By J C Suresh
TORONTO (IDN) - A new report has underlined the interdependence of the world economy, which is expected to strengthen in 2014 with growth picking up in developing countries and high-income economies appearing to be finally turning the corner five years after the global financial crisis.
According to the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report, the firming of growth in developing countries is being boosted by an acceleration in high-income countries and continued strong growth in China. However, growth prospects remain vulnerable to headwinds from rising global interest rates and potential volatility in capital flows, as the United States Federal Reserve Bank begins withdrawing its massive monetary stimulus.
By Jutta Wolf
BERLIN (IDN) - Austerity policies in several countries around the world are denying work to millions of people and leaving vast production opportunities unused, says a new study by the German-based World Future Council (WFC), which places the value of lost production at 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars annually. This corresponds to Britain’s gross domestic product. Losses in the 18-nation Eurozone triggered by public austerity alone are estimated at a minimum of 580 billion Euros each year.
By Jaya Ramachandran
BERLIN (IDN) - New data launched by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows that sales of arms and military services by the world's largest arms-producing companies, which amounted to $395 billion in 2012, has increased by 29 per cent in real terms since 2003. But compared to 2011 the 2012 data represent a 4.2 per cent decrease in real terms and follow a 6.6 per cent cut in that year.
The report released at the Munich Security Conference on January 31, 2014 points out at the same time that the decrease in arms sales in 2012 was not uniform: "while sales by companies in the United States, Canada and most West European countries continued to fall, arms sales by Russian companies increased sharply, by 28 per cent in real terms".
By Julio Godoy*
BARCELONA (IDN) - International negotiations on so-called “free trade agreements” have always had something surreptitious about them. In the late 1990s, the industrialised countries represented at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) wanted to pass a “multilateral agreement on investment” (MAI) with the alleged goal of facilitating – liberating, so to speak – international investment. But, for all the good that such investment was supposed to bring about across the world, the OECD managed the negotiations in a most clandestine way.
With good reason: Only thanks to the extraordinary work of civil rights activists and journalists, it was revealed that the MAI draft constituted a carte blanche for corporations to commit all kind of violations of national legislation on social and environmental matters. MAI would annul national legislation if it were to represent an obstacle to international investment. In other words, the MAI would downgrade environmental and social standards to the lowest common denominator, to sustain international investment. The MAI would also allow international corporations to sue governments which would maintain high environmental and social standards.
By Kalinga Seneviratne*
SINGAPORE (IDN) - UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) head Navi Pillay’s current campaign against Sri Lanka over alleged human rights violations – along with similar campaigns against Libya and Syria earlier – could jeopardize the cause of human rights around the world, analysts say.
Pillay released a report in February calling for an international investigation into alleged war crimes when the Sri Lankan armed forces crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a final battle in May 2009.
Sri Lanka’s Permanent Envoy in Geneva conveying the Sri Lankan Government’s response to Pillay’s report stated that the UN High Commissioner’s recommendations, “reflect the preconceived, politicised and prejudicial agenda which she has relentlessly pursued with regard to Sri Lanka”, and in a 18-page document pinpointed her double standards accusing her of giving “scant or no regard to the domestic processes ongoing in Sri Lanka”.
By Ramesh Jaura
BERLIN (IDN) - The Cuba missile crisis was moving towards a peak when President John F. Kennedy proposed in May 1961 the creation of a Development Centre at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to bridge the industrialised nations and the developing world. The Centre has meanwhile developed into a forum not only for South-South but also South-North and North-South cooperation, enabling the industrialised countries “to learn from, and maybe import, some of the policy experiences of the South”, says its director Mario Pezzini.
By Julio Godoy*
BARCELONA (IDN) - Last December, the Catalonian parliament adopted a resolution that a referendum be carried out in November 2014, to decide whether the region remains part of Spain, or proclaims its independency. To say that the resolution constitutes a major challenge for the central government in Madrid is a euphemism.
Because, on the one hand, the Spanish constitution does not envisage referendums; and on the other, given the present climate of animosity reigning in Catalonia against Madrid, it is likely that a majority of the Catalonian population follows the 'separatists' – I use that term for lack of a better one: Catalonians rallying for independency claim they are nationalists, but that they simply don’t feel as Spaniards – among the political leaders and proclaims the region as a new independent state, and thus opens the way for other separatist movements in Spain, such as that of the Basque country. Finally, most Catalonians reject the monarchy and would prefer to ground a republic.
By James Mackie*
BRUSSELS (IDN) - While the debate on Scottish independence is heating up prior to the referendum in September 2014, it is important to consider what implications an independent Scotland would have for UK and European development aid. While the UK aid would undoubtedly be affected, this new donor country would need to make an effort to minimize the effect on further aid fragmentation.
Scottish independence would lead to more fragmentation of European development cooperation and a major reduction in Department for International Development (DFID) programmes as a result of an estimated GBP 1 billion cut in its budget, yet neither of these two outcomes are really dealt with in two recent reports on what a Yes vote in the 2014 Scottish referendum would mean for development cooperation.
By Chintamani Mahapatra*
NEW DELHI (IDN) - As territorial and maritime disputes in Asia have sparked regional cold wars, the United States appears to have adopted a non-aligned strategy to navigate in troubled political space of the continent.
Non-alignment as a diplomatic instrument of state craft has been known to American Administrations for centuries. Although the term “non-alignment” was not used, the need of such a strategy was first articulated by first President of the United States – George Washington. In his farewell address, Washington warned against the folly of getting involved in the European entanglements.
By Hirotsugu Terasaki*
TOKYO (IDN) - According to UNESCO, ESD (Education for Sustainable Development), is “about enabling us to constructively and creatively address present and future global challenges and create more sustainable and resilient societies.”
The Great Earthquake which shook East Japan in March 2011 served as an important impetus for me to rethink the idea of “resilient societies.” My organization, the Soka Gakkai, mounted major relief efforts soon after the disaster struck. Living in Tokyo, I found that the degree of direct damage was relatively minimal, however, two months after the quake I visited the disaster-stricken areas of East Japan. Towns there had been entirely engulfed by the tsunami waves and everything was swept away along much of the coastline. I was speechless as I saw the horrifying devastation which was beyond my imagination.
By Ramesh Jaura
BERLIN (IDN) - Describing the disorientation and anarchy in the aftermath of First World War in 1919, the Irish poet W. B. Yeats wrote in his renowned poem The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” At a time when, despite the absence of a global war, things appear to be falling apart again, the Buddhist philosopher and educator Daisaku Ikeda does not despair and, in fact, shows the way to “value creation for global change”.
To celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) – a Tokyo-based lay Buddhist movement linking more than 12 million people around the world – he has offered “thoughts on how we can redirect the currents of the twenty-first century toward greater hope, solidarity and peace in order to construct a sustainable global society, one in which the dignity of each individual shines with its inherent brilliance”.
By Jamshed Baruah
BERLIN (IDN) - As tension mounts in relations between the U.S. and Russia on Ukraine amid apprehensions of a nuclear fallout, three international conferences scheduled for April 2014 have acquired added significance in promoting efforts towards nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
The first in the series is a meeting of foreign ministers on April 11-12 in Hiroshima, nearly two months after the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Mexico. It will be followed by an inter-faith conference organised by the Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI) on April 24 in Washington.From April 28 to May 9 the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will hold its third session at the United Nations in New York.
The PrepCom is purported to prepare for the Review Conference in terms of assessing the implementation of each article of the NPT and facilitating discussion among States with a view to making recommendations to the Review Conference. The NPT, which entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995, requires that review conferences be held every five years. The Treaty is regarded as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.
By Jamshed Baruah
GENEVA (IDN) - More than 163 parliaments from around the world, constituting the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), have adopted a landmark resolution urging parliaments to “work with their governments on eliminating the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines” and to “urge their governments to start negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention or package of agreements to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world”.
The resolution, Toward a Nuclear Weapon Free World: The Contribution of Parliaments, adopted on March 20 also implores parliaments to “use all available tools including committees to monitor national implementation of disarmament commitments, including by scrutinising legislation, budgets and progress reports” and promote and commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26.
By Julio Godoy*
BERLIN (IDN) - The U.S. government is unofficially accusing Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, by flight testing two-stage ground-based cruise missile RS-26.
Although the U.S. government has not officially commented on the alleged Russian violation of the INF, which prohibits both countries to producing, testing and deploying ballistic and cruise missiles, and land-based missiles of medium (1,000 to 5,500 kilometres) and short (500 to 1,000 kilometres) range, high ranking members of the government in Washington have been leaking information to U.S. media, in a moment of particular tense relations with Moscow.
By Jaya Ramachandran
STOCKHOLM (IDN) - African countries, which are party to the 1996 African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty of Pelindaba and already contribute a signiﬁcant share of the uranium used in the peaceful nuclear industry worldwide, have been asked to develop “a full understanding of their extractive industries, to avoid the risk that uranium will be supplied from unconventional sources – for example, as a by-product of other mining activities”.
Such potential hazards can be addressed by making proper and up-to-date physical security arrangements at the sites where uranium is being mined and while it is being transported, says a new study by SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
By Jaya Ramachandran
BERLIN (IDN) - The eminent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has revived the issue of a Middle East nuclear weapon-free zone (NWFZ), first proposed in 1962. Discussions on the subject have been frozen since the last quarter of 2012, when a planned United Nations conference on the region came to naught in the face of Israel’s opposition.
In fact, if further proliferation is to be prevented in the Middle East, and regional security enhanced, “now is the time to convene the conference mandated by the 2010 NPT Review Conference,” says Tariq Rauf in an essay posted on the SIPRI website.
“The process for establishing a NWFZ in the Middle East will not be easy,” he cautions, “but the experience of other regions with such zones suggests that political will and leadership are crucial.”
By Peter Tase*
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (IDN) - Over the last two years, the Colombian government has given high priority to diplomatic efforts meant to shore up its immediate security situation, actively pursuing bilateral, trilateral and multilateral agreements with various governments in the region and beyond.
Colombia occupies a strategic position in the western hemisphere: it has a large territory connecting North America with the South, and it has enormous shores on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This geostrategic advantage allows Colombia to act as a gate of entry for South America, and its network of sea ports processes a large volume of commodities and other shipments coming in and out of the United States and Europe on a daily basis.
By Kalinga Seneviratne*
BANGKOK (IDN) - The information and communication technology (ICT) sector is undergoing a period of major transition, changing the way we communicate with each other. These technologies are introducing new players to the industry, challenging traditional business models and regulatory frameworks.
IDN’s Kalinga Seneviratne spoke to Dr Rohan Samarajiva, a former telecom regulator in Sri Lanka, at the ITU Telecom World 2012 event in Bangkok in November 2013. Samarajiva is a professor of Communication and Public Policy at Ohio State University in the U.S. and the founding Chair of LIRNEasia (Learning Initiatives on Reforms for Network Economies Asia), an ICT policy and regulation think tank active across emerging economies in South and South East Asia, and the Pacific. He was its CEO until 2012.
By Bernard Schell
ABU DHABI (IDN) - Internet is known to have played a crucial role in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ aimed at overthrowing autocratic regimes and ushering in opportunities for majority of the people to shape their own future. Now a new World Bank report reveals that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries lag behind other regions in use of a technology that is as crucial as the steam engine was as a driving force behind the Industrial Revolution.
But there is no need to despair. “The Middle East and North Africa region has been the cradle of science and technology and can again use modern technology to address the contemporary problems faced by the region,” says Inger Andersen, World Bank Vice President for the MENA region. "We at the World Bank Group are committed to working closely with all countries in MENA to improve access and quality of broadband internet connection.”