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President of Colombia Urges an End to the War on Drugs

Juan Manuel Santos used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to call for a new approach to the war on drugs. He claims that the current zero-tolerance approach is “even more harmful” than all of the other wars being fought around the world. He said it is “time to change our strategy”, as Colombia had “paid the highest cost in deaths and sacrifices” in the war on drugs.

Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating a peace deal with the Farc rebel group last year. The conflict between the Colombian state and the Farc rebels has killed over 260,000 people and has left over a million internally displaced. The war on drugs played a large part in this conflict.

Aside from the lives lost, the war on drugs is also immoral and ineffective, according to Santos:

“We have moral authority to state that, after decades of fighting against drug trafficking, the world has still been unable to control this scourge that fuels violence and corruption throughout our global community. It makes no sense to imprison a peasant who grows marijuana, when nowadays, for example, its cultivation and use are legal in eight states of the United States.”

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Russian Ambassador Assassinated in Turkey

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated by a Turkish special forces police officer at an art gallery in Ankara. The attack caused shockwaves around the world because of what it might mean for Russian and Turkish relations, which had only just begun to warm after the Turkish military shot down a Russian jet in 2015. Charter flights only resumed between the two countries in August. Fears were somewhat allayed shortly after the attack when Turkish President Recep Erdoğan called Russian President Vladimir Putin, and both condemned the attack in their respective speeches.

Despite the assassination, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, along with Iran’s, flew to Moscow the following day to discuss a new agreement over Syria’s troubled future. They vowed to step up their fight against terror.

The shooter, Mevlut Altintas, was a 22 year-old who had worked for Ankara’s riot police for two and a half years. After shooting the ambassador, he shouted, “Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Everyone who has taken part in this oppression will one by one pay for it!” Twenty minutes later he was killed in a gunfight with police. Altintas has so far not been linked to any terror organizations. Erdoğan, however, has claimed that he had links to last summer’s attempted coup in Turkey, allegedly backed by Fethullah Gulen, according to the Turkish government.

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Humanitarian Crises in Aleppo and Mosul

The autumn and winter have seen heavy fighting in both Aleppo, Syria and Mosul, Iraq. Throughout December, the Syrian Army pushed to retake Aleppo from rebel forces, finally succeeding just before Christmas. Meanwhile in Iraq, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have pushed into Mosul in an attempt to retake it from ISIS. In both cases, the heavy fighting in populated cities has led to massive civilian casualties. Aleppo is the largest city in Syria, while Mosul is the 3rd largest in Iraq.

In Mosul, “the casualty figures are staggering, with civilians accounting for a significant number of the victims,” according to the top U.N. envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis. The same is true in Aleppo. On top of the scale of mortality, there is the extent of the displacement. Just a week into the Battle of Aleppo, 50,000 people had fled the eastern parts of the city. The Battle of Mosul is expected to displace up to a million people, according to U.N. estimates. This comes at a time when there are already more displaced people worldwide than at any time since World War Two.

The Syrian forces retaking Aleppo are backed by Iran and Russia, while the Iraqi and Kurdish forces retaking Mosul are backed by the U.S., U.K., and France.

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Heckler & Koch to End New Deals with non-NATO Countries

The German small arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch announced that they will no longer sign contracts to supply arms to countries outside of NATO and NATO members’ partners. In addition, they will only sell weapons to countries that are democratic and free of corruption.

This change of strategy means that they will no longer deal with countries such as Saudi Arabia, which is known for its human rights abuses, as well as other countries like Brazil and India.

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has sought to curb the sale of tanks and small arms since he took office in 2013. He has argued that assault rifles, such as those manufactured by Heckler & Koch, are among the favored weapons in conflicts around the world.

This move comes at a time when companies and countries that export weapons to human rights abusers are coming under renewed calls to end the exports. Countries such as Canada and the U.K. are leading arms exporters to Saudi Arabia, where their weapons have allegedly been used to bomb civilians and hospitals in Yemen.

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Refugees in Germany are Often Overqualified

Some 71 percent of refugees in Germany are overqualified for their current work, according to a paper released on this year by the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These figures were based on comparing job requirements for refugees’ current occupations to their actual qualifications.

Refugees are even more overqualified than other groups of immigrants to Germany. They compare to 38 percent of non-E.U. born employees who work in jobs that are below their level of qualifications, and to 30 percent E.U.-born immigrants.

This comes at a time when there is a concern that refugees may be a burden for countries hosting them. The research shows that the opposite is the case. “The refugee crisis is an opportunity to significantly improve the system for [immigration] integration,” according to OECD job market expert Thomas Liebig.

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Russia Loses Seat on U.N. Human Rights Council

Russia lost its bid to be re-elected as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The campaign against Russia’s seat on the council had been championed by various human rights groups who cited Russia’s bombing of Syria as a human rights violation.

It is uncommon for one of the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations to lose any major U.N. election. However, the same thing happened to the United States when in 2001 they failed to win a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which has since been replaced by the Human Rights Council.

After Croatia and Hungary beat Russia in their regional contest, the Human Rights Watch’s U.N. director, Louis Charbonneau, said that the vote “also shows how important it is to have competitive slates in U.N. elections. Countries should have a chance to reject those whose candidacies are severely compromised.”

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Editor’s Comment: Our Vow for the New Year, 2017

Our world is at a crossroad. The backdrop of 2016 is the dark cloud of wars and tragedies, populist backlash and disarray, selfishness and lies. Against this, the prospect of a sunny horizon of prosperity and development may seem distant, but it is the horizon toward which we focus our efforts.

From Brexit to the U.S. presidential election, many changes occurred in American and European politics, and many half-truths and lies were nurtured in the public’s mind throughout their course. But truth must always be sought out, no matter how harsh it is or how powerful the person who suppresses the facts.

During the U.S. election, traditional media fell into a crisis of trustworthiness. The major outlets failed to accept the reality of voters’ sentiments and were convinced Donald Trump could not win. In response, the public undermined mainstream media buffs by turning to social media platforms. According to a Gallup poll, 68 per American public have lost faith in mainstream newspapers, magazines, and TV news channels. The rise of internet publishing and free content has usurped these outlets’ roles, but this has only misled the public further. Political echo chambers tell the public only what they want to hear, while fake and conflicting news often causes confusion and misunderstanding.

The fallout from fake news is potentially very dangerous, as suggested by the recent nuclear threats between Pakistan and Israel. A fake news report on December 20 said that the Israel Defense Minister issued a threat to Pakistan: “If Pakistan sends ground troops to Syria on any pretext, we will destroy the country with nuclear attack.” Before he realized the report was fictitious, the Pakistani Defense Minister responded on Twitter, saying, “Israel forgets Pakistan is a nuclear state too.”

If the minister of a country does not check the facts on such a serious matter, how we can expect common readers to accomplish the same? News spread on social media will eventually lose its power to increased skepticism, but in order to present an alternative when that day comes, traditional media must straighten its biases and shed political and financial influences to regain the public’s trust as a bulwark of credible, factual information.

At The Global Intelligence, our commitment is to honesty and factual analysis. Supported not by clicks, advertising, government, or big business, our independent analysis answers only to you, our subscribers. We seek to cover world affairs from every angle, critical of every government when it falters and every political ideology when it oversteps realities. In this, our sixth year of publication, we renew our pledge to be a pioneer of truth and humanity and a magazine that aligns with its readers’ interests only.

TGI wishes you all the best in the New Year of 2017.

— Probir Kumar Sarkar
Executive Editor

A University in Every Refugee Camp

The Syrian Civil War provides an opportunity to re-think the role of higher education in supporting reconstruction and the ongoing refugee crisis.

By Juda Jelinek.

It seems obvious that in various post-war environments—such as East Timor, Nicaragua, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Iraq—the quality of higher education has deteriorated. In the context of state collapse or instability, usually unaccredited and often low-quality institutions outside of official regulatory control expand to fill or even exploit the gap. In post-conflict rebuilding, higher education is traditionally but wrongly treated as a secondary priority. The reality is that while education provides limited short-term gains, it is an important factor in long-term growth.

When measuring the human cost of conflict, lives lost are surely the most important factor. But in the aftermath, when the process of rebuilding takes priority, the long-term effects of a diminished capacity to provide higher education cannot be understated. A lost generation, coming of age without access to opportunity, will cost a nation for decades to come. If an end to the Syrian Civil War may be near, it is important to investigate the role of higher education in reconstruction efforts. However, even if the region remains unstable, higher education should be considered among the strategies necessary to alleviate the ongoing refugee crises.

One of the dilemmas is that in many post-conflict scenarios, physical and civil reconstruction relies on expensive foreign technical assistance rather than on developing training institutions for local individuals. In the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq, many ministries employed foreign experts rather than hiring locally, creating unsustainable institutions and furthering a state of dependency. The solutions may be to start investing in the education of refugees immediately during a conflict, when much of the world feels otherwise unable to help.

In the case of Syria, the importance of supporting higher education is emphasized by the fact that before the war began, more than 25 percent of 18-24 year old Syrians were enrolled in higher education. It is estimated that 150,000 Syrians were engaged in tertiary education or were intending to begin shortly when the conflict erupted. Their education has now been interrupted for nearly six years. Higher education professionals have also suffered the consequences of the institutional breakdown, and it is estimated that …

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