Wednesday 23 Jan 2019 | 12:22 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 23 Jan 2019 | 12:22 | SYDNEY

Weekend catch-up: Jordanian youth, the Liberals and climate change, IMF reform, and more



7 February 2015 08:00

Bringing together the best Interpreter articles you were too busy to read this week.

This week the Lowy Institute launched a new Analysis paper, Jordan's youth after the Arab Spring by Marty Harris. Marty wrote a blog post for The Interpreter arguing that Jordanian youth are finding new and creative ways to express their desire for political change:

Jordanians have experienced the turmoil related to the Arab uprisings first hand, with more than 600,000 Syrian refugees officially residing in their country, equivalent to about 10% of Jordan's population. This has placed intense strain on Jordan's resources and social fabric. In addition, divisions over the Syrian civil war have polarised Jordanian politics, split opposition movements, and increased the risk of instability. 

This results in a 'culture of stability' in which activists know what they want their country to look like but are, understandably, wary of the potential volatility. According to one activist, there now exists 'a situation where lot of people think that reform and stability are mutually exclusive.' 

After a week of uncertainty, a leadership spill for the Liberal Party and Prime Minister Tony Abbott is set for Tuesday. Sam Roggeveen wrote about the possibility of Malcolm Turnbull regaining the leadership and the looming issue of climate change:

In Turnbull's favour is the fact that the international ground has shifted appreciably on climate change since 2009. In fact, that shift happened in part right here in Australia when President Obama last November gave a blistering speech on climate change in Brisbane which rocked the Abbott Government with its thinly veiled criticism of the Government's climate-change stance. Obama was on a roll after signing a major emissions agreement with China just before he arrived in Brisbane. Coalition governments always pride themselves on their fidelity to the US alliance, and this was a pronounced breech — in the history of the alliance, had there ever been such an obvious difference in sentiment on arguably the major international issue of the day?

Christian Downie pointed out that Australia is not meeting its oil reserve obligations under its treaty with the IEA:

Accordingly, all members of the IEA are required to hold oil stocks equivalent to 90 days of imports, which can be drawn on in the event of such a disruption. Yet as of October 2014, Australia’s stockpiles stood at just 49 days of imports…

… Of course, in the long term, we need to reduce our dependence on oil, whether it is produced at home or aboard. The plunge in the oil price provides an opportunity to do just that. As the Economist argued last month, politicians should take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity to cut billions of dollars in fossil fuels subsidies. A move towards renewable energy would not only improve our energy security, it would help address climate change as well.

Catriona Croft-Cusworth wrote on the meaning of the death penalty in Indonesia and the politics surrounding the possible executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran:

Firstly, capital punishment is generally framed in Indonesia as a matter of law enforcement rather than human rights. Jokowi is unlikely to see a conflict between his stated commitment to improving the state of human rights in Indonesia and his support for the death penalty. While rights groups object to the use of the death penalty in Indonesia, many ordinary citizens approve of it as a deterrent for crime, and as a final punishment for criminals who may otherwise find ways to pay their way out of jail, or at least into a more comfortable cell. This is why there are often calls in the press and at public demonstrations for corruptors to face the death penalty — to make sure they can't use the crime that got them into jail to get themselves out again.

This zero-tolerance attitude extends to drug smugglers, contrary to international conventions on the use of capital punishment. The usual argument is that drug smugglers are responsible for lives lost and communities fractured by illegal drug use, and therefore deserve the harshest punishment. Indonesia is not alone in this — its neighbours in Southeast Asia hold a similar position on the severity of drug smuggling as a crime. This approach is filling up Indonesia's jails with young people convicted for as little as possession of a single joint, contributing to overcrowding and strain on resources. 

Japanese journalist Kenji Goto was executed by the Islamic State last week; Christopher Pokarier covered the reaction in Japan:

The fragile shared sense of decorum that prevailed during the hostage crisis is breaking down. Prior to Goto's killing, a junior Communist Party Diet member had retracted criticism of Abe for endangering the lives of Japanese, under pressure from a party leadership normally implacably critical. Only a hotheaded Diet member and former actor and TV celebrity had been openly critical. There is now more criticism of Abe for his opposition to ISIS and his funding initiative for neighbouring states during his recent Middle East trip. Jeff Kingston of Temple University in Tokyo expresses in English the argument made by by some Japanese 'Arabists'  that Abe shouldn't have broken with a model of not taking sides in the Middle East, a model that has supposedly served Japan well for decades.

Lisa Main on Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, the two journalists still incarcerated in Egpyt following the release of Australia journalist Peter Greste earlier this week:

In interrogations by the prosecution one of the Al Jazeera three, Egyptian-born Baher Mohamed said his father was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and had tried to make him go to religious classes organised by the Islamist movement. Baher Mohamed received an additional three-year sentence for a separate charge of being in possession of 'unlicensed ammunition' and unlike Peter Greste or Mohamed Fahmy, who may be deported to Canada, there are no rumours that Baher will be released anytime soon. His only hope is the forthcoming retrial or a presidential pardon.

In what was probably the most sobering comment of the day, Baher's brother Assem summed up the situation: 'Baher will not be released, as always what happens in Egypt [is] it's the Egyptians who pay.'

Reform of the IMF is a long-standing issue in international economic governance and has made little progress, but there are alternative options, says Mike Callaghan and Tristram Sainsbury:

All well and good, except for Congress. The original date for implementation of the reforms was end-2012. But the Obama Administration could not get them through the Republican-controlled Congress, which for a range of irrational reasons is opposed to the reforms. Countries representing over 80% of IMF votes have approved the reforms, but the required threshold is 85%. And the US has a veto with its 16.75% share of IMF votes. 

To say the world is frustrated with these developments is an understatement. It has drawn condemnation from the G20 and from BRICS leaders, who found the delays a source of 'serious concern and disappointment'. The lack of progress has undermined the credibility of the US, G20 and IMF, and has been a factor behind the birth of bodies such as the BRICS development bank and currency pool. The G20 then set the end of 2014 as a deadline for US consent and said if that did not occur, alternative options would be pursued. This was interpreted as a threat to bypass the US.

Jennifer Hunt took a look at the fascinating succession plans of both Saudi Arabia and Oman:

Oman has one of the most curious succession plans in the world. Childless and divorced, Sultan Qaboos will leave his choice for the next Sultan in a posthumous letter to his family. According to the Basic Law, swiftly codified in 1997 after the Sultan was involved in a car accident, the royal family has three days to reach a consensus. Barring this, his letter will be opened and one of the two names contained therein will be announced as Sultan. Putting aside the potential for failure in an untested process with multiple nominees (the names are contained in several letters spread across two countries for safekeeping), the problem remains that few members of the Sultan's family are considered suitably experienced for the post.

The Pacific Islands countries and Australia may be growing further apart, argues Nic Maclellan:

Attitudes to great and powerful friends are changing in Pacific Commonwealth countries. Fiji's 2011 membership of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and 2013 role as chair of the 'G77 plus China' has transformed its foreign policy outlook. And Fiji is not the only island nation taking independent foreign policy initiatives. The current crop of Pacific leaders — Joe Natuman, Manasseh Sogavare, 'Akilisi Pohiva and more — have perspectives that don't mesh with Canberra's worldview. There may be some interesting discussion at next month's regional gathering.

Tunisia seems to be one of the few good stories to emerge from Arab Spring, but why? There are several reasons, says Leila Ben Mcharek:

As the Tunisian revolution came to have a domino effect in the Arab world, marking the beginning of the Arab Spring, expectations for democratic transitions in the region were raised. Four years later, we have an authoritarian army-backed regime in place in Egypt, chaos and a disintegrating social and political fabric in Libya, an endless civil war in Syria, and political instability in Yemen

Among these tragic turmoils, Tunisia stands out as an exception. Four years after the downfall of its dictator, Tunisia has peacefully completed its transition to democracy by electing a constituent assembly that produced a new constitution which expanded civil liberties (the third one in the country's history, after those of 1861 and 1959), and organised fully democratic parliamentary and presidential elections.

Daniel Woker says EU foreign policy could be affected by the Greek election last week:

Of more immediate concern for the EU is the pronounced pro-Putin attitude shown by Syriza. Their six deputies in the European parliament voted against ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Treaty and against the condemnation of Russia after Putin's annexation of the Crimea. The first foreign ambassador received by Prime Minister Tsipras after his win was Moscow's man in Athens. You have to wonder what the latter promised. Credits, with the ruble in international free fall?

Finally, with the second part in his series on terrorism and criminality, Paul Buchanan:

But in the narrow sense of security counter-measures, the key is to not exaggerate the terrorist threat, to strip it of its political significance and to use more efficient policing and intelligence gathering backed by criminal law. Above all, terrorism should be treated not as a special type of (political) crime but as the violent acts of criminal conspirators.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Charles Roffey.

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