Illegal Loggers, Beware

Illegal logging is a complex problem, photo courtesy of Claire L. Evans/flickr

On July 7, the European Parliament voted 644 to 25 to ban the sale of illegally logged timber and timber products from the EU market from 2012 onwards when the rule takes effect.

The passage of this ban is a tremendous achievement, the culmination of more than a decade of environmental activism and lobbying on the issue. While the ban is an important step in the right direction, the general public should not be lulled into a comforting, but false belief that the problem is getting better. The legislation affects only 20 percent of the global market for illegal timber; a significant move, but there is much more to do.

Like many environmental issues, logging is tightly bound to other problems, many endemic to developing countries (such as corruption, organized crime, poverty, environmental destruction) that are difficult to address individually, but must still be tackled with approaches that can generate multiple beneficial outcomes, such as greater transparency, better information management, the implementation and strengthening of legislative, enforcement and monitoring frameworks. As well as the creation of collaboration and information exchanges, the importance of changing consumer perspectives and demand for cheap timber and timber products cannot be overstated.

International Relations Government Environment

Climate Change Debate is Losing Momentum

Polar bear on a diminishing ice floe cake, photo: douglemoine/flickr

For those (still) interested in climate change issues, two things are happening next week that are worth to ponder:

First, Global Warming is turning 35! As announced on the blog of the RealClimate website, the term “global warming” was used for the first time in an article by Wally Broecker in the journal Science on 8 August 1975. Happy Anniversary!

Second, a UN Climate Change Confererence will be held next week (2  – 6 August 2010) in Bonn, discussing  possible contributions by both industrialized and developing countries to reduce emissions. Further issues to be discussed include how to adapt to climate changes, slow down deforestation and develop new technologies – and how all these measures can be financed. The conference is intended as a further preparation for the sixth meeting of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will take place in Cancun, Mexico, in November and December 2010.

Yet the global optimism prior to last year’s Copenhagen Summit, when there was so much hope that a newly elected US president who promised change and truly seemed to care about the environment would finally lead the world into a new, environmentally more responsible era, has all but vanished.


Happy Birthday, Latin America

Latin American countries are celebrating 200 years of independence, photo: John K/flickr

While much of Latin America is focused on celebrating 200 years of independence from Spain and Portugal, numerous security challenges are begging for answers – and soon. This week the ISN examines the opportunities and obstacles Latin America must face if it is to succeed in its third century of Republican history.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Dr Markus Schultze-Kraft, director of the Latin America and Caribbean program at the International Crisis Group, on the security challenges facing Latin America after 200 years of Republican rule.
  • A Podcast interview with Sam Logan on the drug-trafficking challenges that plague Mexico in the midst of its 200th anniversary celebration of independence from Spain.
  • Security Watch articles about organized crime rings from Mexico to Brazil and Paraguay, US-Mexico border tensions, and much more.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including CrisisWatch updates on emerging and ongoing conflicts around the globe, including across Latin America.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of the Mercosur Free Trade Agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as the Observatory on Latin America’s page on ‘Building Latin American Bicentennials in the Age of Globalization’.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Latin American Network Information Center, affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin, which boasts one of the largest guides for Latin American content on the internet.
New Media Government

The Politics of Twitter

Shifting sands or a tool that is here to stay? Photo courtesy of Rosaura Ochoa/flickr

Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign may still be the benchmark for the use of social media tools in politics, but some surprising new actors are embracing Twitter in particular in an effort to reach out to voters and citizens in a more personal and immediate way.

While leaders of ‘old Europe’ still seem quite reluctant to use the service (David Cameron, in his pre-prime minister days, once famously blurted out that “too many twits [it’s tweets, David] might make a twat”), politicians in South Asia are embracing the service as a means of reaching a very large number of citizens, very quickly.

Among them, Shashi Tharoor, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and member of parliament, who tweets several times a day, even using his stream to respond to constituent concerns. He has also run into trouble for his tweets. Although this may have given his follower numbers a boost, the ability to reach and interact with 825,000+ followers in such a dynamic and instant way is a feat in itself and a potentially powerful tool for governance in an unwieldy country like India.

Why have leaders in the West not embraced this new form of instant interaction? Do they fear that they may say something unwise, even controversial on a service that is anything but forgiving in its immediacy, or do they fear the barrage of responses they may get to an unpopular comment? While Silvio Berlusconi’s PR people might have made a wise choice in keeping him from the service, it could prove powerful in narrowing the divide between the ‘rulers’ and the ‘ruled’ and in making politics more relevant to millions of politically apathetic young people.

International Relations Security

Uganda’s Somali Dilemma – Learning from Ethiopia’s Mistake

AMISOM’s Burundian Peacekeepers Prepare for Deployment, photo courtesy of US Army Africa/flickr

The West can afford to ignore Somalia, Africa cannot. On the evening of July 11th, three bombs went off in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, leaving at least 75 dead and many more injured. There was no need for investigations or inquiries; the perpetrators quickly and proudly claimed responsibility. Carrying out its first attack outside Somalia’s borders, the Islamic militia Al-Shabaab, announced that Uganda was paying the price for deploying troops to Somalia in support of the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) and the weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

The bombings warranted an immediate and stalwart response from Somalia’s neighbors—Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan—who pledged to reinforce AMISOM with an extra 2,000 troops. It seems, however, that Uganda is also seeking to go beyond simply helping AMISOM.