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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

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Human Rights

Peace Through Growth: Ending Colombia’s Civil War

in Diplomacy/Human Rights/Latin America by

The interview was originally published in NOVasia Issue 31 and is republished on The Policy Wire with express permission. For more exciting pieces on international relations from the brightest minds in Korea be sure to checkout their website.  Though the peace agreement between President Juan Santos and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) Commander Timochenko was narrowly defeated in a plebiscite on October 2nd, the world’s longest running civil war appears to be in its twilight. The intensity of the fighting has dropped precipitously since its peak in the early 2000s. Organized military groups in Colombia, FARC being the largest but not the only, are steadily losing ground in remote regions, and major cities have been free from daily terrorism for years. Current international coverage has only offered in passing the most basic of accounts of FARC, Colombia’s place in the Cold War and the land disputes that have fed a half-century long civil war. Despite the setback to a negotiated peace, a difficult prospect for any civil war, both Santos and Timochenko have promised to continue a bilateral ceasefire and search for a negotiated peace.

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Protesting in Vietnam: It Is Time to Push

in Asia/Human Rights/Politics/Social by
vietnamese_fish_protests

On April 6th in Ha Tinh, Vietnam, a central province made up mostly of coastline and fishing boats, dead fish began washing ashore. The stink and the carcasses continued to arrive, eventually claiming 200km of beach and affecting four provinces by April 18th. Without any word from the government, and no offers of relief, fishermen and their families could do nothing but busy themselves with shovels, burying their livelihoods in the sand. Then, something relatively rare happened in Vietnam, Vietnamese citizens from Hanoi down to HCMC took to the streets, blaming a massive US$10.5 billion steel plant just put into operation by Formosa, a Taiwanese plastics corporation. Protesting is not done in Vietnam unless one is prepared for physical violence or a trip to the police station. Other internationally recognized human rights don’t enjoy much protection either. Vietnam is one of the worst jailors of bloggers and journalists in the world; political dissidents are routinely beaten and jailed; and religious minorities persecuted. But even more surprising than the presence of chanting in the streets was that Vietnamese marched in relative peace, with only a few reports of isolated police harassment in Hanoi and central provinces. The protests continued. At massive…

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The Will of the State: North Korean Forced Labour

in Academic/Asia/Human Rights by

The 2014 report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) laid bare an appalling scale of suffering across North Korean society. Violations of the freedoms of thought and life, discrimination on the basis of gender and disability, and arbitrary detention, torture, and executions defined the lives of a population. A report of the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK) that we published in September 2015, ‘The Will of the State: North Korean Forced Labour’, places forced labour alongside these crimes against humanity.

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Moves to a Service-Based Economy is Likely China’s Catch-22

in Asia/Diplomacy/Economics/Human Rights by
Chinese economic trouble

The achievements of President Xi Jinping’s short duration in Britain are the first steps of what China hopes to be the path to becoming a fully-developed country. Proclaimed a “golden era” in relations between the two nations by Prime Minister David Cameron, China views Britain as a “great platform from which China can go global,” according to head of Chatham House’s Robin Niblett. Indeed, as China seeks to shift its economy from an export-based to a service-based economy and to propel the yuan into an internationally-traded currency that could potentially rival the dollar, yen, and Euro, access to Britain’s financial markets is viewed as critically important after the conspicuous blockade from the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the United States. Outside of Hong Kong, as President Xi told the British Parliament, the United Kingdom is the leading offshore trading center. As The Economist notes, “The Bank of England was the first G7 central bank to sign a swap agreement with China’s central bank.” Offshore yuan-denominated bonds were recently sold in the UK by Chinese commercial banks and on October 20th, China sold its first sovereign bond worth over $4 billion in London. What this accomplishes is that it lends an air of credibility…

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Do Economic Sanctions Work? The Answer is Still No.

in Diplomacy/Human Rights by
UN security council

With the seeming success of sanctions in Iran and the end of similar measures against Cuba, the debate on the efficacy of sanctions looks to begin anew. Economic sanctions have long been the preferred tool for the US government for a variety of reasons stretching back to the Cold War, where the US imposed economic sanctions against a variety of Communist-leaning countries around the world. The track result however, as scholars like Robert A. Pape point out, has been mixed at best. Sanctions against Latin American countries failed to directly be responsible for desired changes and appear to have more often than not led to greater instability in such countries. Cuba, where longstanding US sanctions have only began to thaw is perhaps the best example of a country where US sanctions failed to work despite drastically affecting the country’s economy. This latter point brings up one of the fundamental challenges of sanctions, the enforcement and participation of all parties. In the case of Cuba, a Communist sphere was there to support it for an extended period and more recently nearby politically aligned states. The end of sanctions against Cuba is near, and rather than coinciding with the end of the Castro…

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Leggo My Ego; America’s Struggle With Police Brutality

in Human Rights/Law/Social/US by

Disclaimer: The videos linked in this post contain graphic language Police brutality is, unfortunately, a familiar fabric in American society that often finds itself unequally distributed between White-Americans and Minority-Americans. The Rodney King riots in 1992 and the Watts riots in 1965 demonstrate a disconnect and mistrust between Black-Americans and law-enforcement officials that are still manifest today in the shooting-death of unarmed Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of the gunman, the shooting-death of unarmed Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson and the subsequent failure of indictment by the grand jury, the death of Eric Garner by means of an illegal chokehold while being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes and the subsequent failure of a grand jury indictment (the transcripts of which have yet to be made available to the public), and the death of Freddy Gray who was deemed to be falsely arrested and was denied medical treatment while in police custody despite requesting it multiple times. These events sparked riots and protests across the nation including demonstrations by celebrities and professional athletes. With the indictment of the six Baltimore police officers directly involved in the death of Freddy Gray, it seemed the United States was taking a pivotal…

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Israel’s Other Human Rights Catastrophe: The Negev Bedouin

in Human Rights/Law/Middle East/Politics by
Bedouin Israel Child

The plight of the Negev Bedouin continued as Israel’s Supreme Court recently ruled that the village of Umm al-Hiran would be destroyed and its inhabitants removed to make way for Israeli settlers. The NGO Human Rights Watch criticized the ruling, which also applied to a similar village in the West Bank, with its Middle East and Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson stating “The court decisions in the Umm al-Hiran and Susya cases ignore international law in upholding discriminatory evictions by the Israeli authorities in Israel and the occupied territories”.

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Blaming Europe and Arresting Smugglers Will Not Solve the Mediterranean Migrant-Crisis

in Africa/Diplomacy/Europe/Human Rights/Security by

The United Nations estimates 60,000 people have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year. Nearly 2,000 have died this year trying to reach Europe from Africa. This is a 20-fold increase for the same time period in 2014 where fewer than 100 perished at sea. 800 of these deaths occurred in the middle of April off the coast of Libya when a fishing trawler collided with a Portuguese container ship. The current lack of law and order in Libya has led to a situation where no state entity is able to control territory, borders – and or sea. As such, hordes of smuggling gangs have manifested and acted with impunity. Migrants hoping to reach Europe are often told they are purchasing a seat on a “big boat.” More often than not, however, what is waiting is a small dinghy where they are forced to enter at gunpoint. Those who refuse are reported to be shot. Before boarding, migrants are held prisoners on a farm for weeks and sometimes even months before departure where reports have emerged of abuse, beatings, sickness, starvation, and death. Survivors of the accident mentioned above claim the smugglers wanted to fit 1,200 people on the 66-foot boat. Those…

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Lee Kuan Yew & The Curious Legacies of “Benevolent Dictators”

in Asia/Economics/Human Rights/Politics by

As has been widely reported in global media, the former prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew has passed away at the age of 91. Immediately following his passing, coverage of the conflicting nature of Singapore’s political system and the man responsible for it has proliferated. One of the most widely read is The Economist‘s piece which succinctly summarizes the phenomenal economic success that has come to represent Singapore. Lee remarkably was able to turn a tiny nation that had went through British and Japanese occupation in addition to being unceremoniously booted from its larger neighbor Malaysia, without fresh water or natural resources, into a global success story that has inspired many as a political and economic model. At the same time, Lee is also known for his decades-long (31 years as PM and 21 years as an advisor) authoritarian rule in Singapore. In addition to the famous tough definition and punishment of crimes, Lee also used defamation suits against those in the media and the opposition who opposed his rule. One recent point of criticism has been the way in which his family members have benefitted from their father’s position. His eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, can be considered the most prominent,…

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Rising Challenges for Urban Refugees Under Thai Military Junta

in Asia/Human Rights/Politics by

Images of elephant rides through the jungle, bustling markets, and sipping a Singha on a white sand beach are often what come to mind for tourists in Thailand. However, a growing number of foreigners are arriving in the country due to persecution rather than pleasure. Last year, the number of asylum seekers in Bangkok quadrupled. The majority of new arrivals are Christians and Shiite or Ahmadiyya Muslims from Pakistan who have fled targeted religious and ethnic attacks. In addition, a growing number of Syrian and Palestinian war refugees are choosing Thailand as a first country of refuge. Bangkok’s burgeoning asylum seeker population combined with stricter regulations of undocumented persons under the military run government has created an increasingly dire situation for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Most urban asylum seekers arrive in Bangkok with a desire to gain official refugee status and then move on to a third country such as the U.S., Canada, or Australia. Thailand is a popular destination due to the relative ease of entering the country, the higher living standards compared with neighboring countries, and because it is home to the regional UN refugee agency headquarters. While life in Bangkok may be considered a…

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