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Vol. XX, No.2            Winter, 2006

 

Nonviolent Change Journal helps to network the peace community: providing dialoguing, exchanges of ideas, articles, reviews, reports and announcements of the activities of peace related groups and meetings, reviews of world developments relating to nonviolent change and resource information concerning the development of human relations on the basis of mutual respect.

 

WORLD DEVELOPMENTS

 

Steve Sachs

 

 

     Hoping that your New Year is opening well and will be an expansive time. With the polarities of the world being strongly emphasized in this period, there is a mix of developments in progress, but many opportunities for advances, if people can siezethem. According to the January 2 CrisisWatch Bulletin N°29 (http://www.crisisgroup.org), eleven conflict situations around the world deteriorated in December.

 

 "A surge of violence in Sri Lanka raised fears of a return to full-scale civil war. Internal divisions within the ruling Fatah party helped hardline Hamas win major West Bank cities in municipal elections casting a shadow over the scheduled January general election. Nuclear negotiations with North Korea returned to stalemate after five months of apparent progress.

 

 In Colombia, despite an optimistic start to government talks with leftist ELN rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia (FARC) killed 37 in two of the worst attacks in years against security forces. In Egypt, the final round of parliamentary elections was marred by arrests, obstruction and violence as 12 were killed in the 7 December run-off vote.

 

And in China police killed up to 20 rural protesters demonstrating against land seizures for state projects. The situations also deteriorated in Bangladesh, Chad, Lebanon, Pakistan and Peru.

 

Four conflict situations improved in December. The Democratic Republic of Congo held its first democratic vote in four decades as an overwhelming majority of the population approved a draft constitution. In Afghanistan, the first elected parliament in 30 years was inaugurated by President Karzai. Bolivia saw the election of its first indigenous head of state in a free and fair poll. And in Côte d‚Ivoire, after months of political deadlock, all parties accepted Charles Konan Banny as interim prime minister. For January 2006, CrisisWatch identifies Ethiopia/Eritrea, Nepal and Sri Lanka as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month. No new Conflict Resolution Opportunities are identified for January".

 

     The December Parliamentary election in Iraq has hardened the existing splits and institutionalizes the on going, approaching – if not yet actual – civil war, conflict. The religious Shiite bloc garnered around 44 percent of the vote; the Sunni religious parties dominated in their section of the country, as the Kurdish nationalist bloc did in its region. Allawi's secular list gained only around 8% of the vote and Chalabi's list failed to gain a seat, with less than 0.5%. It appears that, the new parliament will look much like the old one, with the addition of a Sunni religious bloc that inclines towards sympathy with the nationalist insurgency, which it will likely support, possibly being disruptive within the government while the insurgents violently attack the system externally. With the religious Shiites a strong parliamentary block, it is likely that the U.S. will have even more difficulty persuading the Shiite leadership to go further in accommodating the Sunnis. M.K. Bhadrakumar, in the Los Angeles Times, December 21, noted that the achievement of U.S. goals will now necessitate the Bush administration seeking a more active partnership with the regime in Tehran, which was once again is the major winner in Iraq's election. Meanwhile, The election results were immediately rejected by the main Sunni parties, and by Allawi, who have demanded a new poll and threatened to boycott the Assembly if the results are allowed to stand. Thus the balloting has deepened the divide among the parties, suggesting a deepening violent, chaotic struggle in Iraq.

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     The Bush Administration is now moving toward reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq (and has for some time been reducing the U.S. force in Afghanistan, which is now lead by NATO), increasing the use of air power to try to cover the troop reductions. The reductions are being made, first, because the overstretched U.S. forces are exhausted, and replacements are not available to maintain current troop levels, and, second, because of political pressure at home. With the building of a competent Iraqi security force seemingly occurring more slowly than American troop reductions are likely to occur, there is debate over what the impact of U.S. force drawdown will be. National Security expert Michael Vlahos, commenting on the Iraq War in War in Context, December 10, argues that the U.S. presence is postponing the emergence of a stable, legitimate government in Iraq. He holds that the civil war is already underway, with Iraq bearing some similarity to the Confederate South in the last days of the civil war, with multiple armed forces claiming authority. He believes that a new equilibrium can be achieved by taking the U.S. out of the equation. In contrast, Martin Van Creveld and Winslow Wheeler, writing in the Forward (and republished on the Center for Defense Information (CDI) web site: http://www.cdi.org), December 8, assert that withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq is now a political necessity, but doing so will intensify the country's internal conflict. They believe a withdrawal can be made over a few months, moving forces first to Baghdad, and then to Kuwait, but the operation would involve casualties. They believe that the U.S. must leave a military presence in the region, consisting of air and naval forces, and a modest troop contingent, to promote regional stability and be a counter leaver to Iran, which the war has made the dominant power in the area. One of the difficulties is that for many Sunni Arabs, the new constitution diminishes Iraq's "Arab" character and facilitates the creation of huge Kurdish and Shiite mini states. Many Sunni Arabs see the borders of modern Iraq, which make them a minority, may make them a minority, as having been imposed as part of the great "betrayal" of Arab nationalism that followed WWI. Thus the Sunni insurgency in Iraq will most likely continue to find considerable support in the wider Sunni Arab world for an extended period. The international crisis group, on September 26, pointed out its belief that the current situation was avoidable. "...Instead of healing the growing divisions between Iraq's three principal communities -- Shiites, Kurds and Sunni Arabs -- a rushed constitutional process has deepened rifts and hardened feelings. Without a strong U.S. led initiative to assuage Sunni Arab concerns, the constitution is likely to fuel rather than dampen the insurgency, encourage ethnic and sectarian violence, and hasten the country's violent break-up..."

 

     U.S. "combat" casualties in Iraq, which accelerated 20 months ago, have now exceeded 2,000 (with a far larger number of casualties that are not classified as  "combat casualties") and Iraqi civilian casualties sevreal times larger than the Pentagon estimate of 30,000 (A study by the British medical journal, The Lancet study put the figure close to 100,000, attributing most deaths to U.S. military action). The Daily Telegraph reported October 23, that secret polling conducted for the British Ministry of Defense found an extremely high level of hostility to Coalition troops among ordinary Iraqis, with 45% of Iraqis believing attacks on Coalition troops are justified, while 82% are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops in Iraq. Two thirds say they feel less secure as a result of Coalition troops being in Iraq, while less than 1% of Iraqis believes coalition forces have brought any improvement in security. Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brezinski stated in a PBS Newshour that the continued presence of Coalition forces in Iraq now contributes to the deterioration of the security situation. The British Sunday Times reported, October 30, that with an estimated 35,000 privateers in Iraq (the second largest foreign force), security in Iraq had become so dependent on private contractors (or mercenaries) that the British government was developing rules to regulate the private security industry.

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     Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office stated, in October, that at the current rate of expenditure, the war would cost $600 billion by 2010, and that the military admits having "lost sight" of at least $7 billion of expenditures. The U.S. inspector general for Iraq reconstruction has found, in October, that the $30 billion reconstruction funds allocated by the Bush administration are almost exhausted, with substantial amounts wasted. Officials will now have to quickly determine which projects can be completed, while there has been no planning to find the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual operating costs for many of the projects that have been finished. (New York Times, October 30, 2005).

 

     Fawaz Gerges, in Foreign Policy in Focus, October 27, concluded that the actions of the Bush administration, particularly in Iraq, have helped cement the idea of global jihad against the 'far enemy,' i.e. the U.S., so that some form of al Qaeda-like terrorism will likely be part of global security realities for the foreseeable future. Gerges found that when al-Qaeda first emerged in the 1990s, the idea of attacking the U.S. seemed fanciful to many likeminded, but nationally-based movements. But events since 9/11 radicalized more than enough young Muslims to create a second generation of globalized jihadis. The Iraq war nor only has increased the ability of Jihadists to greatly increase recruiting, but it threatens to bring an acceleration in terrorist actions in Europe, as many Moslems who have gone to Iraq from Europe to join the insurgency are returning home. During December there was a wave of arrests of suspected Islamic terrorists across Europe. Rosemary Hollis of the Royal Institute of International Affairs commented on Bitterlemons.org, December 22, that the ability of European governments to combat the al Qaeda challenge among their immigrant Muslim populations and promote moderate Islamic politics elsewhere is impaired by an insistence that Muslim society embrace the social systems of the West. Related to this, Glen Feder wrote in The National Interest, September 20, "In the fall of 2004, dozens of top Muslim Brotherhood leaders met in an undisclosed location somewhere near the Persian Gulf. [1] The session, while shadowy, may signal a renewed effort to expand in Europe and even shift the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood from the Middle East to Europe. [2] Increasingly, the Muslim Brotherhood is making France their battlefield in their effort to rollback secularism and assimilation...." Iraqi Jihadists are also becoming active elsewhere, as in the November 9 suicide attacks against three hotels in Amman, Jordan which left 60 dead and over 100 wounded. Other areas of growing al Queada like terrorist activity are Bangladesh (See the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, December 17, issue) and the Philippines (discussed in an International Crisis report, December 19, 2005). Bombings in India's capital, in October, appear to have been carried out by Kashmir separatists, unhappy with India's growing rapprochement with Pakistan.

 

     U.S. use of, and allowance of, tortur, and prisoner abuse (including sending suspects to other nation for interrogation, that included torture) continues to undermine respect for the U.S. and U.S. policy around the world, most especially in the Muslim World, and to increase al Qeada like recruiting and support. Gerard Fogardy wrote in the Fall issue of Parameters, the quarterly review of the U.S. Army War College, that "in addition to undermining the rule of law, there have been other harmful unintended consequences of the Administration’s policy in Guantanamo Bay: providing fuel to a rising global anti-Americanism that weakens U.S. influence and effectiveness, degrading the Administration’s domestic support base, and denying the United States the moral high ground it needs to promote international human rights in the future. It seems clear that these costs have far outweighed the operational benefits that the detainee operations have generated..." Similarly, the Bush Administration has undermined U.S. policy in general, and anti-terror efforts in particular, in the U.S army's use of white phosphorous (a terrible chemical weapon) as an anti-personnel weapon in its assault on Fallujah, that the U.S. military was forced to concede it had used, while The U.S. image was further eroded by a report in a British newspaper chronicling an April 2004 conversation between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair,, in which Bush allegedly proposed bombing the al-Jazeera TV network because of its coverage of his forces' campaign against insurgents at Fallujah.

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     Iran continues to refuse cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Commission, and, on and off, engages in enriching uranium, it claims only for electric power, though the material is of bomb making quality. The European Union and Iran have restarted negotiations on the issue. With neither side seeming to want a direct confrontation, it appears that the talks will only produce a framework for later talks. However, at the end of December, Iranian officials stated that they were seriously considering a Russian proposal that would have nuclear reprocessing for Iran done abroad, reducing the nuclear weapons development threat. Whether this is a sign of a pending breakthrough, or another zigzag to allow Iran to continue developing nuclear capability while avoiding sanctions, remains to be seen. On January 3, Iran again threw all negotiations into doubt, by announcing that it was again beginning reprocessing uranium. At this point, Russia and China oppose U.N. sanctions against Iran. A number of analysts have concluded that the strategic realities of the region, including the existence of nuclear powers in nearby India, Pakistan and China, are extremely strong inducements for Iran to develop atomic weapons. The New York Times reported, December 13, that Israel has ordered its military forces to prepare a plan for destroying Iranian nuclear facilities by next March, when it is believed Iran will be able to commence refining weapons grade uranium, and when Israeli voters go to the polls. Since the location of Tehran's reprocessing facilities is secret, the ability to destroy them without occupying the country is questionable.

 

     The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (http://www.iwpr.net) reported, in December, that while the U.S. government claims that there is a growing sense of security in Afghanistan, the recent initiation of suicide bombings in Kandahar indicates just the opposite. Meanwhile, insurgent attacks and clashes between continuingly active Taliban forces and NATO and government troops abound in the country.

 

     At the end of November, the European Union's Ramallah and East Jerusalem Heads of Mission produced a report finding that a number of Israeli policies "are reducing the possibility of reaching a final status on Jerusalem, and demonstrate a clear Israeli intention to turn annexation of East Jerusalem into a concrete fact." These include the near completion of the barrier around Jerusalem, far from the Green Line, the expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and the demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, built without permits, which are virtually unobtainable.

 

     While Sharon has evacuated the Gaza strip, his policy of spreading the wall, tearing down Palestinian houses and expanding West Bank settlements continues, with nonviolent resistance from Israeli and international peace and human rights activists and Palestinians. Even while many Palestinian homes are being demolished in a clearing of portions of East Jerusalem, the Israeli government has been putting in additional gates, with checkpoints, between Jerusalem and the West Bank to ease Palestinian passage, reducing waiting lines for crossing what feels to many as an international boarder, from hours to minutes, in the hope of reducing international complaints. Meanwhile, with occasional suicide bombings still occurring in Israel, and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants into Israel being staged in northern Gaza, despite and spurred on by Israel artillery counter attacks and assassinations, Israel has created a buffer zone in northern Gaza,

 

     The Palestinian political situation remains in chaos with various groups competing for power, with occasional violent clashes. Hamas is poised to make major gains in the parliamentary elections scheduled for January, while Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas is faced by a challange from within his own party from Marwan Barghouti, who led a walkout by the younger, more popular leadership who created their own electoral slate, angry at Abbas's continued reliance on the old guard that surrounded Yasser Arafat. The Israeli government has stated that if Hamas fields candidates, it will not allow Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem. Abas may use this as a reason to delay the elections, though Hamas is pressing him not to do so, There is speculation that Barghouti may reunite with Abas if a deal can be made to include more younger Fatah candidates.

 

     Israeli politics has seen some important changes that will impact the national elections coming up in March. Sharon has left Liqud and formed a new centrist party, that initial polls show as the leader in popularity. However, Sharon first suffered a mild stroke, that itself might raise damaging questions about his health, and then in early January suffered a very serious stroke that may fully incapacitate him. Labor has a new, young leader, Amir Peretz, representative of a broader population, providing a potentially revolutionary force in Israeli politics by reviving his party's social democratic traditions, if he can be elected - or sufficiently impact the political debate. For the time being, however, Yossi Alpher, writing in the Daily Star, November 29, suggests that while Peretz is committed to 'final-status' negotiations with the Palestinians, it's doubtful that the current Palestinian leadership is politically strong enough to deliver the kinds of concessions necessary to completing such an agreement, while It is questionable whether Peretz would have the domestic political support to evacuate West Bank settlements in pursuit of such a solution. Under present circumstances, Alpher argues, Sharon's gradual and more limited conception of peace may actually offer more prospects for real progress in the relationship between the two peoples. Other commentators (see the articles below, for examples) see Sharon opposing any possible peace by his actions, while attempting to seem the practical peace maker.

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     Baskin and Siniora, co-directors of the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI), reported the Common Ground News Service that Israeli opinion has shifted toward embracing a two-state solution over the last decade, partly from fears that demographic realities are working against Israel, while, public opinion amongst Palestinian intellectuals has already begun to lean toward wanting a one-state solution, and will soon move toward being embraced by the public. “The trend has begun and the longer it takes to reach real permanent status negotiations and agreements, the more viable will become the one-state option in Palestinian public opinion.” The first Israeli polls after the Gaza Pull out showed new division lines among the population, with the settlers more isolated and an increased majority wanting the momentum to go on.

 

     The UN Security Council has heard evidence from German prosecutor Detlef Mehlis that the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik could not have been committed without the knowledge of senior Syrian and Lebanese officials. To date the U.S. and France are pressuring Syria to cooperate fully with the Mehlis invstigatione, and on Srrian President Bashar al-Assad to change course and support U.S. goals in Iraq and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The cautious U.S. approach confronting an apparent smoking gun transgression by a regime detested in Washington might be a strategy of moving slowly in order to build strong diplomatic support for any action against Damascus. But it is more likely the result of a concern, voiced by U.S. and allied intelligence agencies, that weakening the Syrian regime would likely bring about a power vacuum that would benefit the Iraqi insurgency. In this complex situation, the options facing all sides are complex and potentially fraught with danger. One good source of analysis is Syriacomment.com.  Russia has indicated that it will oppose any attempt to impose sanctions on Syria.

 

    The International Crisis Group warned, in a November 28 report, that the recent terror attacks in Jordan have exposed a dangerous weakness in the regime. Though it may well have the best intelligence and security apparatus in the region, it has limited popular support and few channels for extending it given the absence of democracy and the strict limits on political opposition activity. The ICG asserts that the wave of popular anger against extremists that followed the bombings should create a very favorable opportunity for the regime to move forward with an extensive set of reforms, to consolidate popular support. But if it fails to build democratic institutions of popular consent, the regime's security apparatus may not be sufficient to secure its long-term survival. However, Simon Tisdall reported in the November 28 Guardian, that instead of spurring reform, the bombings seems likely to provoke the regime to retreat from reform.

 

     Officially, Egypt is engaged in democratic reform, with multiple parties and the President opposed in the recent election . But the jailing of the leading opposition Presidential vote getter is an indication that, to date, reform is more  form than substance.

 

     The International Crisis Group (ICG) found, in December, that "Azerbaijan's elections, in which pro-government parties won an overwhelming majority, once again failed to meet international standards. The opposition cried foul, organizing peaceful street demonstrations and filing court complaints. Though President Ilham Aliyev has pledged reforms, his actions remain tentative. If most of the results are confirmed, Azerbaijan will not have the strong pro-reform parliament it needs to push through serious change -- particularly tough anti-corruption measures".

 

     ICG stated in October that Settlement of the long running Nagorno-Karabakh conflict - the most significant obstacle to stability in the South Caucasus - remains elusive, despite more optimistic recent statements from Azerbaijan and Armenia. Eleven years after the 1994 ceasefire, burgeoning defense budgets, increasing ceasefire violations, and continuing demonization by each side are indications that the peace processes could collapse. However, a compromise can be constructed around an approach that, while addressing all the matters in dispute, leaves the core issue of Nagorno-Karabakh's ultimate status open for later resolution, after other measures have been put in place. 

 

     Increased violence between Tamil Tiger related groups and the government of Sri Lanka are threatening a return to civil war in the country.

 

     The Acech rebels, following up on their peace accord with the Indonesian government, completed disbanding their army, in December, as the last Indonesian troops left the province.

 

     There are indications of a major shift in power, and the structure of international politics, in motion. The decline if U.S. economic power (e.g. not only jobs and manufacturing are moving over seas from the U.S., but an increasing number of major U.S. firms are being purchased by corporations in other countries, and the U.S. auto industry continues to decline, with Toyoto on the verge of surpassing GM as the largest U.S. seller of motor vehicles in the U.S., this year, while the U.S. trade deficit continues to rise) is being accelerated by Bush administration policies that have sharply raised U.S. government indebtedness - primarily to foreign governments, particularly in Asia - and enhanced the gap between the rich and the poor, cutting consumer spending power over the longer term. Thus the base of U.S. military and diplomatic power is being reduced, without even considering the loss of diplomatic authority the U.S. has suffered from negative reactions to Bush Administration policies, or the bogging down of the U.S. military and diplomacy in Iraq. The last may be a shorter term phenomena, though it has facilitated China's rise as the most important nation in Asia, as its economy expands, and its military capability also rises. One indicator of the economic shift is that trade between India and China, currently estimated at around $14 billion, is likely to grow to as much as $450 billion in the next five years. In October, Heritage Foundation scholars Dana R. Dillon and John J. Tkacik, Jr. stated that China has quietly but comprehensively supplanted the U.S. as the dominant economic and diplomatic force in Asia. "Beijing's diplomats have effectively translated China's burgeoning economic clout into political influence, leaving in question the U.S. role and commitment to the region, even with traditional allies and friends."

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     In December, the East Asian summit was the first regional all-in regional gathering to exclude the U.S. for some time. The most notable characteristic of the meeting was enmity in relations between China and Japan, Japan and Korea and India and China, which blocked any possibity of regional consensus. Mohan Malik notes, in Yale Global, December 2, that the historical conflicts among the participants that have resurfaced on the same rising tide of nationalism that propels them to seek to demonstrate their independence from Washington's influence. Thus the International Crisis Group warned, December 15, that rising nationalism in China, Japan and Korea threaten to imperil the region's stability, and urged new approaches to solving territorial disputes, greater military-to-military ties and the creation of institutions to address the wildly differing interpretations of the region's painful history of conquest and colonialism that fuels the nationalism.

 

     In this writer's view, it is important that creative longterm thinking be brought to bear on the changes of relations that are occurring, not only in Asia, but world wide. Michael Klare, commenting in Asia Times, October 17, indicated that The Pentagon is wary of the speed with which China has begun to modernize its military, and the implications this might have for the strategic balance in Asia. Klare warns that should the hawkish view in the Pentagon of China as a long-term strategic rival prevail, Washington and Beijing could become locked into patterns familiar from the Cold War. This is all too possible given the growing competition over oil. As the planet's nonrenewable resources become more scare and expensive, while environmental crises grows, it is essential that that the worlds institutions look to long term mutual interest to build collaborative ways of balancing the network of global relationships, human and involving the physical environment, avoiding conflicts that will be catastrophic for all people.

 

     China's developing situation is providing many challenges for that nation. One is balancing economic development with environmental security, as pollution grows - as evidenced by the recent huge toxic river discharge - and China commences even larger energy projects. A second is dealing with the growing difference with wealth in the country, that already is causing unrest, that would grow sharply in an economic downturn, which ultimately is unavoidable. Officially there were 74,000 protests in China in 2004. The police killing of a number of protestors objecting to the seizure of land for a power station is an indicator that those left out of, or hurt by, economic expansion are increasingly willing to challenge authority, raising the need for the political system to find new ways to deal with popular dissent, and indeed public thought and expression. This in turn involves political challenges within the power structure, as there are reports of disagreements and policy struggles, including between conservative forces in the army and those seeking reforms bringing more openness.

 

      The head of the Northern Ireland arms decommissioning body, General John de Chastelain, said in November, that the IRA has put all of its weapons beyond use, which was attested to by a Protestant Minister and a Catholic Priest who witnessed the final decommissioning. This is a critical step in building confidence, but given the long history of difficulties, it will take time and continued patient peacebuilding acts to build trust among the parties. The DUP party of Ian Paisley stated in mid-November that they had confidence in the integrity of the two clergymen, but still had questions about what they had seen. A spokesman of the Ulster Unionist Party stated, “would wait to asses IRA activity on the ground before reaching a final conclusion.” Somewhat earlier, one of the largest Protestant militias disarmed and disbanded in a positive reaction to the IRA decommissioning.

 

Earlier, however, in September, Protestant paramilitaries were blamed by police for organizing a week of rioting in Belfast that injured 80 police officers and two children. Many people said that the clashes were the result of a rift between the Protestant community an the British government over local service issues and the loss of the privilege Protestant Northern Irelanders had held for centuries, in relation to the Catholic population. In December British Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Hain, announced the government no longer recognized the cease fire of the Protestant militia organization, the Ulster Volunteer Force, accused of killing four members of a rival Protestant gang last summer.

 

In late December, the British government was proposing the Northern Ireland Offences Bill, which would allow an amnesty for terror suspects who had never faced trial for alleged offences committed before the 1998 Good Friday agreement, as a step toward normalizing the situation in the North of Ireland. The bill is opposed by the conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and by both unionist parties and nationalist parties, like the SDLP, in Northern Ireland.

 

     Status talks on the future of Kosovo were scheduled to begin in November. About 95% of the currently autonomous province's Albanian population want independence. U.N. personnel are concerned that not enough is being done to protect the now small Serbian minority. Kosovo has been relatively quite lately, with international peace keepers quite visible, despite some reports of the presence of seemingly small armed Albanian gorilla groups strongly for independence. UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari was scheduled to begin the extended final status talks with a fact-finding mission to Pristina in late November, opening the initial shuttle diplomacy, with Ahtisaari taking stock of the positions held by leaders across the region, including not only to Belgrade and Pristina, but also Tirana, Skopje and Podgorica, as the parties are too divided at this point to make progress on the complex issues in face to face meetings.

 

Direct talks are scheduled to start in January (as of December 19: http://www.euractiv.com). In October elections, Kosovo's President, Ibrahim Rugova declared victory for his Democratic League for Kosovo, with about 47% of the vote. The Democratic Party of Kosovo reportedly come a distant second. Overall turnout was about 53%, but the Serbian minority largely boycotted the voting, with less than 1% of them participating, an indication of the difficulty that the status talks face, with Serbs and Serbia strongly opposed to losing the historically important area for Serbs.

 

    IGC stated, December 7, that Montenegrins are likely to vote, in April, to separate from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. "It is time for the European Union, whose diplomacy in 2001-2002 created the manifestly dysfunctional confederation, to make clear that it will accept whatever decision Montenegro’s citizens make, and encourage those opposing independence to participate peacefully in the referendum process. At a time when the international community needs to concentrate on resolving Kosovo’s status, it is important for the EU not to be seen as giving any comfort, inadvertently or otherwise, to those still-dangerous Serbian nationalist forces who may be prepared to risk potentially destabilizing actions, not only in Montenegro but elsewhere in the region".

 

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     For at least two weeks, at the end of August into September, young people, mostly Muslim immigrants from North Africa, rioted violently, each night, in many communities around France, protesting against racism and unemployment, torching hundreds of vehicles on each of many nights. The main causes of the rioting are poverty and unemployment, in which discrimination in hiring plays a role. A study showed that North African men were 5 times less likely to receive interviews for retail jobs in France than European men. However, the radical Islamic movement, fueled by the war in Iraq, is likely a factor.

 

     The International Crisis Group (IRC: http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm), warned on December 22: "Key international actors need to urgently re-engage if a disastrous new war between Eritrea and Ethiopia is to be averted. At the heart of the dispute is the ruling of the independent Boundary Commission, which assigned the border town of Badme to Eritrea, with Ethiopia refusing to accept that ruling, at least without a prior dialogue – in which Eritrea refuses to engage. Those who helped put together the Algiers peace accords in 2000 – the African Union, the UN, the U.S. and the EU – need to urgently put together a '3-Ds' strategy, involving concurrent de-escalation, demarcation and dialogue...."

 

     According to IRC, the western Sudanese region of Darfur continues to be a major humanitarian and human rights tragedy, with as many as 5,000 people - overwhelmingly civilians - dying every month, primarily at the hands of the government and its allied Janjaweed militias. "The situation continues to deteriorate: atrocity crimes are continuing, people are still dying in large numbers of malnutrition and disease, although humanitarian access has improved. The international community is failing to protect civilians itself or influence the Sudanese government to do so...the situation on the ground shows a number of negative trends, which have been developing since the last quarter of 2004: deteriorating security, including the targeting of humanitarian workers; mounting civilian casualties; the ceasefire in shambles; the negotiation process at a standstill; the rebel movements imploding; a rise in cross-border raids in Chad; and new armed movements appearing in Darfur and neighboring states. Chaos and a culture of impunity are taking root in the region".

 

"The international community must do much more about the interconnected problems of humanitarian relief and security on the ground. The key international organizations and concerned governments should urgently agree and coordinate at a high level on what is necessary, without regard to institutional prerogatives or national prestige. The following five objectives must be met: Protect Civilians and Relief Supplies in Darfur with a stronger civilian protection mandate for the African Union (AU) force, a major increase in the force size, and a greater contribution from the UN, EU and NATO, particularly in terms of logistic support and ensuring adequate command and control and headquarters capacity for the enhanced AU-led mission. Implement Accountability in Darfur by applying decisions taken by the UN Security Council in March.

 

In particular, the Sanctions Committee must be better supported to ensure the arms embargo and ban on offensive flights in Darfur are enforced, and those responsible for atrocities are speedily targeted for travel bans and asset freezes. As well, support must be given to International Criminal Court's investigation into violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Darfur. Build a Darfur Peace Process by holding of a high-level meeting with representatives of the AU, UN, EU, U.S. and other key international and national players to develop and then act on a structure for negotiations, in coordination with the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

 

Implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Khartoum and the SPLM, in particular by rapidly deploying the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMIS) to southern Sudan; addressing oil fields and oil revenue issues; promoting security sector reform in Khartoum; catching up with missed deadlines around the formation of key bodies and institutions; ensuring implementation of democratization elements of the agreement; and ending Khartoum hardliners' ability to use the Ugandan insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army and other southern Sudanese militia groups to sabotage stability in southern Sudan. Prevent New Conflict in Sudan through proactive efforts to deal with the explosive situation in the eastern part of the country before it becomes the next major civil war".

 

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     The International Crisis Group reported, in October, that the parties to the 2003 peace agreement aimed at ending a multilateral conflict over the Congo, that has claimed millions of lives, are not honoring their commitments. A renewed outbreak of fighting in what was once called Africa's "World War," again drawing in neighboring countries, is a very real possibility, and could destabilize much of the continent if it occurs. The ICG urges the international community "to maintain pressure on a wide front, making specific security sector reforms, transitional justice and good governance measures prerequisites for the elections, not allowing them to be postponed until there is a new government. The 2002 Global and All-Inclusive Agreement created the present transitional government out of the main domestic warring parties and committed it to a plan for reunification of the country, disarmament and integration of armed groups, and elections. Some progress has been made.

 

The parliament has passed a draft constitution (though it faced an uncertain referendum in November) and laws on citizenship, the national army and political parties. The former belligerents have begun to merge their separate administrative structures and armed groups. But the process with respect to reform of the security sector, as well as the judiciary and local administration, is far from complete. The main reason for the impasse, including postponement of elections, has been the reluctance of the former belligerents to give up power and assets for the national good. All have maintained parallel command structures in the army, the local administration and the intelligence services. Extensive embezzlement has resulted in inadequate and irregular payment of civil servants and soldiers, making the state itself perhaps the largest security threat to the Congolese people.

 

State weakness also allows armed groups in the east to continue to abuse civilians. The Rwandan Hutu insurgent group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), has refused to honor its March 2005 pledge to return home peacefully and has committed several massacres. In northern Katanga, Mai-Mai groups have fought each other and the Congolese army, displacing over 280,000 people in the province. And in Ituri, despite some robust actions by the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), 4,000 to 5,000 combatants still regularly attack the local population, international troops and humanitarian officials. The coming year will be decisive for the Congo, one of Africa's largest and potentially richest countries. A successful transition is by no means guaranteed. Unfortunately it is quite possible that political leaders will continue to block critical transitional reforms and try to skew the elections in their favor.

 

There are reasonable grounds for fearing electoral manipulation and even a relapse into mass violence that would put at severe risk both the unity of the Congo and the stability of much of the continent. If these dangers are to be avoided, the UN Security Council and other key members of the international community must press the transitional government to take comprehensive action to stop the suffering of the Congolese people, and ensure the success of the transition by June 2006. This briefing spells out a comprehensive action plan, built around five critical objectives, with the following major elements:

 

"One: free and fair elections must be provided for and held; Two: good governance and justice need to be provided for including a joint donors/Congolese mechanism implemented to curb state corruption and the Security Council should enact targeted sanctions against the violators of the arms embargo; Three: an integrated national army and police force to establish security needs to be assured with the creation of an International Military Assistance and Training Team (IMATT) to integrate all aid and training for the new security forces; Four: disarmament, demobilization and repatriation of the FDLR need to be completed;  Peaceful efforts to entice the FDLR home must be exhausted, with Rwanda clarifying which Five: fulfillment of MONUC's mandate to protect civilians: The UN Security Council needs to authorize more troops for MONUC; the EU and other donors should give it greater access to intelligence assets; and either MONUC's mandate should be formally strengthened or its concept of operations should be clarified to ensure that it acts more robustly and proactively against the FDLR and other armed groups".

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     The ICG reported in October that the stalled peace process in Cote d'Ivoire leaves the traditional anchor of stability in West Africa poised on the brink of a bloody disaster. The rebels controlling the northern half of the country have refused to follow through on their agreement to disarm, mediated by the African Union (AU), until President Laurent Gbagbo is replaced by an interim government. The UN has accepted AU guidance and recognized a one-year extension on Gbagbo's term of office, which expired in October, but elections can't be held to replace him under present circumstances. Confidence in the peace process on both sides has largely collapsed. Strong intervention by the international community is urgently required to return the situation to real peace building.

 

     IRC stated in December that Somalia’s long civil conflict and lack of central governing institutions continue to present an international security challenge. If governments are to counter the limited but real threat of terrorism from extreme Islamists in Somalia, they need to align more closely with Somali priorities – the restoration of peace, legitimate and broad-based government, and essential services – and make clear that their counter-terrorism efforts are aimed at a small number of criminals, many of them foreigners, not the Somali population at large.

 

     Binaifer Nowrojee, in an Op-Ed: "Resounding "No" to Kenya's Power Play," on the Open society and Soros Foundation Web site (http://www.soros.org),  November 25, wrote that in the November 21, referendum, Kenyans voted in large numbers, forestalling attempts by President Mwai Kibaki and his inner circle to tighten their grip on power, rejecting a flawed constitution that had been hastily forced upon them, and confirming the power of the ballot box to ordinary Kenyans. "Kenya’s bumpy road to democracy is no different from that of many other countries in Africa whose political transitions were heralded with high expectations.

 

Kenya has suffered the inevitable democratic backsliding, the continued corruption and the unfulfilled reform agendas that remain persistent themes elsewhere on the continent. One of the most important beacons of hope remains a change in mindset of the Kenyan public. Having been buoyed by the successful and peaceful 2002 election that brought in the promise of change, the Kenyan public remains loudly outraged by the government’s failures to make good on its promises. Radio call-in shows have burgeoned and public discourse is at its most lively. While public euphoria and high hopes have been dampened, Kenyans remain resolutely engaged in the democratic process".

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     In Nigeria, at least some oil companies have responded to violence against their pipelines and other facilities by local people, often damaged by oil development and receiving none of the millions of oil dollars going to the center of the country, along with international pressure, by undertaking at least some local economic development, while (at least on paper - but often still not in practice) 13% of oil revenues are now supposed to flow to undeveloped areas. However, the local development has led to violent clashes between people in villages receiving development and their neighbors who are not.

 

     The US, Mexican and Canadian governments, pushed by major economic interests, are working to expand NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) into NAFTA Plus by a series of signed intergovernmental regulations, not subject to citizen review, and that do not have to be approved by Congress. In many respects, NAFTA Plus would create a single North American nation with extremely porous boarders for products and services, and for labor between the U.S. and Canada, but not Mexico.

 

The first steps in developing NAFTA Plus have already been taken, with a trinational security perimeter already consolidated. Future steps include the construction of a new economic space, beginning with a customs union, then a common market, followed by a monetary and economic union. Miguel Pickard is an economist and researcher, co-founder of CIEPAC(Centro de Investigaciones Económicas y Políticas de Acción Comunitaria www.ciepac.org ) in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico and an analyst with the IRC Americas Program (http://www.americaspolicy.org ), states in "Trinational Elites Map North American Future in 'Nafta Plus'” (available online at: http://americas.irc-online.org/am/386 ):

 

"Costs would be enormous in terms of sovereignty and identity for the lesser partners. Deep integration would mean foregoing an independent future. For Mexico it would forever cancel the Bolivarist dream of a united Latin America, with Mexico spurning its historic relationship with the rest of Latin America. Advantages for the U.S. will include the right to decide on crucial matters such as “pushing out” its borders in response to regional security concerns, and access to strategic natural resources, particularly oil, gas and fresh water. For the trade, manufacturing and financial elites of Mexico and Canada, NAFTA Plus will likely mean a 'porous' border for its products and services, and virtually unrestricted access to the United States, still the largest consumer market in the world".

 

The Mexican government announced in September that it was making a significant reduction in Mexico's contribution to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), set up under NAFTA to improve the environment. Contrary to the announced aims of NAFTA, CEC has failed to decrease polluting in border areas, and has seen them increase.

 

     The Bush administration’s attempted to revive the moribund Free Trade Area of the Americas at the Fourth Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, last fall, however, the countries of the Southern Common Market closed ranks to prevent it, reflecting growing resistance to the current free trade model throughout the developing world.

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     Death Squads, as in the civil war that ended almost a decade ago, have returned to Guatemala, executing and disappearing large numbers of urban gang members and suspected gang members. The Guatemalan government reported that an estimated 4325 people were murdered in the first 10 months of last year.

 

    In Bolivia, Evo Morales, who is indigenous, won the presidential election by a wide margin. His policy approach is similar to that of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Morales plans to reverse U.S. anti-cocaine efforts in his country by expanding the legality of coca cultivation.

 

    In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez announced, on May 21, that his government will start to work on the research and construction of nuclear reactors for energy production. It is, he said, “one of the ways to diversify energy sources” and a possible solution to global warming and to the necessity to find alternatives to oil and other fossil fuels. Around the time of Chavez’ declarations, U.S. environmentalist Stewart Brand declared, after years of opposing the nuclear option, that he had changed his opinion. “It is not that something new and important and good happened with nuclear,” he explained, “It’s that something new and important and bad has happened with climate change.” Chavez has offerd low cost oil to U.S. Indian tribes, and some have been talking to the Venezuelan government about receiving it.

 

     The push by transnational corporations to privatize water distribution and resources in Latin America is continuing with efforts to take control of the region's hydrological resources--rivers, aquifers, wells, and aqueduct systems, despite setbacks in places like Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Uruguay. In April, over 400 participants gathered in Mexico City from countries throughout the hemisphere for the First People's Workshop in Defense of Water. Participants included indigenous peoples, small farmers, labor union representatives, members of urban movements, researchers, students, and civil society groups. Who discussed concerns and issues, and shared experiences with privatized water services and attempts to transfer water management to transnational companies. Participants considered possible ways of collaborating in furthering the defense of access to water as a human right, managed in a sustainable, democratic, and responsible manner. For more details see Carmelo Ruiz-Marrer, “Water Privitization in Latin America” at: http://americas.irc-online.org/am/2885 .

 

     Haiti is in the midst of a comprehensive program of electoral cleansing of opponents to the government, without resistance by the international community. Political dissidents are being removed from ballots, while the urban and rural poor are being stricken from voting rolls. At the same time anti-government political activity is forcibly being pushed off the streets. For more details go to: http://americas.irc-online.org/am/816.

 

     The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that calls for commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to eliminate known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. The document, drafted by the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs staff, and as of September awaiting final approval by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to be in line with the preemption strategy announced by President Bush in December 2002.

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     A Los Angeles Times, August 30, editorial states that John Bolton may have single-handedly blocked any chance for meaningful United Nations reform by making a last-minute submission of 175 amendments to the U.N. reform plan, in the one organization that might have provided cover for an acceptable American withdrawal from Iraq. By charging ahead without consultation and refusing to listen to allies, Bolton has succeeded in damaging the fragile consensus that might have made any kind of meaningful reform possible.

 

Ethical Corporation Magazine, reported September 27, that A leaked memo from the U.S. Mission to the U.N. indicates that John Bolton focused on removing all mention of corporate accountability from the declaration signed by U.N. countries at the end of the September summit in New York, while working to suppress any reference to the growing threat from Global Climate Change (including mention of the destruction of New Orleans), or support for the International Court of Criminal Justice, which the Pentagon perceives may start holding the Bush administration accountable for violations of human rights.

 

      MIT climate scientist, Kerry Emanuel, reported, in the July 31 issue of Nature, that while climate change does not appear to be increasing the number of hurricanes attacking the U.S., it could very well be raising the limits that restrict the hurricane's intensity. Others have pointed out that the Atlantic hurricane season has grown in length, with the 2005 season the longest on record, and that the number of strong storms has been increasing.

 

In September, a report was released showing that rising ocean surface temperatures from global warming were causing more, and more intense, storms.

 

Britain's Manchester Guardian reported, on August 30, that the Republican head of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce attempted to intimidate leading scientists who had warned of the dangers of Global Warming. At a 2-day symposium held at Columbia University's Earth Institute in April 2004 in the spring of 2004, the world's leading experts on the climate concluded that greenhouse gases have raised the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere to a level not experienced for the previous 400,000 years.

 

 In December, the UN Environmental Program reported that 2005 was the most costly year on record as the result of severe weather, with unprecedented levels of insurance claims on damaged property running at more then $70 billion and financial losses exceeding $282 Billion. On December 2, in a meeting in Montreal, Canada, the 157 nations who signed of the Kyoto Protocol completed rule making for the accord, and put the reduction of greenhouse gasses treaty fully into effect. The Amazon River Basin has been suffering the worst drought in its known history, bringing tremendous damage to the region and its people. In August, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that two environmental groups and four cities could sue the U.S. government for alleged damage resulting from government agency investments that it is claimed have increased global warming.

 

    World Watch Institute ( http://www.worldwatch.org ) reports that investment in renewable energy set a new record of $30 billion in 2004. Technologies such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and small hydro now provide 160 gigawatts of electricity generating capacity, about 4 percent of the world total. Nearly 40 million households worldwide heat their water with solar collectors, most of them installed in the last five years. Altogether, renewable energy industries provide 1.7 million jobs, most of them skilled and well-paying. Government support for renewable energy is growing rapidly. At least 48 countries now have some type of renewable energy promotion policy, including 14 developing countries. Most targets are for shares of electricity production, typically 5-30 percent, by the 2010-2012 timeframe. Mandates for blending biofuels into vehicle fuels have been enacted in at least 20 states and provinces worldwide as well as in three key countries—Brazil, China and India. Government leadership provides the key to market success, according to the report. The market leaders in renewable energy in 2004 were Brazil in biofuels, China in solar hot water, Germany in solar electricity, and Spain in wind power. Meanwhile, as demand for cheap, imported goods into the U.S. grows, so does the potential for catastrophic consequences from the ever-widening stream of marine freight. The huge container ships bringing those goods can pollute port communities, introduce invasive species, and even threaten national security. Senior

 

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  Researcher Brian Halweil points out that there is strong evidence that countries that invest in their rural areas have made some of the best progress in raising incomes. The growing prosperity of millions of small farms in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan following World War II, and China in more recent decades, inspired the dramatic economic booms those countries later enjoyed. In contrast, notes Halweil, persistent poverty in sub-Saharan Africa correlates with stagnant farm production and low investment in rural areas. Halweil indicates that an organization called the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has demonstrated high impact on relatively modest investments in the remote areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. IFAD's portfolio includes 192 projects in 115 countries; its budget totals about $400 million per year, or roughly one-fiftieth of U.S. spending on pet food.

 

     Researchers at Manchester College report that the U.S. is tending to divide socio-economically, according to analysis of census data from 1995-2004. The overall poverty rate that began to climb in 2001 has continued to grow, while income difference between the richest and the poorest households increased in six of nine years (with no change in one year), for an overall increase of 12%. However, the difference in poverty rates between whites and other racial-ethnic groups decreased in six of the last nine years, dropping 24% overall since 1995. The poverty disparity between children and adults decreased seven of those same nine years, dropping 13% overall. Between genders, the poverty gap showed a decrease in seven of nine years, with no change one year and a 4% decrease overall. All three demographic gaps decreased in 2004 from the year before (race by 7%, age by 2%, and gender by 1%). Complete details can be found at http://www.manchester.edu/links/violenceindex/.

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©2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. All rights reserve. The Nonviolent Change Journal is published by the Research/Action Team on Nonviolent Large Systems Change - an interorganizational and international project of The Organization Development Institute.  Opinions expressed are solely that of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editing staff, Nonviolent Change Journal, Organization Development Institute.