Multinational and Regional Organizations

Multinational and Regional Organizations
▪ 2009

      In mid-November 2008, leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20) major advanced and emerging economies met in Washington, D.C., to discuss the growing global financial crisis. At this summit—and at a meeting of G-20 finance ministers held a week earlier in São Paulo— less-developed countries expressed the desire to have a greater voice, while developed countries were divided on their views of international financial market regulations. Among the decisions that were reached, emerging markets were to receive seats on the Financial Stability Forum for the first time as well as more seats in the IMF and the World Bank. A second summit was scheduled for April 2009. The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit followed the G-20 meeting by one week and endorsed the latter's plan of action, adding a pledge to ban new protectionist actions for the next year and to revive the stalled Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.

      The economic crisis had a profound effect on members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, for which worldwide drops in oil consumption led to a drastic decrease in the price of oil per barrel after it reached a record high of $145.29 in July. With prices continuing to drop late in the year, many OPEC countries that used oil revenues to balance their national budgets faced hard economic times. OPEC leaders met twice in the autumn and agreed on a 1.5-million-bbl-per-day production cut, and in mid-December they cut production by 2.2 million bbl a day, a new record.

      The Group of Eight (G-8) summit of major developed countries was held in Hokkaido, Japan, in July, before the financial crisis began to unfold. Climate change was a major topic, and the final declaration called for reducing carbon emissions 50% by 2050. Notable was the U.S.'s willingness to agree to this target, although the vague language did not create any binding agreement.

      The African Union's (AU's) peacekeeping responsibilities grew with calls for more troops in the Darfur region of The Sudan. (See The Sudan: Sidebar (Combating the Crisis in Darfur ).) The situation in Somalia also deteriorated, and with too few AU peacekeepers on the ground, it proved impossible to stabilize the region. Renewed violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) prompted speculation in late 2008 that AU peacekeepers would be needed if a cease-fire could not be reached. Meanwhile, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreed to assist the DRC government's armed forces with military aid. The SADC attempted to mediate a power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe between longtime Pres. Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai but failed to secure a satisfactory outcome. A coup in Mauritania led AU leaders to suspend Mauritania's membership and aid while they dispatched an envoy to meet with coup leaders.

      Several prominent Arab countries—notably Saudi Arabia and Egypt—failed to send their heads of state to the Arab League summit in March in Damascus. The snub by 11 of the 22 member countries was to protest the Syrian role in Lebanon's continuing political crisis. On July 19 the league met in a special session to denounce the indictments by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudanese Pres. Omar al-Bashir (Bashir, Omar Hassan Ahmad al- ) on charges of war crimes and genocide in Darfur. The league called upon the UN Security Council to block the issuance of an arrest warrant for fear of further violence between the government, rebel forces, and the AU/UN peacekeepers.

      Following the cyclone that devastated Myanmar (Burma) in May (see Sidebar (Cyclone Nargis Devastates Myanmar's Rice Bowl )) and the military junta's ban on international relief aid, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) took the initiative to get an agreement to admit relief supplies and workers from other ASEAN countries. In late October Indonesia became the last member to ratify the ASEAN Charter that would turn the organization into a legal entity. The agreement also set in motion a process to create by 2015 an ASEAN Community that would include the ASEAN Economic Community, Security Community, and Socio-Cultural Community. The charter incorporated human rights for the first time but did not allow ASEAN to apply sanctions or expel a member country for human rights violations. ASEAN also concluded free-trade agreements with India, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

      Following the August conflict in Georgia, Russia turned to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for recognition of the independence of the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Instead, nervous about the precedent that this might establish for future interventions, the five other SCO members condemned the use of force and called on Russia and Georgia to “solve existing problems peacefully, through dialogue, and to make efforts facilitating reconciliation and talks.” In October, with the global financial crisis unfolding, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on the SCO to develop coordinated monetary policy and financial regulations.

      In Latin America, efforts by the South American Common Market ( Mercosur) and the Andean Community to create a new Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) on the model of the European Union moved a step closer to reality in May with the signing of a constitutive treaty. UNASUR—which would include the Banco del Sur (Bank of the South), launched in 2007—would create a single market by 2019 and establish free movement of people, continental infrastructure development, and a South American Defense Council.

Margaret P. Karns

▪ 2008
 Demands for more peacekeeping operations dominated the African Union's (AU's) summit in late January 2007. With troops in Côte d'Ivoire, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Darfur region of The Sudan, however, the AU got few responses to requests for troops for Somalia. The vulnerability of the small, lightly armed AU force in Darfur was underscored on September 30 when rebels from the Sudanese Liberation Army overran an AU peacekeeping base, killing 12 soldiers. A large joint AU- UN force was authorized by the UN Security Council in late July, and in late October the two organizations convened peace talks in hopes of securing a cease-fire prior to deployment. Key Sudanese rebel groups declined to participate, however, and the rocky start to the conference did not bode well for the AU-UN force of 26,000 soldiers due to arrive in The Sudan in early 2008.

      During the Arab League's annual summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in March, member countries reaffirmed their commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The league sent two representatives to Israel for the first time to present the plan for regional peace. Another precedent was set when the league reached a consensus decision to attend the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference at Annapolis, Md., at the end of November. In late October the league meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, focused on the situation in Darfur and concluded with a pledge to extend assistance to the AU-UN joint peacekeeping operation.

      Spikes in oil prices throughout the year put pressure on OPEC, despite the fact that the organization had relatively little control over prices. Leaders of OPEC countries in November held only their third summit in 47 years, focusing on the topic of prices, along with security of oil supplies and, for the first time ever, the subject of carbon emissions and environmental protection.

      In August the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conducted Peace Mission 2007, its first joint training exercise, which involved more than 6,000 troops from six countries ( China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and focused on combating terrorism. The exercise was widely hailed as a success, sparking some talk of the SCO as a counterweight to NATO, but regional rivalries, especially between Russia and China, remained strong.

      The Group of Eight (G-8) meeting hosted by Germany in June addressed climate change. Consensus was reached on the need to establish a common goal for cutting carbon and other emissions by 2050. The U.S. resisted setting a mandatory reduction but did agree to participate in UN-sponsored negotiations on a new climate agreement. The G-8 also agreed to launch a dialogue (the Heiligendamm Process) with five emerging economies—India, China, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa—for closer cooperation on climate protection and other challenges. Following a meeting with representatives from Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, the AU, and Ethiopia, the G-8 offered to increase funding to $60 billion a year by 2010 to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in Africa. Many perceived this as a step back from G-8 promises in 2005 to double development assistance by 2010.

       Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) also approved a nonbinding agreement on climate change, which focused more on improving energy efficiency than on cutting emissions. APEC trade ministers endeavoured to revive the Doha round with a statement in July that strongly reaffirmed their commitment to a successful conclusion of negotiations. The September APEC summit in Australia culminated in a similar pledge by all member countries.

      The Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) at the November summit in Singapore marked its 40th anniversary with the signing of a new charter that was intended to give it legal identity and lead to a more European-style economic community by 2015. Opposition from its newer members—Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam—all of which had authoritarian regimes, led to a watering down of the document at the summit. Instead of a shift from the long-standing “ASEAN Way” of decision making by consensus to voting procedures, the charter affirmed existing procedures. The charter also reaffirmed the policy of noninterference in members' internal affairs and omitted proposed mechanisms for enforcing compliance. Its economic blueprint set a time line for various reforms, such as the elimination of nontariff barriers. The “ASEAN Minus X” provision, however, allowed members to opt out of certain economic commitments. The charter did call for the creation of a new human rights body but provided no means of enforcing human rights standards.

      The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was in the process of developing a Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF). A group of 60 experts in November approved a draft that would go to the Council of Ministers and then to the Heads of State and Government for approval. The document was intended to make conflict prevention a central part of the organization's programs and to enhance its ability to promote human security and build peace in the region by delineating key areas for intervention. The 14 proposed initiatives included an early-warning mechanism, controls on hate media, and natural resource governance.

Margaret P. Karns

▪ 2007

      Throughout 2006, multinational and regional organizations coped with the continuing crisis in the Darfur region of The Sudan, fluctuating oil prices, the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, North Korea's first nuclear test, and the struggling Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks.

      In September the African Union (AU) committed an additional 1,200 troops to reinforce its force of 7,000 in Darfur. Given their limited mandate and capabilities, the AU peacekeepers had little success in protecting those targeted by Janjawid militias. Although the UN Security Council authorized the creation of a larger, more heavily equipped UN force, neither the UN nor the AU was successful in persuading Sudanese Pres. Omar al-Bashir to accept UN peacekeepers inside The Sudan until late November, when it appeared that a proposal to merge UN and AU forces in three phases might gain Sudanese support.

      Following Hamas's success in the Palestinian elections in January, many Western governments, led by the United States, imposed sanctions on the Palestinian Authority. The Arab League quickly pledged $70 million to pay Palestinian civil servants, funneling its aid directly to Pres. Mahmoud Abbas's office in order to avoid sanctions from the U.S. or the members of the European Union. Later in the year, during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the League implored the UN Security Council to address the issue, to demand Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, and to deploy more UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.

      The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) joined in condemning North Korea's October nuclear test and called for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Meanwhile, ASEAN members agreed to accelerate the lowering of tariff barriers to promote inter-ASEAN trade. The year marked the 15th anniversary of cooperative dialogues between ASEAN and China, and ministers met in late October for a commemorative summit in Nanning, China. It was followed by the third China-ASEAN Expo, which resulted in more than $1 billion in trade.

       Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held its annual summit in Hanoi for the first time. Priorities at the November meeting included economic innovation and reform, the development of small businesses, the encouragement of good corporate practices, and the revival of the faltering Doha round. The Hanoi Plan of Action called for specific actions to enhance the capacity of APEC members to meet their commitments to free and open trade and to investment. The summit also produced a strong oral statement of concern about the North Korean nuclear program.

 At its annual meeting in mid-June, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) welcomed Iran, India, and Pakistan as observers. Afghan Pres. Hamid Karzai also attended. The meeting produced agreement on holding regular antiterrorism exercises and on cooperation in dealing with separatism and extremism. Participants endorsed several steps to formalize the SCO's organizational structure, most notably its Secretariat, and pledged to enhance regional cooperation in the fields of energy, information technology, transportation, culture, education, and sports. They expected to hold a joint antiterrorism military exercise in Russia in 2007.

      The Group of Eight (G-8) leaders met in July in St. Petersburg with energy policy high on the agenda, but Russia and the EU were unable to resolve their differences over Moscow's manipulation of energy prices and supplies. Russia refused EU members' pleas to ratify the 1994 EU Energy Charter that would open Russia's pipelines to foreign companies. Little progress was made in closing the policy gap between the U.S. and those countries that supported the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Nuclear energy was another controversial topic at the summit, with some countries, such as Germany, committed to phasing out nuclear power plants, while others saw nuclear energy playing a much more important role in the world. Russia was rebuffed by the U.S. in its effort to complete negotiations for joining the WTO. Invitations to India, China, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa to participate in the summit once again highlighted the limitations of the G-8's current membership.

      The Organization of American States (OAS) observed presidential elections in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela and collaborated with the UN in a voter-registration program in Haiti. OAS monitors also supervised the referendum in Panama on the proposed expansion of the Panama Canal. In November the OAS deployed 200 electoral monitors in Nicaragua for the election that returned former Sandinista Daniel Ortega (Ortega, Daniel ) to office. (See Biographies.) Calling the vote orderly and peaceful, the organization decried U.S. efforts to influence the election.

       Oil also figured prominently during the year, with world prices reaching an all-time high in July. When the OPEC ministers met in Doha, Qatar, in late October, a surplus of oil supplies (and lower prices) led them to decide to reduce production by 1.2 million bbl per day beginning in November. OPEC made a new round of cuts in December, claiming that the market had not yet caught up to the organization's goals of sustaining high prices. OPEC compliance with these production cuts was expected to be a major issue in 2007.

Margaret P. Karns

▪ 2006

      High oil prices, natural disasters, insurgency in Iraq, terrorism, and interregional trade ties were among the issues of concern to multinational and regional organizations in 2005. There were also increased efforts to address Africa's needs.

      The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 12 countries triggered responses by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), which operates under UNESCO. Beginning on January 6 with a Special ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, the focus was on creating a tsunami-warning system for the Indian Ocean and strengthening disaster-response capabilities. A series of subsequent meetings involving 21 countries in the Indian Ocean region as well as other states and organizations led in June to the creation of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Mitigation System. The IOC was charged with coordinating the establishment of this system, which was expected to be fully operational by July 2006. In addition, APEC created the Emergency Response Preparedness Task Force and the Virtual Task Force for Emergency Preparedness to strengthen preventive measures, enhance preparedness, build disaster-management capacity, and develop disaster-reduction technologies throughout the region. ASEAN, in turn, initiated the Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response and conducted the first Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise in September. (See Economic Affairs: Special Report. (Preparing for Emergencies ))

      ASEAN members held trade talks with numerous organizations throughout the year, continuing discussions of the possibility of free-trade areas with India, the European Union, China, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as progressing toward full implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area. At the ASEAN summit held in December in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, ASEAN hosted the first ASEAN- Russia Summit and the inaugural East Asia Summit.

      At its annual summit in November in Pusan, S.Kor., APEC issued a joint statement of support for the World Trade Organization Doha round of negotiations. In addition, the Pusan Declaration included trade and investment-related commitments, several counterterrorism initiatives, measures aimed at strengthening cooperation and technical assistance to address the threat of avian flu, and the APEC initiative on Preparing for and Mitigating an Influenza Pandemic.

      The Arab League free-trade zone went into effect on January 1 and covered 94% of Arab trade volume. In May the league also explored new trade and investment cooperation opportunities at the Arab–South American summit. Disagreements over the Saudi peace initiative kept eight leaders away from the March summit; no action was taken on the political crisis in Lebanon or Iraq or on demands for withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. In November the Arab League hosted a reconciliation conference for leaders of Iraqi political groups that called for withdrawal of foreign troops on a timetable linked to a national program for rebuilding Iraq's security forces.

      Arab League members met with African Union (AU) members in June for the first Afro-Arab summit that discussed the situation in the Darfur region of The Sudan and aid to African Arabs. The AU itself mediated talks to end the Darfur conflict and enlarged the African Union Mission in The Sudan (AMIS II) from 3,320 to more than 7,000 troops and police from five countries. In May the United States, Canada, the European Union, and some African states pledged almost $300 million to AMIS II. The AU's fourth Extraordinary Summit on August 4 reaffirmed the common AU position on several UN reform issues, most notably the enlargement of the Security Council.

      The Group of Eight summit in July in Gleneagles, Scot., produced major commitments to helping Africa, including a comprehensive agreement to double aid to the world's poorest countries by 2010, cancel debt for the 18 poorest African nations, realize universal health care and education for children by 2015, and train up to 25,000 African peacekeeping troops. Little headway was made, however, on the climate-change plan of action.

      Energy issues were a major concern in 2005, particularly the record-high oil prices throughout the year. The conflict in Iraq and the hurricanes on the U.S. Gulf Coast contributed to prices that topped $70 a barrel in September. OPEC sought to stabilize the market with production increases and a comprehensive long-term strategy that emphasized investment in refineries and technology to lower prices.

      The fourth Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Arg., in November was marked by riots and demonstrations against U.S. Pres. George W. Bush, free-market policies, and the war in Iraq. Opponents of free trade, led by Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez (Chavez, Hugo ) (see Biographies), blocked any advance in negotiations on the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Small Latin American countries feared that the agreement would benefit the United States and larger countries at the expense of the poor; Brazil and Argentina opposed the U.S. version of FTAA. The summit's outcome, along with the election in May of the first Organization of American States secretary-general not endorsed by the U.S. (Chilean José Miguel Insulza), signaled the erosion of U.S. influence in the Americas.

Margaret P. Karns

▪ 2005

      The global preoccupation with terrorism in recent years persisted in 2004, although many multinational and regional organizations shifted their focus toward the economic and social aspects of security. Many organizations also pressed to renew the World Trade Organization's Doha negotiations to improve trade measures for less-developed nations and called for increased transparency to eliminate corruption. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group aggressively pursued the resumption of the Doha round with talks in Geneva, Washington, Tokyo, and Brussels. Other major groups did likewise, with particular emphasis on the need to reach agreement on agriculture.

      In January the Free Trade Area of the Americas held a Special Summit of the Americas in Nuevo León, Mex.; the special meeting was called because of new leadership in many member states. The Declaration of Nuevo León issued at the summit called for continued economic growth, social development to reduce poverty and hunger, and strong democracies that were transparent and free from corruption. The declaration also called for strengthening the role of the Organization of American States (OAS) in regional development.

      Events in Haiti claimed much attention in the OAS. On February 29 Haitian Pres. Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country after a month of violence; in June the OAS began an investigation into his ouster and called for early elections. A special mission visited Haiti in September to assess the situation and resulted in an OAS pledge to assist in a citizen registration program so that elections could be held in 2005. The June General Assembly meeting approved the Declaration of Quito on Social Development and Democracy, and the Impact of Corruption, stating that corruption undermines democracy as well as social and economic development.

      The war in Iraq and rising international demand for oil pressured OPEC to control prices and ensure market stability. At February's OPEC meeting a plan to reduce production was approved. Because of the fighting in Iraq, hurricane damage in the U.S., and the legal troubles of the Russian oil company Yukos, however, OPEC production was increased in April, August, and November, reaching 27 million bbl per day, a record high to date, with the price per barrel reaching $55 in October.

      The extensive focus on terrorism led the Arab League to call on the United States not to portray Islam or Arabs as supporters of terrorism, stating that such actions would alienate the Arab world and hurt efforts to promote global security. The league condemned the construction of the Israeli barrier wall for infringing on the Palestinian territory and focused significant attention on a plan for Arab participation in rebuilding Iraq.

      In late November, at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' 10th summit in Vientiane, Laos, the ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action and the Socio-Cultural Community Plan of Action were signed. Negotiations on free-trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand also were approved. The ASEAN Free Trade Area implemented the Common Effective Preferential Tariff scheme, which set tariff reductions within ASEAN but allowed members to set tariff levels against nonmembers.

      The Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations summit at Sea Island, Ga., included leaders from Africa, Turkey, and the interim Iraqi government and focused on HIV/AIDS, alleviation of poverty through private-sector growth, development, and debt relief. Recognizing the increased international demand for peace support operations, especially complex operations, to bring stability to countries in crisis, the G-8 approved an Action Plan on Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations to train and equip 75,000 troops by 2010, with particular emphasis on enhancing African peace support capabilities. Members also pledged to implement fully the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative on debt relief and to work with donors to extend the initiative to 2006. In October the Group of Seven meeting of finance ministers marked China's first participation in ministerial-level discussions.

      The African Union (AU) took its first major leadership role with the humanitarian crisis in The Sudan which had affected more than 2,200,000 people by late 2004, leaving more than 70,000 dead and 1,500,000 displaced. The AU meetings throughout the year with the government of The Sudan and the two rebel groups fighting in the province of Darfur led to several cease-fire agreements. The AU also sent its first peacekeeping force of 3,320 military and civilian personnel to monitor the cease-fire and provide security. The AU's unprecedented action in The Sudan marked a sharp departure from its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, which regularly ignored crises in member countries. In addition, the AU had several other firsts during the year: the first session of the Pan-African Parliament (in March), the first Conference of the African National Human Rights Institutions (October), establishment of the Continental Peace and Security Council (May), and the first live radio broadcast throughout the continent of the AU summit (July).

Margaret P. Karns

▪ 2004

      Nontraditional threats to security and terrorism again dominated the agendas of many multinational and regional organizations in 2003, and the U.S.-led war in Iraq was also a matter of major concern. In Africa and Latin America, efforts continued to strengthen support for democratic governments, economic growth, and social equity. Iraq dominated the agenda of the March 1 Arab League Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. A proposal to call on Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein to resign led to a shouting match between Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. The summit concluded with a declaration rejecting any military action against Iraq and calling for a team of foreign ministers to meet with Saddam and the permanent members of the UN Security Council in an effort to avert war. On September 9 the Arab League unanimously recognized the Iraqi Governing Council and its ability to operate until a legitimate government was formed and a new constitution written. Subsequently, the league condemned the bombings in Baghdad, Iraq, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and in Istanbul, as well as Israel's construction of a security fence in the West Bank. It hailed the UN Security Council's endorsement of the so-called road map for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

      Stability of oil supplies and markets preoccupied OPEC. On March 8 it announced that the looming conflict in Iraq would not influence global petroleum supplies. At the annual meeting on September 24, it was noted that increased production in Iraq coupled with improved production in non-OPEC countries could create destabilizing effects on the market.

      The October summit meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) focused on promoting international trade and continued steps toward investment liberalization. Mindful of the collapse of World Trade Organization talks in September, leaders agreed that the WTO Doha Development Agenda still provided growth potential for all economies. APEC leaders promised to work toward ending agricultural subsidies. Much of the discussion, however, focused on security issues; leaders declared that global terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed the greatest threats to economic prosperity.

      Iraq, terrorism, the situation in North Korea, and expanding cooperation were major concerns for members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). At a special meeting on March 19, ministers denounced the imminent war with Iraq and expressed concern over the situation on the Korean peninsula. At the ninth summit, held on October 7–8 on the Indonesian island of Bali, ASEAN leaders agreed on a comprehensive framework for economic cooperation with India. In the Bali Concord II, they pledged to achieve an ASEAN community by 2020 based on three pillars of cooperation: political and security, economic, and sociocultural.

      The Group of Eight summit held on June 1–3 in Évian, France, included leaders from 11 less-developed countries as well as representatives from the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO. The meeting focused on strengthening growth and the global economy through continued structural reform on several fronts, on assistance to Africa in combating famine and AIDS, and on a further commitment to speedy debt reduction for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries. A Counter-Terrorism Action Group was created to work with the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, and leaders affirmed their commitment to stopping the flow of financing that supported terrorism and the spread of WMD. The group endorsed the road map for Middle East peace and called for a peaceful, comprehensive solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.

      In June the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) declared support for good governance throughout the region and proposed strengthening political parties, citizen participation, judicial reform, and rule-of-law standards. The OAS also endorsed the Rio Group declaration calling upon UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to use his good offices to promote peace in Colombia.

      In November negotiations resumed on the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. Facing some of the same problems that stalled WTO talks, notably the reluctance of Brazil and others to open their economies to competition unless the United States reduced its farm subsidies and antidumping rules, ministers scaled back the scope of the proposed accord to a limited number of tariff cuts and common standards. This fueled a trend toward separate bilateral free-trade agreements with the U.S.

      The second session of the African Union (AU) in Maputo, Mozambique, on July 10–12 focused on concerns about WTO decision-making procedures, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development. Also in July, the Executive Council welcomed progress toward peace in Côte d'Ivoire and the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States to end the violence in Liberia. The council reiterated its position that the AU would not recognize an illegitimate change in government and called on AU members and the international community for humanitarian assistance and an interposition force to end the fighting.

      The Commonwealth of Nations announced in March that it would continue Zimbabwe's suspension because of questionable election practices. At the December Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting, members upheld the suspension. In response, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth. The CMAG continued to monitor the progress of democratic reform in Pakistan, which also remained suspended from the Commonwealth because of concerns regarding its legal framework.

Margaret P. Karns

▪ 2003

      Nontraditional threats to security and terrorism dominated the agendas of many multinational and regional organizations in 2002. At a special ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in May, members focused on enhancing law enforcement and other cooperation. In August they pledged to work with the United States in combating terrorism. At the eighth summit, on November 4–5 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, following the attacks in Bali, Indon., and the Philippines, ASEAN leaders vowed to intensify efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist group activities in the region. In addition, they established a Regional Counter-terrorism Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On November 4, ASEAN members issued joint declarations with China on a proposed code of conduct for the South China Sea and on nontraditional threats to regional security such as drug trafficking, people smuggling, and sea piracy. The summit also concluded a framework agreement for a free-trade area with China, a Comprehensive Economic Partnership with Japan, and, following the first-ever summit with India, agreement to advance cooperation on common challenges.

      In an unprecedented step, the March 27–28 Arab League summit in Beirut approved a proposal by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah (see Biographies (Abdullah, Crown Prince )) to normalize relations between Israel and all Arab countries in exchange for Palestinian independence and borders based on 1967 boundaries. Members pledged to work with the U.S., Russia, the European Union, the UN General Assembly, and the UN Security Council to end bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians. A November 10 extraordinary session of the Arab League Council endorsed UN Security Council Resolution 1441, concerning resumption of weapons inspections in Iraq, and called on Iraq to cooperate with inspectors. Representatives urged that more Arab inspectors be added to inspection teams and stated that the resolution should serve as a means of avoiding, not legitimizing, war with Iraq.

      Unlike the 2001 summit in Genoa, Italy, which was marred by violent demonstrations, Group of Seven/Eight leaders met in secluded Kananaskis, Alta., on June 26–27 and focused on strengthening global economic growth, building a partnership for Africa's development, and fighting terrorism. The presidents of four African states and the UN secretary-general were invited—the first time that non-G8 leaders had participated in such a meeting. In addition to giving impetus to the Africa Action Plan, leaders agreed to call on the IMF, the World Bank, and other multilateral institutions to increase participation in the initiative to reduce debts of heavily indebted poor countries. They also launched a Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, with particular attention to preventing terrorists or those harbouring them from acquiring or developing such weapons. They pledged $20 billion over 10 years to support projects, first in Russia, involving nuclear safety and nonproliferation. On August 8, G7 finance ministers endorsed the agreement between Brazil and the IMF to help restore market confidence, and on September 27 they endorsed IMF support for Argentina, combating terrorist financing, and increased development assistance, particularly for Africa.

      On June 28 the African Union officially came into existence in Durban, S.Af., as the successor to the 39-year-old Organization of African Unity. Earlier in June the second Organization for African Union–Civil Society conference had convened in Addis Ababa, Eth., to establish a framework for interactions between civil society groups and the new union, particularly its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This conference also agreed on the framework for the Conference on Security, Stability, Development, and Cooperation in Africa. During October the African Union established the African Economic Council to increase economic integration on the continent and drafted the Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons in Africa.

      On June 3 the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism at its regular session in Bridgetown, Barbados. The convention committed parties to preventing, punishing, and eliminating terrorism and to making necessary changes in banking and other laws to address financing, money laundering, and border controls. The OAS and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) both focused on threats to democracy in Venezuela and Haiti. On January 15 the OAS Permanent Council met in special session to discuss political violence in Haiti. The council established a mission of inquiry and later allocated funds for a joint OAS-CARICOM Special Mission to Strengthen Democracy in Haiti. The OAS Permanent Council condemned the April 11–14 coup in Venezuela and called for the restoration of democracy. The chairman of CARICOM, Guyanan Pres. Bharrat Jagdeo, announced in December that Haiti pledged to hold legislative elections soon.

Margaret P. Karns

▪ 2002

      March 26, 2001, marked the 10th anniversary of Mercosur, the Southern Cone Common Market (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay). The group was the world's third largest market, with production reaching more than $1 trillion annually.

      From April 20 to 22, the third Summit of the Americas met in Quebec City to discuss a Free Trade Area of the Americas that would reduce or eliminate tariffs and encourage trade from the Canadian Arctic to southern Argentina. Hemispheric leaders adopted an “action plan” to strengthen democratic foundations in the Americas and to prepare for free trade. An Organization of American States fact-finding mission arrived in Haiti on May 10 to meet with Pres. Jean-Bertrand Aristide and other local leaders and to investigate the state of democracy there.

      Another organization that marked its 10th anniversary during the year was the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). At its November 30 summit meeting, the organization, which comprised 12 of the 15 republics of the former U.S.S.R., reiterated “the common quest of its member states for stable socioeconomic development and dignified integration into the world community.” The CIS also urged improved cooperation between the members' security agencies in an effort to provide unified support for the CIS antiterror centre.

      China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on June 15. Formerly called the Shanghai Five, the group changed its name to accommodate the inclusion of Uzbekistan into the organization. Its general aim was to safeguard regional security and to fight Islamic terrorism. On December 25 China called for the foreign ministers of Russia and Central Asian countries to meet with the organization on Jan. 7, 2002, to discuss Afghanistan's future, the struggle against religious extremism, and separatism and terrorism in each nation.

      After 38 years the Organization of African Unity (OAU) met on July 9 in Lusaka, Zambia, for its last session before starting a one-year transition period into the African Union. The AU would be modeled on the EU, with its own parliament, executive committee, court, currency, and laws. Former Côte d'Ivoire foreign minister Amara Essy was elected secretary-general on July 10 to take responsibility for steering the OAU during its critical transition period. In late November Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda reestablished the East African Community, a group that was founded in 1967 but dismantled in 1977 owing to regional strife. The main goal of the revived group was to reduce trade barriers and stimulate economic growth in the region.

      The 10 countries along the Nile River that formed the Nile Basin Initiative (Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, The Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda) continued to promote the sustainable development of the river and safeguard its future. The two-year-old program was aimed at bolstering hydropower and food production; improving transportation, industry, and trade; and conserving Lake Victoria and the vast wetlands of the Sudd. In June the members called a meeting of donors and development agencies in Geneva to launch an international consortium to raise funds for the initiative.

      At a July 23–27 meeting in Hanoi, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) faced problems arising out of a sense that the region's security and political arrangements were in flux owing to political feuding in Indonesia, its largest member; the members feared that the fighting there might lead to a breakup of the country and cause instability elsewhere. (See Special Report (Resisting Disintegration in Post-Suharto Indonesia ).) The members were also concerned over tensions between the U.S. and China, U.S. plans to build missile defenses, and the growing ties between the U.S. and Japan. The ASEAN Regional Forum held its annual meeting at the ministerial level on July 25. The group still hoped to launch a Southeast Asian free-trade zone by 2003 in an effort to make its countries more attractive to investors. At ASEAN's November meeting held in Brunei, talks between Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and the 10 leaders of ASEAN ended in approval for the establishment of the world's largest free-trade area within 10 years; the area would encompass about two billion people.

      In March at the Arab League's summit in Amman, Jordan, the 22-member group appointed former Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa as its new secretary-general and agreed to support the Palestinian uprising against Israel but failed to issue a statement on the decade-long estrangement between Kuwait and Iraq. In November Moussa renounced Osama bin Laden's latest call for a holy war but urged that a Palestinian state be established.

      The Organization of the Islamic Conference met on August 27–28 in Tehran, and delegates from 22 Muslim nations agreed to encourage tourism among member countries and to facilitate residents' travel to other member countries. They met again in an emergency meeting in Doha, Qatar, on October 10 to reject “the targeting of any Islamic or Arab state under the pretext of fighting terrorism.” They also stated that the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11 contradicted “the teaching of all religions and human and moral values.” Some delegates called for an internationally led campaign against terrorism in preference to the one led by the U.S.

      The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) signed an agreement on December 31 paving the way to the establishment of joint customs tariffs in 2003 and a single market and currency by 2010. The European Union pressed for the decision as a precondition of a free-trade agreement that the two organizations had discussed for 13 years.

Richard N. Swift

▪ 2001

      Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar [Burma], the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) worried during 2000 about the growing destabilizing influence of Myanmar's heroin trade and growing AIDS population, which adversely affected India, China, and Vietnam. ASEAN ministers met in Thailand on July 24–25 to consider the problems caused by Japan's continuation of business with Myanmar despite a 1977 boycott.

      The day after its annual meeting, ASEAN foreign ministers met with their counterparts from China, Japan, and South Korea to allay ASEAN fears stemming from the contrast between the political, religious, and separatist conflicts in Indonesia; the instability and tension in other parts of Southeast Asia; and the muted differences between China and Japan and those of North and South Korea. ASEAN members also worried because Northeast Asia was advancing more quickly than Southeast Asia in such areas as communications, information technology, and electronic commerce. Nonetheless, the delegates affirmed their countries' commitment to developing a free-trade area despite some members' desire to protect sensitive industries. They agreed, however, to allow countries that were “experiencing real difficulties” to withdraw sensitive sectors temporarily from the free-trade agreement.

      During meetings held with ASEAN foreign ministers and foreign ministers representing 10 of the region's major trading partners, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned that the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS in the region was the greatest danger to the area's health and security. It was suggested that the ASEAN governments were not facing up to the dangers involved. The UN had reported that the region had 1.3 million new cases of HIV infection during 1999.

      Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum agreed on November 16 that in 2001 they would begin negotiations to eliminate trade barriers and continue the efforts disrupted in Seattle, Wash., in 1999. They did not address such substantive issues as the fears among less-developed countries (LDCs) that the U.S. would impose labour and environmental standards that would undercut the competitiveness of poorer nations. (See Economic Affairs: Sidebar. (Globalization-Why All the Fuss? ))

      An independent panel of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) agreed on July 7 that nations and institutions—such as Belgium, France, the UN, the U.S., and the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches—that had failed to prevent or stop the 1994 genocide that had killed up to 800,000 people in Rwanda should pay “significant” reparations. The panel asked UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish a commission to designate the countries that owed Rwanda compensation and asked creditors to cancel Rwanda's international debts. The OAU declined to send observers to the presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire on October 22, fearing that its presence would legitimize an undemocratic process that barred most challengers to military ruler Gen. Robert Gueï.

      Annan met with representatives of members of the Economic Community of West African States (Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone) on September 11 to seek their help in defusing tensions between Guinea and Liberia. He reported that innocent villagers on Guinea's border with Liberia and Sierra Leone were being injured and killed as they fled the fighting in Sierra Leone.

      Leaders of LDCs in the Group of 77 (now 133) met in Havana in mid-April looking for ways to persuade the major economic powers to share their wealth. The group urged the UN to promote more economic development and technology transfers to the poorer countries of the world.

      The observation team organized by the Organization of American States charged in May that the Peruvian electoral process could hardly be considered fair or free; tally sheets and ballots had disappeared in the first round of the election.

      On July 23 the group of leading industrialized countries and Russia praised the recent growth of the global economy and pledged to tackle the root causes of poverty. The members sought reforms to expand investment in LDCs. The group's communiqué called for wealthy countries to maximize the benefits of information technology and make them available to all. All nations were urged to work to defeat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria and to make a commitment to achieve gender equality in schooling by 2005 and universal primary education by 2015.

      The Arab League met over the weekend of October 21–22 in its first summit meeting in four years and issued a statement accusing Israel of having committed atrocities against Palestinians over the previous three weeks. It urged the UN to establish a war crimes tribunal to judge Israeli actions, asked the Security Council and General Assembly to provide protection for the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, called for Israel to accede to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and pledged funds to assist the Palestinian economy. The members decided to limit contact with Israel; though formal diplomatic contacts would continue, trade and political exchanges would be curtailed.

Richard N. Swift

▪ 2000

      On Jan. 15, 1999, Brazil's opposition party called the devaluation of the Brazilian real against the dollar a tragedy for the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur), warning that the impact would be felt heavily in Argentina, 30% of whose external trade went to Brazil. The devaluation threatened to end Argentina's proposal to establish a common currency among the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay). In mid-February the presidents of the Mercosur countries met to reaffirm their support of the organization in the face of the Brazilian economic crisis.

      On February 22, at the first meeting of the Mercosur-European Union (EU) Business Forum, Mercosur members pledged to coordinate their countries' economic policies and, in an effort to become as much of a trading bloc as a customs union, called upon Europe and the U.S. to lower trade barriers to agricultural imports from Latin America. They expressed concern over statistics showing that EU exports to Mercosur countries nearly tripled between 1990 and 1996, while Mercosur sales rose only 25%; they believed that trade with Brazil could double if Europe and North America relaxed their quotas and removed domestic subsidies. The spokesmen indicated that they did not intend to retreat from their goal of regional integration. On September 16 Brazil and Argentina opened talks on the problems threatening Mercosur's unity.

      In mid-July Eritrea accepted a “framework agreement” drafted by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) for a cease-fire with Ethiopia that called for it to withdraw its troops from disputed areas. The agreement provided for OAU military observers working with the UN to supervise arrangements. The OAU attempted several times during the year to arrange a truce, but the parties had yet to agree fully by year's end.

      An extraordinary meeting of the OAU attended by 43 African heads of state began on September 8 in Sirte, Libya—a tacit acknowledgment of the changes in Libya effected by Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, who in April had turned over to a tribunal in The Netherlands two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie, Scot., bombing in 1988. Later Qaddafi pledged himself to act as a “leader of peace and development in Africa and other countries.” The OAU discussed ways of strengthening ties between member states.

      An antiterrorism agreement by Arab League states came into force on May 7. The treaty bound the signatories “not to order, finance, or commit terrorist acts, as well as to prevent terrorist crimes.”

      At a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) on June 30 in Auckland, N.Z., senior officials from 21 Asian and Pacific nations announced that they would seek to broaden the next round of worldwide negotiations on cutting trade barriers to include industrial products as well as agriculture and services. At the same time, they planned to work for the next three years on a broader trade agreement and not just to eliminate tariffs. They hoped to induce Europe to reform its farm program (the Common Agricultural Policy, which included $60 billion in trade subsidies) by offering benefits on industrial trade.

      On September 12 APEC opened its annual meeting of heads of state, also in Auckland. Some observers believed that the group faced a racial divide, with the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand pressing for more liberal trade, economic reforms, and UN peacekeeping forces in places like East Timor, while Asians were reluctant to intercede in their neighbours' internal affairs and resented what they saw as U.S.-inspired domination. During the meeting U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton and Chinese Pres. Jiang Zemin met to repair the breach in relations caused by the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugos., on May 7.

      Security problems in Asia (tensions between China and Taiwan and the conflict between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir) tended to give Asia's security problems priority over economic issues that recently dominated proceedings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). At the end of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore on July 26, the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea warned North Korea that its ballistic missile program threatened regional stability and could create a major crisis in Asia. Attempting to dissuade the North Koreans from test-firing a missile capable of landing in the U.S., they said that more testing could “heighten tensions and have serious consequences for stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region.” India refused to take part in the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation summit meeting of seven nations scheduled for November 27–28 in Nepal because of the tensions with Pakistan, and the meeting was postponed indefinitely.

      On September 26–28 the UN General Assembly held a meeting called for by the 42-member Alliance of Small Island States to discuss the increasing danger to several dozen states posed by rising seas and increasingly violent weather caused by the world's warming trends.

Richard N. Swift

▪ 1999

      Severely challenged by the social and political unrest produced by the Asian economic crisis, foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, whose members included Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar [Burma], the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) held their annual meeting in Manila on July 24, 1998. ASEAN's reluctance to "interfere" in its members' internal affairs rendered the organization incapable, according to some observers, of providing a concerted response to the year's financial disasters. Thereafter, ASEAN had to face serious challenges to its effectiveness on economic, political, and environmental fronts. The foreign ministers hoped, nonetheless, to build on the 30 years of peace that the organization had maintained among its members and move forward to establish an ASEAN free-trade area by 2003 and to continue nurturing the Asia-Pacific regional institutions, especially the ASEAN Regional Forum on Security.

      The ministers had hoped that free and fair elections on July 26 would pave the way for them to admit Cambodia into ASEAN at a meeting in Hanoi in December. Admitting Cambodia would complete the formal inclusion in ASEAN of all 10 countries of Southeast Asia, a long-standing objective. Cambodia had been scheduled to join early in 1998, but a violent internal power struggle forced a postponement. Irregularities during the election in July delayed its invitation to join in 1998, but the decision was made to admit Cambodia to ASEAN soon.

      U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told delegates to the annual ASEAN Regional Forum on July 27 that the political situation in Myanmar was worsening: "Arrests aimed at decimating the opposition continue. Members of legal political parties are being prevented from traveling in their own country. The Burmese economy is falling apart. A whole generation of young people is being lost as universities, and now even high schools, stay closed for fear of unrest." Her remarks were delivered out of concern for the health and safety of Myanmar opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was at the time being held prisoner in her automobile 50 km (30 mi) west of Yangon (Rangoon) after she had tried to drive 109 km (68 mi) farther west to meet with members of her political party. Albright was in effect challenging ASEAN's contention that the way to improve the record of Myanmar on human rights was to "engage" the country in the international political process. On August 13 Myanmar rejected a request by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to receive a special emissary to discuss "current development" in the nation.

      The Philippines and Thailand, two of the most democratic of the ASEAN members, also spoke out against the repressive policies of Myanmar. Myanmar had hoped to use ASEAN as a shield against criticism from the West and had not anticipated criticism from inside the organization. Myanmar officials called all the criticisms "presumptuous" and insisted that it would adhere to its own agenda.

      Also during the year ASEAN "strongly deplored" the nuclear weapons tests conducted by India and Pakistan in May. The tests created regional tensions and struck a serious blow at efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, according to ASEAN members.

      Argentina and Brazil reported on July 24 to a regional economic summit meeting of the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur) in Ushuaia, Arg., that they had failed to complete a long-awaited agreement for common tariffs on automobiles. They did agree to drop all tariffs in 2000 for cars and parts produced in the Mercosur countries, which also included Uruguay and Paraguay.

      Mercosur in 1998 reported with pride that since its creation in 1991, the total international trade of the member countries had doubled; by 1998 it had become the fourth largest trading bloc in the world. The organization continued to discuss standardizing its external tariffs and creating a common social security treaty. Argentina, which assumed the rotating presidency of Mercosur in June, raised the possibility of creating a common currency throughout the region during the decade beginning in 2010. The idea emulated the common currency plans in Europe, which were to take effect in 1999. In a book published in July, Jagdish Bhagwati, former adviser to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and an economist at Columbia University, New York City, discussed the possibility that Mercosur's high external tariffs had caused its members to import from one another even when it would have been more efficient to buy elsewhere.


▪ 1998

      On May 31, 1997, the foreign ministers of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and announced that they would embrace Myanmar (Burma), Laos, and Cambodia as full members at the group's 30th anniversary meeting in July. The announcement was controversial because, in the words of Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ASEAN's endorsement of her native Myanmar would make its military leaders "even more obdurate and oppressive." Indonesia and Malaysia argued, however, that including Myanmar was a step toward "constructive engagement" that emphasized economic relationships over political and human rights issues. Both the U.S. and the European Union protested, but Myanmar and Laos were admitted as full members of ASEAN on July 23. Earlier in the month ASEAN had announced that although it had decided to delay Cambodia's admission to the organization indefinitely, it would help that nation conduct elections in 1998 to keep it from resuming the civil war that pitted its two prime ministers, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen (see ) (Hun Sen ), against each other. On July 19 Hun Sen said that he would not allow three ASEAN foreign ministers to broker a settlement of the conflict. Under pressure from the ASEAN Regional Forum, however, he changed his mind. ASEAN then admitted Hun Sen's foreign minister as an observer of the annual meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers on July 24-25.

      Just before the 21-member ASEAN Regional Forum convened in Malaysia on July 27, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (see BIOGRAPHIES (Albright, Madeleine )) criticized a call by Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad for member states to review the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mahathir said that the 1948 declaration was "formulated by the superpowers which did not understand the needs of poor countries." Insisting that less-developed nations conform to its ideals, he added, was a form of oppression. Albright responded by saying that she did not think that any nations, religions, and cultural or ethical systems wanted to tolerate torture or abrogate human rights and that the U.S. would oppose any attempts to change the Universal Declaration.

      As Asia's economic crisis worsened, U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton and Asian leaders tentatively agreed in late November on a $68 billion bailout for the region. The plan, worked out by representatives of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, called for the International Monetary Fund to provide the money in the form of loans to Asian countries in order to help them overcome recent bankruptcies and currency devaluations. Some economists, however, worried that $68 billion might not be enough to bail out all of the troubled countries.

      On May 14-16 trade ministers of 34 countries in the Americas met in Belo Horizonte, Braz., for the Americas Business Forum, where they discussed the future of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a hemispheric free-trade organization first proposed at the Summit of the Americas in 1994. The member states of the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur) clashed with the U.S. representatives over the pace of future negotiations to remove hemispheric trade barriers. Both sides wanted the FTAA in place by the year 2005, but the U.S. preferred to begin comprehensive talks after the second Summit of the Americas (March 1998), while the Latin-American states wanted to deal with one issue at a time. Mercosur representatives, led by Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Felipe Lampreia, proposed discussing customs procedures first, then quotas and surtaxes, and finally tariffs and market access in 2003. A compromise reached on May 16 provided for negotiations to begin after the March 1998 summit, though the trade ministers would not decide upon the "objective, approaches, structure, and venue" of the talks until they met in Costa Rica in February 1998.

      At the World Economic Forum in São Paulo, Braz., in September, speakers praised Mercosur's advances in promoting regional trade. They also noted that the U.S. had done little to advance President Clinton's 1994 pledge at the Summit of the Americas to establish the FTAA "from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego" by 2005. Lampreia asserted that trade between the four Mercosur members (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay) was soaring and that the alliance was signing accords with the European Union and the Andean Pact, a trade group in western South America. At a summit meeting in Uruguay in December, the presidents of the four Mercosur countries agreed to facilitate the exchange of services between their countries and to protect their industries from illegal competition from abroad.

      Pres. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe addressed the UN General Assembly on September 25 on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Mugabe called for restricting or abolishing the power of veto among members of the Security Council. He specified, however, that if the power of veto was retained, any new permanent members added to the Security Council should also have it. During 1997 the OAU was also involved in brokering talks between the government of the Comoros, a three-island republic in the Indian Ocean, and the inhabitants of Anjouan, who sought to secede from the Comoros and rejoin France.


▪ 1997

      On June 22 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) admitted Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, and Laos as observers of its meetings. The new status of these countries was a first step toward their full membership in the seven-member (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) regional organization. The invitation to Myanmar, a military regime with a poor human rights record, assumed that a closer association of Myanmar with ASEAN would avoid isolating the country and help keep it from falling into the Chinese sphere of influence. ASEAN officials contended that their policy of "constructive engagement" with Myanmar would lead to peaceful reconciliation between the Myanmar military government and the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who insisted that the ASEAN policy had "failed miserably." Opposition to the policy came also from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States, and Western human rights advocates, who feared that it would strengthen the influence of the armed forces in Myanmar and who supported the right of the NLD to participate in Myanmar's political life. ASEAN members firmly rejected a Western proposal on July 24 to establish a UN "contact group" that would try to hasten political reform in Myanmar, condemning the proposal as unwarranted intervention into the affairs of a sovereign state. In November ASEAN delayed acting on Myanmar's application for membership because of the government's failure to moderate its oppressive domestic policies.

      An ASEAN Internet forum in Singapore agreed on September 4 to block off sites carrying material deemed counter to Asian values. Their chief concern was "smut" in cyberspace and information that might increase religious and racial tensions in the member countries.

      The ASEAN Regional Forum (ASEAN members and 14 other nations with security interests in the Asia-Pacific region) met in Jakarta, Indon., on July 23 to discuss creating a Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. Within the zone weapons would be barred not only on land but on the continental shelves and exclusive economic zones, reaching out 200 nautical miles into the sea. Both China and the U.S. objected to extending the zone seaward on the grounds that it would restrict freedom of movement on the high seas and would violate other principles set out in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. ASEAN, on the other hand, was eager to bar China from deploying nuclear weapons in and around disputed reefs and the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. To this end the ASEAN countries made it clear on July 24 that they opposed China's action in May aimed at extending its jurisdiction in the sea.

      The heads of state of the governments in the European Union and 10 Asian countries (Brunei, China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam) met in early March in Bangkok for the first-ever Euro-Asian summit, which sought to stimulate commercial relations and policies between all those nations that attended. The conferees pledged themselves to work together to reform the UN, to oppose nuclear proliferation, to strengthen controls over conventional arms, to fight against drugs, and to develop economic relations (especially investment) between all of those in attendance. Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, including U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton, met in Manila and on November 25 endorsed efforts to "substantially eliminate" tariffs on computers and other information technologies by the year 2000.

      The Andean Group renamed itself the Andean Community when the heads of states of the member nations (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela) met for their eighth presidential summit in March in Trujillo, Peru. The change was embodied in a modified protocol to the 1969 Cartagena Agreement that established the original Andean group. The similarity of the community's name to the European Union (formerly the European Communities) was meant to imply the Andean powers' intent to follow a similar path to integration. In addition, the members of the community agreed to create a High-Level Operation Group to take charge of the antidrug war in the five countries.

      At a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Panama on June 4, member nations criticized the United States for having extended its embargo against Cuba (in the Helms-Burton law) as a probable violation of international law. The U.S. cast the sole dissenting vote in what observers regarded as a stunning defeat for U.S. policy. (RICHARD N. SWIFT)

▪ 1996

      The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met July 24-28, 1995, in Brunei. On July 28 the members (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand) admitted Vietnam, the first communist nation allowed to join, transforming ASEAN from its original (1967) role as a bulwark against the spread of communism into a more comprehensive cooperative regional organization. Cambodia and Laos attended as official observers, Myanmar (Burma) sat in unofficially. After July 10, when the Yangon government freed imprisoned opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ASEAN considered admitting Myanmar. Association leaders argued that Western tolerance of Bosnian human rights violations had undermined their authority to insist on improved human rights in Myanmar as a precondition for membership. They also believed that ASEAN's policy of "constructive engagement," using trade, investment, and political contacts, had opened Myanmar to outside influences. ASEAN was working to establish a common market by 2003 by phasing in tariff reductions and promoting growth around the region. (Vietnam would be allowed to phase in tariff reductions until 2006.)

      On July 29-30 the ASEAN Regional Forum convened. Foreign ministers from the European Union (EU) and 17 Asia-Pacific countries, led by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, discussed regional security issues, including competing claims to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China, which had occupied Mischief Reef in the Spratlys (see The Spat over the Spratlys (Spotlight: The Spat over the Spratlys )), affirmed its willingness to negotiate separately with each of the other claimants and attempted to allay fears by offering more information about its defense program, but ASEAN maintained that multilateral claims could not be settled bilaterally. At the end of their meetings, ASEAN foreign ministers condemned nuclear testing in the Asia-Pacific region. ASEAN met again in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 21 to tackle the growing drug problem in the region and yet again in December to consider advancing the deadline for completing regional tariff cuts to the year 2000.

      The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting of 18 Pacific Rim countries, including China, Japan, and the U.S., convened in Osaka, Japan, on the weekend of November 17-19 to work toward establishing what could become the world's largest free-trade and investment zone. It could include the region's developed countries by the year 2010 and the less developed ones by 2020.

      On January 1 the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur) put into effect the terms of the Protocol of Ouro Prêto (signed in December 1994) by abandoning tariffs on about 90% of goods traded between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, establishing express passport lanes for nationals of its members, and erecting a common tariff averaging 12% for goods imported from elsewhere. On January 2 Brazilian Pres. Fernando Henrique Cardoso hailed the new "full customs union" and played host at a meeting of the presidents of the four Mercosur countries as well as those of Chile and Bolivia, neighbours moving close to free trade with the Mercosur countries. Mercosur members and their neighbours also planned to adopt a regional passport, the Andean Migration Card. Regional trade between the members had tripled by 1994, reaching $12 billion, and Brazil had become Argentina's largest trading partner, displacing the U.S. The new market embraced 190 million people and registered some $800 billion in economic activity. Other Latin-American states meanwhile intensified their efforts to associate with Mercosur by expanding their commercial relations through the Andean Group (Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador), and on December 7 Mercosur signed an agreement in Montevideo, Uruguay, looking to closer regional cooperation with Bolivia. On December 15, in Madrid, the EU agreed to gradually drop trade barriers between members of the two groups.

      At a conference held in Barcelona, Spain, on November 27-28, members of the EU met for the first time with delegates from 11 North African and Middle Eastern states (Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia, and Turkey) as well as Palestinian representatives to discuss a Mediterranean regional pact. Agreement was reached on a framework for cooperation in such areas as trade, migration, economic development, drug trafficking, and environmental protection.

      The Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) seemed less relevant in 1995 as all the members competed to join the EU and NATO. The EU once regarded the four as leading candidates for membership but now bracketed them with other former communist states (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovenia) and declined to negotiate with any of them until 1997, after an intergovernmental conference reviewed the Maastricht Treaty in 1996. Western states were seeking a more stable relationship with Russia, which opposed expanding NATO, a factor that also undermined cooperation between members of the Visegrad Group.

      Environmentalists at the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment, citing experts from the International Marine Organization in London, said on April 23 that a corroded Iraqi tanker sunk during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 could soon spill 100,000 tons of oil trapped inside it, polluting hundreds of kilometres of coast reaching to Qatar and Bahrain. The organization asked the UN to help countries in the region salvage the ship.


▪ 1995

      At the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference, which opened July 22, 1994, in Bangkok, Thailand's prime minister asked the members (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand) to avert armed confrontation over resources and territory, especially in the Spratly Islands. Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all claimed the islands and wished to exploit the adjacent seabed for oil. All the contenders except Brunei had troops stationed in the archipelago. ASEAN members also discussed their growing commerce with Vietnamese industries since February, when the U.S. lifted its embargo on trade with that country. On July 25, ASEAN members and others (Canada, China, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Russia, South Korea, the U.S., and European Union representatives) met for the first time in an Asian Regional Forum to discuss security problems.

      At a fifth summit meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay, on January 17, the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercosur) members (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) authorized Bolivia to participate in its working groups. In March the Mercosur member states agreed to form a South American Free Trade Association, through which they planned to negotiate with other Latin-American countries. The goal was to abolish tariffs on 85% of their own trade and establish a common tariff against others. In August they signed a dozen agreements setting the preliminary terms for a common market to start on Jan. 1, 1995. On December 28 the presidents of the Mercosur countries approved revisions drafted at the sixth Mercosur summit (December 16-17, Ouro Preto, Brazil). The Organization of American States (OAS) and the UN condemned Haiti for expelling international human rights monitors on July 11. Since 1992 the mission had documented the military government's human rights abuses.

      The U.S. Congress on July 14 proposed granting greater access to U.S. weapons by the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, three of the four members of the "Visegrad Group." Slovakia, the fourth, immediately protested that excluding it would contribute to Eastern European instability. Foreign ministers from the countries of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Project (principally the Black Sea littoral states) worked at establishing the Bank for Black Sea Trade and Development at Thessaloniki, Greece. The project had been agreed upon at Sofia, Bulg., on Dec. 9, 1993. (RICHARD N. SWIFT)

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Universalium. 2010.

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