Less than a week after the spectacular closing ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided for an encore and invaded the sovereignty of neighboring Ukraine. The chill winds of the Cold War have returned to Europe and the halls of diplomacy.
Amid the continuing carnage form Syria's civil war, there are small, if hard won, humanitarian victories which bring a tiny glimmer of hope to the battered and bleeding Middle East nation. Surprisingly the U.N. Security Council, unanimously agreed to a resolution which allows “unhindered humanitarian access” to cities, towns and neighborhoods under siege by warring factions.
“How can we claim we didn't know,” governments and media may soon be asking themselves as stunning new evidence of suffering and widespread human rights violations become glaringly obvious in communist North Korea?
Widening attacks on the press, arrests and intimidation of journalists are among the barriers to the free flow of information worldwide. But beyond the usual lists of suspects blocking and censoring news and the internet, there's a definite and deadly spike in violence against reporters, ranging from the Syrian civil war to drug cartel intimidation in Mexico.
If it's Tuesday, this must be Havana. Given U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's peripatetic global travels, the two-day visit to Cuba, especially in the midst of a frigid New York winter, seemingly made sense. After all, the trip was officially to attend the meeting of the
The U.S. President's annual State of the Union address is primarily about domestic policy with foreign flourishes and interludes. Barack Obama, facing lackluster poll ratings, presented a pedantic and populist address with the usual laundry list of political promises.
There used to be an advertising slogan that said, “We're number two but we try harder.” Perhaps in the spirit of the times we should revive this phrase and proclaim, “We're number twelve, but it's somebody else's fault.”
The powerful polar vortex causing the “big freeze” in parts of the U.S. has forced tens of millions of Americans to confront record cold winter temperatures. While waiting for the bus in the icy New York winds, I reflected on a report I picked up earlier at the U.N. dealing with the widening humanitarian crisis in Syria and how the vortex of conflict in that Middle Eastern land has engulfed a generation of children in the most horrible conditions in a civil war without mercy.
It's that time to consult the snow globe and try to peer ahead at some of the key stories, crises and opportunities which await the world as we prepare for a new year. Indeed, 2013 has been marred by new levels of violence, humanitarian disasters and a perceptible lack of leadership from the U.S. on the foreign policy front.
Faced with the ongoing civil war in Syria, the natural disaster in the Philippines and a spreading civil conflict in the Central African Republic, the U.N. humanitarian agencies are confronting a near perfect storm of political and natural disasters. Add the continuing needs from earlier trouble spots such as South Sudan, Somalia and Haiti and the system and donor states are facing a near overload.