Nowadays, scientists generally agree that human-made climate change – the effect of greenhouse gas emissions from things like cars and factories – is what has caused a constant increase in sea level and warm weather. However, the impacts of such things, the socio-economic impacts on less economically developed nations, is ignored far too often. Egypt, a nation riddled with fear and terror, with an unstable government and constant revolutions and military coups, is already not faring well. With a 12% unemployment rate and with 27% of its population below the poverty line, the last thing Egypt needs is an external force driving it's people further into the ground. Egypt's, a country that rests besides the Mediterranean Sea, two main income sources are agriculture and tourism: two things that climate change will specifically impact.
As crops are destroyed by the sea and the weather becomes so unbearably hot that to drives tourists away, the world will see as Egypt, along with many other struggling nations, descends into chaos. Rising sea levels are affecting the Nile River delta, the triangle where the Nile spreads out and drains into the sea. It's where Egypt grows most of its crops. According to the world bank, Egypt is one of the countries that will be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. All along the Sea's waterfront, the Egyptian government has erected barriers in an attempt to prevent flooding caused by ever-stronger winter storms. There's no beach in Egypt anymore since the sand washed away years ago. Many scientists predict a sea level rise of a further two feet by the end of the century. Some historic buildings are already crumbling, as salt water seeps into the bricks. Entire neighborhoods could be submerged. And who is this affecting? Nations that can barely afford to sustain themselves under normal conditions. Experts say that the effects of hotter weather, including reduced rainfall, would cut agricultural productivity by 15 to 20 percent – a huge blow to a country already struggling to feed its people.
Though Haiti was first colonized by the Spanish and then by the French, this Caribbean nation has been independent since the late 18th century when half a million slaves overthrew the French. In spite of its status as a free nation for over 200 years, Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world. 59% of the population is considered poor, living on less than $2 a day. A quarter of the population is “extremely poor”, living on less than $1.25 per day. Two thirds (some estimates say half) the population is unemployed. Income inequality is extreme with the top 20% owning 64% of national wealth. To top it all, Haiti is prone to significant natural disasters, the most recent being an earthquake in 2010 that cost more than 300,000 lives and left over 1.5 million people homeless. Even before the earthquake over 25% of the population had no access to power. According to Transparency International, Haiti ranks 161 out of 180 countries in terms of corruption. They believe that there is a direct link between corruption and poverty. The World Bank suggested a four pronged approach to addressing Haiti’s poverty:
(1) Promote inclusive growth by providing access to energy and financing
(2) Investing in human capital by providing access to primary education, healthcare, and clean water
(3) Ability to deal with climate and natural disasters by investing in infrastructure
(4) Improving governance and reducing corruption and increasing transparency and accountability of public officials
One approach to understanding how to address poverty in Haiti is to look at global trends in poverty. The World Bank estimates that between 1990 and 2015 over a billion people moved out of poverty. This is now the lowest percentage of poor people in history. Much of this success in addressing poverty can be largely attributed to China and India. However, in some other parts of the world like Sub-Saharan Africa and places like Haiti, poverty seems to be getting more entrenched. A broader definition of poverty can also be helpful. Though most studies focus on the monetary notion of poverty and link it to a threshold such as earning less than $1.25 per day, a better measure might be multi-dimensional such as access to clean water, primary education, energy, sanitation, and infrastructure services. This broader view truly reflects the overall quality of life and enables governments to tackle each issue more directly and effectively.
A recent crisis that has blown up in not only South Korean, but international news, is the spy cam epidemic. South Korea is commonly referred to or viewed by the average foreigner as one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world, 93% of their population has access to the internet, 90% own at least one smartphone. However, technology can advance both reprehensible and fantastical projects. One such object is the camera, which South Koreans have successfully turned into an almost invisible, small black square. The spy-cam crisis fits into a certain set of rules: Every year, more than 6,000 incidents are reported to the police, of which 80% are women.
This practice- of setting up small, imperceptible cameras in public spaces such as restrooms and changing rooms and uploading these videos to voyeur porn websites- not only highlights the epitome of a profound invasion of privacy but also shines a light on a few, extremely troubling, aspects of South Koreans and their culture. "My Life is Not Your Porn", one of the main activist groups against this terrible crime, has encouraged and inspired many women to come out with their stories and explain why they felt like they needed to remain silent. A young woman who refused to reveal her identity in national television said: "When I first saw the chat room, I was so shocked, my mind went blank and I started crying," She said. "I kept thinking, what would other people think? Will the police officer think that my clothes were too revealing? That I look cheap? In the police station, I felt lonely. I felt all the men were looking at me as if I was a piece of meat or a sexual object. I felt frightened. I didn't tell anyone. I was afraid of being blamed. I was afraid my family, friends and people around me would look at me as these men looked at me." How can a woman who has been filmed against her will while in a vulnerable position and been exposed online be worried about what her family will think of her? A sexist, misogynistic culture is the only one in which such thoughts could cross this woman's mind after suffering such an enormous breach of privacy.
Under current laws and regulations, "spy cam" buyers are not required to disclose any personal information, making it difficult to trace the cameras back to their owners. However, many "lawmakers are hoping to change that, co-sponsoring a bill in August that requires hidden camera buyers to register with a government database, raising alarm among retailers." In order for such a crime to not only be banned but denormalized, South Korea and it people must go through a major ideological change. The amount of cameras the police apprehend is meaningless if victims continue feeling like they are at fault for these illegal recordings.
China is currently being accused of locking up almost a suspected one million Muslims in the western Xinjiang region without trial or fair cause. These camps were created furtively in the desert, to be far from public scrutiny, but nevertheless were discovered by satellite images and journalists. In these camps, Uighur, Kazakh, and other Muslim groups are whisked from their homes, where they are politically indoctrinated and brainwashed, or “transformed” “reeducated,” as China says it. However, the statement by Shohrat Zakir, the director of these camps, “Its purpose is to get rid of the environment and soil that breeds terrorism and religious extremism,” directly points towards religious targeting and discrimination. China has gone so far as to say residents of these camps like staying there and citing a UN resolution on terrorism to justify this “anti-terrorism initiative” despite reliable reports of torture and heinous crimes being committed in these camps. These camps are only part of the bigger picture. “Regulations on De-extremification” were passed earlier which allowed China to punish acts such as praying, “abnormal” beards, head scarfs, and more.
Recently, the Chinese government has received international backlash for these camps. In the United States, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, despite having a prior anti-Muslim rhetoric, has made public statements denouncing China’s actions. He said, “this is, I think we use the word, or words, historic human rights abuse, and we’re working to convince the Chinese that this practice is abhorrent and ought to be stopped.” In December of last year, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also denounced the camps during a visit to China in December of last year. Multitudes of other countries including Turkey, France, and Canada have made direct statements urging the government to terminate the camps. Western governments have indicated that this topic will be a priority at future Human Rights Council meetings.
The fact that China is willing to unapologetically support its camps, which display conspicuous human rights abuses in its persecution of the Muslim minority, in the face of scrutiny on the world stage should be worrying. China, a country whose main methods of governing involve unrestricted monitoring and a tight grip on all workings of society, this move symbolizes China’s growing indifference of international criticism. If Mao era abuses such as these camps are being allowed in a time like this, it signals a failing of our standards to uphold human rights. The issue has not been investigated by the UNHRC, the relevant UN body, although many human rights groups and countries are calling for it.
Picture yourself as a young central-Indian of humble background. You go through a four mile walk and in the burning sun, going far from home to search for something you’re not sure to find, and at the end of your journey awaits a steep climb: down a forty-foot well. Your name is Kajal Lodha and your three sisters, some no younger than ten years of age, do this each and every single day. And for what? Dirty, milky-white, worm-infested water. Water nonetheless.
Water scarcity, defined as the lack of fresh, drinkable water, affects every continent in the world and was listed this year by the World Economic Forum to be one of the largest potential global risks over the next following decade. Just under one third of the global population (2 billion people) must endure conditions of severe water scarcity for at least one month of the year. Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round. Some of the world’s most largest cities are going to experience water scarcity some time this year. India alone accounts for about 0.6 billion people currently in a water crisis, and more than 20 cities-Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad to name a few-are predicted to entirely consume their aquifers in the next two years, leaving about one hundred billion people in urban areas unable to access fresh water easily. In the words of Arati Kumar-Rao, an Indian nature photographer, “Conservation? Nobody [in India] talks about it.”
Though only a minute 0.014% of the world’s water is fresh and easily accessible, that should technically be sufficient for everyone. Two main factors, however, have caused water crises to spring up around the world: one, unequal distribution due to factors such as climate change (creating areas that are too humid and too dry due to human intervention) and two, the demand generated by population growth and industrial expansion. These factors coupled together mean that by 2030, the human demand for freshwater could outstrip the supply by as much as 40%.
The NITI Aayog, National Institution for Transforming India, is looking for solutions to this tremendous problem. In their online resource section they outline plans for conserving freshwater and making it more accessible. Such a plan is the “24x7 Metered Water: Improving Water Supply in Rural Areas of Punjab”, that seeks to bore holes and place pumps that draw up groundwater but not deplete it; rather, the water consumption is regulated by an operator that operates the pump and ensures that all get enough water without depleting the reservoir. In general, we have the knowledge and technology to plan out the solutions--we just need the financial resources to implement them where they’re needed.
As usual, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on -- just this week, for instance, tensions between Israeli and Palestinian forces increased following an exchange of fire between Israeli rockets and Palestinian militants in Gaza. The latest campaign of Israeli military operations in the region had three primary targets controlled by Hamas, including the home of militant Ismail Haniyeh. Israel reports that, in response, thirty retaliatory rockets were fired from Gaza. At least seven Palestinians were wounded, while several Israelis also sustained injuries.
All of this comes in the midst of a heated Israeli election. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in a fight for his political life as several opposition parties have joined together under a big tent banner dubbed “Blue and White” in order to challenge the Prime Minister and his conservative Likud party. Polling has tightened considerably since the formation of Blue and White, in large part due to the popularity of its leader, Benny Gantz, who has combined a sort of social liberalism with more hawkish security policies. His appeal is made more compelling by the litany of corruption charges recently filed by Israel’s Attorney General against Netanyahu.
It remains to be seen how events on the ground in Gaza will affect the election, but events in the United States appear to be shaping Israeli politics and the narrative surrounding the Israel-Palestine debate at large. Freshman US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) sparked controversy recently with comments about the role of the “Israel lobby” in American politics, identifying AIPAC as an agent of Israeli domination over American politics. When pressed further, she tweeted “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” a comment for which she earned condemnation from the leadership of both American political parties. Netanyahu even took the time to respond to her at an AIPAC conference this week -- “take it from this Benjamin,” Netanyahu said. “It’s not about the Benjamins,” met with roaring applause.
The events of the past few weeks, particularly in American politics have brought the forefront of the public debate once again both off and on Exeter’s campus, as they have resulted in a series of op-eds in Exeter’s school newspaper, The Exonian , presenting multiple perspectives on the conflict, its origins, and the role of Israel in American politics. This public debate was brought to its head when three faculty members authored an opinions editorial reminding students to avoid the use, intentional or otherwise, of anti-Semitic tropes in such a debate, as they contended one particular article did invoke.
The issues being grappled with on campus are reflective of larger debates occurring in the larger world about Palestine’s long and complicated history, the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, the seemingly herculean task of building a Middle Eastern peace, the role of the West in this conflict, and the settlement issue, among countless others.
Out-of-Town (informally called MUNdays) is a publication run by students in Exeter's Model UN club. Currently, the amazing Sophie Fernandez '22 maintains the publication, curates its articles, and edits them. We do accept outside submissions! If you have an article or reflection on foreign policy, email firstname.lastname@example.org!