Government Vs Protester: The Year Ahead

Image: Tony Fischer Photography/Flickr

The 6-month anniversary of the Occupy movement in the United States brought much rhetoric along with promises of the blossoming of an American Spring. From elections to high-profile summits, 2012 will be a busy year for protesters. Meanwhile, the U.S. government and local governments will no longer be caught flat-footed in response, and are gearing up for a year of civil unrest.

Nowhere will local restrictions on protest be more publicly displayed than in Chicago next month. As the city prepares to host the NATO Summit, Occupiers are making plans for hundreds of thousands of protesters to descend on the city in order to speak out against international displays of violence by NATO forces and the “effects of the economic crisis caused by the leaders” who will be gathering in the city.

Humanitarian Issues

Syria: Appeasement in Disguise?

Kofi Annan was in New York on 16 March to brief the Security Council on the mess that is Syria. But whatever (limited) hopes there might be of his ability to negotiate an end to the violence, the humanitarian mission also disguises a depressing reality: short of appeasement, the international community has no good strategy for responding to a well-protected regime intent on committing criminal acts.

Debates on what to do about Syria have – on the surface at least – moved on apace since the China/Russia veto last month (which was, in any case, over-hyped). Everyone seems to agree that Bashar al-Assad needs to stop killing and torturing civilians. As Ban Ki Moon put it on the anniversary of the uprising, “the status quo in Syria is indefensible”. In the rarefied domain of international politics, the widespread acceptance of this point counts as a victory. But beyond this limited solidarity, there is scant agreement over what practical steps to take.

The Resolution of the UN-Swiss Paradox

The Resolution of the UN-Swiss Paradox

Switzerland and four other states (Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein and Singapore) called on 28 March 2012 for reform of the UN Security Council. Through an official draft resolution, they made proposals for a more democratic, efficient and transparent mode of operation, namely by making UN Security Council meetings public, and by including conflict-affected and peacekeeping states in decision-making processes. Furthermore, they demanded a restriction of the veto rights of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Israel the Oil Power?

Oil Shale

The dependency of Western economies on oil imports has shaped foreign policy considerations in the Middle East for decades and has, in turn, deeply influenced the balance of power across the region. With an estimated three quarters of total conventional oil reserves still to be found in the Middle East, one might conclude that policy alternatives will remain limited when it comes to preserving energy security. Meanwhile, the toppling of regimes in the Maghreb has yet again proven to policy makers that relying on this particular region for oil might not be the safest bet. However, Israel might be about to revolutionize the global energy sector.

In late 2010, the World Energy Council estimated that Israel had reserves of up to 4 billion barrels of oil shale. More recently, the ‘Israel Energy Initiative’ estimated that Israel is actually sitting on reserves of 250 billion barrels (to put this number in perspective, Saudi Arabia’s reserves mount up to 260 billion barrels of conventional oil). If proven, this would make Israel home to the third largest oil shale deposits after the United States and China. So how come this story is not making the headlines?