The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Humans don’t do ‘future’ well, and that could doom us if we’re not careful

A protester carries a sign during the "People's Climate March" in the Manhattan borough of New York

There has been some rare good news about the environment recently. One was hard to miss. On Sunday, roughly 300,000 people swelled the streets of midtown Manhattan in the People’s Climate March. It was not just the largest climate protest in history; it was the biggest U.S. political demonstration of any kind in more than a decade.

The movement to combat climate change has had a hard time getting off the ground -- at least partly because of the abstract nature of the issue. Before Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and the recent California mega-drought, for most Americans climate change was a theoretical threat in the indeterminate future.

That’s changing, however. Sunday’s protest presented a broad-based coalition. Far from the small number of environmentalists who might have participated just a few years ago, the New York march included 1,572 organizations -- faith-based, labor, anti-poverty -- health professionals and a large turnout of high school and college students from across the country.

People march during a rally against climate change in New YorkBut if you blinked, you might have missed the other environmental good news. The dangerous ozone hole over Antarctica stopped growing, a recent United Nations study found, and shows early signs of repairing itself.

from The Great Debate:

Why the U.S. must lead on Disabilities Treaty

In an HIV clinic in Africa, a man born deaf holds a single sheet of paper with a plus sign. He looks for help, but no one at the clinic speaks sign language. In fact, the staff doesn’t seem interested in helping him at all.

He returns to his plus sign. These are his test results. They dictate he should start antiretroviral drugs immediately and should also make changes in his sexual habits. But he doesn’t know this. He leaves the clinic concluding that the plus sign must mean he’s okay, that everything is just fine.

48 hours to save Syria’s children

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By Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children. The opinions expressed are his own.–

The pictures of Syrian children lined up dead and others writhing in agony, foaming at the mouth as they struggled to breathe, shocked us all to the core. These horrific chemical attacks were crimes against humanity. That is why we should all welcome the UNSC resolution passed in New York.

from Compass:

How to win the vote — and the war — on Syria

President Barack Obama’s surprise decision to seek congressional authorization for punitive cruise missile strikes against Syrian government targets presents the West with a perhaps final opportunity to align rhetoric with reality, and policy with purpose, in its response to the Syrian civil war.

The bad news is that the White House, by gambling on its ability to convince a recalcitrant Congress to go against an isolationist public mood, has opened itself up to the very real possibility of defeat as its opponents will seek to embarrass what they consider a reluctant, irresolute Commander-in-Chief. The good news is that that path to winning the vote in Washington is paved with setting out a new and credible course for a diplomatic solution to the crisis that can justify an act of war.

from The Great Debate:

For Russia, Syria is not in the Middle East

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with (clockwise, starting in top left.) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Prime Minister David Cameron, next Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. REUTERS/FILES

A string of leaders and senior emissaries, seeking to prevent further escalation of the Syria crisis, has headed to Moscow recently to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. First, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, then British Prime Minister David Cameron, next Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and now, most recently, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon These leaders see Russia as the key to resolving the Syria quandary.

from David Rohde:

A failure to lead at the U.N.

It is the world’s most important organization, yet remains one of the most dysfunctional.

This week a former United Nations employee described a pervasive culture of impunity inside the organization – one in which whistle-blowers are punished for exposing wrongdoing. James Wasserstrom, a veteran American diplomat, said he was fired from his job and detained by U.N. police – who searched his apartment and placed his picture on wanted posters – after he reported possible corruption among senior U.N. officials in Kosovo.

Water scarcity leads to conflict? Not a foregone conclusion

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Steven Heywood is a programme assistant, specialising in the human impacts of climate change at the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva. The views expressed are his own.

“Countries have not tended to go to war over water,” Ed Davey, the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change recently noted, “but I have a fear for the world that climate instability drives political instability.”

Now is the time to not only maintain pressure on Iran, but increase it

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By Charles Guthrie, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, Kristen Silverberg and Dr August Hanning. The opinions expressed are their own.

On May 23, 2012, the chief negotiators of the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany will meet their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme. This follows last April’s meeting in Istanbul, when negotiations were resumed after more than a year’s inaction. This summit will test whether Iran is serious and whether concrete results can be achieved.

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:

We are letting Assad win

A year into the crisis in Syria, it's time to admit that the world is prepared to allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to slaughter his people. Unless force is used to back diplomacy, the international community will let Assad kill tens of thousands more than the 7,500 already lost.

We’ve seen this playbook too many times before -- in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan. It is time to face three brutal truths about the crisis. First, no country sees it as sufficiently in its interests to use airstrikes and eventually send forces into Syria to stop the attacks by the Syrian regime -- the only way to end the current slaughter. While well intentioned and perhaps saving some lives, all the surrounding activity -- summits, special envoys, humanitarian corridors, safe zones, arming the opposition, and efforts to reach a ceasefire -- serves as a smokescreen for the Syrian regime to finish the job of wiping out the rebel “terrorists.” These negotiations will not work unless backed by force.

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