Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

UNIFIL Mandate Renewed Amid Continuing Concerns and Qualified Support from Security Council

September 18, 2018

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Photo: Dutch UNIFIL base, 1981

Edward M. Gabriel (Morocco, 1997-2001) and Jean AbiNader

On August 30th the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) for a year. UN Security Council members expressed serious concerns, according to VOANews.com, “that violations of the cease-fire agreement between Lebanon and Israel could lead to a new conflict and urged international support for Lebanon’s armed forces and their stepped up deployment in the south and at sea.”

Rodney Hunter, the USUN Mission’s political coordinator, told the UN Security Council during its meeting that twelve years after the council imposed an arms embargo “it is unacceptable that Hezbollah continues to flout this embargo, Lebanon’s sovereignty, and the will of the majority of Lebanese people.”

The centerpiece of UNIFIL’s mandate is UNSC Resolution 1701, which limits the flow of arms into the southern region of Lebanon, provides for routine meetings between the Israeli Defense Forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) brokered by UNIFIL (the only direct contact between Lebanon and Israel), calls for disarming the area south of the Litani River, and assists the LAF forces in providing security throughout south Lebanon. (more…)

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China is stealing American intellectual property. Trump’s tariffs are a chance to stop it

September 17, 2018

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Curtis S. Chin (Asian Development Bank, 2007-2010) and Charlene L. Fu

Cross posted from Los Angeles Times

A U.S.-China tariff war is sure to produce very real economic consequences, and political fallout, in both nations. It also presents an opportunity to reexamine the trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies and perhaps set a new course that would address some of the elephant-in-the-room issues of China’s trade practices.

Whatever else one might think of President Trump’s actions, he is confronting China about its unfair trade practices and theft of American intellectual property when too many others shy away from the truth for fear of Chinese reprisal.

This summer Trump imposed 25% tariffs on a total of $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, and Beijing retaliated. Trump is now considering adding more Chinese products — at least $200 billion worth — to that list. The response in the U.S. has been stock market volatility and hand-wringing about rising manufacturing costs and consumer prices. (more…)

Asia’s Polluted Skies: from Challenge to Opportunity

September 10, 2018

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Curtis S. Chin (Asian Development Bank, 2007-2010)

Cross posted from LinkedIn

BANGKOK – Every year and throughout the year, pollution increasingly takes its toll across Asia. But there is also hope and opportunity as evolving Asian consumer behavior and activism further encourages the transition away from a focus on “development at any cost.” As the Milken Institute Asia Summit #MIGlobal 2018 convenes in Singapore, this trend should be front and center.

Governments and businesses must recognize that there are ways to better align short-term economic interests with the longer-term goal of ending the rampant pollution that too much of the increasingly urbanized Indo-Pacific region is known for.

I see this in my own work with impact investors and start-ups, including through serving on the advisory board of Equator Pure Nature, a Thailand-based “cleantech” company that produces, markets and sells a line of natural, environment-friendly, biodegradable household cleaning products under the brand name Pipper Standard.

With growing numbers of consumers in Asia concerned about the impact of polluted skies and water on them and their children, the trend toward healthier products that began in Europe and the United States has come to the Indo-Pacific region. It is time for all Asia to transition to a more sustainable approach to development—and put an end to the rampant pollution that all too often helps ensure hashtags #smogageddon and #airpocalypse end up trending on social media each year. (more…)

Uganda’s Bobi Wine Brings Attention to Museveni’s Repressive Politics

September 5, 2018

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Michelle Gavin (Botswana, 2011-2014)

Cross posted from Council on Foreign Relations

Recent events have shone an international spotlight on Uganda, where the government’s treatment of parliamentarian and musician Robert Kyagulanyi, better known by his stage name, Bobi Wine, is bringing new attention to the repressive nature of Ugandan politics, and new energy to those resisting the status quo. He recently arrived in the United States to seek medical treatment for injuries allegedly sustained while in government custody.

A by-election held on August 15 in volatile northwestern Uganda to replace a member of parliament who had been assassinated in June triggered the current crisis. Campaigning had been contentious, and Ugandan authorities deployed a heavy security presence to the area in the immediate preelection period. President Museveni traveled to the region to support the ruling party candidate, while Kyagulanyi and others were in the area to stump for their preferred choices. On August 13, rock-throwing demonstrators triggered a violent reaction from security forces, leading to beatings, the fatal shooting of Kyagulanyi’s driver, and the arrest of Kyagulanyi and other opposition figures.

Thus far, the case does not inspire great confidence in the Ugandan judicial system. First, Kyagulanyi and others were charged by a military tribunal with illegal possession of weapons. Their court appearances have been harrowing, as many appear to have been mistreated in detention, a charge the government denies. When the military charges were dropped, they were immediately replaced by charges of treason in civilian court. Within Uganda, demonstrations and riots erupted in protest, and journalists covering them have been beaten along with participants. While Kyagulanyi and others were granted bail on August 27, they remain in legal jeopardy. (more…)

Oh, Canada!

August 31, 2018

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Antonio Garza (Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross posted from Ambassador Garza’s website

On Monday—just over one year since Mexico, Canada, and the United States officially began the NAFTA renegotiations—President Donald Trump announced the “The United States – Mexico Trade Agreement.”

During an impromptu press conference in the Oval Office, Mexican and U.S. officials declared that they had finally moved beyond the thorniest issues including auto content and Mexico’s energy sector and come to a “trade understanding”. It is undoubtedly a leap forward in the negotiations, but it might be wise to hold off on any immediate celebrations.

The most pressing challenge is now Canada’s participation. The Monday press conference had a solidly bilateral focus, with Canada almost completely absent from the festivities. Worse, when the country made an appearance, it was as part of a U.S. threat to push for separate deals. Mexico, on the other hand, sent mixed messages on Canada’s involvement. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto repeatedly called for Canada to be re-incorporated into the negotiations, but Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray simultaneously suggested that Mexico may be willing to move forward alone. (more…)

The United States Should Push for a Genuine Democratic Transition in Zimbabwe

August 23, 2018

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Michelle Gavin (Botswana, 2011-2014)

Cross posted from The Washington Post

Michelle Gavin, formerly President Barack Obama’s senior Africa director at the National Security Council and U.S. ambassador to Botswana, is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Todd Moss, formerly deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa, is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Alexander Noyes is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The authors were part of a preelection assessment mission to Zimbabwe.

For Zimbabwe’s long-ruling party, the July 30 election was intended to legitimize President Emmerson Mnangagwa, ushering in a new era of global investment into a perilously fragile economy. In the wake of a deeply flawed contest, whether that effort is successful might rest with the international community. While Mnangagwa and his challenger Nelson Chamisa are currently battling in court over the final results, a debate is underway in Washington over how to respond.

Regardless of the court ruling, the verdict is already in: Mnangagwa is no reformer and no longer deserves any benefit of the doubt. Instead, the preelection environment, the management of the vote, and the post-election violence all show why Washington must maintain pressure for a truly democratic transition.

(more…)

U.S.-Russia Cooperation Could Ensure Safer Repatriation of Syrian Refugees

August 21, 2018

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Edward M. Gabriel (Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross posted from The Hill

As American policymakers begin to learn more details about the summit between Presidents Trump and Putin in Helsinki, a proposal has emerged to jointly collaborate on a humanitarian plan to address the massive Syrian refugee problem.

The Russians signaled that they would like to work with the Americans in drawing up a joint action plan to bring Syrian refugees back to the homes they fled before the civil war broke out in 2011. “The active advancement in this direction has been helped by the agreements reached by the presidents of Russia and the United States during the summit in Helsinki,” Mikhail Mizintsev, a Russian ministry official, was quoted by TASS as saying. Mizintsev said preliminary assessments indicate 890,000 refugees soon could return to Syria from Lebanon, 300,000 from Turkey and 200,000 from European Union countries.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed such a discussion, saying, “There was a discussion between President Trump and President Putin about the resolution in Syria and how we might get the refugees back.” The United Nations, however, is hesitant to declare Syria safe for the refugees to return. The United States rightly agrees, and is cautious about fully embracing any plan until it has some guarantee of the safety of returning Syrians. (more…)

Morocco: Remembering King Hassan II, 19 Years After his Death

July 31, 2018

Edward M. Gabriel (Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross posted from All Africa

Today marks the 19th anniversary of the death of King Hassan II. Anyone associated with Morocco remembers where they were and what they were doing at the moment they heard of the King’s passing. And although that day is remembered with great sadness, it was also filled with hope for a new beginning with his son, King Mohammed VI. Few people argue with the fact that King Hassan was the right person at the right time, and likewise, that King Mohammed VI is now the right person at the right time.

King Hassan will be remembered for opening up the political space and paving the way for a more representative government beginning in the early 1990s. It was not a given that he would make this choice since allowing dissenting voices was not what some might have expected based on his record, but clearly he saw that things were changing and that he needed to begin a process that his successor would inherit. His decision to allow a competitive election in 1997 was a critically important choice for the country’s political evolution – especially as it allowed the opposition to take the reins of government. (more…)

Zimbabwe’s Upcoming Election is a Political Charade

July 30, 2018

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Michelle Gavin (Botswana, 2011-2014)

Todd Moss (Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State)

Cross posted from Foreign Affairs

On July 30, Zimbabweans will vote in their country’s first ever presidential election without former President Robert Mugabe on the ballot. A free, fair, and credible vote could be the first step in Zimbabwe’s recovery from 38 years of a repressive and rapacious dictatorship that brought the country to its knees. Over the past two decades, millions have fled. The vast majority of those who stayed have seen their standard of living decline dramatically, and over 70 percent now live in poverty. The country has become an international pariah. Emmerson Mnangagwa—Mugabe’s longtime enforcer who took over the presidency after a military coup last November—needs the election to go well in order to gain international legitimacy and a bailout for the bankrupt economy.

We recently traveled to Zimbabwe as part of an independent delegation of former senior U.S. diplomats with long experience in the country in order to see for ourselves what had changed since Mugabe’s departure. Despite the fact that the ruling elite is mostly the same as it was during Mugabe era—the cabinet is more than two-thirds filled by holdovers—Mnangagwa has drawn praise for pledging bold reforms to restore democracy, begin national healing, and create jobs. We spoke with a wide range of political, religious, business, and civil society leaders to gain insights into the country’s prospects and the most productive course for U.S. policy. We hoped to find signs of genuine progress that would justify a significant change in U.S. policy and new commitments to working with Zimbabwe’s government. Unfortunately, we came away convinced that what we witnessed was more political theater than good faith, and that the United States should be deeply wary of engagement with Mnangagwa. (more…)

The Border Problem Beyond the Border

July 25, 2018

The Border Problem Beyond the Border

Richard Holwill (Ecuador, 1988-1999)

Ambassador Holwill served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs from 1983 to 1988.

Amid the controversies surrounding U.S. border immigration issues, one key element of the problem has been ignored.  Of course, Americans care deeply, and are horrified by, the accounts of children who are separated from their parents at U.S. border crossings.  But to solve this problem, we must also care about the conditions in the failing states from which these people flee. The migration crisis is driven only partly by the allure of the United States.  It is primarily a consequence of criminality compounded by poverty and weak governments in Central America.

The press has focused on the immediate crisis at the border and the tragedy of children ripped from their parents’ arms only to be sent to holding centers around the country.   Some in the media go beyond this cruelty and examine the central question before immigration judges: is the applicant an economic migrant, who is not eligible for asylum, or a legitimate refugee who is?  U.S. asylum laws limit the granting of asylum specifically to “refugees” who are persecuted based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or belonging to a particular social group.  “Credible fear” of mortal harm at the hands of criminals can justify refugee status, particularly if a government cannot or will not protect an individual from that harm.  (more…)