12/17/2008 - 3:26pm
Posted by Drew Asson
Tom Perriello won in a ridiculously tight race in Virginia's 5th Congressional District. Long thought a hard seat to win from incumbent Virgil Goode, Perriello succeeded with a razor thin margin. You may remember Goode as the Congressman who railed against Muslims in general and Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05) in particular in 2006 and 2007. His vitriol alienated voters across the country who sought a new way in the 2008 elections. Looking solely at Global Solutions issues, Goode received two F's and two D-'s over the last four years. Not the kind of Representative we'd like to see.
On the other hand, Tom Perriello could be our poster child for an ideal challenger. He fully supports our issues, including funding the UN, addressing climate change, working with the ICC, supporting UNEPS and opposing new nuclear weapons. His background is ideal, having worked in Sierra Leone with child soldiers, pro-democracy groups, and aided in the post-civil war peace and reconciliation process. He also served as special advisor and spokesman for the prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Perriello pulled together an amazing campaign with volunteers throughout the district and strong fundraising. Global Solutions had backed candidates in this district in the past two election cycles, but our candidates hadn't come close to beating Goode. This time around, a great globally-minded candidate who we backed from the beginning, took on an anti-internationalist Goliath and won. We're looking forward to working with Rep.-elect Perriello.
12/08/2008 - 9:07am
Posted by Drew Asson
In 2006, just like Eric Massa in upstate New York, Mary Jo Kilroy lost a tight race in Ohio's 15th District. Her race in the Columbus suburbs wasn't decided until mid-December of that year. This time around, she got her victory. The race wasn't a rematch since her 2006 opponent has retired. But, she battled state Senator Steve Stivers in a contest that stretched long past Election Day. It was worth the wait. Congresswoman-elect Kilroy will be joining the incoming freshmen class of the 111th Congress.
Steve Stivers wouldn't answer our candidate questionnaire, but from his campaign site, it appeared he wasn't interested in our global solutions. Kilroy, on the other hand, filled out both our '06 and '08 questionnaires. She wants to tackle climate change, opposes torture, supports the Geneva Conventions, opposes developing new nuclear weapons and offered to cosponsor a UNEPS resolution, if it is introduced in the 111th Congress. We look forward to working with Rep.-elect Kilroy next year.
12/06/2008 - 8:05am
Posted by Don Kraus
I just participated in 2 back-to-back Obama transition team meetings with Eric Schwartz. Eric is in charge of the US/UN transition team and also handles multilateral issues for the National Security Policy team, which is why the transition asked him to meet with us.
The first meeting was with a delegation from the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping (PEP) and the next was with members of the Washington Working Group on the International Criminal Court. (WICC is a coordinating group of the Washington based organizations committed to ICC). Citizens for Global Solutions play a lead role in both of these coalitions.
Meetings with transition team members are opportunities to share priorities with the incoming administration. They are "listening" sessions for the transition team members. Eric was a great listener, extremely well versed in the issues we discussed and generous with his time.
Our object was to give the incoming administration pragmatic objectives that could be accomplished during a 4 year term on our issues. While there was a good deal of consensus on these goals between the very high level organizations which participated, I am only sharing these as priorities for Citizens for Global Solutions and will let others speak for themselves.
For the PEP briefing 7 priorities were discussed:
For the WICC meeting we shared 3 priorities:
While these are not CGS's only priorities, they are the ones that we had the most agreement on within these working groups.
Again, Eric was in listening mode and indicated repeatedly that he could not speak for the President-elect. But my takeaway from these meeting is simple - I'm more optimistic now about the Obama administration accomplishing some very positive changes in how the US operates within the U.N. and with other nations. And whatever the outcome on our specific priorities, I'm very confident our issues will be effectively communicated to policy-makers at the highest level -- because Eric not only understood the issues as well as anyone around the table, but made clear he appreciated the values that inform our work in these critical areas.
12/04/2008 - 9:06am
Posted by admin
By Daniel Turner
The earlier post by Lenka Andrysova draws attention to the Nov 15 Summit about the financial crisis. While the communique issued by the summiteers sketches out useful ideas about regulating global financial institutions and reforming existing institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, the position they took on world trade, regrettably, represents an ostrich-like "hear no evil; see no evil" stance.
Fortunately there are saner voices, and the nascent Obama administration - with its rumblings about rewarding those who create jobs and penalizing those who outsource them - has been listening. Regrettably, however, tax policies and domestic incentives are not going to correct our 7% of GDP current account deficit any time soon. The hollowing out of the US economy has been going on for too long, and is largely irreversible because our foreign trading partners now have the latest technology, supply networks that we have irretrievably lost, and labor costs that we can't compete with. Stronger medicine is needed.
Fortunately for us, the rest of the world is equally interested in curing this crisis, and other countries may not so dogmatically opposed to the obvious medicine. The massive damage done to traditional farmers in developing economies, hurt by the world market for industrialized agricultural commodities is perhaps the most obvious example of why they are not. Now that the crisis has hit, widespread criticism of "free trade" seems likely to turn to protective action by the countries that are getting hurt (a list that certainly includes the US, despite brave words from diehard free-traders).
In addition to the WTO and NAFTA, which are household words, there are many hundreds of "free-trade" agreements worldwide; bilateral, multilateral, regional, in every shape and size. Despite hype to the contrary, all these agreements primarily serve the interests of those who push them. Free trade has worked well for our big corporations; and politicians who heed their lobbying could blithely ignore the effects of outsourcing on the American middle class because up until the recent crash there was a plentiful supply of credit to offset wage stagnation.
The US has become a credit junkie nation and continues to be dependent on foreigners to buy derivatives of our credit bubble. To stabilize the tottering bubble the new administration will have to figure out a way to strengthen the fundamentals of the US economy so those housing and credit card derivatives have real wage income to support them. But how is that going to work when our free trading partners can undercut us in low tech and high tech jobs alike, whether in goods or services?
The whole world needs a take a new look at this problem. It's a global problem that needs a global solution. What we need is a multinational treaty for rational trade tariffs to replace NAFTA, the WTO and all other trade treaties we are involved with. It's too complex a problem to solve either by negotiation or by linear algebra. The solution that occurs to me would be a global "flexible trade" treaty, which would require participating nations to engage in an annual ritual of simultaneous tariff adjustments, illustratively consisting of this process:
The procedure outlined above would allow for flexibility in line with national priorities, but would also impose the discipline of global optimization. It would also allow for change over time, as nations adjust their protection-priorities in line with actual economic progress. This annual ritual would deliver help where help is needed, and do it quickly, so long as a critical mass of nations can be persuaded to participate.
Daniel Turner, the author of this blog piece, is a former economic consultant and an occasional attender at meetings of the Philadelphia chapter of CGS.
12/02/2008 - 1:02pm
Posted by Simone Pereira
What happens when extreme religious fervor mixes with entrenched communal beliefs in black magic? - Innocent children are stigmatized for bringing misery to the community. This is not a new phenomenon. For years, villagers in Nigeria's rural communities have attributed their woes and problems to the sorcery of their children. Once branded as "witch children," these youngsters, ranging from as young as five years to older teens, are accused of being possessed and bringing misery to their families. So central is this practice to the community that the parents are often the ones who identify and comply with the preacher's verdict. Once an accusation is made by the preacher, the branding follows the child throughout life unless he/she has been successfully "exorcised." Such "exorcisms" are usually a thin veil for the abuse and torture of the child. Seventeen year old Uma Eke is a perfect example of the cruel torture such children are subjected to. As one of the accused, she had a 3-inch nail driven through her skull in an attempt to force out a confession. She is now brain dead.
In addition to subjecting the child to physical and emotional abuse, preachers also often charge exorbitant rates for a single exorcism - usually 400,000 Naira ($300); and if the parents are unable to cover the costs, the child is held captive until an exchange of funds is completed. In the mean time, the child is chained and starved, and eventually they themselves come to believe that they are possessed.
It is highly disturbing and unsettling that such a practice is still carried out, especially on the youngest members of society. Explanations for the practice usually stem from the Christian belief that people are possessed, and hence commit evil acts. But there is nothing "Christian" about torturing an innocent child, scamming a family, and ruining all these lives in the bargain. These communities must be educated about their practices, and the children must be provided with a safe haven. Recently the UK's Channel 4 broadcast a documentary on the practice in Nigeria, and followed activist Gary Foxcroft in his mission to save these children. Foxcroft's charity provides aid and relief to some of these children, and in addition he has strongly lobbied the local governors for attention and help. Although he has made some progress, it is slow and tedious, and much more needs to be done by the wider international community.
12/02/2008 - 10:57am
Posted by Lenka Andrysova
While diplomats do not save praise for the G20 summit, economists are complaining. Journalists and reporters lamented over the fruitless discussion on the November 15th meeting of presidents and prime ministers in Washington, too. Interestingly, BBC, the New York Times, and the International Herald Tribune labeled the outcomes of the G20 summit as "a plain-vanilla stuff ," a term coined by Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. He declared that the national leaders could have agreed on such tepid conclusions without holding a meeting. Diplomats left the American capital city more than satisfied, though.
While creating concrete concepts of the reform of Bretton Woods institutions and better regulation of the credit ratings agencies, conservative economists could have hardly appreciated the final communiqu??. They might have been blinded by soaring costs of the several-dish dinner in the White House, luxurious accommodation in the five star hotels and long escorts accompanying the most powerful people in the world. Practical economists, calling this summit Bretton Woods 2, expected nearly miraculous outcomes from the day-long meeting. Compared to three weeks long original Bretton Woods conference in July 1944, the contemporary world leadership could not, logically, manage to fix old the financial problems in a few hours on the weekend.
Economists anticipated coordinated tax and interest rate cuts and detailed plans of reconstruction of global financial architecture. Having read the communiqu?? from November 15, one of those ambitious frustrated economists said, "what's new, except that this is the G-20 instead of the G-7?" Irritated at first sight by diplomatic lip service and vaguely formulated principles, he perhaps assumed that G20 presidents and prime ministers would come up with great new ideas about financial regulation. That is to say, heads of states do not figure out anything original since many discussions of pundits have already done so. Additionally, statesmen have various professions and not everybody has an economic or financial background. Angela Merkel has a degree in physics, Gordon Brown in history and Hu Jintao is a hydraulic engineer. Leaders of countries, as people with general overview, usually just direct trends of mainstream development. Therefore, the aim of this summit had to be modest; namely, to agree a work program for reform of the global financial system. And this was actually done. Statesmen worked out a relatively detailed plan for financial reform with short, medium, and long-term goals. Although presidents didn't suggest a distinguished brand-new reconstruction schedule of the world finance market, it is important that principles, which are not, unfortunately, taken for granted, were confirmed and concrete plans set. The Washington summit could be perceived as pre-negotiations similar to proposals for the creation of new international financial institutions in the early 1940s led by the United States and Great Britain before the prominent Bretton Woods conference started.
Whatever disappointed economists argue, the G20 summit makes a difference. Instead of solving financial issues within small collegiums of rich influential nations, they desire to delegate decision-making about financial regulation to larger forums, such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, forums of 185 countries (out of 195 countries in the entire world), no matter how developed they are. In spite of the underrepresetation of poor countries at the summit, the third world was not neglected (maybe thanks to presence of Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank). The heads of the most powerful nations, which usually tend to decide within the G8, agreed on international cooperation with all countries and confirmed the Millennium Goals, promising cutting down poverty by 50% by 2015, and pledged to finish the Doha round of world trade talks by the end of the year. What is more, G20 members pointed out that the Bretton Woods Institutions must undergo comprehensive reforms reflecting changing economic weights in the world economy, which means giving a greater field to emerging and developing economies. As Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva , put it "the G8 doesn't have any more reason to exist...the emerging economies have to be taken into consideration in today's globalized worldΓÇª Both the IMF and the World Bank should open themselves to bigger participation of developing economies."
The Washington summit made progress also in specifying how the financial markets should be regulated. All G-20 members committed to undertake a Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) report to make their regulatory systems transparent. Due to the Washington Summit, we can expect common regulation of credit ratings agencies, which are blamed for the global financial breakdown. G20 leaders also demand obligatory official registration of such agencies. Angela Merkel , German Chancellor, claimed: "I think we took important steps toward global economic order, toward global regulation of business and global market oversight... I am therefore extraordinarily satisfied with the conclusion of the meeting."
Despite current American lame-duck government and difficult transition period, the decision-makers from the G20 succeeded in taking steps towards more secure financial market. Interestingly, although many positives could have been identified, the press was inclined to believe gloomy interpretations of conservative opinion makers and economists. This, together with the fact that the attention to the first high level summit of the G20 faded immediately after the heads of states actually met causes that the Washington summit disappears among many other "unimportant" conferences. However, this meeting was just a beginning. A group of decision-makers will gather together again by April 30, 2009. Since Barack Obama will be in the White House, the summit may set more ambitious aims, last longer and perhaps turn into the real Bretton Woods 2.
12/01/2008 - 2:05pm
Posted by Don Kraus
President-elect Obama's announcement of Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador is welcomed news. Even more welcome is the re-elevation of the U.N. Ambassador to a cabinet level position, as it was in the Clinton administration. This is a clear signal that the Obama administration intends to seriously engage with the United Nations. Rice, who is knowledgeable and passionate about Darfur and other conflicts, will be a strong advocate for assertive U.S. multilateral engagement.
During today's annoucement Obama stressed that Rice will send a "message that our commitment to multilateral action must be coupled with a commitment to reform. We need the UN to be more effective as a venue for collective action -- against terror and proliferation; climate change and genocide; poverty and disease." I believe she will be able to, in a postive way, get this job done. Its the task of the decade.
There have been many positive statements about the appointment made today, but I particularly appreciated U.N. Foundation president Tim Wirth's:
Clearly, Citizens for Global Solutions will support Susan Rice's appointment and urges a speedy confirmation to enable her to begin her task of forging effective solutions at the U.N. for today's global concerns.
418 7th Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-2796
Phone: (202) 546-3950 Fax: (202) 546-3749