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ISN Weekly Theme: UN (Ir)Relevance

UN-toilet-paper

Photo: Bernardo Londoy/flickr

On the occasion of the 64th UN General Assembly the ISN asks whether the UN makes a difference in world politics.

In the ISN podcast this week, I ask Ambassador Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein to evaluate the work of the UN. Due to the media’s focus on peace and security, people tend to neglect the UN”s activities in the fields of human rights and development, says Wenaweser.

The UN faces management problems. The five permanent members of the Security Council are unhealthily influential, and this is not only in the Council. Yet, according to Wenaweser, the organization has achieved much, for example in responding to the 2004 tsunami disaster or in promoting international criminal justice.

What else do we offer on the UN?

  • Security Watch features a story by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on the vast agenda facing UN leaders at the 64th General Assembly.
  • In our policy briefs section Eric Rosand of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation examines the strengths of the UN’s Terrorism Prevention Branch and identifies challenges lying ahead.
  • Rob Jenkins of the Crisis States Research Centre writes on the two-year old UN Peacekeeping Commission and its role in disseminating international norms, in our publications section.

This and more you’ll find on the ISN website.

International Relations Podcasts- The Best and the Brightest

At home or on the go- podcasts, photo: _Morrissey_ /flickr

At home or on the go- podcasts, photo: _Morrissey_ /flickr

In the same vein as our list of interesting international relations actors on Facebook, we put together a list of interesting audio sources for you to explore (again, in random order).

1. Council on Foreign Relations Podcasts

2. London School of Economics Public Lectures and Events Podcasts

3. UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations Podcasts

4. World Radio Switzerland Podcasts on International Relations

5. The Economist Audio and Video

6. Carnegie Council Podcasts

7. C-SPAN Radio

8. New York Times World View Podcast

9. BBC Radio From Our Own Correspondent Series

10. World Politics Review Podcasts

Some, like C-SPAN, provide a live stream of congressional events, speeches and hearings (often on foreign affairs); others offer insights into current affairs drawn from expert interviews, while the Economist, for example, provides audio summaries of their Special Reports and a weekly podcast outlining the key events to look out for in the days ahead. The London School of Economics and the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations provide audio and video files of speeches and public lectures held at the schools on a wide variety of topics and often by high profile speakers.

And remember that we can also be found on the audio airwaves – enjoy ISN podcasts at home or on the go!

Any other podcasters that deserve a mention?

Is Peace (only) a Matter of Spirituality?

Beware of God

Beware of God / Photo : Synaptic Impulse - Flickr

Today is the International Day of Peace. Started by the General Assembly in 2002, it is supposed to celebrate peace worldwide.  According to the official calendar that lists all the events taking place in the world today to celebrate peace, at least 70% of the events are related to spirituality and to religious activities.

I find it quite ironic that peace is associated with religion when most of the conflicts that are currently taking place have at least a religious component if not a religious background: the civil war in Iraq, the insurgency in Afghanistan, civil war in Somalia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the insurgency in the southern Philippines and many more. I understand that religion and spiritual values can breed tolerance, cultural understanding and open-mindedness. Unfortunately this is not always the case and the most belligerent minds and groups often use religion as a justification for their distinctly unpeaceful agendas.

Wouldn’t it be possible to promote peace without including faith in the package? Couldn’t we establish a true understanding and a peaceful world by using different concepts? The ancient Greeks who invented democracy and laid the foundations for our modern civilization were also confronted with the need to make peace. At the time, peace was established on foundations of social justice, sound legislative processes and economic growth.

This ancient understanding of peace is one that the modern world would do well to keep in mind and it could serve as a useful alternative to spirituality for this International Day of Peace.

Commemorating the General

For the first time since Tsar Alexander I in 1819, a Russian head of state is visiting Switzerland. Today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is coming for an official visit to the small Alpine country.

The main purpose of Medvedev’s visit is to celebrate the 210th anniversary of Russian General Aleksandr Vasiliyevich Suvorov’s victorious military expedition across the Alps, which resulted in the defeat of Napoleon’s occupying forces in Switzerland. Following Switzerland’s liberation from the French, the modern Swiss Confederation (more or less within today’s political borders) came into being.

Suvorov crossing the alps / Wikimedia Foundation

Suvorov crossing the alps / Wikimedia Foundation

Many Swiss living in the mountainous areas through which Suvorov’s triumphant troops passed remain deeply grateful to the Russian general, who is said to have never lost a battle and is seen as one of the greatest military geniuses ever to lead an army. He also coined phrases such as “To surprise is to vanquish”, ” Train hard, fight easy” or “Speed is essential, but haste harmful”. Both the Swiss and the Russian consider the Russian general a military hero. No questions asked. » More

Where Is Tony?

photo: Emanuele / real desert storm  / fotosensibile 2.0

photo: Emanuele / real desert storm / fotosensibile 2.0

I don’t see any reason to be optimistic about a possible revival of serious peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is busy trying to arrange a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week. But, what happened to the ‘Quartet’ – made up of the US, Russia, the EU and the UN – which was supposed to be an active peace broker? » More

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