Category Archives: Globe in Brief, Winter 2017

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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