Saturday, July 26, 2014

New Afghan law worries Nato chief

Nato’s head says it could be difficult to persuade European countries to contribute more troops to Afghanistan because of controversial new laws.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the planned laws violated human rights and were unjustifiable when Nato troops were dying to protect universal values.

Critics say the law limits the rights of women from the Shia minority and authorises rape within marriage.

Aides to President Karzai insist the law provides more protection for women.

Permission

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told the BBC’s Mark Mardell: “We are there to defend universal values and when I see, at the moment, a law threatening to come into effect which fundamentally violates women’s rights and human rights, that worries me.”

He added: “I have a problem to explain and President Karzai knows this, because I discussed it with him. I have a problem to explain to a critical public audience in Europe, be it the UK or elsewhere, why I’m sending the guys to the Hindu Kush.”

France’s Human Rights Minister Rama Yade also expressed her “sharp concern” at the law, saying it “recalls the darkest hours of Afghanistan’s history”.

The UN earlier said it was seriously concerned about the potential impact of the law.

Human rights activists say it reverses many of the freedoms won by Afghan women in the seven years since the Taleban were driven from power.

They say it removes the right of women to refuse their husbands sex, unless they are ill.

Women will also need to get permission from their husbands if they want to leave their homes, unless there is an emergency.

The law covers members of Afghanistan’s Shia minority, who make up 10% of the population.

It was rushed through parliament in February and was backed by influential Shia clerics and Shia political parties.

Defenders of the law say it is an improvement on the customary laws which normally decide family matters.

A separate family law for the Sunni majority is now also being drawn up.

Nato is holding its annual summit in Strasbourg.

President Obama is to present his new Afghan strategy to his allies.

Ahead of the meeting, a number of leading charities warned that an increase in military deployments in Afghanistan could lead to a rise in civilian casualties.

They called on Nato leaders gathering in Strasbourg to do more to protect the population.

Last year more than 2,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan.

In a report titled Caught in the Conflict, 11 aid groups including Oxfam, ActionAid and Care called on Nato to change the way it operates.

“The troop surge will fail to achieve greater overall security and stability unless the military prioritise the protection of Afghan civilians,” Matt Waldman, head of policy for Oxfam International on Afghanistan, said.

Story from BBC NEWS:

A World in Need of a New Order

Future historians might look at the collapse of the Soviet Union as the end of the 20th century, and at the current financial crisis as the beginning of the 21st. Remarkably, these two macro events have a common root, which is also the root of globalization: the revolution of Information Technologies.

In the 1970s, the IT revolution accelerated the arms race; the Soviet Union proved unable to follow the United States. Ultimately, the Marxist-Leninist system and ideology vanished.

The financial and more generally the managerial revolution occurred in the 1980s. The world economy embarked on a strong and stable upswing. In the 1990s, many could believe that democracy and market economy had won an irreversible victory and would quickly spread everywhere.

The “international community,” led by the United States, seemed to be on the way to universal peace and prosperity. It was a dream. History came back under the presidency of George W. Bush, starting with 9/11 and ending with the burst of an unprecedented asset bubble. The institutional framework of world governance erected since World War II proved a failure.

What the international community can and must demonstrate now is a willingness to undertake a full reconstruction The G-20 summit would be a great success if it could achieve just that, in addition to agreeing on credible immediate economic and financial measures.

Any attempt to rebuild governance must recognize that the new international system must be multipolar, heterogeneous and global.

Multipolarity means that although the United States will remain the only superpower for the foreseeable future, it can no longer pretend to lead the world alone. This is why we need a relevant group of permanent members for the U.N. Security Council, which would potentially include at least the following five natural “poles” – the United States, Japan, China, Russia and European Union. The members of this group should recognize they collectively share responsibilities for a politically sustainable globalization process, including such issues as climate change.

They should recognize that collective leadership implies taking into account the interests of smaller states. In particular, efficiency and legitimacy imply that regional approaches should systematically be encouraged and developed. For example, no peace and security framework in the Middle East is conceivable without Iran as a major regional partner.

Heterogeneity is a crucial reality. Such countries as China or Russia will not become liberal democracies in the foreseeable future, not to speak of many smaller states. Nonetheless, Western countries should cooperate and develop confidence-building measures with all of them. They should refrain from arrogant neo-colonial attitudes. Democracy and human rights should spread by virtue of examples set by those who claim the superiority of these values.

There is no way to maintain an open world without strong states able and willing to cooperate through efficient and legitimate frameworks. If we fail to move in this direction, we risk reproducing a kind of post-World War I scenario: The combination of nationalist forces and beggar-thy-neighbor protectionist policies could lead to a planetary disaster.

By THIERRY DE MONTBRIAL

New York Times

Thierry de Montbrial is founder and president of the French Institute of International Relations.

Priority 1: World Growth The Practical Steps the G-20 Summit Must Take

PARIS – Tomorrow, for the second time in only five months, the leaders of the world’s top 20 economies will meet to seek a joint response to the unprecedented global economic crisis.

Since this crisis began, I have argued that when we are faced by a challenge of this magnitude, cooperation is a necessity, not an option. In September, I called upon the world to rally together with a response based on coordination and cooperation. Brought forward in concert by the European nations, that initiative led to November’s Group of 20 meeting in Washington, where we laid the foundations for far-reaching reform of the international financial system. Tomorrow’s summit must enable us to put into practice the principles we established.

The world expects that we will speed up the reform of the international financial system and rebuild, together, a better-regulated form of capitalism with a greater sense of morality and solidarity. This is a precondition for mobilizing the global economy and achieving sustainable growth. This crisis is not a crisis of capitalism but the breakdown of a system that drifted away from capitalism’s most fundamental values.

In November, we agreed on four principles that would guide our response: enhanced coordination and cooperation; the rejection of protectionist measures; the strengthening of regulatory systems in financial markets; and a new global governance.

On the first two points, we have made a good deal of progress. We have managed to hold off the specter of protectionism, and many nations have injected massive support for their economies, undertaking ambitious stimulus programs. Countries that offer their citizens a high level of social protection, such as France, have also significantly increased their levels of crisis-related welfare spending. Overall, the world’s leading economies have made comparably gigantic efforts to combat the crisis.

These measures are beginning to take effect and produce tangible benefits, but we must be ready to do even more if circumstances require it. I plan to defend this principle in London: We must do everything necessary for world growth.

This week we must attach the same sense of urgency to the regulation of financial markets. World growth will be all the stronger for being sustained by a stable, efficient financial system and by the kind of renewed confidence in the markets that would enable resources to be better allocated, encourage lending to pick up again and foster the return of private investment capital to developing countries.

We agreed in November that not one financial player, institution or product could be beyond the control of a regulatory authority. This rule must be applied to credit rating agencies, speculative investment funds and tax havens. On the latter point, I want us to go far indeed, adopting a resolution that identifies tax havens and that details the changes we expect from them and the consequences should they fail to respond. The debate on tax havens initiated by the Washington summit has begun to bear fruit, particularly in Europe.

We must reform the required disclosure standards and levels of prudential oversight for financial firms. Sadly, in many countries, this issue has not been getting the attention it deserves.

As we make progress toward reforming global economic governance, we must offer much more space to emerging nations, in keeping with their real weight and the responsibilities they should take on. This holds true for all international bodies, especially international financial institutions. While I am particularly pleased by the expanded membership of the Financial Stability Forum, we must go even further.

Over the coming months, we must pursue a process of renewal throughout the entire multilateral system. In the short term, we must help those who have been hit hardest by the crisis. A good start would be raising the level of funding we make available to the International Monetary Fund. At the European Union level, I have taken up the question of our contribution to the IMF and have found the member states ready and willing. I have also taken up at the E.U. level the question of our contribution to the risks to which certain countries in Central and Eastern Europe are exposed; again, the E.U. member states have been ready and willing.

It is necessary to offer support to the poorer nations falling victim to this crisis. If we do not show solidarity, some risk seeing their considerable efforts toward achieving the millennium development goals nullified. While in Africa last month, I stated my belief that the destinies of Europe and Africa are inextricably linked. We must be ready and willing to stand by Africa and all developing nations that are in difficulty, on every continent.

I remain convinced that the world can emerge from these troubled times stronger, more united and with a greater sense of solidarity, provided we have the will to do so. We cannot achieve radical change overnight, and much remains to be done. We may need future meetings to implement the reforms undertaken in London. I am certain of two additional things: We must achieve practical results beginning with tomorrow’s summit. And failure is not an option.

The writer is president of France.