Category Archives: International Policy

Human Trafficking in Albania: Part One

Copyright: NYTimes

Copyright: NYTimes

By Greg McDonald

This article is the first in a series of three covering human trafficking in Albania in the context of centuries-old social customs. This article discusses Albania’s recent past, and the human trafficking crisis it has experienced since roughly the end of the Cold War. It also touches on the particular sections of the Kanun, Albania’s social doctrine thought by some to be relevant or even contributory to human trafficking in the country.  The two subsequent articles will lay out hypotheses I use to test the validity of the relationship between the Kanun and human trafficking, and make general policy recommendations pertinent to Albania.

 

Albania’s Recent Past

Albania experienced considerable economic hardship during the Cold War under the rule of Enver Hoxha, its dictator from 1944 to 1985. Under Hoxha, unemployment and poverty spiked, infrastructure crumbled, and corruption spread. Once the Cold War ended, the country became a hotbed for drug smuggling, arms trafficking and the trafficking of women, as there was no longer an authoritarian regime in place to prevent these activities.

Although human trafficking did exist in a number of countries, including Albania, during the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union brought about an increase in the prevalence of trafficking. Borders that were previously closed opened up, making it easier to transport goods, services and people from one country to another. And globalization deepened income disparities around the world, making it economically possible for people to be trafficked and later bought for “consumption” in comparatively richer countries.

Since the early 1990s, Albania has experienced relatively high levels of human trafficking. Estimates place the number of women and girls trafficked from Albania between 1991-1999 at around 100,000. Albania currently serves primarily as a source (rather than a transit or destination) country from which people are trafficked to much of the rest of Europe. Male and female children are often exploited for commercial sex, as well as forced begging and other forms of criminality. The economic hardship faced by many Albanians makes Albanian women particularly susceptible to fraudulent job offers and marriage proposals, which often serve as a prelude to them being trafficked for sexual exploitation. Albanian men have been trafficked as well.  However, they are typically trafficked more locally and are usually subjected to forced labor rather than prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation.

In recent years, the Albanian government has made efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims, used its witness protection program to protect them, and has given money to human trafficking-related NGOs. But this funding has been somewhat intermittent, which has resulted in the temporary closure of shelters for human trafficking victims. In addition, Albania still suffers from widespread corruption—specifically within its judiciary—which hampers anti-trafficking efforts in the country.

 

Albanian Social Customs and Their Effect on Trafficking

Illegal today, the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini remains the most significant and comprehensive compilation of northern Albanian customary law. For centuries, the Kanun governed social behavior and everyday life in northern Albania, serving as a complete moral and legal framework and covering subjects including dispute settlement, division of property and blood feuds.

According to Siddharth Kara and others, there are two primary channels through which the Kanun has impacted human trafficking in Albania.  First, they argue the hardship placed on women in northern Albanian society—as evidenced by the social mobility and rights they lack, as well as the existence of “sworn virgins”—has made them particularly vulnerable to fraudulent job offers and marriage proposals.  Second, they argue that the Kanun’s sanctioning of blood feuds has caused the type of societal and economic unrest known to be a common precursor of human trafficking in other countries.

 

 The Role of Women under the Kanun

The Kanun’s arguably most well known quotation, “A Woman is a Sack, Made to Endure,” would suggest the Kanun generally holds that women are not equal to men. In terms of treatment, this gender difference manifests itself in a number of important ways in northern Albania.  In contrast to men, women are not allowed to choose whom they marry. A woman’s family decides whom she will marry, and, at the time of marriage, a bride price is paid. After marriage, women are effectively seen as property; they have few rights and little agency. Women are also not permitted to work outside the home to earn a living wage and cannot own property. Because women’s blood is considered to be unequal to that of men, they cannot incur a blood debt. Rather, when a woman wrongs her husband or even kills him, the blood transfers to her family at which point reprisals may be made. Even outside the context of marriage, women are exempted from blood feuds for the same reason.  More generally, a woman’s family is responsible for everything she does in the household of her husband.

 

Sworn Virgins

 In northern Albania, sworn virgins are women that have assumed a male identity and live as men; per the Kanun and the way Albanian society views them, they are equivalent to men. Rather than undergoing a medical procedure, sworn virgins make the transition to being a man via two processes.  First, they vow to remain celibate for the rest of their lives in the company of 12 witnesses; once this vow of celibacy is taken, it cannot be reversed. Second, they must dress and act as Albanian men do. Importantly, unlike women, sworn virgins are permitted to own property and work outside the home.

The fact that sworn virgins can work and generally serve in male roles in society is, in large measure, the reason for their existence. In a society where women were not allowed to vote, own property or even work outside the home, becoming more than a woman—a “sworn virgin”—enabled them to earn a living wage, maintain family property and generally provide for their families in the absence of male family members. Further, as Fatos Tarifa, an expert on Albanian culture and social issues, points out, in many cases women became sworn virgins in response to the hardships placed on men (via blood feuds) rather than those placed on women. In this way, blood feuds have facilitated and even driven transgenderism in northern Albania.

 

Blood Feuds

Blood feuds in Albania are a centuries-old, Kanun-sanctioned custom intended to provide redress for wrongdoing and violations of honor. In addition to murder, some offenses that can lead to blood feuds include insults, accidental killing, conflict over water rights, and, rather surprisingly, being disrespectful of a woman or “trafficking of persons.” According to the Kanun, if a “person’s honor is violated, it is incumbent on the person to take action to reclaim their honor.” Further, if a man is deeply affronted or killed, his family has the right to kill the person that insulted him. But in doing so, his family becomes a target of revenge, often leading to a cycle that results in the deaths of many more people than were involved in the original altercation.

Importantly, men are the only viable targets in blood feuds. Consequently, when blood feuds spiral out of control and take the lives of large numbers of people, families are often left with few—or no—male members, making it difficult for them to make ends meet given that women are not allowed to work outside the home.  There are also limitations to how and where men can be targeted in blood feuds.  Men can specifically take refuge in their homes, which, per the Kanun, are beyond the reach of blood feud-motivated violence. The fact that homes are off limits in blood feuds means that men being targeted often remain confined in their own homes, unable to leave or earn a living for their families. The (male) children of targeted men sometimes suffer the same confinement, as those seeking retribution may target them if their fathers or other male family members are incapable of being attacked.

 

Bruce Jentleson on the UAE: Up on Renewable Energy, Down on Political Islam

by BRUCE JENTLESON for ISLAMiCommentary on JANUARY 8, 2013: 

Our Center for American Progress delegation just finished three plus days in the United Arab Emirates; a visit designed to gain a better understanding of key issues in the region that affect and are affected by US policy.

While I’d been to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai before for conferences, those were more self-contained. This trip involved much more direct engagement with political leaders.

The agenda included meetings with cabinet members (the UAE’s Foreign Minister, Minister of Energy, and Minister of State), tours and briefings at the Masdar City renewable energy project and Dubai Ports, a visit to the joint US-UAE Al Dhafra Air Base, dinner discussions with business leaders, and a meeting with the US Ambassador.

Renewable Energy and Economic Growth 

There is much that is impressive about the UAE, and I don’t mean just the glitz of Dubai (I’m not much for indoor skiing in the desert.)

Noteably, Masdar, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Government’s Mubadala Development Company, is building from scratch a planned free-economic-zone “green city.”

And Masdar and MIT, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi government, have come together on a project that established a leading graduate research university —  Masdar Institute — focusing on alternative energy, sustainability, and advanced technology. These and other projects make the UAE a world leader in renewable energy.

While it may seem paradoxical for a leading OPEC oil producer to be investing in renewables, it has both a near-term economic rationale (free up more oil from domestic consumption for export) and is indicative of longer-term strategic planning. Our meeting with the Minister of Energy provided a fuller sense of the UAE energy policy, including nuclear energy.

The Dubai Ports operation — the Jebel Ali port is the 3rd busiest in the world — is quite sophisticated; getting to actually see it operating was amazing.  Also, Dubai just won the international competition for Expo 2020 , and is planning economic growth around that. (The six-month-long World Expo, held every five years, has never been held in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia in the history of the event until now.)

Gender Parity and Human Rights 

Particularly impressive was a meeting with Minister of State Reem Al Hashimi. She is one of four women ministers in the UAE Cabinet. Her portfolio is a broad one, including having been the point person for winning the UAE’s Expo 2020 bid. This too was a frank discussion.  For example, the UAE is #1 in the Arab world in gender parity but #123 in the world rankings for the same, so, as she explained, much has been accomplished but there’s much to be done.

Not so impressive — the UAE’s overall record on human rights. Our delegation did not get to meet with civil society groups and didn’t get very far in trying to raise issues such as the ban on some US NGOs from operating in the UAE, or the nine-month detention in Dubai of Shezanne Cassime, an American  charged with defaming the country’s image abroad with his satirical YouTube video on Arab youth culture. (That said there were reports out today that he will soon be released)

Political Islam: Just Say No? 

In terms of foreign policy, the UAE has been a close ally of the United States. Its troops were part of the coalitions in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and also the Libya 2011 intervention against Qaddafi.

While one does get a sense of many shared interests, on two issues our group had some particularly robust discussions with UAE officials.

One was the emergence and strength of political Islam in many parts of the region and particularly in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The UAE has been a staunch supporter of Egypt’s military regime that took over from the Brotherhood this summer – and the UAE together with Saudi Arabia has given $16 billion in aid. The UAE government view of the MB and political Islam generally is essentialist; convinced that it is an unabashed adversary and must be squashed in all forms and all traces.

My own view, as I’ve written here and here, is that such an approach is likely to feed into radicalization, and make the very outcome to be avoided more, not less, likely. Political Islam is here to stay. It will be in the political mix more often than not. No question there are always terrorism risks amid instability and uncertainty about the shape successor regimes take. But while transnational links to Al Qaeda or other similar actors certainly need to be taken into account in shaping our relations, and their significance weighed hard-headedly, this must not automatically trump other factors.  Making further assessments of the goals, strategies, visions and leadership of different Islamist parties and movements in different countries is necessary. Policies need to be tailored to oppose those inimical to our values and threatening our interests, while remaining open to those with which coexistence and cooperation may be possible even though we have differences.

Another issue in our discussions with officials was Iran. While they do stress the threat posed by Iran, and some of their own particular issues such as the disputes over the Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs Islands, they are not as staunch as Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Shia cold (and not so cold) war.

Still we had some robust (good diplomatic word, so I’ll say it again) discussions around these questions: Is the Rouhani regime just a charm offensive, a gambit to feign change and get the world to let its guard down? Or is this a real opportunity, both on the nuclear proliferation issue and for further possible improvements in US and other countries’ relations with Iran — that could have broader constructive effects for Middle East security?

Duke Blue

And yes I even found some Duke blue presence on the trip. The US Ambassador’s mother was a librarian at Lilly Library. And I was wearing my Duke hat when visiting the US air force base, which prompted one of the officers to say “you guys played great the other night, tough loss” – and he meant the football team!

On to Jordan next …

 

Bruce W. Jentleson is Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, and affiliated faculty with the Duke Islamic Studies Center. He is also a Distinguished Scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Jan.-June 2014), and Co-Principal Investigator with the Duke-American University-UC Berkeley “Bridging the Gap” initiative. Jentleson’s areas of expertise include Middle East peace and security, international conflict prevention, global governance, international security, and U.S. foreign policy. In 2009-11 he served as a Senior Advisor at the State Department. His publications include “American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century” (W.W. Norton, 5th edition 2013). Current projects include U.S. policy in the new Middle East, genocide and mass atrocities prevention, and a study of leading statesmen/women of the last century. In Fall 2013 he taught the Coursera MOOC (Massive Open Online Course): “21st Century American Foreign Policy.”

– See more at: http://islamicommentary.org/2014/01/bruce-jentleson-on-the-uae-up-on-renewable-energy-down-on-political-islam/#sthash.6ZeNS3ex.dpuf

Global Financial Reform in the Wake of the Financial Crisis of 2008

by: Anthony Elson 

            In the five-year period since the outbreak of the global financial crisis, much attention has been given to the financial reforms that are needed at the national and global levels to minimize the risks of such crises in the future.  The discussions on global financial reform have been coordinated mainly by the G20 major advanced and emerging market economies, and have focused on improvements in what is known as the international financial architecture (IFA).  The IFA represents the institutional and cooperative arrangements that governments have put in place, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Financial Stability Board (FSB), to monitor and regulate global financial flows and to provide emergency financing for countries in times of financial crises.  A key aspect of this reform effort has been focused on the governance arrangements for the IFA.  Notwithstanding the extensive discussions that have taken place, the pace of reform has been very slow and much remains to be accomplished.

At the institutional level, the shift of discussions on global financial reform from the G7 to the G20 has been an important improvement, along with the establishment of regular semi-annual meetings of the G20 at the level of both national leaders and finance ministers/central bank governors. This change, however, still leaves open the question of what criteria determine membership in the G20, as distinct from the International Monetary and Financial Committee and the Development Committee that oversee the operations of the IMF and World Bank, respectively, which are grounded in the clearly specified membership criteria of these institutions. There is also a large amount of redundancy among these three committees at the ministerial level, which has not been addressed, and should be simplified. In addition, with the passage of time, the agenda of the G20 has become extremely diffuse, embracing a wide range of topics beyond global financial reform. As a result, the initiative adopted by the G20 at the London Summit of 2009 to establish specific targets for coordinating and monitoring macroeconomic policy adjustments subject to a strict peer review process among its members has been abandoned.  This failure means that there is lacking within both the G20 process of deliberation and the IMF surveillance exercises an effective enforcement mechanism, which would help to avoid problems such as the build-up of global payments imbalances that were a major contributing factor in the global financial crisis.

Another important governance reform promoted by the G20 that is yet to be implemented relates to an increase in the financial resources of the IMF and the distribution of quota shares in the institution. A proposal to double the financial resources of the IMF along with a significant shift of quota shares in favor of the major emerging market economies was adopted by the Fund’s Executive Board, but these changes have yet to be approved at the national level. Significantly, legislative approval by the United States, whose vote is required for any major change in IMF operations, is highly uncertain in the present political climate. In addition, no discussions have taken place on the process of leadership selection of the Bretton Woods institutions, which by an informal agreement has always called for a European to take the top position in the IMF and an American to lead the World Bank.  Another reform that should be taken up within the IMF is the means by which its resources could be temporarily augmented during a major financial crisis, including through an issue of SDRs that were intended to be a major form of international reserve currency, and coordinated within a network of central bank swap arrangements.

The governance arrangements of the IFA also need to be improved in regard to its regulatory focus, which is coordinated through the FSB. The role of the FSB is to coordinate international discussions on the regulatory and other infrastructural aspects of the global financial system as a twin pillar within the IFA along side the IMF with its financial and policy surveillance responsibilities. However, even though the FSB has been formally established as an international institution unlike its predecessor body (the Financial Stability Forum), it still only has a very limited secretariat (of around 25 people, some of whom are seconded from member countries), and a part-time chairman. Clearly, to be effective, the resources of the FSB need to be significantly expanded.

The FSB has coordinated some reforms of the Basel capital accord, involving a limited increase in capital requirements for banks and the introduction of a new, maximum (leverage) ratio for total assets to capital and minimum liquidity requirements. However, in the opinion of most experts, the new capital and leverage requirements are very weak, in part because of intense lobbying pressure by banks on the national regulators that participate in FSB discussions, and need to be strengthened.

Anthony Elson is a Visiting Lecturer at the Sanford School, and will be teaching a mini-seminar in the Spring 2014 term on the Global Financial Crisis and Reform of the International Architecture.

Rage Against The (Chinese) Machine

By: Michael Chiulli

 

As captured in Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled album cover, self-immolation has long been a terrifying means of protest in Tibet, particularly among Buddhist monks.  A recent wave of fiery deaths has brought this issue back into the international spotlight.  Since 2009, 81  Tibetans have set themselves alight.  A drastic spike has seen 19 self-immolations in the month of November.  What would push a people to protest so vehemently that they would attempt such a painful suicide?  The Chinese government insists that its rule is not oppressive and that Tibetans enjoy a great degree of freedom.  However, Tibetans wouldn’t self-immolate merely for sport.  Self-immolation represents Tibetans’ desperation and frustration with the authoritarian regime.  So far, that proclamation of their condition has fallen on deaf ears in the international community.

The Chinese stranglehold on media and its censorship of the internet has made reliable information difficult to obtain.  Often, Chinese reports vary greatly from those of Tibetans or other sources.  One ex-monk was quoted, “Tibetan religion and culture is under such unthinkable repression that it has reached a point of desperation where people would choose to die rather than go on living.”  Tibetans’ exiled government, based in Dharamsala, India, is unrecognized by the United Nations and is powerless against the Chinese.  The Dalai Lama, formerly Tibet’s political leader and now merely an influential spiritual figure, commands no military.

The Dalai Lama, usually silent on this issue, has recently called for China to address the issues causing these self-immolations.  The Dalai Lama does not condone self-immolation, but admires the courage of those who practice it; nonetheless, the Chinese claim he encourages it.

As China expands as a world power and other parts of the world sway the spotlight from Indonesia, outside involvement seems unlikely.  However, the Western world must bravely confront the Chinese and somehow relieve the Tibetans of their plight.  The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned the Chinese occupation and called for an end to Chinese excessively harsh rule.  However, intervention on behalf of the Tibetans for an independent state seems unnecessary.  A middle ground somewhere should be attainable.  The Chinese should be able to rule fairly, allowing the Tibetans basic freedoms.  The Tibetans have more than done their job of shedding light on the situation.  Until China acts and rules responsibly, the influential nations of the world must find a solution.

As the U.N. Honors Sergio Vieira de Mello, Attacks Sweep Across Iraq

By: Daniel Jasper

As the United Nations honors the loss of one of its most skilled diplomats, Sergio Vieira de Mello, attacks sweep across Iraq killing more than 90 people.  Nearing a decade since Vieira de Mello’s untimely death from a car explosion in Baghdad, things remain much the same in the war torn country.

Vieira de Mello made a name for himself by his unique ability to synthesize humanitarian relief efforts and peacekeeping.  The two seemingly parallel operations are often at odds with each other.  Humanitarian relief can often exacerbate conflict by inadvertently supplying militant groups with food and medicine.  Today, the current Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Martin Kobler, could attempt to use a similar approach while he tries to negotiate the resettlement of refuges from Camp New Iraq (formerly, Camp Ashraf).  However, Kobler faces an uphill battle as al-Qaeda’s forces enjoy the absence of U.S. troops.  Now, nine years after the death of Vieira de Mello and the 2003 disbandment of the Iraqi forces, Kobler finds himself dealing with the aftermath of those vital mistakes in the first years of the war.

While we remember Vieira de Mello’s unprecedented career and endless accomplishments in such places as Cambodia, Serbia, and Kosovo, it is important we remember what made him such an effective U.N. diplomat – his uncanny ability to charm both sides of virtually any conflict while maintaining the support of member nations.  Vieira de Mello had a long history of undertaking the unsavory task of negotiating with war criminals in the name of peace and for the ultimate protection of refugees and everyday citizens.  His mantra seemed to be “the United Nations must remain neutral”.  Although in hindsight many criticize his approach in certain circumstances, it is clear that in order to bring peace to Iraq the United Nations cannot be held to the domestic agendas of its largest donors–a task which Vieira de Mello’s successors have found terribly difficult.

Op-Ed: Skirting Responsibility in Syria

Image Via TheRawStory.com

 

By Dan Jasper, Staff Editor

For nearly a year, Syria has been in a state of unrest that has caused upwards of 5,000 deaths and an immeasurable amount of destruction. For nearly a year, the United Nations, the Arab League, and the world has watched as the regime of Bashar al-Assad has decimated the lives of its citizens and desecrated the principles that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was built upon. For nearly a year, nothing has been done about it.

In the wake of Rwanda, the world declared “never again,” as it had many times before. But this time, it was supposed to be different. The world would wake up and live by a new set of standards, a new set of responsibilities, a new honor code of sorts. The Responsibility to Protect doctrine was supposed to change the way the state viewed its citizens, states viewed each other, and the way the international community viewed conflict. It was supposed to make the world care. But the image above illustrates the failure of the doctrine in Syria.

The inaction of the UN Security Council has cast doubt on the role of the R2P principles in international affairs. Moreover, the Security Council is losing credibility as it fails, again, to take action, and is once again highjacked by the oppressive domestic agenda of Russia and China. What does this mean for the future of international relations?  It’s difficult to say. But what is clear is that the structure of the Security Council is inherently flawed, and the functionality of the UN will continue to be impaired by these structural flaws.

But the future of international relations is not what we should focus on at the moment. We should focus on the lives being lost and the freedom of the Syrian people. In a series of youtube videos (some images may be disturbing) a brave Syrian man named Danny Dayem captures the ongoing violence in Homs (the epicenter of the violence in the past weeks) and makes a heartfelt plea for help.  I think Danny captures the frustrations of many Syrians in six simple words: “Where the f*** is the UN?” And given the gap between rhetoric and action, that anger is seeming more and more understandable.