04/30/2009 - 10:08am
Posted by Don Kraus
The Council on Foreign Relations just released a report, The National Interest and the Law of the Sea, written by Scott Borgerson calling for Senate approval of the Law of the Sea convention. The report is a well written and detailed document that methodically examines the treaty and the pros and cons of ratification. Borgerson comes down strongly on the side of ratification for many reasons. He says that the treaty will:
"Enhance U.S. global credibility -- by matching action to rhetoric regarding the rule of law. Joining this particular convention sends a powerful signal of commitment to this principle. The undeniable semantic message of the title "Law of the Sea" and the practical effect of officially becoming party to a legal regime over the vast expanse of the world's oceans combine to reinforce the strength of this signal."
Borgenson makes a strong case why joining the treaty now is strongly in the national intererest:
"Why is it imperative for the United States to join the convention? Why now? To fail to join the convention this year would be to lose a unique opportunity. The United States is experiencing a conjunction of circumstances that includes the "fresh start" effect of a new administration, the ascendance of two national security strategies founded on conflict prevention and partnership building, and a community of nations eager for renewed American multilateralism. By joining the convention now, the United States gains legal protection; for its sovereignty; sovereign rights and jurisdiction in offshore zones, the freedom of maneuver and action for its military forces; and protection for economic, environmental, and marine research interests at sea while seizing an opportunity to restore the mantle of international leadership on, over, and under nearly three-quarters of the earth. It is a bipartisan agenda, and one in the strategic interests of the United States."
During the reports release at the Council, Senator Kerry is reported to have said that the Law of the Sea could come up as early as June. Citizens for Global Solutions members have been working on this treaty since the late 1960's. It's great to see the stars finally aligning.
Back in 2007 I urged progressives to support ratification and wrote:
If the Senate will not accede to this convention, how can we expect them to support the ratification of the backlog of multilateral treaties waiting for a vote including:, the International Criminal Court treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Women's Convention (CEDAW), the Rights of the Child, the Biodiversity Treaty, and many others. What will happen when it is time for the Senate to consider the successor to the Kyoto protocol, which runs out in 2012?
This is just as true today as it was then. So if you haven't already done so, act now and send your Senators a message to support ratification.
04/29/2009 - 11:15am
Posted by Sharon Haber
In a panel discussion at the Brookings Institute on April 28, 2009 four experts spoke about the differences and similarities between the U.S. and France. To be specific, the topic of social democracy and Obama’s “revolution,” and how it is similar to what France has already implemented in their government.
This new idea of changing the current U.S. system into a social democracy has been called the “Obama revolution” and involves the popular topic of universal healthcare for all U.S. citizens. The panel had made a point to say that it was a good idea for the U.S. to implement a more universal healthcare system. In France, the average person lives longer and is also very happy with the high quality of healthcare. Although it was also pointed out that in recent polls taken, many people in the U.S. did not want to front the bill for such a system that would include those who would otherwise not be able to pay for healthcare. It seemed that when confronted with the idea of healthcare for all, many people were happy about the idea, but when asked if they were comfortable with paying higher taxes to make sure everyone could have this, less than 50% said they would like it.
In addition to talking about healthcare reform, the panel mentioned the fact that the French also have a free Pre-Kindergarten system for all children. This could be another possibility for the U.S. if it decided to continue with the idea of a social democracy since the schooling would also be funded by the state.
Of course, concern about the partisanship of both Republicans and Democrats who are for or against this type of government reform would be the biggest challenge to implement this. So, coming up with the right kind of tax or agreement may be an answer to the question of how to create such a system. For those of us who are passionate about this topic, we must voice our applause for such a change in the U.S. and encourage a fair resolution to fund universal healthcare.
04/29/2009 - 9:10am
On April 28, I had the chance to attend the Senate Foreign Relations Confirmation Hearing of Harold Koh for the position of Legal Adviser to the State Department. John Kerry chaired the hearing and welcomed Koh warmly. Kerry reviewed Koh's impressive record: he has a Law degree, two Masters degrees and he has served in Democratic and Republican Presidential Administrations. Under Clinton, Koh was unanimously confirmed to be the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department. Koh would leave his current position as Dean of the Yale Law School to work at the State Department.
Koh was introduced by Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) who are his neighbors and friends in Connecticut. Both Lieberman and Dodd encouraged their Senate colleagues to confirm Koh. In Koh's opening he promised to hold the United States to its own highest standards, use smart power , commit to rule of law, respect checks and balances in his foreign policy, and most importantly he would keep promises internationally.
Koh also cited Somali piracy as a "global problem that requires a global solution". Throughout the rest of the hearing Koh discussed his opposition to torture and his desire to promote the Geneva Convention. Koh also discussed the importance of engaging all actors in the international community, even North Korea. Koh left an overall impression of a man who would lay aside his personal opinion to give the best legal guidance to the United States possible.
04/28/2009 - 11:54am
Posted by Don Kraus
Yesterday, 43 international policy, humanitarian, and religious organizations sent a letter to the chair and ranking members of the House and Senate full appropriations and foreign operations sub-committees calling on them to support the $886,900,000 requested for United Nations and other peacekeeping accounts included in President Obama's FY 2009 Supplemental Funding request.
The letter noted that while the United States has voted to support peacekeeping missions in the U.N. Security Council, our funding has not kept pace with our commitments. The money is needed to support U.N. and African Union missions in Darfur, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Somalia.
This money needs must be protected as the supplemental works its way through Congress. Not only is fulfilling our obligations to UN peacekeeping a smart investment - the Government Accountability Office reports that U.N. peacekeeping is 8 times less expensive fielding a comparative U.S. force - but it's the right thing to do. These funds will finally get the U.S. current on paying its fair share of current peacekeeping dues. It's excellent to see a great nation pay its fair share and keep its commitments to the U.N. If you haven't already, send a message to your members of Congress to urge them to support President Obama's peacekeeping request.
04/27/2009 - 11:32am
Posted by Elizabeth April
Currently, 65% of the world is in recession, an amount greater than at any time since 1960. The International Monetary Fund [IMF] recently stated that the downturn is likely to be “unusually severe and long-lasting.” The recession is likely to starve developing countries of their resources and the Fund predicts that these fledgling economies may face shortages of investments for many years to come.
The IMF also stated that effective and internationally coordinated actions would be necessary for any improvement in the global economic situation. A report explained: “Shrinking economic activity has put further pressure on banks’ balance sheets as asset values continue to downgrade, threatening their capital adequacy and further discouraging fresh lending. Thus, credit growth is slowing, and even turning negative, adding even more downward pressure on economic activity.”
The effects of the economic crisis are already felt on a global scale but it is especially harsh on charities and organizations catering to sub-Saharan Africa, due to the fact that a large number depend on donations made by their members. If the individual donors have no money to give to philanthropic causes, these nonprofits will be unable to fund their programs. The IMF has made warnings regarding foreign aid decreases in the region and already many of these organizations are going out of business.
The Fund’s Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said, “According to the World Bank, over 50 million people in low income countries, many of whom live in Africa, could be thrown back into absolute poverty – with obvious consequences for other social ills, like sickness and infant mortality. The economic and political challenges facing Africa are clearly enormous.”
In an effort to help curb these challenges, the United States has pledged to double development aid to the area by next year. As a result of a pledge that was made by the members of the G-8 in 2005, the nation will double funds previously allocated to sub-Saharan Africa with the goal of $8.7 billion by 2010.
At the G-20 meeting in London this month, Geithner emphasized President Obama’s intentions to work with Congress to boost U.S. aid. He explained that the administration plans to “provide nearly half a billion dollars in immediate assistance to vulnerable populations and double support for agricultural development to more than one billion dollars in 2010 so that we can give people the tools they need to life themselves out of poverty.”
Without the help of those who are able to provide them with assistance, the fragile economic status of nations in sub-Saharan Africa will continue to worsen. It is necessary for governments and organizations to collectively prevent a domino-effect of countries falling as casualties to the global economic crisis.
04/27/2009 - 11:01am
Posted by Alexander Murray
George Perkovich, the Vice President of Studies and the Director of the Non-proliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, spoke on April 20, 2009 about the prospects of reducing global nuclear stocks to zero. He discussed the numerous issues that must be resolved in order to even begin a discussion on going to zero nukes, but focused on one central issue that needs to be the first step: Bilateral negotiations between the US and Russia and between the US and China.
It may come as no surprise that these countries are at the heart of the issue. The US and Russia have by far the largest nuclear stockpiles in the world and China, though they possess far fewer nukes, is the up and coming superpower that could eventually catch up with the other two. They each also have a large amount of influence over their allies, and the power to coerce them into action.
If the US, Russia, and China can all get on the same page, they will be able to deal with some of the more specific issues that are stalemating progress towards disarmament. The issues that Dr. Perkovich highlighted were the Iran issue (Russian influence), the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (getting China on board), and the issue of extended deterrence without nuclear weapons (US influence to strengthen Russia-Europe relations and China-East Asia relations).
As Dr. Perkovich describes it, the Road to Zero Nukes is an uphill battle, but one that is possible to win. Not only would zero nukes ensure a more peaceful global environment, the path to achieving it will bring the major powers together for a common goal, thus forming a relationship based on cooperation rather than opposition.
04/15/2009 - 9:04am
Citizens for Global Solutions was thrilled to see that in the recent FY 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Bill that was just released by the White House, President Obama requested $836,900,000 for U.N. Peacekeeping operations. By supporting U.N. peacekeepers, the United States is able to address regional instability throughout the world, prevent pandemics, reduce the spread of terrorism, and avoid refugee crises. The total debt that the United States owes the United Nations is $1.56 billion; therefore, $836 million represents extraordinary action to catch up on this debt. The $836 million, a mere 1% of the overall Supplemental request, includes the maintenance of current U.N. peacekeeping operations and the funding of an expanded mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Also, money from that fund will go to the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad [MINURCAT].
When the United States falls so deeply into arrears, the U.N. is not able to send as many troops on the peacekeeping missions. For example, the United Nations is authorized to send 31,569 personnel to Darfur but the actual number is 17,692 because of the low level of funds. Citizens for Global Solutions insists that Congress maintain this level of funding in the Supplemental Appropriations Bill to U.N. Peacekeeping Operations and encourages you to express this same sentiment to your Congressperson. This significant contribution will help generate goodwill toward the United States and restore our financial standing at the United Nations.
ACT NOW to make sure the U.S. pays its peacekeeping dues
04/13/2009 - 11:42am
Posted by Elizabeth April
All over the world, millions of women are denied equal access to property, legal action, civic life and public participation on a daily basis. Seventy percent of the poorest people in the world are female. Of a total of 771 million illiterate adults, two-thirds are women. One out of three women will experience physical abuse or violence and one out of five will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW], seeks to help change these unacceptable statistics. The international agreement forms standards for basic women's rights and is widely supported around the world. Out of the United Nations members, 185 have already ratified, making up over ninety percent. President Carter signed CEDAW in 1980; however, it was never ratified in Congress. Currently, only seven other nations have yet to ratify.
CEDAW signatories commit to the improvement of the status of women and the end of discrimination against women worldwide. It would also establish legal functions to protect the rights of women and create a system for accountability to the United Nations. Committees would monitor reports made every four years regarding the steps each nation has made to comply with the treaty.
As a leading industrialized nation, the United States' failure to ratify appears to other countries as indifference. The nation fails to acknowledge that these rights are universal and that they deserve advancement and enforcement through international law. Ratifying the Convention would give the U.S. credibility in the international community regarding women's rights and it would answer the calls of the over 200 leading advocacy organizations. The nation would lend its global influence to furthering the cause of women's rights, putting an end to discrimination against women around the globe.
With the recent passing of a Shia law in Afghanistan , which will require women to ask the permission of a male relative before leaving the house and will allow her husband to have intercourse with her even if she refuses, women's rights have been forced into the spotlight. While the United States has already expressed its objection to the law, such an occurrence makes the ratification of CEDAW in the U.S. and the enforcement of the treaty on a global level that much more urgent.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a vocal advocate of the treaty, said, "CEDAW is essential to advancing the status of women around the world. It establishes rights for women in realms never before subject to global standards, such as political participation, legal protections, and access to jobs, education and health care." President Obama plans to push for ratification of the treaty, which will restore the United States' standing as a leader in the international community.
04/09/2009 - 10:21am
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] may not begin until December 7th but the preparatory talks are already underway. The Framework Convention on Climate Change consists of 192 countries, including the United States and China. All parties meet once a year in a Conference of Parties. Since the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will end in 2012, a new Climate Change agreement will need to be negotiated immediately. Therefore, the goal of the Copenhagen conference is to establish a new agreement to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in order to prevent dangerous climate changes in the future.
Countries will meet in advance of the conference in a series of preparatory talks. The purpose of the preparatory talks is to allow countries the chance to focus on and review in detail the issues that will be discussed in the Copenhagen negotiations. Three more two week meetings are scheduled to occur before the final meeting in Copenhagen. Bonn, Germany was the site of the latest round of negotiations which concluded April 8, 2009. The climate change team of the Obama Administration attended and shared their enthusiasm and dedication for the creation of a productive treaty in Copenhagen. Todd Stern, from the U.S. Climate Change team stated:
We do not doubt the science, we do not doubt the urgency, and we do not doubt the enormity of the challenge before us. The facts on the ground are outstripping the worst case scenarios. The costs of inaction - or inadequate actions - are unacceptable.
Discussions in Bonn have established positive momentum for a smooth and constructive UNFCCC in Copenhagen. The Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Yvo de Boer, clearly laid out the four areas that the Copenhagen Protocol must deal with successfully:
Key issue areas such as "targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by industrialized countries and the matter of financing mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries appeared to be stymied" (Click here for full article ). CGS will follow the upcoming meetings and keep you in the loop on the resolution of those key issues.
04/07/2009 - 7:58am
Posted by admin
My Experience at the CGS Conference in Washington D.C., March 19-21, 2009
By Stefanie A. Hausheer
Before attending the Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS) conference in Washington, D.C., I understood in an abstract way that by voting, I helped send representatives to the nation's capitol to speak for me, but the experience of lobbying on Capitol Hill marked a turning point in my experience of American citizenship. As we walked past the countless senators' and representatives' offices and as my group met with staff members inside some of these offices, I felt so close to the seat of legislative and political power. Never before have I felt so connected to the government, and never before have I felt that we, the people, have so much power to affect the actions of our elected officials.
In addition to the empowering experience of lobbying, the incredible array of speakers that presented on various topics provided me with a wealth of fascinating information. Gillian Sorenson of the United Nations gave me fresh evidence of the U.N.'s important role in the international system, but she also reminded me that we Americans must push our government to be far more involved in the U.N. so that we can take advantage of the multilateral initiatives that it offers us.
During a breakout session that discussed nuclear abolition and more effective peacekeeping, I was reminded of the threat that we all face since so many nation-states are armed with nuclear weapons. I also enjoyed the breakout session that discussed several treaties that have stagnated in the American legislative system and have not been ratified by the senate. I was dumbfounded to learn that the United States has not yet ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). I also learned a great deal about the Rome Statute and the ICC, and I was startled to learn about how little the United States has done to cooperate with the ICC.
The final panel, which dealt with the notion of a world government, was fascinating because many of the speakers presented ideas that I had never heard before. I was intrigued by the idea of a world parliament, and after hearing from a panel of experts, I would like to do further research on the matter.
Although I loved lobbying on Capitol Hill and hearing the speakers during the conference, perhaps my favorite part of the entire trip was interacting with CGS members and staff. I felt so lucky to spend a few days with such brilliant, well-informed, dedicated, and remarkable people! Everyone I spoke to wanted to get to know me and exchange ideas. I felt so inspired just by talking to the CGS delegates at the conference.
In sum, the entire experience at the CGS conference in Washington, D.C. was fantastic. I will not soon forget the information that the speakers and the attendees shared with me, and coming to the conference definitely motivated me to become more of an activist in my own life. Even though some of the information I learned was negative or frightening, I now feel equipped to do something about the issues that concern me. Attending the conference has also spurred me to check out several books from the library so that I can build on the knowledge that I gained from the trip. I am so grateful to have been chosen to embark on such a wonderful adventure!
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