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Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs delivers philosophical message to United Nations

The speech covered both the approach and effects of true peace, human dignity and human rights.

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Alan Peter Cayetano, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Philippines, delivered a lengthy address to the UN General Assembly that deserves close attention.

With the days agenda largely dominated by speeches from both the Syrian Arab Republic and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, many other important speeches got lost in the fray. Among these, the speech from Philippines was deeply important for its explanatory value of the situation in Philippines as well as for the philosophical and even spiritual approach to global problem solving that Cayetano offered.

During the speech, Cayetano made it clear that far from violating human rights as certain western politicians have stated, Philippines is actually preserving the life, liberties and human rights of Philippine citizens by taking a strong law and order based approach to drugs. The zero tolerance policies of President Rodrigo Duterte remain popular among Philippine people because of this. These measures do not curtail but expand the human rights, dignity, safety and health of the Philippine people.

As Cayetano explained, when a nation is fuelled by drugs it becomes a nation in the grip of violence. He asked his audience of fellow nations, how a nation can truly be sovereign if it is in the grips of drug violence and on the verge of becoming a narco-state?

He further stated that because of the indelible link between narco-cash and the financing of terrorism, it is explicitly crucial to crack down on the international drugs trade with the same fortitude with which it is necessary to crack down on terrorism, even as the so-called ISIS is being vanquished in both Syria and Iraq.

Cayetano also spoke of the need to cooperate increasingly with neighbours and partners, naming China as one such country.

Unlike many UN speeches, Cayetano’s address implored  the world to listen as well as talk. He explained that during his campaign, Rodrigo Duterte spoke less and promised less than his opponents, but that he listened more. He listened to the needs, worries and goals of the people and because of this he was granted a victory in a democratic election.

This attitude as pioneered by President Duterte, is one that the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs said was in keeping with the goals to prevent war from breaking out. He stated that people must listen and talk to friends as well as enemies in a subtle allusion to the notion that insults and threats is not the way to solve the North Korean issue.

Below is the full text of Alan Peter Cayetano’s speech in addition to a video of the address.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children
of GOD. Matthew 5:9
Mr. President, Excellencies,
The path to peace must be walked with patience. To achieve any
purpose with others—be they powers or people, patience is
needed. The opposite of patience is impatience—the cause and
aggravation of conflict.

Someone said that “Talk, talk is better than war, war.” Listening is
even better than talking. We must listen to others more than we
listen to ourselves. Hopefully we know what we are talking about.
But others may know what we do not. We can learn only if we
stop talking, and listen.

We may think we know how others can do things better than
they’ve done it. Maybe our way is more efficient. But the time
gained by that efficiency will be time lost convincing others that
our way is better, rather than a compromise between our way and
theirs.

Real change in the world order necessitates cooperation. Nothing
affecting others can be undertaken without their willing
involvement, without getting their agreement on the purpose and
manner of it. Achieving a shared purpose beyond any single one’s
ability requires cooperation.

But how else can we get cooperation if not with the patience to
explain why it is needed—and the equal patience to listen.
This is why we have the United Nations, the largest cooperative
endeavor in human history. We use the UN to speak out but
equally also to listen. And somehow arrive at a consensus, or at
least a modus vivendi on how to proceed—in peace and therefore
with a greater prospect of progress.

The theme for this year’s session— “Focusing on people: striving
for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet”—
captures a promise that everyone who has stood here vowed to
fulfill for his people, and the rest of the peoples of the United
Nations, as the Preamble of the Charter puts it.

Yet, after 72 years, while much has been achieved, much more
has to be done. The promise is still very much a work in progress.
We, the peoples of the United Nations, battle new threats that
undermine such success as we’ve achieved, and frustrate further
progress in peace, development and human rights— the three
pillars of the United Nations.

Your theme, Mr. President, mirrors the Philippines own peoplecentered
agenda as articulated by President Rodrigo Roa
Duterte.
President Duterte and The Filipino People are committed to real
change, to finally carrying out long needed reforms, to addressing
national threats long ignored, protecting the human rights of all
Filipinos, while doing our part in attaining regional peace and
stability.

We remain true to our obligations under the international treaties
we have ratified. We have made much sacrifices and continue to
be willing to make sacrifices.

The Philippines integrates the human rights agenda in its
development initiatives for the purpose of protecting everyone,
especially the most vulnerable, from lawlessness, violence, and
anarchy; particularly families, women and children, the poor,
indigenous people, migrant workers, the elderly, and persons with
disabilities.

This is why we have a massive campaign to restore the rule of
law by fighting corruption, crime and illegal drugs. We owe it to
the 10 million Filipinos working overseas to keep their children
and family safe. We owe this to the all Filipino Families.
The very principle of The Responsibility to Protect must
encompass first and foremost the vast majority of peaceful lawabiding
people who must be protected from those who are not. It
is for their safety and sustenance that states exist, and for which
governments and leaders are responsible.

President Duterte said fewest words and made least promises in
the campaign because he listened. He listened and he heard
what none of the other candidates would listen to. The vast
majority of Filipinos felt vulnerable in their lives and livelihoods,
unsafe in the rising drug-driven criminality that threatened those
least able to protect themselves. They were also those past
governments had least protected: poor and ordinary folk.
The Philippines comprehensive campaign against illegal drugs is
necessary instrument to preserve and protect the human rights of
all Filipinos, and never an instrument to violate any individual’s or
group’s human rights.

War vs. Illegal Drugs

It was noted in this hall, that “all sovereign nations must uphold
two core sovereign obligations: to respect the interests of their
own people and the sovereignty of other nations.” This is true as
much in bi-lateral relations between sovereign countries, as when
they combine multilaterally on some common decision or action.
The Philippines is a sovereign country. Indeed, it was the first
subject nation to win its independence however short-lived,
thereby earning the honor of being the First Republic in Asia. It
expects that sovereignty to be respected, and that its
democratically-elected government’s assessment of threats and
how to go about addressing them shall be accorded preeminence
among nations—or at least the benefit of their doubt.
We prize sovereignty in all its aspects. We acknowledge the
wisdom, and borrow the words here spoken: “All responsible
leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens first.” In
keeping with that obligation, it is a state’s duty to protect human
life, human dignity, and human rights—from aggression by other
states, terrorism from non-state actors, and the destruction of
societies and families from criminal networks trafficking in drugs,
people and arms.

As a responsible leader, the Philippine president launched a
vigorous campaign against the illegal drug trade to save lives,
preserve families, protect communities and stop the country’s
slide into a narco-state. An epidemic that would spell the end of
sovereignty in any meaningful sense.

As of August 2017, the drug trade had penetrated atleast 24,848
barangays. This is 59% of the total of 42,036 of the smallest
government units spanning our archipelago, the ones directly in
touch with our people. Where is sovereignty in a country where
vast numbers are addicted to drugs and enslaved to their
suppliers?

To be sure, drug addiction calls for cure and not chastisement.
When the President showed his fierce determination to end the
drug menace, 1.3 million drug users turned themselves in. But the
neglect of the drug problem by previous governments has left the
current one hard pressed to rehabilitate them all. We are thankful
that generous souls at home and abroad are building centers all
around the country.

While drug addiction calls for rehabilitation, drug trafficking surely
calls for stern measures—though always consistent with the rule
of law. The President has and will always have zero-tolerance for
abusive cops, as time will show.

But accusation before investigation is not proof. Nor is it fair.
Abuses have occurred and mistakes have been made, tragic
ones for sure. While one abuse is one too many, still the abuses
are far less than the imaginary numbers of partisan accusers and
publicity seekers. The drug trade has penetrated even law
enforcement. And yet we are getting a message that the best way
to stop abuses in the antidrug campaign is to stop the campaign
and live with drugs instead.

But we cannot live with drugs because drugs will not let us live.
We can no more live with drugs than with terrorism, which, the
United Nations admits, and as we have discovered is funded by
the drug trade. This has created the new phenomenon of criminal
insurgency.

In the century before last, a huge and well-populated Asian
country was enslaved by a maritime power which flooded it with
drugs.

We welcome this opportunity to address the international
community’s concerns and correct the perceptions gleaned from
media reports that deny the real scale of the problem as if denial
is a solution. The problem is huge and we will not reduce it in our
imagination because we dare not face it in reality.

Appeasement emboldens evil. We counsel patience but delay will
make the problem bigger until it is beyond containment and
control. Indeed, as we have heard in this hall, “When decent
people and nations become bystanders, the forces of destruction
only gather power and strength.” We will not slide down the slope
of complacency, and of willful ignorance of the threat to our
country and our people posed by the drug trade.

Counterterrorism and Violent Extremism

In the past four years, we have seen the rise of the Islamic State
and how it has been able to spread its nihilistic ideology beyond
Iraq and Syria to become a serious threat to the world.
We should hold no illusion that the threat posed by the Islamic
State will be over with the collapse of its self-proclaimed caliphate
in Iraq and very soon in Syria. Rather, we should all be ready to
confront a very potent threat that has spread to other parts of the
world.

In the Philippines, we have discovered the intimate and symbiotic
relationship between terrorism vis-à-vis poverty and the illegal
drug trade. These terrorists were somehow able to bring together
an assortment of extremists, criminals, mercenaries and foreign
fighters who attempted but failed to take control of Marawi. This
was part of their grand plan to establish in Southeast Asia an
extension of their shattered caliphate in the Middle East.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines shall regain full control of
Marawi from Islamic State-inspired terrorists. Their protracted
hold on their last several square meters of the city is largely a
result of superior arms illegally obtained, and the presence of
civilian hostages used by them as human shields. There is also
the government’s forbearance to unleash greater force so as to
avoid collateral loss of life. The fight has been terrible but the
effort has been patient and done with care to spare the innocent.
There’s been less talk and more listening to those with the most
at stake in the struggle: the people of Marawi. The disturbance
will be over soon and the rebuilding of Marawi will begin shortly.
Terrorism is a global problem that no country can tackle alone;
although here at the UN it was noted with some admiration that
Filipino families outside the conflict zone quickly absorbed most of
the 200,000 displaced civilians. Our main disaster preparedness
is compassion. The Filipino family system is strong and
cooperation is a Philippine tradition: help from fellow Filipinos is
always at hand. While the main burden is borne by our
government and people, and all the risks are taken by our
soldiers, we are thankful for such assistance as the international
community has extended. Thank you are dear friends for helping
when we needed it most.

The Philippines welcomes the creation of the United Nations
Counter-Terrorism Office to bring into a cohesive whole the work
on counterterrorism by Member States and the UN. It will be a
sharing of experiences and sober reflections rather than of blind
anxieties. That way lies real results.

Rule of Law

As a founding member of the UN, the Philippines has been a
strong advocate of the rule of law. We uphold the core of the UN
mission – to draw upon the strength and sovereign equality of its
members to achieve their common goals.
Mr. President,
Centuries ago, the ambition for land to take invited long and
terrible wars. The battle has shifted to the seas, hence the need
to affirm our commitment to UNCLOS, as the international law
governing the rights and responsibilities of States Parties in their
use of the world’s oceans.

The issues are numerous, intertwined and complex. Territorial
claims, Sovereignty rights, security and protection of marine life
and resources, to name a few.

Dialogue, building trust and promoting cooperation to address
issues of concern is the way forward in addressing maritime
disputes.

The Philippines, as ASEAN Chairman this year, looks forward to
commencing negotiations on the long-overdue code of conduct in
West Philippine Sea/South China Sea. We thank the individual
ASEAN states and China for their utmost cooperation in this
endeavor.

Again in this work, patience, a lot of listening, and willingness to
work with rather than against each other, is essential.
We live in a global community and we are all citizens of the world.
Today, our social contract is no longer confined to the nation
state. In our region, we exert efforts to build bridges and not
walls, to emphasize commonalities and not differences, to think
less that we are Filipinos, Thai, Indonesian, Japanese, Koreans,
Chinese and think more of ourselves as Asians. Beyond being
Asians we are global citizens, the people of the United Nations.

HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW

Human rights and the dignity of every person is the main pillar of
the United Nations. So it is for the Philippines. As a very spiritual
people we are united in believing that man was created in GOD’s
image. That there can be no compromise on human rights–of
those who break the law and surely, too, of those who are their
victims. We also believe in accountability, not least in the
practical conviction that as we sow so shall we reap.
We should never tolerate human rights abuses but neither should
we tolerate misinformation, fake news on and politicization of
human rights, for these undermine our collective efforts as the
United Nations to uphold the universality of human rights and
dignity of human life.

But why debate security versus human rights? Security and
human rights are not incompatible. Indeed, the first is our duty to
the other. Without security, the most basic human rights, to life
and safety, are constantly under attack—from terrorism,
criminality, drug and human trafficking.
PEACE AND SECURITY

Much has been said about ASEAN. Words like cooperation,
consultation and consensus are identified with it. Critics have
remarked on the slowness of ASEAN’s way of proceeding. Yet
slow as ASEAN’s progress has been, that progress has been
solid, substantive and irreversible—precisely because of the
patience with which it was made; thereby proving that consensusbased
organizations work better.

Five decades ago, Southeast Asia was marred by conflicts, and
all previous attempts at Southeast Asian regionalism proved
extremely difficult. Our different cultures and differing ideologies
and political systems only reinforced this pessimistic outlook.
Fifty years hence, the ASEAN miracle prevails with greater
political and economic prospects that have gripped global interest.
ASEAN has overcome the divisions, fears, and hostilities of the
past. We have used regional cooperation to promote growth,
development and integration and peaceful settlement of disputes.
Today, the Philippines patiently builds stronger relationships with
the international community through the ASEAN and the United
Nations. We remain a friend to all and an enemy to none—to
bridge, to build, a more peaceful, secure and stable world.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

There is no development without peace, and no peace without
development. This is what the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development provides. It serves as the template of the Philippine
Development Plan called Ambisyon Natin 2040 or Our Ambition
2040.
While the Philippines has experienced unprecedented economic
growth, we are adopting measures to make growth more inclusive
by massive poverty alleviation programs, creating more jobs,
driving innovation, making quality education universally available.
Relevant education that imparts training and skill building to make
people resilient in changing markets, building greater trust in
government with the hope for result of raising tens of millions of
Filipinos from poverty.

There is a link between increasing poverty, corruption and a
deteriorating environment. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte seeks
to reverse this linkage by addressing the adverse effects of
climate change – to which the Philippines is most vulnerable –
through disaster risk reduction and through strict implementation
of laws protecting the environment.

To honor the immense sacrifices of our 10 Million Filipinos abroad
– and all other migrant workers of the world making huge
sacrifices so that their families may have a better life – we press
on with our advocacy of the Global Compact on Migration. As we
seek to improve conditions for foreign nationals living and working
in the Philippines, we advocate the fundamental concept of loving
our neighbor as we love ourselves. We call on the UN to elevate
migration in its agenda.

Disarmament and Non-Proliferation
If we listen to each other, we will hear the same thing. We have
no need for nuclear weapons. There is absolutely no benefit in
another cold war, neither in an arms race. We want nuclear
weapons to be a thing of the past and we do not want an arms
race anywhere in the world.

On July 7, the Philippines joined 121 other member-states in
securing our world from weapons of mass destruction by adopting
the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Three days
ago, I signed the Treaty. The Philippines calls on Member States
with nuclear weapons to likewise sign on. We can only have a
safe world if we get rid of all nuclear and other weapons of mass
destruction. By doing so, we “save succeeding generations from
the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold
sorrow to mankind.”

The Philippines, on its own, and as this year’s chair of ASEAN,
has expressed its grave concern over the growing tensions in the
Korean Peninsula because of the Democratic People’s Republic
of Korea’s missile test launches and detonations. The Philippines
joins the call on the DPRK to put a stop to its provocations, which
bring us closer to an unimaginable scenario: a war to end all wars
because no one will be left to fight new ones.

Let me end where I began and call again for patience, for listening
and for cooperation, focused always on the wellbeing of, to quote
the Charter’s preamble, “We, the peoples of the United Nations.”
Let us listen to each other as we are the people of the United
Nations. Our Faith and destiny as human beings of this planet are
intertwined.

In a situation like the present, where every finger in and around
the Korean Peninsula is on a trigger, every eye is out for a wrong
move, the likelihood of a surprise attack is virtually zero. In that
situation, no one can be caught by surprise and unprepared to
strike back.

So what is there to lose by going on talking and listening until the
very last moment?

Patience, listening as much as talking, cooperation among friends
and even enemies: these are the signposts on the path of peace.
Peace is about peoples. No people and no country can have a
national identity if there are no others who can tell the difference.
Without peoples—each one different yet all the same in their
being and in the good they seek—it is impossible to imagine the
world. To utter the phrase “the world” means a planet with many
peoples sharing it.

All of us are pieces of a giant puzzle. We seek to be completed by
being pieced together thereby creating a whole, beautiful picture.
In a war of all against all, of everyone each against the other, the
last man standing is not at peace he is but a single piece. He is
not the victor he is simply alone.

Thank you Mr. President.

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Suzanne Giraud
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Suzanne Giraud

Thank you very much for this soulful gem, Mr. Garrie.
I’ll spread this valuable discourse on our greater human potential as sovereign nations united in peace.

bluewater
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https://youtu.be/0T_Ydub3NEc

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The ‘Gilets Jaunes’ Are Unstoppable: “Now, The Elites Are Afraid”

Now the elites are afraid. For the first time, there is a movement which cannot be controlled through the normal political mechanisms.

The Duran

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Authored by Christophe Guilluy via Spiked-Online.com:


The gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement has rattled the French establishment. For several months, crowds ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands have been taking to the streets every weekend across the whole of France. They have had enormous success, extracting major concessions from the government. They continue to march.

Back in 2014, geographer Christopher Guilluy’s study of la France périphérique (peripheral France) caused a media sensation. It drew attention to the economic, cultural and political exclusion of the working classes, most of whom now live outside the major cities. It highlighted the conditions that would later give rise to the yellow-vest phenomenon. Guilluy has developed on these themes in his recent books, No Society and The Twilight of the Elite: Prosperity, the Periphery and the Future of Francespiked caught up with Guilluy to get his view on the causes and consequences of the yellow-vest movement.

spiked: What exactly do you mean by ‘peripheral France’?

Christophe Guilluy: ‘Peripheral France’ is about the geographic distribution of the working classes across France. Fifteen years ago, I noticed that the majority of working-class people actually live very far away from the major globalised cities – far from Paris, Lyon and Toulouse, and also very far from London and New York.

Technically, our globalised economic model performs well. It produces a lot of wealth. But it doesn’t need the majority of the population to function. It has no real need for the manual workers, labourers and even small-business owners outside of the big cities. Paris creates enough wealth for the whole of France, and London does the same in Britain. But you cannot build a society around this. The gilets jaunes is a revolt of the working classes who live in these places.

They tend to be people in work, but who don’t earn very much, between 1000€ and 2000€ per month. Some of them are very poor if they are unemployed. Others were once middle-class. What they all have in common is that they live in areas where there is hardly any work left. They know that even if they have a job today, they could lose it tomorrow and they won’t find anything else.

spiked: What is the role of culture in the yellow-vest movement?

Guilluy: Not only does peripheral France fare badly in the modern economy, it is also culturally misunderstood by the elite. The yellow-vest movement is a truly 21st-century movement in that it is cultural as well as political. Cultural validation is extremely important in our era.

One illustration of this cultural divide is that most modern, progressive social movements and protests are quickly endorsed by celebrities, actors, the media and the intellectuals. But none of them approve of the gilets jaunes. Their emergence has caused a kind of psychological shock to the cultural establishment. It is exactly the same shock that the British elites experienced with the Brexit vote and that they are still experiencing now, three years later.

The Brexit vote had a lot to do with culture, too, I think. It was more than just the question of leaving the EU. Many voters wanted to remind the political class that they exist. That’s what French people are using the gilets jaunes for – to say we exist. We are seeing the same phenomenon in populist revolts across the world.

spiked: How have the working-classes come to be excluded?

Guilluy: All the growth and dynamism is in the major cities, but people cannot just move there. The cities are inaccessible, particularly thanks to mounting housing costs. The big cities today are like medieval citadels. It is like we are going back to the city-states of the Middle Ages. Funnily enough, Paris is going to start charging people for entry, just like the excise duties you used to have to pay to enter a town in the Middle Ages.

The cities themselves have become very unequal, too. The Parisian economy needs executives and qualified professionals. It also needs workers, predominantly immigrants, for the construction industry and catering et cetera. Business relies on this very specific demographic mix. The problem is that ‘the people’ outside of this still exist. In fact, ‘Peripheral France’ actually encompasses the majority of French people.

spiked: What role has the liberal metropolitan elite played in this?

Guilluy: We have a new bourgeoisie, but because they are very cool and progressive, it creates the impression that there is no class conflict anymore. It is really difficult to oppose the hipsters when they say they care about the poor and about minorities.

But actually, they are very much complicit in relegating the working classes to the sidelines. Not only do they benefit enormously from the globalised economy, but they have also produced a dominant cultural discourse which ostracises working-class people. Think of the ‘deplorables’ evoked by Hillary Clinton. There is a similar view of the working class in France and Britain. They are looked upon as if they are some kind of Amazonian tribe. The problem for the elites is that it is a very big tribe.

The middle-class reaction to the yellow vests has been telling. Immediately, the protesters were denounced as xenophobes, anti-Semites and homophobes. The elites present themselves as anti-fascist and anti-racist but this is merely a way of defending their class interests. It is the only argument they can muster to defend their status, but it is not working anymore.

Now the elites are afraid. For the first time, there is a movement which cannot be controlled through the normal political mechanisms. The gilets jaunes didn’t emerge from the trade unions or the political parties. It cannot be stopped. There is no ‘off’ button. Either the intelligentsia will be forced to properly acknowledge the existence of these people, or they will have to opt for a kind of soft totalitarianism.

A lot has been made of the fact that the yellow vests’ demands vary a great deal. But above all, it’s a demand for democracy. Fundamentally, they are democrats – they want to be taken seriously and they want to be integrated into the economic order.

spiked: How can we begin to address these demands?

Guilluy: First of all, the bourgeoisie needs a cultural revolution, particularly in universities and in the media. They need to stop insulting the working class, to stop thinking of all the gilets jaunes as imbeciles.

Cultural respect is fundamental: there will be no economic or political integration until there is cultural integration. Then, of course, we need to think differently about the economy. That means dispensing with neoliberal dogma. We need to think beyond Paris, London and New York.

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US Blunders Have Made Russia The Global Trade Pivot

Even if Europe is somehow taken out of the trade equation, greater synergy between the RIC (Russia, India and China) nations may be enough to pull their nations through anticipated global volatilities ahead

The Duran

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Authored by Mathew Maavak via ActivistPost.com:


The year 2019 had barely begun before news emerged that six Russian sailors were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Benin. It was perhaps a foretaste of risks to come. As nations reel from deteriorating economic conditions, instances of piracy and other forms of supply chain disruptions are bound to increase.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 107 cases of piracy were noted during the first half of 2018 vis-à-vis 87 throughout 2017.  The 2018 tally included 32 cases in Southeast Asian waters and 48 along African shores – representing 75% of the total. To put this figure into perspective, Asian behemoths India and China – despite their vast shorelines – recorded only 2 cases of piracy each during the study period. Russia had none. In terms of hostages taken, the IMB tally read 102 in H1 2018 vs 63 in H1 2017.

Piracy adds to shipping and retail costs worldwide as security, insurance and salaries are hiked to match associated risks in maritime transport. Merchant vessels will also take longer and costlier routes to avoid piracy hotspots.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report in 2016 sums up the perils ahead:

As over 90% of global trade is carried out by sea, the economic effects of maritime crime can be crippling. Maritime crime includes not only criminal activity directed at vessels or maritime structures, but also the use of the high seas to perpetrate transnational organized crimes such as smuggling of persons or illicit substances.  These forms of maritime crime can have devastating human consequences.

Indeed, cases of human trafficking, organ harvesting, and the smuggling of illicit substances and counterfeit goods are proliferating worldwide in tandem with rising systemic debt and suspect international agendas.

Australia offers a case in point. While it fantasizes over a Quad of allies in the Indo-Pacific – to “save Asians from China” – criminal elements from Hong Kong, Malaysia to squeaky-clean Singapore have been routinely trafficking drugs, tobacco and people right into Sydney harbour for years,  swelling the local organised crime economy to as much as $47.4 billion (Australian dollars presumably) between 2016 and 2017.

With criminal elements expected to thrive during a severe recession, they will likely enjoy a degree of prosecutorial shielding from state actors and local politicians. But this is not a Southeast Asian problem alone; any superpower wishing to disrupt Asia-Europe trade arteries – the main engine of global growth – will have targets of opportunity across oceans and lands.  The US-led war against Syria had not only cratered one potential trans-Eurasia energy and trade node, it served as a boon for child traffickingorgan harvesting and slavery as well. Yet, it is President Bashar al-Assad who is repeatedly labelled a “butcher” by the Anglo-American media.

Ultimately, industries in Asia and Europe will seek safer transit routes for their products. The inference here is inevitable: the greatest logistical undertaking in history – China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – will be highly dependent on Russian security umbrella, particularly in Central Asia. Russia also offers an alternative transit option via the Northern Sea Route, thereby avoiding any potential pan-Turkic ructions in Central Asia in the future.

Russo- and Sinophobia explained?

In retrospect, Washington’s reckless policies post-Sept 11 2001 seem aimed at disrupting growing synergies between Asia and Europe. This hypothesis helps explain the relentless US-led agitprops against Russia, China and Iran.

When the gilet jaunes (yellow vest) protests rocked France weeks ago, it was only a matter of time before some pundits blamed it on Russia. US President Donald J. Trump cheered on; just as “billionaire activist” George Soros celebrated the refugee invasion of Europe and the Arab Spring earlier.  If the yellow vest contagion spreads to the Western half of Europe, its economies will flounder. Cui bono? A Russia that can reap benefits from the two-way BRI or Arctic trade routes or a moribund United States that can no longer rule roost in an increasingly multipolar world?

Trump’s diplomatic downgrade of the European Union and his opposition to the Nord Stream 2gas pipeline matches this trade-disruption hypothesis, as do pressures applied on India and China to drop energy and trade ties with Iran.  Washington’s trade war with Beijing and recent charges against Huawei – arguably Asia’s most valuable company – seem to fit this grand strategy.

If China concedes to importing more US products, Europe will bear the consequences. Asians love European products ranging from German cars to Italian shoes and Europe remains the favourite vacation destination for its growing middle class. Eastern European products and institutions are also beginning to gain traction in Asia. However, these emerging economies will suffer if their leaders cave in to Washington’s bogeyman fetish.

Even if Europe is somehow taken out of the trade equation, greater synergy between the RIC (Russia, India and China) nations may be enough – at least theoretically – to pull their nations through anticipated global volatilities ahead.

In the meantime, as the US-led world crumbles, it looks like Russia is patiently biding its time to become the security guarantor and kingmaker of Asia-Europe trade.  A possible state of affairs wrought more by American inanity rather than Russian ingenuity…

Dr Mathew Maavak is a regular commentator on risk-related geostrategic issues.

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Historic Eastern Christianity: An Uncertain Future

The survival of historic Eastern Christianity, particularly in Syria, is critical for several reasons.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Elias Samo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The survival of historic Eastern Christianity has never been as urgent as it is today. Christianity saw its beginning in Greater Syria which was subdivided by France and Britain after WWI into modern day Syria, Lebanon, Palestian/Israel and Jordan. The land that housed, nurtured and spread the teachings of Jesus Christ for over two millenniums, now threatens children of that faith. The survival of historic Eastern Christianity, particularly in Syria, is critical for several reasons:

  1. Greater Syria is the homeland of Jesus and Christianity. Abraham was from modern day Iraq, Moses from Egypt, and Muhammad from Mecca; Jesus was from Syria.
  1. Paul converted to Christianity and saw the light while walking through ‘The Street Called Straight’ in Damascus.
  1. Jesus’ followers were called Christians for the first time in Antioch, formerly part of Syria.
  1. One of the earliest churches, perhaps the earliest, is in Syria.

The potential demise of historic Eastern Christianity is reflected in the key question Christians ask: should we stay or emigrate? The urgent question – in the face of the ongoing regional turmoil – precipitated with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and escalated since the Arab uprisings in 2011. Historic Eastern Christians’ fears were further magnified when Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Archbishop Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church, both of metropolitan Aleppo, were kidnapped on April, 22, 2013; with no traces of their whereabouts, dead or alive, since. For many years, I was deputy, friend, and advisor to the Archbishop Ibrahim, which provided me an opportunity to meet many Christians. I have, over time, noticed the change in their sentiment, with more considering emigration after the uprising and the kidnapping of the two Archbishops. Historic Eastern Christians survived the Ottoman Genocide in 1915 and thereafter; they multiplied and thrived in the Fertile Crescent despite some atrocities until the start of the misnamed “Arab Spring” in early 2011. Prior to the “Arab Spring”, historic Eastern Christians were victims of violence on several occasions. In the mid-1930s, the historic Assyrian community in Iraq suffered violent onslaughts and were driven to Syria. In the 1970s and 1980s, during the Lebanese Civil War, Christians were victims of sectarian violence. During the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians were victims of widespread sectarian violence which led to mass migration. The “Arab Spring” began with great hope for the right of the people to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. However, it was swiftly hijacked by Islamists and Salafists and turned into an “Islamic Spring, an Arab Fall and a Christian Winter”; bringing along with it a new massacre of Christians. Presently, Eastern Christianity is at the mercy of clear and identifiable domestic, regional, and international, historic and contemporary conflicts in the Fertile Crescent, namely:

  1. Jihad vs. Ijtihad: A long standing conflict amongst Muslims between the sword vs. the pen.
  2. Sunni vs. Shiite: A conflict which began following the death of the Prophet Muhammad.
  3. Arabism vs. Islamism: The former has territorial limitations, the later has no territorial limitations.
  4. Syria vs. Israel: It is an essential component of the Palestinian problem, not the presumed Arab- Israeli conflict.
  5. West vs. East: A throwback to the Cold War, or its revival.
  6. Historic Persian, Ottoman and Arab Empires animosities: Each seeking regional hegemony.

One is reminded of the proverbial saying, “When the elephants fight, the grass suffers.” Certainly, Eastern Christianity is suffering and threatened with extinction.

Syria was a model of religious tolerance, common living and peaceful interaction amongst its religious, sectarian, cultural and ethnic components. Seven years of turmoil, in which various international and regional powers manipulated segments of Syrian society by supplying them with an abundance of weapons, money and sectarian ideologies, has heightened Eastern Christians’ fears. During the seven-year turmoil in Syria, the entire society has suffered; Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Yazidis, Kurds, Christians and others. Christians, being a weak and peaceful component of the society, have suffered immensely. Ma’aloula; a religious treasure for Christians globally, and the only city in the world where Aramaic – the language of Jesus Christ – is spoken, was attacked and besieged by ISIS. Numerous historic Churches were damaged, and many destroyed. Christians in Raqqa were forced by ISIS into one of three options: 1. Pay a penalty in pure gold – known as a ‘Jizya’ to keep their life and practice their faith – albeit in secret only; 2. Convert into Islam; or 3. Face immediate death. To top their pain, the kidnap of the two prominent Archbishops meant no Eastern Christian believer was safe.

Amidst all the doom and gloom, however, there remains hope. The survival of Christianity depends on the actions and reactions of three parties:

Eastern Christians: During the last hundred years, 1915-2015, since the Ottoman Genocide, Eastern Christians have been victims of a history of massacres, which meant that every Eastern Christian was a martyr, a potential martyr or a witness of martyrdom; if you fool me once, shame on you, if you fool me twice, shame on me. The ongoing regional turmoil has heightened their sense of insecurity. The answer to an age-old question Eastern Christians had on their mind: To flee Westwards or remain in their land, in the face of death, is increasingly becoming the former.

Eastern Muslims: There is a difference in perceptions between Eastern Christians and mainstream Muslims regarding the massacres committed against Christians. When certain violent groups or individuals kill Christians, while shouting a traditional Islamic profession: “No God but one God and Muhammad is God’s messenger”, it is reasonable for Christians to assume the killers are Muslims. However, for mainstream Muslims, the killers do not represent Islam; they are extremists, violating basic Islamic norms such as Muhammad’s sayings, “Whoever hurts a Thummy – Christian or Jew – has hurt me”, “no compulsion in religion” and other Islamic norms regarding just treatment of people of the Book; Christians and Jews. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Muslim elites to impress upon their fellow Muslims that:

a. The three monotheistic religions believe in one God and all ‘faithfuls’ are equal in citizenship, rights and duties.

b. Christians participated in the rise of Arab Islamic civilization. They were pioneers in the modern Arab renaissance and they joined their Muslim brethren in resisting the Crusades, the Ottomans and Western colonialism.

c. Christians are natives of the land and they provide cultural, religious, educational, and economic, diversity.

d. Christians are a positive link between the Muslims and the Christian West, particularly in view of the rise of Islamophobia. Massacres of Christians and their migration provide a pretext for the further precipitation of Islamophobia.

e. Civilization is measured by the way it treats its minorities.

The Christian West: The Crusades, Western colonialism, creation and continued support of Israel, support of authoritarian Arab political systems, military interventions, regime change, and the destabilization of Arab states made Muslims view Eastern Christians ‘guilty by association’. The Christian West helped Jews come to Palestine to establish Israel. Shouldn’t the same Christian West also help Eastern Christians remain in their homeland, rather than facilitate their emigration? Western Christians, particularly Christian Zionists, believe that the existence of Israel is necessary for the return of Jesus to his homeland. However, it would be a great disappointment for Jesus to return to his homeland, Syria and not find any of his followers.

Prior to 2011, Eastern Christian religious leaders were encouraging Syrian Christians in the diaspora to return to Syria, their homeland, where life was safe and secure with great potential. Now, the same leaders are desperately trying to slow down Christian emigration. Eastern Christians’ loud cries for help to remain are blowing in the wind.

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