Europe and China: A New Tack?

Photo: flickr/Friends of Europe

At a recent state dinner in London for visiting People’s Republic of China (PRC) Premier Li Keqiang, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made a number of undiplomatic comments, saying that the people of China were “politically shackled” to a communist one-party state guilty of human rights abuses. Unsurprisingly, given this government’s economic drive, Downing Street distanced itself from the statement, with Michael Fallon, the business minister, saying that human rights should not “get in the way” of trade links. Instead, UK Inc. reported that BP and Shell were due to announce multi-billion dollar deals with PRC oil companies. Indeed, investment from the entire visit by the PRC delegation was said to be worth more than 18 billion pounds.  That, it seemed, was that.

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Geopolitics of Dignity

Risk game, Courtesy of Flickr, avyfain

This article was originally published by Global Policy Journal on 20 May 2014. Republished with permission of the author.

The pursuit of freedom has long been thought of as the driving force of history. Freedom became the mantra of much of the Western interpretation of any popular uprising in a post-authoritarian context. However, the yearning for dignity, demonstrated for example by the Arab Spring, is a more fundamental and more inclusive human need than just the desire for freedom, and it is possible to live in freedom but not in dignity even in mature democracies.

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Burundi: Ignoring the Problem Won’t Make It Go Away

Smallholder farmer prepares maize plot for planting, courtesy of International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center/flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 23 April 2014.

In what looks like a classic case for the African Union’s (AU’s) early-warning mechanisms, alarm bells are growing louder over the political tensions in Burundi. Detentions, human rights violations and political strife are increasing in the country in the run-up to presidential elections in 2015. » More

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Will Iran’s New Support of Human Rights Go Deeper Than Rhetoric?

Weekly vigil in Trafalgar Square against human rights violations and political executions in Iran.

Weekly vigil in Trafalgar Square against human rights violations and political executions in Iran. Photo: helen.2006/flickr.

It is no secret that Iran has an image problem in the international arena. As part of a comprehensive campaign to regain credibility and improve its reputation on the world stage, the country is adopting a new approach to diplomacy that seems to extend well beyond the nuclear dossier. But President Rouhani’s attempts to remake the country’s foreign policy since his election last June have met with much suspicion, as many outside Iran fear that this leopard can’t change its spots.

Delegates in the UN General Assembly have been noticing a turnaround in the way that the country’s representatives engage with social, humanitarian, and human rights issues. In October, observers were taken aback by the palpable softening of Iran’s tone1 in the delegate’s reaction to the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. In its statement, the Iranian representative to the Third Committee sounded conciliatory as she declared that “Iran emphasizes the need to use the momentum engendered by this election [of President Rouhani] to adopt a new and constructive approach by all relevant parties towards cooperation and dialogue for the promotion and protection of all human rights” adding that the “government does not claim that the situation of human rights within the country is perfect.” » More

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Diagnostics for Global Health

Measles Vaccination in Merawi Province, Ethiopia, courtesy of DFID/Flickr

CORVALLIS, OREGON – In developed countries, most people take for granted that when they are sick, they will have access to timely diagnosis and treatment. Indeed, while the diagnostic process – which typically involves sending a sample of blood, urine, or tissue to a laboratory for analysis – may be cumbersome and expensive, health-care providers and sophisticated laboratories remain widely available. As a result, the disease burden in the developed world has declined substantially.

By contrast, in the developing world, millions of people die each year from treatable diseases like malaria, owing to the lack of sophisticated laboratories and alternative diagnostic tests. But there is reason for hope: Advances in the field of microfluidics have the potential to transform health care by allowing “gold standard” laboratory-based testing to be transferred to the point of care (POC). » More

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