The following reports were written by Bheko Dube, a student in International Studies, Political Science, and Anthropology. The Tower Center funded his conference trip to “The United States Meets Europe: A Forum for Young Leaders (USAME)” in New York and Washington, DC.
Monday, April 19, 2010
The conference began with a mini tutorial and a speech by Klaus Linsenmeier of Heinrich Boll Stiftung followed by a Q&A session. Mr Linsenmeier spoke about the need for transatlantic cooperation in the development of green technologies. Mr Linsenmeier and his European counterparts have advocated for a new strategy, ”The Green New Deal” to combat the myriad of contemporary global problems that have slowly nipped away at our world as we know it. What’s the issue – It is a combination of a credit-fuelled financial crisis, accelerating climate change and the looming peak in oil production. These three overlapping events threaten to develop into a perfect storm, the like of which has not been seen since the Great Depression. To help prevent this from happening and to lay the foundations of future economic systems a new solution has been coined — it is called The Green New Deal. History- The original New Deal was a series of economic programs passed by congress during FDR’s first presidency. These programs were implemented as a response to The Great Depression. The Green New Deal much like the original New Deal, each solution is viewed by some as fit for current issues. What I gathered from the presentations is that green technology can be used to simultaneously fix the environment and the economy. That is a very commendable suggestion by Mr Linsenmeier and his counterparts but it is overly simplistic and idealistic; case in point South Africa received a loan for USD$4B from the World Bank to build a new coal station — coal is hardly green. Assuming that green technology is just as good if not better than coal why wouldn’t the World Bank channel those resources into green technology? If green technology cannot be used on a micro level in a relatively small country like South Africa an argument can be made that green technology is not viable enough to sustain a thousandth of the world???s population and therefore the green revolution is still a pipe dream.
|From Drop Box|
In the picture From the left Bheko Dube (SMU), Klaus Linsenmeier (CEO Heinrich Boll Stiftung), Mamadou Diallo (SMU)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The morning session featured a lecture on Transatlantic relations during the cold war by former ambassador to Hungary Mark Palmer. His main thrust was emphasizing how Russia and the United States became paranoid and fearful of each other based on unfounded assumptions. The ambassador also went on to articulate how the Central and Eastern Europe had changed since the end of the cold war. The question that remains to be answered is whether another cold war could emerge as the US, Russia and China are displaying the same paranoid tendencies that gave rise to the original cold war.
The afternoon session featured an interactive seminar at the Congressional Research Service with speakers Kennon Nakamura and Matthew Weed. They discussed the evolution of US public and foreign policy since the end of the cold war and up to current policies. It was a very informative session as both speakers were able to give insight as to how why the US takes certain foreign policy stances. Of particular interest was the current state of affairs regarding the treatment of rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran. What kind of threat do they pose to the US and their allies?
At the end of the seminar Mr Weed was kind enough to explain how we can work as Interns with various governmental and non governmental public policy institutions.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Several of the events planned for this day were cancelled due to the volcanic ash that delayed transatlantic flights. The Director of ICD was therefore unable to make it to the conference.
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, William Bader spoke about the potential for soft power in US Foreign policy. Mr Bader defined ”[Soft power] as the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced.” Noteworthy examples of the extent and influence of U.S. soft power: American political ideals favorably influenced Europe after WW-II. Radio Free Europe built support behind the Iron Curtain and satellite TV builds support in Iran today for Western political and economic ideals. Chinese students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square used a replica of the Statue of Liberty as a symbol, and newly liberated Afghans asked for a copy of the Bill of Rights.
The afternoon featured a tour of National Public Radio (NPR). We learned about the part radio and media play in spreading acceptance of other cultures. A tour of the studio followed the lecture and we were able to attend a live taping of the show ”All Things Considered”.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
We spent the first part of the morning travelling from DC to New York. After arriving in New York we went to Demos. Demos is a multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development, and advocacy to influence public debates and catalyze change. We publish books, reports, and briefing papers that illuminate critical problems and advance innovative solutions; work at both the national and state level with advocates and policymakers to promote reforms; help to build the capacity and skills of key progressive constituencies; project our values into the media by promoting Demos Fellows and staff in print, broadcast, and Internet venues; and host public events that showcase new ideas and leading progressive voices.
The speakers were David Callahan, Professor Dick Howard and Dr. Benjamin Barber. We had a roundtable discussion on what role Young Leaders can play in solving contemporary Global problems. It was in this discussion that we were invited to submit proposals on how to solve a problem of particular interest to us as individuals. I have chosen to concentrate on the African Agenda–my focus will be monitoring elections in troubled countries and providing micro finance opportunities for entrepreneurs in sub Saharan Africa.
The last part of the day was a tour of the United Nations coupled with a discussion into the role of the transatlantic partnership in promoting fair business policies. Of particular concern was the sweat shop phenomenon prevalent in Asia and third world countries. What the speaker neglected to mention was that it is countries like the US and other western nations that fuel the demand for cheap products and do little to ensure that these commodities are produced ethically.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
On the last day of the conference we had a round table discussion with Former Ambassador Cynthia Schneider. We talked about NPT and the recent Nuclear disarmament declarations by the US and Russia. To cut through the verbiage of treaties and agreements and summits, and move people from fear to action, we need to focus on three concepts. The United States is the its own enemy when it comes to nuclear weapons. We need a new treaty to replace the NPT. And no nukes means no nuclear power.
Between them, the United States and Russia control about 90 percent of the 27,000 nuclear weapons that exist in the world today, and the United States is the only state to have ever dropped nuclear weapons in war. The August 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed or wounded over 350,000 people, and left many more wounded survivors of the devastation. During a speech in Prague on April 5, 2009, Obama acknowledged that in light of what we wrought 65 years ago, ”the United States has a moral responsibility to act.” We can take that one step further and assert that nuclear abolition begins at home, with unilateral nuclear disarmament.
Next, we need a simple and fair treaty. The NPT entered into force in 1970 and set up a bargain between nuclear haves and have-nots. The five acknowledged nuclear powers at the time — the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China — committed to disarmament. They also agreed not to transfer nuclear weapons material or know-how to any other country. The rest of the signing nations committed not to build nuclear weapons or accept delivery of that material or know-how.
Nuclear weapons states have not disarmed, and more than one has transferred nuclear know-how and materials to other nations. The treaty is broken. But there is an opportunity to channel the will toward disarmament into a new treaty framework that is free from the old constructs of haves and have-nots.