Hundreds of Somalis complete military training: Heading home to boost the forces fighting Al Shabaab.

Great article on what will hopefully be just the first trained Somali troops going back to fight Al Shabab.

Hundreds of Somalis complete military training: Heading home to boost the forces fighting Al Shabaab..

Chicago a Global Powerhouse

Chicago is second only to New York among American cities according to measures of ‘Global Clout‘. This according to a recent index based on cities’ results to five surveys related to global city power. This places it ahead of more populous Los Angeles! It is also ahead of Washington, DC, perhaps the world’s greatest hub for international policy creation. This is a bit surprising – but why criticize the result when it’s so good 🙂 .

Chicago also recently ranked 6th in the world according to a study in the Atlantic Magazine. Paris (5) better watch out – with a new socialist president – they may find themselves behind Chicago next year!

International Challenges, Local Solutions: Cook County Combats Human Trafficking

Hundreds of girls are kidnapped. Often they endure intense pain and humiliation as they are branded like animals. The abuse only gets worse. They are soon sent out into the street to become child prostitutes. On the rare occasion that local authorities do find out about this modern-day slavery, it is almost always the child prostitute who gets arrested. The pimps and Johns rarely face any consequences.

If these horrors sound like something that could only happen in some far away land, sadly you are very wrong.

I recently attended a conference entitled, “The Dark Side of Global Trade: Human Trafficking from the World to Chicago.” The event part of Georgetown’s John Carroll weekend brought together alumni from my masters’ in Foreign Service (MSFS) program (as well as other interested alums) to discuss what Cook County is doing to address human-trafficking in Chicago.

It began with an introduction on the global trade by former Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking, Dr. Mark Lagon. He explained that human trafficking takes many forms globally:  prostitution disadvantaged castes and bonded laborers in India, domestic servitude, and even child soldiers in the Congo. The general definition is that these are people are who are treated as subhuman and exploited.

Worldwide there are an estimated 27 million victims! While 2/3 of these trafficked individuals are in South and Southeast Asia, this is truly a global problem. In response most countries have signed the Palermo Protocol which committed these states to the elimination of all forms of trafficking.

However, “the problem is implementation,” Dr. Lagon explained. Local politics and national priorities don’t always match up. Even when they do, implementation requires a thousand local officials to adjust laws and even attitudes.  Enter, Anita Alvarez, then newly elected Cook County State’s Attorney.

Ms. Alvarez immediately encountered a major problem. As other illegal activities such as drug trafficking began to become more challenging due to law enforcement, Chicago gangs were increasingly turning human trafficking. Amazingly, this was far less risky. In general, the gangs would kidnap young women and traffic them to Chicago for prostitution. Hundreds of girls were forced to the Windy City from across the Midwest (human trafficking is often not international). Yet, the police were of no help to the children since statutes at the time called for the prostitute’s arrest. “Children would be charged with child prostitution and end up back in the arms of the pimp,” Alvarez explained.

Prostitution Often Begins Before Adulthood

So here first effort was to change these unjust laws. The office successfully lobbied the Illinois legislator to rewrite the Illinois Safe Children’s Act. The act revisions pushed Cook County into the right direction:

Firstly, no longer would juvenile prostitution be a crime. Ms. Alvarez has since set up a special court to address the social services of prostitutes.

Secondly, it gave law enforcement the ability to wiretap suspected pimps.

Finally, it raised fines for John and allowed them at times to impound their vehicles.

But this was only a start to anti-trafficking efforts. Using a federal grant, a Human Trafficking Taskforce was made that combined the efforts of multiple agencies. It includes both local and federal ones.

Using the revised law and combined resources, Cook County conducted an operation which has so far led to the arrest of 59 traffickers.

Nevertheless, when one audience member asked about labor trafficking, Ms. Alvarez admitted, “still a lot of work needs to be done.” There have been no non-prostitution labor trafficking arrests. Chatting with others after the lecture, it started to become clear. Though I know of no surveys on the subject, most audience member believed that general labor trafficking was of non-regular migrants (or as more commonly known, illegal immigrants). Therein lies one of the biggest challenges of any international policy implementation – changing attitudes. Ending one form of human trafficking, child prostitution faced a receptive public. For very good reason, civil society, law enforcement and politicians are all committed to ending this prostitution. And as a result, Chicago has become a leader in these laudable efforts.

Sadly helping other labor trafficking victims that might be here illegally stirs up controversy.  Until attitudes change, and this type of trafficking faces more pressure, full compliance with the Palermo Protocol is a long ways off.

To learn more about ending prostitution in Illinois please visit End Demand at http://www.enddemandillinois.org/

Albright: “Summits Very Important” and The Search of the “Right International Institution”

Courtesy of Harec on Wikipedia

A great excerpt from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (and one of my favorite professors at Georgetown) speaking in Chicago about the NATO Conference! Generally, her comments align with my recent NATO Primer. Dr. Albright reiterates the importance of the Summit as a “glue” to keep countries looking towards a “common purpose” in what is a very busy election year (US, France, UK possibly).

She does make a great point regarding how negotiations are conducted at summits. The main sessions will include all NATO members as well as “Friends of NATO.” So we are talking about up to fifty heads of state in one room! Thus, she notes that many negotiations will be taking place in ad-hoc bilateral meetings. Finally, she admits that there is little faith in NATO and other international institutions – everyone is looking for the “right international institution.”  Hopefully, this summit will be a step towards a more purposeful NATO!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msqRNp7yXh4 (Don’t worry its only 5 minutes!)

What’s The Whole NATO Summit About?: A Primer

After the recent decision to move the upcoming G8 conference from Chicago to Camp David in Maryland, there has been a great emphasis on the NATO Summit. But if your watching the news, the discussion is more likely directed outside of the Summit – protests. Even a lecture organized at Harper College to discuss the G8 and NATO Summits, fell into this same trap. Lots of talk about the protests and not a single minute devoted to what NATO will be discussing. So I have organized this blog post into two parts: an introduction to NATO and analysis of the three topics to be covered at the summit.

Introduction to NATO

Map of NATO’s 28 member countries. Courtesy of Wikipedia’s author Addicted04

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is a political and military alliance of 28 countries in North America and Europe. It was founded in 1949 to enhance mutual security. Soon after the end of World War II, the Soviet Union began to place much of Eastern Europe into what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to as “an iron curtain.” To better protect Western Europe, NATO ensured a collective defense between all the members. The most profound element of the pact, the Washington Treaty, is Article 5, which states:

…an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all..

Then, NATO as a group would retaliate against the perpetrating country. The implication during the Cold War was clear. If the Russians invaded any Western European country, they would face a united front of all of free Europe and, most important given its military and nuclear might, the United States. Perhaps a sign of how effective this alliance was, Article 5 was never invoked during the Cold War. The Soviet Union eventually fell without a single bullet.

Post-Cold War, NATO kept its military alliance but added a stronger political or ideological component. They now felt it was partly their goal to promote democracy. Take the recent NATO bombings of Libya. Libyan leader Muammar Gauddafi had recently ended his nuclear weapons program and was generally appearing more Western leaning. In pure military terms, he was less of a threat to NATO.  Yet, when rebel groups who purportedly in the name of democracy and human rights began to gain some effective control of Eastern Libya, NATO intervened with seven months of air strikes to help seal the deal.

To learn more about NATO, I highly recommend their interactive site: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/what_is_nato.htm

NATO Summit: Finishing Up Old Challenges, Only to Face New Ones

As for this May’s Summit in Chicago, NATO representatives from the member countries will gather to discuss two main topics: transitioning out of the war in Afghanistan and adapting the organization to new challenges.

Preventing Another ‘Fall of Saigon’

This war began over ten years ago when Taliban-led Afghanistan granted safe-haven to Al Qaeda terrorist leaders including September 11th mastermind Osama Bin Laden.  In response, NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history. While the United States has the largest contingent in Afghanistan, other NATO countries have also sent troops. Current troop contributions can be found here: http://www.isaf.nato.int/troop-numbers-and-contributions/index.php .They in turn are all part of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, under the command of American General John R. Allen. Slowly, the forces have been working to train the Afghan military and police. Once trained, it should be possible to transition power from ISAF to local forces. That is what the Obama Administration and other nations hope to accomplish by 2014 – when American troops are scheduled to leave the region. If this transition does not go well, then the civilian government may be to weak. The Taliban may well then regain physical control of the country.

But there is a second half of the transition: long-term aid and on-the-ground presence. Currently, aid is absolutely crucial to the viability of the Afghan state. The World Bank notes that 47 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product comes from foreign aid distributions, which is incredibly high by interenational standards! For just the Afghan military, it is estimated that it will require $1.8 billion every year! But it goes straight to the macro-level. Your entire economy will have to adjust to an entirely different composition – this will take time. Just ask Gary, Indiana. It has suffered from decades of declining steel-production with only minimal reorientation of the economy!

This is why Karl-Heinz Kamp of the NATO Defense College suggested that the Summit would be a great opportunity to “debunk this myth” that Afghanistan will need no further attention after 2014. He notes that even if local forces are transitioned properly, it will be of little use when both legal structures and the judiciary are far from ready. Interestingly, the most talk about military involvement after 2014 has come from Canada.

No doubt the Summit will also be used to by world leaders to pat each other on the back for NATO’s successes so far. It is an election year both here and in many other member countries.

Planning for Just About Everything Else

Since NATO’s last major summit, there has been a huge amount of timult and change. Arab Spring has advanced democracy over much of the Middle East. For NATO, this brings up the question of how and when to support democratic efforts with force as they did in Libya (see above).

During the same time, Russia has become more autocratic and volatile. This just as NATO is expected to complete their Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR). In the shadow of this behemoth are our European allies – many will want a preliminary missile shield or other forms of deterence to be adopted at the Summit.

Finally, there will be the bigger question of the role of NATO in the US-Europe relationship. The Obama administration has decided to remove two brigades stationed in Europe. Some over-eager critics will argue that this marks the end of the special US-NATO relationship, but really it has a lot more to do with a common challenge on both sides of the Atlantic – budget deficit reductions. The American move is part of a larger plan to reduce nearly half a trillion from the Department of Defense budgets over the next decade. Faced with the European Debt Crisis, most European countries are doing the same. There will be the question of how NATO can continue to ensure security with less money. The difficult but correct answer will be that they will need to cooperate more. This can obviously be challenging given each military’s bureaucratic nature, and the risk of intelligence breaches.

If this post has whetted your apetite, there are some great events happening in the Chicago that you might want to check out:

Get to Know NATO – May 2nd

Madeleine Albright: What’s Prague’s Past Means for NATO’s Future – May 2nd

The Apex of Influence: How Summit Meetings Build Multilateral Cooperation – May 10th & 11th

So, what do you all think about the Summit? Will all these leaders bring answers to all these questions? Or will it just be a bunch of photo-ops? Alternatively, will the protests outside overshadow the hardwork inside?!

An Interconnected World

Globalization

…There I said it.

Just a few years back, the word was used to denote the thousand and one elements of the deepening connectivity ocurring across almost every political boundary.

Generally globalization refers to episodes of integration in the commodity (e.g. Cokes), capital (e.g. Cash), and labor markets (http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/booksp_e/anrep_e/wtr08-2b_e.pdf). Expansion of all three markets occurred in the late 19th century world and continued until the European powers destroyed each other in World War I. It may well have also occurred in the early days of colonization, as well. In any case, the phenomenon is not new.

Today, using the term “Globalization” has become a big no-no. It is blamed for everything from unemployment to the loss of indigenous cultures. But despite both a turn away from the term and a major recession, international integration is far from over.

But what does this have to do with Chicago? Well just about everything. Our cuisine often originates among the many immigrant groups who settled this reason. Our commerce and industry reaches the far reaches of the world. Our educational institutions have influenced economics and health abroad. AND as you may be aware, we are also about to be host a NATO Summit.

My next entry will analyse the Summit and what it really means for both foreign policy and folks heading around the city.

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