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-->DAYBOOK updated on 20 July 2015









Our 34th year of publishing The International Observer

The Latest Issue



Situations of Concern



A severe humanitarian disaster is an immense challenge to any functioning government but in this South Asian country its long standing political difficulties and divisions have rendered it even less effective. Massive aid through the United Nations (UN) and from countries around the world are pouring in but the sheer scope of devastation and loss of human lives, bureaucratic bottlenecks, limited infrastructure, landslides, poor weather, and the remoteness of many villages are greatly impeding aid efforts. On 25 April, an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude from the epicenter in the Gorkha District of the Lumbini Zone struck across Nepal but also affected areas in neighboring Bangladesh, China and Tibet, India, and Pakistan. The most devastating shocks hit the populous Bagmati Zone which includes the capital in the Valley of Kathmandu and adjacent Lumbini. The humanitarian emergency, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), is affecting 8 million of Nepal’s population of about 28 million. So far the disaster has taken the lives of upward of 6,200 people, injured more than 14,000, rendered 2.8 million people homeless, and some 4.2 million in need of help. There is uncertainty about the number of missing persons and the European Union (EU) says that at least a thousand of its citizens are unaccounted for.  Some 600,000 houses were destroyed or damaged, at least 130,000 in the capital alone.  There are fears that casualties may come close to the estimated 10,600 people who died in the 8.0 earthquake of January 1934 hitting Bihar of India and eastern Nepal. [April 2015]



The continuing civil war and two rival governments engaged more in fighting each other than governing has plunged the country into an ever worsening situation for the civilian population. The recent entry of Saudi Arabia and allied Arab states too is not stabilizing and has exposed people to additional air strikes and combat. The UN Secretary General warned on 30 April that shipments of food, fuel, and medicines are severely blocked and that bombing hospitals, humanitarian warehouses, and UN compounds is violating international humanitarian law. [April 2015]



The United Nations, the US Government, African neighbors and others have warned the country’s president and his government that the east African country risks boiling over if they smother political opposition, as protests against the president are continuing. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it is worried about increasingly repressive measures being taken by Burundi's government to stifle political dissent.  Violence broke out and worsened after the president’s party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces of the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) renominated him for a third term on 26 April. The election is scheduled for 26 June. Opponents say this is unconstitutional and violates the 2000 Arusha agreement, which limits presidents in Burundi to two terms. [April 2015]


The health emergency shows some improvement but continues as a total of  24,872 (Feb. 2015: 23,694) confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) have been reported in nine affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Spain, United Kingdom (new), and the United States of America), by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 25 March. There have been 10,311 (Feb. 2015: 9,585) reported deaths. Most new cases were reported from Guinea and Sierra Leone. [March 2015]


The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is urging the country’s rival legislatures and rival groups to continue a dialog to end political divisions. In the meantime, the Egyptian military has become actively involved and attacked Jihadist targets. On 25 February, Italy and Tunisia rejected outside military intervention and stressed that only dialog and reconciliation can resolve the conflict. [February 2015]


Leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine meeting in Minsk approved a ceasefire accord on 12 February. Some fighting stopped and Ukraine began withdrawing heavy weapons but there are also ominous reports about Russian troop concentrations in southeastern Ukraine near Mariupol. Slovakia announced on 14 February that it would host a peace conference on Ukraine in March but it remains to be seen whether the ceasefire will hold that long. [February 2015]


 Baltic States and Ukraine

The ceasefire remains broken, the rebels have started new attacks, and Ukrainian forces are trying to push them back. At least 9,000 Russian troops – “volunteers” according to the Kremlin – equipped with heavy weapons remain in areas not under Ukrainian control. The operation is continually supported by misleading information and propaganda from Moscow as well as by veiled threats against Estonia and Latvia. NATO is now responding by setting up international headquarters in Lithuania, together with five other Eastern and Central European countries. [January 2015]


The campaign of violence against Christians, government, and fellow Muslims which was started in 2009 by Boko Haram, the Islamic Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnah Lid Da’awati Wal Jihad sect, has cost the lives of more than 2000 people in the Northeast early this month. Recently the fight has spread to neighboring Cameroon and Chad. While there is some international help, including surveillance drones, support remains weak because of confusing signals from the federal government which at times asks for help and then claims it does not need it. [January 2015] 

 Climate change

On the heels of international meetings in Lima and New York to energize efforts to reverse global warming, the accelerated melting of ice in West Antarctica reported in December is alarming the scientific community, reports The Washington Post. In September, Australia’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) in Hobart, Tasmania, had already noted that Antarctic sea ice — from melting glaciers — had reached record levels. [December 2014] 

 The Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria

Aside from local gains and losses, leadership and supporters of the Islamic caliphate are not weakening and the attraction for foreign would-be fighters is not diminishing. There are daily reports of arrival of men — and women from Western Europe, Turkey and now from Pakistan. Outside support for the fight against IS consists of attacks by aircraft and missiles, shipments of some arms, and the beginning of modest training in Iraq [November 2014].

Noticed and Noted


European Union (EU)
Leadership trio in place

The special meeting of the European Council—heads of member state or governments—on 30 August was overshadowed by the issues of the Islamic State (IS), Ukraine, Palestine, Libya, and Ebola but it also completed forming the EU’s executive arm for the new term.  It elected the President of the European Council for the period from 1 December 2014 to 31 May 2017 and appointed the Union’s “foreign minister,” the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to serve until 31 October 2019.

After consultations among member governments, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker (born 9 February 1954) of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) became the first President of the new European Commission (EC) to be elected by the European Parliament. Although he was deemed too pro-European and federal-minded by some, especially in the British government, he was chosen by 422 against 250 votes on 15 July. There were 47 abstentions and 10 invalid votes. He succeeds José Manuel Durão  Barroso (born 23 March 1956) of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) who served as 11th President since 22 November 2004 after holding the office of Prime Minister of Portugal (2002-2004).

The Prime Minister of Poland Donald Franciszek Tusk (born 22 April 1957) of the Civic Platform (PO) was elected by the European Council as its next President on 30 August. He will succeed Herman Achille Van Rompuy (born 31 October 1947) of the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party who assumed the office on 1 December 2009 after serving as prime Minister of Belgium (2008-2009).

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy since February 2014, Ms. Federica Mogherini (born 16 June 1973) of the Democratic Party (PD) was appointed High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy with agreement of the incoming Commission President on 30 August. Her selection, actively promoted by the Italian Prime Minister, had run into some objections from the Baltic States and Poland who feared she may not pursue a strong and determined approach when rejecting Russian support for Ukrainian rebels. She is probably more engaged in Islamic and Middle Eastern affairs but since she was politically active in communist youth and later socialist causes and has followed the less assertive Italian government role when dealing with Russia, these concerns arose. (It is ironic, given that the former  prime minister did not stop  cozying up to the Russian president and praising him. To the embarrassment of other Western leaders, he never tired of speaking of his Kremlin friend and seeking him out.) The current High Representative—and 1st Vice President of the European Commission (EC)—Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the former Ms. Catherine Ashton (born 20 March 1956) of the Labour Party assumed the position on 1 December 2009 after serving as European Commissioner for Trade and Labour Leader in the House of Lords (2007-2008).

 Not part of the executive branch of the Union but a leader in European affairs is the President of the European Parliament (EP). Martin Schulz (born 20 December 1955) of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany and EP Member since 1994 was reelected President by 409 of 612 votes on 1 July 2014 after holding the office since 17 January 2012. [August 2014]




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