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Engaging Today's Global Citizen September 2010
In the Issue

Five Ways to Change the World. Few of us have the power, resources, or prestige to change the world in big ways, but most of us are still looking for ways to make a positive contribution. In November we will be releasing a special edition of think. in honor of its 5th birthday. In that edition we’re planning to feature five ways that engaged and active citizen leaders can change the world. Here’s where you come in. Please share one way that you are changing the world by posting it on our Facebook discussion board. After you’ve posted your suggestion, please review others and use the “Like” feature to vote for your favorites. If you’re not on Facebook, please send your response by e-mail to

Under Debate: The Responsibility to Protect. For those outside the corridors of the UN, the true level of consensus among the organization’s member states on the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) has often been difficult to pinpoint. Acceded to as part of the World Summit’s final outcome document in 2005, commitment to R2P was affirmed at the highest political level in the broadest collection of world leadership. Yet, in the years following, passionate and vocal resistance in a few small and predictable quarters has grabbed global headlines. This has strategically and effectively obscured the broad-based support, and even genuine enthusiasm, for the doctrine shared by many within the walls of the organization. In contrast to the deceptive theatrics of the year before, a major UN General Assembly debate on R2P on August 9, 2010, gave observers a clear indication of the acceptance, commitment, and momentum the concept has gained over the last five years. Read more from program officer Rachel Gerber about the recent UN General Assembly debate on R2P.

Is Human Protection a Priority? Hotspots for ethnic strife and the specter of real or potential genocide are strewn across this decade’s headlines. In central Africa and Burma, ethnically based oppression and killing is part of a brutal political strategy. In other spots, such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, horrible conflict has given way to glimmers of hope and stability. And in places like Kenya and Kyrgyzstan, the very worst outcomes of ethnic violence seem to have been avoided (so far). Through all of this, diplomats, academics, and international civil servants have developed a more sophisticated understanding of the complex causes behind genocide and mass atrocities. This has generated new hope for halting these human crises but, more importantly, creative and flexible approaches are now being deployed aimed at actually preventing genocide and mass atrocities. The latest issue of Courier, the foundation’s quarterly magazine, attempts to answer the question “Is Human Protection a Priority?” with four features on genocide prevention, building preventive strategies, UN peacebuilding, and international interventions in fragile states.

Beyond the Headlines

Bombing Iran Over the Bomb. To say Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent Atlantic Monthly article on a possible Israeli attack on Iran touched a nerve would be an understatement. With Iran’s continued uranium enrichment bringing it steadily closer to nuclear weapons capability, Goldberg’s article explored the rationales and dilemmas of a preemptive strike. The piece sparked an immediate firestorm of commentary—particularly evoking the drumbeat calls for war prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq—and the Atlantic’s Web site hosted a debate among eight leading experts. In his media appearances such as on the Colbert Report, Goldberg downplayed the inevitability (and wisdom) of an Israeli military strike; his piece indeed quotes senior Israeli sources on the potentially disastrous consequences of an attack. That said, the main protagonist of the article and the issue itself, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is portrayed as psychologically beholden to his ultra-hawkish centenarian father and thus duty bound to strike Iran. Even after several weeks of debate and pushback, two commentators remained worried enough by all the war talk to publish an International Herald Tribune op-ed during Netanyahu and Abbas’ Washington visit calling on President Obama to disavow a military strike.

US Disaster Relief Wins Hearts and Minds. Five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast in the US, stories are still pouring in on how such a massive domestic relief effort has shaped up. But thousands of miles from American shores, Pakistanis have been plagued with what is certainly the worst natural disaster in its country’s history and possibly one of the worst in global history. The 24-hour news cycle serves as a constant reminder of the devastation. Images like those from Pakistan stick with us and often urge us to open our pocketbooks. A recent New York Times article indicates that “recipients of disaster relief fall in love with America, at least briefly.” According to a Pew Global Attitudes Survey, countries that regularly receive American aid tend to also have publics with pro-American attitudes. But even in countries that aren’t known to be the biggest fans of the US, opinions tend to change after disaster relief efforts. For example, after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, feelings toward the US improved greatly in large part due to aid efforts. Now, we’re seeing some of the same in Pakistan even as the calls for continued international (and US) aid continue.

Stay Active
Watch & Learn

A group of graduate students from the University of Miami who were concerned that the public remained uninformed about the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have produced “My Story, My Goal,” a multi-media Web site that uses personal stories to put a face on issues that can seem abstract and inaccessible to some. Partnering with students from schools throughout Africa and Asia, “My Story, My Goal” takes a look at the real-world effects of problems disproportionately affecting the developing world. These stories include primary education in India, maternal health concerns in Sierra Leone, pollution in South Africa, and more. The Web site also features a documentary that overviews the eight specific areas for change. Want to learn more about the MDGs and what is being done in the fight to implement them? Visit the United Nations Development Programme Web site to track their global progress.

Tools for Action

For those of you who are regular users of Facebook, there’s a new way to reach out to Congress on the issues you care about. has launched a new tool called “Tell Congress” that uses Facebook to send a message to your elected officials. The topic on which you voice your opinion changes weekly and you can motivate Facebook friends to take action too. The new tool is available (for a price) to advocacy groups who would like something similar on their Facebook page.

New Resource

For decades the balance of power among the world’s strongest nations was the dominant issue in discussions of global security. Many of today’s policies and international institutions were specifically created to deal with potential violent conflict between major powers. But today the world’s most fragile states are emerging as the most serious threat to 21st-century global security. To be released in November 2010, the Now Showing Fragile States, Global Consequences event-in-a-box toolkit examines the global challenge of nations on the brink of failure. Learn more and sign up today to receive your FREE toolkit this fall.

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