The CSS Blog Network

Labour and Its Fraternal Struggle

David and Ed Miliband: rivals for power, photos: Downing Street/ Department of Energy and Climate Change, both flickr

Most of us know a bit about sibling rivalry. Of course politics has never needed the familial part to inspire rampant competition and skullduggery. Nonetheless a number of siblings have managed to coexist while holding political office, John and Bobby Kennedy spring to mind along with the more recent Kaczynski twins in Poland. Few, though, have ever had to run against each other for their party’s top job.

For that challenge just ask David and Ed Miliband, the brothers whose participation in the British Labour party’s leadership election has consumed media coverage in a race with apparently few other marketable qualities. All we know for sure, or so the pundits would have you believe, is that the new leader will be a Miliband. The all important forename will be announced this Saturday 25 September when the campaign draws to a close.

It is perhaps unsurprising that, in a campaign that was meant to be about long-term goals and principles, much of the debate has descended into a reassessment of New Labour after its 13 years in power and recent electoral humbling. The Milibands have given their own variations on the past with ex-Foreign Secretary David (in some quarters known as the ‘heir to Blair’) taking a predictably more centrist position on the issues. For his part, Ed as the former Climate Change Secretary has carved out a position on the left of the field, despite his close links to former PM Gordon Brown, and set out plans that resonate with more traditional Labour voters.

Despite the inevitable focus on Labour’s economic stewardship, it is in international affairs and the perceived loss of moral authority where the party’s malaise poses the greatest challenge – both for the new leader and for the cause of balanced political debate. » More

Brazil Votes

vote sign on sidewalk

Brazilians go to the polls on 3 October to elect a new president, photo: Theresa Thompson/flickr

On 3 October, Brazilians will go to the polls to elect a new president and parliament. This weeks the ISN examines what impact the elections will have on the country’s growing regional, and increasingly global, reach – and how a new president can emerge from the long shadow of Lula da Silva’s popularity to built a legacy all her own.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Eliot Brockner about how the next president can begin to fill Lula da Silva’s ‘big shoes’.
  • A Podcast interview with Paulo Sotero Marques about Lula da Silva’s domestic and foreign policy legacy.
  • Security Watch articles covering the spectrum of Brazil’s regional and international relations.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a monograph from the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College on the ‘Dilemma of Brazilian Grand Strategy’.
  • Primary Resources, like the full-text of the May 2010 joint declaration by Iran, Turkey and Brazil on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as the Washington, DC-based Center for Public Integrity’s website that presents the results of an investigative journalism project on the climate change lobby in eight countries, including Brazil.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations.

Keyword in Focus: Millennium Development Goals

If there is a keyword that best summarizes this week’s international agenda it’s this: UN Millennium Development Goals. Ten years into the third millennium and five years before the goals need to be attained, at the occasion of the UN summit taking place in New York today and tomorrow, political leaders, activists, journalists and academics discuss what has already been achieved and what still needs to be done.

What are we talking about? The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of eight goals, with several concrete targets each, to which all 192 UN member states as well as dozens of international organizations committed in 2000:

The eight Millennium Development Goals

Image: courtesy of UNDP

The situation regarding the goals doesn’t look as bleak as some like to imply. But it doesn’t look too good either.

For a more nuanced evaluation, check our our Digital Library, where some or our partners from the north, south, east and west have published excellent reports, analyses and commentaries on 10 years of MDGs. Under the keyword UN Millennium Development Goals you will also find primary resources, such as the UN Millennium Declaration from 2000, organizations that deal with the MDGs, links and ISN news articles.

The fact that we still talk about the MDGs is, in my view, a surprising success for the UN leadership. It shows the UN’s agenda setting power. On the other hand, I’m still skeptical whether we’re not missing something by focusing on these eight development goals. And there is an inherent problem in the goals as with all output-oriented performance evaluation: You only measure what’s measurable and human well-being is notoriously difficult to measure.

ISN Quiz: Iraq

Test your knowledge on Iraq, the topic of this week’s Special Report.


A Talking Shop? So What?

Listen, talk, vote: UN General Assembly Hall; photo: Sebastian Delmont/flickr

If you don’t read, watch or listen to Swiss media you probably haven’t noticed. On Tuesday, the new president of the UN General Assembly Joseph Deiss opened the 65th session of the UN’s house of representatives. As a Swiss I feel honored that only a decade after a majority of my co-citizens finally agreed to become a full member of the UN, our former federal councilor and foreign minister will be chairing the General Assembly (GA) for one year.

Joseph Deiss, a former economist, is realistic about his new position. Confronted with the criticism that the UN GA is only a talking shop and lacks any power, he says: So what? The GA is the only body representing all states in an equal manner and the only place where representatives of even the smallest and least important countries have a say. The UN GA is the principal place for international debate.

The GA also facilitates the human aspect of diplomacy. A colleague pointed out that Iran, Iraq and Israel are seated next to each other in the assembly hall. Imagine an Israeli diplomat bumping into the representative of Iran and apologizing: “Oh, I’m very sorry!” – “No problem at all”, the other says.

Addressing, perhaps implicitly, the big number of small states in the opening address, Deiss called for making the UN the center of global governance. Institutions such as the G8 or the G20 may be more efficient and be able to act swiftly. However, it is only the UN that has the legitimacy to make decisions for all states. In order for the UN to play a more active role in global governance, the organization needs to be reformed, which is one of the main points on Deiss’ agenda.

Let’s hope that the opening ceremony will not remain the last occasion we’ve read or heard about the 65th session of the UN General Assembly.

Yes, I was talking to you: fellow bloggers, journalists and news editors.

Listen to our podcast on the relevance of the UN and see our resources on UN reform.

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