Nonviolent Change Journal

 

 

 

 

Home

Subscribe

About The Journal

Current Issue
  Editor's Comments
  Upcoming Events
  Ongoing Activities
  World Developments
  Dialoguing
  What We Are About
  Articles
  Media Notes
  Reports/Announcements
  Funding

Past Issues

Editorial Team

Questions/Feedback

Selected Links

Vol. XVII, No.2 Winter, 2003




WORLD DEVELOPMENTS



This is a winter of uncertainty, but also of hope. The biggest questions involve Iraq and North Korea. At first sight, it might appear that with President Bush pushing very hard for military action against Saddam Hussein and perhaps 150,000 U.S. troops already in the Persian Gulf or on their way, and others likely to be sent, while the U.S. is installing a new command center in Qatar, war is virtually inevitable. Certainly the stationing of troops in places where they might not be easy to restation, if withdrawn, is a pressure to use them while they are in position. Looking more deeply, there are a number of developments that may indicate that a full scale war in Iraq is not imminent, and may not occur at all.

Once unilateral George Bush, has now long yielded to domestic and foreign pressure to admit regularly that are will only act militarily multilaterally in Iraq. There is considerable opposition at home and abroad to the U.S. attacking, particularly without broad support, and/or a U.N. vote that in the current situation may be impossible to attain. Key Arab nations oppose a war, at least without a broad international approval, and even Britain is saying to wait. Bush, though continually having shown much impatience to act by force of arms, with weather making it important to start not much later than February with an assault, now gives some indication he will allow the UN weapons inspectors the additional time they need to see if Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. That may take many months, and so far they have found only one set of empty shells that can carry prohibited weapons, and the Iraqis, for the most part, are allowing the inspectors to proceed, though the inspectors have complained of some problems, inclluding failure to turn over lists of scentists to interview about weapons development. A great deal may turn on how the inspections continue to go and what Saddam does. Former Clinton State Department spokesman James Rubin said in December, that right now, Saddam believes the U.S. will attack no matter how he responds to UN disarmament demands. President Bush ought to write a personal note to Saddam assuring the Iraqi leader that the U.S. won't invade if Baghdad disarms. A factor in Bush's recent moderation may be that more than two-thirds of Americans believe the Bush administration has failed to make its case that a war against Iraq is justified, according to a poll by the Los Angeles Times published in December. 90%y percent of respondents said they don't doubt Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction. But without new evidence from U.N. inspectors, 72 percent of respondents, including 60 percent of Republicans, said the president has not provided enough evidence to justify starting a war. The U.N. Security council voted unanimously, in early December, to continue the "oil for food (and other humanitarian items)" program to Iraq for six months, with a review within 30 days, aimed at possibly removing items from the list of those permitted to be sent to Iraq if they are found to be usable for military purposes.

North Korea has created a major crises in Asia and with the U.S. by restarting a nuclear facility that can produce enough material to allow that country to build several atomic bombs a year, then kicking out U.N. Nuclear inspectors and disabling their remote monitoring equipment, next pulling out from the nuclear arms proliferation treaty, and threatening to further escalate by resuming long range missile tests. There is reason to believe, however, that these are intended more as symbolic, than substantive, acts by a somewhat paranoid leadership made fearful of U.S. intentions by President Bush at the beginning of his administration withdrawing from what had been progressing talks with North Korea, followed by strong anti North Korean statements by the U.S. President, made more threatening by Bush's bellicoseness toward Iraq and his leadership in getting western countries to stop shipping oil to North Korea when it admitted that it had been secretly operating an atomic plant with weapons production potential, at least in spirit contrary to agreements with the U.S. Some North Korean specialists say that North Korea is serious in saying that it primarily seeks a nonaggression agreement with the U.S., and will negotiate getting rid of its nuclear weapons producing potential upon receiving that, plus assurances of continued much needed financial or equivalent fuel and food (which is still being provided) aid, with some opportunity for economic development. Talks in January between former Clinton Administration official Bill Richardson, and a subsequent softening of position by the Bush administration and indication of willingness to talk directly to the North Koreans, indicate that some patient and delicate international diplomacy may well resolve the crises quite favorably for all parties. The crises has put on hold what were promising negotiations between North Korea and Japan while slowing moves for reconciliation between North and South Korea, which has been taking a softer line than the United States on North Korea's actions. There is no question, however, that if North Korea goes ahead with nuclear armament production, a dangerous situation with a number of possible quite negative outcomes, will be in progress.

Al Queda appears to have recovered from its loss of state support in Afghanistan, to become more active than ever. Over the last few months there have been a significant number of attacks in many places in the world that appear to have been undertaken by Al Queda related people or groups, or by others seemingly sympathetic to Al Queda's objectives. These include The night club bombing in Bali, in Indonesia, The bombing of an Israeli resort in Mombasa, Kenya and the simultaneous failed missile attack on an Israeli airliner departing from Mombasa, numerous attacks in Pakistan against westerners and western institutions, The assassinations of a U.S. diplomat and an American missionary nurse in Lebanon, the killing of U.S. missionary medical personnel in Yemen, increasing small scale attacks against U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and in a number of Middle Eastern countries, bombings, kidnappings and armed clashes between government forces and "Islamic" guerillas in the Philippines, and the attack on a French oil tanker near Yemen. Paul Rogers (Foreign Policy in Focus, December 6, 2002, http://www.nyu.edu/globalbeat/index.html#qaeda) argues that rather than trying to defeat the U.S. in the short term, Al Queda's strategy involves provoking U.S. military action on the widest possible front throughout the Arab and Muslim world, confident that such action actually extends the al Qaeda's operational and ideological reach. Various commentators state that Al Queda's aims and method are primarily political, and that they are gaining increased support in many places in the Middle East and in some other Muslim populations. To date the U.S.is not focusing on the political battle, spending 400 times as much on military action. Also, many commentators assert that the political battle is much more a question of U.S. sensitivity and responsiveness to the concerns and views of people of other cultures, including the nature of U.S. policy and practice, rather than of propaganda, which to date has not been effective, and can only be so when it is consistent with an appropriate over all approach and policy. It is to be noted that, in Pakistan, the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf is growing increasingly isolated, following recent elections bringing major gains for Islamist parties.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. effort to train the Afghan army has bogged down, partly because the U.S. is training Afghan troops for its own military force, outside Kabul's control. The U.S. policing project is intended to provide needed security outside of Kabul, without which national integration and economic development can not be attained. However, since members of the U.S. force are paid three times as much as government forces, Kabul is left with few good candidates from which to form an army, and its ability to take leadership in the country is reduced. In mid December, some two dozen nations agreed to provide $1.2 billion to Afghanistan in much needed new relief aid that will be controlled by the Karzai government. Direct assistance with economic development, needed if nation building is to occur, has still not materialized. In late December, the six nations neighboring Afghanistan signed a declaration of nonaggression with it, providing an important gesture of support to the Karzai government.

A tense situation has developed between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. On November 25, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov stated that his motercade had been strafed by machine gun fire. The president blamed an international gang of mercenaries. A crackdown immediately commenced, with a wave of arrests. On December 16, Turkmen special services officers stormed the Uzbek Embassy on the pretext of locating "Turkmen terrorists," allegedly involved in the assassination attempt. The general prosecutor of Turkmenistan then accused the Uzbek Ambassador to Turkmenistan of assisting the "terrorists., and he was told to leave the country as persona non-grata. Uzbekistan protested the invasion of its embassy, leading to an exchange of accusations by the two governments, who then moved troops to their mutual boarder. Some human rights and opposition groups say that the assassination attempt was rigged in order to bolster Niyazov's shaken authority and find a convenient pretext for punishing political rivals and opponents, and concern has been expressed over the arrest of more than 100 people.

The opposition to Aliev's regime in Azerbaijan is strengthening, cohering, and becoming sharper. The hard line response of the authorities merely exacerbates socio-economic complaints, in a nation where more than 60% of the population lives in poverty. In Kyrgyzstan, 2002 was a year of clashes between the opposition and the government that came close to breaking into civil war. That was averted when, on September 12, the government and the opposition signed a memorandum, in which the government promised to bring those responsible for the deaths in Aksy to court by November 15 and the protestors agreed to abandon their foot march to Bishkek and drop several demands, including calls for Akaev's resignation and a revision of the Sino-Kyrgyz border agreement [which ceded territory to China]. Seven deaths were recorded, and mass protests--including hunger strikes--were held all over the country. To meet this situation, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is calling for transparent negotiations between the two sides and has offered funding for new programs aimed at improving the situation, including a new ombudsman's office. Krgyzstan's industrial sector development is the lowest among the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The majority of the population lives in poverty, and Kyrgyzstan depends heavily on outside aid. The U.S., which has a military base in the nation's capitol, has promised Kyrgyzstan $90 million in aid in year 2003. Kyrgyzstan currently hosts a coalition military base at Bishkek's Manas airport. Russia announced it will reschedule $58 million of Kyrgyzstan's $171 million debt to Russia two days after Russia had put its military aircraft in the Kant airfield in the north of the country.

Activists in Ulanbataar, Mongolia, say that 2003 could be a pivotal year in that nation, with intense debate arising out of discontent with a law on land privatization that is due to take effect in May. Organizations and opposition parties are gearing up to fight a new land policy that critics say discriminates against the rural poor by delivering outsize payments to large landholders. Experts, who do not necessarily oppose this new policy, also see it as cause for worry. The government's handling of land legislation, these people claim, raises questions about the future of democracy in Mongolia. Following the taking of hostages by Chechen rebels at a theatre in Moscow, in October, that lead to the death of over 100 hostages and all of the Chechen hostage takers, the war in Chechnya has intensified, some what, including some larger attacks by rebels. At the same time, security checks, including unannounced visits, and detentions that Chechens complain are harassment, haave increased in Moscow.

The Israeli-Palestinian situation remains basically what it was in September, with Israeli security forces making incursions into Palestinian areas and destroying houses whenever there is a suicide bombing (or, now, a car bombing) or other attack, and continuing violence adding to the casualties in both communities, while no progress has been made on the diplomatic front, with Sharon saying negotiations can't proceed successfully as long as Arafat leads the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Israel is building a wall separating itself from Palestinian lands, to try to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers. Whether the wall can be a successful security vehicle remains to be seen, but its construction often involves the taking of further land from Palestinians, without compensation. Whether the situation will change in the near future depends on several factors. Israel will have national elections in late January. At the moment Sharon and his Likoud party are in the lead in their bid to remain in power, but it remains to be seen if a major influence scandal, involving Likoud, that has now reached Sharon, will lead to a Labor victory. Labor's candidate for prime minister, reserve general and mayor of Haifa, Amram Mitzna, stated he would withdraw Israeli soldiers and settlers from the Gaza strip, and said that he would negotiate with the Palestinians, even if attacks continue. He stated that if elected, he would pursue a settlement establishing a Palestinian state, but if a settlement could not be obtained, he would withdraw from Palestinian territory, complete the wall between Israel and the Palestinians and leave them to run their own affairs. He said that it was in the interests of the Palestinians, as such an Israeli unilateral action would not be with mutually agreed boarders or with consideration of all Palestinian concerns. In November, a top Aid to Arafat stated that the armed uprising by the Palestinians against Israel had been a disaster, and must be stopped.

In mid January, Egypt invited leaders of Palestinian factions to come to Cairo just six days before the Israeli elections to declare an end to attacks on Israelis. That could have an impact on the election. In December, the Palestinian Authority put off election for President (in which Arafat was running for reelection),indefinitely, which had been scheduled for next month, saying that Israeli occupation of much of the West Bank and travel restrictions in Gaza made a fair election impossible. A new poll commissioned by Search for Common Ground Poll, made November 17-24, shows that large Israeli and Palestinian majorities indicate a readiness for a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, but are constrained by mistrust of the other side. 72% of the Palestinians indicate readiness to move beyond the cycle of violence if Israel will agree to a settlement that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. However, many in this majority express a lack of faith that Israel would ever really make the necessary concessions. This mistrust blocks the formation of a clear majority ready to renounce violence. At the same time, fewer than one in five Palestinians favor pursuing a violent struggle with the goal of gaining all of historic Palestine. Seventy-two percent of the Jewish-Israeli public also indicates readiness to agree to a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, if the Palestinians will refrain from violence for an extended period. However, many in this majority express a lack of faith that Palestinians would really give up violence. As on the Palestinian side, fewer than one in five support a maximalist ideology, in this case holding on to the Occupied Territories permanently. For the full report, go to: http://www.sfcg.org/News/Dec2002PollReport-English.pdf.

In the U.S., a survey conducted by the Arab American Institute (AAI) and Americans for Peace Now (APN) shows that almost a third of the Jewish Americans questioned and almost half of the Arab Americans rated Mr Bush's performance as poor, in handling the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Respondents from both communities indicated they supported a two-state solution including Palestine and felt the US should take a middle course in its approach to the conflict, indicting that both communities are much more moderate on Middle East-related issues than people are often led to believe. The largest proportion of respondents in each group said the administration's efforts at present were pro-Israeli. But while the poll showed a high level of agreement between the communities, it showed that the communities were unaware of that, mistakenly believing that much of the other community favored a one state solution with dominance by their own side.

The International Crisis Group warned, in November, that Israeli-Lebanese tension could provide the spark for a new war in the Middle East. Hopes of wider freedom in Syria, that arose with the coming into office of President Bashar al Assad in 2000, were dashed last year with a number of arrests, including of human rights activists, some of whom have been convicted and others of whom are awaiting trial.

In Oslo, Norway, December, Sri Lankan officials and representatives of the Tamil Tigers reached a breakthrough in their search for peace, coming to agreement on a method for governing their ethnically divided country, using a federal model.

In October, Pakistan followed India's similar move in announcing it would remove hundreds of thousands of troops from the boarder of the two nations. however, separatist violence continues in Indian Kashmir, with the Indian government saying that some of the attackers continue to come from Pakistan. Pakistan and Afghanistan reached agreement in mid December on a plan for repatriating all 1.8 million refugees home to Afghanistan over three years, closing most of the remaining camps after two decades of operation.

Myanmar (Burma) has been improving its army since 1988, making it a far more potent force in suppressing civil opposition. As a result, the army now accounts for 45% of the national budget.

In November President Jiang Zemin said that China would continue its economic transformation, but ruled out political reform, beyond fighting corruption.

Japan suffered a 10% increase in crime from 2001 to 2002, to reach the highest rate since World War II, while the arrest rate reached a record low of 19.8%, according to a Justice Ministry report issued in November. Commentators link the crime rise to Japan's economic problems.

The United States and the Philippines may shortly begin a new military training operation focused on fighting Muslim extremists, involving 300-400 U.S. troops.

In East Timor, in early December, U.N. police helped authorities restore order after major rioting left two dead and two dozen wounded in the worst unrest since it gained independence in May, indicating rising discontent in the desperately poor nation, and raising concern if the new nation will be able to govern itself effectively when U.N. administrators and police leave.

The Indonesian government signed a peace treaty ending 26 yers of war with indigenous insurgents from Aceh provence, in December. The 4.1 million people of the oil and timber rich provence will have autonomy within Indonesia.

Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, set off a regional diplomatic firestorm, in December, by remarking casually that his country may take preemptive military action against terrorists in neighboring countries, bringing angry reactions in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Australia has been experiencing the worst brush fires in a generation, around Sydney, where in early December there were more than 60 separate blazes, and more recently near Camberra.

The Northern Ireand Peace Process lost ground in October and, since then, there has been a struggle to get it moving again. Northern Ireland's home rule administration was suspended by Britain last October amid allegations an Irish Republican Army spy ring had penetrated the heart of government, following a police raid on IRA offices that gave some evidence of that, and then became a political issue itself. At that point the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP, the leading Protestant party) withdrew from the government and, after some unsuccessful negotiations, the British government suspended home rule in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, assisted by a team of Northern Ireland Office Ministers, has since assumed responsibility for the direction and control of the Northern Ireland Departments, while new negotiations have been transpiring. Soon the IRA, likely as a tactical move in the negotiations, broke off contact with the international decommissioning commission, overseeing disarming of the militias. In early January, with British led negotiations seemingly making progress, several Protestant groups also broke contact with the commission. At this point, the further pulling back seems only maneuvering in negotiations that are showing hope of moving ahead toward restarting the government and making progress on disarmament, reorganization of the police and other issues. While none of the major parties and very few people in Northern Ireland want to end the peace process, there is so much lack o trust to overcome that the process is very slow and difficult, an under some circumstances, could collapse.

UN forces in Kosovo have now established offices in the Serbian populated Northern half of the city of Mitrovica which has long been governed, in fact, by a parallel Serbian government. Belgrade has agreed to stop financing the parallel Serbian government in the city, and the hope is that, with patient UN action, it can be integrated peacefully into the rest of Kososvo.

Rebuilding education in Bosnia, especially in rural areas, remains a struggle with shortages of funds, equipment and supplies, and ethnic segregation and racist textbooks still problems in many schools. Biljana Plavsic, former president of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, and a member of the Bosnian Serb wartime leadership, became the first high ranking official to plead guilty to charges of crimes against humanity before the Hague based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Bosnian elections were orderly, in October (perhaps showing an end to proclivities for violence), but with a lower turn out of only 55% of regestered voters (possibly showing disillusionment with politics and politicians). The three nationalist parties that have lead continuously since the beginning of the war won, but looking below the surface, the winners exibited more diversity of position than previously, and moderates made gains in Republica Srpska.

Three times in a row this fall, Serbia has had to void elections for President because of insufficient voter turnout, while a referendum on Montenegro's withdrawing from Yugoslavia suffered the same fate. In October, Montenegrans had elected a pro independence majority to parliament. Under an agreement with Serbia in March, the two republics (the last in Yugoslavia) are continuing a restricted federal administration with a common defense and foreign policy, including shared representation at the U.N. After three years, either republic can vote to leave the federation.

In Macedonia in October, After a month of hard negotiations, the two leading ethnic Macedonian and Albanian parties announced the formation of a new government. Two shooting, however, that left two dead and at least three wounded in the ethnically tense Tetovo area overshadowed the celebratory mood and led to further violence and instability. During the same period, ethnic tensions among high school students burst out in incidents around Macedonia.

In October 14 bombs exploded in Corsica, injuring one man and damaging five banks. No one claimed responsibility, as police stated that groups seeking independence from France have made such attacks in the past.

The European Union (EU) expanded its membership with ten new nations joining in December, creating a potential economic and political superpower, and bridging historically bloody divides.

In Zimbabwe, negotiations taking place between the ruling and opposition parties, a compromise plan is being considered, under which President Mugabe would step down, with immunity from prosecution, and a power sharing caretaker government would be created that would try to stem the country's economic collapse (including an inflation rate of 144% accompanying a food crises threatening massive starvation), regaining international respect and aid that was lost with Mugabe's seizures of land from white farmers and election fraud to retain office. The food crises, stemming from draught, threatens 30 million people from the Southern tip of Africa to Mauritania in West Africa and Eritea in the East, with 11 million at risk in Ethiopia.

In the Ivory Cost, truces and negotiations between the government and rebels, including at least one new rebel group, have been on and off during the fall, with some violence occurring, including some clashes between rebel and French forces attempting to keep the peace in some areas. At last report, the negotiation process, though shaky and uncertain, was continuing.

On December 17, the Government of Congo and the major rebel groups signed a peace treaty, in South Africa, under which President Kabila will lead a transitional government for 18 months in which all of the signatures to the accord will be involved, with vice presidencies, cabinet positions and seats in parliament distributed among the the government, opposition parties and the rebels. The Congo's first free elections are to follow. In September, several thousand people were killed in an attack on the hospital and town at Nyankunda, that arose after the chief of one tribe barred members of the tribe that later attacked from the area that included the hospital, depriving them of medical care. The U.S. hosted Sudanese Peace talks in late December.

In elections that observers found peaceful and fair, in Kenya, the opposition National Rainbow coalition easily defeated the party that has ruled since independence. 71 year old economist, and veteran politician, Mwai Kibaki became the new President., while his party won a majority in Parliament.

In South Africa, the New National Party, that brought apartheid in, and then led negotiations to bring its end, gained two ministers, for the first time, in the African National Congress lead government, making it more directly inter-racial.

Nigeria continues to suffer from governmental corruption and ethnic and religious division. In November, over 100 people were killed, and at least 4000 homes destroyed, in four days of Muslim-Christian rioting over issues concerning holding the Miss World pageant in Nigeria. France is engaged in a campaign of incentives, including the possibility of economic development investment, to try to get Algeria to carry out major reforms of the economy, and the administrative, judicial and educational systems. In March, President Chirac is scheduled to make the first state visit by a French President to Algeria since the former French colony declared independence four decades ago. Algeria continues to be suffer from attacks by Islamic guerrillas (and perhaps by others), that began after the military government canceled parliamentary elections in 1992 to prevent a victory by an islamic coalition. The number of such attacks declined in 2002.

According to Timothy A. Wise and Kevin P. Gallagher in Foreign Policy in Focus, October 24, 2002, NAFTA has been unsuccessful, to date, in purely economic terms, reducing jobs in the U.S. and slowing economic development in Mexico. Recent reports (See, Ginger Thompson, "Nafta to open Foodgates, engulfing Rural Mexico" The New Yotk Times, International,12/19/02), food imports into Mexico from the U.S. often sell below small farmers costs, driving them out of business. There are substantial food exports from Mexico to the U.S., but predominantly by large farmers, most especially by multinational corporations).

More than 10,000 people protested when the Seventh Ministerial Meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was held in Quito, Ecuador at the end of October. The Bush administration hopes the treaty will be in place by the end of 2004 to expand economic development through free trade. Farmers, indigenous people and civic society leaders from throughout Latin America came to object to a proposal that they believe will destroy security in work, bring in produce at prices below farmers costs and, in a number of ways, be destructive of the secondary economy of the vast majority of people; thereby, encouraging environmental damage and increase in the denial of property and cultural rights of indigenous peoples, contributing significantly to their physical and cultural genocide.

The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children reports that over the past 15 years more than 2 million Columbians, half of whom are children, have been forcibly displaced by the conflicting parties in the country's civil war. In November, Human Rights Watch asserted that Columbia's attorney general, Jose Miguel Vivanco, has been undermining investigations of right wing paramilitary groups by firing or transferring prosecutors, since his appointment in July of 2001. The group contends that in the last 15 months, at least 9 prosecutors or investigators - most of whom received specialized training from the U.S.- working on paramilitary cases have been fired and 15 have been forced to resign. Meanwhile 5 prosecutors and investigators looking at ties between paramilitary groups and military units have been killed. Several high profile investigations into masacres allegedly carried out by paramilitary groups with ties to top military officers have stalled. The civil war and the casualties it brings are continuing. In January, 70 U.S. special forces personnel arrived in Columbia to train Columbian troops over the next several months.

Since early December, Venezuela has been experiencing a general strike called by middle class and wealthy opponents of leftist President Hugo Chavez, attempting to force him from office. With the national oil company on strike, the economy of the fifth largest oil producing nation is at a standstill as it imports what oil it can. It is not yet clear what the end of the confrontation will be, and whether the situation will remain relatively peaceful or lead to civil war. So far the Army reams loyal to the President, with much of the police force favoring the opposition. The country's privately owned television stations have been running opposition "infomercials" instead of advertisements, in addition to what is often non-stop coverage of opposition protests. Prior to the coup that briefly ousted Chavez on April 11, the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy stepped up its funding to opposition groups, including money funneled through the International Republican Institute. The latter's funding multiplied more than six fold, to $340,000 in 2001, and there is suspicion that U.S. funding is again supporting the opposition. The U.S. officially says that it would like to see a peacefull compromise bringing early elections, which is essentially the position of the opposition. It would probably take several months to hold such elections, if there were an agreement to do so, including changing the constitution to allow for it, by which time the constitutionally mandated opportunity for a midterm recall vote on the President would have arrived, suggfesting that patience and restraint may be the best path in Venezuela.

In October, Brazil elected labor leader Lula de Silva as President by a substantial margin. De Silva has moderated some of his proposed policies for bringing the nation out of economic difficulty with particular help to the poor. He has agreed to abide by existing government commitments to adhere to Brazil's foreign debt obligations and not violate an International Monetary Fund program strictly limiting government spending (in order for Brazil to receive the bulk of IMF funding under agreements made during the prior administration).

In Chile, in November, the Supreme Court rejected an Argentine judge's request to strip the former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, of official immunity so that the former President could be questioned about the death of his predecessor as head of the Chilean Army, who was assassinated along with his wife while in exile in Buenos Ares in 1974.

Mexico city has hired former Mayor Rudolph Guiliana as a consultant to help the City reduce violence and end police corruption. In November, about 2000 members of of Mexico's former rulling party, PRI, seized government buildings in two Guerrero towns, claiming fraud in the elction of the towns' mayors.

Political instability is increasing in Guatemala, while the human rights climate worsens. In November, the United Nations mission, reviewing Guatemala's compliance with the peace accords that ended the 36 year long civil war, concluded that there is a human rights crises in the Central American nation, partly because of the government's "utter failure" to carry out programs of reconciliation and social development. The government was faulted for increasing the role of the military and for failing to investigate crimes. This fall, the 2001 convictions of three former military officers and a fourth person for the murder of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi were overturned, undoing what many had seen as a small step toward justice and truth. However, in October, former Colonel Juan Valencia was convicted of the murder of Anthropologist Myrna Mack, in 1990. With the victim's sister, Helen Mack, working hard for 12 years to champion the prosecution of the case, for the first time the lead planner of a political murder has been convicted in Guatemala.

A civil court in Miami, FL, in July found two former Salvadoran generals responsible for torture by those under their command, awarding plaintiffs $54.6 million in damages, in the first instance of anyone being held accountalbe by a civil court for human rights violations in El Salvador's civil war.

A World Health Organization study finds that about 1.6 million people around the world die violently each year, 90% of whom live in poor and middle income countries. Most of the victims are men, 50% are suicides.

Attacks on ships around the world rose to 271 from January through Sptember of 2002, as compared with 253 in the first nine months of 2001. Pirates, hiding in isolated inlets of the sprawling coast lines of Indonesia accounted for 72, or 27% of these attacks. Terrorists in the middle East and militia gangs in Somalia were the next most serious threats to shipping.

The 2002 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization finds that that no progress has been made recently to reduce hunger world wide. From 1998-2000 wars, floods droughts and poverty have kept the number of undernourished people on the planet at 840 million, 15% of the worlds population, though enough food is produced world wide to end hunger.

AIDS is disseminating the ranks of people in every profession and strata in southern Africa, and is growing rapidly in Russia, despite official statistics, because of a reduction in testing for HIV.

In June, the International Criminal Court came into existence to try cases involving gross violations and crimes against humanity. 

In late December, the United States signed the international treaties banning the use of child soldiers and making sexual exploitation of children a crime, with approval by both the President and the Senate.

Malcolm Danda, a British expert on biological and chemical warfare and his American counterpart Mark Wheelis, claim that the U.S. has been trying to breakdown chemical and biological weapons treaties in order to clear the way for further research on lethal and non-lethal weapons systems, and charge that Washington has been seriously destabilizing efforts to control biological and chemical weapons (according to Julian Borger in the Guardian, October 28, 2002).

A report published in Science, November 1, stated that when the effects of climate change are added to previously made considerations, the number of threatened plant species world wide, as the result of human activity, increases from 13% to from 22-47%.

A report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in October, indicated that despite millions of dollars spent on water pollution reduction, a large number of lakes, streams, rivers and bays remain too contaminated for drinking, swimming or fishing across the U.S. In 2000, 39% of the miles of rivers and streams tested were too polluted, warm or degraded for those uses compared with 35% in 1998 and 36% in 1996, as were 45% of the acres of lakes tested in both 2000 and 1998, and 39% in 1996, and 51% of estuaries in 2000 compared with 44% in 1998 and 38% in 1996. A report by the National Audubon Society, released in October, states that 201 species of birds, one-forth of all species, are currently declining or at risk of disappearing across the U.S. from habitat destruction, pollution, disease and other causes. NASA scientists reported in mid december that 2002 was the second warmest year for the Earth on record, the highest temperature year being 1998.

Hate crimes against American Indians and Alaska Natives increased dramatically in 2001, the FBI reported in November. According to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, Native Americans were disproportionately affected by bias crimes. Although less than 1 percent of the general population, 1.8 percent of hate crimes were anti-Indian. In the year 2001, the FBI listed a total of 80 incidents involving 100 victims who were American Indian or Alaska Native, up from 57 incidents and 64 victims in 2000, an increase of 36%. Crimes against African-Americans, whites and Hispanics jumped only slightly while anti-Asian crimes were unchanged. The only exceptions involved those of Middle Eastern origin and those who practice the Muslim religion. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI reported a "noticeable" increase in these areas, going from 28 incidents targeting Muslims in 2000 to 481 being reported in 2001. Most offenders are white, according to the data. Of the more than 11,000 offenses recorded in 49 states and the District of Columbia, 65.5 percent were committed by whites and 20.4 percent by African-Americans.

In October, the FBI reported that, coinciding with the economic downturn, the number of violent and property crimes rose in the U.S. for the first time in a decade, by 2.1%, but the number of crimes was still less than in in 1992 by 18% and than in 1997 by 10%. U.S. schools have become safer, with metal detectors and surveillance cameras contributing to a sharp reduction in weapons and crimes, but many students still feel more insecure on school grounds than off because not enough has been done about the problem of bullies, according to a study from the Center for Disease Control, made public in December.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census announced, in September, that for the first time since 1993, national poverty is increasing, rising in 2001 by 1.3 million people to 11.7% of the population. The only group for which income rose was the wealthiest 5%. Lack of health care coverage also increased in 2001 to 41.2 million, 14.6% of the population, an increase of 1.4 million people from 2000.

President Bush's proposed 2003 budget calls for a 13% increase in national security spending over 2002, an increase of $48 billion, to $379.3 billion. 15% higher than the average for the cold war, more than six times higher than that of Russia, the next largest military budget, and more than 26 times greater than the seven countries traditionally identified as the most likely U.S. adversaries, combined. The U.S. and its closest allies together undertake over two-thirds of the world's military spending. In December, President Bush ordered the fielding of a limited defense system by 2004, despite Russian objection, and criticism that the science is not yet good enough to build a system of practical value and the cost is too great considering the other threats to U.S. security (e.g. smuggled in atomic and biological weapons; destruction of U.S. nuclear reactors or dumping radioactive material or chemical poisons in population centers, etc.).

Top of Page

 

These articles and opinions of the authors do not constitute the endorsement of Nonviolent Change nor its publisher, Organization Development Institute, or any of its staff.

©2002, 2003, 2004,2005. All rights reserve. The Nonviolent Change Journal is published by the Research/ActionTeam on Nonviolent Large Systems Change - an interorganizational and international project of The Organization Development Institute.

Permissions: Reposting and reprints are encouraged, as long as proper source acknowledgement is given. As a courtesy, please let us know that you are reprinting or electronically reposting. It helps us know of the interest level. Thank you.