Le blog de Daniel Warner

  • Geneva: The Home of Lost Causes

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    Anniversaries call for celebrations. The 75th anniversary of the United Nations was supposed to be the event of 2020 for the multilateral system. The list of scheduled events and publications is too long to mention. Should we celebrate? What is there to celebrate? A global pandemic with no multilateral response? Increasing economic and social inequality with little international leadership? Wars in Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan? Growing U.S. – China tensions? Lack of progress on Sustainable Development Goals? World Trade Organization blocked? U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization?

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  • Departure of OSCE head a setback for dialogue and negotiation

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    Thomas Greminger's departure from the European security body shows that Swiss ideals of neutrality and humanitarianism are being challenged in the multilateral system. What is the difference between politics and neutrality/humanitarianism? Political theorist Michael Walzer, in a famous 1973 article titled “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands,” argued that getting one’s hands dirty in politics is inevitable. For Walzer, and many others, politicians and politics are fundamentally dirty. (We know that diplomats are jokingly referred to as honest people who are paid to lie for their country). Neutrality and humanitarianism, on the other hand, are supposed to be apolitical, hence clean and above the fray.

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  • Audacity and Hope in the Summer of Discontent

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    We are in the summer of discontent, overwhelmed by the pandemic, civil unrest and economic hardship. In what seems ages ago, Barack Obama talked of the audacity of hope. That audacity now appears as neither audacious nor hopeful. Obama’s “Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” seem more like a nightmare than a dream. With the pandemic growing in many parts of the United States and the world, and with civil unrest increasing because of greater awareness of gross violations of human rights, that euphoria has long gone.
    Where is the audacity today? Where is the hope?

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  • To Mask or Not, That is the Question

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    On recent tram ride I ran into a friend who was not wearing a mask. When I asked him why not, he responded, “I had the virus. I have been tested for immunity and have a letter from doctors at the HUG saying I don’t have to wear a mask. I am a danger to no one.” Just as he finished his explanation, a passenger came up to him and berated him for “putting the lives of other people in danger.”

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  • Bike Lanes: Perspective and Proportionality

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    The brouhaha over temporary increased bike lanes in Geneva puzzles me. As someone who does not ride a bike or use a car to go to work, I have no dog in this fight. What I do see, and definitely hear, are vehement comments on both sides. Some say: “Traffic is piled up. We can’t get around Geneva to go to work without traffic jams.” Others comment: “The new lanes are encouraging people to use bikes instead of polluting cars. And, it makes it safer to bike around.”

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  • Mobilize, Organize, Legislate, and…

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    Millions marched across the United States in protest and celebration of Juneteenth on June 19. There have been localized million people marches, specifically in 1982 in New York for a nuclear freeze; in Washington D.C. in 1995 the Million Man March to “convey to the world a vastly different picture of the Black male;” the Million People March in the Philippines in 2013 to abolish the Pork Barrel fund, and the 2019 million people march in Santiago, Chile, to protest economic inequality.

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  • Is this the Big One?

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    San Francisco sits on the Hayward Fault. Eighty percent of the city was destroyed in 1906 by an earthquake. Los Angeles is near the San Andres Fault. A 2006 study found that a massive earthquake on the southern section of the Fault would cause significant damage throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles.

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  • Resilience

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    What does it mean to be resilient? As an individual? As a country? My father lived through the 1918 Spanish flu, the Great Depression and the Second World War, and retired as a successful school principal. The United States, which has had the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world, is witnessing unemployment rates not seen since the 1930s and is now going through protests and riots across the county resulting from one more police homicide.

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  • Who Got the Virus Right?

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    Now that Covid-19 seems to be receding, it’s time for second guessing to start judging how world leaders reacted. “Could have, should have” will fill the headlines in the next weeks. Ratings will come forth, there will be positive and negative ledgers. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was perfect in New Zealand; Taiwan’s Vice-President reacted swiftly and effectively; Dr. Anthony Fauci became the darling of the Left in the United States. On the opposite side, Trump’s delays cost 36,000 lives. Brazilian President Bolsonaro and Russian leader Putin got it all wrong as did the health authority in Sweden whose bet on herd immunity does not appear to have paid off in the short run.

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  • The World Trade Organization and the Demise of Multilateralism

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    Seventy-five years after the creation of the United Nations in the wake of the Second World War, the recent resignation of the director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevedo, does not bode well for the international trading system, multilateralism and International Geneva.

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  • Breadlines in Switzerland

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    “Switzerland Punches Above Its Weight” “The Small Alpine Country Is a Financial and Diplomatic Global Player” “Geneva is the Rome of Multilateralism” We have all heard and read these headlines. While not quite touted like the United States as the “indispensable nation,” Switzerland is often presented as something special.

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  • Covid 19: Who Do We Trust?

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    In God We Trust is the motto of the United States. It became official in 1957 as a counter to Soviet atheism and appears on all American paper currency. At this time of terrible uncertainty, most of us would not say that we trust God to make decisions for us. Most of us don’t pray when we decide about going out, wearing a mask, socializing, washing our hands, going to the dentist or going to the coiffeur.  At a time when we are overloaded with advice and information, who do we trust?

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  • COVID-19 Reveals Deep-Seated Inequalities

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    Among the many tragedies of the coronavirus pandemic have been startling revelations of glaring political, social and economic inequalities. For example: In the Geneva Observer, Djemila Carron and Paul O’Keefee describe the “overcrowded and difficult spaces” in certain refugee camps in Africa as well as the deficiencies of the humanitarian system for refugees. 

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  • Mathilda Cuomo vs. Peter Singer: Sympathy for the Old or Utilitarian Rational Decisions

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    The COVID-19 pandemic has presented several ethical dilemmas. Which country, state or canton should have first access to made-in-China masks? Stories abound that the United States paid cash three times the going price for masks ordered by France. If countries incrementally reopen, which stores or businesses should have priority? Children and schools? Which factories? And the list of tough ethical choices goes on. Officials from around the world are delicately balancing public health and business reopening.

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  • Donald Trump and the WHO: Predictable and Precarious

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    Should we be surprised at US President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organization (WHO)? Not at all. It’s part of an attempt to distract and grab power, and his administration’s track record of anti-multilateralism is well known. But that doesn’t make it easy to swallow.

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  • Homage to a 21st Century Luddite

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    Social distancing has been a boom for electronic communication. Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp have replaced the face-to-face. Amazon has replaced the local bookstore. Scrolling on a Kindle screen has replaced turning pages. Tuning in to teleteaching has replaced sitting in the classroom.  COVID-19 has forced us to use modern communication.

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  • COVID-19: Health or Wealth?

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    Can the pandemic be separated from the economy? As the pandemic continues in Europe and the United States but seems to be subsiding in Asia, more and more questions are being raised about how to relaunch the economy. The importance of public health is being opposed to opening for business. The battle in the U.S. Senate over how trillions will be spent is indicative of two economic problems: Should businesses function in spite of the virus? How should money be spent to relaunch – from the top down or bottom up?  

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  • Stop the World…

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    In this time of anxiety and uncertainty, the feeling “Stop the World – I Want to Get Off” can’t be very far below the surface. The 1960s musical and later movie was the story of a man who was constantly displeased, no matter how much success he achieved. His existential angst was only resolved when he realized that his family life and friends had been what he should have prioritized; they had made his life worth living. He hadn’t realized their importance before the end of his life.

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  • An International Virus Needs an International Response

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    On the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, with critics bemoaning a profound crisis of multilateralism, the COVID-19 pandemic poses a crucial moment for the international system. Newton’s third law of motion says that for every action there is a reaction. While many of the 17th century English physicist’s laws have been replaced by modern science, his third law has important implications for today’s coronavirus outbreak. We know the virus exists. It has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). What we don’t know is how to react to the virus.

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  • Will the Coronavirus Finally Bring Down Trump’s Virtual Presidency?

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    The “pussy video” didn’t do it. The Stormy Daniels’s revelations didn’t do it. The Mueller investigation didn’t do it. The impeachment trial didn’t do it. The cruel handling of children and the desperate at the border didn’t do it. The unrevealed tax returns didn’t do it. Will Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic finally burst the bubble of the Trump presidency and restore an element of reality to the United States? Will the coronavirus finally bring down Trump’s virtual presidency?

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  • The UN, Homeostasis and China

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    Vacuums do not last long in nature. In biology, homeostasis represents the body’s attempt to reach equilibrium. In a void, elements will flow towards spaces of less density until an equilibrium is reached. In political systems, the same phenomenon may hold true.

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  • How Democratic is Democracy?

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    I once had a wonderful boss who at the end of several management meetings that involved reaching a decision would announce: “I believe in democracy, one man one vote.” There would then be a pause during which we would all reflect on how we would vote. “I’m the man, this is how I vote. This is what we will do,” he would announce. Meeting ended; there had been a vote.

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  • What do Donald Trump and the Houston Astros Have in Common?

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    Donald Trump is the United States’ 45th president, a distinguished lineage that goes back to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. The Houston Astros are a major league baseball team and World Series champions in 2017, a distinguished lineage of great teams that goes back to the Yankees of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and the Dodgers of Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.

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  • Can Roger Federer Beat Greta?

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    How much more is there to say in praise of Swiss icon Roger Federer? Biggest winner in tennis history with 20 Grand Slam titles; Olympic medallist and Davis Cup victor; often called the greatest player of all time (GOAT); devoted father and husband; elegant on and off the court and one the most admired athletes in the world. At 38 years-old he continues to amaze with two come-from-behind victories in the recent Australian Open at the twilight of his career.

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  • Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times

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    Acrobat, musician, composer, clown, mime, movie star, director and producer, Academy Award winner for lifetime achievement, but still driven from the United States for his backing of the Soviet Union, Charlie Chaplin should need little introduction, except perhaps for Millennials and other late alphabet generations. He was the global star in the crossover from silent films to talkies, making an astonishing $10,000 a week during the Depression, with $150,000 in signing bonuses. Knighted by the Queen, Charlot was universally loved and admired.

     

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