Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Palestinians protest in Ramallah against PA's Gaza sanctions

Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erekat calls for unity

Palestinians in occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Saturday protest PA sanctions on Gaza Strip (AFP)

Saturday 23 June 2018
Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated again on Saturday in the occupied West Bank to demand the Palestinian Authority (PA) lift punitive measures against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Demonstrators in Ramallah chanted "Scrap the sanctions!" during the protest organised by civil society groups, an AFP reporter said. The Ramallah-based PA has introduced a series of sanctions against Gaza over the past year.
“Clearly, this is not something to be happy about,” chief Palestinian negotiator and PA official Saeb Erekat told MEE earlier this week. He added that he has met with people from all sides, including civil society representatives and human rights organisations.
Erekat (AFP file photo)
The conflict between Hamas and Fatah, Palestine’s two key political parties, dates back to 2006, when Hamas won elections in Gaza. The following year, the PA split: Since then, Hamas has been the de facto government in Gaza, with Fatah running the West Bank.
“There’s an urgent need for all of us to leave our differences on the side and focus on strengthening our national project. Palestine is much bigger than all of us,” Erekat told MEE.
Tens of thousands of Gaza’s civil servants, which is separated from the West Bank by a strip of Israeli territory, have gone without full pay for months amid the sanctions.
Critics say such moves by the PA, dominated by the Fatah movement of President Mahmud Abbas, further exacerbate the split between the two parts of the Palestinian territories.
The rally on Saturday passed peacefully, unlike a protest on 13 June during which Palestinian security forces fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse demonstrators. This time, policemen were seen handing out Palestinian flags to the protesters.
Islamist movement Hamas has run Gaza since 2007. And since that year, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza that it argues is necessary to isolate Hamas.
Rights groups say the siege amounts to collective punishment.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the territory since 2008.
Neighbouring Egypt has also largely sealed its land border with Gaza in recent years, citing security threats.
The United Nations has said Gaza, which is home to two million people, may be uninhabitable by 2020.
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last October, but it has since collapsed.
Erekat went on to tell MEE that his call for Palestinians to unify was a message directed mainly at Hamas.
“The offer to have a national unity government that will call for national elections has been constantly rejected by Hamas,” he said.
“Hopefully, the voice of our people will be heard and Hamas will implement their obligations under our national reconciliation agreement in order to move towards national elections.”

Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Palestine changed lives

A mobile phone photo shows Vivien Sansour, Anthony Bourdain and Abdelfattah Abusrour during a break in filming a 2013 episode of “Parts Unknown,” at Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.
Vivien Sansour- 22 June 2018
Our cigarette smoke was mingling with the fumes coming out of cars lined up bumper to bumper trying to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint separating Ramallah from Jerusalem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
We stood on the sidewalk watching the camera crew prep the grounds for our walk by the separation wall. “You know I can’t cross with you to the other side,” I said.
Without reply he set out, past a gallery of graffiti, toward the army tower, strolling unhindered alongside the giant wall.
Unlike many journalists and foreign visitors who had crossed my path while working as a field producer, Anthony Bourdain did not once put me or anyone I introduced him to in a position to “explain” our humanity.
A man of few words, he embodied what it means to “just be there” and be witness to someone’s painful experience without having to provide trivial sympathies or sprinkle salt on wounds still open.
This was our first encounter as he arrived in Palestine, where I accompanied him on a journey to tell the story of a largely “unknown” and misunderstood part of the world – my world.
The spark of our first lit cigarette was preceded by months of pitching and anticipation to get my food celebrity icon to Palestine for what I thought would be an episode about the wonders of our Mediterranean delicacies.
Camel meat, foraged greens, grape molasses and land snails were just some of the items I tried pitching in an attempt to lure his appetite.
Perhaps it was my lack of faith that anyone of his stature would ever consider telling the political stories behind the grape molasses and the confiscated lands where these foraged leaves grew that kept me pulling in the direction of the superficial “exotic food” angle.
I had underestimated, not his intelligence, but his empathy and serious integrity.
The next day, I had planned for Tony to cook mulukhiya, a traditional Palestinian dish that is made with a local variety of mallow leaves and chicken.
I wanted it to be the kind of food porn I thought he would enjoy. I prepped Islam, the woman we were visiting in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. I told her I was bringing an experienced chef and that all raw ingredients must be present so he could see the process from beginning to end.
Stressed, I ran around trying to find the mallow stems that were at the end of their season. I visited Islam three times before our arrival. I cooked the dish twice the week before. I reorganized Islam’s kitchen in great anticipation of our big cooking day together. I wanted it to be the perfect culinary experience.
But as we walked through the alleyways of Aida refugee camp, it became evident: Tony was not interested in food.
When the day finally came, I guided him triumphantly through the alleys of Aida camp toward his culinary experience. But the idol of cuisine surprised me.
His gaze was filled with images: of fallen young men painted on the walls of the camp, of the Israeli sniper military posts lurking above us, of the story of a population trapped inside a concrete jungle in their own homeland.
It was surreal. All five senses became confused among sounds of children kicking their ball, soldiers cocking their guns and Tony listening to my friend Abed describe his art, which he calls beautiful resistance. All this mingled with the aromas of food yet to be cooked and the sight of a confrontation between soldiers and young men that had just ended.
When we finally arrived at Islam’s kitchen, Tony showed little interest in our freshly chopped garlic, our newly pressed olive oil and our mulukhiya display. He wanted to talk politics.
Alas, Islam spoke little English at the time and knew nothing of Anthony Bourdain.
She offered cooking classes not to attract celebrities but to afford education for her disabled child. Nor did it occur to Tony to impress her with his celebrity. In her presence he was humble and engaging.
He ate the meal with gratitude and signed her guest book. She could not know that his signature would change her life and the life of her family forever.
After the episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown in Palestine aired in 2013, Islam started receiving requests for cooking classes. Visitors from around the world came to the camp. She learned English. She expanded her kitchen into a cooking school to help children with special needs.
When I visited her a couple of years later she told me: “That day opened my life up to possibilities I could not have imagined. Our kids are getting the education and attention they need and we are overbooked all the time.” With a kind of mischievous smirk she continued, “Maybe we should build a guest house for food travelers.”
Ever the traveler, Tony loved adventure but, in the same moment, longed for his loved ones back home. Joking with kids in the street, he turned to me: “It’s my daughter who I miss when I travel.”
And just like that we connected for a moment. I was his witness the way he was mine at the checkpoint. In silence, I understood, as he did, that even eagles need a time to land.
In Arabic we say that hearts are the homes of secrets; some secrets love to torment us and some stay with us until we die. We also say that a life that gives is a life that never ends. That is small consolation to Islam and to me and to so many others who are forever touched and changed by Anthony Bourdain’s wild and daring life.
Tony, we send you love in your transition. You once confided, “I wish I didn’t have to leave all the time.” I hope your feet find their grounding in the other realm.
Vivien Sansour is the founder of the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library and the Traveling Kitchen Journey where she is working with farmers on bringing heritage varieties back to fields and dinner tables. She was Anthony Bourdain’s field coordinator and guide in Palestine for his CNN Emmy-winning show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?

مطار بيروت

 JUNE 22, 2018
“You could qualify for U.S. and Western aid to salvage Lebanon or you can cede what’s left of your country’s sovereignty to Iran. But you cannot do both.” A US Congressional staffer after his boss recently introduced legislation to cut off all aid to Lebanon until it “cleans its house of Iranian militia and restores Lebanese sovereignty.”

Increasingly these days on Beirut’s streets of Hamra and across much of Lebanon one hears a Sanskrit like mantra that: “Lebanon was never a real country, it is not now a real country and will not be a real country during the lifetimes of its current citizenry.” It’s become a bit of a truism worth some contemplation.

A couple of days ago there was reportedly bit of a kafuffle at Beirut Rafik Hariri, which fortunately did not come to blows. It occurred as travel weary Lebanese and tired international travelers arrived in Beirut for the beginning of tourist season and queued for the normally long wait to have their passports stamped. They reportedly learned that they were obliged to be welcoming hosts and to stand aside for Iranians fighters who it was decided no longer need passport stamps or apparently even passports. “We are pilgrims visiting Shrines to Zeinab in Lebanon” one young militiaman explained to an incredulous and soon furious expanding Lebanese assembly.

This was not news to some who work at the airport and have been aware that on instructions from Lebanon’s reputed leader, Al Quds leader Qassim Solemani, the “Resistance” is using Beirut Airport as their base of operations according to a Washington Times report on 6/15/18. Lebanese citizens witness first hand or are regularly informed by relatives and friends who work at the airport and observe the smuggling of drugs and weapons and in allowing Iranian fighters to move freely without passport stamps into other countries.

The problem arose when on 6/17/18 pro-Iranian Lebanese General Security Chief, Abbas Ibrahim, without bothering to consult Lebanon’s Cabinet, issued a controversial decision allowing Iranian passengers to enter Lebanon without having their passports stamped. Within 48 hours, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq scrapped the “Resistance” edict insisting that “such decisions must be taken by the Cabinet. not by Ibrahim. Many Lebanese consider Ibrahim, along with “President” Michel Aoun, FM Jebran Bassil, Lebanon’s Army Chief, General Joseph Aoun, plus the head of the Amal Militia, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, among other current officials, essentially gofers for Iran’s Al Quds leader Qassim Soleimani.

As noted above, when the public learned of Ibrahim’s decision to grant Iranian fighters free airport entry “to make pilgrimages”, they and many Lebanese officials as well as the international public were up in arms despite Ibrahim’s and President Aoun’s panicked assurances that such a practice “was normal.”

Many begged to differ. From a fast-growing number of international visitors standing in long slow passport lines as Lebanon’s tourist season begins, and the sight of Iranian fighters jumping and heading to the front of the queue. In addition to airport employees, security staff, airport taxi drivers and airport shopkeepers and baggage handlers, this was one more example of ceding what is left of Lebanese sovereignty to Tehran. “Persians return to Persia” was reportedly a common dismissive insult directed at the young men.

Reports quickly emerged accusing Hezbollah of allowing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to essentially take over Lebanon’s airport to use as a base for the Iranian regime to store and transport weapons and expedite fighters to locations and countries serving Tehran’s strategy for regional intervention.

Calls for Ibrahim to be fired from his position will surely be blocked by his powerful sponsors but the public will presumably closely monitor “Resistance” rumored plans to remodel and deepen the airport. Suspicions are rife that bunker-buster proof sub-terraranan facilities and missile storage are to be installed deep underground.

Beirut’s Rafik Hariri airport. Photo courtesy of Mahar Salome

But problems for Lebanon’s economy and political status continue to mount. From millions of concerned Lebanese who left the country and comprise roughly 75 percent of Lebanon’s pre-civil war (1975-1989) population, to international aid NGO’s, UN Agencies, specialists at the IMF, World Bank and global money market administrators, among many others, including the Arab League, Lebanon may well be a lost cause.

But as most of us would agree Lebanon is worth salvaging as an independent country and some things can be done even short-term toward an urgent salvage operation. Many argue that much can be achieved to salvage Lebanon over the coming six months with serious, sustained, and closely public monitored political and economic tough love.

One US and EU proposed first step would include immediately cutting off all foreign military and economic aid to Lebanon until the beginning of 2019. This period to be followed by a six-month intensive study and review of corruption that has plagued the “country” over the past nearly three decades since the “end” of the so-called “civil war.” It is the post-civil war period which has seen the war-lords become entrenched political-lords, eliminating rivals and dividing up Lebanon’s Parliament cabinet portfolios based on each Cabinet posts total of personal cash for its “Minister”. Today once again, no government has been formed post the May election because certain sinecures are not yet satisfactorily in place. If that fails to happen then Lebanon’s election would again have been largely for naught.

Several of Lebanon’s political party officials are wringing their hands mouthing that the sky is falling, and Lebanon is “on the brink of Abyss!” As a regular “chicken little”, Lebanon’s nearly three-decade Speaker of Parliament, Amal militia leader Nabih Berri, known in Lebanon as “the Thug’ and sometimes as “Mr. 50 percent” for Lebanon’s annual budget he is accused of pocketing over the decades, announced again, with tongue in check, on 6/18/18 that: “Forming a new government has become an imminent necessity. Lebanon is on the verge of the abyss and the economy threatens great dangers that the country may not be able to bear.” It is Speaker Nabih Berri who will block the formation of a Lebanese government for however long it takes for him and Hezbollah to create what Tehran wants to put in place for Lebanon.

Meanwhile, ambassadors of many pledged donor countries have reportedly informed Lebanese officials that decisions of this springs Cedar Conference are subject to deadlines and that Lebanon must form a balanced government for the conference’s pledged assistance to start taking effect in the coming months. The World Bank has released several reports on the seriousness of the economic situation in Lebanon as it still waits for reforms to start providing Lebanon with donations and loans.
Undeterred by such warnings, Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad on 6/18/18 insisted that “Hezbollah was now in a better position than ever before, following the parliamentary elections, and “Our situation is at its best compared to the past. Things have become better. We are not pressured, neither regarding a permanent majority at the Parliament, nor about forces that can impose any decision on the country without consulting us.”

Below are a few briefly noted measures being urge locally and internationally to salvage Lebanon.
The observer submits that as these tough subjects are tackled and hopefully solutions implemented, that it is critical that Lebanon’s ‘new blood’ youth play the defining role and to lead this country replacing of the current lifetime political lords. One of the many tragedies of the ‘political lords for life’ running Lebanon as their private business, is that the brilliant, committed young people, who grew up observing the corruption first hand and daily, have been shunted aside and denied any meaning role in salvaging Lebanon. As with Iran and Syria, the youth are fully capable and ready to rebuild their homelands.

Specific actions Lebanon’s friends can insist be taken to salvage Lebanon in addition to cutting off all aid over the next six months while it evaluates Lebanon’s future, include a detailed examination of its budgetary practices and performance for the past quarter-century with sanctions implemented and carried out for violations and corruption.

Placing Lebanon’s governmental functions and cabinet files in the hands of public servants proven to be honest and not controlled by foreign or regional powers.

Demand monthly accounting for the income of governmental officials.

All the above to be achieved before any further economic or military aid is granted to Lebanon.
On a related urgent subject, drugs are destroying Lebanon. The government must top supplying or allowing the supply of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian camps and 156 Gatherings with addictive drugs from politically projected dealers based in the Bekaa Valley.

All would-be donors must insist on the end of Lebanon’s support for the Cocaine Trade both domestically and in Latin America in the Triple Frontier, where Paraguay intersects with Argentina and Brazil.

The government of Lebanon must stop the selling of Captagon pills from Lebanon’s Bekaa dealers to ISIS units in Syria. The amphetamine-based Captagon is a stimulant to keep the user awake for long periods of time and to dull pain. It also has hallucinogenic properties. It has been nicknamed the “jihadists’ drug.” 300,000 of the pills worth approximately $1.4 million, was confiscated by US-backed forces 5/31/18. Drug dealers in the Bekaa Valley with political cover regularly sell the drugs to ISIS and other Jihadis for primality two reasons. The sales raise much-needed cash and energize the Jihadists to fight rebel-backed forces for long periods of time. Nearly monthly a large stash is discovered at Beirut’s airport.


If salvaging Lebanon is possible, it will take tough love to reign in the massive corruption of her political leaders, re-build a fragile economy, pressure outside governments to end their efforts to absorb the small state for their hegemonic political purposes and for former western colonial powers to follow suit.

Lebanon is particularly vulnerable regionally but in their own continents so are tens of the other 192 members of the UN. The population of Africa, just on the other side of the Mediterranean is predicted to climb to 2.5 billion by 2050. And by 2100, Africa will be home to half of all the people of the planet with an estimated quarter of this planets countries having nuclear weapons.

If Lebanon, unique in many ways can be salvaged with tough love from friends it can potentially become a regional model of sorts with potential applicability to countries in this region and beyond.
The observer avers that salvaging Lebanon is worth a try. But time is running short.
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Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Lebanon, France, and USA based Meals for Syrian Refugee Children Lebanon (MSRCL) which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children in Lebanon. He is reachable c/o

Saudi women gear up for new freedom as driving ban ends

Dr Samira al-Ghamdi, 47, a practicing psychologist, drives around the side roads of a neighborhood as she prepares to hit the road on Sunday as a licensed driver, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia June 21, 2018. Picture taken June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Stephen Kalin-JUNE 23, 2018

RIYADH (Reuters) - Women will hit the roads in Saudi Arabia on Sunday with the lifting of the world’s last ban on female drivers, long seen as an emblem of women’s repression in the conservative kingdom.

The move, ordered last September by King Salman, is part of sweeping reforms pushed by his powerful young son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who aims to transform the economy of the world’s top oil exporter and open up its cloistered society.

“We are ready, and it will totally change our life,” said Samira al-Ghamdi, a 47-year-old psychologist from Jeddah, one of the first Saudi women to be issued with a driving license.

The lifting of the ban, which for years drew international condemnation and comparisons to the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, has been welcomed by Western allies as proof of a new progressive trend in Saudi Arabia.

But it has been accompanied by a harsh crackdown on dissent, including against some of the very activists who previously campaigned against the ban. They will sit in jail as their peers take to the road legally for the first time.
Saudi women with foreign licenses only began converting them earlier this month, so the number of new drivers is expected to remain low at first. It will be some time before others learning to drive at new state-run schools are road ready.

And some women still face resistance from conservative relatives. Many accustomed to using a private driver say they are reluctant to take on the Muslim kingdom’s busy highways.

“I definitely won’t like to drive,” said Fayza al-Shammary, a 22-year-old saleswoman. “I like to be a princess with someone opening the car door for me and driving me anywhere.”

Concerns that women drivers will face abuse in a country where strict segregation rules usually prevent women from interacting with unrelated men prompted a new law last month with jail and hefty fines for sexual harassment.

The Interior Ministry plans to hire women traffic police for the first time, but it is unclear when they will be deployed.


The decision to lift the ban in the tightly-controlled Muslim kingdom - where once-forbidden cinemas and concerts have also returned - is expected to boost the economy, with industries from car sales to insurance to reap returns.

It should also encourage more women into the workforce and raise productivity, if only modestly at first.

 Saudi Women Gear Up For New Freedom As Driving Ban Ends Tomorrow
FILE PHOTO: Trainee Maria al-Faraj stops the car at a stop sign during a driving lesson with her instructor at Saudi Aramco Driving Center in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File photo
Auto companies have seized the moment with theatrical ads marking the end of the ban, and private parking garages designated “ladies” areas with pink signage.

Social media is also celebrating with tweets like #You_Will_Drive_and_the_People_Are_With_You. Some reactions have been more derisive or expressed concern about social impacts.
Much of the kingdom’s overwhelmingly young population supports Prince Mohammed’s reforms, but many Saudis fear their speed could provoke a backlash from religious conservatives once seen as dominant.

Activists and diplomats have speculated that the arrests of more than a dozen women’s rights advocates over the past month were aimed at appeasing conservative elements or at sending a message to activists not to push demands too far.

The crown prince’s modernisation efforts have won praise at home and abroad, but he has also provoked unease with an anti-corruption purge last year, when scores of royals and top businessmen were detained at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. Most were freed after reaching settlements with the government.

Slideshow (4 Images)
Saudi women gear up for new freedom as driving ban endsEven with the end of the driving ban, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most restrictive countries for women, who need permission from legally mandated male guardians for important decisions such as foreign travel and marriage.

Activists have already begun campaigning to end the guardianship system, which has been chipped away at slowly over the years. Prince Mohammed declared in an interview earlier this year that he believes men and women are equal.

But veteran Saudi activist Hala Aldosari says women remain second-class citizens and criticised the crown prince’s “piecemeal approach” as serving the interests of the elite at the expense of women from more restrictive families.

“Worst of all will be if these small-scale reforms, and the silencing of feminists, slow the momentum for pushing the Saudi regime into making more meaningful change,” she wrote in a U.S. newspaper this week.

The Country That Wasn’t Ready to Win the Lottery

Guyana just discovered it owns enough oil to solve all its problems — and cause even bigger ones.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Amid the narrow streets and rusty docks of Georgetown, the quiet capital of Guyana, the first signs of an oil boom are visible. Steel pipe destined for deep-water projects can be seen stacked on wharves near the city center. Over at the Marriott, the country’s only five-star hotel, the bar fills up throughout the day with Brazilian oil workers and American contractors. Boats embark from a new depot on the Demerara River, ferrying supplies to oil projects hundreds of miles from the coast.

Driving much of this activity is ExxonMobil. Three years ago, the company’s Guyana subsidiary found crude in sandstone reservoirs about 120 miles offshore, the first of a string of offshore discoveries that have raised the country’s reserves to an estimated 3.2 billion barrels from nothing at all. Decades of dry wells had made such a cache impossible to imagine.

With ExxonMobil expecting “first oil” — that is, to start pumping crude — in 2020, Guyana is bracing for a wave of newfound money to hit government coffers. The government anticipates collecting $300 million in petroleum funds each year from the company’s initial phase of work on a single well — a sum that represents about a quarter of the current national budget. Analysts at a Norwegian energy consultancy are even more bullish, claiming the government could rake in as much as $5 billion per year from oil by the end of the next decade.

That money will go a long way in this sparsely populated former British colony of about 750,000, where political competition between the country’s African- and Indian-descended populations has long stunted development. The country’s needs are many. Guyana’s power supply is erratic, leaving even parts of the capital without electricity at times. Its infant mortality rate is almost double the average of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Its unemployment rate stood at 11.8 percent in 2017, according to the World Bank.

“This is the best thing that has ever happened to Guyana,” Minister of Finance Winston Jordan said in an interview. “I can say that not since perhaps when sugar was introduced in the colonies have [there been] such opportunities for massive transformation of the economy.”

Oil will also generate tremendous pressure on a country known for fragile government institutions, ethnic divisions, and little transparency. The speed and focus with which ExxonMobil and its partners, Hess and China National Offshore Oil Corporation, are doing their work aren’t always being matched by elected leaders in Georgetown, who are moving far more slowly in building government infrastructure to manage the oil industry. Officials insist they have time to develop those institutions.
“We’ve always dreamed,” Jordan said, “but we’ve never had the resources to convert our dreams to reality.” But Guyana’s oil windfall could easily convert the country’s dreams into a living nightmare, one that leaves it with greater inequality, more corruption, and internal strife. Many fear that’s exactly what will happen.

Above: Small commercial spaces are seen in Georgetown’s Bourda neighborhood, well known for hosting a market, where vendors sell everything from fresh fish to hot sauce. Top: Two people look over the balcony on the second floor of the Parliament building in Georgetown on April 26. (Micah Maidenberg for Foreign Policy)

Guyana has always depended on trading commodities for its survival. Its earliest existence as a polity was rooted in sugar; colonial planters forced enslaved Africans — and later, after Britain abolished slavery in 1834, indentured servants from India — to harvest the crop. In later years, and still today, the country’s economy is driven by the export of gold, rice, and bauxite.

Then, on May 20, 2015, just nine days after the current government in Guyana won the general election, ExxonMobil made public news that had been quietly discussed in government circles for a couple of weeks: the company had found crude.

ExxonMobil’s interest in the country dates to the mid-1990s, when the company said it identified Guyana’s deep waters as an “area of interest” for oil after completing a series of geologic surveys, and in 1999, a subsidiary signed an agreement to hunt for petroleum in a vast offshore concession. But for years, company carried out little work, ostensibly because of a maritime border dispute between Guyana and Suriname that began in 2000. That fight was resolved in 2007, clearing the way for ExxonMobil to restart exploration a year later. Seven years after that, the company issued its press statement lauding a “significant” find at the Liza-1 well, located northeast of Georgetown in the Atlantic Ocean.

Oil has historically generated wealth like few commodities can — but it’s also recognized as a double-edge sword, one associated with the so-called resource curse that has marred the development of countries like Angola and Venezuela. In worried conversations across government ministries and offices in Georgetown, Guyanese are expressing worries they will be the curse’s next victim. “I’ve heard of the resource curse … and all the ills of oil, and I can tell you I am quite petrified,” acknowledged Raphael Trotman, the minister of natural resources, in an interview in late April.
“Lower-middle income countries like Guyana,” said Michael Ross, a political scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles who has written on the subject, “tend to have great difficulty using the wealth they have newly discovered in a way that benefits their people.”

The problems associated with resources are multidimensional, according to Ross and other researchers. Commodity prices rise and fall unpredictably on the global market, whipsawing a country’s economy and budgets. Oil and minerals can become so valuable they displace other sectors that could potentially generate growth. And all too often, members of government and elites seek to benefit financially from their country’s resource endowments. There are also plenty of cases where international investors cooperated with corrupt, or simply shortsighted, local officials if they stood to benefit themselves.

The resource curse isn’t inevitable, and Norway and Canada, with their rule of law, diversified economies, and strong institutions, are frequently cited exemplars of resource management. Yet in the worst cases, the control of resources can descend into armed conflict. Petroleum is “a very highly concentrated economic activity that requires permitting and things like that from the government, so it’s just incredibly tempting for the executive branch to capture those resources,” said Sarah Chayes, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In Guyana, observers fear oil will intensify the longstanding competition between ethnic Indians, who make up about 40 percent of the population and people of African heritage, who comprise about 29 percent of the population, according to the country’s 2012 census. Both have longstanding complaints about the other, going back to the days of the Afro-Guyanese strongman Forbes Burnham, who ran the country between 1964 and 1985, rigging elections to ensure his power. The Indo-Guyanese-dominated People’s Progressive Party won elections in 1992, ruling for the next 23 years but generating criticism for alleged corruption.

Managing the transition to an oil-powered economy will likely be at the forefront of elections scheduled for 2020. The current government, led by the People’s National Congress, which draws its support from the country’s Afro-Guyanese community, and the People’s Progressive Party will vie to control government as the petroleum revenue starts to roll in.

“There will be a huge fight over it, in elections, and who is going to be in government,” said Thomas Singh, an economist at the University of Guyana. “So, I anticipate a lot of our revenues will be dissipated in conflict. I mean this, by the way. I expect conflict.”

The Attorney General of Guyana, Basil Williams, wearing red at the podium on stage, delivers a speech at a May 1 Labor Day rally in Georgetown during which he said oil "is poised to change the trajectory of the economy" and make Guyana the "crown jewel" of the Caribbean. (Micah Maidenberg for Foreign Policy)

The parliament building in Georgetown, colored a light shade of pink, is located at one end of the government district, next to the city’s Stabroek Market. One sunny afternoon in late April, the driveway out front was filled with Toyota Land Cruisers. The 65-member National Assembly was about to begin a session focused on a juvenile justice bill. It was the fifth time the legislative body had met since the start of the year.

The debates and long speeches carried into the night. At one point, Gail Teixeira, the opposition whip, castigated the government for failing to move on an agenda, accusing the party of stalling oil-related legislation. “The Petroleum Commission bill, which is so important to this country, has been sitting in committee since June 2017,” Teixeira said. “So, what’s the problem? You’re in the chair, not us.” The Petroleum Commission is intended to do everything from collect oil industry data to ensure companies comply with all relevant laws. Because of the stalled legislation, it exists right now only in theory.

The government is under pressure — and not just from the opposition. ExxonMobil is rapidly developing its first well. Both it and Total have cut deals with smaller companies that obtained offshore acreage from the government years ago. Repsol and Tullow Oil are active, too. Ralph Ramkarran, a former speaker of the National Assembly who left the People’s Progressive Party, believes the government has not “displayed the capacity and willingness to act in a concerted manner to set the stage in all respects for development of Guyana as an oil and gas producer.”

The Petroleum Commission isn’t the only agency the country still needs to get off the ground. The current administration is still mulling how to set up a sovereign wealth fund to guide how Guyana spends and invests its oil money. In the absence of a fund, there has been relatively little discussion about how the country should use the cash.

Trotman, the minister of natural resources, listened silently to Teixeira’s jab that night in parliament. An attorney by training, he is familiar with such criticism, hearing it on near-daily basis in the Guyanese press, which carries out lively coverage of battles between the ruling and opposition parties. Later, during an interview at his ministry, Trotman recounted his side with a hoarse voice. Legislation for the sovereign wealth fund should be presented before the end of the year, he said, at which time it will be better to start debating how to use and invest future oil revenues. The Petroleum Commission bill was delayed while the country waited for help from experts at the World Bank,

Trotman added (the government recently announced it present a new bill in parliament in June).
“There’s no such thing as enough time,” Trotman said. “Our objective, of course, is to have as much as we can get in place before production starts, but accepting and understanding that even with production, it will take years, sometimes decades, to really be able to fully grasp and manage everything properly.”

Building up the new agencies won’t be easy, even when they are formed on paper. A 2009 United Nations report found that almost 80 percent of Guyanese who attend college seek opportunities abroad. Skilled workers equipped to take on complex oil regulation are rare and those with credentials will be tempted by jobs at lucrative oil companies. “It’s a big, huge, huge, huge problem,” Jordan, the finance minister, said in a separate interview. “And it’s magnified because of the pressures that have been put on the administration to prepare for oil and gas.”

The government is devising coping mechanisms, but they may pose problems of their own. To make up for what it called “capacity deficiencies,” Minister of State Joseph Harmon recently announced the Guyanese Environmental Protection Agency had outsourced an environmental assessment of some of ExxonMobil’s activities offshore to a U.S.-based firm. ExxonMobil’s affiliate in Guyana will cover the cost of the contract. Harmon denied the agency was “reneging on its responsibility” in having the company pay for the service, according to a government news story.

International oil companies certainly have the expertise and willingness to cooperate with Guyana. No firm has pushed harder to establish a relationship with the government than ExxonMobil, owner of biggest stake in what analysts have called “one of the most lucrative new energy discoveries in the world,” according to Barron’s. ExxonMobil declined to make anyone available for an interview. The company has been busy in the country. It has hosted ministers on its offshore drillship and at its Texas headquarters, made charitable donations and established a local business-development center. Comments from its executives in Guyana are often big news in the Georgetown media. When reporters from Foreign Policy asked to observe an oil-spill training session a government agency organized with ExxonMobil, Minister of State Harmon said he was unable to authorize it. “It’s their event,” he said.

In an email, a spokesman said the company has engaged Guyanese government agencies “to understand their priorities and objectives for industry growth, including a vision for responsible industry oversight and regulation … The Guyana development is a phased development, in part so that there is time to build the necessary capacity across the industry and government.”

But it remains an open question whether the government will have the power to challenge ExxonMobil — and other oil companies — when their interests don’t neatly overlap with the country’s own.

In a section of Georgetown called Houston, contractors are building out a new oil industry depot, capable of storing needed equipment, fuel, water, cement, fluids, and other materials that contractors working in Guyana’s deep waters need. The base already has a contract to supply ExxonMobil. (Micah Maidenberg for Foreign Policy)

Newell Dennison, the burly, tall leader of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, a state agency that handles permitting, regulating, and other matters related to petroleum and mining projects, was amazed by the news in 2015 that ExxonMobil had found oil at the Liza-1 well. He also was a bit worried, at least initially.

“My God, why now?” he recalled thinking. The elections were heated, after all. “The contemplation of ‘why now’ was very brief … It then became, ‘let’s take it step by step.’”

After years of dry wells, oil in Guyana now meant big money. The status of ExxonMobil’s agreement with the government, which was inked in 1999 but put in abeyance during the border fight with Suriname, suddenly was a pressing issue. In April 2016, about a year after the election and discovery, Dennison and a colleague traveled to ExxonMobil’s sprawling campus outside of Houston to discuss technical issues. There, company officials “confronted” them about the terms of its contract, according to a memo Dennison wrote and the government later released.

Even though ExxonMobil had found a major well by this time, his memo says company officials were “obviously ruffled” by the suggestion that ExxonMobil pay a $1 million annual rental fee and “not at all receptive” to the idea of paying a royalty, the memo says. The original 1999 deal provided for neither. The company’s spokesman declined to comment on the memo.

Guyana’s new contract with ExxonMobil, signed in June 2016, wasn’t made public for more than a year and generated controversy as the specifics started to leak. A furor ensued after Chris Ram, a Georgetown accountant and lawyer, broke the news in the Stabroek News, a leading newspaper in Georgetown, that ExxonMobil and its partners had paid the government a signing bonus, a payment later confirmed to be $18 million.

For Ram, the opaqueness around the bonus demonstrated how little the government cared about transparency. “There’s no accountability in a country like this. I know it’s kind of difficult to understand. They just feel we don’t have a right to know,” he said in an interview. (Ram’s accounting firm has done business with oil companies, though he denied a report that it has provided services to ExxonMobil or its subsidiaries.)

Government officials have said they always planned to release the agreement. After months of pressure, the administration finally released the entire contract at the end of last year. Under the deal, Guyana got a 2 percent royalty, a 50-50 split of so-called profit oil and a $1 million annual fee. To some outside observers, the terms made it seem Guyana had missed an opportunity. The International Monetary Fund, for example, called it “relatively favorable” for the companies. OpenOil, a Berlin-based analytical firm, estimated that Guyana will take in no more than 54 percent of the economic proceeds under the contract, less than comparable deals. Ghana, for example, structured an agreement for offshore oil that will give it 64 percent, according to the company. Critics of the deal in Guyana go further, seeing it as a failure that must be renegotiated.

An ExxonMobil spokesman said in an email the agreement was “globally competitive for countries with a similar oil and gas profile, which in the case of Guyana was an unproven basin.” He pointed to an assessment from the consultancy Wood Mackenzie, which estimated that Guyana’s fiscal take under the deal is above average within a group of 78 frontier oil areas around the globe.

Beyond the dollars and cents, the contract gives Guyana a powerful new ally — ExxonMobil is now tethered to the country for years to come — and that relationship is already influencing Guyanese foreign policy. Some officials hope to now leverage the deepened relationship with ExxonMobil to secure resolution of a long-term border dispute with Caracas, whose claim to two-thirds of Guyanese territory dates to the 18th century, when Venezuela was a Spanish colony. (Venezuela has pressed its claim on and off over the years since an 1899 crisis arbitration ruled in favor of British Guiana.) ExxonMobil, for its part, has been fighting with Venezuela over the late President Hugo Chávez’s decision to expropriate its assets in the country in 2007.

Under Chávez, tensions between Venezuela and Guyana had eased. But the detente ended in 2013, five months after his death, when the Venezuelan Navy seized a vessel seeking oil offshore for the petroleum company Anadarko, which then left Guyana. More recently, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s government has warned Guyana and ExxonMobil it objects to any activities in disputed waters. Trotman, the natural resources minister, confirmed the current administration wanted to secure a “strategic relationship” with ExxonMobil in revamping the 1999 deal. “For us, it was more than oil contract,” he said. “The value of this contract is way beyond whatever is written on paper to us.”

The contract is arming Guyana with new resources in its fight with Venezuela. Last March, Guyana took its case regarding the border to the International Court of Justice, seeking an end to the controversy. It plans to use up to $15 million it received from ExxonMobil and its partners to pay for lawyers arguing its case. The company’s spokesman declined to comment on Guyana’s border disputes.

One place where the oil industry is visible in Georgetown is on the city’s waterfront, a strip running along the east bank of the Demerara River, which pours into the Atlantic Ocean. Some dock owners have seen new business opportunities storing material used in deep-water petroleum projects located hundreds of miles offshore. Here, pipes are stored on a riverfront property near Water and New Market streets. (Micah Maindenberg for Foreign Policy)

With oil production expected to start in less than two years, the current government is busily promoting the steps it is taking to get ready.

Oxford University professor Paul Collier, a well-known international development expert, visited Georgetown this spring for a round of talks with the cabinet; in April, the government announced it would bring World Bank experts to the country. The Civil Defence Commission has held oil-spill trainings and the tax authority is trying to train staff to monitor the oil industry.

ExxonMobil, meanwhile, is quickly establishing itself as a dominant economic force in Guyana. The company and its main contractors spent around $60 million last year and during the first quarter of 2018 working with hundreds of Guyanese-based companies, according to ExxonMobil. Those benefiting include companies ranging from Maggie’s Snackette and Catering to bus services and hotels, a list issued by the government shows.

While the administration has released petroleum contracts and the ExxonMobil contractor list, other basic accountability and transparency standards are still lacking. In a country where politicians have helped themselves to well-located land plots and the political parties regularly mount corruption investigations against each other, the underdevelopment of these systems is a major issue, given the money set to arrive in Guyana with oil, according to observers like Troy Thomas, a leader in the Guyanese branch of Transparency International, a global nonprofit organization.

“We don’t have freedom of information,” added Thomas, who recalled asking Guyana’s open-records commissioner for information, only to be ignored. “He didn’t even write us back.”

Oil production is expected to begin in 2020, the same year as the next election, yet the country has no campaign finance laws. An Integrity Commission collects asset declarations from politicians, but it keeps these documents confidential. Corporate records are not available online, making it difficult to keep tabs on shareholders and owners in local companies.

And even though the government plans to join a major extractive-industry transparency group, the government is still in the dark about critical aspects of the oil sector. Earlier this year, the country’s securities commission took out a newspaper advertisement seeking information about a company called GGC Resources. The firm owns about 30 percent of a company that controls an offshore block in Guyana under a 2013 agreement. According to the securities regulator, GGC lists its address in New York, on the ninth floor of a building on Park Avenue. Beyond that, little is known.

In the ad, the regulator asked the public share any details of GGC’s “incorporation, principals, directorship, nature of business, its shareholders and any other relevant information.” Shaun Allicock, an attorney at the securities commission, confirmed the agency still does not know who “the actual, real owners are.” That raises a red flag for experts in managing natural resources, who point out that hidden shareholders in valuable resources could include politically powerful individuals. “Not knowing who the true beneficial owners of a company that obtained a major oil license are opens the door to the risk that finite oil resources aren’t being maximized for public benefit but for private gain,” said Erica Westenberg, the governance programs director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute, who was speaking generally.

Some Guyanese simply assume that oil won’t produce meaningful change in their lives. A well-worn cynicism was on display one sunny morning in April at the Stabroek Market, where vendors sell everything from pineapples and clothing while touts organize bus trips to the interior. “I think just those in power will be more rich,” said Michael Persaud, an accountant who was sitting in an ice cream parlor near the market. “The small man will never see his way in this country under oil.”
Funding for the reporting on this story was provided by the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, Energy Foundation, Lorana Sullivan Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund, Tellus Mater Foundation and the Tortuga Foundation, as well as by the Investigative Reporting Resource at the Columbia Journalism School.
Micah Maidenberg is a reporting fellow at the Columbia University School of Journalism. He has contributed to the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and worked as a staff reporter at Crain's Chicago Business.

Manuela Andreoni is a reporter based in Brazil. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the New Yorker Magazine, The Globe and Mail and other publications.

The Entire Western World Lives In Cognitive Dissonance

How can it be that Americans can see inhumanity in the separation of families in immigration enforcement but not in the massive war crimes committed against peoples in eight countries? Are we experiencing a mass psychosis form of cognitive dissonance?

by Paul Craig Roberts-
( June 21, 2018, Washington DC, Sri Lanka Guardian) In this column, I am going to use three of the current top news stories to illustrate the disconnect that is everywhere in the Western mind.
Let us begin with the family separation issue. The separation of children from immigrant/refugee/asylum parents has caused such public outcry that President Trump has backed off his policy and signed an executive order terminating family separation.
The horror of children locked up in warehouses operated by private businesses making a profit off of US taxpayers, while parents are prosecuted for illegal entry, woke even self-satisfied “exceptional and indispensable” Americans out of their stupor. It is a mystery that the Trump regime chose to discredit its border enforcement policy by separating families. Perhaps the policy was intended to deter illegal immigration by sending the message that if you come to America your children will be taken from you.
The question is: How is it that Americans can see and reject the inhumane border control policy and not see the inhumanity of family destruction that has been the over-riding result of Washington’s destruction in whole or part of seven or eight countries in the 21st century?
Millions of people have been separated from families by death inflicted by Washington, and for almost two decades protests have been almost nonexistent. No public outcry stopped George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump from clear and indisputable illegal acts defined in international law established by the US itself as war crimes against the inhabitants of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. We can add to this an eighth example: The military attacks by the US armed and supported neo-Nazi puppet state of Ukraine against the breakaway Russian provinces.
The massive deaths, destruction of towns, cities, infrastructure, the maiming, physical and mental, the dislocation that has sent millions of refugees fleeing Washington’s wars to overrun Europe, where governments consist of a collection of idiot stooges who supported Washington’s massive war crimes in the Middle East and North Africa, produced no outcry comparable to Trump’s immigration policy.
How can it be that Americans can see inhumanity in the separation of families in immigration enforcement but not in the massive war crimes committed against peoples in eight countries? Are we experiencing a mass psychosis form of cognitive dissonance?
We now move to the second example: Washington’s withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council.
On November 2, 1917, two decades prior to the holocaust attributed to National Socialist Germany, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild that Great Britain supported Palestine becoming a Jewish homeland. In other words, the corrupt Balfour dismissed the rights and lives of the millons of Palestinians who had occupied Palestine for two millennia or more. What were these people compared to Rothschild’s money? They were nothing to the British Foreign Secretary.
Balfour’s attitude toward the rightful inhabitants of Palestine is the same as the British attitude toward the peoples in every colony or territority over which British power prevailed. Washington learned this habit and has consistently repeated it.
Just the other day Trump’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley, the crazed and insane lapdog of Israel, announced that Washington had withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council because it is “a cesspool of political bias” against Israel.
What did the UN Human Rights Council do to warrant this rebuke from Israel’s agent, Nikki Haley? The Human Rights Council denounced Israel’s policy of murdering Palestinians—medics, young children, mothers, old women and old men, fathers, teenagers.
To criticize Israel, no matter how great and obvious is Israel’s crime, means that you are an anti-semite and a “holocaust denier.” For Nikki Haley and Israel, this places the UN Human Rights Council in the Hitler-worshipping Nazi ranks.
The absurdity of this is obvious, but few, if any, can detect it. Yes, the rest of the world, with the exception of Israel, has denounced Washington’s decision, not only Washington’s foes and the Palestinians but also Washington’s puppets and vassals as well.
To see the disconnect, it is necessary to pay attention to the wording of the denunciations of Washington.
A spokesperson for the European Union said that Washington’s withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council “risks undermining the role of the US as a champion and supporter of democracy on the world stage.” Can anyone imagine a more idiotic statement? Washington is known as a supporter of dictatorships that adhere to Washington’s will. Washington is known as a destroyer of every Latin American democracy that elected a president who represented the people of the country and not the New York banks, US commercial interests, and US foreign policy.
Name one place where Washington has been a supporter of democracy. Just to speak of the most recent years, the Obama regime overthrew the democratically elected government of Honduras and imposed its puppet. The Obama regime overthrew the democratically elected government in Ukraine and imposed a neo-Nazi regime. Washington overthrew the governments in Argentina and Brazil, is trying to overthrow the government in Venezuela, and has Bolivia in its crosshairs along with Russia and Iran.
Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, said: “It saddens me that the US has decided to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council. It comes at a time when the world needs more human rights and a stronger UN – not the opposite.” Why in the world does Wallstrom think that the presence of Washington, a known destroyer of human rights—just ask the millions of refugees from Washington’s war crimes overrunning Europe and Sweden—on the Human Rights Council would strengthen rather than undermine the Council? Wallstrom’s disconnect is awesome. It is so extreme as to be unbelievable.
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, spoke for the most fawning of all of Washington’s vassals when she said that she was concerned by the UN Human Rights Council’s “anti-Israel bias.” Here you have a person so utterly brainwashed that she is unable to connect to anything real.
The third example is the “trade war” Trump has launched against China. The Trump regime’s claim is that due to unfair practices China has a trade surplus with the US of nearly $400 billion. This vast sum is supposed to be due to “unfair practices” on China’s part. In actual fact, the trade deficit with China is due to Apple, Nike, Levi, and to a large number of US corporations who produce offshore in China the products that they sell to Americans. When the offshored production of US corporations enters the US, they are counted as imports.
I have been pointing this out for many years going back to my testimony before the US Congress China Commission. I have written numerous articles published almost everywhere. They are summarized in my 2013 book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism.
The presstitute financial media, the corporate lobbyists, which includes many “name” academic economists, and the hapless American politicians whose intellect is almost non-existent are unable to recognize that the massive US trade deficit is the result of jobs offshoring. This is the level of utter stupidity that rules America.
In The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, I exposed the extraordinary error made by Matthew J. Slaughter, a member of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, who incompetently claimed that for every US job offshored two US jobs were created. I also exposed as a hoax a “study” by Harvard University professor Michael Porter for the so-called Council on Competitiveness, a lobby group for offshoring, that made the extraordinary claim that the US workforce was benefitting from the offshoring of their high productivity, high value-added jobs.
The idiot American economists, the idiot American financial media, and the idiot American policymakers still have not comprehended that jobs offshoring destroyed America’s economic prospects and pushed China to the forefront 45 years ahead of Washington’s expectations.
To sum this up, the Western mind, and the minds of the Atlanticist Integrationist Russians and pro-American Chinese youth are so full of propagandistic nonsense that there is no connection to reality.
There is the real world and there is the propagandistic made-up world that covers the real world and serves special interests. My task is to get people out of the made-up world and into the real world. Support my efforts.

Windrush anniversary debate: What does Britain think about immigration?

-23 Jun 2018Presenter

Two years after Brexit what does Britain think about immigration? It was an issue that defined the referendum, and in the intervening months it has stayed high on the agenda.

So while the scandal of how Windrush immigrants were treated by the Home Office saw the resignation of the Home Secretary, and discussions about the fate of Europeans who have made their home here rumble on – what does Britain think about immigration and immigrants today?

We debate.
Online polls show 97pc of Chinese reject accepting refugees

WHILE public outcry over the treatment of child asylum seekers has seen US President Donald Trump backtrack on a controversial hardline immigration policy, an overwhelming majority of Chinese netizens have said they are against the idea of their country accepting refugees.

The poll, which began circulating on World Refugee Day Wednesday on the local social media platform Weibo, found that 97.7 of almost 9000 respondents said they are opposed to China resettling foreign refugees, state newspaper the Global Times reported.

A similar week-long poll conducted last June reportedly found that 97.3 percent of 210,000 people.

“China did not implement the family planning policy for decades to make room for refugees,” wrote one Weibo user, a comment which was liked by hundreds of other users according to the Global Times.

During a visit to China earlier this month, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) chief Filippo Grandi said that the world’s most populous country is capable of doing more to address the root causes of displacement and assist with the world’s refugee crises through assisting economic development.

“UNHCR and China have been cooperating for 40 years. During that time China has become a major actor on the international stage,” said Grandi. “The global refugee issue has also grown bigger and more complicated as factors causing people to flee are increasingly mixed.”

“We hope that China can invest some of those resources directly in countries hosting large numbers of refugees and displaced people. In doing so, it can empower refugees and their host communities in a win-win situation for all,” he said.

UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi presents a certificate of renewal to UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yao Chen to extend her term for another two years in Beijing, China in June 2018. Source: UNHCR/Wang Wei

According to the UNHCR, China’s contribution to refugee programs globally increased from US$2.8 million in 2016 to US$12.5 million thus far this year. It joined the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in 2016, signalling a greater willingness to cooperate with the international community on migration issues.

Nevertheless, unlike most large nations China does not have a refugee resettlement program. As of the end of 2015, there were only several hundred ‘people of concern’ to the UNHCR in China from Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq and Liberia, in addition to roughly 300,000 Vietnamese primarily of Chinese descent.

Chinese Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR Yao Chen said this week that she remained “committed to the refugee cause for as long as I’m needed … but I long for the day I become ‘unemployed’ when there are no longer refugees in the world.”

Chen has previously attracted widespread public criticism for her high profile visits to refugees within China and abroad.

“Reports about criminal activities and the turbulence that refugees are said to have created in Europe … alarm the Chinese,” Yun Sun of the Brookings Institute told Foreign Policy last year. “Apparently, they believe refugees from the Middle East are nothing but trouble.”

“China is also a developing country and so, almost subconsciously, does not believe it has the inherent responsibility,” she said.