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Brothers Miliband take the climate show on the road

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his brother, Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband are sounding the alarm that a climate deal in Copenhagen in December may fall apart unless countries get their act together. 

David Miliband told reporters in London that the complexity of negotiations and disputes between industrialized and developing nations over cuts to emissions threaten to scupper a deal.

"The deal the world needs in Copenhagen is now in the balance," he said. "There's a real danger the talks scheduled for December will not reach a positive outcome, and an equal danger in the run-up to Copenhagen that people don't wake up to the danger of failure until it's too late."

Here is David Miliband explaining some of the international security risks of unabated global warming.


That's his brother to the left. The two are taking this presentation to a number of European cities this week and are in the midst of a big media push. All the power to them.

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Lubna Freed, UN Official Criticizes Sudan

Lubna Hussein is a Sudanese woman and former UN worker arrested a few months ago in Khartoum for the crime of wearing pants.  Because she is an incredibly brave human being she turned her arrest, detention and trial into a public event that drew considerable attention to the arbitrary enforcement of discriminatory laws in Sudan.  Her trial concluded earlier this week.  She was found guilty and sentenced to a $100 fine (which she refused to pay) and one month in prison. 

She was released from prison earlier today.  But her trial has made her an international hero to human rights defenders around the world.  Lubna would not acquiesce to injustice. Instead, she fought it head on.  In the process, she drew considerable attention to the discriminatory Sudanese criminal code.  Consider this statement from the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

“Lubna Hussein, a female former UN staff member in Sudan, was yesterday sentenced to one month in jail, with the alternative of a 500 Sudanese Pound fine, on charges of dressing in an indecent manner – essentially because she was wearing trousers.

The Sudanese Criminal Act does not define what constitutes “indecent dress” and leaves wide discretion to police officers, raising concerns that the arrests are being conducted arbitrarily. According to Article 152(1) of the 1991 Criminal Act, "indecent dress" may be punished with up to 40 lashes or a fine, or both. Under international human rights standards, flogging is considered as cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

 Lubna Hussein's case is emblematic of a wider pattern of discrimination and application of discriminatory laws against women. Ms Hussein was arrested along with 13 other women. The arrests of all, and not only Lubna Hussein, were arbitrary and left to the discretion of police officers.

 The arrest and conviction of Ms. Hussein is a violation of Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Sudan is a state party and Art. 29 of Sudan’s own Interim National Constitution. The charges were not communicated at the time of arrest which is in violation of Art. 14 of the ICCPR. Article 9 of the ICCPR deals with the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and is also applicable.

On account of being a UNMIS staff member at the time of arrest and initial trial Ms. Lubna Hussein was represented by UNMIS Legal Affairs. Ms. Hussein consequently resigned from UNMIS as the trial proceeded. However, there was lack of legal representation for the other women and inadequate time to prepare their defence. There was also an absence of review of the sentence for other women. The judgment and flogging of some of the women arrested with Ms. Hussein who were not represented by legal counsel were carried out immediately under Section 152(1) of the 1991 Criminal Act.

The rights to freedom from arbitrary arrest, to due process of law, and to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are expressly protected in the Bill of Rights contained in Sudan’s Interim National Constitution. They are also enshrined in international human rights treaties to which Sudan is a State Party.

Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, national laws, such as the Criminal Act, require a comprehensive review in order to bring them into line with the Interim Constitution and Sudan’s international human rights obligations. This review has yet to be completed.”

Lubna has vowed to press on.  We'll be with her all the way. 

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Conde Nast, Putin’s Russia, and Freeing Information

(scan of the article, from Gawker)

As newspapers cut their international bureaus and do less investigative journalism, both GQ and Esquire have emerged as a surprising source for some excellent, in depth articles on international relations and foreign policy. For example, last year’s Esquire article on Admiral Fallon was a harbinger of the end of his career with the Bush administration, and GQ recently ran an impressive feature on the damage done by coal plants.

Unfortunately, style magazines cover hard news as a complement to their primary goals. It’s not part of their purpose as magazines. And we can see that – vividly - in GQ’s treatment of an article about Russia in their newest issues. GQ went to all the effort of sending a veteran war journalist, Scott Anderson, to Russia to investigate some 1999 bombings in Moscow that were blamed on Chechen separatists. The bombings were one of the main justification for Putin’s war in Russia’s North Caucasus, which led to horrifying brutality on both sides. The article found likely government involvement in the bombings.

And GQ buried the article. It ran in the September issue, but it’s not on the GQ website. It’s not even mentioned on the website. An internal memo has decreed that it will not run in or be mentioned by any Conde Nast (GQ’s parent company) publications  in Russia. GQ put it in print and now they’re trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. This is especially depressing when you consider the number of journalists who have  been killed in Russia, and the bravery of Anderson’s main source, a former KGB officer who is named and on the record in the article.

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A snapshot of the Climate landscape in two articles

Reading the NY Times this morning after the long weekend, I was immediately struck by two stories that seem to encapsulate the lay of the land in the lead up to the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Spoiler alert: the message will be that we need to get in gear. But I'm going to keep driving that home.

First story, Yukio Hatoyama, the presumptive PM of Japan, according to the NY Times headline, has repeated his campaign pledge to cut emissions from 1990 levels by 25 percent in the next decade, a major commitment given the lack of action by others.  One small caveat, it's contingent on commitments from other major polluters -- less than completely helpful.  Nevertheless, you have to respect his flying in the face of a government report that said such a reduction could lead to the loss of 90 million jobs in Japan at a time when it's suffering through a tough recession.

Now let's leave the land of conditional commitments and climate politics where the argument is largely academic at this point and start getting real.  Second story, with a crushing headline: "Lush Land Dries Up, Withering Kenya's Hopes." I imagine you can imagine where this is going.  A wrath-of-God-level drought is sweeping Kenya, "killing livestock, crops, and children." WFP has said that 4 million need food and that "red lights are flashing across the country."  This is wrecking the two main industries in Kenya, agriculture and tourism -- big game is "keeling over from hunger" -- which, of course, inflames an already fragile political situation.  This article goes into greater detail about the devastation and makes a more explicit connection to climate change, but I think you get the picture.

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Will Local Production of Essential Drugs Actually Reduce Access?

The New Ledger ran an editorial today from Roger Bate, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, that argues that local production of generic drugs in the developing world will not improve access to essential medicines. In fact, the author states that local production will undermine drug quality and lead to resistance and treatment failure.

Here’s the heart of his argument:

Having a drug industry is often a source of national pride, as well as a political opportunity; as it is assumed that politically-connected companies will win contracts from international donors to supply drugs. But with the exception of countries like India, South Africa and perhaps Nigeria, most developing countries do not have the local conditions necessary to tackle drug production. For example, India has an educated work force, a sizable local market, cheap energy and other raw material inputs, making it a rarity in developing countries.

It’s not a bad point, but I think it’s a straw man. He is essentially arguing that doing local drug production badly will lead to bad results. I’m not sure that’s much of a revelation. It’s all true that drug prices are not the only issue preventing access to medicine, but ignoring them as a fact isn’t the solution either.

Any approach to improving access to essential medicines is going to require both cheaper drugs and a health care system capable of getting those drugs out there. We learned that from generic production of anti-retrovirals (ARVs), which has been a genuine measurable success in improving access to HIV medications. Bate’s argument in the New Ledger is just a retread of the arguments used against generic production of ARVs, an argument that has been disproved in practice.

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Gaddafi at the UN

Hugo Chavez was so 2006.  This year, expect Libyan president Col. Muammar Gaddafi to suck up media attention during the UN summit later this month. 

This will be the first time that Gaddafi has attended the annual UN summit since taking over in a coup forty years ago. But before even setting foot in Turtle Bay, he's already generated a ton of controversy. 

Last month, he gave a hero's welcome to a convicted Lockerbie bomber who was repatriated to Libya, something which Susan Rice said "offended virtually every American."  Then, he planned on pitching a Bedouin style tent on property owned by the Libyan government in Englewood, New Jersey. This was met with widespread condemnation from municipal leaders, who found a pretext to revoke a permit for the tent site.  

There are also rumors afoot that Gaddafi will take his longstanding fued with Switzerland to the floor of the General Assembly and call for a nonsensical resolution to  abolish the country. (Swiss authorities arrested his son and daughter in-law last year for apparently beating up two servants in a Geneva hotel. Tripoli retaliated in a number of ways, including preventing two Swiss businessmen from leaving Libya until the Swiss apologized.) 

So what do to about this?  Noted international relations scholar Ted Nugent thinks that the United States should simply bar Gaddafi from setting foot in the country.  I'm not quite sure what good that would do. There is no real danger the United States in letting Gaddafi attend the UN summit.  Also, revoking his visa would set an unfortunate precedent that attending a UN summit is a reward to be bestowed or revoked by one head of state to another. 

There are, in fact, perfectly legitimate reasons for the Libyan head of state to attend the New York summit.  Libya happens to be on the Security Council at the moment. This means that there is a good chance that Gaddafi will attend a Council meeting on non-proliferation chaired by President Obama.  Before you scoff, consider that despite his other flaws, Gaddafi really is a de-proliferator.  Libya once had a nuclear program, but gave it up in 2003 amidst international pressure.  This kind of behavior should be encouraged if the international community is to coax Iran back from the nuclear brink. 

While Gadafi's antics in the run up to the summit may offend, it's arguably more harmful to American interests to prevent him from attending the meeting than letting him inside the proverbial tent.

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Susan Rice briefs reporters on Obama’s agenda for UN Week

Susan Rice briefed the UN press corps yesterday. A few interesting items of note about American participation in events on UN week.

1) Rice implied that we can expect some sort of outcome document from a Security Council meeting on non-proliferation, chaired by President Obama. As luck would have it, the United States currently holds the month-long “presidency” of the Security Council, and the September 24 meeting is the first time that an American president will chair a Security Council meeting. So far, we do not know what form this outcome document will take. (It could be a resolution or presidential statement, or something else.) Rice did say, however, that the meeting will not focus on any specific countries (i.e. Iran and North Korea) but on non-proliferation and disarmament issues more broadly.

2) Rice suggested that most, if not all, of the heads of state of the 15 member Security Council will attend the meeting. Libya happens to be a current member of the Council. And Col. Qadaffi happens to be planning to attend the UN Summit for the first time. This means that Obama and Qadaffi will be sitting across the table from each other, something which is bound to suck up some media attention.

3) Rice announced that Obama will also address the “High Level Event” on climate change, on September 22. This is a summit organized by the Secretary General to focus political attention and help gain some momentum toward a comprehensive post-Kyoto climate accord, to be negotiated in the Copenhagen in December. 

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Crackdown on illegal fishing

From the UN Food and Agriculture Organization:

The final text of a new treaty that aims to close fishing ports to vessels involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has been agreed upon by a group of 91 countries during talks brokered by FAO, the UN agency announced today.

The "Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing" will be the first ever global treaty focused specifically on the problem of IUU fishing. It is hoped that the agreement will help block IUU-caught fish from entering international markets, thereby removing an important incentive for some fishermen to engage in illicit fishing.

Once it is formally adopted (which is considered a near certainty), the treaty will enter into force 30 days after 25 state parties have ratified it.

(h/t Jurist)