Blog Roundup #70

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary

Gypsy Girl Chronicles: “Today is Human Rights Day. It has been celebrated since December 10th, 1948, when the United Nations first adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib and the current reports of secret CIA prisons, the theme is significant…”

Matthew Good: “I suppose it should come as no real surprise that the United States is now saying that the UN CAT [Convention Against Torture] applies to US personnel abroad, including interrogators. Their position had been that it didn’t apply to US personnel abroad, but given the various scandals that have erupted one can see why Congressional pressures might have made some headway with regards to altering the administration’s point of view. Of course, the precedent set has caused a great deal of damage to global human rights standards, something that won’t be so easy to correct. Terrorism, the world’s new justification in perpetuity, provides rights abusers the perfect, and highly ambiguous, justification for suspect action. Just because a few skeletons in America’s War On Terror closet are starting to rattle around doesn’t mean that justification is any less potent. Rice has said that her statement does not imply a policy shift, but that she was simply clarifying policy. If that’s the case, one has to ask the obvious question: does it apply to the last four years, or has the clock just started?”

Barking Dingo: “Time to Learn How to Swim – The first recorded displacement of humans due global warming has officially been recorded: “Pacific islanders move to escape global warming: “Rising seas have forced 100 people on a Pacific island to move to higher ground in what may be the first example of a village formally displaced because of modern global warming, a U.N. report said on Monday.”

Guardian Blogs: “Midway through the final week of the UN climate negotiations in Montreal brings a strange kind of lull, writes Simon Retallack. It could be the calm before the storm. Something seems to be up. I’ve tried to attend press conferences that have been postponed three times and then abandoned. An important negotiating session was eagerly awaited and then cancelled. Without much light being shed, it’s a time when dark thoughts and rumours flourish. The news overnight has not been particularly good. Negotiations on how to kick-start negotiations on new emission reduction targets for industrialised countries under the Kyoto protocol went on until 2am and a leak of the draft text that emerged suggests the state of play is worse than before. Key elements of a decision are now in square brackets, which means they are in dispute, including the suggestion that the negotiations should be completed by November 2008 (when a new US president would be elected).”

It’s Getting Hot in Here: “Earlier today, the US climate delegation met again with a room full of climate advocates. While the audience had expanded in size, the responses remained equally disappointing. Dr. Harlan L. Watson led his congregation of cronies through another round of crass question evasion. Once again, inaction was defended under the veil of “scientific uncertainty,” adaptation, and voluntary participation in climate mitigation. As NGO (non-governmental organization) reps and US citizens voiced concern about the urgency of our climate situation, the US delegation replied with oily, rehearsed rhetoric. Ultimately, today’s meeting served to reinforce the necessity of the local action emerging across the US. With or without the US administration, we are moving ahead.”

The Decline: “This is an essay question for my International Relations final exam. The question: What are the most important long-term US interests at the international level, and how can the US best accomplish them? Are US interests and global peace mutually exclusive, or complementary? What I came up with: We need to, overall, get back to diplomacy as a means to solve international problems…. Haass is correct when he says: “A decision to opt out of formal multilateralism should only be taken when it is truly necessary. And when the United States does break ranks with the international community, it should look to bring in the relevant regional organizations — or the U.N. — at the first opportunity.”