On 21 November 1991, the US Congress passed the most comprehensive civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Surprisingly, President George H.W. Bush did not veto the bill, even though he had vetoed a previous bill with similar provisions in 1990. Timing seems to have been a factor. Clarence Thomas had just gone through a very controversial confirmation process in the US Senate, driven primarily by the sexual harassment charges brought against him by Anita Hill. But it may also have been that enough moderate Republicans had shifted to support the 1991 bill, such that it had become “veto-proof” (a 67-vote majority protecting the over-ride authority of two-thirds plus one). As a participant in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, however, I do have a few words to say about how it came about, triggered by reflections upon the passing of George H.W. Bush. Continue reading “Reminiscenses on Civil Rights and George H.W. Bush”
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual event that has enabled participants from many different sectors to mobilize or at least maintain a modicum of a global consensus for a free global Internet ever since its inception in 2006. To me, the IGF serves as an excellent example of the kind of multi-stakeholder engagement that I believe needs to be promoted across the “globalizing” world. Although the IGF has gone through a number of “ups” and “downs” over the years, the 13th IGF, which met in Paris from 12 to 14 November 2018, is definitely one of the “ups”. In fact, the French sponsorship of this latest IGF has stimulated a revived hope for the IGF and its commitment to a globally open and free Internet. Continue reading “The French Impact on the Internet Governance Forum”
As someone who is gradually acquiring a minimum level of digital literacy – and inspired to move up a notch or two – I attended two events recently to learn more about the latest insights on the interplay between gender and digital literacy. One was a gathering of professional women in Lyon, while the other was a global forum on the Internet in Paris. The first was more focused on gender questions pertaining to digital literacy in business, while the second covered a wider array of subjects, including a broader view on gender itself, having to do with both access and literacy. Even though they were quite different events, it is useful to compare the different approaches to gender questions in the digital world at these two events while also highlighting some of the commonalities Continue reading “Reflections on Gender and Digital Literacy”
The significance of immigration as a lightening rod kind of issue is permeating analyses of global politics today but also domestic and regional politics. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary commemorations of the end of World War I, and because there are concerns about the parallel to what happened in Europe and the US after World War I, it is timely to compare the similarities and differences between Europe and the United States in the handling of this issue. Earlier in the year, one sensed a degree of optimism about the prospects of consensus – for the US, it was an unusual and bizarre dialogue in January on possible legislation, and for the EU, it was a promising reform proposal in June from the “Macron/Merkel” duo. Alas, neither reform initiative was successful, and the optimism has become more subdued. It is still there, but recent events in the US and Europe (and elsewhere) would suggest that we have more doom to endure before we reach the end of this downward cycle – even if the mid-term elections in the US might cheer us up in the interim. Continue reading “Distinguishing Absorption from Integration”
From Kofi Annan” the team player” to John McCain “the maverick” would seem like quite a jump. And in many ways it is. Calm versus flamboyant temperament. Collaborator versus boat rocker. Global citizen versus national patriot. Progressive (i.e. more to the left) versus conservative (i.e. more to the right). But both were “greater than life” figures who aspired to do more than their self interest. Each has been eulogized for rather different reasons. In this commentary, however, I reflect on the impact both of them had in one area of commonly shared concern, migration policy. Continue reading “Mavericks and Team Players on Migration Policy with Reflections on Kofi Annan and John McCain”
Kofi Annan was a team player. How lucky to have been a part of his entourage. I remember the first time I met him. It was in Toronto shortly after he had assumed the position of UN Secretary General. As with so many others who came to know him, I was entranced by his soft-spoken style. And as Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organization, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to benefit from his inclusive leadership style.
In these days when the American political scene is deeply divided, even when it comes to foreign policy, there comes along an issue that is often misconstrued because of this divisive atmosphere. And that is the issue of opening the doors to multi-stakeholder collaboration in the area of nutrition. It is regrettable that the US role in advancing this collaboration has been miscronstrued, specifically in the context of US leadership in opposing a particular resolution at the most recent World Health Assembly that was updating global health policy on infant and young child feeding. As reported by Andrew Jacobs in The New York Times on 8 July, 2018 (available here) and picked up in numerous other media outlets), I believe that the US leadership has been incorrectly described as being opposed to breastfeeding because of its opposition to this resolution. The headline even suggests that the US action “Stuns World Health Officials”.
The article, which was widely circulated, describes US intervention on a resolution that was ultimately adopted at the annual gathering in May 2018 of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the chief governing body of the WHO. My personal view is that this effort to condemn the US actions has actually been influenced largely by opponents of an inclusive multi-stakeholder platform for infant and young child nutrition. Whatever the rationale might have been for the US to do what it did, I believe that the critics have misrepresented the impact of the US position.
The significance of different attitudes and policies on migration has been on my mind for some time. The anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions of the current occupant of the White House are deeply distressing – worse and worse, it seems, and without any end to the disregard of human rights and rejection of humanitarian standards. The impasse on reforming immigration laws in the US is aggravated by this erratic and inflammatory figure who happens to be President. But then comes Aquarius! And here we are in France, coping with yet another set of complexities (and barriers) to resolving the suffering of current migrant populations. Things are not so clear-cut, in either place, the US or France. But we start with our French vantage point before moving on to the broader picture. Continue reading “The Aquarius Challenge to France”
The commentary for this first week of March was intended to focus on the various controversies and advances on gender that are being featured around International Women’s Day. In spite of the turbulence with which this month has opened (in both weather and trade politics!), it is still timely to touch on a number of these developments – especially since we can cheer the momentum leading to a declaration on gender and trade at the WTO. See photo below from a panel at the WTO just one year ago.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is also worthy of some attention – “The Time Is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives”. But this has all been upended by a more fundamental challenge to today’s global rules-based trading system, having to do with a trade war invoking “national security” on steel and aluminum. So first a few words on that – and then back to the gender theme – which includes reflections on the encouraging developments in gender-based activism involving trade policy but also on the burgeoning allegations of sexual harassment that are spilling over into the UN system and major global NGOs. Will they bring a major behavioural change? Read more here. Continue reading “Spotlight on Trade, Tariffs and Gender”
There is a scene in the film Alice’s Restaurant, one of those anti-war films from the Vietnam War era, where an overly zealous police officer brings “27 8X10 color glossy photos” of a minor crime scene (the unlawful dumping of garbage) to a court proceeding presided by a judge who turns out to be blind. It is a tale of overstating the seriousness and engaging in too many steps to prove the crime. The photos have no use to the judge, who then levies a $50 fine on the defendant. We understand that the main characters here – the “criminal”, the judge and the police chief all play themselves in the film, which contributes to its ironic punch. The film was built around a folk song about a “massacree” at this same “Alice’s Restaurant”, performed by Arlo Guthrie (the “criminal”), describing a Thanksgiving gathering with a bunch of bohemians in an abandoned church in small-town New England. Continue reading “Personal Reflections on Conflict of Interest”