In a world where politicians and potentates clog the media with pre-packaged sound bites, yammer on with a staccato of political chatter, or drone on with endless explanations of subjects even they forgot, it's heartening to see a former British prime minister act the role of statesman and sage. Thus, after the sonorous drone of the recent U.N. General debate, it's a pleasure hearing Tony Blair address key global issues with passion, verve, and dedication.
Super Typhoon Haiyan, which swept across the central Philippines, left a brutal legacy of death, destruction and dislocation in its wake. The category-five storm which slammed into Leyte and Cebu directly confronted the global community with yet another gripping disaster in which 13 million people were affected, with over 4 million persons displaced and at least 4,000 dead.
You can't make this up. In recent elections for the U.N.'s 47 member Human Rights Council (UNHRC), some of the winners of the coveted seats are ironically the countries who are among the major global human rights transgressors. The situation ironically evokes the old adage of the foxes guarding the henhouse or of Tony Soprano chairing a Senate subcommittee on organized crime.
As civil war, political stalemate, and the tragic humanitarian hemorrhage of refugees continues, Syria approaches its third winter of conflict.
A host of “systemic and systematic violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights” continue to plague Iran despite the election of the purportedly reformist President Hassan Rouhani. That's part of a stinging assessment of the current human rights landscape according to Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Recent elections for the new non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council went off with a predictable yawn. Countries representing regional groups gained the coveted two-year rotating membership without opposition and basically by acclimation. A secret ballot was set; vote for one out of one. So when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia won a coveted seat for the Asian group, there was polite applause, wry smiles, and then later political shock and awe when the Saudi's rejected the seat and renounced the Council's role in the Syrian war.
An arc of political and social instability exists on the soft underbelly of the Sahara Desert, as Islamic militants and ethnic separatists chip away at the fragile political geography of five states on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. The West African country of Mali, wracked by a military coup, an Islamic power grab and tribal fighting, has only regained a fragile stability in the wake of French military intervention earlier this year and the subsequent U.N. peacekeeping mission. Yet Mali's precarious situation, and that of the many regional states, could be slipping backwards.
Chinese President Xi Jinping went on a charm offensive in Southeast Asia, preening and posturing about the widening role Beijing plans to play in the business of this vital region. U.S. President Barack Obama was stuck back in Washington pouting and posturing over the partial government shutdown but making few effective moves towards Congressional Republicans to resolve the crisis.
The raging civil war in Syria has dominated headlines as well as both the debate and emotions at the U.N. General Assembly. But beyond the grisly statistics of over 100,000 people killed as well as the toxic political aftermath of chemical weapons use, there remain three other glaring, but often overlooked, issues.
The Somalia-linked terrorist carnage perpetuated in a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall killing 70 innocent bystanders, the attacks on a church in Peshwar, Pakistan by Taliban fighters murdering at least 75 worshippers, and the consistent harassment of Christians in Egypt by Muslim Brotherhood militants offer stark and stunning subjective evidence of Islamist militants perpetuating violence.