September 28, 2012
We are still wondering just what happened in Benghazi, Libya, with the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the State Department’s Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
That this tragedy happened on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans makes it all the more difficult. Eleven years later, we have another September 11 to grieve. What have we learned? What lesson should we glean from such calamity?
At best, the tragedy reminds us to honor the dedication, sacrifices and service of our personnel—and not just those serving in the military. All those who knew him say that Stevens represented the very best of our foreign service.
At this point, it is not clear how and why critical warning signs were overlooked. Hopefully we will get good information about what happened—before the U.S. elections in November. As a first step, the U.S. is reevaluating the safety of our diplomatic personnel around the world including in our own hemisphere. One thing is clear, however: No matter our best intentions, people will want to do us harm. That is a safe assumption.
September 23, 2011
As general debate of the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 66th Session got underway this week, the issue of UN structural reform was again brought into focus—with Brazil leading the charge. A thriving democracy and one of the largest emerging economies in the world, Brazil has powerful ammunition in making its demand—especially paired with the collective declining influence of deficit-ridden, developed nations.
The desired trophy for Brazil comes in the form of a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This elite organ has retained the same numerical composition—15 seats: 5 with permanent tenures (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and 10 with temporary, two-year terms—since its formation in 1946.
Critics of the status quo argue that this small size does not accurately reflect the global developments of the last 55 years. Brazil, as it vocally carries the banner of emerging nations that feel underrepresented in the UN, has chosen to act on reform. The most notable way of doing so has been through the Group of 4 (G4), an alliance formed in 2004 composed of Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan. Each of the G4 nations mutually supports the other members’ bids.
The G4 seeks to expand the size of the UNSC by two-thirds, from 15 members to 25, through the addition of 6 permanent and 4 non-permanent seats. The permanent seats would be comprised of the G4 plus two nations from Africa. However, discord within the African Union has stifled compromise on this issue; Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa are all vying for the two proposed seats and cannot arrive at an agreement.
The G4 is also facing competition from a larger but less influential faction of UN members: Uniting for Consensus (UfC). Members of the UfC, some 40 in number, also favor expanding the UNSC to 25 seats—but by adding 10 temporary seats and keeping the same 5 permanent, veto-carrying members. This makes sense, considering that many of the UfC’s core members are regional rivals of the G4—including Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey, Italy, and South Korea—who have a vested interest in thwarting any sort of growing regional influence among the individual G4 members.
September 28, 2009
Nearly thirty leaders from Africa and South America, led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Libyan President Mu’ammar al-Ghaddafi, met over the weekend in Venezuela at the second annual South America-Africa Summit. The goal is to enhance cooperation and create more strategic partnerships, especially in areas of finance and energy. Seven South American leaders agreed to fund a $20 billion institution to fund development projects in Africa and South America, with Venezuela pledging a $4 billion contribution. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet discussed the possibly of funding it as well.
President Chávez announced a partnership with South Africa’s state oil company PetroSA for “oil exploration and development in hydrocarbons" along with energy alliances and projects with other African countries. Also present at the meeting was Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who spoke of the “twenty-first century [as the] century of Africa and Latin America.”
Ghaddafi’s platform at the summit primarily called for a counterbalance to the North’s military treaties and the creation of “SATO” (a NATO of the South) by 2011—the year when Libya is scheduled to host the next summit.
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