Monthly Archives: June 2009
Europe: “We’ll go completely green by 2050.”
China: “2050 — ha! We’ll out-green you by 2020.”
Okay, not completely green, but still:
“We are now formulating a plan for development of renewable energy. We can be sure we will exceed the 15% target. We will at least reach 18%. Personally I think we could reach the target of having renewables provide 20% of total energy consumption.”
This would surpass the goal that Europe has set out for 2020, which is even more impressive given how much more China pollutes. And don’t doubt the Chinese — they already invest more in renewables than does Europe, and they’re way ahead on that whole banning plastic bags thing, which they did over a year ago.
Maybe Japan — whose paltry proposed emissions cuts left the UN’s climate head “lost for words” — can be spurred to more ambitious targets by its mainland neighbor…
Of all the commentary and analysis of Iran’s upcoming elections that I have read, this strikes me as definitively the worst. Titled “Iran’s Potemkin elections” and penned by Con Coughlin, of London’s Daily Telegraph, the piece ledes off (pun intended) with this bombshell: “Only candidates vetted by the ruling clerics have been allowed to stand.” No! You mean that the Ayatollah had some say in determining who was allowed to run for election? I am shocked. Shocked.
Sarcasm aside, it is indeed puzzling why anyone would be surprised by the one part of Iran’s power structure that seems relatively transparent. Twelve members of what is called the Guardian Council — six picked directly by the Ayatollah, six more or less indirectly so — are the ones to pre-approve candidates. This year, though more than 400 offered their name — including women, who were allowed to do so for the first time — only four survived the cut.
This is far from democratic; I don’t know of anyone who argues that it is. But one of the odd aspects of the Iranian political system is that much of what follows is, in fact democratic. And partially due to the actual ability of Iranians to vote, partially because we don’t know what un-democratic dynamics are operating behind the scenes, the foregone conclusion that Coughlin assumes, without evidence — that Ahmadinejad is “widely expected to win re-election” — is simply not substantiated.
While many Iran hawks spend the bulk of their time pointing to Ahmadinejad’s hostile and ham-handed provocations, others contend that Iran is the plaything of the “mad mullahs.” Neither of these oversimplifications is accurate. The Ayatollah and his clerics exercise a good deal of power, for certain. But, in a telling example, Khamenei did not, by all accounts, prefer Ahmadinejad to win the first time around — nor was he at all expected to do so — and it is not clear whether Ahmadinejad or Mir Hossein Moussavi (who is not, as Coughlin calls him, a “conservative hard-liner”) will prevail this year. That all we can expect out of what has been a very interesting election campaign is “more of the same” is also very much not necessarily true.
And I know the phrase “Potemkin” has come to mean any sort of façade, but Coughlin definitely has his history backwards. The original Potemkin village was designed to deceive the Empress Catherine the Great; in this case, it’s the Supreme Leader who knows more about what’s going on than anyone else — though not, most probably, who’s going to win this election.
(image from flickr user Shahram Sharif under a Creative Commons license)
That’s the free number that Afghans can call for information about their upcoming elections. Set up by the UN team in the country, the number has become one of the most popular in Afghanistan:
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today that some 25,000 Afghans call the Independent Election Commission (IEC) every week to get information on the 20 August presidential and provincial council elections.
Providing details on voter registration, polling place, and the election date, the hotline is one of those small, subtle ways that technology can further the UN’s — and Afghans’ — goals. The fact that operators sometimes receive threats from callers claiming to be part of the Taliban may make their job more dangerous, but it also underscores how important this service is to the growth of Afghan democracy.
(image from flickr user rybolov under a Creative Commons license)
The small archipelago nation, Palau, is stepping up to take 17 ethnic chinese Uighurs from prison in Guantanamo. In fact, the United States Supreme Court ordered these detainees released months ago, but until now the Obama administration could not find a country willing to receive them.
Why Palau? Well, it is one of the staunchest American allies in the world. At the United Nations there is sort of a running joke that the United States is never fully isolated: it can always count on Palau for support. And, indeed, when you look at some of the more contentious votes at the General Assembly you’ll often find the United States, Palau and the Marshall Islands on one side of and most of the rest of the world on the other. Palau’s UN ambassador is even an American.
And of course, Palau was a member of the coalition of the willing.
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A day after representatives from more than 35 countries and international organizations met in Rome to discuss piracy off the coast of the Somalia, the UN today reports the astonishing figure that over 100,000 Somalis have been displaced in the last month. Even by the standards of Somalia’s recent turmoil, this is a shockingly high rate — the highest, in fact, in “many, many years.” Amidst this gross displacement, all sides of the conflict have committed egregious human rights violations, with an appalling frequency of rape, impressment of child soldiers, and reckless shelling of civilians.
Compared with the widespread travesties faced by these thousands of Somalis, the international community’s focus on piracy, whatever its impact on the global economy, seems almost an affront to human dignity. Yet there are signs that leaders in Rome yesterday understand the connection between Somalia’s humanitarian crisis and the headline-grabbing antics of pirates. From Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini:
The minister said that piracy is linked to phenomena like the “criminality and infiltration of extreme elements easily recruited also by Al-Qaeda”.
“Piracy is only the tip of the iceberg,” Frattini said. “We are convinced that piracy is related to the political and socioeconomic crisis on land, not on the sea.
He said piracy and terrorism, illegal immigration, human trafficking are ” a threat not only to Somalia but to the entire international community”.
How they choose to address this larger problem is, of course, the big question. Pirate courts and an enhanced Somali coast guard are nice steps, but the iceberg is much, much bigger.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.