Compass World: Courting Criticism
A Deeper Look
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) rebuked U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on December 6 by rejecting one of the last resolutions she proposed ahead of her departure from the UN role at the end of the year. The resolution would have condemned Hamas, a Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip, as a terrorist organization and required a two-thirds majority to pass. Israel’s government strongly endorsed Haley’s resolution. The Trump administration has also pulled out of UNESCO and halted funding to the UN Relief and Works Association over perceived anti-Israel bias. In December 2017, the UNGA overwhelmingly condemned the U.S. decision to relocate its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Palestinians also claim as their capital.
Latin America & the Caribbean
Take a Leak
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s six-year stay at the Embassy of Ecuador in London seems to be coming to an end. Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno has been given assurances that the U.K. government will not extradite Assange to any country that imposes the death penalty (which rules out the U.S., where Assange may face charges of treason after publishing classified information obtained from Chelsea Manning in 2010). Assange has also faced allegations of rape in Sweden for which he has not stood trial. Although the case was dropped by Sweden in 2017 as Assange was unreachable in the Ecuadorian embassy, it still could be resumed if Assange was returned to Sweden by 2020. With a new ambassador at the helm of the embassy, Jaime Márchan, the diplomatic snafu may soon be resolved.
The same day that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping held trade talks in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the G20, Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver at the request of the United States. Meng, the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengwei, has reportedly been detained for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Meng previously served on the board of Hong Kong-based Skycom Tech, which attempted to sell Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to an Iranian telecommunications firm. According to National Security Adviser John Bolton, the U.S. has long been monitoring Huawei for sanctions dodging and intellectual property theft. Meng’s arrest led markets across the world to tumble, as uncertainty returned to the US-China trading relationship. As Huawei continues to be investigated in the U.K., Canada, and Australia, their equipment has been removed from future 5G technology rollouts over espionage concerns.
Middle East & Central Asia
Ex-Pat, What’s That?
Oman’s Ministry of Manpower is currently deploying a digital tool to monitor companies’ hiring of expatriate workers. The database will measure hiring against government-mandated quotas for hiring Omanis. For companies that fail the initial quota assessment, they will be barred from hiring any more foreign workers until 2020. Current rates of Omani employment range from the 70th and 80th percentiles for oil production, commercial banking, and telecommunications to the 10th percentile for construction and car sales. The government has decided to call this system the Omanisation index.
Eastern Europe & Russia
The European Union announced new measures to counter Russian election meddling and social media disinformation campaigns on December 5. This includes a system through which EU member states can alert one another about uncovered influence plots and mandates monthly reporting to the European Commission (EC) by Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Mozilla, among other companies. The EC will publish a report in 2020 summarizing these firms’ performance. Voters will go to the polls across the continent in May to elect members of the European Parliament. Russian meddling has been well documented in the U.K. Brexit vote and the 2017 French presidential election, as well as America’s 2016 presidential election.
Rwanda’s High Court acquitted Diane Rwigara and her mother of insurrection and forgery charges on December 6. Rwigara is a prominent critic of authoritarian Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has held power since 2000 and high office since the army under his command ended the Rwandan Civil War and genocide in 1994. “There are still many political prisoners in the country,” Rwigara told journalists after the court ruling was read. It remains unclear when Rwigara will be released or if the government plans to appeal the decision.
Western Europe & Canada
Switzerland’s seven-member Federal Council, which serves as the collective head of government, will vote today on whether to accept a new “institutional framework” for integration with the European Union, of which it is not a member. The new framework comes as the EU reevaluates relations with closely integrated non-member states ahead of Brexit in March 2019. EU officials in Brussels have expressed concern that Switzerland’s current relationship with the EU was predicated on the idea that the country would eventually join the union. Instead, the favorable terms of the agreement have allowed Switzerland to enjoy many of the perks of EU membership without its costs, critics say. The proposed system would force Switzerland to automatically adopt many EU regulations as they are made.
Writing contributed by Stephen Cho.