Tag Archives: USA

U.S. Refusal to Be Investigated By the ICC Redeems African Leaders


America’s contemptuous dismissal of the International Criminal Court’s attempts to investigate allegations of torture against US soldiers in Afghanistan demands a relook of African leaders’ long-standing criticism of this institution.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 2002, in terms of the Rome Statute. The Rome Statute defined four international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

For a long time the ICC has been condemned for its one-sided prosecution of Third World leaders accused of such crimes. While it has investigated and jailed warlords like Charles Taylor, and even declared Omar Al-Bashir a wanted man, the court’s attempt to investigate the crimes of American soldiers in Afghanistan has led to a nasty response from the US National Security Adviser, John Bolton. Late last year the ICC opened a file to investigate the allegations that US military and CIA personnel committed acts of torture in the 17 years that the US has operated in Afghanistan. The investigation was opened by an ICC prosecutor from The Gambia, Fatou Bensuda.

The US is not a state party to the ICC, but Afghanistan is. The ICC therefore asserts jurisdiction over Afghanistan, regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator. In response to the ICC’s move to prosecute US military men who were involved in detainee abuse in Afghanistan, John Bolton said, “The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by the illegitimate court.”

While attempts by African countries like Burundi and South Africa to withdraw from the ICC was heavily condemned, it is noteworthy that the ICC has often come under criticism from African leaders. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni once referred to the ICC as “a bunch of useless people”. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said the ICC was a “tool of global power politics and not the justice it was built to dispense”. It is also interesting to note that the cases handled by the ICC were mainly instigated by the African countries involved.

Adotei Akwei, managing director for government relations at Amnesty International, rebuked the US position, saying its rejection of the ICC’s legitimacy “is an attack on millions of victims and survivors who have experienced the most serious crimes under international law and undermines decades of ground-breaking work by the international community to advance justice.”

Given America’s flagrant dismissal of the ICC, African leaders seem justified in their distrust of the court. The question that arises is this: If the court can’t deal with the powerful, how can its existence be justified?

By CR
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US President Donald Trump has vowed to help end “vicious and violent” conflicts in Africa.


“Africa right now has got problems like few people would even understand,” he said at a Nato summit press conference.

“It is so sad, it is so vicious and violent,” he said, promising that his goal was to build up the US military and bring peace to the world.

The US is active in counter-terrorism operations and training African troops to fight jihadists in the Sahara

Trade wars won’t fix globalization. Here’s why


The Trump Administration’s announcement in February of new steel and aluminium tariffs on national security grounds, including on imports from allies like the EU, have set the stage for escalating trade tensions. The EU recently imposed retaliatory tariffs on products ranging from bourbon whiskey to motorcycles. The US President hit back with a tweet threatening a 20% import tariff on autos and auto parts, telling manufacturers: “Build them here!”

A number of US-based firms have voiced concerns over supply chain disruptions from trade wars. Harley Davidson stated that it would be shifting production aimed at the EU market outside the US to avoid the additional tariff burden, exemplifying the unintended consequences of this approach.

Earlier this month, the US announced a 25% duty on around $50 billion worth of Chinese imports on the grounds that they utilize intellectual property obtained from US firms through forced technology transfers or theft. China’s Made in China 2025 plan was named and scrutinised in the report. UNCTAD estimates that, like China, more than 100 countries have formal industrial policy strategies, many of which involve joining and benefitting from global value chains (GVCs). Tariff wars undermine growth models that rely on the benefits and efficiencies of globalization.

We asked policy experts and business leaders: how can countries really reap the economic and social benefits of GVCs, while avoiding inequality and environmental damage?

Don’t neglect services : Much of the recent talk of bilateral trade deficits has overlooked the importance of services to the global and national economies. Factors affecting services competitiveness have become important for economic growth and development more generally. Investment in human capital, digital infrastructure (including reliable mobile broadband), efficient and flexible domestic regulation and connectedness with international markets (including open cross-border flow of data, visa facilitation and mutual recognition agreements) are key. The services sector has strong inclusiveness dimensions: it is more SME-intensive than the goods sector is and has more women workers, owners and managers.

Co-operate on competition policy : Various anti-competitive activities by firms impede the efficient operation of value chains. Today, there are over 100 jurisdictions administering competition law. In the absence of global rules on competition, each jurisdiction applies its own system. Firms can find themselves facing conflicting decisions from different authorities with respect to the same merger or other activity. This leads to the most interventionist ruling of a major economy being enforced. In the case of digital products, questions of jurisdiction and enforcement are all the more challenging. Greater cooperation between agencies would improve clarity and reduce gaps in enforcement.

Prioritise tax certainty over incentives : In an attempt to attract GVC-linked foreign direct investment (FDI), many countries engage in harmful tax competition to woo multinational enterprises (MNEs). However, for the most part, FDI tends to be more sensitive to tax certainty than to tax incentives. Enhanced consistency in tax rules, interpretation and enforcement across economies and better cooperation between authorities help foster certainty. That being said, tax credits for education and training could help build a workforce suited for high-demand tasks through public-private partnerships. These and other programmes would need to be designed and monitored carefully to avoid tax evasion or aggressive tax planning by MNEs.

Incentivise sustainability : MNEs play a key role in coordinating activities and actors along the value chain. They set private standards that suppliers and affiliates have to meet. An increasing number (over 550) of these standards are sustainability-related. As these can be difficult for small producers to navigate and meet, coherent standards and simplified procedures are needed. Many big, consumer-facing brands are seeing greater demand for sustainably-sourced products from their customers. Others are finding ways to raise capital by tapping into investor appetite for sustainable business operations.

Implement doing-business reforms : Since MNEs play such an important role in GVCs, creating an enabling environment that attracts and sustains FDI is crucial. This involves reforms that cut red tape and corruption, improve infrastructure, provide quality education to the workforce to enable them to work in modern production chains and ensure that companies operating in the country have access to foreign exchange so that they can pay suppliers and repatriate profits.

So far, the tariff war has been just that: a tariff war, limited to the use of import duties on goods. Soon, though, the US is expected to release details of how it plans to restrict Chinese investment in US companies where it deems it a threat to national security. Meanwhile, the Chinese government could make things difficult for US companies operating in China – by imposing regulatory burdens or encouraging consumer boycotts. It could choose to block mergers , such as the one proposed between the US firm Qualcomm and Dutch firm NPX. The EU could consider retaliating against US banking and insurance companies and taxing digital services, hurting US tech companies.

Short-sighted, protectionist measures ignore and erode the opportunities that GVCs provide for driving inclusive and sustainable growth and do nothing to optimize outcomes.

SOURCE: World Economic Forum

By Aditi Verghese and Sean Doherty

US ambassador to Estonia resigns in frustration over Trump


The US ambassador to Estonia is resigning in frustration with President Donald Trump’s comments about, and treatment of, European allies.

James D. Melville Jr.’s resignation, first reported by Foreign Policy magazine, makes him the third ambassador in the last year to leave the State Department early. He is among many senior State Department officials who have headed for the exits or been pushed toward them since Trump assumed office.

In a statement, a State Department spokesperson confirmed Melville’s departure.

“Earlier today, the United States’ Ambassador to Estonia, Jim Melville, announced his intent to retire from the Foreign Service effective July 29 after 33 years of public service,” the statement read in its entirety.

Melville’s resignation comes at a time of acutely heightened tension in an alliance that, before Trump’s election, had been one of the most solid, reliable and interconnected US relationships.

But Trump’s attacks on NATO members, his trade tariffs against EU nations, his rejection of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement and his attacks on leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel have cast a pall over US ties to Europe.

Many European officials are wary about Trump’s mid-July visit to the NATO summit in Belgium. Those officials there fear that Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after NATO will look like the friendlier encounter in comparison.

“The transatlantic relationship, which all around the table we consider a given, is not a given,” a European diplomat told CNN. “We now have a major crisis.”

‘It’s time to go’

Foreign Policy quoted from a private post on Melville’s Facebook page in which the seasoned diplomat referred to the President’s comments about Europe in explaining his decision to retire early.

“A Foreign Service Officer’s DNA is programmed to support policy and we’re schooled right from the start, that if there ever comes a point where one can no longer do so, particularly if one is in a position of leadership, the honorable course is to resign,” the magazine quotes Melville’s post as saying. “Having served under six presidents and 11 secretaries of state, I never really thought it would reach that point for me.”

“For the President to say the EU was ‘set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank,’ or that ‘NATO is as bad as NAFTA’ is not only factually wrong, but proves to me that it’s time to go,” Melville said in the post.

The announcement of Melville’s departure was followed by that of Susan Thornton, Trump’s choice to be the nominee to be assistant secretary for East Asian affairs, later on Friday.

Two State Department officials said Thornton notified staff in an email today that she is retiring in July.

The officials said Thornton, a well-respected career diplomat who has been doing the job in an acting capacity since Trump took office, was notified she will in fact not be the nominee and she decided to retire.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pushed very hard for Thornton’s nomination amid intense push-back from conservatives on Capitol Hill and hardliners in the administration.

Secretary of State Pompeo tipped his hand on Thornton about a month ago during testimony on Capitol Hill, in which he said he would be making announcements on personnel, including a top diplomat for East Asia, signaling Thornton was no longer going to be considered for the post.

The duo is only the latest Foreign Service officer to leave in a department where the senior ranks have been deeply depleted and even rising stars have resigned rather than serve the President.

In November, an award-winning US diplomat based in Nairobi wrote then Tillerson a blistering letter saying that the Trump administration had diminished the influence of State Department with its preference for military solutions.

Elizabeth Shackelford wrote that “despite the stinging disrespect this Administration has shown our profession,” the State Department’s diplomats “continue the struggle to keep our foreign policy on the positive trajectory necessary to avert global disaster in increasingly dangerous times.”

‘Traditional values … betrayed’

In her resignation letter, Shackelford told Tillerson that she “would humbly request that you follow me out the door.”

In January, then-US Ambassador to Panama John Feeley resigned over differences with the Trump administration, saying in his resignation letter that “as a junior Foreign Service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the President and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies.”

“My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come,” wrote Feeley.

Once he had left office, Feeley was less circumspect in a scathing oped in the Washington Post, saying that he had “resigned because the traditional core values of the United States, as manifested in the President’s National Security Strategy and his foreign policies, have been warped and betrayed.”

In March, another career diplomat, then-US Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson, announced her decision to step down amid increased tensions between the US and Mexico that’s due in large part to Trump’s incendiary rhetoric about the country, its citizens and its trade relationship with the US.

A few days after her announcement, the White House delivered the equivalent of a slap, excluding Jacobson — who served as ambassador until May — from a meeting in Mexico City between Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and President Enrique Pena Nieto.

By Morning Call

US blocks visas for ‘corrupt’ DR Congo officials


The US State Department has imposed visa bans on a number of Congolese officials accused of corruption or electoral malpractice.

It declined to name those targeted, but said the move was intended to send a strong signal that Washington was committed to fighting corruption and to supporting credible elections.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is to hold a much-delayed presidential election in December to choose a successor to Joseph Kabila.

His second and final term in office ended in 2016 but many suspect he is trying to stay in power.

By Morning Call

Busting myths about why Latin Americans seek to enter the US


A fundamental shift in U.S. immigration patterns is well underway.

Recent rhetoric from President Donald Trump and the focus of U.S. immigration policies suggest that Mexicans entering the U.S. without authorization are the principal challenge facing policymakers. That is no longer the case. The era of Mexico as the primary source of immigrants to the U.S. appears to be coming to a close .

An increasing number of individuals are now arriving at the U.S. southwest border because of crime, violence and insecurity in Central America. These are now far more decisive factors in decisions to emigrate than the traditional pull of economic opportunity in the U.S. Work I have done with colleagues on the factors that affect migration provides robust evidence for this shift.

Rather than trying to sneak across the U.S. border, many of these migrants are voluntarily surrendering to initiate asylum claims. This change in the profile of those arriving at the border suggests two things.

First, far more emphasis should be placed on improving the U.S. immigration court system than on efforts to strengthen an already well-fortified border. The average wait time for an immigration case to be heard in 2016 stood at 677 days, nearly double what it was in 2000.

Second, there is a need to move beyond a view of those arriving at the U.S. southwest border as a monolithic group driven by purely economic motives. An increasingly nuanced decision-making process is driving men, women and children from different countries to leave their homes.

Who’s coming across the border?

In the summer of 2014, President Obama drew attention to the arrival and voluntary surrender of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families seeking asylum. They came primarily from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, some of the most violent countries in the world. He called it an “urgent humanitarian situation.” This made clear that at least some portion of these Central American migrant flows were not simply economic migrants.

Customs and Border Patrol data show the magnitude of the increase in Central American migrants over the past decade. In 2000, 28,598 non-Mexicans (primarily Central Americans) were apprehended at the U.S. border. By 2014, this number had increased to 252,600.

In an effort to understand what is driving this surge, my colleagues and I have carried out research on what leads a person to consider emigrating. In a broad study of more than 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries, we found that the decision to emigrate is far more nuanced and complex than often portrayed in political rhetoric and mainstream media.

In countries that have longstanding migration flows to the U.S., a person’s personal economic situation, gender, age and connection to a network of other migrants all play key roles in whether or not he or she decides to emigrate. But we found that a person’s experiences with crime and corruption, perceptions of insecurity and level of satisfaction with democracy were also significant.

We pursued this question in greater detail through analysis of survey data collected by Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project during the spring and summer of 2014 in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These three countries have experienced extraordinarily high levels of crime and violence in recent years.

We found that, for the most part, people in Guatemala who wanted to emigrate matched the profile of an economic migrant. In stark contrast, those seeking to emigrate from El Salvador and Honduras were not driven by economic factors, but by violence. The strongest predictor of someone having an “intent to emigrate” among Hondurans and Salvadorans was whether they had been the victim of crime multiple times in the previous 12 months. Standard economic predictors of emigration were largely insignificant.

For Hondurans, a person that has been the victim of a crime multiple times is nearly twice as likely to have an intention to emigrate. Even more striking, respondents’ awareness of the heightened risk of migrating to the U.S. and the greater current probability of being deported compared to previous years had no significant impact on their emigration plans.

My colleagues and I concluded that the Obama administration’s, and now the Trump administration’s, attempt to “send a message” to Central Americans through an emphasis on detention and deportation may work for those considering emigration for economic reasons. It does not, however, appear to have any impact on those individuals seeking to flee the warlike levels of violence in Honduras and El Salvador.

Mexican migration in decline

Meanwhile, a widely cited report from Pew Research Center shows that between 2009 and 2014 the net flow of both authorized and unauthorized Mexican immigrants to the U.S. fell to negative 140,000, in contrast to a positive flow of 2.27 million between 1995 and 2000. Data from the U.S. Custom and Border Protection on border apprehensions also reveal an unprecedented drop in the number of Mexicans apprehended along the southwest border. In 2016, just over 190,000 were apprehended, compared to 1.6 million in 2000.

These numbers reflect demographic and economic changes in Mexico.

The first change, simply put, is that Mexico’s baby boom is over. The boom peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, and that generation has now aged well beyond the typical migrant age range of 18 to 35 years old. The country’s total fertility rate has fallen from a peak of 6.8 children per woman in the 1960s to 2.2 by 2010. This is approaching the minimal population replacement level of 2.1, the rate required to maintain a stable population. When countries fall below that level, such as Germany at 1.4, immigration is needed to sustain the population level beyond the current generation.

Second, Mexico’s economy experienced a fairly robust recovery from the recession in 2009. This was particularly true in several states that historically are among the leaders in terms of the number of individuals migrating to the U.S. The Mexican states of Guanajuato and Jalisco – ranked third and fourth, respectively, in number of migrants going to the U.S. – recorded growth rates of 6.4 percent and 4.7 percent in 2015. Such robust economic growth, particularly in the context of a national economic downturn, will only further serve to diminish migrant flows from these states.

What these demographic and economic trends suggest is that a steady decline in Mexican migration flows to the U.S. is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

SOURCE: World Economic Forum

Why are people sharing this photo?


Family portraits often prove popular on social media, but this one has inspired people to click the like button more than most.

American couple Aminat and Justin McClure posted it to celebrate their family’s mixed heritage, prompting thousands of people to share their own stories about growing up in dual and multi-cultured families.

The couple, who live in New Jersey, US, posed with their three children in West African-inspired outfits to honour Aminat’s Nigerian heritage. She left Lagos, in south west Nigeria, when her family moved to the US when she was little.

“We wanted to give the girls a lesson about how much diversity there is in the world so they learn to enrich themselves by opening their eyes to different cultures,” Justin told the BBC.

“As a family we like to make bold statements and I wanted to celebrate Aminat’s culture.”