 million. Brussels Airlines is the heir to the bankrupt Sabena, with a 30 percent share having been taken over in 2006 by Richard Branson’s Virgin Express.
Hainan’s interest in Brussels Airlines is fortified by its bid for Charleroi airport, a low-cost hub 46 km south of the Belgian capital.
The newspaper draws a comparison with the aid offered by the Charleroi airport and the Walloon region to the Irish carrier Ryanair, aid deemed illegal by the European Commission in 2004.
La Libre Belgique reported that the contract involved some â‚¬400,000 being payed to Hainan for “marketing support” and â‚¬200,000 for language training for the pilots of the company. Only â‚¬900,000 were allocated to promoting the region in China, the newspaper says.
[Comment / Opinion on EUobserver] After Georgia: is Ukraine next?
EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - The war in Georgia began by exposing the security vacuum in the surrounding region. Now it has claimed its first collateral victim, after the fall of the Ukrainian government on 2 September.
The crisis has been brewing over the summer recess, but came to a head in late August after President Yushchenko’s administration accused Prime Minister Tymoshenko of trading her relative silence over Georgia for Russian support in a campaign to supplant him as president.
Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko – the 2004 Orange Revolution feels a long time ago (Photo: timoshenko.com.ua)
Many Ukrainians now hear domestic echoes of the lead-up to war in Georgia. Ukraine has its own potentially separatist region in Crimea, and the country’s Russian minority numbers some 8.3 million (the largest minority in Europe).
Russia is Stationing Its Black Sea Fleet in Crimea (now the Ukraine) Since 1783; It Has Also Other Claims On Ukraine Territory. What Stand Should The EU Take at Meetings September 5 and 9, 2008? Are They Ready to a Georgia-Type Situation When Backing The Ukraine? Was The UN Involved In Post-Independence Aid to Georgia’s Leaders? Has The UN Done For Once Under-the-Table Positive Backbone Strengthening Charity?
EU – save Ukraine from Russia, The European Foreign Policy Council (ECFR) NGO says.
Philippa Runner, from Brussels for the EUobserver, August 25, 2008.
The European Union should formally recognise Ukraine’s right to join the EU and offer it a “solidarity clause” to help prevent Russia from undermining Kiev’s pro-democratic government in the wake of the Georgia conflict, a European foreign affairs think-tank has said.
“The next focal point for security tensions – although not for war – might be Ukraine,” the European Foreign Policy Council (ECFR) warned in a flash report on Monday (25 August), urging Brussels to make a strong show of friendship with Ukraine at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on 5 September and the EU-Ukraine summit on 9 September.
Russian cruiser – the Black Sea fleet has been stationed in Crimea since 1783.
In the “mid-term,” the ECFR advised the EU to make a political declaration endorsing Ukraine’s EU perspective, draft a road-map for a visa-free travel deal, and help Ukraine to ready itself for NATO membership and the ejection of Russia’s Black Sea fleet from its old home in Crimea.
www.SustainabiliTank.info thinks this is a very raw idea – not even half backed. We have seen Sevastopol and neighboring towns and waters. They are filled with old and newer Russian warships and the people in the towns are mainly Russian. Talking of the people – also in the Eastern part of Ukraine most people are Russian transplants, they speak Russian and feel they want to be part of Russia. We said this many times – to save Ukraine from Russia, the solution is an amicable divorce – so the best the EU could do is to advise the Ukraine to go for their own good to a marriage/divorce councillor and promise them the EU membership if they agree to severance from some of the heavily Russian territories. Surely, the EU can say to the Russian Prime-Minister that moving in with force will be dealt with in economic terms, but we all know that if ,and when, these statements are put to test, the EU will not go to war because of the Ukraine. Further, in the Ukraine case there is not even an argument like we had for Ossetia, where we said that if one opts for independence – this should lead to an Ossetia State that includes both – South and North Ossetia. There is no similar condition in the case of The Ukraine.}
The ECFR study sees Russia’s assault on Georgia as part of a wider plan to rebuild the old Soviet sphere of influence, noting that some pro-Kremlin analysts such as Sergei Markov recently floated the idea of a Russia-led “East European Union,” which would mimic EU integration and include countries such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Russia-Ukraine tensions flared in recent weeks after Moscow accused Kiev of supplying arms to Georgia, and Kiev tried to limit Russia’s use of its Crimea-stationed warships against Georgia.
Inside Ukraine, pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko’s senior aide, Andriy Kyslynskiy, last week accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of striking a secret deal with the Kremlin in return for Russia’s support when she runs in the next Ukrainian presidential elections in 2010.
Mr Kyslynskiy also said political “interference” by pro-Kremlin elements in the Ukrainian establishment has reached levels unseen since the run-up to the 2004 Orange Revolution, adding that Russian intelligence is funding and steering Crimean separatist groups.
Some 60 percent of the 2 million people who live in Crimea are ethnically Russian, hundreds of thousands of whom secretly hold Russian passports, the ECFR says.
Crimea was historically Russian and has been home to the Black Sea fleet since 1783. It became part of Ukraine when Ukraine won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, with the Russian fleet set to leave by 2017 under a bilateral deal.
In the wider Ukraine, about 25 percent of the 50 million-strong population are Russophone, most of whom live in the east of the country and many of whom oppose Ukraine’s integration with NATO and the EU.
Warning shots already fired:
Georgian rebels in Abkhazia seek greater EU recognition.
Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia, on the Black Sea – is a once a popular holiday spot for Russian elite.
The Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia is keen to get EU recognition as an independent country, after the Russian parliament passed a resolution urging the Russian president to endorse Georgian rebels’ ambitions of statehood.
“We are not interested in only Russia recognising us,” Abkhaz deputy foreign minister, Maxim Gunjia, told EUobserver on Monday (25 August), adding that he expects Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to shortly back the pro-independence vote by Russian MPs.
“We want the European Union and all states to recognise our independence. This is a very positive moment for the EU – it could follow Russia’s example and also recognise Abkhazia. It is the only way to preserve stability and peace in the region.”
“We recognise that full recognition is a very big demand of Abkhazia for the EU at the moment,” Mr Gunja added, indicating that Abkhazia would also be interested in other ways of increasing its presence on the international stage.
“The EU could instead give a voice to Abkhazia in various European forums and institutions,” he said. “Only Georgia is invited to such forums while discussing the Caucasus, which is why the information the EU is receiving is biased, and why the conflict became possible.”
The lower house and the upper house of the Russian parliament on Monday both unanimously voted through a resolution urging Mr Medvedev to recognise Abkhazia and a second Georgian rebel territory, South Ossetia, as independent states.
The resolution has a largely symbolic value so far, as the legal decision resides solely with the Russian president, with some western experts doubting the Kremlin will follow through.
“The game is completely open, but it would be much more reasonable for Medvedev not to do so. If he doesn’t, he holds onto a very powerful bargaining chip with regards to the EU and US, and Georgia itself,” conflict prevention think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), analyst, Alain Deletroz, said.
“If he wants to turn a military victory into a diplomatic victory, he will not recognise [the rebel enclaves], because it will then become extremely difficult for the EU to keep an open dialogue with Moscow,” Mr Deletroz explained. “What Russia wanted was a division within NATO. If they go too far, they will only achieve the opposite – a unification within the alliance.”
The China angle:
“Even for the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation [the China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan security alliance], recognition would create problems. For the same reasons that China was not happy with the West’s recognition of Kosovo, Beijing would also not be happy with Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” the ICG expert added, pointing to China’s discomfort over its own separatist problems, such as Taiwan.
The European Commission was reluctant to issue any reaction to the Russian parliamentary vote ahead of next week’s extraordinary summit on EU-Russia relations, but the EU has repeatedly said it supports Georgia’s “territorial integrity.”
“The debate is ongoing in Russia, and we will not react as long as the debate is ongoing,” European Commission spokesperson, Ton Van Lierop, told reporters in Brussels.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Tbilisi in civil wars in the 1990s, setting up de facto states with their own mini-parliaments and paramilitary forces within Georgia’s internationally-recognised borders during a tense, 15-year long ceasefire that erupted into open conflict on 7 August.
Tbilisi has accused Russia of giving the rebels financial and political backing, as well as arms, in order to keep NATO and EU-aspirant Georgia divided. It also accuses the separatist and Russian forces of “ethnic cleansing” in pushing out the last remaining ethnic Georgians from the two territories during the recent war.
UNDP Releases Information on a UN Angle:
Please see - www.innercitypress.com/undp1georg…
It seems that Inner City Press came up with information, acknowledged by UNDP, that together with the George Soros Open Society International, and the Swedish Government, there was a very modest supplemental funding of Georgian officials, including the President, to make it possible for them to run a rather non-corrupt government in the National interest of Georgia, and perhaps also in the interest of the oil buyers of the West.
Above link leads to an article that starts:
UN’s Engagement with Saakashvili Included $1500 a Month, Soros and Sweden Also Paid.
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, August 25 — Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was paid $1500 a month by the UN Development Program earlier this decade, on top of his official presidential salary, UNDP has told Inner City Press. UNDP says the goals of these payments, in which the Swedish government and financier George Soros joined, were to allow the Georgian “government to recruit the staff it needed and also to help remove incentives for corruption.”
While receiving these $1500 monthly payment, Saakashvili committed to increase tax collection in Georgia. Deals were signed with , among others, British Petroleum, for the Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan oil pipeline. UNDP, and presumably its two co-funders, applauded this development.
This last article mentions also the old UNDP problem with having helped with injecting hard currency to North Korea that, as the claim goes, has helped them finance the acquisition of nuclear know-how. So, UNDP is a tool for covert actions and not just a victim of side effects in what they consider to be development work? In the tape attached to the article, Matthew Russell Lee points out at the unevenness of the way, North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe were dealt with, and surfaces the idea that the treatment is in relation to the interest of internal politics in the US. So back to our posting, how will the UN be used in the case of the Ukraine – which is rather more of an EU then a US problem?
This weekend, as expected, the TV was plastered with the Russians in Georgia and the Beijing Olympics.
President Bush and Secretary Condaleezza Rice said that Russia will not get away with this like it happened in Hungary.
On CNN, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the man with the Kosovo and Bosnia experience, said this was not Kosovo. The Russians were ready to stage this action already two years ago. It happened now because there was a Russian provocation and there has been indeed a real ethnic cleansing going on in Ossetia and in Abkhazia that caused many thousands of refugees pouring continuously into Georgia. The US says the number is 150,000 displaced people.
Holbrooke looks back into history and thinks of Budapest of 19956, Prag of 1966, Afghanistan of 1968 – so this is the invasion of Georgia that was executed in similar methodology.
Dmitry Simes, President of the Washington DC Nixon Center, and Rose Gottemoeller, Director of Carnegie, Moscow, agree to the above and say that the fact that this happened again at the time of the Olympics, just shows the Putin self confidence and that Putin does not worry that this will harm Russia’s Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014. That area is in fact just across the border from were fighting was going on now.
Governor Bill Richardson stressed that this is not time for high US talk, simply, “we have no leverage on Russia,” so we have to engage them and not isolate them. He knows the area, problems, has been there – all as part of his UN Ambassadorship.
Georgia was incorporated into Russia in 1801 and stayed under Russian rule for 190 years. They re-emerged as an independent state only in 1991. The Ossentians always considered themselves different from the Georgians – and also not similar to the Russians. The same goes for Abkhazia and Azaria as per Rick Stengel, editor of Time Magazine, who was this Sunday’s coordinator of the GPS program that is usually brought out by Fareed Zakaria.
So, can one ostracize Russia from world business? Will this bring about a renewal of the Cold War?
He does not think that Russia has become a revisionist State and that it is fighting for a larger Russia. His idea is that the area is specially complicated – something like the Balkans, and that there were many reasons to what went on.
Cold Friends, Wrapped in Mink and Medals.
By BILL KELLER
Writing in The Financial Times last week, Chrystia Freeland recalled Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay “The End of History?,” which trumpeted the definitive triumph of liberal democracy. The great nightmare tyrannies of last century — the Evil Empire, Red China — had been left behind by those inseparable twins, freedom and prosperity. Civilization had chosen, and it chose us.
Chrystia Freeland’s Article: The New Age of Authoritarianism www.ft.com August 12, 2008)
So much for that thesis. Surveying the Russian military rout of neighboring Georgia and the spectacle of China’s Olympics, Ms. Freeland, editor of The Financial Times’s American edition and a journalist who started her career covering Russia and Ukraine, proclaimed that a new Age of Authoritarianism was upon us.
If it is not yet an age, it is at least a season: Springtime for autocrats, and not just the minor-league monsters of Zimbabwe and the like, but the giant regimes that seemed so surely bound for the ash heap in 1989.
The Chinese have made their Olympics an exultant display of athletic prowess and global prestige without having to temper their impulse to suppress and control. From the dazzling locksteps of that opening ceremony, to the kowtowing international V.I.P.’s, to the carefully policed absence of protest, this was an Olympics largely free of democratic mess.
Individualism has been confined between lane markers. The pre-Olympics promises that attention would be paid to international norms of behavior went unredeemed. The New York Times’s Andrew Jacobs followed one citizen who decided to take up the government’s Olympic offer of designated protest zones for aggrieved parties who had filed the proper paperwork. Zhang Wei applied for the requisite license and was promptly arrested for “disturbing social order.” Take that, International Olympic Committee.
The striking thing about Russia’s subjugation of uppity Georgia was not the ease or audacity but the swagger of it. This was not just about a couple of obscure border enclaves, nor even, really, about Georgia. This was existential payback.
It turns out that if 1989 was an end — the end of the Wall, the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire, if not in fact the end of history — it was also a beginning.
It gave birth to a bitter resentment in the humiliated soul of Russia, and no one nursed the grudge so fiercely as Vladimir V. Putin. He watched the empire he had spied for disbanded. He endured the belittling lectures of a rich and self-righteous West. He watched the United States charm away his neighbors, invade his allies in Iraq, and, in his view, play God with the political map of Europe.
Mr. Putin is, in this sense of grievance, a man of his people, as visitors to the New York Times Web site can see in the sampling of breast-beating commentary from Russian bloggers. It is safe to assume that Mr. Putin’s already stratospheric popularity at home has grown to Phelpsian proportions, not least among the long-suffering military.
In China, 1989 was the year that a spark of liberal aspiration flickered on Tiananmen Square, and was decisively extinguished. That was another beginning, or at least a renewal: of Chinese resolve. In May of that year, in the midst of the Tiananmen euphoria, Mikhail S. Gorbachev visited Beijing, and two visions of a new communism stared each other in the face.
The protesters on the Chinese pavilion held banners welcoming Mr. Gorbachev as a champion of the greater freedom they sought. Meanwhile, the visiting Russian delegation marveled at the abundance in Chinese stores, the bounty of a policy that chose economic liberalization without political dissent.
The Chinese and Russians scorned each other’s neo-Communist models, but in some ways they have evolved toward one another. Both countries now tolerate a measure of entrepreneurship and social license, as long as neither threatens the dominion of the state. Both countries have calculated that you can buy a measure of domestic stability if you combine a little opportunity with an appeal to national pride. (The Chinese “street” felt no more sympathy for restive Tibetans than the Russian blogosphere felt for Georgia.) And both have discovered that if you are rich the world is less likely to get in your way.
President Bush was mocked from both sides for his seeming impotence. Neoconservatives were appalled by photos of President Bush sharing a laugh with Mr. Putin in Beijing while Russian armor gathered at the Georgian border. For a president who has made the export of democracy his signature doctrine, that looked to the stand-tough crowd like a “Pet Goat” moment.
Others argued that this was a crisis Mr. Bush tacitly encouraged by talking up Georgia’s rambunctious president as a friend and NATO candidate. By midweek, possibly goaded by the wailing of neoconservatives and the aggressively anti-Putin rhetoric of Senator John McCain, Mr. Bush had abruptly amped up his opprobrium and dispatched an American airlift of humanitarian aid. And by the weekend there was a cold war chill in the air.
But Mr. Bush’s predicament is not just his. The question of how to deal with these reinvigorated autocracies bedevils the Europeans and will surely rank high among the legacy issues that confound Mr. Bush’s successor.
This time it is not — or not yet — the threat of nuclear apocalypse that limits the West’s options toward our emboldened Eastern rivals. The Chinese, in fact, are acting as if they have gotten past the saber-rattling stage of emerging-power status; they lavish diplomacy on Taiwan and Japan, and deploy the might of capital instead. The Russians may be in a more adolescent, table-pounding stage of development, but Mr. Putin, too, prefers to work the economic levers, bullying with petroleum.
The United States, meanwhile, is mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, estranged from much of the world, and bled by serial economic crises.
History, it seems, is back, and not so obviously on our side.
Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, covered the last years of the Soviet Union for the newspaper.
The New Age of Authoritarianism.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, democracy was on the march and we declared the End of History. Nearly two decades later, a neo-imperialist Russia is at war with Georgia, Communist China is proudly hosting the Olympics, and we find that, instead, we have entered the Age of Authoritarianism.
It is worth recalling how different we thought the future would be in the immediate, happy aftermath of the end of the cold war. Remember Francis Fukuyama’s ringing assertion: “The triumph of the west, of the western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to western liberalism.”
Even in the heady days of 1989, that declaration of universal – and possibly eternal – ideological victory seemed a little hubristic to Professor Fukuyama’s many critics. Yet his essay made such an impact because it captured the scale, and the enormous benefits, of the change sweeping through the world. Not only was the stifling Soviet – which was really the Russian – suzerainty over central and eastern Europe and central Asia coming to an end but, even more importantly, the very idea of a one-party state, ruthlessly presiding over a centrally planned economy, seemed to be discredited, if not forever, then surely for our lifetimes.
That collapse brought freedom and prosperity to millions of people who had lived under Soviet rule. Moreover, the implosion of Soviet communism inspired hundreds of millions of others around the world to embrace freer markets and demand more responsive governments. The great global economic boom of the past 20 years, which has brought more people out of poverty more quickly than at any other time in human history, would not have been possible had the Soviet way of ordering the world not been discredited first.
Yet today, in much of the world, the spread of freedom is being checked by an authoritarian revanche. That shift has been most obvious in the petro-states, where oil is casting its usual curse. From Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, the black-gold bonanza has given authoritarian regimes the currency to buy off or to repress their subjects. In Russia, oil has fuelled an economic boom that prime minister Vladimir Putin, and some of his foreign admirers, mistakenly attribute to his careful demolition of the chaotic democracy of the 1990s.
For Russians, that argument is strengthened by the fact that the rising economic power of the moment – China – is unashamedly sticking to its faith in one-party rule. The end of the cold war made it tempting to believe that as countries opened up their markets, and became richer in the process, they would inevitably open up their societies, too. George W. Bush, US president, reiterated that hopeful thesis on his Asia tour last week, insisting: “Young people who grow up with the freedom to trade goods will ultimately demand the freedom to trade ideas.”
But the Chinese mandarins and the Russian siloviki are taking a different view – and acting on it. As China scholar David Shambaugh recounts in his new book, China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation , the CCP studied the collapse of Soviet communism with great care. And rather than seeing it as proof of the inevitable, global triumph of western liberalism, the Chinese comrades treated the Russian example as a textbook case of what a ruling Communist party ought not to do.
In this version of history, sinologist Andrew Nathan tells me, 1989 is also a turning point, but not because that was when communism’s most notorious wall came down. Instead, the key event of that year was the bloody suppression of protesters in Tiananmen Square: “As a propaganda position they have put it out that we had a crackdown in 1989 and we saved the party and we saved the country,” he says. “We didn’t have a failure of will like the Russians. Without that, we wouldn’t have been a great, modern power.” That’s a point of view Mr Putin has embraced, too, describing the collapse of the Soviet Union as a tragedy and his own reconstruction of a neo-authoritarian state as the only way to restore Russian “greatness”.
The west has been remarkably sanguine about this resurgence of authoritarianism, and one reason is that, this time, the comrades have money. Even as the Kremlin repeatedly confiscates the assets not just of its own businesspeople but of foreign ones, too, investment bankers, and plain old investors, are flocking to a Moscow flush with petro-roubles. The same is true of the Gulf states. China, on a path to become the world’s largest economy, is the most attractive of all.
But the Age of Authoritarianism is bad news for all of us, not just the human rights campaigners that businesspeople and practitioners of realpolitik love to dismiss. Like all overly rigid objects, authoritarian regimes conceal a tremendous fragility in their apparent strength – and their leaders know it. It is this realisation that has driven Mr Putin’s systematic destruction of all forms of civil society – an eminently pragmatic measure, although it has mystified some outside observers, who wonder why so popular a leader needs to be so heavy-handed. China’s chiefs have figured this out, too, hence their anxiety about everything from the Muslim Uighurs to the internet to the former Soviet Union’s “colour revolutions”.
Of course, another way to ensure popular support for your authoritarian regime is by playing up nationalist sentiment. We are more tolerant of our home-grown bullies if we think we need them to fight our enemies abroad – as even democratic America has demonstrated in recent years. Mr Putin has understood this all along, launching a brutal attack on Chechnya even before his coronation as president in 2000.
Russia’s expert taunting of the hotheads in Georgia, followed by immediate and massive retaliation the moment Tbilisi took the bait, is the latest evidence that, for the Kremlin, neo-imperialism is an essential bulwark of neo-authoritarianism. Bringing down the walls really did make the world safer. Now that so many leaders are building them back up again, figuring out how to contain the 21st century’s monied authoritarians is our most pressing foreign policy dilemma.
WORLD BANK DECLARES BOTSWANA IS LEADING AFRICA IN DEVELOPMENT. Only African Country on a list of positives that includes also – Slovenia, Chile, Estonia, Czech Rep, Latvia, Lithuania, and Costa Rica. ON POLITICAL STABILITY BOTSWANA SCORED HIGHER THEN ALL OF THE G8 and except Finland and Luxemburg, all of the EU, and most of Asia and Latin America.
From: Republic of Botswana (15/7/07): TAUTONA TIMES no 23 of 2007
July 16, 2007 – President’s Day in Botswana.
Today is the eve of President’s Day celebrations in Botswana. Like “Botswana Day”, which every year falls on the anniversary of our nation’s independence, President’s Day is an annual occasion for Batswana to reflect on the fruits of their political sovereignty. The creation of the State Presidency at the time of independence brought to an end a period of eighty-one year’s in which the British Crown had claimed and exercised sovereign rights over Botswana’s territory, much of which was thus demarcated as “Crownlands”.
During the colonial period, imperial sovereignty over Botswana was annually celebrated by the British administration as either “King’s” or “Queen’s” day, an Empire wide tradition that dated back to the time of Queen Victoria (“Mmamosadinyana”). Replacing Queen’s Day with President’s Day thus represented a break from foreign rule to self-rule.
From the President’s Statement:
14. Our government has championed citizen empowerment for the past 41 years, and we will continue enthusiastically to do so. A plethora of empowerment schemes exist and have existed as individual projects or as sectoral programmes in our development plans. Since they have not been isolated and highlighted in one document, some people, including members of the BDP have erroneously assumed that we do not have a policy on citizen empowerment.
15. The bottom line is that an enabling environment should exist, wherein all Batswana are empowered with requisite opportunities and skills to enable them to optimise their standard of living. Furthermore, it should be clarified, that most proponents of a stand alone citizen economic empowerment policy often refer to countries that have a preferential treatment policy for a specific segment of their society.
16. In most cases the segment that is being singled out for targeted empowerment tends to be a historically disadvantaged group, but in Botswana our empowerment efforts should and must focus on every single Motswana and not a specified segment of the population as we have all been previously disadvantaged.
17. The BDP Governments have over the years focused aggressively in resourcing the poor in our society. Not only has poverty dropped from 60% in our population in 1985/86 to 28% in 2002/03; a clear indication of our success in our poverty eradication efforts, but we have also very effective safety nets which ensure, that not one Motswana can perish because of hunger.
18. Our safety nets include schemes for the poor, the aged, remote area dwellers, orphans, the disabled and war veterans. As I speak, my government has allocated some P395m to drought relief projects for this year alone. This will provide part time employment for some 180, 000 Batswana the majority of whom would have depended on agriculture had the rains been good.
EMPOWERMENT IN EDUCATION AND LOCAL TRAINING PROGRAMMES
19. Education has been either heavily subsidized or totally free for all Batswana from primary to secondary education. All deserving Batswana continue to get substantial assistance for their education even at tertiary level. These subsidies on education are a targeted investment by the BDP government, intended to provide Batswana, with a springboard they could use to empower themselves.
20. The expansion of the University of Botswana; the planned Botswana International University of Science and Technology; and the Medical School and Training Hospital are recent examples of projects in education aimed at further empowering Batswana for employment and higher calibre job creation. Recently the Ministry of Education started to sponsor students at local private tertiary institutions for Diploma and Degree courses. Over 7000 are now so sponsored. This is empowerment.
21. Health care is virtually free in Botswana. Even expensive medications such as ARV’s are availed free of charge. The BDP government is cognisant of the relationship between an individual’s health and their overall ability to command an acceptable living standard.
22. For this reason, we have ensured, on a sustained basis, that our people have the best healthcare we are capable of providing as a nation. The evidence is overwhelming! Our commitment and determination to arrest the spread of HIV/AIDS is total and unshakable – hence the modest success we have registered in reducing the rate of infection.
40. Our ultimate objective is to achieve full employment for all our citizens as reflected in our Vision 2016 statement. As Democrats are aware, the rate of unemployment was around 10% in the early 1990′s. However, as a result of a combination of chronic droughts and the plateauing of minerals growth with a concomitant depression in the construction industry unemployment rose to 24% and it hovered around that level for many years, until recently, when we were able to reduce it to 17.6%.
41. The big projects which your government has initiated should force unemployment to go down further. I must express my concern though, about the rather lax attitude of some of our people. Many jobs in the agricultural sector remain unmanned for a long time because Batswana are not interested in working in that sector. This is regrettable. If we are to fight unemployment successfully we must become less choosy.
51. This is the penultimate congress before the next General Elections in 2009. This means by the time we get to the 2009 Congress it will be too late to fine tune or sharpen our thinking in various policy areas. This congress is, therefore, the most important opportunity to do so.
52. Our election preparedness starts right now with the preparations for “Bulela Ditswe” our primary elections. The Central Committee has appointed a Task Force, which in turn has sent teams around the country to clean up our membership registration hitches. This is very important, as it will determine that we have a clean, peaceful primary election, not adulterated by incomplete voters’ rolls and allegations of rigging.
53. Of course ultimately the business of any political party that wants to run the country is to win elections. It is for this reason that everything that we do must be aimed towards – the attainment of that objective – the 2009 elections. I shall never tire of reminding you, to channel all your energies towards making sure, that the BDP not only wins those elections but does so convincingly.
54. A scenario where we win the majority of seats but fail to command a comfortable majority in the popular vote is not a good one. Let us face it, it would undermine our mandate. Although in other countries it is not uncommon for a party to win elections sometimes with numbers as low as 30%, our opponents seem to think our 52% gives them some hope and even reason to celebrate.
55. I know we can legally and legitimately exercise a mandate even with less than half of the popular vote, but this we should never aim at. If all Batswana who were carrying our cards in 2004 had voted for their party, we would have won with more than 60% of the popular vote.
56. As for the opposition, we should remember, that they still present no alternative to ourselves, united or separately. This is why Batswana look to us as their only hope. Our policies, programmes and projects are well thought out. I still do not know what our opposition stands for. This situation is further compounded by the very public disunity that currently plagues the main opposition party, the BNF.
57. Anyone who thinks their recent special congress has healed their rift has got another surprise coming. To begin with, the one group did not even accept the results and we are receiving reports of a divided and disenchanted opposition membership around the country.
58. We should not, however, just sit here and celebrate their current state of disarray. We must work hard to exploit it to our benefit. We should graphically point out their current state of affairs.
59. This is why it is laughable for an organization like the BCP, which is not even running for state power, to lampoon Botswana’s democracy. Our democratic credentials are impeccable. They constitute the foundation of our political culture. And as such they do not belong to a single party but to all Batswana.
60. An entity that dissociates itself from this democratic culture runs the risk, of being driven into the political wilderness by our voters. I would not be surprised if the lonely member the BCP has in Parliament, who is there by dint of our generosity, went into extinction after 2009.
61. Madomi a Mantle, as I mentioned at the recent Women’s Wing Congress, the Constitution of our country, quite properly decrees that I retire by the 31st March 2008. I thank you most sincerely for the support that you have always given me during my tenure as Party leader. I have no doubt that you will extend similar support to my successor, His Honour the Vice President, Lt General Seretse Khama Ian Khama. I should enjoy my retirement immensely if you would do so.
62. In conclusion, let me wish you well in your Congress and encourage you to be level headed in your discussions if you are to come up with meaningful resolutions. May I also ask that we end our Congress in the spirit of love and mutual respect that must reflect our current theme: Unity and hard Work: Towards 2009 and beyond. Those elected and their supporters must, as they celebrate their success, do so with the utmost restraint and have consideration for the feelings of those who will have been less fortunate.
63. Much as I will spend as much time with you as I can, the immediate affairs of the country require that I, as is usual, leave you at some point to join the people of Goodhope on President’s Day. I join Batswana in different parts of the country every year for these celebrations at this time.
64. It is now my singular honour and privilege to declare this the 32nd National Congress of the Botswana Democratic Party officially open. TSHOLETSA! TSHOLETSA!
10/7/07 – from the World Bank Institute launches 2007 World Governance Indicators (WGI) Report:
With reference to the above, please find below [a] Statement by this Office, as well as [b] the full text of a media release received earlier this evening from the World Bank. The World Bank media release had been embargoed for forward transmission until 19hOO local time (CAT) (13h00 EST – Washington D.C.). Both statements’ can thus be understood as breaking news.
[a] “Botswana praised in latest World Governance Indicators Report
This Office is pleased to note that Botswana was once more been singled out for special praise by World Bank researchers in the context of today’s launch of the 2007 World Governance Indicators (WGI) Report, the full title of which is: “Governance Matters, 2007: Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996-2006″.
The launch was held at the World Bank Institute in Washington D.C.
In a statement released by the World Bank to coincide with the launch, Botswana has been singled out by researchers as being among a select group of developing countries that score higher on key dimensions of governance than a number of leading industrialized countries.
Botswana is the only African country to be so singled out in the statement. The other high achievers among those classified as “developing countries”, which are listed along with Botswana in the statement are Slovenia, Chile, Estonia, Uruguay, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, and Costa Rica.
The 2007 World Governance Indicators Report is said to represent a decade-long effort by a global network of researchers to build and update the most comprehensive cross-country set of governance indicators currently available to the public.
The latest indicators are further reported to cover a total of 212 countries and territories, drawing on 33 different data sources to capture the views of tens of thousands of survey respondents worldwide, as well as thousands of experts in the private, NGO, and public sectors.
This Office is also pleased to note that Botswana has performed well in all six of the Report’s identified components of good governance, which are:
1. Voice and Accountability – measuring the extent to which a country’s citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and a free media.
2. Political Stability and Absence of Violence – measuring perceptions of the likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including terrorism
3. Government Effectiveness – measuring the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies
4. Regulatory Quality – measuring the ability of the government to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development
5. Rule of Law – measuring the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence
6. Control of Corruption – measuring the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as “capture” of the state by elites and private interests.
The aggregate indicators as well as data from the underlying sources will be available at the website www.govindicators.org, which currently posts last’s year’s aggregate data.
According to the World Bank statement measuring various countries’ governance performance, and their improvements over time, is both a key item on the international governance agenda and a complex challenge, as governance has many dimensions, each with inherent measurement challenges. It goes on to state that the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project shows how this challenge can be met.
E2) 11/7/06: “Botswana a global leader in Political Stability”
The World Bank Institute report “Governance Matters, 2007: Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996-2006″, which was released yesterday, has ranked Botswana among the global leaders for Political Stability and the Absence of Violence.
With a score of 92.8% Botswana was ranked number 16 in the category out of the 212 countries and territories covered by the study, as well as number one in Africa. The score also placed Botswana above:
* all of the G8 nations, i.e. Canada (80.3), France (61.5), Germany (75.0), Italy (56.3), Japan (85.1), Russia (23.6), UK (61.1), and USA (57.7);
* all but 2 of the member states of the European Union, i.e. Finland (99.0), Luxemburg (99.5);
* all but 2 countries/territories in the Western Hemisphere, i.e. Aruba (95.7), St. Kitts & Nevis (94.2);
* all but 3 countries/territories in Asia, i.e. Bhutan (95.2), Brunei (93.3), and Singapore (94.7).
The 2007 World Governance Indicators Report is said to reflect a decade-long effort by a global network of researchers to build and update the most comprehensive cross-country set of governance indicators currently available to the public. Its composite indicators for 212 countries and territories have been drawn from 33 different data sources to capture the views of tens of thousands of survey respondents worldwide, as well as thousands of experts in the private, NGO, and public sectors.
Botswana scored exceptionally well for all six areas identified by the Report as being the key components of good governance. As labelled in the report itself, these are:
1) “Voice and Accountability” – measuring political, civil and human rights;
2) “Political Stability and Absence of Violence” – measuring the likelihood of violent threats to, or changes in, government, including terrorism;
3) “Government Effectiveness” – measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the quality of public service delivery;
4) “Regulatory Quality” – measuring the incidence of market-unfriendly policies;
5) “Rule of Law” – measuring the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, including judiciary independence, and the incidence of crime; and
6) “Control of Corruption” – measuring the abuse of public power for private gain, including petty and grand corruption and state capture by elites.
With a composite score for all of the above categories of 74 Botswana occupies first position in Africa, followed by Mauritius (72) Cape Verde (66), South Africa (65), Namibia (62) and Seychelles (55).
According to a now widely circulated news article, originally published in the New York Times, Africa has been portrayed “as a continent of great variety, with some countries making extraordinary progress over the past decade” in the latest World Bank Institute study “Governance Matters, 2007: Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996-2006″, which was released earlier this week in Washington D.C.
The article further cites the World Bank’s own descriptions of the study as providing strong evidence to contradict the notion of “Afro-pessimism”, while, moreover, establishing that wealthy, industrialized nations must also struggle with challenges of corruption and bad governance. In this respect the study is seen as a credible counter to negative media stereotypes of Africa as a whole as somehow being a continent that is uniquely mired in corruption, misrule and violence.
When combined, the World Bank Institute Report’s indicators place Botswana among the global leaders, as well as number one in Africa, for good governance. At the Report’s launch Botswana was thus singled out as being among an emerging group of developing countries that had scored higher on key dimensions of governance than many leading industrialized countries.
Described as the world’s most comprehensive database on governance issues, the Report incorporates composite indicators for a total of 212 countries and territories, which have been drawn from 33 different data sources. These are said to capture the views of tens of thousands of survey respondents worldwide, as well as thousands of experts in the private, NGO, and public sectors.
Botswana’s composite WGI score was 74, while Africa’s other top ten overall performers were, as ranked, were: Mauritius (72), Cape Verde (66), South Africa (65), Namibia (62), Ghana (55), Seychelles (55), Tunisia (53), Madagascar (48) and Lesotho (48).
In achieving its top score Botswana was also ranked well above the international norm, as well as in first, second or third position for Africa in each of the sub-category indexes for the six areas that were identified by the Report as being key components of good governance.
Botswana score and rank among Africa’s top ten for each of the six is reproduced below:
I. “Political Stability and Absence of Violence Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring the likelihood of violent threats to, or changes in, government, including terrorism:
Botswana (93), Seychelles (84), Mauritius (79), Cape Verde (79), Namibia (75), Mozambique (64), Benin (59), Zambia (57), Libya (55), and Ghana (55). (In this index Botswana was also ranked 16 out of the 212 countries and territories surveyed.)
II. “Voice and Accountability Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring political, civil and human rights:
Mauritius (75), Cape Verde (74), Botswana (67), South Africa (67), Benin (66), Namibia (61), Ghana (60), Mali (58), Lesotho (56), Seychelles (54).
III “Government Effectiveness Index”, which is a composite indicators measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the quality of public service delivery:
South Africa (77), Botswana (74), Mauritius (72), Tunisia (71), Cape Verde (62), Namibia (59), Ghana (57), Morocco (56), Seychelles (53), Madagascar (50).
IV. “Regulatory Quality Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring the incidence of market-unfriendly policies;
South Africa (70), Mauritius (67), Botswana (63), Tunisia (58), Namibia (57), Ghana (51), Morocco (48), Cape Verde (45), Madagascar (43), Senegal (42).
V. “Rule of Law Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, including judiciary independence, and the incidence of crime:
Mauritius (76), Botswana (67), Cape Verde (66), Tunisia (60), Namibia (57), South Africa (57), Seychelles (55), Morocco (53), Ghana (51), Lesotho (49).
VI. “Control of Corruption Index”, which is a composite of indicators measuring the abuse of public power for private gain, including petty and grand corruption and state capture by elites:
Botswana (78), Cape Verde (72), South Africa (71), Mauritius (66), Tunisia (62), Namibia (61), Seychelles (61), Lesotho (58), Morocco (57), Rwanda (56).
11/7/07: Report from VOA News www.voanews.com) – “Six African Countries Win High Marks in New Study of Religious Freedoms”
Six African countries – Botswana, Mali, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, and Kenya – rank among the world’s most tolerant societies in terms of religious freedoms. That’s according to the latest study by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. It measured the amount of government regulation, government favouritism toward a particular religion, and the amount of social pressures and constraints imposed by other faiths and organized groups in the country.
“Sub-Saharan Africa scores lower than western Europe and the North Atlantic countries, all of which tend to score pretty highly with ones, twos, or threes. It scores better than North Africa and West Asia (sometimes called the greater Middle East),” he says……”The study shows that religious freedom correlates very well with firstly economic freedom, and the development of markets. Secondly, it correlates with economic well-being, that income levels measure equality. It actually correlates even better than income with indexing, as measured in this context, by numbers of cell phones in use. And we have grounds to believe that we can actually show, in general, religious freedom helps development. This is true in Sub-Saharan Africa especially,” he says.
January 17, 2006 ECOSOC held the elections for its new President, and as per rotation among the so called five regional groups, it was the turn of the Eastern Europoean States Group, which is a historic remnant from the time that there was a USSR and an Eastern Europe group of satelites. The new ECOSOC President is His Excellency Dalius Cekoulis, the Ambassador from Lithuania, a member State of the EU.
That may actually be a fortunate outcome, because it could be expected that he will conference with the EU on matters of importance to us i.e. sustainable development.
Ambassador Cekulis has served in many European countries, at NATO, and since March 2006 he is at the UN, having been in 2006 also a Vice-chair of ECOSOC. Among his languages – English, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese.
In practical terms, this means an assessment of the advance towards the implementation of the MDGs.
Mark Turner, from the Financial Times, wanted to know what in effect will ECOSOC do that makes a difference to anybody? “Are you going to take decissions on anything we can understand?” And Abdelkader Abbadi wondered if this is not just too much evaluation and review rather then decision making. All of this leading to the old answer that the UN can only do what the governments let it do. It really can only establish subsidiary bodies and then rubber stamp what those bodies decide or do not decide. Now the task is to assess.
Other journalists were interested in the way ECOSOC accredits NGOs. We learned that as an Inter-Governmental Organization, it is for the governments to allow in the Non-Governmental organizations – which is exactly why there are so many accredited organizations that are not bona-fide NGOs, while so many true NGOs cannot make it in, because they are opposed by governments – just one more structural problem with the UN.
As ECOSOC was involved since its creation in development, a term that for a short while – let us say 1985 – 1995 was seen as to mean Sustainable Development, my own intent was to ask if there will be some interest in such ideas under his stewardship. I knew I was asking a tough question, and I got answers that proved the President was not shy to describe also here the structural difficulties with a stiltified organization.
The way the UN summarized the Q&A on the SustainabiliTank.info questions is as follows:
“Another journalist (that is Pincas Jawetz)asked whether the Council was ready to look into unsustainable development, global warming, how to slow climate change and energy systems that were incompatible with sustainable development?
Mr. ÄŒekuolis replied that the answer was “yes” but he would not speculate on the calendar (just remember please that the gentleman has only one year time, as per this week’s election, to achieve this).
Asked to clarify how the Council defined sustainable development, Mr. Seth said the United Nations Charter had enabled the organ to establish a host of subsidiary bodies, including the Commission on Sustainable Development, the defunct Human Rights Commission, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Statistical Commission, and the Commission on Population and Development. The Economic and Social Council must be seen in the light of a complete ‘architecture’ of subsidiary bodies, created to help it in the conduct of its work.
All those bodies reported to the Council, which then had the opportunity to look at those policy issues that had been examined by those more specialized bodies, he said. All the items mentioned were always part of the ECOSOC system, but the Council lacked the time to give them as much in-depth consideration as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, for example.”
Actually, the exchange was quite a bit more detailed, but as the UN does not provide a verbatim transcript except for the statements, press conferences, Q&A sessions, that involve the UNSG and his Spokesperson, I would have to work from the webcast, or the audio tape, to get the full extent of the exchanges. I may do this yet, but I do not think it would serve a purpose at this time. The present material suffices when I say that I do not see how the details of meetings held by the ECOSOC subsidiary bodies in Nairobi or Bonn will indeed have an impact at ECOSOC – and when the word “SUSTAINABLE” will be more then just an empty sound, and will rather be allowed by the August Governments to have actually a meaning. In the mean-time, let me say that this new President of ECOSOC may eventually try to sneak it in whenever he may see that there is a crack in the door. To the question about sustainable development, he went at length through the history of the concept, back to the Brundtland Commission of 1987, and the Rio Summit, concluding with the definition of sustainability as “Meeting Present Needs Without Sacrificing Future Generations.” Will he be able to lead ECOSOC to such a goal?
Department of Public Information â€¢ News and Media Division â€¢ New York
The major new functions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) included the Annual Ministerial Review, which would be a part of the high-level segment of its substantive session to be held in Geneva, Dalius ÄŒekuolis ( Lithuania), that organ’s new President said at Headquarters this afternoon.
At a press conference to outline the Council’s goals for 2007, he said the Review was an effort to strengthen the notion of accountability in delivering and implementing the many promises that had been made regarding development goals. The second new function was the biennial Development Cooperation Forum, which involved outreach to the many non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders with which the Council had close contacts. There was a need to improve in that area by involving the private sector and academia in its work and by coordinating the many actors engaged in the development agenda, particularly the Millennium Development Goals.
In the interesting and challenging year ahead, the Council would also be in close contact with the Peacebuilding Commission, he said, pointing out that 7 of that body’s 31 members were elected by the Council. It was important to maintain coherence since the Economic and Social Council complemented the Commission’s work by using its own positive experience of ad hoc working groups. A more traditional task was the Council’s annual meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Trade Organization. That important dialogue should be as frank as possible in order to generate fresh ideas, and even contradictory ones, so as to “keep both feet on the ground” while moving forward.
A correspondent asked whether the Committee on non-governmental organizations — a subsidiary body that accredits non-governmental organizations to the Council — would include people to carry out professional vetting of membership applications in place of the current politicized procedure.
Mr. ÄŒekuolis said that matter had been discussed during his tenure as a member of the Council’s Bureau over the past year. There had also been an extensive exchange of views on the subject during the Council’s substantive session in Geneva.
In a follow-up question, another journalist asked whether there had been any attempt to reform the standards for accrediting non-governmental organizations besides the Committee on non-governmental organizations.
Nikhil Seth, Director for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, who accompanied the President, said the 19-member intergovernmental Committee on non-governmental organizations vetted the accreditation process under rules established by the Council itself. Over the years it had made strides in speeding up its consideration of applications and was constantly examining ways to improve it. While it was a political body, and consideration of applications within the Committee itself was political in nature, it was an intergovernmental process and there was no active proposal either to abolish or change the process.
Asked how the Council would make a difference to anybody in the coming year, Mr. ÄŒekuolis said the Council’s new functions would enable it to coordinate the international community’s efforts with respect to the development agenda, particularly those concerning the Millennium Development Goals. The Council’s authority would be strengthened by its ministerial-level reviews that would soberly assess progress in implementation, see the gaps and recommend any adjustments needed. With the approach of the 2015 deadline for attainment of the Millennium Goals, the Council would provide a “podium” to gather results and recommendations, making the way forward easier.
Questioned about the Council’s links with the World Summit on the Information Society, the President said that was one of the issues on the agenda for the resumed organizational session, which contained much about ways to continue the Tunis process.
[The first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society was held in Geneva in December 2003 and Tunis hosted the second phase in November 2005.]
Asked whether holding the presidency was worth his country’s sacrificing its candidacy for Security Council membership, Mr. ÄŒekuolis said Lithuania had not sacrificed any ambitions. It had an obligation to take up the European Union presidency in 2013 and would also be a candidate for the General Assembly presidency when the Eastern European Group’s turn next came around.
When would the Council actually take action to implement the development agenda, another correspondent asked, noting that there was too much evaluation, coordination and review.
Conceding that there were too many overlapping processes, the President said the Council would try to inspire Governments. Success would only be achieved through political will on the part of Member States.
Another journalist asked whether the Council was ready to look into unsustainable development, global warming, how to slow climate change and energy systems that were incompatible with sustainable development.
Mr. ÄŒekuolis replied that the answer was “yes” but he would not speculate on the calendar.
Asked to clarify how the Council defined sustainable development, Mr. Seth said the United Nations Charter had enabled the organ to establish a host of subsidiary bodies, including the Commission on Sustainable Development, the defunct Human Rights Commission, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Statistical Commission, and the Commission on Population and Development. The Economic and Social Council must be seen in the light of a complete “architecture” of subsidiary bodies created to help it in the conduct of its work.
All those bodies reported to the Council, which then had the opportunity to look at those policy issues that had been examined by those more specialized bodies, he said. All the items mentioned were always part of the ECOSOC system, but the Council lacked the time to give them as much in-depth consideration as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, for example.
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