Looking Back - NDN's "Preview to the Summit of the Americas" Event

In March, NDN proudly hosted the first "Preview to the Summit of the Americas," in Washington, D.C. At the event, moderated by Mr. Nelson Cunningham, we gained valuable insight from our distinguished panelists. 

Our keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, has been a long-time friend of NDN's and inspired what has developed into the Latin America Policy Initiative at NDN, founded on a core principle: as stated by Sen. Menendez, "In the age of globalization, we are inextricably linked to the rest of the world – and to no people are we more closely connected than to our neighbors in Latin America." Below, an excerpt of Sen. Menendez's remarks at the "Preview to the Summit of the Americas":

[The Summit of the Americas] meeting isn’t just an opportunity to tackle our common challenges — it’s another chance to be reminded how connected we all are. Those of us who advocate strong cooperation across borders always have the challenge of explaining to a taxpayer in New Jersey why they might be asked to support a program in Nuevo Leon. The Summit is going to help the entire region remember why...Giving greater mutual focus to institution-building, cross-border development and democracy is a strategy meant to improve the quality of life of our citizens. But maybe above all, finding that focus represents an opportunity to build a new trust between us, to substitute unnecessary tension for a new bond of hope.

Click here for the entire address.


As we reflect on the Summit that just passed, we would like to recap the event and share the ideas presented by our rich panel.  Please access the video of each speaker:

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow
Hon. Samuel Lewis Navarro,
First Vice President and Foreign Minister of Panama
Jane Thery,
Head of OAS – USA Relations, Secretariat for External Relations of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC.
Dr. Paul Byam,
Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago
Ambassador Jose Pinelo,
Ambassador of Bolivia to the Organization of the American States
Ambassador Carolina Barco,
Ambassador of Colombia to the United States of America
Ambassador Luis Gallegos,
Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States of America

Violence in Mexico Unprecedented, No One Outside of Mexico Seems to Care

A controversial Blago and a shoe being thrown at President Bush are stories that have made it around virtually every website and every newspaper in the world. The story of an American security expert being kidnapped doesn't even make front page news in his own country. The difference between the first two and the third is that the last is a reflection of a much broader crisis in America's own vicinity, which has much, MUCH more severe consequences for the U.S. and Latin American region. Felix Batista, 55, was taken by a group of armed men last week in the state of Coahuila, where he was giving seminars for business owners. Batista is a security expert, as well as an expert negotiator - he successfully led negotiations in high-profile kidnappings and criminal cases in Mexico. This kidnapping occurs just days after the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights issued a report on the "Fundamental Right to Security in Our Country," the Commission found that there have been approximately 20,000 kidnappings and 10,500 drug-related killings from 2006 to 2008. To put the number in perspective, this is more than twice the number of soldiers killed in Iraq over a longer period (2004-2008).

The Human Rights Commission concluded that an average 43,835 crimes are reported daily, there are no estimates as to how many go unreported. This fact is made more dramatic by the levels of impunity found by the Commission - according to its study, 9 out of every 10 crimes that occur in Mexico go unpunished, which translates to a 90% rate of impunity. And yet the international community has still not declared this a humanitarian crisis - Mexicans are not granted asylum or refugee status just because of a little drug war. And then they are criticized for trying to leave these dangerous conditions, particularly in Northern Mexico. Nor is the international community demonstrating much support to President Calderon as he tries to fight drug cartels that enjoy bottomless resources, while he also deals with the corruption within government ranks that is under investigation.

Almost one week later, the story of Batista made it into Time and the Times. Just in case no one had noticed, this is front page news. It is front page news to the communities who suffer the constant fear and threat of these drug wars, and it is front page news for the entire region. Just this week, a 3-ton shipment of cocaine was discovered in Peru, just before it was shipped off to Spain.  Hypothetically, let's say Mexico succeeds in cracking down on organized crime, as Colombia did - then what? Then some other poor Central American or South American country's shores will become ground zero of the fight for control among drug cartels.  It seems that the international community still doesn't get that this is not one country's problem, that this is an issue of shared responsibility, and that we will all be increasingly affected as it continues to spiral out of control. And the root of this crisis is not drugs - it is a lack of opportunity, corrpution, lack of education, lack of economic upward mobility.

What will it take for the international community to take notice? It would probably require a tragic turn affecting a non-Mexican, but then we'd probably have in international crisis on our hands. Let's hope it doesn't take an international tragedy - there have been enough Mexican tragedies in this war. I propose that the crisis is here. The question is, what is everyone going to do to solve it. As NDN has long said, we need to start a policy of engagement, as opposed to one of observation in Latin America. Ever heard of the frog in hot water.....


Climate Change and Security

High Noon in the Arctic

A fascinating article by Scott Borgerson in the current Foreign Affairs examines the security implications of global warming in the Arctic. With the Artic summer ice cap on track, tragically, to disappear as early as 2013 having lost over a third of its summer mass since 2001 alone, a gold rush is on in the Arctic with potentially dangerous strategic consequences.

The stakes are huge. A glance at the top of the globe reveals that, absent its blockage with ice, the Arctic is a sort of 21st Century Mediterranean, linking up some of the wealthiest parts of the world, principally the United States, Canada, Russia and Northern Europe. With the opening of the once fabled northwest passage to sea traffic, the trip from Seattle to Rotterdam will shrink by 20% while the much longer trip from Yokohama in Japan to Rotterdam will drop by 40%.

Apart from the promise of high speed sea lanes, the Arctic also holds immense mineral treasures. Scientists estimate that the Arctic may harbor over a quarter of the world's oil and natural gas reserves. Indeed, last year in a brazen assertion of rights, the Soviet Union dispatched a submarine to plant a flag on the sea floor below the North Pole to defend its claim to about a half million square miles of the Artic region. The estimated oil reserves in this region of 586 billion barrels of oil are over twice the proven reserves in Saudi Arabia!

Borgerson points out that the US remains a laggard in grasping the value of the Arctic and securing it. Despite having the world's largest navy, the US only has one seaworthy icebreaker compared to Russia's 18. And the US has held off on signing the reigning convention governing stewardship of the Artic, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea out of fears it limits our options. Unfortunately our options are receding every day.

Borgerson lays out a plan for how to create a multilateral regime to govern the Arctic. But US leadership is required.

Environmental Migrants

The Arctic is just one of many security challenges global warming is raising. A new EU report scheduled for release this week highlights the risk to security of environmental migrants as increasingly extreme weather and higher sea levels potentially displace millions of people in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. The US would probably be the destination of choice for Caribbean and Central American environmental refugees, adding to current immigration pressures. The refugee crisis in and around New Orleans would pale before what we would be likely to behold if sea levels continue their rise, particularly, in the event of a hurricanes, storm or other major weather catastrophes.

Clearly the security challenges of climate change and implications for other issues such as immigration are only now being recognized. We are a long way away from understanding them let alone devising solutions.

Syndicate content