In October 2005, two North African teenagers died of electrocution in one of the banlieues of Paris as they were running from the police through a dangerous power substation. An inquiry later established the teens were innocent, and the incident sparked some of the worst unrest seen in France over the past 40 years. The riots brought about much debate over the tense relationship between immigrant youth and the state, the recurring problems of “fracture sociale,” and a perceived lack of social justice. Above all, the protests were an expression of acute feelings of alienation experienced by a large section of society. The banlieues have been a breeding ground for deep frustration, maintaining a distinctly poor and marginalized status for decades. Unemployment is common and 36% of the banlieu residents are estimated to live below the poverty line—three times the national average. » More
The 22nd OSCE Ministerial Council (MC) will meet on 3 and 4 December in Belgrade, Serbia. The MC meeting, which takes place once a year in the country holding the OSCE Chairmanship, is attended by foreign ministers or their representatives from the 57 OSCE participating States as well as from the 11 Partners for Co-operation.
The Belgrade MC meeting was originally supposed to be a significant meeting at which OSCE participating States had hoped to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act with the successful conclusion of the so-called Helsinki+40 process and the adoption of a landmark OSCE document. OSCE states had planned to adopt a document that would provide strategic guidance for the Organization’s future role and for the setting up of a “common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community”, a vision that OSCE Heads of State had agreed to by consensus at the 2010 OSCE Astana Summit. » More
Last month, as Indonesians prepared to vote for a new president, dozens of West Papuan activists were reportedly attacked by security forces for urging local people to boycott the elections. Mischa Wilmers speaks to the exiled leader of the Free West Papua movement, Benny Wenda, about his lifelong struggle for justice and asks why nobody is talking about the territory he calls ‘little South Africa.’ » More
The asymmetrical proxy conflict currently being fought in Syria has many interested state parties and Qatar has taken a prominent, multi-track approach to influence the outcome. The Qataris have met with Assad, armed rebels, provided facilities for the US to train militants, paid defectors and–employing a novel methodology– used the trappings of civil society in the form of a ‘report’ on torture and the coverage provided by a ‘free press’. Qatar’s participation raises some interesting questions: What is the goal of this geopolitical manoeuvring? Are they using a civil society façade to achieve state goals? » More
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.