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A Brief History of Ukraine

21. November 2019 - 16:48

The politics and recent history of Ukraine are suddenly quite central to the politics and history of the United States.

In this episode of the Global Dispatches podcast we examine what the US impeachment inquiry looks like from Ukraine. Veteran journalist Steven Erlanger, who is the chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for the New York Times explains the recent history of Ukraine, including the 2004 Orange Revolution which brought Viktor Yushenko to power; and later, how Yushenko was replaced by a more pro-Russian president named Victor Yonukovich, who subsequently fled to Russia during what was known as the Euromaidan revolution in 2014.

We then discuss the improbable rise of a comedian turned politician, Volodymyr Zelensky who became president in April 2019 — and how Zelensky has reacted to being thrust into the middle of a domestic political scandal in the United States.

My intention with this episode is to give you a brief and accessible introduction to Ukrainian politics — which are suddenly very central to the politics of the United States.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn both the recent history of Ukraine and also better understand how events in DC are being interpreted in Kyiv, have a listen.

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The post A Brief History of Ukraine appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Are We Currently in a “Mass Extinction” Period on Earth?

19. November 2019 - 18:32

Ed note. This article originally appeared in The Conversation and is republished with permission.

For more than 3.5 billion years, living organisms have thrived, multiplied and diversified to occupy every ecosystem on Earth. The flip side to this explosion of new species is that species extinctions have also always been part of the evolutionary life cycle.

But these two processes are not always in step. When the loss of species rapidly outpaces the formation of new species, this balance can be tipped enough to elicit what are known as “mass extinction” events.

A mass extinction is usually defined as a loss of about three quarters of all species in existence across the entire Earth over a “short” geological period of time. Given the vast amount of time since life first evolved on the planet, “short” is defined as anything less than 2.8 million years.

Since at least the Cambrian period that began around 540 million years ago when the diversity of life first exploded into a vast array of forms, only five extinction events have definitively met these mass-extinction criteria.

These so-called “Big Five” have become part of the scientific benchmark to determine whether human beings have today created the conditions for a sixth mass extinction.

An ammonite fossil found on the Jurassic Coast in Devon. The fossil record can help us estimate prehistoric extinction rates.
Corey Bradshaw, Author provided The Big Five

These five mass extinctions have happened on average every 100 million years or so since the Cambrian, although there is no detectable pattern in their particular timing. Each event itself lasted between 50 thousand and 2.76 million years. The first mass extinction happened at the end of the Ordovician period about 443 million years ago and wiped out over 85% of all species.

The Ordovician event seems to have been the result of two climate phenomena. First, a planetary-scale period of glaciation (a global-scale “ice age”), then a rapid warming period.

The second mass extinction occurred during the Late Devonian period around 374 million years ago. This affected around 75% of all species, most of which were bottom-dwelling invertebrates in tropical seas at that time.

This period in Earth’s past was characterised by high variation in sea levels, and rapidly alternating conditions of global cooling and warming. It was also the time when plants were starting to take over dry land, and there was a drop in global CO2 concentration; all this was accompanied by soil transformation and periods of low oxygen.

To establish a ‘mass extinction’, we first need to know what a normal rate of species loss is.
from www.shutterstock.com

The third and most devastating of the Big Five occurred at the end of the Permian period around 250 million years ago. This wiped out more than 95% of all species in existence at the time.

Some of the suggested causes include an asteroid impact that filled the air with pulverised particle, creating unfavourable climate conditions for many species. These could have blocked the sun and generated intense acid rains. Some other possible causes are still debated, such as massive volcanic activity in what is today Siberia, increasing ocean toxicity caused by an increase in atmospheric CO₂, or the spread of oxygen-poor water in the deep ocean.

Fifty million years after the great Permian extinction, about 80% of the world’s species again went extinct during the Triassic event. This was possibly caused by some colossal geological activity in what is today the Atlantic Ocean that would have elevated atmospheric CO₂ concentrations, increased global temperatures, and acidified oceans.

The last and probably most well-known of the mass-extinction events happened during the Cretaceous period, when an estimated 76% of all species went extinct, including the non-avian dinosaurs. The demise of the dinosaur super predators gave mammals a new opportunity to diversify and occupy new habitats, from which human beings eventually evolved.

The most likely cause of the Cretaceous mass extinction was an extraterrestrial impact in the Yucatán of modern-day Mexico, a massive volcanic eruption in the Deccan Province of modern-day west-central India, or both in combination.

The Conversation, CC BY-ND Is today’s biodiversity crisis a sixth mass extinction?

The Earth is currently experiencing an extinction crisis largely due to the exploitation of the planet by people. But whether this constitutes a sixth mass extinction depends on whether today’s extinction rate is greater than the “normal” or “background” rate that occurs between mass extinctions.

This background rate indicates how fast species would be expected to disappear in absence of human endeavour, and it’s mostly measured using the fossil record to count how many species died out between mass extinction events.

The Christmas Island Pipistrelle was announced to be extinct in 2009, years after conservationists raised concerns about its future.
Lindy Lumsden

The most accepted background rate estimated from the fossil record gives an average lifespan of about one million years for a species, or one species extinction per million species-years. But this estimated rate is highly uncertain, ranging between 0.1 and 2.0 extinctions per million species-years. Whether we are now indeed in a sixth mass extinction depends to some extent on the true value of this rate. Otherwise, it’s difficult to compare Earth’s situation today with the past.

In contrast to the the Big Five, today’s species losses are driven by a mix of direct and indirect human activities, such as the destruction and fragmentation of habitats, direct exploitation like fishing and hunting, chemical pollution, invasive species, and human-caused global warming.

If we use the same approach to estimate today’s extinctions per million species-years, we come up with a rate that is between ten and 10,000 times higher than the background rate.

Even considering a conservative background rate of two extinctions per million species-years, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have otherwise taken between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear if they were merely succumbing to the expected extinctions that happen at random. This alone supports the notion that the Earth is at least experiencing many more extinctions than expected from the background rate.

An endangered Indian wild dog, or Dhole. Before extinction comes a period of dwindling numbers and spread.
from www.shutterstock.com

It would likely take several millions of years of normal evolutionary diversification to “restore” the Earth’s species to what they were prior to human beings rapidly changing the planet. Among land vertebrates (species with an internal skeleton), 322 species have been recorded going extinct since the year 1500, or about 1.2 species going extinction every two years.

If this doesn’t sound like much, it’s important to remember extinction is always preceded by a loss in population abundance and shrinking distributions. Based on the number of decreasing vertebrate species listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, 32% of all known species across all ecosystems and groups are decreasing in abundance and range. In fact, the Earth has lost about 60% of all vertebrate individuals since 1970.

Australia has one of the worst recent extinction records of any continent, with more than 100 species of vertebrates going extinct since the first people arrived over 50 thousand years ago. And more than 300 animal and 1,000 plant species are now considered threatened with imminent extinction.

Although biologists are still debating how much the current extinction rate exceeds the background rate, even the most conservative estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity typical of a mass extinction event.

In fact, some studies show that the interacting conditions experienced today, such as accelerated climate change, changing atmospheric composition caused by human industry, and abnormal ecological stresses arising from human consumption of resources, define a perfect storm for extinctions. All these conditions together indicate that a sixth mass extinction is already well under way.

 

Frédérik Saltré, Research Fellow in Ecology & Associate Investigator for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University and Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The post Are We Currently in a “Mass Extinction” Period on Earth? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How to Win the Nobel Peace Prize — A Juror Explains

18. November 2019 - 16:49

There are just five people in the world who decide each year who wins the Nobel Peace Prize — and Asle Toje is one of them.

Asle Toje is a foreign policy scholar and author. As of last year, he is also the newest member of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

In our conversation, we discuss how one wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Asle Toje discusses some of the behind-the-scenes work of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, including the kinds of considerations that he and the other jurors make when deciding who should win the Nobel Peace Prize. To the extent possible, this conversation brings you inside the room where every Nobel Peace Prize winner has been decided for most of the last 105 years.

We kick off with what with a discussion about the history of the Nobel Peace Prize and Alfred Nobel, before having an extended conversation about the process behind selecting the winner, certain controversies surrounding their decision over the years, and whether or not awarding the Nobel Peace Prize can influence broader political or policy outcomes in the service of peace.

This Global Dispatches Podcast episode is an incredibly unique opportunity to hear directly  from a Nobel Peace Prize juror and I think you will love it.

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Asle Toje’s newest book is called The Causes of Peace: What We Know Now

Listen to the Global Dispatches podcast interview with the 2017 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Beatrice Finh of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Listen to a conversation about how 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed, has helped to spark a democratic renewal in Ethiopia and secure a peace agreement with Eritrea.

The post How to Win the Nobel Peace Prize — A Juror Explains appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Why The Gambia is Suing Myanmar for The Rohingya Genocide

14. November 2019 - 16:48

The small west African country of the Gambia has lodged a suit at the International Court of Justice against Myanmar for committing a genocide against the Rohingya people.

The Rohingya are an ethnic and religious minority in Myanmar who have long faced discrimination and persecution. But it was not until the summer and fall of 2017 that this persecution became a mass atrocity event —  and arguably a genocide. Some 700,000 Rohingya fled violence in this time, and now more than a million live as refugees in neighboring Bangladesh.

Justice for the Rohingya victims of genocide has so far been elusive. But this action at the International Court of Justice, which is a UN body based in the Hague, could be a significant turning point.

On the line with me to discuss the significance of this lawsuit is Param-Preet Singh, associate director of Human Rights Watch in the International Justice Program. In our conversation she explains what exactly this law suit alleges, why Gambia is the country bringing the suit, and how this action advances the cause of justice for victims of crimes against humanity.

We kick off with a brief discussion of the International Court of Justice and how the judicial process at the ICJ works.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn the geopolitics of this action and how it may advance the cause of justice for victims of genocide and mass atrocity, have a listen.

 

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The post Why The Gambia is Suing Myanmar for The Rohingya Genocide appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Can the Paris Agreement Succeed Without the United States?

12. November 2019 - 19:23

Ed note.  On Nov. 4, the Trump administration formally notified the United Nations that it planned to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change, which 196 countries adopted in 2015. The pact is designed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in this century, and if possible, to limit the increase to 1.5°C. Boston University international relations scholar Henrik Selin explains how U.S. withdrawal will affect prospects for avoiding the worst effects of global warming. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

1. What is the process for a country to leave the Paris Agreement?

President Trump announced in the summer of 2017 that he intended to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, as he had pledged during the 2016 campaign. The agreement was adopted in 2015 and entered into international legal force on Nov. 4, 2016.

Article 28 of the agreement stipulates that a member can begin a formal withdrawal process no earlier than three years after the treaty enters into force. The Trump administration took this step when it notified the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Nov. 4, 2019 that it intends to leave.

Trump’s notice of withdrawal will become effective one year later, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020 – one day after the next presidential election.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hails a parliamentary vote on Nov. 7, 2019, committing the nation to reducing its carbon emissions to zero by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement. 2. What does the US exit mean for curbing climate change?

The Trump administration’s action will have political and practical implications, but it is unclear exactly how severe they will be.

The Paris Agreement was adopted thanks in part to strong political backing from the Obama administration, and U.S. disengagement now creates a political void. Other major emitters, including China and the European Union, have made it clear that they still support the treaty, but U.S. absence will change the political dynamics.

U.S. withdrawal makes it more important for the remaining countries to show strong political commitment to collectively implementing the treaty. At the New York Climate Action Summit in September 2019, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called on countries to accelerate action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions

“The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win,” Guterres said.

Many countries’ voluntary pledges under the Paris Agreement are modest, and scientists estimate that taken together, they are wholly inadequate to meet stated temperature goals focused on average global temperature increases of 2 degrees Celsius and 1.5°C.

Currently the U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, producing roughly 15% of global annual carbon dioxide emissions. In addition to pulling out of the the Paris Agreement, the Trump administration is rolling back relevant federal mandates and making it harder for U.S. states such as California to take action to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

As the world’s second-largest carbon dioxide emitter, the U.S. plays a central role in global efforts to slow climate change.
Our World in Data/Hannah Ritchie, CC BY-ND

But the future trajectory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is not determined by whether or not the country belongs to the Paris Agreement. Key factors are federal and state-level policy decisions, economic trends in energy markets and the pace of technological development. Renewable energy sources are rapidly becoming cheaper, making them more economically attractive.

Even after exiting the Paris Agreement, the United States may end up meeting its commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% below the 2005 level by 2025. But that’s only a fraction of what will be required over the next few decades to constitute a serious contribution toward meeting global temperature goals. Put another way, addressing climate change will require strong efforts by all major emitters – including the U.S. – to speed up the transition to a lower-carbon economy.

3. How many other countries have not joined the Paris Agreement?

Currently 186 countries – counting the U.S. – plus the European Union are parties to the Paris Agreement. When the U.S. leaves, it will join a short but eclectic list of nations that have signed but not ratified the agreement, including Angola, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, South Sudan, Turkey and Yemen.

4. Can the US rejoin the Paris Agreement?

Yes. The pact sets out procedures for both leaving and joining the treaty after its entry into force.

Article 21 states that a country that is not a party to the agreement can join it by submitting a formal notification, which will take effect 30 days later. This procedure is the same whether a country used to be a party and then withdrew, or is joining for the first time.

If a candidate other than President Trump wins the 2020 election, he or she will take office on Jan. 20, 2021 and could serve notice that day that the U.S. planned to rejoin the Paris Agreement. In this scenario, the United States could be back by late February of 2021, less than four months after President Trump’s move to withdraw becomes official.

However, when the U.S. joined the Paris Agreement in late 2015, the Obama administration made a legal assessment that this decision was up to the president, classifying it as an executive agreement that did not require Senate approval or changes to U.S. domestic laws. If a future return were conditioned on Senate ratification, it is highly unlikely that it would receive the necessary 67 votes, due to strong opposition mainly from Republican senators.

Even if the United States does rejoin the Paris Agreement in the future, other countries will remember that it unilaterally left an agreement that had global support and may well believe that the U.S. could do so again in the future. America’s reputation as a reliable international partner has already suffered damage that will take a long time to repair.

[ Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day. ]

Henrik Selin, Associate Professor in the Frederick S Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The post Can the Paris Agreement Succeed Without the United States? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Iraq Protests: A Reporter in Baghdad Explains Why Thousands of Iraqis are Protesting the Government

11. November 2019 - 16:32

For the past several weeks, Washington Post reporter Mustafa Salim has had a front row view to massive protests that have erupted in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq. As he explains in this Global Dispatches podcast episode, these protests are neither centrally organized, nor do they have an explicit set of demands. Yet, they may prove to be powerful enough to bring down the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

The protests began in early October, mostly by young men from poorer Shi’ite cities and towns angered by corruption and their own economic distress. But now, the protests have since expanded to include women and men from all walks of life.

In our conversation, Mustafa Salim describes the scene on the ground in Baghdad where I reached him a few days ago. We discuss how these protests originated, where they may be heading, why Iran is a target of the protesters, and how humble drivers of three wheel taxis that cater to the urban poor, known as Tuk Tuks, became symbolic heroes of this protest movement.

If you have 20 minutes and want both a deeper understanding of what is driving the Iraq protests and what the mood is on the ground in Baghdad, have a listen.

 

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Kategorien: english

UNFPA Director Dr. Natalia Kanem Explains What You Need to Know About The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25

7. November 2019 - 17:26

Twenty five years ago the city of Cairo, Egypt hosted a UN-backed gathering of international development professionals from nearly every country on the earth. That 1994 meeting was called the International Conference on Population and Development, or the ICPD, and it became one of the most significant global development gatherings of the last quarter century. At the conference over 170 countries signed was was known as an “action plan” that for the first time recognized fulfilling the rights of women and girls is central to development.

That Cairo conference 25 conference firmly established what is now taken as a given around the UN and in the development community more broadly: that development is not possible without promoting the health and eduction of women and girls.

That was 25 years ago. And this month, in Nairobi, Kenya global development experts, government officials and other key stakeholders are meeting for what is known as the Nairobi Summit ICPD25, to mark a quarter century since that landmark Cairo conference.

On the line with me to discuss why the International Conference on Population and Development was such a watershed moment for the international community, what progress has been made since then, and what to expect at the Nairobi summit is Dr. Natalia Kanem.

She is the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund and very much at the helm of planning the Nairobi conference. More importantly though, her agency, UNFPA, is very much the focal point for global efforts to promote the health, rights, and eduction of women and girls around the world. So, our conversation today serves as both a curtain raiser to the Nairobi summit and also a stocktaking of what kinds of progress has been made on the rights and health of women and girls since the ICPD 25 year ago.

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The post UNFPA Director Dr. Natalia Kanem Explains What You Need to Know About The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Most Food Insecure Countries in the World, Ranked

5. November 2019 - 16:06

With just 10 more years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, 43 countries in the world are still facing “serious” levels of hunger, and five have hit “alarming” or “extremely alarming” levels. That’s according to the latest annual Global Hunger Index published recently by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.

The index, which ranks 117 mostly middle- and low-income countries, measures hunger according to data on undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality.

Most Food Insecure Countries

Coming in at the bottom of the index is the Central African Republic (CAR), as the only country with “extremely alarming” levels of hunger. Relief efforts have been ongoing in CAR for years, particularly after political unrest devastated the economy in 2013 and the latest bout of violence erupted in May 2017. Currently, the World Food Program (WFP) estimates that nearly 3 million people in CAR require humanitarian assistance. CAR also ranked second to last on the 2018 Human Development Index.

Joining CAR near the bottom of the Global Hunger Index are Yemen, Chad, Madagascar and Zambia, with “alarming” hunger levels. Yemen’s food insecurity is largely due to a protracted and devastating war. And although political instability certainly contributes largely to hunger in Chad, Madagascar and Zambia as well, those three countries among the most vulnerable to climate shocks.

In fact, the index report says that the number of people suffering from hunger and nourishment, which was nearly halved from 2000 to 2015, is far from reaching zero, because climate change is undermining progress. The index found that globally, there has been a slight improvement overall in undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality since 2000, when the world on average was facing “serious” levels of hunger based on these indicators. Now, the world is “on the cusp of the moderate and serious categories.”

But conflict, inequality and climate change are slowing that progress to the point that last year became the third year in a row that the number of hungry people in the world actually increased. So, by some measures, progress isn’t just slowing; it’s reversing.

The index this year focuses on the impact of climate change, because it’s a “threat multiplier” that impacts most severely “those who have contributed to it the least and often have the least capacity to adapt to it.” For populations that are poor and unstable, climate change is already making so many things worse, including conflict, disaster recovery, displacement, inequalities and more. A changing climate is also affecting the ways that communities are producing food, accessing food, their nutrition and food loss/waste.

But it’s not just affecting the poorest. Although the index doesn’t include high-income countries, the report notes that another measure – the Food Insecurity Experience Scale – shows that 18 percent of households in the European Union with children under the age of 15 are experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity.

Climate change is a global problem that requires a “large-scale effort,” the report says, including changing food systems in high-income countries to lower emissions and investing in more vulnerable countries’ ability to withstand climate shocks. But it’s also important to look at subnational and local data, because “inequalities within country borders allow hunger and undernutrition to persist even in countries that appear to be doing well according to national averages,” according to the report.

Yet, some countries are lacking sufficient data to even be ranked on the Global Hunger Index. Among those, the report identifies nine countries – Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria – in which hunger and undernutrition are definitely a concern. But without data, it’s difficult to pinpoint policies that can begin to address the issues in these countries.

With only a decade left to achieve Zero Hunger (SDG 2), there’s little time to waste, whether in gathering data, addressing subnational inequalities or adopting large-scale policies to transform our global food system.

The post The Most Food Insecure Countries in the World, Ranked appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Peter Piot: How Prepared are We for the Next Big Global Epidemic?

4. November 2019 - 16:29

In 1976 Peter Piot was a 27-year-old microbiologist working in Belgium when he travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, then called Zaire, to investigate a particularly deadly disease outbreak. He took samples back to his lab and was among the team that first discovered the ebola virus.

Today, he is one of the world’s leading experts on epidemics and infectious diseases. This includes HIV/AIDS. In 1995, he was the founding director of the United Nations Program on AIDS, called UNAIDS, and served in that role until 2008. He is now the director of one of the world’s most prestigious health research institutes, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

And on the podcast today, we talk about epidemics and what can be done to avert and contain them. This includes the ongoing ebola epidemic in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is now the second worst ebola outbreak in history. And we also discuss what the world has gotten right (and wrong) about both fighting HIV and AIDS. Peter Piot argues that we need to re-define what we mean by ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

We kick off though discussing the kind of nightmare scenarios that most concern Peter Piot. This includes what he calls “the big one.”

 

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Kategorien: english

How a Rivalry Between Arab Governments on the Arabian Peninsula is Shaping International Relations

31. Oktober 2019 - 17:29

One of the driving forces of international relations over the last several years has been a rivalry between Arab states. This is sometimes called the “Gulf Crisis” and put simply, it refers to tensions and hostilities between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on the one hand; and Qatar on the other.

The roots of this rivalry run deep, but around the time of the Arab Spring these tensions came very much to the surface. The United States has historically had a profound interest in mitigating hostilities between Gulf Arab states, principally because each of these countries are key US allies. The US, for example, has a major Navy base in Bahrain and a major Air Force base in Qatar. But the Trump administration has been less adept at keeping a lid on the hostilities between these countries. Now these tensions are not only affecting relations between Arab gulf states, but are also leaving a mark in other regions.

As my guest today, Elizabeth Dickinson explains, the Gulf Crisis has been exported. The true fallout from this feud has not been felt on the Arabian Peninsula, she argues, but on battlefields across the greater Middle East and in the fragile politics of countries in the Horn of Africa, specifically Sudan and Somalia.

Elizabeth Dickinson is a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group and in our conversation she explains both the roots of this rivalry in the gulf and how this crisis in the gulf is stoking instability across several regions of the world.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how Gulf rivalries are shaping the politics outside the region, have a listen.

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The post How a Rivalry Between Arab Governments on the Arabian Peninsula is Shaping International Relations appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

“Hunger Has No Religion.” How Lebanese Protesters Transcended Sectarianism and Forced the Prime Minister to Resign

29. Oktober 2019 - 17:08

Ed note. This post from Mira Assaf Kafantaris,  of The Ohio State University originally appeared in The Conversation. 

Religion has shaped Lebanon since it gained independence from France in 1943. In this multicultural country of Muslims, Christians and Druze – a medieval faith derived from Islam – religion defines membership and belonging. It is woven into Lebanon’s economic, political and social fabric.

The mass protests that began in mid-October over a proposal to tax WhatsApp calls are challenging that tradition. Over a million Lebanese from all faiths have joined together in these leaderless and nationwide anti-government demonstrations, in which the agenda has now expanded from avoiding taxes to regime change.

All of them means all of them,” protesters nationwide chant, demanding the ouster of Lebanon’s entire ruling class.

On Oct. 29, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni, resigned, elating demonstrators. Protesters blame Hariri, along with Lebanon’s Christian president and Shiite parliament speaker, for rampant corruption, a wrecked economy and a ravaged environment.

In repudiation of the idea that religious allegiance comes before national unity, they are demanding fair elections, a stronger judiciary and more government accountability.

Police remove an anti-government protester blocking a highway in Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 26, 2019.
AP Photo/Hussein Malla ‘Hunger has no religion’

With 18 recognized sects – including the Maronite Christians; Sunni, Shiite and Alawite Muslims; and the Druze – Lebanon is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the Middle East.

When a class struggle broke out there in the mid-1970s, it quickly devolved into a civil war between right-wing Christian and left-wing Muslim militias.

To end Lebanon’s conflict, the 1989 Taif Accords required all factions to relinquish their weapons and distributed government positions to politicians of different faiths.

Lebanon’s administrative divisions reflect its religious divisions, with Shiites concentrated in the country’s south and east and Maronite Christians dominating central areas near Beirut.
Globe-trotter/Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection – University of Texas Library Online, CC BY-SA

This power-sharing agreement has kept the peace in Lebanon. But it has also given it a political order built on religious factionalism.

Patronage networks run by the “za’eem,” as Lebanon’s powerful sectarian leaders are called, protect the interests of their religious communities, doling out favors both legal and illegal. All faiths have their own za’eem.

Religiously based governance has given Lebanon both extreme national debt and staggering inequality. According to the World Inequality Database, the richest 1% of Lebanese own approximately a quarter of the nation’s wealth. Lebanon’s infrastructure is crumbling. Power outages are a chronic problem even in urban middle-class neighborhoods.

Widespread human rights violations – including domestic violence, child labor and abuse of Syrian refugees – are rarely punished.

But, according to the political scientist Bassel Salloukh, Lebanon’s rulers “use sectarian mobilization to camouflage intra-sectarian socioeconomic disparities” – a divide-and-conquer strategy meant to stop class solidarity from emerging.

The beneficiaries of this system argue that Lebanon’s stability hinges on this sectarian balance. And, indeed, sectarianism has been remarkably effective in forestalling dissent for the past 30 years.

It has also instilled a deep distrust in government. A recent poll shows that 96% of Lebanese think political corruption is endemic.

The sectarian construct

As a literary historian, I study the stories a nation tells itself about belonging, allegiance and identity. In Lebanon, my home country, I recognize sectarianism as a social construct.

Social constructs, like civility or money, are concepts that only mean something because humans agree they do. Often, social constructs benefit the powerful.

By drawing the boundaries of inclusion along religious lines, Lebanese sectarianism has impeded the rise of more unifying ideologies like nationalism or secularism.

“Sectarianism has been depicted as a monolithic force, unchanging in the face of history,” historian Ussama Makdisi wrote in his 2000 book “The Culture of Sectarianism. But, he continues, “sectarianism was produced. Therefore it can be changed.”

Since the civil war, Lebanese have been raised to see religion as the only marker of kinship and rivalry, but the Lebanese share many things: a multilingual literary heritage, for example, and a love of Fairuz, one of the Arab world’s most admired singers.

Lebanese of different faiths suffer together, too. As one protester told Foreign Policy, hunger has no religion.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, right, with President Michel Aoun before an emergency cabinet meeting, Oct. 21, 2019.
Dalati Nohra via AP

Sectarian politics have been dismantled before. Two decades after Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement, the divide between Catholics and Protestants there remains. But it is official government policy to foster peace-building, human rights and religious freedom.

Like protesters in both Tunisia and, more recently, Sudan – who pushed out religiously divisive leaders in hopes of nurturing a more secular democracy – Lebanon’s protests challenge a tired western stereotype that the Middle East is an intolerant, naturally authoritarian place.

Hezbollah is no exception

In recent days, demonstrators who support Hezbollah have protested the inclusion of their leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in the movement’s calls for regime change. They say accusations of corruption against this powerful Lebanese political and social force are evidence of a conspiracy by Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.

Violence erupted on Oct. 29 when Hezbollah supporters attacked demonstrators, re-opening key roads blocked by protester encampments and setting their tents on fire.

Still, the uprising grows. Past violence has failed to quell protests, as have offers from the government to cut lawmakers’ salaries by half and tax banks to relieve national debt.

Prime Minister Hariri’s resignation opens the door for real change in Lebanon, but protests will likely continue. The za’eem system means Hariri’s replacement may well reinforce the same power-sharing model.

Protesters in Beirut cheer the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Oct. 29, 2019.
AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

The current grassroots protests build on the momentum of a 2015 uprising called the #YouStink movement. Those protests began when Lebanon’s main landfill was shut down and mounds of trash filled the streets of Beirut, but they came to embody numerous other causes: Children marched for climate action. Feminists defended the rights of domestic workers.

In 2018, women ran for office in Lebanon record numbers.

Rebuilding a nation

There is an academic theory I like about how nations are built, called “cultural intimacy.”

It holds that communal acts like breaking bread together, say, or self-deprecating humor play a crucial role in creating a shared citizenry.

The 1.5 million Lebanese Sunnis, Shias and Christians who have for weeks been walking side by side, holding hands and raging against the system are not merely protesting. They’re building a society that works for them.

Mira Assaf Kafantaris, Senior Lecturer in English, The Ohio State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The post “Hunger Has No Religion.” How Lebanese Protesters Transcended Sectarianism and Forced the Prime Minister to Resign appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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How The Top LGBTI Rights Watchdog at the United Nations Defends Human Rights Around the World

28. Oktober 2019 - 14:22

Victor Madrigal-Borloz is a Costa Rican jurist who serves as the United Nations Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In other words, he is the UN’s top watchdog for LGBTI rights worldwide

The fact that this position even exists in the UN system was at the time controversial. In UN lingo, this position is known as the IE SOGI, or Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. It was created in 2016 by votes in the Human Rights Council and General Assembly, the latter of which includes every UN member state. Some of these states are actively hostile to LGBTI rights, and accordingly sought to block establishing this role. They were unsuccessful, and Victor Madrigal-Borloz has now been on his job for two years.

When I spoke with Victor Madrigal-Borloz he had just briefed the General Assembly on his latest report on LGBTI rights globally so we kick off discussing that report and have a broader conversation about how he goes about his work, fulfilling his UN mandate to protect LGBTI individuals around the world.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how the UN LGBTI Rights Watchdog seeks to defend human rights worldwide, have a listen.

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Massive Protests are Leading to a Political Crisis in Chile

24. Oktober 2019 - 16:03

What began last week as a protest against a fare hike in for the Santiago, Chile metro system has morphed into a broad social movement against increasing economic inequality in the country. And it has been violent. So far, at least 18 people have been killed.

From an international perspective, these protests are coming at an inopportune time. Santiago is hosting the next major global climate change conference, COP25, in early December. And prior to that, in mid November, the city is playing host for the APEC summit on Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Needless to say, the government of Sebastian Pinera is coming under increased pressure to address the concerns of the protesters. But as my guest today explains, so far the actions taken by his government have really only exacerbated this ongoing crisis.

Estafania Labrin Cortes is a Chilean reporter for the newspaper The Clinic. When I caught up with her from Santiago on Wednesday October 23, protests were still ongoing.

We kick off this conversation discussing the series of events that lead to the spontaneous eruption of nationwide protests. We then have a longer conversation about what is driving increasing inequality in Chile — indeed it has one of the highest degrees of wealth inequality among the world’s major democracies. As Estafia Labrin Cortes explains, this is partly due to legacies from the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you have 25 minutes and want to learn what caused these protests, how they spread so quickly and learn some of the broader international implications of this crisis in Chile, have a listen

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The post Massive Protests are Leading to a Political Crisis in Chile appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Deportation to Syria could mean death for women, children and LGBTQ refugees in Turkey

23. Oktober 2019 - 16:34

Ed note. This is a guest post from:  Deina Abdelkader, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn’t limiting his assault on neighboring Syria to attacking Kurdish troops that run the country’s northern region. He says the 3.6 million Syrians now living as war refugees in Turkey may also be returned “to their own homes” once northern Syria is wrenched from Kurdish control.

This could be an empty threat. After eight years of welcoming people fleeing Syria’s civil war, the Turkish public is beginning to turn against Syrian refugees. Erdogan may see anti-refugee rhetoric as a way to boost his popularity, which is slumping due to recession in Turkey and years of controversial power grabs.

But if the Turkish president does deport Syrian refugees, he won’t be sending them to a “safe zone,” as promised. These extremely vulnerable people would be deported into the lines of combat in this contested, oil-rich zone.

The forgotten half: Women Syrian refugees

In my experience researching minorities at risk in the Middle East, governments dealing with mass migration often overlook the particular challenges facing the most vulnerable refugees: women, children and LGBTQ people.

The Syrian refugees in Turkey are majorly Sunni Muslim – the same faith that predominates in both Turkey and Syria. However, Syrians are ethnically and linguistically different than Turks.

Syrian refugees differ from the broader Turkish and Syrian public in another way, too: 75% of them are women and children, according to the global nonprofit Migration Policy Institute. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 224,000 babies were born in Turkey to Syrian refugee families. Those children are now stateless, granted neither Turkish nor Syrian citizenship at birth.

Syrian women refugees suffer more discrimination and racism in Turkey than their male counterparts, research shows.

This is partially due to a big gap in Turkish language acquisition: 20% of Syrian refugee women complained that lack of language causes exclusion and discrimination, U.N. survey data from 2016 shows, compared to 13% of men.

Even so, 73% of Syrian refugee women told the U.N. that they feel safe in Turkey. That may be related to their resettlement in cities and towns across Turkey, primarily in Istanbul, where they usually live in poor neighborhoods.

Those areas surely feel secure compared to war-torn Syria. They are safer, too, than refugee camps along the Turkish-Syrian border, where rape, human trafficking, prostitution and child marriages have all been reported, according to OBC Transeuropa, a think tank.

Half of all Syrian female refugees were under the age of 18 when they were displaced by war to the Turkish border area.

Children in al-Bab, northern Syria, which was seized from the Islamic State by Turkey and Syrian opposition fighters last year, May 29, 2018.
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis LGBTQ Syrian refugees: An untold story

Turkey’s Syrian refugee community includes other marginalized groups that would face unique dangers back home, including gay, lesbian and trans people.

The exact number of LGBTQ Syrian refugees displaced across the region is unknown, human rights groups say. But Syria – like much of the Middle East and North Africa region – is a dangerous place to be gay.

Homosexuality is illegal in Syria, and both the government and terror groups like the Islamic State persecute sexual minorities. Being gay is culturally unacceptable according to traditional Islamic mores.

Though Turkey does not criminalize homosexuality, it is not always safe for LGBTQ Syrian refugees, either. Gay Syrians have suffered physical and verbal attacks, often with little response from law enforcement or the government.

In August 2016, Muhammed Wisam Sankari was found mutilated and killed in Istanbul, two days after he went missing. Sankari had told police he feared for his life after having previously been abducted, tortured and raped by unknown attackers, according to reports.

Recent crackdowns by the Turkish police in Syrian refugee communities, have been detaining and deporting thousands of Syrian refugees, including LGBTQ people.

The Turkish government denies that it is forcibly returning refugees to a war zone, which would be illegal under Turkish and international law.

Fighting continues in northeast Syria near the Turkish border despite a U.S.-brokered ceasefire.
AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

For LGBTQ Syrians, going home may be a death sentence.

In August 2019 a transgender Syrian woman named Ward told The Guardian newspaper that she feared being deported to the Turkey-Syria border because the al-Nusra terrorist group, a branch of al-Qaida with 5,000 to 10,000 fighters in western Syria, would kill her.

Ward was deported days later. She was last seen in late August being forced into the trunk of a car by militants in Syria, according to the Guardian report.

Collateral damage

Erdogan’s stated purpose in invading Syria is to rid its northern region of the Kurdish Worker’s Party – an armed militia and political party known as the PKK – and create a “buffer zone” between the two countries.

The PKK has been a thorn in Turkey’s side for the past 41 years.

With Syrian government support, PKK leader Abdallah Ocallan has been threatening the Turkish government with a Kurdish separatist insurgency long before Erdogan’s presidency.

The United States, like Turkey, considers the PKK to be a terrorist organization.

But in Syria the U.S. had, until its recent military withdrawal, allied itself with other secular and progressive Syrian groups, namely the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The Kurdish minority in northern Syria, as in nearby Iraq, has long been stuck between Ocallan’s armed militia, the Turkish government and their own authoritarian leaders – used and abused, my research finds, by politicians seeking to further their own regional agenda in the Mideast.

Returning Syrian refugees to this battleground would make them the “buffer” between these warring forces, turning more vulnerable people into collateral damage of a greater geopolitical war.

 

Deina Abdelkader, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Lowell

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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The Security Council Visits South Sudan. Can It Revive a Fledgling Peace Agreement?

22. Oktober 2019 - 15:30

Ed note. This is a guest post from By Daniel P. Sullivan, Senior Advocate for Human Rights, Refugees International 

With a deadline looming for peace in South Sudan, a delegation from the United Nations Security Council landed in Juba, the beleaguered country’s capital, on Sunday. The visit comes at a crucial time. As part of a peace deal, former enemies must form a transitional government by the middle of next month. Failure to do so might fatally undermine an already fragile peace.

More than a year since the signing of the peace agreement, a third of the population—some four million people—remains forcibly displaced from their homes and more than half of the overall population are severely food insecure. Most of the displaced South Sudanese I spoke with on a recent visit lacked confidence in the peace deal, and for good reason. Much of the agreement remains unfulfilled and the clock is ticking on a November 12 deadline to form a transitional government.

The implementation of the agreement has faltered in three key areas: 1) relocating and integrating soldiers from the two sides into a smaller, unified army; and 2) agreeing on the number and borders of states for purposes of political representation; and 3) opposition leader and former Vice President Riek Machar’s return.

According to the agreement, the government and opposition should begin the process of cantonment (relocating troops into agreed-upon sites) and integrating fighters from the government and opposition into a smaller, unified national army. But despite a promise by the government to allocate $100 million for peace implementation efforts like this, very little money has actually been spent. The political will is just not there. The result? No one knows the actual number of soldiers to be relocated, and cantonment sites remain in poor shape.

Disagreement over the number of states and their borders represents an even greater risk to peace. In what critics have called “ethnic gerrymandering,” President Salva Kiir in 2015 and 2017 decrees increased the number of states from 10 to 32, a move that could disenfranchise ethnic minorities and lead to renewed violence. As part of the peace agreement, a commission to address the issue was established but it was unable to reach a consensus.

Third, opposition leader Riek Machar is supposed to return as one of five transitional vice presidents. Since the signing of the agreement, Machar has only come back to Juba for three short visits. His return is tied up in disagreements over the formation of a VIP protection force and memories of violence following his previous returns.

The UN Security Council visit is an opportunity to consolidate international pressure on the parties to the agreement to implement these and other important issues while there is still time. The delegation should make clear that peace is a priority. Concrete actions in the coming weeks should include the return of Machar, regular face-to-face meetings between the two leaders, and increased verifiable movement of troops and resources to cantonment sites. Failure to show meaningful progress should result in consequences, such as targeted sanctions aimed at South Sudan’s leaders and withholding of further cantonment funding, troop training, and other important measures.

The ongoing levels of hunger and displacement and the high risk of a return to devastating violence make clear the risks of a failed peace. The UN Security Council delegation should make the consequences for South Sudan’s leaders equally as clear.

By Daniel P. Sullivan, Senior Advocate for Human Rights, Refugees International 

The post The Security Council Visits South Sudan. Can It Revive a Fledgling Peace Agreement? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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What the Trouble Between the NBA and China Tells Us About the Future of International Relations

21. Oktober 2019 - 15:20

On October 4th, the General Manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team shared a message on Twitter. It was which was an image with the words: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

The post was almost immediately deleted, but not before it caught the attention of Chinese authorities who began threatening huge sanctions on the Houston Rockets and on the NBA. The NBA quickly went into damage control mode with various officials profusely apologizing for this one tweet; and even the world’s biggest NBA star, LeBron James suggested Morey was uniformed and uneducated about the situation in Hong Kong.

What has unfolded between China and the NBA is to my mind one of the biggest stories of the last several years because it is such a blatant demonstration of the power that both the Chinese communist party and middle class consumers in China have over large western companies — and that they are willing to use that power to punish and deter free speech outside of China.

On the line with me to talk discuss what this incident with the NBA says about China’s global reach, the future of freedom of expression, and the future of capitalism is Derek Thompson. He is a staff Writer at the Atlantic and host of the CRAZY/GENIUS podcast.

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It’s Problematic that Venezuela Has a Seat on the Human Rights Council. But the Trump Administration Partly Has Itself to Blame

17. Oktober 2019 - 23:13

Venezuela was one of 14 countries to win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in elections held by the UN General Assembly.

Venezuela is not the first bad actor to win a seat on the Human Rights Council; nor the only bad actor to win a seat on the Human Rights Council in these elections. But the fact that the Maduro regime has won a seat on the Human Rights Council is perhaps the sharpest example of how the Human Rights Council can be co-opted by bad actors and rivals of the United States when the USA is disengaged.

It’s simply unconscionable that massive #HumanRights violators like the former Maduro regime in Venezuela are allowed to play a role on the @UN_HRC. I won’t stand for it, and neither should the @UN. #HumanRightsAreUniversal #EstamosUnidosVE

— Ambassador Kelly Craft (@USAmbUN) October 17, 2019

The seats on the 47 member body are apportioned based on a UN principal known as equitable geographic distribution, meaning that a specific number of seats are reserved for countries from each region of the world.  In the case of this most recent Human Rights Council election, there were three countries running for two open seats available to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

To be elected to the Human Rights Council requires a majority vote in the General Assembly. If all member states are voting, this means that at least 97 countries must, in a secret ballot, vote to elect the nominated country.  In the past, when a rival of the United States that also has a horrible human rights record has sought a seat on the Human Rights Council, the United States has sometimes been able to use its global influence to block that country. In 2010, for example, the US successfully mounted a global campaign against Iran when it ran for a seat on the Council. (And, it should noted, one year later the Council appointed a special human rights rapporteur to focus specifically on abuses in Iran. ) More recently, in 2016 the US helped to lead a coalition that blocked Russia from winning a seat on the Council.

Those wins for the United States all came during the Obama administration, which took a different approach to the Human Rights Council than the Trump administration. The Obama administration successfully sought and won a seat on the Human Rights Council; and in the years it was not a member of the Council, the Obama administration was still productively engaged with it.

The Trump administration, however, withdrew the United States from the Council in 2018. To the extent it engages the Council it at all, it is mostly to criticize from the sidelines.

This brings us to the recent election for two seats for Latin America. At first, Brazil and Venezuela were the only two countries vying for those two seats, all but guaranteeing them victories. Costa Rica entered the race late, ostensibly to block Venezuela.  In the end, though, Costa Rica narrowly lost.  The results: Brazil 153;  Venezuela 105; Costa Rica 96. It is not a stretch to conclude that Venezuela’s (thin) margin of victory can be partly attributed to America’s declining global influence in general and its disengagement from the Human Rights Council in particular.

The lesson here is that when the United States engages with the Council, it is more likely to secure outcomes that it views favorably. Venezuela securing a seat on the Council is certainly regrettable from a human rights perspective. But it is also an inevitable consequence of the Trump administration’s retreat from the Human Rights Council.

The post It’s Problematic that Venezuela Has a Seat on the Human Rights Council. But the Trump Administration Partly Has Itself to Blame appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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How “The Girl Effect” Has Changed International Development

17. Oktober 2019 - 15:46

The “Girl Effect” is a concept that has been around international development for the better part of a decade. It refers to the community and societal benefits that can accrue when investments are made in the education and health of girls. The concept has been backed up by research over the years and is now a driving force guiding many health and development projects.

“The Girl Effect” is also the name of a non profit dedicated to catalyzing its namesake, and on the podcast today is the organization’s CEO Jessica Posner.

In our conversation, Jessica Posner kicks off by explaining the concept of the girl effect, and then we have a longer conversation about the work of the organization she leads. This includes projects aimed at increasing the demand for reproductive health services and education among young women and girls in the developing world.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how the girl effect has evolved as a driving force in international development, have a listen.

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How a vaccine scare caused polio to re-emerge in the Philippines after 19 years

15. Oktober 2019 - 16:57

Nineteen years after polio was officially eradicated in the Philippines, the incurable disease has made a resurgence due to widespread fears about vaccines.

On September 14, health officials in the Philippines confirmed the first case of polio, involving a three-year-old girl, in nearly two decades. By September 19, an outbreak was declared after a second case, involving a five-year-old boy, was confirmed.

Polio is a highly infectious disease that is caused by the poliovirus. Although about 72 percent of people infected with the virus will not experience any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if the virus invades an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, it can cause permanent muscle paralysis or even death.

Children under five years old face the highest risk of contracting polio, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite the fact that polio cannot be treated, it can be prevented with a series of vaccines.

Successful vaccination campaigns have driven down polio cases from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to 33 reported cases in 2018, and wild poliovirus is now only endemic in (or transmitted within) three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. However, countries – like the Philippines – that have eradicated indigenous wild poliovirus are still susceptible to outbreaks if the virus is brought in from another country by an infected person or if it spreads within the country from a vaccine-derived strain.

That’s right – polio can spread from the vaccine, but it’s only a threat if enough people have not received all of their polio vaccines. And that’s exactly what’s happening in the Philippines.

According to the WHO, when a child receives an oral polio vaccine, the vaccine contains a weakened vaccine-virus that triggers an immune response in her body, protecting her from both wild and vaccine-derived poliovirus in the future. But the child also excretes the vaccine-virus. Even in areas where there is inadequate sanitation, this is usually not a problem, because the excreted vaccine-virus can protect other unvaccinated children in close contact (passive immunization) before dying out after a few weeks.

However, if a community is “seriously under-immunized,” as the WHO puts it, the excreted vaccine-virus can continue to circulate. And over the course of 12 to 18 months, it can mutate until it genetically changes into a paralytic form.

“If a population is fully immunized, they will be protected against both vaccine-derived and wild polioviruses,” says the WHO. “Hence, the problem is not with the vaccine itself, but low vaccination coverage.”

But since 2017, a wave of fear and skepticism surrounding vaccines has been sweeping the Philippines, resulting in a measles outbreak at the beginning of the year and a dengue epidemic this summer.

It all began when French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur released a statement in November 2017 that its new dengue vaccine, Denvaxia, posed a risk of more severe dengue for people who have not been previously infected by the virus. It led to a congressional investigation into the deaths of 600 children who had received the vaccine and a dramatic drop in public confidence about all vaccines, including measles and polio. Whereas 93 percent of parents in the Philippines in 2015 “strongly agreed” that vaccines are important, only 32 percent thought so in 2018.

Nevertheless, widespread vaccination is the only way to combat the current polio outbreak, so health officials in the Philippines as well as international organizations, including the WHO, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Red Cross and others, are mobilizing resources and workers to urgently carry out mass immunization campaigns. And until polio is eradicated globally, sufficient vaccination coverage will be critical to keep the threat at bay.

Related: The Inside Story of How India Defeated Polio 



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Why is Russia Suddenly So Interested in the Central African Republic?

14. Oktober 2019 - 17:03

Dionne Searcey travelled to the Central African Republic to report on a story that has previously lead to the murder of foreign journalists.

In July 2018 three Russian journalists were killed in the Central African Republic while investigating Russia’s growing presence in the country. Their murder last year, however, has only increased international attention on Russia’s shadowy aims in the Central African Republic. This includes both a scramble for the country’s natural resources and a soft power campaign intended to increase Russia’s reach in Africa.

Dionne Searcey is a reporter for the New York Times.  Her story published in late September exposed evidence of Russian involvement in illicit diamond mining. More broadly, though, her story explains and identifies the contours of Russia’s growing political interests in the Central African Republic.

And at the center of this story is a man named Yevgeny Prighozin. He is a Russian oligarch and close ally of Vladimir Putin, and has been indicted in the United States for his role in interfering in the 2016 Presidential election. He is also the owner of a mining company that has extracted millions of dollars worth of diamonds from the Central African Republic. This was done through legal mining operations  — but also likely through illegal mines operated by armed rebel groups.

We kick off discussing Yevgeny Prighozin before having a broader discussion of Russian involvement in the Central African Republic and what this signals about Russian-African relations more broadly.

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The post Why is Russia Suddenly So Interested in the Central African Republic? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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