The first time I heard the German word “zwangsoptimist” was in a meeting to discuss ways to improve how the international system functions. Meaning “someone who feels compelled to be an optimist,” the word not only succinctly sums up my work for and alongside the U.N. over the past 27 years, but could also be a one-word job description for the organization’s next secretary-general.
The India-U.S. relationship is presently stronger than at anytime in their history. The twin summits – less than six months apart – in September 2014 and January 2015 between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have repaired, revived and revitalized the strategic partnership. Yet there remain several hurdles to deepening the relationship, notably, geopolitical differences over Iran, Russia, Syria and India’s membership of various nuclear and missile export control regimes.
The Afghan militant group that sheltered Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks is closing the door to the Islamic State.
The Taliban is giving up on holding talks with the group and will prevent it from gaining a foothold in Afghanistan, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said by e-mail. He accused the media and intelligence agencies of inflating the Islamic State’s strength.
International conflict management is not necessarily a rewarding occupation for people who have neat and orderly minds. Well-made plans tend to fall apart in fast-moving crises. As I noted in a chapter in a book on the Security Council published earlier this year, the recent history of United Nations peace operations is basically a story of “one damn thing after another.” U.N.
The recent series of dastardly and heinous attacks in places as dispersed as Baghdad, Beirut, Bamako, Kabul and Paris by myriad terrorist outfits ranging from the Taliban to Islamic State and al-Qaeda hold several important lessons for international efforts to counter terrorism.
Last week had no shortage of shocking images to illustrate our collective paralysis in the face of the Mediterranean refugee crisis. A three year old boy dead on a beach, waves lapping around his shoes. Thousands of forcibly displaced people marching through the heart of Europe watched by silent onlookers. Borders going back up in Schengen under the guise of traffic control and migrant searches.
The UN is currently in poor health but the severity of its condition is not yet clear, Richard Gowan argues in this paper commissioned by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue for the 2014 Oslo Forum for senior mediators. Gowan assesses the impact of events in South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine for the UN, and warns that the organization's operational and political credibility is weakening.
The paper Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy examines impacts of the major transformation in international energy markets that has begun. The United States is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer and, combined with new developments in natural gas, is on track to become the dominant player in global energy markets. Meanwhile, China is in place to surpass the United States in its scale of oil imports, and has already edged out the U.S. in carbon emissions.
UN peacekeeping is increasingly under strain – over-deployed, heavily-mandated and under-resourced. This state of overstretch, coupled with continuing demand for new missions, presents a fundamental strategic challenge for the UN and its members. To adapt to the challenges facing peace operations, the international community must examine options for institutional improvements in UN peacekeeping as well as strategies for responding to emerging global trends.