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Pages tagged "United Nations"


Solving Climate Change Will Help Temper Rising Health Care Costs

by Lauren Simenauer

Delegates from 194 parties are meeting in Durban, South Africa, for the annual U.N. Conference of Parties, or COP, climate change conference. Among topics being addressed is the reduction of carbon emissions worldwide, clean energy funding in lower-income nations, and the future of the Kyoto Protocol. One lesser-discussed issue that diplomats will address is the growing body of science about the impacts of climate change on global health.

The National Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, identified six natural disaster events thought to be exacerbated by climate change. Those events include ozone air pollution, heat waves, the spread of infectious disease, river flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires. Tragically, extreme weather ravaged Durban itself just days before international delegates arrived. Torrential rains caused severe flooding that destroyed 700 homes and resulted in the deaths of 10 people. But beyond the immediate effects, all these disasters have wide-reaching consequences for national health, and a study published in Health Affairs magazine estimated that health costs incurred from the tragedies exceeded $14 billion from 2000 to 2009.

In the national debate on health care, it is imperative that the international community and our lawmakers at home not ignore the value of preventing the damage that climate change will cause to both the environment and human health.

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The Era of American Dominance is Coming to a Close

by Andrew J. Bacevich

The “postwar world” brought into existence as a consequence of World War II is coming to an end. A major redistribution of global power is underway.

In every aspect of human existence, change is a constant.  Yet change that actually matters occurs only rarely.  Even then, except in retrospect, genuinely transformative change is difficult to identify.  By attributing cosmic significance to every novelty and declaring every unexpected event a revolution, self-assigned interpreters of the contemporary scene -- politicians and pundits above all -- exacerbate the problem of distinguishing between the trivial and the non-trivial.  

Did 9/11 “change everything”?  For a brief period after September 2001, the answer to that question seemed self-evident: of course it did, with massive and irrevocable implications.  A mere decade later, the verdict appears less clear.  Today, the vast majority of Americans live their lives as if the events of 9/11 had never occurred.  When it comes to leaving a mark on the American way of life, the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have long since eclipsed Osama bin Laden.  (Whether the legacies of Jobs and Zuckerberg will prove other than transitory also remains to be seen.)  Anyone claiming to divine the existence of genuinely Big Change Happening Now should, therefore, do so with a sense of modesty and circumspection, recognizing the possibility that unfolding events may reveal a different story.

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Decent Work 2.0

by Frank Hoffer

Last month, Juan Somavia, the long serving Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) announced his departure in 2012.

As head of the ILO, he introduced the Decent Work Agenda in 1999 to re-focus the ILO and make it relevant for the 21st century. Twelve years later, the concept of ‘Decent Work’ is firmly established in the global debate and as an objective of national policy. It appears in many documents of the multilateral system, the G20 and national policy fora. It generates millions of Google hits. It is the subject of much academic research and debate. It is enshrined in several ILO Conventions and Declarations, and the international trade union movement introduced the annual Decent Work Day to campaign for workers’ rights. ‘Decent Work’ is so ubiquitous in ILO documents that some cynics say: “Decent Work is the answer, whatever the question!”

Will Decent Work survive the departure of the Director-General who coined the term and so successfully marketed it? Should it survive? The answer to the former question is one of the unknowns of “Realpolitik”. The answer to the latter depends on the assessment of what Decent Work means and how it should evolve.

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Preventing a Syrian Civil War

by Salman Shaikh

Last week, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Syria, dealing a blow to the stability of the country and its neighbors. The double veto could even lead to civil war.

The inability of the Security Council to act has created a dangerous political vacuum, sending a clear message to President Bashar al-Assad that he can continue to kill with impunity and signaling to Syrian protesters that they are on their own.

While Russia and China have emphasized dialogue over confrontation and are proposing a more “balanced” resolution, the reality is that the Syrian street has been explicitly calling for the fall of the Assad regime for months.

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