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Daily Brief: Obama Delivers Final UN Address

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September 21, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Obama Delivers Final UN Address

In his final address to the United Nations U.S. President Barack Obama appealed (UN News Centre) for global integration and liberal ideals in the face of rising polarization and populism. He said that a world in which one percent of the population controls as much wealth as the other ninety-nine percent "will never be stable." Obama also said he was criticized in his own country by some for believing in international norms but that powerful nations, including the United States, needed to "accept constraints" in order to promote peace. Obama's remarks came as the UN hosted a refugee summit with fifty world leaders on the condition participants make new concrete pledges toward addressing the global migration crisis (Al Jazeera). On Wednesday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to announce that last year's climate deal will enter legal force this year after securing enough commitments from governments (NYT).  


"What the president’s speech lacked was sufficient acknowledgment of how difficult it is to realize such noble goals in an often crooked world—or when liberal aspirations clash with more pedestrian but pressing interests. Consider this passage, shortly after discussing the struggle for human liberty and dignity in the Middle East. 'So those of us who believe in democracy, we need to speak out forcefully.' And yet Obama’s own administration, like many before, has applied democracy promotion selectively—promoting it in Myanmar, for example, while cozying up to authoritarians like President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, when the logic of geopolitics prevails," writes CFR's Stewart M. Patrick.

"A coalition of more than 30 countries has unveiled a series of concrete responses to the refugee crisis, giving a glimmer of hope during a week in which world leaders gathered at the UN summit in New York have otherwise failed to offer direct action on refugee issues. Barack Obama announced that the US-led coalition had collectively agreed to roughly double resettlement places for refugees, increase humanitarian aid for refugees by $4.5bn, provide education to 1 million more refugee children, and potentially improve access to legal work for another million adults. Full details were not disclosed, but the move constituted the most concrete set of refugee measures at the UN general assembly," Patrick Kingsley writes for the Guardian.

"Complex and controversial international accords usually take several years to enter into legal force. But the haste on the Paris accord was driven at least in part by the looming American election. Donald J. Trump, the Republican candidate, has vowed to pull the United States out of the accord if he is elected. If the deal comes into legal force before the presidential inauguration, it will take four years under the accord’s rules for the United States to legally withdraw," Coral Davenport writes for the New York Times.


North Korea Announces New Rocket Engine Test

North Korea announced that it had tested a long-range rocket engine that could put a satellite into space (NYT) or potentially launch an intercontinental ballistic missile. On Wednesday two B1-B U.S. air force bombers flew over South Korea in what was seen as a show of force against the North (Korea Times).

This CFR Global Conflict tracker follows recent developments in the North Korea weapons crisis.

MYANMAR: The number of refugees from Myanmar resettled (VOA) in the United States has eclipsed the number of those coming from Syria, according to figures from the State department. 

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick writes about the stateless Muslim Rohingya minority in this article for the Washington Monthly


India Kills Ten Suspected Militants on Pakistan Border

The Indian military said it killed at least ten suspected militants on its border with Pakistan (WSJ), two days after militants attacked an army base in India-controlled Kashmir and killed eighteen Indian soldiers. India blamed Pakistan-based Islamists for the attack and called Pakistan a "terrorist state."

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker discusses the history of the disputed Kashmir region.


Russia Denies Striking UN Aid Convoy

Russia's foreign ministry spokesman denied that Syrian or Russian planes had attacked a UN aid convoy near the city of Aleppo that killed at least twenty people (Al Jazeera) and suggested the vehicle fire was not due to an air strike. Four medics were killed in a second attack near Aleppo on Tuesday (AFP), according to an aid group, which said an air strike leveled its clinic.

LIBYA: An oil tanker left with exports from the port city of Ras Lanouf for the first time since 2014 (Middle East Eye). The port was seized last week by renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who is loyal to a parliament in Libya's east that is at odds with the UN-backed Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.


UN: Food Scarce for Five Million in Somalia

Food shortages and malnutrition due to weather and displacement affect five million people in Somalia, including three-hundred million children, according to the United Nations (BBC).

NIGERIA: The president of Nigeria's senate said the country needs to sell shares in state-owned assets (FT) to avoid a fiscal crisis.

CFR's John Campbell discusses the size of the Nigerian economy in this blog post.


EU Creates Bloc-Wide Antiterror Sanctions

The European Union agreed to measures that will place bloc-wide sanctions on individuals linked to terror organizations like the self-proclaimed Islamic State or al Qaeda (WSJ). Previously, the EU could only place bloc-wide sanctions on individuals on the United Nations terror list.

FRANCE: French authorities arrested eight men they accuse of providing material support to an attacker who killed eighty-six people in Nice when he rammed a truck through a Bastille Day parade (AP). The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed the attack.


Judge Accepts Charges Against Brazil Ex-President

Former Workers' Party President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will stand trial for corruption charges (NYT). Prosecutors allege da Silva received kickbacks from a construction company (LAHT) that received lucrative contracts from the state oil company.

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses corruption and political instability in Brazil in this conference call.

VENEZUELA: Venezuela is importing about 50,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the United States (NYT) as the country suffers from a steep decline in production and severe food and energy shortages.

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