Two years ago in Seattle, demonstrators in the streets brought previously esoteric negotiations of government ministers at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the world’s eye as never before. Less noticed, inside the meetings, African trade ministers denounced the lack of transparency in the proceedings. “African countries are being marginalized and generally excluded on issues of vital importance for our peoples and their future,” they declared in a public statement. The next day the summit adjourned with no agreement, as developing countries rebelled at being pushed aside, and Europe and the U.S. also failed to resolve their own differences.
Let us take as a starting point that the broadly consensual strategy and basis for self-activity in what we can term Global Justice Movements is the following: to promote the globalization of people and halt (or at minimum radically modify) the globalization of capital. But this strategy conflicts with the objectives of at least four other tendencies that also appear to have solidified in recent years. Since the full-blown emergence of an international financial crisis around mid-1997, the world has witnessed a revival of Third World Nationalism, a Post-Washington Consensus reform option, obstinacy on the part of Washington Consensus powerbrokers, and a formidable Rightwing Resurgence.
A brutal civil war that has raged off and on for nearly half a century in Sudan is putting the Bush administration just where it does not want to be–under domestic political pressure to try to affect the outcome of a seemingly intractable African conflict. Congressional action may force the issue.
The United States, the self-described leader of human rights, effectively decided to boycott the UN conference against racism in Durban, South Africa. The U.S. could have made a strong, positive impression by sending its African-American Secretary of State, a descendent of slaves, and making a forceful stand against racism. Instead, it chose to send a low-level delegation.
Some 200 nations are gathered in Durban, South Africa from August 31 to September 7 for the UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). Unfortunately, America’s official conduct leading up to the conference has not been its finest hour. Rather than deal with its own sorry legacy of slavery, discrimination, and racism, the Bush administration has chosen at the highest level to deny that historical matters and redress have any place on the agenda. It has withheld support and threatened to stay home.
The black and white-checked scarves, known as kafeeyyehs, symbolizing the Palestinian resistance, were everywhere among the 6,000 delegates to the UN Non-Governmental Forum that preceded the governmental portion of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). Soon they were joined by white t-shirts exhorting participants to “fight racism, not Jews.” As predicted, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has loomed over both the NGO Forum and now the main event, given mega-prominence by the refusal of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to attend while statements equating Zionism with racism are anywhere on the table.
The international community appears poised to intervene to end the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in Africa where, according to the United Nations Agency for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), more than 25 million Africans live with the virus or are dying of AIDS. Few infected Africans have access to life saving anti-HIV/AIDS medicines that have transformed the disease from a feared to a manageable chronic infection in the West. Through a combination of street protests, sophisticated policy reviews, media exposes, and powerful commentaries in the print and electronic media, AIDS activists have forced the issue of access to HIV/AIDS care in developing nations.
When a country violates fundamental principles of international law and when the UN Security Council demands that it cease its illegal behavior, one might expect that the world body would impose sanctions or other measures to foster compliance. This has been the case with Iraq, Libya, and other international outlaws in recent years.
The quick conviction on Monday in a political court of Dr. Saad El-Din Ibrahim and 27 associates is a serious blow against Egypt’s burgeoning pro-democracy movement. It also raises serious questions about continued U.S. military and economic aid to the increasingly authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Walter Kansteiner, Bush’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, was chosen for the post over well-respected foreign service professional Johnny Carson, who currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Kenya. Initial reports on Kansteiner have noted his background as a commodities trader and as an African affairs expert at the State Department and National Security Council during the first Bush administration. In 1991 Kansteiner received the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award for work promoting privatization. During the Clinton years, he worked for the Scowcroft Group, a consulting firm headed by Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser and Kansteiner’s former boss in the Bush administration. Kansteiner has written occasional articles on Africa for The Forum for International Policy (http://www.ffip.org/), a center-right Washington think tank where Scowcroft is a resident trustee.