NIAS Course on Global Politics|
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CWA # 191, 15 December 2019
Aparupa Bhattacherjee, Sourina Bej, Harini Madhusudan, Rashmi Ramesh and Parikshith Pradeep
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP), NIAS
ICJ: Suu Kyi defends the indefensible
This week, Aung San Suu Kyi visited the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to defend against the case filed by the Gambia. This OIC member has accused Myanmar of violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, about the atrocities and displacement of Rohingya. On 12 December 2019, Suu Kyi addressed the 17-member court to drop this accusation as it is "factually incorrect" and insisted that it is an internal conflict instigated by the attacks of the ARSA which is being taken care of by the internal judiciary system. Denying any genocide, she mentioned that there is an exodus of "Rakhine Muslims" due to internal conflict. She avoided mentioning 'Rohingya'.
What is the background?
The Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship by the 1982 Citizenship Law. Since 2017, violence and atrocities against them have increased.
Dhaka is keen to resolve the issue, as the Rohingya have taken refuge primarily in Bangladesh. ASEAN, as a regional organization has failed to address the crisis.
Due to the religious connection, the OIC members have been more vocal about the issue. Both Malaysia and Indonesia, OIC and ASEAN members, are been upfront about their criticism of the Myanmarese army and the government. These two countries also receive several refugees, along with Bangladesh, Thailand, and India.
Internationally, several organizations such as Amnesty International and UNHRC have been vehemently critical against Myanmar, especially Suu Kyi for the treatment towards Rohingyas. The US has banned entry for four high ranking military leaders of Myanmar.
What does it mean?
First, it was surprising to see Aung Suu Kyi defending the action against Rohingya in an international platform. Perhaps, she is looking at the forthcoming elections and garner support from the majority. The fact that several Myanmarese protested in front of ICJ supporting her would highlight that she is successful in the domestic factor. For her, it would not only increase her vote bank but also strengthen the relationship with the army.
Suu Kyi will be a hero back home, but there would be a more substantial global condemnation against her. One could see increased calls to withdraw the Nobel prize.
Second, domestically, the case in ICJ will worsen the situation for the Rohingya. It would increase the bitterness against them. Even if there were meagre support within, it would be none for them henceforth; they would be seen as getting a bad name to Myanmar.
Third, this domestic situation will make repatriation impossible, thereby increasing the problem for Bangladesh.
UK: Boris Johnson wins big, gets the BREXIT mandate
Conservative party leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson's bet on a snap election to receive a public mandate on Brexit in the United Kingdom on 12 December has paid off. The general election that took place after three years has secured Boris Johnson's position as the Prime Minister and backed his promise to "get Brexit done" and take the country out of the European Union by 31 January 2020. In addition, the Conservatives secured 364 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, a comfortable majority of 74.
With a clear majority now, the months of political deadlock over Brexit stands resolved but at the same time open a channel of negotiation with EU on the trade deal. Johnson, whose 20-week tenure in power has been marked by chaotic scenes in Parliament and stark division between Remainers and Leavers, this victory on 12 December is the path ahead from where Theresa May started with the 2016 EU referendum.
What is the background?
The general election was the culmination of the deadlock over withdrawal agreement that Johnson negotiated with EU in October. It entails the UK leaving the customs union and the single market, with plans for a free-trade agreement later. The general election has changed the political landscape of Britain. The voting patterns have shown the clear divisions over how the public have voted for the main parties: Conservatives and Labour corresponding to the Conservatives representing the Leavers and Labour representing the Remainer sect of the Brexit debate.
What does it mean?
The election turnout was about 67 per cent, similar to the previous general election in 2017. However, the results mark a decisive shift in British politics. It is not only the Conservatives' best election performance since Thatcher but also Labour's worst defeat since 1935 when Clement Attlee leads the party.
The elections put forth three essential questions that Britain will have to address in the coming years.
Firstly, the clear mandate on "get Brexit done" inevitably brings Johnson to the next hurdle: What about Britain after Brexit? As his post-election speech reverberates the start of the healing process, it also ushers a potentially difficult transition period during which the UK and EU are expected to hammer out a deal on their future relationship. In spite of a distinct air of relief among the EU members on the passage of the withdrawal agreement in the British Parliament, negotiating a trade deal will not be easy with several sticking factors like how will the Northern Ireland economics looks, what about the health care facilities, the immigration question and what happens to British outside UK and in EU and vice versa.
Secondly, the failure of the Labour party has brought in a moment of retrospection for the party's stand and future. As Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, announced he would not be heading another election campaign, who will be the next leader of the party? The Labour party has lost votes of the working class in its prime heartlands. Several of Labour's strongholds across Britain's Midlands and north fell to the Conservatives. The swing is blamed on Corbyn's ambiguity over Brexit, his positions alienated the moderates and shifted the party firmly away from the centre-ground that brought Labour three successive election victories under Tony Blair. Interestingly the policies of the Labour party were much revered and that is where the Labour party should start.
Thirdly, the election has brought back the Scott question to the Brexit debate. The Liberal Democrats who were forecast to win 13 seats from the region under Jo Swinson lost her seat to the Scottish National Party. The Scottish National Party, which strongly opposes Brexit, won 55 of the 59 seats in Scotland setting the stage to demand a second independence vote. After her victory, Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Johnson did not have the mandate to take Scotland out of the EU. This will prove to be Johnson's second hurdle while leading the country out of EU in 2020.
Greta Thunberg is TIME's person of the year
Greta Thunberg has been named the TIME Person of the year for 2019. "For decades, researchers and activists have struggled to get world leaders to take the climate threat seriously… But this year, an unlikely teenager somehow got the world's attention," mentioned TIME's cover story announcing her selection.
In 16 months she has gone come a long way from a lone protester. She has addressed heads of state at the UN, met the Pope and inspired over four million people to join the global climate strike on 20 September, 2019, one of the largest climate demonstrations in human history. Greta addressed the latest round of UN climate talks in Madrid. She was seen bluntly criticizing the world leaders for "negotiating loopholes" and using public relations agencies to make it appear like they are achieving bold climate targets.
What is the background?
Climate awareness became prominent in 2019. Greta began with the #FridaysForFuture is a movement that began in August 2018. Greta chose to sit for a strike every Friday until the Swedish policies provided a safe pathway well under 2-degree C, i.e. in line with the Paris agreement. This is when the hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #Climatestrike spread, to protest against the inaction on the climate crisis.
She used Instagram and Twitter to share her protests and it soon went viral. Many students and adults began to protest outside of their parliaments and local city halls all over the world, making #FridaysForFuture a global concern. Simultaneously, the world witnessed some European countries declare a 'Climate Emergency.' The year 2019 also saw some deadly natural and 'unnatural' calamities that caused large-scale damage to the environment and the popularity of the cause that Greta stands for, grew with the concern for these damages.
Climate activists and agencies have begun to stand against the mass damage of the environment by the multiple corporations and governments and they have started gaining the attention of the world. The young activists have gained the world's attention and they are going to be a serious challenge to corporate activity both directly and indirectly. 2018 Person of the Year was the Journalists who had been mysteriously killed or went missing.
What does it mean?
The cause of Climate awareness has strongly shifted towards civil society. The shift in attention is towards the voices of whom the future belongs. According to TIME, Greta drew her inspiration from the young activists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, who organized nationwide protests for gun safety after the shooting of their classmates. In 2019, the world witnessed youngsters, especially young girls come to the fore and stand up for what they believe in. These names have become endearing for the cause they stand for. In a way, Greta represents this change, encouraging many more youngsters to come forward and fight for what they believe in.
COP-25: Another failure in addressing the Climate Change
COP-25 concluded in Madrid after twelve days of negotiations on pertinent questions on climate change. Countries discussed the framework for operationalization of the Paris Agreement. Negotiations were held on the mechanisms in the global carbon market and the issue of trade of carbon credits. Notably, the European Commission published the "European Green Deal" containing some action-focused objectives. Most importantly, it proposes a European 'Climate Law' and the 'European Climate Pact', emphasizing on climate neutrality by 2050.
What is the background?
COP-25 was initially to be held in Chile. However, due to ongoing protests, Spain hosted the event.
2019 was an eventful year with regards to environment and climate change. It witnessed several severe natural/human-induced disasters ranging from wildfires, cyclones, floods and melting of glaciers. There were large-scale protests by civil society, pressurizing various governments to act on climate change. Such protests were seen in Madrid even during the course of the COP. The role of youth is particularly evident in this regard. A pre-COP meeting was held, which aimed at acting as a bridge between the United Nations Climate Action Summit and COP-25.
What does it mean?
First, there was a clear distinction between developed and developing countries that could be observed during the conference. There was no breakthrough in the negotiations on the trade of carbon credits. The developed countries failed to agree on the proposal to carry forward the carbon credits from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement. Additionally, the issue of meeting the pre-2020 targets was another point of contention. Some of the countries have still not met the pre-2020 targets.
Second, the European countries seem to be more sensitive with regards to climate change. The European Green Deal published by the European Commission represents much-needed seriousness on this critical issue. The Asian countries are amongst the highest emitters, and the United States has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. In this case, the European countries are those among responsible actors.
Third, civil society has become more aware and knowledgeable about environmental issues. The big powers, on the other hand, are showing dismal commitment towards any action that would combat climate change. It leads us back to essential questions- does climate action begin at the lowest level? Is a bottom-up approach more effective than a top-down one?
The COP-25 was another failure in addressing climate change. It produced no concrete result and therefore, negotiations will be carried forward to 2020.
Also, during this week...
The Afghanistan Papers
The Washington Post published a set of interviews depicting realities of the 18-year-old US-Afghan War. The Office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction(SIGAR) interviewed those directly involved in the Afghan war. Inputs from various subjects in the interviews suggest the US's mishandling of the Afghan situation while they misled the public about the war. The papers have found mentions about 'flawed strategies' and serious doubts over the US's Afghan policy since Bush's regime.
Impeachment in the US: House Judiciary Committee approves charges against Trump
On 13 December, the House Judiciary Committee consisting of both republicans and democrats allowed two charges against Trump. It permits the House of Representatives to vote for the President's impeachment. While the committee approved two articles dealing with obstruction of justice and power abuse, Trump softened his stance on China hinting at reaching a trade agreement. The democrats have been at the forefront of their campaign to impeach Trump, while it is interesting to observe Republicans vote against impeachment.
Israel: Third election in a year
On 12 December, the members of the Knesset voted to conduct elections in March. Political disagreements in the power-sharing arrangement between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz has pushed for a third election since April 2019. The President pitched for the coalition as both the parties lacked a majority in the Knesset, however, the March elections may prove tough for Netanyahu considering the corruption allegations against him.
Algeria: Protestors rally to boycott poll results
Thousands have taken to streets denouncing the 12 December polls held in Algiers. The protestors rallied against the presidential candidacy of Abdelaziz Bouteflika. However, there seems to be equal opposition towards Abdelmadjid Tebboune who topped the polls with 58% votes. The election was to be originally held in April 2019, but several protests and weekly rallies had pushed it towards December. The results depicted a 40% voter turnout despite state agencies and media's efforts to manipulate the voting figures
Niger: 70 Soldiers killed in a military camp
On 10 December, around 70 soldiers were killed in a military camp in Niger. The rising influence of Islamic State in the West African Region and failing security infrastructure have been blamed. Over the years, the region close to Mali has seen a rise in the number of attacks from IS outfits. This attack has surfaced in the midst of French president Emmanuel Macron's upcoming meet with five Sahelian presidents to seek their opinion on French support in this region.
Abigail Miriam Fernandez