Terça-feira, 7 de Setembro de 2010

IPRIS Viewpoints 18

ETA cease-fire: Handle with caution

By Diogo Noivo

The organization is going through its weakest moment in decades of terrorism, and negotiations are a natural step to take, as it allows the terrorist group to save face under the illusion that it negotiates because it wants and not because it needs to.

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publicado por IPRIS às 17:50
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Segunda-feira, 6 de Setembro de 2010

UNIFIL, Portugal and Lebanon

By Diogo Noivo

 

On August 30, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously approved resolution 1937, which extends UNIFIL’s mandate until 31 August 2011, saying that its presence in the south of Lebanon helps to promote stability. The UNSC assesses the situation in Lebanon as “a threat to international peace and security” thus justifying the need for one more year.

In fact, in the weeks that preceded resolution 1937, two episodes clearly drew  attention to how unstable peace is in the country.

First, it was the cutting down of a three by Israel Defense Forces in the border with Lebanon, with lead Lebanon’s Armed Forces to clash with the Israeli soldiers. This episode killed three people, raised tension between both countries and led many to speculate about a new armed conflict.

Second, it was the aftershock of UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon indication that Hezbollah was the most probable actor behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

Aside from the aforementioned cases, the region’s political instability is, by itself, more than enough to justify permanent attention by the international community – specially in times like these, with ongoing Mideast Peace Talks and with Iran’s situation becoming increasingly more dangerous.

As a committed member of the UN, Portugal has 146 soldiers deployed in Lebanon – five at headquarters and the remaining from an engineering unit – in a demonstration of the role Lisbon wishes to maintain as an international security provider. Furthermore, taking part in international operations can give greater leverage to Portugal in international forums, thus increasing its political capability – a fact that Portugal also has in mind. However, to develop this dimension, Lisbon should be more determined in its logistic and human support, without which it will be difficult to assure the command of international operations or, in a very timely case, maintain important international facilities such as NATO’s base in Oeiras – either to disappear or to lose relevance in the next NATO Summit to be held in Lisbon this year.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 00:01
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Sexta-feira, 3 de Setembro de 2010

The Lisbon summit strikes the Lisbon Treaty

By Vasco Martins

 

US President Barack Obama will be joining other heads of state of NATO allied countries in Lisbon for the signing of the new Strategic Concept, between the 19 and the 20 of November. On this occasion, the EU will organise an EU-US summit, seizing the opportunity of Obama’s presence in the continent.

However, the fact that Obama will only spend two days in Lisbon, which during a summit roughly translates to a day, may constrain negotiations and overload the agenda. The sheer amount of work and compromise NATO’s new Strategic Concept entails is more than enough for Obama and European leaders to decide on. Adding a summit on top of this serves only to overburden expectations, disregarding the meagre capability of both sides to actually reach concrete results.

On the other hand, the EU-US summit - with no clear agenda as of yet - only demonstrates Europe’s limitations in setting its own foreign policy agenda. The Obama administration has been drifting away from the European alliance, after having cancelled a summit in Madrid scheduled for May 2010, a humiliating setback for the EU’s foreign policy and the new Lisbon Treaty. Nonetheless, organising an EU-US summit on such short notice will further submit the new foreign policy prism to international wishes, instead of presenting a clear definition of its intentions and place in the world.

More importantly, the EU should stop organising summits which achieve nothing in concrete. If the US is more interested in NATO and in mutual defence issues, the EU should send a CFSP team to attempt to converge efforts while drawing common lines with NATO’s new strategic concept. Instead, organising yet another summit emphasizes not only Europe’s need for US support, but its own internal divisions and inability to sail solo in international affairs. By setting the tone in such a way, the EU is telling the world it is completely incapable of managing its own issues without the support of a powerful ally. It is only too ironic that the 2010 Lisbon EU-US summit amounts to one of the many defeats the Lisbon Treaty will have to endure.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 17:59
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IPRIS Viewpoints 17

Is foreign policy an issue in Brazil's presidential elections?

By Pedro Seabra

Brazil's foreign policy has gained substantial gravitas during Lula's two terms at the helm of the country. Consequently, any candidate's intended plans for the country's policy abroad should be given some much needed focus and dignified attention. As Brazil goes to vote on October 3, it will not only seek a new leader but also a new face and voice to present to the world, a person who will inevitably and decisively shape the country's agenda for years to come.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 16:45
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The illusion of change in Venezuela

By Pedro Seabra

 

On September 26 Venezuelans will cast their votes in parliamentary elections for all 165 seats in the National Assembly. Given the current weakened economic situation and the growing outcry against Hugo Chávez’s latest political and economic choices, the local opposition is actively mobilizing and campaigning, seeking to present a credible and viable alternative to the Bolivarian Socialism apparatus.

Indeed, unlike in 2005 – when the opposition boycotted the electoral process – the mood appears ripe for change, especially if we take into account the political weight of the underprivileged masses, disenchanted with 11 years of Chávez’s rule, after being continuously confronted with high inflation rates and threatening crime rates. Even recent polls seem to reflect a consistent decline in the regime’s popularity.

But such enthusiasm and optimism must be balanced with a serious dose of realism. As Francisco Toro points out, Venezuelan biased-National Electoral Council is already pushing for bureaucratic obstacles that could deeply influence any electoral result, a clear advantage for Chávez’s allies. Even more, this apparent over-confidence in significant political developments appears to grossly ignore the still-powerful appeal of Chávez’s charisma and promises to his own base supporters, who have – unexpectedly, for many critics and observers – propelled and sustained his rule against all odds for more than a decade.

If anything, these elections will symbolize renewed confidence in the opposition’s capacity to present a unified front to the established forces, choosing to challenge Chávez in the ballots rather than by political omission. But ultimately, any concrete change in Venezuela is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 11:21
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Quinta-feira, 2 de Setembro de 2010

IPRIS Lusophone Countries Bulletin 10

AUGUST 2010 -- Table of Contents:
Paulo Gorjão, "Portugal and South Africa: Matching words with deeeds"
Diogo Noivo, "AQIM and West Africa: Can Guinea-Bissau become a narco-terrorist platform?"
Gerhard Seibert, "20 years on São Tomé and Príncipe has voted again for 'change'"
Timeline of Events

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publicado por IPRIS às 23:09
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First stop: Brazil

By Pedro Seabra

 

The first trip abroad for any newly-elected president usually holds an added symbolism and brings with it an important political message that will probably mark a country's foreign agenda for the duration of an entire term. With such a distinction, one intends to make a statement that will surely produce ramifications at any diplomatic level, with particular resonance in the surrounding region.

What, then, can be said about Colombian President Juan Manuel dos Santos' first official trip to Brazil? First and foremost, it shouldn't exactly come as a surprise. True, the past years have shown a preference by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva for Colombia's old foe, Hugo Chávez. But in reality, the former has always refrained from publicly supporting the Venezuelan President in the endless row of public spats with former President Álvaro Uribe, in the name of local stability. This attitude inevitably led to a middle-ground positioning which gave Brazil enough political clout to end up being courted by both parties. Therefore, Santos's choice has to be primarily understood as an official recognition of such a coveted status.

Secondly, security needs and trade relations easily trump any ideological differences or opposing regional views. Indeed, the porous borders of the Amazon jungle – ideal for FARC's operations – are a problem shared by both countries, and the 90% increase in trade between Brazil and Colombia in the first quarters of 2010 alone is enough to foresee an extremely favourable business environment. In that order, the benefits of close cooperation between the two countries are increasingly visible and bilateral relations are likely to continue to be deepened.

However, at the end of the day, the magnitude of this visit surpasses Colombia, for in that part of the world no one can ignore the facts: bluntly put, Brasília is now considered a full member of the restricted elite of unavoidable and mandatory political stops.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 15:21
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Compromise by the UN will open a dangerous precedent

By Vasco Martins

 

A UN draft report leaked to the French newspaper Le Monde is creating a firestorm in Kigali, which now threatens to stop supporting UN peace-keeping missions and has already devised a contingency plan for withdrawal from Sudan, in case the UN publishes this polemic report. The UN draft report accuses the Tutsi-led Rwandan army of having targeted and murdered tens of thousands of ethnic Hutus in neighbouring DR Congo between 1996 and 1997, a crime which may amount to genocide. The timeline in question is limited to the First Congo War, which was largely a consequence of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and of the displacement of approximately 2 million Hutus, including Interhamwe, towards the DRC in fear of Tutsi retaliation.

The Rwandan leadership is dismissing this report as being an “amateurish NGO job”, according to President Paul Kagame. Nevertheless, if indeed the Tutsi-led Rwandan army was involved in the killing of ethnic Hutus, the entire credibility of the post-1994 Tutsi plight will be shattered and unappealing from the international point of view. Such a situation would certainly limit the international credibility of recently re-elected President Paul Kagame and possibly even merit that a case be brought before the International Criminal Court, besides constraining the freedom of action and living space of Rwanda.

Rwanda is one of the biggest contributors of peacekeeping forces and a central actor in the region. However, the UN would suffer the biggest loss if it crumbles under pressure from Rwanda. Le Monde quoted an unnamed UN source claiming that Ban  Ki-moon had warned UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay against using the word ‘genocide’ in referring to Rwandan forces, thus sending the message that support for internationally unwanted peace-keeping missions in Africa’s ‘hot spots’ may serve as a trade-off to avoid accusations of genocide.

If the UN folds under pressure from Kigali and does not publish this report, a precedent will be opened where international condemnation can be avoided if one provides essential support in terms of peace-keeping to regions lacking such initiatives. This of course, is a minefield for the UN. Support for United Nations peacekeeping missions should neither excuse nor disregard evidence or accusations of genocide, no matter how great the losses in terms of support for its missions.

The African continent and the Great Lakes region specifically will most likely be involved in more violent conflict in the future. While it is true that the UN and the African Union lack the tools and human resources to avoid or even control such conflicts, backing down from genocide accusations in favour of continuing support from Rwanda is a compromise Ban Ki-moon should never be willing to make.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 00:02
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Quarta-feira, 1 de Setembro de 2010

Riots in Mozambique: Déjà vu?

By Paulo Gorjão

 

Food prices in poor countries are always a sensitive matter, and Mozambique is no exception. Last week the government increased prices on bread by 30%. As a result, this price increase triggered a wave of riots. Demonstrations took place mainly in the poor neighborhoods of Maputo, but one cannot rule out the possibility that demonstrations may occur in other cities by contagion effect.

Aires Ali, Prime Minister since last January, should have known better: he was minister of Education in 2008, when a similar wave of protests erupted, triggered by high fuel prices and living costs. If the past is anything to go by, then the government will have to make some concessions to appease those most affected by the increased prices, as it did back in 2008 regarding fuel prices.

Food prices are the last drop. If we delve a little deeper, we will see that the events of 2010 – like those of 2008 – are also relevant because they show widespread social discontent. Equally important, the demonstrations reveal a dysfunctional  democratic regime. Instead of expressing their discontent in the polls and in the elections – President Armando Guebuza was reelected last October and Frelimo won the legislative elections once again – the population resorts to outbursts of social turmoil. In other words, opposition parties – and Renamo in particular – do not seem to be able to channel social discontent to the proper political institutions. Therefore, these riots tell us something important and worrisome about the health of the democratic regime.

Of course, democracy in Mozambique is not in danger. No one expects a military coup these days. Yet the events of 2008 and 2010 show how fragile stability still is in Mozambique.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 19:56
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Gaddafi: Old wine in new bottles?

By Diogo Noivo

 

Muammar Gaddafi’s first official visit to Italy took place in June 2009. It happened at a time when the relationship between both countries was in the process of improving significantly: in fact, Italy had become Libya’s main trading partner. Given this particularly positive context, one would expect that Colonel Gaddafi would take the opportunity to narrow differences and mitigate tensions in order to mend bilateral ties and further develop this new, lucrative status quo. However, Colonel Gaddafi has a very particular political rationale: He decided to land in Rome wearing a photo of a Libyan who was executed by Italian colonial authorities. In November of that same year, in another display of his idiosyncrasies, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi invited hundreds of attractive Italian "hostesses" to a villa in Rome for an evening during which he urged them to convert to Islam and told them Christianity was based on a fraud.

Colonel Gaddafi’s official visits and public statements are controversial by definition. Therefore, despite the discomfort caused by Gaddafi’s statements and actions during his last visit to Italy, no one was really surprised. As in 2009, this visit also takes place at an important diplomatic moment for Libya, although for different reasons. Libya is currently under pressure due to the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the sole person convicted for the Lockerbie terrorist bomb attack. The veracity of al-Megrahi’s cancer and an alleged deal with BP are some of the many contentious topics surrounding the issue.

Despite every effort to reintegrate Libya into the international community (and the political price the West has paid and still pays for it), Gaddafi did not change his political attitude. Apparently, he is interested in benefiting from international overture without making the slightest political concession.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 19:34
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