November 13, 2010
Aung San Suu Kyi is Released from House Arrest
Authorities in Myanmar (Burma) have released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. She had been under house arrest for much of the past two decades. Her release comes one week after the South-east Asian nation held its first elections in 20 years.
"Her dignity and courage in the face of injustice have been an inspiration to many people around the world, including the Secretary-General, who has long advocated her freedom," said a spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. "The Secretary-General expects that no further restrictions will be placed on her, and he urges the Myanmar authorities to build on today's action by releasing all remaining political prisoners."
The statement also noted that it was "deeply regrettable" that Ms. Suu Kyi was effectively excluded from participating in the recent elections. "Democracy and national reconciliation require that all citizens of Myanmar are free to participate as they wish in the political life of their country."
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called Ms. Suu Kyi's release a "positive signal" that the Myanmar authorities are willing to move forward with the serious challenge of democratic transition. "Clearly, Aung San Suu Kyi can make a major contribution to this process," Ms. Pillay stated, adding that she remained "extremely disappointed" that the pro-democracy leader was not released before the elections. The High Commissioner urged the authorities to now release the other 2,200 political prisoners as "a clear sign that the new Government intends to respect human rights and forge a new future for the country."
(Adapted from a UN Press Release)
November 12, 2010
Forming a Government in Iraq
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the “major step forward” taken with the agreement reached after months of deadlock on the formation of a new Iraqi government. He called on Iraq’s leaders to swiftly conclude the process. “He commends all political parties and their leaders for reaching a compromise that will serve the collective interest of the Iraqi people,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
Mr. Ban called the agreement, which follows eight months of deadlock, a “major step forward in the country’s democratic process.” He congratulated President Jalal Talabani on his re-election and welcomed the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers of the Parliament, known as the Council of Representatives, and the nomination of the Prime Minister-designate, Nuri al-Maliki.
Negotiations on the formation of the government have been going on since the holding of parliamentary elections in March. At least 12 million people cast their votes and more than 6,000 candidates took part in the polls, in which the party headed by Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister, received more votes than the coalition led by Mr. al-Maliki in the 325-member Council of Representatives.
(adapted from a UN Press Release)
November 11, 2010
Friday Fun: Use Google Maps to Get Directions on How to Get from Japan to China
Click here to go to googlemaps. Put "Japan" as your starting point and "China" as your destination. Be sure to check out step number 43 on the directions you get. Enjoy!
Hat tip to Giles Usher
World Bank Scandal: Employees Will Be Able to Support Group that Promotes "Conversion Therapy" to "Cure Homosexuality"
The World Bank has approved an employee giving program that includes World Bank matching funds for an anti-gay group that promotes conversion therapy for homosexuality.
MetroWeekly reported yesterday that the World Bank's Community Connections Campaign includes this year the ability to give funds to a group called PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays).
The American Psychological Association, in a 2009 resolution, determined that there was no evidence to support the idea that sexual orientation can be changed by psychological interventions. The PFOX group, however, promotes the idea that gay and lesbian persons can "change" their sexual orientation.
The World Bank will reportedly match employee contributions made to PFOX, which will allow the anti-gay group to represent that its programs and mission are supported by the World Bank.
The MetroWeekly article notes that including PFOX in the World Bank Employee Giving Campaign calls into serious question the World Bank's commitments to equality and non-discrimination. The World Bank was urged to remove the group from the list and to state that PFOX does not represent the values of the World Bank.
Hat tips to Rex Wockner and MetroWeekly.
WTO Discussion Forum on 2011 World Trade Report
The World Trade Organization launched a new discussion forum today devoted to next year’s World Trade Report. The subject of the report is “new era preferential trade agreements.” Click here for more information. And click here to visit the discussion forum.
Hat tip to the WTO Press Office
November 10, 2010
International Anticorruption Conference To Be Held in Bangkok, Thailand This Week
The city of Bangkok, Thailand will host the 14th annual International Anti-Corruption Conference this week from November 11-13, 2010. The IACC is the premier forum that brings together public and private stakeholders to discuss ways to combat transnational criminal threats and illicit trade. U.S. President Obama has said “…[transnational crime] can undermine stability and security, fuel violence and corruption, weaken the rule of law, and subvert legitimate economies.” According to the U.S. State Department, at the G20 Leaders' Summit in Seoul, Korea from November 11-12, "President Obama will join the other G20 Leaders in endorsing an Action Plan on Anti-Corruption, which contains a set of comprehensive and concrete steps to enhance cooperation in the fight against corruption and illicit trade."
November 9, 2010
Public Can Attend the WTO Hearing in the EU-US Dispute on Aircraft Subsidies
The European Union and the United States have agreed to allow public observation of the oral hearing in the dispute “European Communities and Certain Member States — Measures Affecting Trade in Large Civil Aircraft” (WT/DS316/R). The hearing will be held on November 18, 2010 at the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland. Click here for more information about how to attend.
November 8, 2010
President Obama Signals Support for India as Permanent Member of UN Security CouncilIn a speech to the Indian Parliament today, President Obama expressed support for the idea that India should have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Specifically, President Obama was quoted as saying: "Indeed, the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate. . . That is why I can say today, in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member. . . And so we look forward to working with India, and other nations that aspire to Security Council membership, to ensure that the Security Council is effective; . . . that resolutions are implemented and sanctions enforced; and that we strengthen the international norms which recognize the rights and responsibilities of all nations and individuals." In other proposals to reform the UNSC to make it better reflect current political realities, some have suggested the creation of more permanent seats, but have not always suggested that these new permanent seats be accompanied by veto rights. President Obama did not expressly state whether India should have the same veto rights as the current five permanent members of the UNSC. China is a permanent member with a veto and may not support the addition of India, its competitor in the Asian region. Pakistan, too, is likely to be uncomfortable with further legitimizing India's growing strength given the history between those two countries. In addition, expanding the UNSC to include India as a permanent member will likely revive the long-standing claims of other powerful countries such as Brazil, Germany and Japan., as President Obama's reference to "other nations that aspire to Security Council membership" acknowledges. (cgb)
November 7, 2010
US State Department Releases Vol. XXXII of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-76, Covering SALT I
For persons interested in the history of weapons treaty negotations, the U.S. State Department has finally released volume XXXII of Foreign Relations of the United States, covering the years 1969-1976, when the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) was negotiated. According to a State Department press release:
"The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks produced a series of comprehensive arms control agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union that for the first time limited the deployment of ballistic missiles and anti-ballistic missile systems. Commonly referred to as “SALT I,” the agreements were signed by President Richard Nixon and the General Secretary of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev at the Moscow Summit in May 1972. This volume documents the negotiations leading up to the agreement, the internal deliberations among U.S. policy makers, and reveals the play of political and national security considerations that factored into U.S. policy decisions.
The volume is organized chronologically covering the period of analytical preparation before SALT began, the various rounds of negotiations with the Soviet Union alternating among the cities of Helsinki, Geneva and Vienna, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger's secret trip to Moscow in April 1972, discussions between President Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev at the Moscow Summit in May 1972, and the Nixon administration's efforts to secure congressional approval of the SALT agreement and ratification of the ABM treaty.
Sources for this volume include documents generated in the White House, the National Security Council, the Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The editor [Erin Mahon] included extracts from memorandums of conversation between Henry Kissinger, and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, telephone transcripts and meeting memoranda prepared by chief SALT negotiator, Gerard Smith, and a significant number of backchannel messages among Smith, Kissinger and Alexander Haig, Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs. Additionally, the editor transcribed specifically for this volume more than twenty excerpts from conversations recorded among the President and his advisors on the secret White House taping system."
Persons interest in purchasing the volume may do so from the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO Stock Number 044-000-02614-7; ISBN 978-0-16-078401-9), or by calling toll-free 1-866-512-1800 (D.C. area 202-512-1800). For further information, contact Susan Weetman, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1276.