Posts Tagged ‘World Affairs Council’

Monday evening at the World Affairs CouncilNeil MacFarquhar, UN Bureau Chief to The New York Times, offered his unique perspective on life in the Middle East. With a collection of anecdotes collected over 25 years of both personal and professional experience in the region, MacFarquhar brought the diversity and character of the people to light. These experiences range from a night in an Iranian prison where he shared a cell with men who had skied on the women-only ski slopes to receiving electronic birthday greetings from Hizbollah, the inspiration behind the title of his latest book, The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday.

For more of Neil MacFarquhar’s stories and insights into the Middle East, visit our online archives for full audio and video recordings of Monday’s event. Check out a short clip below.

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His Excellency Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Ambassador to the United States, joined the Council last week to discuss US-Egyptian relations and current issues in the Middle East. In his speech, and lengthy question and answer portion of the event, he covered issues from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s nuclear program to trade, economic aid, and political reform within Egypt. For more on US-Egyptian relations and current issues in the Middle East, as well as insights into Egypt’s internal affairs, check out our the full audio and video recording from this event. Preview the full video recording below:


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David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for The New York Times, drew a large and attentive audience to our auditorium last night for his lecture, “The World Obama Confronts.” Although accounts of the Iraq War often focus on its direct costs, Sanger, in his lecture and recently published first book, The Inheritance, explores the depth of the potentially greater opportunity costs. He argues that many challenges Obama currently faces stem from imminent threats in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran that had been ignored by the previous administration while fighting the War in Iraq. The award-winning veteran reporter provides extensive knowledge of the “costs of distraction” inherited from the previous administration that Obama is now only beginning to confront, as well insight into current issues including the Iranian elections, North Korea’s nuclear test, and challenges in the newspaper and publishing industries.

To learn more about the challenges Obama faces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran, listen to the full program here.

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How many ports across how many countries does a piece of “fresh” salmon pass through before it lands on our dinner table? What is the cost of steel imports, not in terms of Chinese labor but in terms of the energy costs required for transport from China?

Jeff Rubin, former chief economist at CIBC, joined us to discuss the impact of oil scarcity on globalization and to promote his new book, “Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller.” Rubin predicts that oil prices will return to triple-digit ranges within twelve months of economic recovery and will consequently alter our current oil-intensive world economic structure.  With high oil prices, the amount of food and other commodity goods we get from abroad will be curtailed and long distance travel will be rare. Globalization is energy intensive and cannot continue along current trends. Such change, Rubin insists, is not apocalyptic, but rather should serve as our wake-up call to create local and sustainable lifestyles.

Listen to the complete audio recording here.

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President Obama’s speech in Cairo today clearly outlines a shift in US foreign policy toward the Middle East – a shift about which many are hopeful, and others wary.  Last week, Stephen Stedman, Senior Fellow of the Center for International Security & Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University, joined us to discuss the opportunity that President Obama has to rethink US foreign policy, and the implications it could have for cooperation in safeguarding our common resources and tackling shared threats.  Listen to the full audio program here.

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Helene Cooper of The New York Times just reported that former Ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan and the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, may assume a position near the top of  Afghan President Hamid Karzai‘s government. The news of this proposal comes on the heels of Ambassador Khalilzad’s appearance at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco last week. To access full audio and video recordings of the program, visit our online archive.

Read the full article on the implications of this appointment at Ex-US Envoy May Take Key Role in Afghan Government.

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With a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, former ambassador under President George W. Bush to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan, joined the Council this past week for an in-depth discussion on the Middle East. At the outset, he humbly noted that during his time in public office, he “had the privilege of having to work in times of great change and challenge.” On Afghanistan, he discussed the challenges of setting up a government following the overthrow of the Taliban in a country that for the past 30 years had very few functioning institutions and very little existing infrastructure. On Iraq, he highlighted some of the early mistakes that took place following the invasion, including the dissolving of the Iraqi army, deep de-Baathification, and the way the new Iraqi security forces incorporated armed and violent militias. As a Muslim of Afghan descent, Ambassador Khalilzad emphasized that to succeed in the Middle East, one has to have a feel for the region, a feel for the culture, a feel for the customs. He noted that following 9/11 when there was a great demand for Arabic speakers and Middle East experts, too many people in the government had a background in Soviet and Russian affairs. More specifically, “during the post-9/11 world of policy, a lot of people around the president advising him were very smart people, most of them were my friends and are still my friends, but they were not trained [and] did not have significant experience in dealing with the broader Middle East, with the challenges of the Islamic world.”

Watch a highlight clip of the event:

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Gareth Evans, a former Australian Foreign Minister and President of International Crisis Group, joined us yesterday for a noontime program to explore why the world has stood by so many times while governments failed to protect their own people from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity.

As the co-chair of the international commission that initiated the Responsibility to Protect idea in 2001, Evans spoke yesterday with our CEO & President, Jane Wales on the implications for R2P in the Obama Administration.  Listen to the full program here.  You can hear Evans speak more on the development of the R2P norm and its prospects for implementation in this video from last year’s GPF conference.

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The Philanthropy News Digest spoke with Jane Wales, the co-founder of the Global Philanthropy Forum and president and CEO of the World Affairs Council about the world’s poor, the global economic crisis, its effect on philanthropy, and the Obama administration’s interest in social innovation.

Read the full interview: Jane Wales, President and Co-Founder, Global Philanthropy Forum: Philanthropy and Social Innovation.

The last four Newsmakers recognized by the Philanthropy News Digest will be speaking at the Global Philanthropy Forum’s 2009 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., April 22-24. See all the articles here.

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According to Peter Singer, a professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, the ordinary American has an obligation to the world’s poor. He suggests that for the first time in history we, as individuals, are in a position to end extreme poverty.  He spoke here at the Council last week on this, and, as Tactical Philanthropy points out today, on Colbert Nation last night!

In his new book, The Life You Can Save, Singer argues that our current minimal response to poverty is ethically indefensible.  Quoting a NY Times article from Tuesday, Singer lays out his argument as such:

“First premise: Suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care are bad.

Second premise: If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so.

Third premise: By donating to aid agencies, you can prevent suffering and death from lack of food, shelter and medical care, without sacrificing anything nearly as important.

Conclusion: Therefore, if you do not donate to aid agencies, you are doing something wrong.”

To reject this argument, Mr. Singer writes, “you need to find a flaw in the reasoning.”  He goes on to offer practical ways to tackle global poverty through philanthropy, local activism and political awareness.  To listen to his talk at the Council last week, click here.

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Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary 0f the 1959 Tibetan demonstrations against China’s presence in Tibet – protests that sent the 14th Dalai Lama and thousands of others into exile in India.  In remarks made yesterday, the Dalai Lama harshly denounced the Chinese Communist Party  – saying that “through a series of repressive and violent campaigns” they have “thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth,” as quoted by a NY Times article today.

Here at the Council last night, we heard from Tenzin N. Tethong,  a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University and former Chairman of the Tibetan Cabinet in Dharamsala. Update: He highlighted the geopolitical implications of China’s invasion of Tibet, and cited these as further reason why Tibet should be granted greater autonomy – not only for the sake of the Tibetan people and the preservation of Tibetan culture but to enhance Tibet’s ability to act as a buffer between China and India once again.  Although talks between the Tibetan and Chinese governments remain at a standstill, Tenzin imparted a real sense of hope among Tibetans for the future.  Their “human spirit is very strong,” he said, and they will not give up.

The program will be available soon in our audio/video archive, and you can read more about Tibet’s recent past in a Human Rights Watch report released yesterday.

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This weekend, in honor of International Women’s Day, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia hosted the International Colloquium for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security in Monrovia.  The Colloquium, conceptualized in 2006 during Sirleaf’s inauguration (as the first female president in Africa), brought together more than 400 international participants and 400 Liberian national participants, across all sectors.  The Conference aimed to create an environment for women and their champions around the world to discuss, learn, demonstrate and act on the benefits and lessons learned from women in leadership.

Ambassador Swanee Hunt gives a lively first-hand account  of the event here, and Ruth Levinson, another attendee, provides her own narrative here on AllAfricaStar Radio and other Liberian news media covered the event with day to day updates.

The below video was prepared by the conference staff.  To learn more about Liberia, you can join us here at the Council this Thursday March 12th for a screening of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, a powerful documentary that tells the inspiring story of ordinary Liberian women organizing to bring peace to their war-torn country. Paul van Zyl, Co-founder of the ICTJ, will discuss transitional justice in action, focusing on the lessons learned in Liberia, and their relevance for other societies struggling to break cycles of conflict and violence.

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