The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Europe’s leaders should boycott Putin’s Olympic ceremony

In February 2014 the Russian elite will gather in the gleaming super stadiums of Sochi -- governors and oligarchs, police chiefs and “political technologists” -- to thunderously applaud as Vladimir Putin opens his Winter Olympics.

He has been dreaming of this for years.

But this is not a ceremony European leaders should attend.

In Sochi the Russian elite wants to dumbfound the EU -- not only with synchronized ice skating and Kremlin-coordinated firework displays -- but with a ceremony underscoring the absolute power of their leader.

This is Putin’s Olympics -- his Berlin 1936, his Beijing 2008.

This bald autocrat locks up punks, protestors and political prisoners -- and made homophobia state policy. But he has no doubt the West will be there to shake his hand in Sochi -- none whatsoever that French, British and German leaders will congratulate him on the success of the games, and thus the strength of his rule. Why so?

Moscow no longer sees the U.S. and the EU the way it used to. The long oil boom has not just been an upward curve in Russian power -- for Russian politicians it has been a decadelong journey into Western finance.

from The Great Debate:

A fragile peace with Taliban if school attacks escalate

In the week in which America opened the door for negotiations with the Taliban, three bloody massacres of school children -- shot down simply because they wanted to go to school -- raise grave questions about what kind of peace the Taliban offer.

Within days of the initiative for talks, the Taliban shot to death nine foreign tourists encamped on the peak of Nanga Parbat in northern Pakistan, saying the murders were in retaliation for a drone attack that killed one of their leaders. But what kind of justification can possibly be offered for the firebombing of a college bus carrying forty girls from their Quetta campus in Pakistan? Fourteen defenseless girls died in the bombing; eight more people died when the terrorists ambushed the hospital.

from The Great Debate:

Let’s kick Syria out of the United Nations

The United Nations estimates that since Syria’s uprising began over a year ago, more than 9,000 Syrians have been killed. A recent assessment from Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Elliot Abrams puts the total number of Syrian refugees at almost half a million. Worse, it appears that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are continuing to torture, imprison and kill Syrian civilians. It also seems that the recent peace plan promulgated by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, which Assad’s government agreed to, is dead. According to Turkey’s prime minister, Assad “is not withdrawing troops, but he is duping the international community.”

The conventional wisdom holds that the international community is out of alternatives, short of another potentially dangerous military intervention or the risky prospect of arming Syria’s rebels. Syria’s government has already thumbed its nose at sanctions and condemnations from the Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council, European Union and various U.N. organs and individual countries. The Security Council, thanks to the vetoes of Russia and China, is also constrained to issuing awkward joint statements rather than passing binding resolutions.

from The Great Debate:

Don’t dismiss the Kony video

Last fall, my high school history teacher showed our class a documentary called Invisible Children. It was amazing: We got to know a boy in Uganda named Jacob, who shared his fears about being abducted again and talked about why he would never be normal. It made me want to do something, though I wasn’t sure how I could help.

The movie had been made in 2005. Then on Mar. 5, Invisible Children Inc. released a video on YouTube about Joseph Kony, head of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, based partly on the documentary.

from The Great Debate:

How to tackle the child marriage crisis

By the end of today another 25,000 young children will have been robbed of their childhoods, cheated of their right to an education, exposed to life-threatening health risks, and set on a path that often leads to a life of servitude and poverty. Their plight is the result of widespread and systematic human rights violations. Yet the source of the injustice they suffer is hidden in the shadows of debates on international development: They are child brides.

Each year, 1.5 million girls -- many just starting their adolescent years -- become child brides. It was shocking for us to discover the sheer scale of the problem and to understand its impact on human rights and the life cycle of opportunities, and most tragically of all, on maternal and infant death rates.

from The Great Debate:

Suing corporations should be a last resort

On Feb. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The case is about Shell’s alleged complicity in torture and extrajudicial killings committed by the Nigerian military in the mid-1990s, and is expected to determine whether corporations can be sued in the U.S. for their involvement in human rights abuses abroad.

Corporate lawyers and plaintiffs’ attorneys alike are eagerly awaiting the outcome. If the Supreme Court upholds corporate liability, as federal courts have in the past and the Obama administration is encouraging the High Court to do, other lawsuits will surely follow -- against Apple for labor abuses in its Chinese manufacturing base, for example.

from Global News Journal:

UNsensational? Five more years of Ban Ki-moon

U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Kerry look on as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon addresses reporters in Washington. REUTERS/Molley Riley

U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman and John Kerry look on as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon addresses reporters in Washington. REUTERS/Molley Riley

It's hard to find a delegate to the United Nations who despises U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. But it's even harder to find someone who thinks he has the gravitas and charisma of his Nobel Peace Prize-winning predecessor Kofi Annan, who invoked the wrath of the previous U.S. administration when he called the 2003 invasion of Iraq "illegal." As one senior Western official, who declined to be identified, said about Ban: "It's not as if he's lightning in a bottle, but we can live with him."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Sentenced to death: On Pakistan’s minorities

aasia bibiEarlier this year I asked someone who had been a senior minister in the government of Pakistan why the country could not change laws which discriminated against minorities. I asked the question because more than 80 people from the minority Ahmadi sect had just been killed in two mosques in Lahore, which at the time served as a wake-up call of the dangers of growing religious intolerance in Pakistan.

His answer was unhesitating. You could not possibly do something like that in Pakistan.

Cluster munitions treaty – a milestone, but a long way to go

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Bonnie Docherty is a senior researcher in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. She is also a lecturer and clinical instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School.  The opinions expressed are her own.

On August 1, the world moved a step closer to eliminating cluster munitions, large weapons that carry dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions and are notorious for killing and maiming civilians, both during attacks and long afterward.

The worst place to return a child?

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-Simone Troller is children’s rights researcher with Human Rights Watch and specialises in unaccompanied migrant children in Europe. The opinions expressed are her own.-

It should hardly come as a surprise to anyone reading the news that Europe’s biggest group of asylum seekers are Afghans, including thousands of children who arrive alone.

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