Monthly Archives: September 2013

Egypt actions on environmental issues

By Congrong Zheng

Egypt is part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals funding program. There is official website about MDG in Egypt, belongs to United Nations Development Program. According to the official website of Millennium Development Goals funding, The MDG Achievement Fund is an international cooperation mechanism whose aim is to accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) worldwide. It supports national governments, local authorities and citizen organizations in their efforts to tackle poverty and inequality.


Egypt’s environmental problems stem from its aridity, extremely uneven population distribution, shortage of arable land, and pollution. With the new government and existed government policies Egypt is trying to dealing with environment issues everyday.

From the ministry of State of Environmental Affairs website, we could find out that Egypt has passed the The National Environmental Action Plan in 1999, is currently entering its final phase.  The plan is to provide support for the introduction of a participatory and demand-driven environmental planning process. For environmental laws, Law 4/1994, has a greater role with respect to all governmental sectors as a whole. The laws and regulations covering the governmental sector that can be grouped according to the pollutant emissions from various activities.


For a more specific topic, Garbage has always been an severe issue in Egypt. In recent news, Egypt is going to use more local companies to hopefully dealing with this issue. By granting of low-interest credit facilities to local garbage collection companies, in a prelude to taper off and eventually end work with foreign companies.


Water Crisis in the Arab World

One of the biggest issues that the Middle East faces every year is frequent droughts and dessert storms which have a negative impact on crops and the water supply for many countries. Air pollution is said to be the prime reason for these droughts and desserts. Over use of the Jordan River is having a heavy impact on the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. Many Middle Eastern countries heavily rely on these bodies of water for their survival. Actions at international level have been taken in hopes of fixing this ecological disaster. Countries such as Morocco are experiencing major environmental issues such as land degradation, “water supplies containment by raw sewage and oil pollution of coastal waters.” As of right now, Jordan is not part of the UN Millennium Development Goals along with many other Middle Eastern Countries. Hopefully in the near future Jordan can become a member and start taking the necessary actions towards solving these environmental issues.

Posted by Irina Franz

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Saudi Arabia and Domestic Abuse

If you watch the video above, you will learn that in August of 2013 Saudi Arabia passed it’s first ban on domestic abuse. The new law was put in to place to protect house wives, children and even domestic workers that have been suffering the effects of domestic violence under the rule of an unsympathetic government.

Now, nearly a month after the passing of this law, we are finding out that authorities seem to have no plans to actually enforce it. Two women’s rights activists were convicted on September 24th 2013 on charges of “inciting a woman against her husband.” Basically these women stepped in to help a woman and her children who were being abused by the father and authorities say that was an unlawful action. The woman and her children were reportedly locked in their home without sufficient food or water. These two women who were just trying to help these victims now face up to 10 months in prison and a 2 year ban on foreign travel.

These women were convicted by the opinion of just one judge (no jury) and he didn’t even allow the woman in distress to testify.

So, despite this new law meant to help victims, Saudi law enforcement are refusing to intervene with the “sovereignty” a man has over his female dependents. The law doesn’t specifically state who is allowed to intervene in instances of abuse, and since we know that authorities avoid it and citizens will get arrested for it, these victims are basically trapped.

The government is sending mixed signals about a piece of legislation they passed merely a month ago. For this law to work the authorities need to crack down. Saudi Arabia needs to look kindly upon those who assert themselves to help the women, children, and workers in need of rescue. And what can we do? We, as an allied country, can push the issue. We can make our disappointment of their lack of enforcement for this law known. We can refuse help to them when they ask us to fight Syria on their behalf. Something. But we can’t go on knowing that a country we interact with and do business with is still treating their women, children, and workers in such a horrific way. This is something we can not support and must push to end.

Posted By: Brittany Lintner

Why Recent Terror Attacks are Devastating for Peace

Over the weekend of September 21-22, 2013, it seemed that one could not turn on the news without seeing the effects of global terrorism. This weekend was plagued with attacks that are not only detrimental to the countries where they occurred, but for the call for worldwide peace. In case you missed a few details of the attacks, the largest ones occurred in a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya and at a church in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The siege of the Nairobi mall began on Saturday, when “some 10 to 15 gunmen stormed the mall, shooting indiscriminately, according to witness accounts” (via CNN).


(Photo credit: CBS News)

The death toll is now at least 67, not including some militants. The Kenyan government has declared the siege over, but gunshots have still been ringing out from the area surrounding the mall. Terrorist group al-Shabab is responsible for the attacks. The group claims the government used chemical weapons to end the siege, then collapsed the building to bury the evidence, trapping over 130 people inside. The government refutes these claims (via AP).

A suicide bombing at a church in Islamabad, Pakistan killed at least 81 people Sunday. CBS News says the attacks are “thought to be Pakistan’s deadliest attack on members of the faith.” Angry Christians took to the streets Monday to protest the act of violence.

130923-pakistan-protest-hmed-730a.photoblog600(Photo credit: NBC News)

These attacks come on the heels of an alleged chemical weapons attack on Syrian citizens by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. According to Al Jazeera, UN Chemical Weapons Inspectors are back in Syria to determine how many times chemical weapons have been used in Syria’s 30-month long conflict. There are 14 alleged incidents where the weapons were used. The group confirmed last week that there was “clear evidence that sarin gas was used in an attack in the Eastern Ghouta neighbourhood near Damascus on August 21” (via Al Jazeera). US estimates put the death toll over 300 people.


(Photo credit: Reuters)

The issues here are way more complex than they seem. Don’t get me wrong: any deaths, including the deaths of innocent civilians, are a huge loss for humanity. No one expects to go to church or a mall and never come back home. I would bet none of the victims woke up that morning and decided to take a shopping trip, knowing they would never sleep in their beds again. These events are tragic and the significance of that can never been underestimated.

The larger issue here is these attacks are detrimental to an international quest for peace. Countries around the world are developing to become successful, flourishing nations.  Previously poor countries are learning the value of natural resources and becoming beacons of trade. Access to technology and clean water is spreading, improving global healthcare. But a society cannot begin to reach its potential when human beings are willing to take the lives of other human beings to make a point.

If terrorism groups continue to attack innocent civilians, there cannot be peace. If countries continue to bomb each other to get what they want, there cannot be peace. Until we realize that there is much more to be gained from working together than fighting, there cannot be peace.

There is scientific proof one country used chemical weapons on its own people. In my vocabulary, that is what I would call genocide: a deliberate killing of a targeted group of people. And I’m not the only one who sees it this way:

“No matter how we act going forward, we are still left with the fact that we failed to intervene while more than 100,000 innocent Syrians were killed. One more genocide has come to pass.” -Jeff Greene,

“Unless the international community can treat this crisis as genocide and ponder long and hard about its long-term effects, it is highly unlikely that they will realize the need for ceasing violence and restoring some kind of order.” -Counterpunch, Online news

“…we are “not only talking about the humanitarian situation which is almost a catastrophe” but sectarianism which is frightening with “the possibility of having a large genocide, it’s there.” –

“In close analysis, it becomes clear the crisis in Syria is not solely about the use of chemical weapons, but how the targeted use of these weapons falls under the category of genocide.”

At the end of the day, the truth is still there: we will never know when or where the next inhumane attack like this will occur. The United States may have heightened security measures, but planes are not the only way to cause damage. Countries may keep a terror database and monitor powerful extremist groups, but no one can predict a suicide bomber. These attacks have served as a reminder to everyone that attacks can and will happen when you least expect it. And the fear that lingers in the minds of citizens across the country is the reason why peace cannot be achieved.

Courtney Doll

Urbanization Brings Environmental Problems for Turkey

by Jessica Stone

As with other developing countries, Turkey faces the problem of advancing socially and economically while still protecting its natural resources.  Rapid urbanization and industrialization in Turkey have caused several environmental issues, one being air pollution.  According to Turkish news sources, air pollution is the biggest environmental issue in 33 cities in Turkey, and is primarily attributed to urban transformation and industrial developments in Turkey’s most populated cities.  “Air pollution, which threatens 79 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, is largely caused by fuel usage in homes,” according to the Hürriyet Daily News.

Smog at dusk in Istanbul due to traffic. Source: Google Images.
Smog at dusk in Istanbul due to traffic. Source: Google Images.

According to the World Development Indicators 2012 report published by the World Bank, which includes data on pollution in cities around the world, “air pollution in Ankara and İstanbul exceeds the maximum acceptable limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO).”  The air pollution consists mostly of sulfur dioxide concentration, a pollution caused by the consumption of coal, diesel fuel and gasoline containing sulfur.  Also according to the report, “Turkey’s two largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, are placed rather high on the list of most polluted cities: Istanbul is ranked seventh and Ankara 26th out of 97 cities.”

Traffic in Turkey's capital, Ankara, is one factor that contributes to its air pollution problem.  Source: Google Images
Traffic in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, is one factor that contributes to its air pollution problem. Source: Google Images

Turkey’s urban growth has strengthened its industrial sector, which in effect has improved its economy.  According to a Carnegie Europe article,  “There has been a major influx of European direct investment in Turkey.  The country has emerged as an integrated production platform for European manufacturing industries.”  The article also says the economic boom from such investments has contributed to major improvements in “Turkey’s public services and infrastructure, including airports, roads and highways, high-speed railroads, utilities, hospitals, universities, and museums.”  While beneficial to the economy, such improvements require more energy consumption, fuel, and expendable land.  Expanding the industrialized sector also means more deforestation, air pollution and water pollution in coastal areas.   

The government’s involvement with this urban transformation has received criticism, according to Carnegie Europe:

“However, the Turkish government is implementing urban transformation through sudden, top-down decisions that do not sufficiently account for environmental protection or consultations with citizens. In the process, the population’s leanings are largely ignored, making it impossible to nurture civic consensus on the pace and nature of economic development.”

Rapid population and industrial growth has extended to suburbs of Turkey’s largest cities, thus placing more pressure on the government’s sustainable development task. With specific environmental problems in each province, there is no simple solution to eradicate multiple issues.

The next post on environmental issues in Turkey will cover the country’s renewable energy plan.

Turkish economy accelerating, but hitting some speed bumps

by Jessica Stone

Turkey is a founding member of the UN, and remains actively involved.  According to Turkey’s United Nations Security Council Candidate site,  “Turkey maintains Permanent Delegations at the UN Headquarters in New York, at the UN Offices in Geneva and Vienna, and at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. ”  Turkey also makes substantial contributions to “UN funds, programs and agencies, as well as other relevant organizations.”

According to Turkish Business Outlook 2012, “Turkey is a manufacturing country, a major producer of a diverse range of industrial products.”   It also currently represents ” the 17th largest economy in the world and the 6th in Europe.”  It became a member of the IMF in 1947.   In May, the country paid off its $422.1 million debt to the IMF,  thus changing its IMF role from frequent borrower to lender.  This was a remarkable accomplishment since Turkey’s exports, the country’s primary economic strategy, still thrived in a unstable global economy.  By paying off the debts, Turkey “will become a net contributor to the IMF with a scheduled $5 billion investment that will see its role and influence in the fund increase.”

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. Image Source: Bloomberg News, via Wall Street Journal
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. Image Source: Bloomberg News, via Wall Street Journal

The IMF is impressed with how Turkey has challenged the global economic crisis.  Turkey-IMF relations have fortified and will only continue to become closer in the future. IMF senior representative Mark Lewis told SES Turkiye:

“Turkey’s role in the IMF is growing, and will continue to do so. With the ongoing reform of the IMF’s voting and capital, expected to be completed in the coming months, Turkey will be one of the 20 largest members of the IMF, and combined with the increase in capital across all countries, Turkey will see its capital in the IMF increase by about four times.”

Turkey has been a member of the World Trade Organization since 1995, and is a member of four coalitions within the organization. The groups in the WTO in which Turkey claims membership are the Asian Developing Members, G-33, Friends of A-D Negotiations, and “W52” Sponsors.

Compared to 20 years ago, Turkey has made significant progress in the global economy, and has become an emerging country.  Twenty years ago, Turkey would have been considered a typical ‘developing’ country.  But today, it boasts “historically low inflation, vigorous growth rates, falling debt levels, a thriving private sector, and increasingly stable democratic institutions” (Zakaria, 28).

However,  the Wall Street Journal reports Turkey’s thriving market is starting to slow down due to political uncertainty:

“The days when Turkey was considered a market darling are over and the government is in for a bumpy ride,” said Mert Yildiz, chief Turkey economist at Burgan Bank. “Turkey is either set for a pronounced crisis or years of slow growth that will feel like recession.”

This relates to what Sharma writes in the last paragraph in Broken BRICs.   Sharma says countries like Turkey may continue to rise but they will rise more slowly and inconsistently than what the IMF and economic experts are anticipating.  This theory is consistent with economic data about Turkey’s productivity, which shows it hasn’t fully reached the level of productivity of the world’s economic leaders.

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s labor statistics show countries’ GDP per hour of labor compared to the United States. Turkey’s labor productivity as measured by that statistic was only 46.3 percent of the United States’ productivity. By that measure, Turkey’s economic productivity narrowly beats out developing countries like Mexico and Chile, and has a way to go before it can beat the world’s productivity leaders such as Norway, Luxembourg, and Ireland.

Power Shifts: The Definition of U.S.-Iranian Relations

By Connor J. Wangler

The current state of relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran is extremely strained; formal diplomatic relations between the two countries have been severed for more than thirty years. The revolutionary hero of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, made it a point after his rise to power to effectively cut out the influence of the United States in his new Islamic Iranian society. After the success of the Islamic revolution, Khomeini and his supporters succeeded in this and ending official relations with the United States.

There is no doubt that the coup d’état against the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddeq, remains one of the biggest blows to the relationship between the United States and the people of Iran. On May 1, 1951, Prime Minister Mosaddeq nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and placed the production of oil in Iran under state control. This upset British and American oil interests, and on August 19, 1953 the U.S. and Great Britain organized the overthrow of the Mosaddeq government and installed Shah Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavī as the absolute leader in Iran. This action was recently detailed by a vote in the Iranian Parliament to sue the United States over its involvement in the coup.

Source: Bertil Videt
Source: Bertil Videt

After the restoration of the Shah as ruler in Iran, several factions of anti-Shah/anti-West sentiment were aroused. These ranged from communist groups to Islamic fundamentalists. Fortunately for the Islamics, the only true leader that emerged from this opposition was Khomeini. After decades of failed social reforms and westernization, the Iranian people rose up against the Shah. On January 16, 1979 the Shah left Iran for exile and on April 1, the country voted to become an Islamic Republic. This day is celebrated as Islamic Republic Day, recognizing the official creation of an Islamic Iran.

Perhaps the most defining event of U.S.-Iranian relations is the hostage crisis of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran that lasted from 1979 until 1981. Iranian students, claiming to be acting in support of the recent Islamic revolution, took fifty-two Americans hostage inside the U.S. Embassy. These actions were condoned by Khomeini and last for 444 days. This event stays prevalent in both countries, especially through its recent depiction in a film-fight between the U.S. “Argo” and the Iranian “The Genera Staff”.


Today’s status of U.S.-Iranian relations stands at an interesting crossroads. For most of the past decade it has been defined by extremely constrained encounters over Iran’s nuclear program. This has included a vehemently anti-U.S. Iranian presidency in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and increased sanctions placed on Iran by the Bush and Obama administrations. No U.S. and Iranian Presidents have met since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. This may change, however, with the inauguration of President Rouhani in Iran, who has begun a “charm offensive” beginning with an Op-ed in The Washington Post. There has also been increased speculation that President Obama will offer an olive branch of peace to Rouhani and meet with the Iranian president at the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting. According to a White House statement, Obama wrote Rouhani saying “that the U.S. is ready to resolve the nuclear issue in a way that allows Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes.” One must question to legitimacy of both parties’ intentions, but one must also be hopeful that perhaps progress can be made.

What’s Going On This Week?

Right now in Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al-Faisal is pushing for war against Syria. In a meeting last week with Secretary of State John Kerry, Saud al-Faisal was reportedly very aggressive in his wishes that the U.S. lead an intervention against Syria. In the past, Saudi  Arabia has kept their dislike for Washington decisions out of public ears, but recently they seem less willing to do so. Perhaps their strategy is to convince the public to support their side.

In recent Saudi cabinet meetings, the Kingdom’s strict views on the crisis in Syria were reaffirmed. The community has been called on to both ‘stop the fighting in Syria immediately,’ and to ‘fulfill their humanitarian responsibilities to save the Syrian people from “genocide.”‘
Saudi Arabia desperately wants to implement an intervention in Syria as soon as they can. Reasons range from humanitarian efforts to a urge to push back against the excesses of an Iranian-backed regime in the heart of the Levant. However, the Kingdom has yet to make a move because they still probably expect the US to do the fighting for them.

In other news, Saudi Arabia may be increasing their imports from Australia in the near future. The Australian State of Victoria exports agricultural products to Saudi Arabia. In fact the Kingdom is one of the largest regional markets for Victoria’s commodities. Victoria and Saudi Arabia are simply looking to strengthen their partnership and possibly expand into the automobile industry. Universities in both countries have also been working together to help their students.

Posted By: Brittany Lintner

Environmental Issues in Syria

Much of Syria’s natural forests and vegetation has been depleted by cutting trees for wood and construction material, livestock grazing, and farming. What thick forests used to be in Western Syria are have considerably decreased, and the result of that is desertification. Also due to the repeated foresting and livestock grazing, the soil is not what is used to be causing a loss to farmers and corporations of 300 million dollars! On the other hand we also have two booming industries in Syria which are oil production and refining. Waste from the refining process coupled with the raw sewage from urban centers has degraded and depleted a lot of Syria’s fresh water. Syria had been working with the UN and had ratified international agreements to help protect the ozone layer, endangered species, wetlands, and biodiversity. It has also signed treaties that limit the pollution in bodies of water and safer disposal of hazardous waste. With the current state of the bodies of water that surround Syria, the pre-treatment process for converting it into safe drinking water is quite extensive and expensive. There are ideas in place to reduce the price of producing clean safe drinking water in the region but it hasn’t been currently implemented yet.

With the current state of Syria, many wonder if the climate conditions would get worse as Syria has continued to not listen to the UN, and Bashar Assad has almost taken a threatening position towards other world countries. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attacks that President Obama wanted to initiate against Syria “outrageous”; he believed that it would destroy any chance of negotiation. With the recent wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, and our uncanny ability to get involved with any major conflict; people are sick of the US being involved in world conflicts. Recent polls taken by CNN show that the majority of the American people do not want to be in another conflict. 69 percent of American’s do not think it is in the national interest of the US to be involved in the conflict in Syria. And when asked if the US launched strikes against Syria would it achieve significant goals for the US, 72 percent believe it would not.


Steinhauser, Paul. “CNN Poll: Public against Syria Strike Resolution.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

“INECO – Syria.” INECO – Syria. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

“Encyclopedia of the Nations.” Environment. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

By: Rohan Kohli

Environmental Issue in Libya

By Congrong Zheng


On June 2013, Libya Herald, the new independent Libya daily posted a story about the tough environmental issue of Libya facing now. “Libya faces pressing challenges over water supplies, sewerage treatment and garbage disposal an environmental conference has been told.” Recently  Korea-Libya Environmental Cooperation forum, was held in Korea. The forum was an opportunity for both Libyans and Koreans to develop networking for a more productive cooperation. Since Libya new government was established, lots of constructions of public system projects are under way. It will take time for Libya to finish them up.


Right now, Libya has undertaken a number of major irrigation projects intended to ease the country’s water shortage. The most ambitious is the so-called Great Man-Made River (GMMR), a massive 25-year irrigation scheme begun in 1984. Expected to cost $30 billion, the GMMR is a vast water pipeline system designed to tap the aquifers of the Sarir, Sabha, and Al Kufrah oases in southern Libya and transport fresh water to Libyan towns and agricultural areas along the Mediterranean coast. Although the project’s planners predict that the GMMR could supply Libya with 5 million cubic meters (177 million cubic feet) of water per day when completed, it is unclear how long the water supplies can be exploited.


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