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Diplomacy

Return of Global Stewardship: The UNSC should urgently address Covid-19 – addendum

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Authors: Amb. Hasmy Agam and Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic

Further to the points of view undersigned authors expressed nearly two months ago it is to a deep regret that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) still misses to adopt the much-needed Council Resolution to address the COVID-19 (C-19) pandemic event. This is largely due to the tensions between two of its five permanent members (P5) — the US and China, with Washington wanting to apportion blame or responsibility to China relating to the pandemic, and Beijing rejecting any discussion or reference to it. Additionally, the two keep opposite views on the role and conduct of the UN Specialised Agency for health matters, Geneva-based World Health organisation (WHO).

This kind of approach is totally misplaced, short-sighted, and uncalled for. It clearly lacks the maturity and wisdom that the international community expects from the principal or Permanent Members of the UN Security Council. Tellingly, petty bilateral differences (and silence of other members) had created an unnecessary wedge between the parties, instead of subduing their differences in the larger scope and broader interests of the international community in the wake of the devastating global event.

Ought to (no-)vote

Interestingly, the very history of voting in the SC indicates that the ratio between adopted and vetoed resolutions is roughly 10 to 1 (2518 adopted SC resolutions, since 1945 until April 2020 vs. 293 vetoed ones for the same period). This shows that other parties, notably the non-permanent members of the UNSC, have usually played a vigilant, persistent, even pivotal role, in ensuring that the Council acts responsibly and timely on matters flagrant to the Charter and of concern to the international community at large.

Arguably, the P-5 states – along with their Big Power concerns, and their frequent mutual deterrence – have often been self-entrenching instead of reaching a consensus in the Council. Conversely, the non-permanent members, with their consensus-building approach, have generally been in a better position to contribute towards ensuring the much-desired and all-embracing stewardship of the Council. This has been the traditional role of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) for decades (since Bandung of 1955 and Belgrade of 1961), with laudable support of neutral countries of the North (so-called N+N group).

Attempts by the Group of 20 (G-20) and the European Union (EU) to bridge the gaps on the C-19 issue have failed to bring the desired result thus far. Given this impasse, it seems better and more efficacious for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)/G-77, along with other key regional groupings of huge membership and wide outreach, such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the African Union (AU) – to add to the EU, G-20 and others – by taking a more prominent role in forging the much-needed consensus at the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies (directly or via the UN EcoSoc).

It is amply clear from the C-19 event that the right to health is an issue for all. The search for a vaccine to control the pandemic is not a matter of private business, but individual rights, as embedded in the UN Charter, and as obligatory to each of the UN Specialized Agencies. Binarization of debate onto a pro-and-con vaccine is also a dangerous reductionism and waste of planetary energy critically needed for a holistic and novel approach. Consequently, there is no one-directional medical research in response to any pandemic, and no single-blended (or manufactured) and mandated medication for all. (Dogma is based on belief; science necessitates constant multidimensional exploration.)

Proportionality of our (current and future) responses is another key issue. Hence, what presents itself as an imperative is universal participation through intergovernmental mechanisms. That very approach has been clearly demonstrated by UN member states, as shown by the active roles played by Indonesia (in the SC, along with another ASEAN, and NAM member, VietNam; and on behalf of the general membership of the UN General Assembly), Azerbaijan (on behalf of NAM) and France (on behalf of the P5 and the EU) reaching out to Tunisia – a member of the Arab League (LAS), AU, OIC and NAM. Same line has been also endorsed by the UN Members States on 18 May 2020 in relation to the independent inquiry of the WHO conduct. 

After all, this is well recognised by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres himself, who recently stated that “With two thirds of UN Member States, the Non-Aligned Movement has a critical role to play in forging global solidarity”.

Storm, yet no Reform

It is rather disappointing that despite widely held expectations, the (French-Tunisian sponsored) draft SC Resolution did not address the C-19 issue per se and on ways of addressing its rapid spread. Instead, it focused on the need to effect a global ceasefire in existing conflicts in specific member states, as called for by Secretary-General Guterres, much to his credit, so as to facilitate distribution of much-needed food and medicines to the people in these conflict-torn countries.

This inaction by the UNSC contrasts sharply with what this leading world body did in 1984, when it addressed the EBOLA pandemic in Africa and unanimously adopted a far-reaching Security Council Resolution (UNSC 2439 (2018) — containing 18 preambular paragraphs and 17 operative ones, on specific instructions to, or demands, on a number of African states in conflict, to take effective steps to control or impede the spread of the EBOLA virus.

Nevertheless, even with the limitations of that French-Tunisian draft Resolution, it would have resulted, if adopted, in a humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days crucial for the delivery of aid to the hardest-hit communities, and giving time to the international community to focus on combatting the C-19. But this was not to be, due to the bad dynamics in the UNSC, and the consequent results will be continued conflicts and unimpeded spread of the secondary effects of virus in those countries in conflict, much to the disappointment and chagrin of the international community.

Clearly, the problem lies not in the unwillingness of the international community to do the needful to stop, mitigate, shorten, localise or avoid, the spread of the pandemic and its secondary effects, but the failure of the UN SC, the most influential and authoritative organ of the world body, to live up to international expectations and to deal decisively with this global calamity that has repercussions to international peace and security, as it did during the EBOLA pandemic.

The lack of unity within the UNSC in addressing the current challenge raises that never-ending question of the urgent reform of the Council with its inherently undemocratic decision-making process. It is largely due to the outdated power of the Veto that stultifies and blocks consensus that is vitally important to the UN as it grapples with the many grave problems confronting the increasingly globalised and inter-connected international community.

The failure of the UNSC to reach a consensus is due to the inherent weakness of its decision-making mechanism, as well as paucity of unity among its non-permanent members. It is also to the lack of stronger involvement – on the very work of the UNSC – by the larger UN membership, as represented by the NAM/G-77, but alsoby other principal organs of the United Nations – primarily in the UNGA and ECOSOC. Thus, the UNSC in times of critical conjunctures – as this event and its yet not fully anticipated secondary effects are – appears as still stuck in a kind of a time warp, oblivious of the changes that have taken place, and are unfolding all over the world.

Goes without saying that exceedingly sluggish, lackadaisical and endless consultative/negotiation process on the Council reform and restructuring that has been going on for over two decades, needs to be urgently expedited. It is sine qua non if we are any serious with the times, demands and expectations of the Member States’ present and future populations, and with consolidation of international and cross-generational solidarity.

Clearly, complex world demands smooth fast and multifaceted coordination and collaboration among the various agencies of the UN system, under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General. It must be dynamic, innovative and holistic, so as to enable our Universal Organisation and all other intergovernmental FORAs – that architecture our world – to anticipate and speedily deal with the challenges that will surely emerge periodically in the future.

A restored trust necessitates a proactive and timely response but also calls for an enlarged, not reduced, participatory base.

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Diplomacy

Soft Power Dynamics in Middle Eastern Conflict

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The Middle East is synonymous with eternal conflict as being at the cross-point between Africa, Europe, and Asia.

The paper intends to understand how the power could be derived from the cultural roots in a world filled with pre-existing biases based on religious values, nationality, and interpretation of history.

Palestine receives strong international support through social media by sharing its pain and grievances increasing its soft power that hampers Israel’s international relations. A new question emerges can the soft power paradigm be used to resolve the problem?  

The roots of the Middle Eastern problem are driven by historical-religious literature which shows the Middle East to be the historic homeland of Jews and they wanted to get back to their original homeland due to two-millennium long suppression that finally ended up as the holocaust.

Israel continues to emphasize and promote stories related to Second World War which help them gain the legitimacy to exist as a state. It is also remarked that the holocaust may have been a decisive condition for the creation of a Jewish state but this action would have occurred sooner or later.

One of the biggest strengths for Israel and its legitimacy comes from the Biblical literature which has some historical stories in it and mentions Israel and Judah in the Middle East providing American Christian Support which seems to be dropping as a result Israel needs to work on its soft power.

A similar strength can be found in Quran for Israeli as Surah Al-Ma’idah in Chapter 5 verse 12 states about the Children of Israel and verse 21 explains that they are “destined to enter and not to turn back else they will become the loser.” These verses motivate Israeli for their cause which raises an interesting phenomenon that some pro-Israeli media would use Quranic verses to gain legitimacy.

History needs to be studied to understand how and where the differences between Jews and Muslims started. Originally there was a peaceful relation between Jews and Muslims but Jews refuse to acknowledge Muhammad a non-Jew as one of the prophets of God which caused the relationship between Jews and Muslims to deplete.

Finally, Banu Qurayza a Jewish community allied with Qurashites against Prophet Muhammad that caused Medina to suffer a war-built hatred towards Judaism.

However, even after looking at the differences Muslims, Christians, and Jews are Abrahamic religions maintaining their base Judaic-monotheistic tradition as both Roman Catholics and Arab previously had polytheistic culture and Israel has indirectly benefitted from this historical fact.

Israel could benefit from various religions by showing show respect to the leaders of Abrahamic religions and even maintain an apologetic attitude on behalf of some of the members of the Jewish community which may have conducted villainous actions as per some stories based on other religious doctrines.

The tower of one’s ego can prohibit supporting the national interest which could only be achieved by becoming softer to gain soft power.

It is argued that the ancient Philistine is related to present-day Palestine. Palestine as a result gets associated with David and Goliath or Samson’s struggle with Philistine. However, the term Palestine is more complicated which had developed in the period.

There are also claims that the Syria Palaestina was constructed as a punishment for Bar Kochba Revolt in 135CE while the name Palaestina given to the region seems to be older than Bar Kochba Revolt and even older than the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

The image of the Israel and Palestine conflict is connected towards mythical combat between David and Goliath. David was an inexperienced youth who later became king of Israel and defeated a giant from ancient Philistine called Goliath.

Some actors who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause have also connected Palestine with David who was weak at the beginning of the story while they perceive Israel as an unjust giant and the toughest fighter in the region.

The Middle Eastern conflict goes beyond religion and history as it has multiple dimensions due to multiple crimes against humanity causing people to be refugees that inflict social, political, and economic damages.

A medium to obtain soft power is by resolving the humanitarian crisis and Israel being perceived as a perpetrator tampered with its national image.

Israel as an economically advanced country with large spending power can establish economic institutions to raise funds in providing education, training, and employment to victims of that conflict regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender, or political views who have been scattered around the world which would help Israel gain legitimacy.

The economic recovery of the war victims can minimize some damage enforced upon the national image but there is a strong opinion that the Palestinian community lacks legal rights as being in Israeli jurisdiction. So, political rights might have to be secured to the Palestinians while they have to live in Israel for Israel to create a positive national image.  

The Israeli government also create an option for the Palestinian community to have the right to return, granting them protection in Knesset (Israeli Parliament), while promoting Arab Israeli politicians, and can even reflect how they have shaped the Israeli government in the international arena to build Israel’s soft power.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is the social affairs which are closely tied to the soft power paradigm.

There is a clear fear that the Jews are eclipsing the social identity of the Palestinian people but in reality, they are closely linked as Arabic language and Hebrew are Semitic languages, their scripts have common Aramaic ancestry, and Halaal and Kosher dietary cultures are also similar.

There should be an effort to study the similarities to build unity and to study unique qualities as to appreciate one another’s differences. Israel could also create Cultural Relations Centers around the world that promote both Jewish and Palestinian language, culture, and cuisine to create respect and solidarity. 

There can also be the production of television programs, movies, digital applications which could allow people to understand the Middle Eastern community.

Tel Aviv is the center for the development of many technological advancements and carries great potential to build creative applications and visual storytelling that could help spread awareness about the Middle East.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority could request the Israeli government to provide scholarships in various Israeli Universities which could enhance their credential for making effort to create a peaceful world as well as proposing exchange programs by inviting Israeli students to visit regular Palestinian colleges and working spaces decreasing bitterness.

The Palestinian Authority could also pursue Israeli investment in core-Palestinian settlements that could create employment as well as mutual dependence allowing Palestine to grow with a greater bargaining power while maintaining a symbiotic relationship.

Culture, history, and institutions can be combined to create harmony. A key aspect to gain soft power and legitimacy is by becoming softer by showing respect to the opponents while appreciating and accepting others’ viewpoints.

Therefore, the study of religion, history has to be conducted from a neutral perspective that can be trusted by all international actors and could serve as a uniting factor while maintaining an apologetic attitude towards historic mistakes. There needs to be an effort to provide economic and political compensation for the victims which have caused notoriety in the international arena and finally the culture of the two competing communities needs to be celebrated through cultural institutions to build trust and harmony.

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Diplomacy

Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva

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19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders. 

18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?

Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit

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Diplomacy

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

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In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

   One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE)  hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).

 Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India,  could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:

, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s  T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’

GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league —  extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021.  Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal  met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.

GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman  — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.

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