Friday, September 23, 2016

Kerry admits diplomacy at impasse as Syrian truce collapses

Bradley Klapper and Matthew Lee, "Kerry admits diplomacy at impasse as Syrian truce collapses,"

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NEW YORK — The United States and Russia ended any pretenses Thursday of their cease-fire for Syria remaining in force after days of increased violence and the Syrian military's announcement of a new offensive in Aleppo.
"We can't go out to the world and say we have an agreement when we don't," Secretary of State John Kerry said after meeting the top diplomats from Russia and more than a dozen European and Middle Eastern countries. Kerry's statement, after three days of private and public diplomacy on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, provided an ominous endnote to a week diplomats had hoped would be a major capstone toward peace. ...

Syria ceasefire: Where do things stand right now?

PA, "Syria ceasefire: Where do things stand right now?"

Reports of an intense bombing campaign targeting several areas in the rebel-held part of Aleppo city signal an end to the fragile ceasefire between the Syrian government and rebel groups.
The war in Syria is five years old and shows little sign of abating. The ceasefire was a small step forward in a conflict which continues to escalate and draw in more actors.
Does the recent ceasefire provide hope of a resolution, even if it failed?
What conditions did the ceasefire include?
A Free Syrian Army fighter poses for a photograph in front of a painting left by the IS militants in Jarablus
A Free Syrian Army fighter poses for a photograph in front of a painting left by the IS militants in Jarablus (AP)
Russia and the US brokered the ceasefire, which began on September 12. It included rebel groups and government troops abiding by a cessation in the conflict.
The ceasefire did not include Islamic State (IS), otherwise known as Daesh. It was hoped that if the ceasefire was a success, the two sides could unite to fight them.
The two sides had said that if it held for seven days, it would be followed by the establishment of a Joint Implementation Centre for both countries to co-ordinate the targeting of IS and al Qaida-linked militants.
A graphic showing Islamic State territory
Why did it collapse?
As is often the case in a broken ceasefire, all parties are blaming each other.

On Monday, the opposition reported 254 violations by government forces and their allies since the truce started on September 12. Syrian state media said there were 32 violations by rebels on Sunday alone.
The Syrian government declared the ceasefire over on Monday, blaming the country's rebel groups for undermining the agreement.
Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry
Russia and the US have experienced diplomatic tensions over the conflict (Jason DeCrow/AP)
The US accused Syrian president Bashar Assad's government, aided by Russian planes, of striking an aid convoy in Aleppo later that day which killed 20 people.
Assad has rejected US accusations that Syrian or Russian planes struck the aid convoy or that his troops were preventing food from entering the city's rebel-held eastern neighbourhoods, blaming the US for the collapse of the ceasefire.
In an interview with the Associated Press in Damascus, Assad also said deadly US air strikes on Syrian troops last week were intentional, dismissing American officials' statements that they were an accident.
Is there hope for a longer ceasefire?
Damaged buildings and rubble line a street in Homs
Damaged buildings and rubble line a street in Homs (STR/AP)
US secretary of state John Kerry has proposed the grounding of aircraft to protect aid convoys, saying: "To restore credibility, we must immediately ground all aircraft flying in those key areas in order to de-escalate the situation and give a chance for humanitarian assistance to flow unimpeded."
Whether the Russian and Syrian side of the negotiating table will agree to this is unknown.
After days of increasing violence in Syria, Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov were set to hold more talks on Friday in a bid to try to resuscitate the ceasefire.
Smoke rises over Saif Al Dawla district, Aleppo
Smoke rises over Saif Al Dawla district in Aleppo (Manu Brabo/AP)
But after three days of private and public diplomacy on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Kerry bluntly told reporters: "We can't go out to the world and say we have an agreement when we don't."
Some collapsed ceasefires increase hostility and some open the door for more efforts to end conflict; it is too early to tell what the outcome will be for Syria.

Blast from a Usable Public Diplomacy Past: Communications vs. Programming

From Public Diplomacy Council  -- John Brown [Excerpt from:] Interview with Kristin Ahlberg | State Department Historian’s Office" (re recently published documents from the Office of the Historian, State Department on the Carter Administration and Public Diplomacy, about US public diplomacy in the 1970s):
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JB. 10. In one of his interesting letters to the [United States Information Agency] Public Affairs Officers (PAOs) in the field -- documents that are refreshingly free of bureaucratic “communication” and “programming” in the practice of public diplomacy -- here's a message by the USIA director Reinhart:
KQ. Reinhardt stated that a distinction must be drawn between programming and communication. Continuing, he stated that as neither USIA [USICA] nor CU [JB see ] “was ever acknowledged as full partners in diplomacy,” the resultant lack of relevance cultivated “institutional self-doubt,” leading to the development of too many programs justifying these entities’ existence. “I do not believe that activities or ‘program’s necessarily sum to communication,” he asserted, adding that USICA would not insist on quantity: “But I, for one, would vastly prefer a few demonstrable accomplishments in the realm of ideas rather than a plethora of merely good activities and programs.” [JB emphasis] Reinhardt stressed that a program “is an event; communication is a process.”

US Lawmakers Urge Azerbaijan to Observe Human Rights Obligations

Eugen Iladi, "US Lawmakers Urge Azerbaijan to Observe Human Rights Obligations," Georgia Today

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President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan is poised to execute a power grab that would extend his presidential term from 5 to 7 years, give him the authority to dissolve parliament and handpick a vice president. These measures are designed to ensure dynastic succession and keep the Aliyev family in control indefinitely.
These were just some of the disturbing revelations at a September 15 hearing conducted by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission at the US Capitol. The bipartisan commission expressed a sense of urgency about the need to take action because of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country. ...
The hearing’s third witness was Turkel Karimli, son of opposition leader Ali Karimli who is Chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Board Member of the National Council of Democratic Forces and a former political prisoner. ...
Karimli concluded that Azerbaijan is “at a crossroads.” He said that President Aliyev shows no intention of backing down. “Public diplomacy and pressure has to be applied on the government, asking for meaningful reforms to ensure transition to democracy,” he added. ...

Australian racism akin to McCarthyism, political donor Huang Xiangmo says

Primrose Riordan, "Australian racism akin to McCarthyism, political donor Huang Xiangmo says,"

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Political donor Huang Xiangmo has suggested there is an atmosphere of McCarthyism in Australia in an article published a day after it was revealed he had resigned as chairman of Bob Carr's China institute at the University of Technology. ...
Wanning Sun, Professor of Chinese Media at UTS [see - JB], has warned in wake of media reports about Chinese donations that the Chinese-Australian community has not been more alienated in 20 years than they are now.

"Australia's Chinese community hasn't been more alienated since Pauline Hanson's first maiden speech 20 years ago than it is today. The failure to engage with the Chinese diaspora is all the more worrying given China is actively pursuing this group as a potential instrument of its own public diplomacy agenda.

Along with the reporting of the Mack Horton vs. Sun Yang stouch, she warned Australian and Chinese-language media in Australia are engaged in a war of words that can threaten social harmony.

"All this has serious implications for social cohesion in Australia's highly multicultural fabric. If this war of words between the two media sectors continues, there will be no winners – assuming Australia is serious about maintaining harmony," she wrote in The Conversation. ...

Maitisong hosts Dancing To Connect show

Nnasaretha Kgamanyane, "Maitisong hosts Dancing To Connect show,"

Mophato Dance Theatre, the US Embassy, Gabz fm and Battery Dance Company from New York will treat different dancers and youth with spectacular performances on Saturday at Maitisong.

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According to Maitisong administration officer, Boitumelo Selelo, the event attracts youth from different parts of the country that will be inspired by their peers from Mophato Dance Theatre and Battery Dance Company. She added that the event would also be part of a cultural exchange between the two countries through dance.

“Dancing To Connect is an award-winning arts educational programme developed by Battery Dance Company, with a proven track record of giving participants the key to unlock their creativity. Public diplomacy officers, US, international foundations, government and ministries validate its success across Europe, Africa, South America and Asia,” she said.

Selelo added that dancing to Connect had been implemented in 45 countries globally. She said the programme made a debut in Botswana on Monday with a workshop that attracted about 100 youths. He said the workshop would end with a showcase on Saturday.

The event will feature performances by Mophato Dance Theatre, Battery Dance Company and some of the workshop participants. It will start at 7pm and is free of charge.

Why Saudi Arabia Lost the "War for Talent" to Dubai

Najah Al-Osaimi, "Why Saudi Arabia Lost the 'War for Talent to Dubai,"

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Sep 22, 2016

At a discussion about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 in London recently, I found myself engaged in a conversation with young Saudi female students. The conversation mainly revolved around how they wanted to move to Dubai after completing their degrees in the UK. Surprisingly, it was not the first time this subject had come up during my discussions with young Saudi women.

Indeed, the vast majority of Saudi women, after graduating from universities abroad, find themselves facing two choices: either to return home to work and be subject to social and regulatory limitations, or to take the harder choice and move elsewhere. It is mostly Dubai, due to its proximity to home.

I find this alarming, given the generous investment by Saudi Arabia in providing quality education for women in the U.S. and Europe, the premise of which is to get them back home to take advantage of their new expertise, and in essence, drive national development. Saudi Arabia’s fund for women to study overseas has become massive over the course of the last decade.

The consequences to the Saudi economy are dire, because the billions spent in educating women will be another country’s gain.

The total average annual sum spent by Saudi Arabia’s government on each female student is estimated to be between $35,000-45,000 a year. Looking at the figures released by the Ministry of Higher Education, which shows that women represent 26 percent of the number of students studying abroad, this means that Saudi Arabia has spent in excess of $50 million on women’s overseas education during the last 10 years.

Social and Regulatory Restrictions

There are various reasons behind why young Saudi women think of building a career elsewhere, instead of returning to their homeland. But there is one that stands out. Although Saudi Arabia has taken the (some might say) liberal step of educating its women abroad, there have been no accompaniments to the initiative in terms of relaxing social and regulatory restrictions back at home, much of which they enjoy in the West.

The consequences to the Saudi economy are dire, because the billions spent in educating women will be another country’s gain. The current situation of women’s rights is characterized by a status quo, and although there have been some forward thinking steps in favor of women back in Saudi Arabia, these are insufficient to meet the aspirations of a new generation of women in terms of professional development and equal opportunities found in leadership positions.

The social restrictions are also an issue for Saudi women who have become used to a certain culture in the West. If they returned home, they would face a restriction of movement due to a ban on driving as well as barriers on access to justice, and family pressure caused by a male guardianship system. It has left some of the most educated, talented, and entrepreneurial women with no choice but to move elsewhere, away from these limitations.

However, investing in girls’ education was a smart move by Saudi Arabia, in order to build a human capital that drives a sustainable future for economic growth. Nevertheless, continuing to provide quality education without enacting any actual reform on the most pressing issues facing women in the country, will result in Saudi Arabia losing the "war for talent.” Therefore, it will massively limit the benefits that would otherwise come to the country from what is considered a generous and costly project.

Talent can shape the economic and social progress of global cities, and Saudi Arabia has an ambitious vision to go global. One way to achieve that is to address barriers restricting women, by developing further policies that assure gender equality, and by creating opportunities that allow them to fully contribute in the national development, while also embracing more modern social values that are commensurate with a young generations intellectual and societal expectations. This is the only way to keep Saudi Arabia’s arsenal of highly skilled young women from driving other countries' innovations and economies.

CPD Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on Al-Arabiya English.