"I think there are certain times where you have tectonic shifts and change always happens that way."
On the latest episode of 'That Made All the Difference,' Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy at Patagonia, shares his thoughts on the role we all have to play in bringing our communities and the environment back to health.
For many, Paul Rusesabagina became a household name after the release of the 2004 tear-jerker film Hotel Rwanda, which was set during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Rusesabagina, who used his influence as a hotel manager to save the lives of more than 1,000 Rwandans, has again made headlines in recent weeks after he was reportedly duped into boarding a flight to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, where he was promptly arrested on terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder charges. Rusesabagina's supporters say he is innocent and that the move is retaliation against the former "hero" for his public criticism of President Paul Kagame, who has ruled the country with a strong hand since ending the civil war in the mid 1990s.
<p>Indeed, this case reflects the full scope of complexities underpinning contemporary Rwandan politics and society.</p><p><strong>Paul Kagame: A "benevolent dictator"</strong></p><p>Much of Kagame's worldview was formed during his formative years growing up in a Ugandan refugee camp. An ethnic Tutsi, Kagame was one of hundreds of thousands who fled during the country's decades-long civil war to escape violent attacks by the Hutu-led government.</p><p>In the waning days of the <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26875506" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Rwandan genocide </a>— during which Tutsis were systematically raped, tortured and murdered by their Hutu neighbors, and some 1 million Rwandans were killed — Paul Kagame commanded the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RFP), a Tutsi militia that eventually ended the Hutus' murderous campaign, emerging as the most powerful political force in post-conflict Rwanda. Kagame became president in 2000.</p><p>Since then, Kagame has been credited with overseeing a period of stability and economic prosperity after one of the world's bloodiest conflicts, but <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/08/kagame-african-leader-obama-shouldnt-invite-109677" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">critics</a> accuse him of widespread <a href="https://vimeo.com/107867605?utm_campaign=5370367&utm_source=affiliate&utm_channel=affiliate&cjevent=20b86c22fdb411ea82be007f0a240611" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">human rights abuses.</a></p><p><strong>Internal perceptions</strong></p><p>While many Rwandans revere Kagame for his role in ending the conflict and then putting Rwanda on the map as one of the <a href="https://qz.com/africa/1783714/african-economies-to-watch-in-2020-debt-and-climate-crisis/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">fastest-growing</a> economies in Africa, and one of the best places to do business in the world (in the <a href="https://www.doingbusiness.org/content/dam/doingBusiness/media/Annual-Reports/English/DB2019-report_web-version.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Bank's 2019 "Doing Business" report </a>it ranked 29th out of 190 countries), he is also widely viewed as a <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/08/kagame-african-leader-obama-shouldnt-invite-109677" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">strongman</a> known for suppressing dissenting views and creating an atmosphere of growing mistrust and fear.</p><p>Indeed, politically motivated killings and enforced disappearances of high-profile <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rwandas-opposition-rattled-by-killings-and-disappearances-of-members/a-50596049" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">political opponents </a>in the years since Kagame took power are well documented, while <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/01/28/rwanda-repression-across-borders" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">human rights groups</a> have long denounced arbitrary arrests and torture of Rwandans who dare to criticize the government.</p><p>Many Rwandans also lament the concentration of power amongst a small group of political elite who are loyal to the president. Kagame's <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/06/world/africa/rwanda-elections-paul-kagame.html?_r=0" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">reelection</a> in 2017 — when he claimed to have reaped a fanciful 99 percent of the vote — was seen by many as a sham, reflective of the oppressive political environment the RFP has cultivated. Importantly, this contested election came just two years after Kagame held a referendum overriding term limits that would allow him to stay at the helm until 2034. (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/26/it-looks-like-a-gameshow-russias-pseudo-vote-on-putins-term-limits" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Vladimir Putin </a>seemed to find this move inspiring, following suit this year.)</p><p><strong>External perceptions</strong></p><p>The international development community, and much of the West, have lauded Kagame for steering the country through a period of profound economic growth that's lifted at least 1 million people out of poverty. Meanwhile, Kagame's focus on expanding female representation in politics — over <a href="https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2018/8/feature-rwanda-women-in-parliament" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">60 percent</a> of the country's lawmakers are women — has also endeared him to leaders in Europe and the US. (When <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-42834308" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">US President Donald Trump </a>met with his Rwandan counterpart in 2018, he praised Kagame's "absolutely terrific" leadership and said: "It's a great honor to have you as a friend." )</p><p>Additionally, the Kagame government's focus on promotion of new technologies and environmental policy (in 2019, Rwanda became the first African country to introduce a complete <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/blogs/11156/34-plastic-bans-in-africa/#:~:text=Rwanda%20is%20a%20shining%20star,sale%20of%20plastic%20carrier%20bags.&text=In%20October%202019%2C%20Rwanda%20became,on%20all%20single%2Duse%20plastics." rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">ban </a>on all single-use plastics) has led to strong partnerships with economic heavyweights like Germany. The two countries recently created a <a href="https://www.volkswagen-newsroom.com/en/press-releases/first-for-africa-volkswagen-and-siemens-launch-joint-electric-mobility-pilot-project-in-rwanda-5510" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">joint pilot project </a>to introduce electric cars to Rwanda, with plans to expand the electronic automotive industry throughout the region.</p><p>To be sure, while some Western leaders have condemned Kagame for his human rights record in the past — with Washington going so far as to <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-congo-rwanda-usa/u-s-cuts-military-aid-to-rwanda-over-congo-rebel-support-idUSBRE86K0AY20120721" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">cut </a>military aid to Rwanda in 2012, citing the government's support for violent militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — most have been willing to look the other way because of the country's economic potential. (In the late1990s, leaders including US President Bill Clinton and the UK's Tony Blair repeatedly praised Kagame's leadership as visionary.)</p><p><strong>A complex legacy</strong></p><p>Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian writer, philosopher and dissident, once said: "The battle between good and evil runs through the heart of every man." While Paul Kagame has pioneered reforms that have helped stabilize a war-torn country, many believe that his oppressive tactics have led to continued pain and suffering, <a href="https://theconversation.com/rwanda-cant-achieve-reconciliation-without-fixing-its-democracy-94925" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">making it hard </a>for Rwanda's post-genocide society to fully heal.</p>
More Show less
What We're Watching: Bibi's COVID scheming, Mexico probes sterilization claims, Cyprus blocks Belarus sanctions
September 24, 2020
Bibi's COVID scheming: With coronavirus cases spiking, Israel has imposed a second nationwide lockdown, the first developed country to go back to draconian measures of this kind since the spring. The controversial decision, which came as Israeli Jews prepared to celebrated the Jewish High Holidays, represents a certain failure of Prime Minister Netanyahu's handling of the pandemic, in which Israel emerged as a global case study in how not to reopen after the initial lockdowns. Polls show that two-thirds of the public disapprove of Bibi's handling of the crisis. Many critics suspect the second lockdown — which bans large public gatherings — isn't only about flattening the curve, but about quelling the anti-Netanyahu protests that have gained steam throughout the country in recent months. This all comes as the Israeli government faces an unprecedented crisis: it has failed to pass a budget in two years and its economy is in free fall, sparking fears of another election by year's end (the fourth in less than two years).
<p><strong>Mexico investigating forced sterilizations claims:</strong> The Mexican government says it has <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-54265571" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">opened an investigation</a> into allegations that Latin American women, including several Mexicans, had undergone forced sterilization and other unwanted gynecological procedures while interned at a US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in the US state of Georgia. The allegations stem from a <a href="https://projectsouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/OIG-ICDC-Complaint-1.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">whistleblower complaint</a> released last week by a nurse who works there, which says that hysterectomies (the removal of at least part of the uterus) had been performed on several women at the facility without their consent. The whistleblower also alleges "jarring medical neglect" of detainees and calls out one specific doctor who she labels "the uterus collector" because of his insistence on "taking everybody's stuff out." Meanwhile, Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed disgust at the allegations — which ICE vehemently denies —and said Mexico would not hesitate to take legal action against the US if the allegations are proven true. More than 170 members of the US Congress have also <a href="http://jayapal.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/DHS-IG-Letter-9.15.pdf" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">called </a>for an immediate probe.</p><strong>Why is Cyprus blocking EU action on Belarus</strong>? All EU member-states but one have reportedly agreed on a package of economic sanctions against officials in Belarus, where dictator Alexander Lukashenko has brutally cracked down on weeks of protests over his rigging of the presidential election last month. Who's the one? The small <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/21/eu-fails-agree-belarus-sanctions-cyprus-blocks-plan" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">island nation of Cyprus</a>, which says it won't approve the Belarus measures unless Brussels <em>also </em>imposes sanctions on Turkey over its <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/08/28/the-new-great-dangerous-game-in-the-eastern-mediterranean/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">continued energy drilling</a> in eastern Mediterranean waters that Cyprus' main patron, Greece, claims as its own. Cyprus says it supports sanctions against Belarus in principle, but that the EU has to follow through on its <a href="https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/18/cyprus-holding-up-eu-sanctions-on-belarus-over-bloc-s-stance-on-turkey" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">unrelated pledge </a>to pressure Turkey to stop drilling and resume direct dialogue with Athens. Since sanctions like the ones prepared against Belarus require unanimous support from all 27 member states, one veto is enough to sink them. In a sign of growing frustration over the deadlock, Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, recently called for an end to that unanimity rule. In the meantime, who will fold first: Cyprus or Brussels? Alexander Lukashenko is watching as keenly as we are.
More Show less
September 24, 2020
Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor of Eurasia Group, discusses reasons the rapid global response to climate change warrants optimism on UNGA In 60 Seconds.
There's a lot of doom and gloom out there about climate change. Can you give me a reason to be optimistic?
I'm going to say something you don't hear set very often when it comes to climate change. You should be an optimist. You should be a skeptical optimist, but an optimist nonetheless. Let me explain what I mean. We are scaling up climate solutions faster than even the most ardent among us thought possible a decade ago. Consider this. In 2010, about half of US electricity was generated from coal. This year less than 20% will be, and it's trending towards zero at increasing velocity.
<p>Yesterday, just yesterday, Xi Jinping announced at UNGA that China's emissions will peak this decade, and he set an economy-wide net zero target for the middle of the century. And this afternoon, yes, just this afternoon before recording this segment, California Governor Gavin Newsome said the state will outlaw the internal combustion engine by 2035. All of this is happening against the backdrop of the European Green Deal, making a truly historic investment in clean growth, and a presidential nominee running on a climate plan that would have been unthinkable one election cycle ago. And that's just the politics. On the market side, ESG investing is more than holding its own against traditional vehicles, and the cost of renewable energy is truly competitive with thermal fossil, almost everywhere in the world, about a decade sooner than conventional wisdom, expected it to be. In short, things are changing, and fast. </p><p>But more than any of these trends, I'm optimistic because the demographics are finally on the side of climate action. Countries, global institutions, and firms are increasingly being led by a generation of people who will live through the harsh reality of the climate change era. They've seen the future, and they don't like it. None of this is to say the change is going to be easy or that it's going to happen automatically. These big changes that I've been talking about... They need to get bigger, and they need to happen faster, but there's too much doom-saying out there about climate change. There is hope, you should be skeptical, and you should always, always read the fine print, but there's lots of reasons to be hopeful. I'm Gerald Butts, and this has been UNGA in 60 Seconds. </p>
More Show less
September 24, 2020
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
It's UNGA week, very unusual New York to have the United Nations General Assembly meetings. You know, the city is locked down. It's almost always locked down this week, but usually you can't get anywhere because you've got all these marshals with dozens of heads of state and well over a hundred foreign ministers and their delegations jamming literally everything, Midtown and branching out across the city. This time around, the security cordon for the United Nations itself is barely a block, and no one is flying in. I mean, the weather is gorgeous, and you can walk pretty much anywhere, but nothing's really locked down aside from, of course, the fact that the restaurants and the bars and the theaters and everything else is not happening given the pandemic. And it's not just in the US, it's all around the world.
<p>So we're having an UNGA without world leaders, and they are mailing it in. And I would argue that in addition to mailing in virtually their speeches, in many cases, they're mailing in leadership. I just had a conversation with the Colombian president, Iván Duque, who said the first few months, there's been a lot of leadership individually, but nothing from a multilateralism perspective, not the G20, not the UN. That it's really been shocking to him that there was no coordination around personal protective equipment or ventilators in the early days when it was desperately needed. I hear this from António Guterres. I hear it from Christine Lagarde in the early days of the crisis. We need international coordination. These are all people whose jobs are truly global, truly multilateral, but they are also people who recognize that so far, at least this crisis, we have not been learning those lessons.</p><p>This is an environment where... I mean, we have COVAX for example, which is an effort to try to bring coordination on vaccine development and distribution to people all over the world, and the Europeans have signed up. Most of the developing world has signed up, but so far the United States and China have not, the world's two largest economies. And this is not to say that you can't spend other money developing other vaccines for yourself. It's just a promise to, in addition to that, provide that support and coordination. Not happening. I mean, I guess if there's good news here, good news at the multilateral level, the good news is that the institutions we have aren't falling apart. So... Give you an example. John Bolton was the National Security Advisor for President Trump. He's the guy that famously said that you could take off five floors of the UN main headquarters building, and no one would notice.</p><p>He can't stand the United Nations. But actually, the United States continues to pay their United Nations dues every year, and President Trump gave his plenary speech. Wasn't much to it, just seven minutes long, but he was there, kind of like US with NATO. People saying, "Oh, Trump was thinking about leaving NATO, threatened to leave NATO." He hasn't left NATO. Actually, the relationship is kind of the same. And even though Trump has said he's leaving the World Health Organization, he hasn't yet. He can't yet, and the day to day cooperation between the US and the WHO, including the sharing of data and the rest, continues to be as it has been. So at the multilateral level, at least we can say that the architecture we have, which is increasingly not aligned with the geopolitical order, and certainly not robust, but it's not broken.</p><p>It isn't gone. It still exists. And the reality of President Trump, who is an avowed anti-multilateralist, and President Xi, who is certainly not aligning with the free market or liberal democracy, which is largely the values that the multilateral institutions support, neither of them are saying, "We want to destroy this architecture." And if they occasionally say it, they're not doing that. But that's very different from saying that they're actively cooperating on the global stage to try to bring countries together. They're not doing that, and they're not doing that on a vaccine. They're not doing that to ensure that there will be economic support for the countries that are getting massively more indebted on the back of this crisis, and will need a lot more international aid and credit over the coming one, two years, the developing world and those that are under developed.</p><p>That's a serious problem, and I do think that not only does this election in the United States matter in that regard, but also Xi Jinping in 2022 matters in that regard. Right now, the direction that we are heading is not towards more effective multilateral leadership. We're actually heading in the other direction. And as much as very well-intentioned people like António Guterres and Christine Lagarde, both of whom I have a great deal of respect for, desperately want that trajectory to change, I'd be lying as an analyst here sitting here and saying I see that happening. Right now, I don't see that happening. For me, the true optimism on the global stage today is that despite the fact that the multilateral order is eroding, despite the fact that we truly lack global leadership in a GZERO world, that there's enormous amounts of human capital being unlocked. Uncoordinated, but still being brought to bear to help us respond to this global crisis of the pandemic, and these global crises of growing social inequality and economic inequality and political polarization and climate change.</p><p>I see so much effort of individuals trying to bring new technologies to bear in terms of over a hundred vaccines in development, in terms of improved distance learning, tele-medicine, efficiencies in agriculture, move towards sustainable energy, all of which is happening so much faster right now in part because of the pandemic than it was before. So, I mean, if the great acceleration that is coming on the back of the pandemic is truly concerning in the geopolitical order that feels increasingly broken, it's increasingly uplifting in seeing how individuals around the world are becoming more entrepreneurial, in creating the kinds of solutions that ultimately will get us through this. So that's my view, my quick take this week from the United Nations General Assembly and from New York City, the hub of it all this week and hopefully for many years to come. </p>
More Show less