Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ahhhh I Seeee

Whoever though that a little berry found in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil could have such a profound effect? Acai, a fruit high in anti-oxidants, omega 3 and omega 6, packed with amino acids, and other essential minerals, and the largest distributor of Acai products-Sambazon, is helping protect the Amazon rainforest.

At first it seems counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t you think that the harvesting and growing popularity of the chocolate-cocoa flavor berry contribute to damaging the rainforest or even deforestation and the planting of groves of acai palms? Not when entrepreneurs like Ryan Black are involved.

Black, a native of San Clemente and graduate of the University of Colorado, discovered acai on a surf trip in Brazil. He knew the rest of the world was missing out on the superfood of the Amazon and starting outlining a business plan to introduce acai before he was on the return flight home

So how is Sambazon, a company that is only 9 years old helping protect one of the most bio-diverse places on our planet and still making money? It is all in the founding concept. The business plan is built to follow the triple bottom line. Sambazon seeks economic, social and environmental success.

Sambazon employs local farmers who live in houses on the floodplains of the Amazon, pictured above. They harvest the berries by shimmying up the skinny trunk of the acai palm and picking the re-generable branches with the berries on them. Only the berries from wild acai palms are harvested. This offers the local farmers employment, and prevents them from resorting to the destruction of the rainforest through logging or cattle farming to make an income. The biodiversity of the rainforest is protected by only harvesting wild palms instead of planting a forest of purely acai palms. The farmers are also educated on how to sustainably harvest the forest’s non-timber products. Acai seeds are used to make jewelry and sold to supplement the income. You would think only a non-profit would be capable of creating this much positive social change, but no, Sambazon sold 11,000 tons of acai last year and generates over $15 million of revenue a year.

Thankfully, Sambazon isn’t alone. Companies around the world are implementing sustainable business strategies emphasizing positive long term effects. On a recent trip to Viet Nam I did company visits at a helmet factory and furniture factory that are also achieving great success with the same principles.

As our market is going through drastic changes, business leaders should start changing the goal of the game as well. Instead of seeing who has to build the biggest warehouse to store all the corporate jets, companies should seek to achieve a green triple bottom line. It is sustainable not only for our environment, but for the success and life of the company as well.

I know, I know, it sounds difficult. Many times it seems like doing business results in a winner and a loser- someone or something gets the bad deal, whether it is the consumer, environment, or employees. However everyone is a winner when they do business like triple-bottom line companies and Andrew Saviz and Karl Weber tell you exactly how in their book, The Triple Bottom Line. A book review from says:
The book points to empirical evidence demonstrating that the share price of companies listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and the FTSE4Good Indexes, have outperformed various other indexes. Further, companies who belong to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have outperformed their respective national stock exchanges by 15 to 25 percent over the past three years

So this is a call to action. The time is now! As drastic changes are being made in the business world around the globe, and as we all grapple with the economic crisis, it is the perfect opportunity to make the change to sustainable development. I challenge the CEOs of the world to see just how much more enjoyable their next luxurious vacation is when it was financed with dollars made that also improved the life of a farmer in the Amazon rainforest.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Globalization and the End of Genocide

Humanity has repeatedly pleaded that never again should the world let anything like the Holocaust happen in which six million Jews were deliberately exterminated by the Nazi government of Germany during WWII (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). Even though that was not the first time such violence had been perpetrated on a specific group of people, a crime of this severity did not even have a name until the human rights activist Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide.” Lemkin’s lobbying helped bring about an international law adopted by the U.N. in 1948: The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This then led to the creation of many international courts and institutions such as the Nuremburg Trials, the International Criminal Tribunal, the U.N. Security Council and now the International Criminal Court.

These institutions have only been reactive, however, and have hardly made an effective attempt at preventing the unleashing of that most evil side of humans which is capable of committing genocide. Genocide continues because countries and international institutions are too afraid to take forceful action and overstep state sovereignty by getting involved. Politics becomes entangled and leaders err on the side of caution by not wishing to offend other foreign leaders; they also prefer to preserve political relationships by refusing to acknowledge that there is a genocidal situation that requires intervention. Because an accusation of genocide is so powerful, it is only hesitantly used to label a situation - and usually after it is too late to prevent the killing, as was the case in Rwanda, described here by the United Human Rights Council:

Back at U.N headquarters in New York, the killings were initially categorized as a breakdown in the cease-fire between the Tutsi and Hutu. Throughout the massacre, both the U.N. and the U.S. carefully refrained from labeling the killings as genocide, which would have necessitated some kind of emergency intervention.

The U.N. Security Council responded to the worsening crisis by voting unanimously to abandon Rwanda. The remainders of U.N. peacekeeping troops were pulled out, leaving behind an only tiny force of about 200 soldiers for the entire country.

In order to truly answer humanity’s cry of “never again” there should be a global institution with jurisdiction over international human rights, focused primarily on genocide. That institution should be equipped with military and diplomatic forces that would be able to take the quick action necessary to prevent genocide and bypass the politics and bureaucracies overly concerned with infringing on state sovereignty.

I will discuss the history and attempts at global governing organizations and the contrasting idea of state sovereignty, how this has contributed to the failure of genocide prevention, and what can be done to prevent genocide in the future. As a result of my research, I think the best solution for genocide prevention is to create a pro-active international organization that would use educational, diplomatic, economic, and military measures in that order. I will explain how I came to this conclusion in the rest of the paper, and start with why I am specifically addressing genocide instead of human rights in general.

An organization charged with this task will be most successful if it initially focuses upon genocide because that crime is clearly defined and one of the most atrocious violations of human rights. While there is no agreement about exactly what totally constitutes human rights, there is a clear definition of genocide, thanks to Lemkin and his close work with The Genocide Convention in 1948.

In the present Convention genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Also, genocide cannot be said to be a part of or appropriate in any different cultures or circumstances like some might argue genital mutilation or the denial of education for women, even as much as those practices are also seen by many as infringements of human rights. The organization must also not be primarily funded or staffed by any single nation or group of nations because then it will be viewed as a vehicle for those countries to act in a way that best serves their national interests while hiding behind the cover of a so called international organization.

There have been multiple attempts to create a global governing institution but none have been very successful, whether it is because they try to please every country all the time and avoid taking any action at all or because they are viewed as the tool of a few large powerful countries to pursue what is best for their own national interests. One of the first major attempts was the creation of the League of Nations after WWI and it was supposed to promote peace and punish any countries which instigated war. However, the League of Nations was not prepared enough to take a firm stance against aggressor countries that made military moves in the time after it was formed because it did not want to offend those countries politically. The League thus ended up becoming an ineffective organization (Simkin).

On October 24, 1945, what was left of the League of Nations was absorbed into the new organization, the United Nations. The United Nations aims to promote peace and security, protect human rights, and serve as a forum for solving international social, economic, and cultural problems.

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

While the U.N. has had some success in international affairs, and is known as the organization that can most quickly provide food and relief supplies to disaster areas, it shares the major weaknesses of the League of Nations - it is often too slow to act and very cautious in interfering with state sovereignty. It also seems to promote the will of some of the more powerful countries in the world, such as the United States of America, and can neglect the needs of the most vulnerable people in the world (“United Nations”). In 2003 much of the credibility of the U.N. was lost when the U.S. neglected to get the approval of the Security Council before the Iraqi Invasion (Jost). From my research I have concluded that the U.N. has been relatively successful, however, compared with other attempts at global governance because it can mobilize military forces, even though that is usually accomplished at a snail’s pace, and the UN forces have many countries represented.

In contrast, the International Criminal Court was established in 1998 and has jurisdiction over only 120 countries, not including major world powers such as China, the U.S., and Russia. The ICC is independent of the U.N. and is a last resort court where individuals who are accused of committing human rights violations, war crimes, and genocide are tried if they are not prosecuted in their own country. A limiting factor of the court is that it can only prosecute citizens of the countries who have ratified the Rome Statute, which the court is based on (“International Criminal Court”). Although President Clinton signed documents establishing the Court, President Bush removed that support has and been strongly been against the ICC because he felt that the court is a danger to state sovereignty and could infringe on those rights, which raises some questions about American actions, especially with regard to the Iraqi invasion, war in Afghanistan, and treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay (Jost).

So just what is this concept of state sovereignty that has foiled the grand goals of many of these international institutions? Sovereignty is a very controversial topic in international law and political science. It means that the governing body of a state has complete and total power to rule as it sees fit without outside intervention; it is also about the way in which two or more states interact (Brinkman). This concept has been around for a while, and one of the first international treaties that reinforced the absolute power of the state authorities is the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia after the Thirty Years War. The treaty changed some of the territories of various countries, broke up what was the Holy Roman Empire and was a turning point towards the individualizing of nations and away from globalization (“Treaty of Westphalia”). However, this concept is no longer relevant as globalization becomes more and more an inescapable reality. Sovereignty encourages rivalry and destroys community, producing nationalistic, fragmented states that generally just pursue their best interests.

The foremost concern of a country is to secure enough resources such as food, oil, natural minerals, labor, etc. because resources are limited. The states then trade to obtain the resources they want and this has led to globalization. However, while the economy has globalized, governance remains under state sovereignty (Brinkman). In my research I have noticed a pattern where the world will work together to protect the global economy but not to protect basic human rights and prevent horrors such as genocide. The United States will invade a country to protect oil interests but not to save the lives of millions of people who could be killed if a situation escalated into genocide. Other states have acted similarly and this is for two reasons: 1. They will only pursue best interests as a country and 2. They will not get involved where they don’t have interests because they will hurt political relationships by interfering with another sovereignty. However, in an Op-Ed by Madeleine Albright and William Cohen, three strong points are made about how preventing genocide is in America’s best interest: it promotes stability, prevents the high price tag of refugee relief and humanitarian aid, and it bolsters our reputation (Albright and Cohen).
To prevent genocide there must be quick action, because once a genocide is started it is nearly impossible to stop and states and existing international organizations are reluctant to do this because they are slowed by bureaucracy and do not wish to infringe on state sovereignty. Samantha Power, a journalist and Harvard professor, in her book The Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, gives many examples of specific situations where the United States could have gotten involved and prevented genocide.

But, states are hesitant to give too much power to an international organization because the organization may not act in the best interest of the state because it may not have a solid grasp of the culture of the state and also damage state sovereignty. However, in the paper “International Delegation and State Sovereignty” Oona A. Hathaway argues that delegating some responsibilities to international organizations would in fact benefit and strengthen state sovereignty and be more cost effective. International cooperation also allows the world to achieve things that would not be possible otherwise, such as answering humanity’s cry of never letting genocide happen again.

The International Criminal Court is a great first step, but it is reactive and only punishes those who commit gross human rights violations, war crimes, and genocide. While some leaders might be deterred by the thought of trial and punishment from the ICC, there needs to be a more proactive institution.

A global institution designed to prevent genocide would have to be independent from the large international institutions that already exist because many of the largest ones have lost credibility and become too bureaucratic to take quick action. However, in order to be effective and be taken seriously by states it must work closely with the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank to be able to impose economic sanctions as a warning to a country where a pre-genocidal situation is brewing. George H. Staunton, the president of Genocide Watch, has indentified the eight stages of genocide which will make it easier for the genocide prevention institution to get involved in a pre-genocidal situation as soon as it detects that a situation has taken the first step towards genocide (Staunton). The eight stages are:

Classification Symbolization Dehumanization Organization

Polarization Preparation Extermination Denial

The organization must be global and not indentified with any single country so as to remain impartial and to truly work for the good of humanity and not national interests. The organization must work with groups like Genocide Watch, the international campaign to end genocide, to educate the world on genocide and create the political will and desire to ensure it never happens again and use their work to monitor conflicts around the world. Then when there is a situation that requires intervention, the institution will first use diplomatic means to solve the problem and if that doesn’t work, collaborate with the WTO, IMF, and World Bank to impose very harsh global economic sanctions to get the country to take extreme measures to fix the issue, and as a last resort send in military forces to physically prevent the genocide from occurring. Hopefully the education and diplomatic efforts will be met with success and then the question of overstepping state sovereignty will not even arise.

It is time now to form this institution. We have learned from the successes and failures of other global governing institutions to understand how to best form an organization to prevent genocide. The concept of state sovereignty is on the decline in our increasingly globalized world but those who still value it immensely, such as the United States, would in fact benefit from this organization. The lack of political will and motivation to intervene to stop genocide would no longer be a barrier with the delegation of genocide prevention to an international institution.

It is time to say “never again” and mean it.

Works Cited

Albright, Madeleine K. and Cohen, William S. “Never Again, For Real.” The New York Times. 21 Dec. 2008, NY ed.: WK12. 13 Feb. 2009.

Brinkman, Richard L. and Brinkman, June E. "Globalization and the nation-state: dead or alive" Journal of Economic Issues. June 2008. 13 Feb. 2009

Hathaway, Oona A.,International Delegation and State Sovereignty. Law and Contemporary Problems, January 2008. Available at SSRN:

"International Criminal Court." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 13 Feb. 2009
Jost, K. (2004, December 17). International law. CQ Researcher, 14, 1049-1072. Retrieved February 13, 2009, from CQ Researcher Online,

Simkin, John. Spartacus Educational. 13 Feb. 2009

Staunton, George H. “The Eight Stages of Genocide” Genocide Watch: The International Campaign to End Genocide. 13 Feb. 2009.

“Treaty of Westphalia.” Nation Master. Encyclopedia. 13 Feb. 2009.

"United Nations." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 13 Feb. 2009

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "The Holocaust." Holocaust Encyclopedia. 13 Feb. 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Should the games go on?

Tomorrow I am attending the USA Sevens in San Diego. It is the only American stop that the International Rugby Board makes, and though it doesn’t draw anywhere close to the attention the Sevens get in other locations, especially Hong Kong, it is starting to become quite the event after only 5 years competing in the U.S.

I am excited for my first exposure to professional rugby but struggling with the idea that during one of the greatest economic recessions in history I will be spending money on pure entertainment. I am wondering if anyone else has the same inner struggle. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not sitting indoors and refusing to spend a penny during the recession, but I would much rather part with my dollars for something tangible, like clothing or books. However, I am reconciling my rugby adventures as something more meaningful to me than just passing the time watching men run around in short shorts tossing an oversized and lopsided ball. Not only will I have the chance to interact with the fans from around the world and learn something about different sporting cultures, I will become well-versed in a growing international sport. I believe this knowledge will prove to be invaluable, and so have concluded that the experience is a worthwhile investment even during times when I am double thinking how every dollar is spent.

My strict scrutiny of personal spending on entertainment is not shared by all, however. Along with higher education, the sports sector is almost recession proof. In fact, the revenue from marketing during the Super Bowl increased in this year from the 2008 totals. An article in the Feb.14-20 version of The Economist also points out the increasing value of contracts selling the broadcasting rights of various leagues such as the NBA, International Olympic Committee, and the Premier League, an English football league. What is decreasing is the number of companies willing to shell out the big bucks to have their name plastered all over teams’ apparel or large new unnecessary stadiums.

While I agree that sports are entertaining, and I appreciate a good near heart attack from exciting games, especially ones with a 4th quarter like this year’s close call by the Cardinals in the Superbowl, I think that the fact that sports are viewed as recession proof is a fundamental problem because it shows the global emphasis placed on athletics and it worries me slightly.

It’s worrisome because if sports are viewed as so necessary, and if the sports clubs started to fail, would they also be bailed out by the government? The article “Is it recession-proof?” in The Economist noted that the Detroit Pistons failed to sell out a home game for the first time in 5 years. Perhaps it means that more fans are throwing things at their home plasma screen TVs instead of the opposing fans at the stadium during sporting events and saving money on the tickets and over-priced hotdogs and beer.

I do believe sports add a lot to a region’s pride and give the world some common threads to discuss and relate to, but if they really are recession proof, then it is saying something different. If college students are not able to return to universities next year but any sports team gets a new stadium, our priorities need to be reconsidered.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Burying "Buy American"

Our economic woes are not going to be fixed by closing our ports and buying only American goods. Instead of reinvigorating American industry, the “Buy American” part of the stimulus bill going through the Senate right now could start trade wars and encourage other countries to pursue economic nationalism as well.

When you see a friend lose a job, feel strapped for cash, or begin to experience the severity of the recession, it is only a natural inclination to want to do whatever possible to help those closest to us, especially fellow Americans. However, that would be a short-sighted solution and while it may save your job for the time being, it will have disastrous effects in the long run.

The financial crisis is a world-wide one that has permeated even the most remote corners of the earth, and the only way to solve it is with international cooperation and policies, not a retreat to isolationism and protectionism.

The crisis started in America and as it spread around the globe other governments looked to us for an example of how to respond and now government bailout and stimulus plans are in the works in most developed and developing countries. With the U.S. under the new administration, they are following our every move even more closely. If the United States pursues economic nationalism, other countries will also, which would erode political relations and ties.

The Senate Compromise states:
BUY AMERICAN SEC. 1604. USE OF AMERICAN IRON, STEEL, AND MANUFACTURED GOODS. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for a project for the construction, alteration, maintenance, or repair of a public building or public work unless all of the iron, steel, and manufactured goods used in the project are produced in the United States.

Not only does buying American send a message that the U.S. only cares about recovering its own markets, but it fosters ethnocentrism within our own borders and is inconsiderate regarding the fiscal troubles the rest of the world is experiencing.
The most frustrating aspect of the “Buy American” clause is that it is a mistake the U.S. has previously made. In the interwar period after the Great Depression the U.S. Government passed the Smoot-Hawley Act, instating high tariffs. Even the State Department’s website has a blurb outlining that nothing good came from the Act:
What is certain, however, is that Smoot-Hawley did nothing to foster cooperation among nations in either the economic or political realm during a perilous era in international relations. It quickly became a symbol of the "beggar-thy-neighbor" policies of the 1930s. Such policies, which were adopted by many countries during this time, contributed to a drastic contraction of international trade. For example, U.S. imports from Europe declined from a 1929 high of $1,334 million to just $390 million in 1932, while U.S. exports to Europe fell from $2,341 million in 1929 to $784 million in 1932. Overall, world trade declined by some 66% between 1929 and 1934.
Our administration is in such a hurry to act that it will repeat a mistake instead of learning from its own history.

Instead, the U.S. should pursue international trade and stimulus plans which would be stronger and more effective than national remedies. Let’s hope President Obama will respond to a challenge set forth by The Economist in "The Return of Economic Nationalism" and take the lead in this situation. Here is yet another opportunity for Obama to create change - and this time it is in the stimulus bill.