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NATO – road to the 2014 Summit

August 28, 2014 Comments off

NATO – road to the 2014 Summit
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

Last NATO Summit was held in Chicago, in May 2012. The Afghan transition, the missile defence system, and cyber defence policies were at the centre of the discussion then. Two years later, the on-going withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ukraine and Russia, Syria and Iraq, and the re-thinking of the Transatlantic Partnership will be at the centre of the attention.

NATO is still struggling with its own identity in a world where geopolitics keeps feeding social unrest and conflicts. The 1949 definition of NATO to the circumscription of the North Atlantic has been challenged since the end of Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, but the discussion is ever more pertinent in a context where the focus of instability has changed from Europe to the Middle East.

Consensual areas of NATO’s contributions are more technologic and preventive: the cyber-domains, the defence policies, and the conceptualizing of international standards of security. These areas will probably also be in the agenda for the Wales meeting on the 4-5 September 2014.

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UN OHCHR — Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (PDF)
Source: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The findings presented in the present report, based on 480 interviews and evidence collected between 20 January and 15 July 2014, establish that the conduct of the warring parties in the Syrian Arab Republic has caused civilians immeasurable suffering.

Government forces continued to perpetrate massacres and conduct widespread attacks on civilians, systematically committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance amounting to crimes against humanity. Government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and the war crimes of murder, hostage-taking, torture, rape and sexual violence, recruiting and using children in hostilities and targeting civilians. Government forces disregarded the special protection accorded to hospitals and medical and humanitarian personnel. Indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombardment and shelling led to mass civilian casualties and spread terror. Government forces used chlorine gas, an illegal weapon.

Non-State armed groups, named in the report, committed massacres and war crimes, including murder, execution without due process, torture, hostage-taking, violations of international humanitarian law tantamount to enforced disappearance, rape and sexual violence, recruiting and using children in hostilities and attacking protected objects. Medical and religious personnel and journalists were targeted. Armed groups besieged and indiscriminately shelled civilian neighbourhoods, in some instances spreading terror among civilians through the use of car bombings in civilian areas. Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) committed torture, murder, acts tantamount to enforced disappearance, and forcible displacement as part of an attack on the civilian population in Aleppo and Ar Raqqah governorates, amounting to crimes against humanity.

Understanding Changes in Poverty

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Understanding Changes in Poverty
Source: World Bank

Understanding Changes in Poverty brings together different methods to decompose the contributions to poverty reduction. A simple approach quantifies the contribution of changes in demographics, employment, earnings, public transfers, and remittances to poverty reduction. A more complex approach quantifies the contributions to poverty reduction from changes in individual and household characteristics, including changes in the sectoral, occupational, and educational structure of the workforce, as well as changes in the returns to individual and household characteristics. Understanding Changes in Poverty implements these approaches and finds that labor income growth that is, growth in income per worker rather than an increase in the number of employed workers was the largest contributor to moderate poverty reduction in 21 countries experiencing substantial reductions in poverty over the past decade. Changes in demographics, public transfers, and remittances helped, but made relatively smaller contributions to poverty reduction. Further decompositions in three countries find that labor income grew mainly because of higher returns to human capital endowments, signaling increases in productivity, higher relative price of labor, or both. Understanding Changes in Poverty will be of particular relevance to development practitioners interested in better understanding distributional changes over time. The methods and tools presented in this book can also be applied to better understand changes in inequality or any other distributional change.

Consult, Command, Control, Contract: Adding a Fourth “C” to NATO’s Cyber Security

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Consult, Command, Control, Contract: Adding a Fourth “C” to NATO’s Cyber Security
Source: Centre for International Governance Innovation

The lines between civilian and military are increasingly blurred, creating ambiguity under international law when private contractors engage in offensive cyber-security operations on behalf of states. These private security companies (PSCs) are being contracted for cyber security to engage in offensive cyber operations, but states should not contract PSCs for offensive cyber operations. The next instalment of the 2014 Jr. Fellows Policy Briefs recognizes the benefits of cyber-security contracting and maintains that a transparent distinction should be established between PSCs and state militaries, whereby private actors would only be involved in defensive and supportive operations. The authors address the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to implement a contracting protocol that delineates appropriate classifications for the tasks and personnel required for private cyber-security contracts. They conclude that establishing an oversight organization and submitting a proposal to the International Law Commission to consider the roles of private security actors would create greater transparency and accountability for contracting.

Improving Well-Being in the United States

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Improving Well-Being in the United States
Source: OECD

Life is quite good in the United States compared to other OECD countries, thanks to strong economic growth and technological progress having lifted average income to high levels. Nonetheless, there is evidence that the benefits from growth have not been sufficiently broad based. Self-reported happiness increases with income, an issue particularly resonant in a country with among the highest levels of income inequality in the OECD and a pattern of inequality that appears to be moving toward even more concentration at the very top at the expense of the middle class and the poor. Working hours that remain among the longest in the OECD are also creating challenges for work-life balances, child education, personal care and leisure. These pressures are contributing to higher job strain and work-related stress with unhealthy consequences, including for mental health, and a detrimental impact on employability and medical costs. While these trends cannot be easily reversed, a number of policy options are being usefully rolled out and other initiatives are being considered: federal-level policies improving access to health care and early-childhood education, state-level initiatives favouring workplace flexibility, firm-level investments in job quality and greater attention to the health consequences of job-stress. If successfully adopted, they would go a long way toward improving the well-being of American working families.

WHO Statement on the Meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee Regarding the 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

August 12, 2014 Comments off

WHO Statement on the Meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee Regarding the 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
Source: World Health Organization

The current EVD outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013. This outbreak now involves transmission in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. As of 4 August 2014, countries have reported 1 711 cases (1 070 confirmed, 436 probable, 205 suspect), including 932 deaths. This is currently the largest EVD outbreak ever recorded. In response to the outbreak, a number of unaffected countries have made a range of travel related advice or recommendations.

In light of States Parties’ presentations and subsequent Committee discussions, several challenges were noted for the affected countries:

  • their health systems are fragile with significant deficits in human, financial and material resources, resulting in compromised ability to mount an adequate Ebola outbreak control response;
  • inexperience in dealing with Ebola outbreaks; misperceptions of the disease, including how the disease is transmitted, are common and continue to be a major challenge in some communities;
  • high mobility of populations and several instances of cross-border movement of travellers with infection;
    several generations of transmission have occurred in the three capital cities of Conakry (Guinea); Monrovia (Liberia); and Freetown (Sierra Leone); and
  • a high number of infections have been identified among health-care workers, highlighting inadequate infection control practices in many facilities.

See: More on Ebola virus disease

2014 Human Development Report – Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience

August 12, 2014 Comments off

2014 Human Development Report – Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience
Source: United Nations Development Programme

The 2014 Human Development Report – Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience provides a fresh perspective on vulnerability and proposes ways to strengthen resilience.

According to income-based measures of poverty, 1.2 billion people live with $1.25 or less a day. However, according to the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index, almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur. Many people face either structural or life-cycle vulnerabilities.

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