India’s Untouchables to Get U.N. Boost

The United Nations is set to declare caste systems a human rights violation at the current meeting of its Human Rights Council in Geneva, in a bid to recognize centuries-old institutionalized discrimination against the world’s estimated 200 million Dalits, or untouchables. Draft principles being considered by the Council call for the “elimination of discrimination based on work and descent.” Dalits and similar groups face discrimination under existing caste systems in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Japan and Somalia. While Nepal came out in support of the move, India has objected to the use of the word “caste” in the draft principles […]

Obama as Hamlet

Let’s face it, the meme that’s currently taking shape is that President Barack Obama is weak and vascillating. And that’s a particularly lethal meme for a foreign policy oriented around engagement, cooperation, shared responsibility and a careful husbanding of dwindling U.S. power resources. Is it a fair characterization? It leaves out a number of policy positions where he has taken bold initiatives and followed them up well. His nuclear nonproliferation agenda, for instance, which I initially dismissed but have since come to appreciate, offers promising openings on a number of fronts. His handling of the much-needed U.S. image makeover, too, […]

The term “lawfare” is increasingly used to characterize the pervasive role of law in the conduct of war, but there is nothing new about the concept. Law has always played a role in war, requiring that a pragmatic balance be struck between the necessities of war and the need to protect the innocent. The significance of this balance between military necessity and humane treatment under the law has never been more central to the credibility of U.S. military operations than it is today. The real question raised today is whether “lawfare” will come to define a fundamental distortion of this […]

September is the showcase month at the U.N. headquarters in New York. In 2009, in addition to rolling out the red carpet for newly elected leaders from the U.S. and Japan, the organization also made ambitious attempts to address climate change and nuclear nonproliferation. Compared to past years, expectations were sky high, as President Barack Obama delivered a speech detailing his administration’s commitment to multilateralism after years of U.S. neglect. With Washington’s full backing, the U.N. seems ripe for an image makeover to accompany the structural facelift currently in progress. However, despite the optimism, no one is forecasting any progress […]

Imagine a day, perhaps sometime in the next year and a half, when world leaders triumphantly proclaim that an agreement has at long last been reached in the Doha Round of global trade negotiations. Hosannas pour forth from editorial writers and commentators, all declaring that after so many disappointments and failures since the talks were first launched in 2001, the breakthrough accord heralds a giant leap forward for global commerce and international economic cooperation. Could it happen? Glimmers of hope have emerged from the World Trade Organization in recent months that a compromise may be in the offing, one loosely […]

The U.N. climate change negotiations currently underway and set to conclude in Copenhagen late in 2009 seek to establish new arrangements in anticipation of the termination of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. According to our current understanding of the science, a successful outcome to these negotiations is critical to maintaining a stable climate, even if the estimates of the costs of damage from inaction vary widely. The negotiations are currently beset by a series of obstacles. But if these are overcome, the resulting agreement will change the global landscape in terms of trade, politics and the entire international system. The […]

New U.S. Initiative on Global Food Security

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon hosted a meeting on Global Food Security Sept. 26 in New York, with leaders from 130 countries. Ban and Clinton jointly introduced a proposal at the meeting titled “Partnering for Food Security: Moving Forward.” The thrust of the initiative is to take a more preventative and less reactive approach toward food security. “We will continue of course to invest in the crises and emergencies, but we want to begin to try to alleviate the crises and the emergencies by once again enabling people to feed themselves,” Clinton said at […]

Parag Khanna: ‘Invisible Maps’ at TED

At the TED Global Conference in Oxford, England, Parag Khanna looks atinternational borders, globalization, and how to create a prosperous,peaceful and integrated world. By looking at the “Invisible Maps”behind political borders, Khanna demonstrates how economic, demographicand cultural factors — such as Chinese migration into Russia, and theconstruction of oil and gas pipelines in the Mideast and Central Asia– are shaping the geopolitical future.

After two days of high-profile meetings and deliberation last week, the G-20 managed to make official something everyone already knew: the United States and Europe can no longer effectively manage the whims of the global economy on their own. To that end, the group reached consensus on two major fronts: 1) the more diverse G-20 should effectively replace the Western-dominated G-8 as the world’s primary economic coordinating body; and, 2) voting power within the IMF should be reformed to give greater voice to emerging powers. Stop the presses, right? Yes and no. This is big news, but not necessarily new […]

President Barack Obama’s performance at the United Nations last week was widely hailed — and condemned — as a clear departure from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. His most telling statement spoke volumes about the limits of U.S. power in an interdependent world: “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Subtext? Atlas has put down the heavy globe and has neither the intention nor the wherewithal to pick it up again. If that makes for an uncertain age, it’s […]

UNITED NATIONS — President Barack Obama sprinted through three days of international diplomacy at the United Nations General Assembly, vowing to re-engage the world body and pushing through a Security Council resolution that inched him closer to his dream of a nuclear weapons-free world — all the while warning he would never apologize for defending America’s interests. The resolution, passed unanimously yesterday, aims at deterring countries from withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and preventing civilian nuclear programs from being diverted toward the development of nuclear weapons. Its passage was the most tangible victory for Obama, who entered this week […]

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday morning, President Barack Obama said, “It is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 — more than at any point in human history — the interests of nations and peoples are shared.” By this logic, American interests and American power around the world — which this column sets out every week to measure — depend on cooperation. The General Assembly presents an ideal opportunity to consider how much that cooperation is possible. As ever, consensus eludes us. The New York Times, for instance, sided with the argument […]

Obama and Gadhafi: A Tale of Two Speeches

Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi’s speech yesterday at the U.N. was admittedly good for laughs, and it’s no surprise that it was the butt of many mocking posts around the Web yesterday. Nevertheless, and I’ll probably get in trouble for pointing this out, in his own inimitable style, Gadhafi said many of the same things as U.S. President Barack Obama. Gadhafi: “You are like a Hyde Park, without any substance,” he told the surprised delegates. “You just make a speech and disappear.” Obama: Speeches alone will not solve our problems — it will take persistent action. Gadhafi: “The preamble (of the […]

Obama Speaks to United Nations General Assembly

On Sept. 23, U.S. President Obama spoke before the United Nations General Assembly for the first time as president. The president outlined “four pillars” he believes are “fundamental to the future that we want for our children”:”non-proliferation and disarmament; the promotion of peace andsecurity; the preservation of our planet; and a global economy thatadvances opportunity for all people.” Full transcript.

When the heads of state of the G-20 nations meet in Pittsburgh, Pa., later this week, it will mark nearly six months since the group’s previous meeting in London last April, and just over one year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers last September. At the time of the London Summit, the world was still in the throes of an unfolding crisis, leading the group to adopt a triage strategy. That amounted to essentially stopping the global economy and its credit markets from flat-lining. Accordingly, the major decision to come out of the April meeting was a $1.1 trillion global […]

Challenges for the G-20 in Pittsburgh

Uri Dadush of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace provides apreview of the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh this week. Dadush says worldleaders musttread carefully as they plan for the withdrawal of government support,insist onreforms needed to prevent a future crisis, and remove the uncertaintysurrounding the role of the G-20 as a forum for global economicgovernance

The New Rules: Innovative Entrepreneurs Warm to Global Warming

As somebody who spends his workdays evaluating investment opportunities in emerging/frontier economies, I receive a lot of business pitches involving new technologies. The time I spend listening to these accounts of how things can ultimately work out for the better balances my work in the national security realm contemplating how everything must “inevitably” collapse into conflict. I find the perspective it offers invaluable, because it reveals how often what we call “realism” tends to be hopelessly trapped in centuries past. Right now the bulk of the pitches I receive focus on alternative energy. No surprise there, but not for the […]

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