Global Crisis and Ethical Imperative of Our Time



Dr. Mahfuz Parvez, Associate Editor, Barta24.com
Joseph Camilleri, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University.

Joseph Camilleri, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University.

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"Momentous challenges are pressing in on us on all sides. One day it is Covid, the next day Ukraine, the day after the ravages of climate change, then the many ugly faces of racism. The list goes on", worte Joseph Camilleri, Emeritus Professor at La Trobe University, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, and convener of the initiative Conversation at the Crossroads.

In an article tittled 'The Best of Times, The Worst of Times' published by 'Toda Peace Institute' of Japan, Joseph Camilleri raised five crucial questions in the context of onging global situation and consequently suggested  six-step process which are very important for peace building and conflict resolution.

Against the backdrop of the contemporary crisis, look at the questions raised by Professor Joseph Camilleri, who has authored or edited over thirty books and written over 120 book chapters and journal articles, covering issues of security, dialogue and conflict resolution, theories of international relations, the role of religion and culture in the contemporary world, and the politics of the Asia-Pacific region and has convened several major international dialogues and conferences, most recently Towards a Just and Ecologically Sustainable Peace (2019):

  1. Are these just unconnected afflictions, or symptoms of a deeper ailment?
  2. How do we make sense of it all?
  3. Can we go beyond political spin, propaganda, platitudes?
  4. How do we communicate with others about all this?
  5. How can we respond?

According to Professor Joseph Camilleri, "we are witnessing Russia’s military thrust into Ukraine, and its appalling consequences, with no resolution of the conflict yet in sight. It graphically encapsulates the turbulence of our age. At the end of the fourth week of fighting, UN estimates suggest some 1,200 civilian lives lost, and close to 2,000 injured, not to mention the thousands of military casualties on both sides.To this gruesome scorecard must be added the wholesale destruction of infrastructure, some 6.5 million internally displaced people, and close to 4 million forced to flee the country."

Professor Joseph Camilleri pointed out the the Russia no doubt has legitimate grievances fuelled by successive waves of NATO expansion that have brought the US-led military alliance right to Russia’s doorstep. The coming to power of a government in neighbouring Ukraine intent on joining NATO has added fuel to the fire. Many Russians, not just Putin, feel they have been subjected to relentless provocation and humiliation, and the Russian minority in Ukraine to intimidation and harassment. But none of this justifies the use of force, or the terrible suffering to which the people of Ukraine have been subjected.

"The imposition of hefty sanctions by the United States and its allies is more likely to hurt ordinary Russians than the oligarchs. Freezing the assets of Russian Central Banks and Russian sovereign funds, excluding Russia from the SWIFT messaging system, suspending the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, and a host of other poorly thought out measures will adversely impact other economies and an already fragile global financial system", Professor Joseph Camilleri added.

He also mentioned, "as for the vitriol levelled against Putin by the United States and some of its more boisterous allies, it will do little to facilitate a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Accusations of war crimes would carry greater moral authority, if they had been levelled with equal force against Western leaders responsible for the destruction showered upon the people of Iraq and Afghanistan."

Professor Joseph Camilleri observed the role of mainstream Western media has been less than helpful. Alleged facts and interpretations offered by the Ukrainian military and political elite are headline news, while Russian voices, including those of independent Russian scholars, are barely heard. As for US military and intelligence sources (often unnamed) and their acolytes in think tanks with loud voices, their assessments are taken as gospel.

"The cumulative toll of half truths, disinformation and outright deception—political, cultural and psychological—will be felt for years to come", he stated.

The most respected Political Scientist warned that the most distressing casualty is the possible, perhaps probable, return to a full-scale Cold War. Senseless talk of no-fly zones, the escalating delivery of lethal military aid to the Ukraine, the foolhardy damage done to nuclear power plants, and the foolish use of nuclear threats have made this one of the most perilous moments since WWII.

'How might we get out of this mess?' according to Professor Joseph Camilleri "the short answer is: with great difficulty." But as a contribution to the conversation, he proposed a six-step processl based on two principles: that the silencing of guns is crucial, but not enough; and that key issues are invariably interlinked, and must be approached holistically.  He outlined the steps as follows:

  1. Immediate ceasefire (ideally a UN monitored ceasefire) which can be sustained only when each side gains something and concedes something: Moscow stops the use of force and Kyiv enters into substantive negotiation on Russia’s legitimate grievances.
  2. No further delivery of lethal military aid to Ukraine and a massive international programme to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
  3. Phased withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory once negotiations on Russia’s longstanding concerns make substantial headway.
  4. Use of good offices: the UN Secretary-General and key governments with effective access to either or both sides (e.g. China, France, Turkey, South Africa, India) can all play an important role in different ways and at different stages of the negotiating process.
  5. Establishment of a sizeable UN peacekeeping forceonce Russian forces have withdrawn. Such a peacekeeping operation may be needed for some considerable time (US, Russian and allied forces should not form part of part of this operation).
  6. These arrangements should make way for a longer-term series of negotiations between Russia, the United States and their European allies with a view to advancing nuclear disarmament agreements as well as significant steps towards demilitarisation. These arrangements would form part of a new European wide framework of common, cooperative and comprehensive security that encompasses climate change and other critical environmental issues.

"None of this will happen overnight or without a massive global awakening of human wisdom and energy. Possibilities for renewal are discernible. Intellectuals, artists and scientists around the world, religious leaders, small media outlets, countless advocates and engaged citizens toiling away on different fronts offer an inspiring alternative to what is", he said with importance.

"At the same time", he said, "our capacities to communicate and connect with others, not just in our personal networks but nationally and internationally, are expanding almost exponentially. These possibilities, however, remain embryonic. We are witnessing a growing awareness of the multifaceted ailment which afflicts the human condition at this time. But it is not enough."

"If the public conversation is to rise to the challenge and generate more insightful and energetic engagement, we must go beyond symptoms and explore what lies behind the ailment. Nor can we stop there. We must think through what a healthier condition, a preferable state of affairs might actually look like" he noted.

Professor Joseph also said, "If substantial change is envisaged—let’s say a substantial shift in current security policies, or effective media regulation, or a climate friendly energy policy—one thing is clear: the way ahead is strewn with roadblocks. Many are content to point the finger at short sighted, incompetent or corrupt leaders. If only it were that simple. Powerful interests are often hidden from public view. Deeply entrenched community mindsets are often resistant to change. Some of our institutions may no longer be fit for purpose. How are these roadblocks to be overcome?"

He concluded with an optimistic view that these are issues that call for a sustained and wide-ranging public conversation within and between countries. But such an ambitious exploration cannot rely on the knowledge or insights of a few. The ethical imperative of our time is to enhance our collective capacity to make a difference."

Dr. Mahfuz Parvez, Professor, Political Science, University of Chittagong and Associate Editor, Barta24.com.

The BRICS Summit Begins



News Desk, Barta24.com
The BRICS Summit Begins, Photo collected.

The BRICS Summit Begins, Photo collected.

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The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa meet virtually today (June 23)  for a summit of BRICS nations. As well as a chance to discuss economic strategies outside a Western-dominated system, the meeting once again shows that, although Russia is isolated from the West, for the rest of the world it is still very much open for business.

According to media repots, Russian President Vladimir Putin joins the gathering today at a time when his country has become China’s largest crude oil supplier—a position usually enjoyed by Saudi Arabia. He will hold talks with a group of leaders who have so far tempered any criticism of the war in Ukraine.

Indeed Xi Jinping, in his address to the BRICS Business forum on Wednesday, appeared to lay the blame on Ukraine for Russia’s invasion, calling it a “wake up call” and a reminder that “attempts to expand military alliances and seek one’s own security at the expense of others will only land oneself in a security dilemma.”

Addressing the same forum, Putin was bullish on the economic opportunities presented by the group, touting negotiations on opening Indian chain stores in Russia, increasing Chinese industrial imports and “reorienting trade flows” to BRICS nations. According to Putin, trade with the group increased by 38 percent in the first quarter of 2022.

He added that the BRICS group could soon go a step further by challenging the U.S. dollar, creating its own international reserve currency based on the “basket of currencies of our countries.”

For India, also a member of the Quad—along with Australia, Japan, and the United States—it faces a challenge to keep up its balancing act between East and West.

“India lives in a rough neighborhood and has been able to stick by its non-aligned policy to ensure its strategic autonomy by essentially engaging with everybody, and they’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, told Foreign Policy (FP). “But as great power competition continues to heat up, not just between the U.S. and China, but now the U.S. and Russia, it’s going to be increasingly difficult and delicate to maintain that balance.”

Indian officials aren’t naïve about their position, and are reportedly working to block any attempts to insert anti-U.S. messaging into the BRICS joint statement as well as slow any attempts to expand the grouping.

That the BRICS grouping is not known as a particularly effective combination may work in India’s favor. “I think that India can make a gamble, which I think is pretty safe, and it can essentially, pledge full support for everything BRICS is doing to show that it’s a loyal member of the group, while at the same time betting on the strong likelihood that BRICS won’t be able to move the needle forward on a lot of the issues and plans that are discussed,” said Michael Kugelman, an Asia expert at the Wilson Center and author of FP’s South Asia Brief. “That would then spare India from having to make awkward decisions about how far to go and pursue policies within BRICS that could put it at odds with the West.”

India is in high demand in a busy few weeks for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He travels to Germany over the weekend to attend the G-7 summit and in July he joins another new grouping (and acronym) I2-U2, with the leaders of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

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The Quake was Afghanistan’s Deadliest in Two Decades



News Desk, Barta24.com
The Quake was Afghanistan’s Deadliest in Two Decades

The Quake was Afghanistan’s Deadliest in Two Decades

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Villagers rushed to bury the dead Thursday and dug by hand through the rubble of their homes in search of survivors of a powerful earthquake in eastern Afghanistan that killed at least 1,000 people. The Taliban and the international community that fled their takeover struggled to bring help to the disaster’s victims.

Under a leaden sky in Paktika province, which was the epicenter of Wednesday’s magnitude 6 earthquake, men dug a line of graves in one village, as they tried to lay the dead to rest quickly in line with Muslim tradition. In one courtyard, bodies lay wrapped in plastic to protect them from the rains that are hampering relief efforts for the living.

The quake was Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades, and officials said the toll could rise. An estimated 1,500 others were reported injured, the state-run Bakhtar News Agency said.

“They don’t have anything to eat, they are wondering what they can have to eat, and it is also raining,” a Bakhtar reporter said in footage from the quake zone. “Their houses are destroyed. Please help them, don’t leave them alone.”

The disaster heaps more misery on a country where millions already faced increasing hunger and poverty and the health system has crumbled since the Taliban retook power nearly 10 months ago amid the U.S. and NATO withdrawal. The takeover led to a cutoff of vital international financing, and most of the world has shunned the Taliban government.

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Afghanistan Quake Kills 1,000 People, Deadliest in Decades



News Desk, Barta24.com
Afghanistan Earthquake, Photo collected

Afghanistan Earthquake, Photo collected

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In this photo released by a state-run news agency Bakhtar, Afghans look at destruction caused by an earthquake in the province of Paktika, eastern Afghanistan, Wednesday (June 22).

The news of Afghanistan quake 'Deadliest in Decades' became the focus of world mrdia. Aaccoding to the report by Bakhtar News Agency via AP, a powerful earthquake struck a rural, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, killing 1,000 people and injuring 1,500 more in one of the deadliest quakes in decades. the state-run news agency reported the  officials warned that the already grim toll may still rise.

Information remained scarce on the magnitude 6.1 temblor near the Pakistani border, but quakes of that strength can cause serious damage in an area where homes and other buildings are poorly constructed and landslides are common. Experts put the depth at just 10 kilometers (6 miles) — another factor that could lead to severe destruction.

The disaster posed a major test for the Taliban-led government, which seized power last year as the U.S. planned to pull out from the country and end its longest war, two decades after toppling the same insurgents in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Rescuers rushed to the area by helicopter Wednesday, but the response is likely to be complicated since many international aid agencies left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Reaching rural areas even in the best circumstances remains difficult in Afghanistan, a landlocked nation just smaller than Texas with rutted mountain roadways that may now have sustained significant damage.

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Israel’s Government Collapses



News Deak, Barta24.com
Israel’s Government Collapses

Israel’s Government Collapses

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Israel’s governing coalition will vote to dissolve Parliament before the end of the month, the prime minister’s office said Monday (20 July), sending the country into its fifth election in three years.

According to various news agencies, the collapse follows weeks of paralysis caused by the defection of two right-wing lawmakers and frequent rebellions by three others — making Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition no longer the majority in Parliament. The fallout throws a political lifeline to Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister who left office last June and whose Likud party is currently leading in opinion polls.

The election, which is expected to be held in the fall, comes at a tense time after a rise in Palestinian attacks on Israelis and an escalation in a shadow war between Israel and Iran.

The current coalition agreement requires that Yair Lapid, the foreign minister and a centrist former broadcaster, would take over as interim prime minister in the event that right-wing defections prompt early elections. If that agreement is honored, Lapid will lead the government for at least several months.

Meanwhile, Israel confirmed that it is part of a regional military partnership to combat threats from Iran — the latest example of Israel’s growing engagement with some Arab governments.

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