Category Archives: International Policy

Duke community reacts to ISIL threat and U.S. strategy

On Thursday, President Obama will speak before the U.N. Security Council in New York, calling on global leaders to support the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL). As the president declared earlier this month, he plans to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the terrorist group. The American strategy—airstrikes, counterterrorism intelligence, and humanitarian relief—will increase our engagement in Iraq and move airstrikes into Syria for the first time. As the president pitches his plan to the leaders of the world, what do Duke students and faculty have to say?

Video courtesy of the White House

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Women Have a Chance to Shape Scottish Independence

Nearly a century after the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed their right to vote, women hold less than 20% of the 535 seats in the U.S. Congress. In the private sector, only 14.6% of executive officers, 8.1% of top earners, and 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.Scottish Independence Picutre Continue reading

Tragedy in Afghanistan – The Personal Impact of Long Wars on our Military Leadership

I woke to the sound of my cell phone ringing early on a Saturday morning. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and braced myself for what I knew would be bad news on the other end of that line. I didn’t know yet, but this time there was nothing I could do to be ready. A fellow SEAL officer and close friend of 25 years responded to my “hello?” and got right to business. “Jamie, I’m sorry to be the one telling you this, but Job died last night in Afghanistan.”  I felt the breath rush out of my chest and the tears well in my eyes – “how?” I asked. “There will be an investigation, but right now it appears that Job died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head,” he responded, his voice faltering.  For several minutes, the silence on the phone line hid the currents of emotion running through our minds.  My friend broke the silence, “Will you notify his parents? They are in Pennsylvania. I need you there right away.” Continue reading

What’s the Big [Trade] Deal? The Significance of the Bali Ministerial for the WTO


By Caroline M. Kirby

The Ninth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), held in Bali, Indonesia from December 3 – 6, 2013, brought out the best, and worst, in the World Trade Organisation and its 159 [bickering] Member States. While the achievement of an estimated $1 trillion agreement on trade facilitation (TF) is laudable—the first multilateral agreement in the Organisation’s twelve-year history—the slow rate of progress on the rest of the Doha round is lamentable.

Perhaps this lethargy can be explained, if not understood. Inherent in the multilateral trading system are stark differences from bilateral and regional frameworks, to which Member States are still adjusting. In lieu of protecting invested interests, countries must often accept vulnerabilities (i.e. restrictions on agricultural subsidies) for the sake of broad consensus. This lack of comfort and specificity makes multilateral agreements all too unappealing.

In addition, multilateral agreements can result in the exploitation of least developing countries (LDCs), who may defer to their region‘s consensus for political or other reasons. Some argue LDCs would derive more benefits from trade by engaging bilaterally and regionally instead of multilaterally.

Nevertheless, despite these and other recent criticisms of the relevence and effectiveness of the WTO, the institution remains essential to the stability of an increasingly globalized world.

Even considering the short-term economic benefits of bilaterial and regional trade agreements, the comparative advantage remains with the WTO. In the long-term, countries would be forced to expose national sensitivites for the sake of increasing trade partners.

While richer countries can indeed exploit the interests of developing countries, they can also work to protect them. The WTO is the only place where countries can address national sensitivities in a multilateral context.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) can lead the effort in the WTO to expand gainful trade opportunities for emerging economies. As Ambassador Michael Froman has said on numerous occasions, for those countries willing to engage in earnest and who see the benefits of trade for themselves, the USTR will work to help them.

Already, USTR has demonstrated an unparalelled commitment to the WTO through its active role in securing consensus in Bali.

Let’s hope the TF deal in Bali is not a one hit wonder for the WTO. With renewed optimism for its mandate, the Organisation and its Member States, spurred on by Azevedo, can realize concrete deliverables throughout the continuation of the Doha round.

Caroline M. Kirby (@carolinemkirby) has interned with both the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva and the United Nations Development Programme in Geneva, Switzerland.




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.”

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