The 66th Session of the UN General Assembly on 21 September, presented a precious opportunity for Brazilian president Dilma Roussef to shine on the international stage, even without the personal charisma of her popular predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. She held talks with US and European authorities on the financial crisis and in November will again be in the international spotlight during the G20 summit in France.
While the world cheered on the protesters and the Arab Spring which forever transformed the Middle East, regional powers trembled at the possible outcomes of the uprisings of which few, for them, would be favourable. Many of the regional and global powers which play a leading role in Middle East relations are relatively unpopular amongst the Arab youth and the general population. The Middle East is arguably not a better place today than it was eight months ago. The Arab Spring was only the first step, and if it is mismanaged it could pull the Middle East into a series of wars, the impact of which the whole world would feel.
The existence of heavily armed civilians, remaining supporters for the Gaddafi regime, and a political system in chaos make for a difficult road ahead as the National Transition Council (NTC) seeks to gain legitimacy and control in Libya. Chatham House’s 18 August 2011 report Libya: Policy Options for Transition examines possible solutions including calling for the return of the skilled diaspora, restoring services and supplies and diversifying Libya’s oil-dependent economy. When the Chatham House held this discussion on the transition options for Libya, it was apparent that Tripoli would be key. It was unclear then whether it would be a quick triumph for rebels or an extensive, bloody battle. Just six days after, Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli was seized. But what looked initially to be a speedy takeover, has exposed deeper challenges for the transition ahead.
China's rise will present both challenges and opportunities for states in the region. China's economic growth, if sustainable will help to maintain the internal security of the emerging superpower. The growth of the Chinese economy and its greater reliance on external energy and resource supplies will result in a more externally focused diplomatic and military posture. This may result in a regional arms race. China, the US and India and the constellation of states around each will form the likely balance of power over the next two decades.
The credit crunch and political paralysis in the western world has enhanced speculation about the future of China, a country which superficially seems to be doing so better than Europe or America. The headline economic growth rate in China in the three months to June 2011 was 9,5 per cent, against a figure of 0,2 per cent for Britain and 1 per cent in the US. It is little wonder that western politicians eyeball China’s trajectory enviously. Meanwhile, China’s growing economic weight has not only made it indispensible to solving global economic problems, but also seems to be translating into growing political and security influence as well. If one was needed, a reminder came recently with the launch of the country’s first aircraft carrier.
The revolts sweeping through the Mediterranean and the Middle East have exposed the tremendous shortcomings of EU policy towards the region. That policy mistakenly equated short-term stability with deeper and long-term sustainability. In a number of recent speeches, European commissioners have admitted they were wrong to prioritise short-term interests, centred on economic cooperation, security and migration management.
In early September, South Africa’s Judicial Services Commission (JSC) interrogated President Jacob Zuma’s nominee for the position of Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, in an effort to establish his suitability for the top judicial post in South Africa. The JSC’s interviewing of Chief Justice nominees is a procedure provided for in South Africa’s Constitution. It is a crucial element in South Africa’s exemplary system of checks and balances and is designed to preserve the independence of the judiciary. Theoretically, the President is unable to appoint his choice of Chief Justice until he has consulted with the JSC and leaders of opposition parties, receiving and considering their comments.