Back to Common Ground Archive

Week of October 29, 2002

Program 0244


Memories of Afghanistan | Transcript | MP3

View from Qatar | Transcript | MP3

Iraqi Dissident | Transcript | MP3

Iraqi Collection | Transcript | MP3

Muslim FBI Recruitment | Transcript | MP3

NEPAD | Transcript | MP3

UN-NYC Relations | Transcript | MP3

Y Tu Mama | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

ALISTAIR WANKLYN: Many Afghans still sympathize with the Taliban’s ideals. They quietly protest the changes resulting from the political pluralism and foreign money.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, Afghanistan one year later.

KEITH PORTER: And Qatar weighs in on the global war on terrorism.

QATAR FOREIGN MINISTER Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani: The people which planned the 11th of September—they need not to harm you only. They need to harm you and to harm us by making this big void between these the Arab world and the Western countries.

PORTER: Plus, one Iraqi dissident wants a democratic future for his homeland.

Kanan Makiya: We are talking about a moment in the Middle East that’s as great as anything since the fall of the Ottoman Empire back in 1917.

MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.

[Musical interlude]

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Memories of Afghanistan

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MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Afghanistan has seen tremendous change in the past year. Ten months after covering the Taliban’s downfall, Common Ground‘s Alastair Wanklyn returned to Afghanistan, but found that change in some areas is only skin deep.

[The sound of a baby crying and several people talking at once.]

ALASTAIR WANKLYN: No Taliban, no restrictions. That’s the idea behind the new free Afghanistan. But while many Afghans are enjoying novelties like Indian video movies and a free press, that one about no restrictions is a colossal myth. Take the women’s blue burqa. Covered head to toe in this one-piece garment was the only way women in Taliban Afghanistan could present themselves in public. They still do this. On the streets of Kabul more than 90 percent of women walk with the burqa. They say they choose to because their families expect them to, and also because they risk being threatened by strangers in the street. In Kabul you find conservatism at every turn.

[The sound of children chattering at school.]

WANKLYN: The government has reopened schools for girls, and here the streets at going-home time are crowded with cheerful, chuckling young girls. Under the Taliban they had no prospects of formal schooling beyond the age of nine or so. But look beyond Kabul, and you often find that’s still the case. Partly, it’s a problem of infrastructure.

[The sound of a class reciting their lessons in unison.]

WANKLYN: Many schools lack classrooms, so teachers can only gather the pupils outdoors under a tree. But partly too, it’s because of conservatism. Many Afghans still sympathize with the Taliban’s ideals. They quietly protest the changes resulting from the political pluralism and foreign money.

[The sound of hammering and pounding.]

WANKLYN: There’s an example of this on every block in the Afghan capital. Afghanistan’s new government has sponsored dozens of colorful murals painted on street walls to encourage parents to send their children to school. The murals depict a young cartoon boy and girl, carrying school books in their arms, and big smiles on their faces. Conservative vigilantes in Kabul have defaced most of these murals, by scratching out the two figures’ facial features. It’s perplexing to some of the many western aid groups now in the Afghan capital, that a nation should be so reluctant to embrace their notions of freedom. But that’s the reality of life here, after only ten months on. For Common Ground I’m Alastair Wanklyn in Kabul, Afghanistan.

[The sound of children chattering at school.]

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View from Qatar

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MCHUGH: As the focus in the US war on terrorism turns to the Persian Gulf region, there’s been renewed interest in the tiny nation of Qatar. Slightly smaller than Connecticut, this Muslim state might be overlooked, if it weren’t for its strategic location bordering Saudi Arabia, and its massive oil and gas reserves. Qatar’s Foreign Minister was in Washington recently. During his visit, he spoke with academics and journalists about the issues confronting his country and the US-Qatar relationship. Judith Smelser reports.

[The sound of a busy room, with many people speaking in the background.]

JUDITH SMELSER: It was a full house for Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani’s talk at a Washington think tank. After all, Qatar has carved out a niche for itself that’s deeper than you’d expect for such a small place. The Connecticut-sized country boasts the world’s third-largest reserves of natural gas. And its oil reserves have allowed the country to amass a per capita GDP that rivals many European industrialized nations. But the US is interested not only in Qatar’s natural resources but also in its strategic location, not far from Iraq. The Foreign Minister told his American audience that the relationship between the United States and Qatar is healthy but must be closely guarded in the aftermath of September 11th.

QATAR FOREIGN MINISTER Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani: The people which they did—or they planned the 11th of September—they need not to harm you only. They need to harm you and to harm us by making this big void between these two nations, between the Arab world and the United States, between the Arab world and the Western countries. For that reason we have to work hard, both sides. How we can build the bridge again and where is the weakness?

SMELSER: The Foreign Minister believes one confidence-building measure will be Qatar’s move toward democracy. Since the mid-1800s the country has been a monarchy ruled by the powerful Al-Thani family. But the current Emir has been taking steps to make his nation more democratic. And the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad, says the process is coming along.

Sheikh Hamad: This year, we finish our constitution in Qatar. And I think by year 2003, we’ll have a parliamentary election. And at that we will complete our, our democratic body in Qatar. And I think by year 2005, we’ll have full system in Qatar run through a democratic—of course monarchy—but democratic country. This is the willingness of His Highness, and I think the trend is this. We cannot talk with you, a democratic country, in the future, if we are not a democratic state.

SMELSER: Like many states in the Middle East, Qatar is a Muslim country struggling with problems of extremism and questions from the West about why many terrorists seem to be the most devoted Islamic followers. But Sheikh Hamad says Islamic extremism has more to do with economics than religion.

Sheikh Hamad: This is part of the problem in our region. Why, then, people been driven to this way? They have frustration. The young people which they go to the mosque, imagine if they don’t have work and they finish their universities. Sometimes they have, either they sleep in the house or go to the mosque. You know, we have to create jobs for the people in our region. We have to educate them, well educate them. The universities which we have, it’s not in the level. It doesn’t help us how to educate our people. We have to change our education policy. I mean, if you let them learn these nasty things which do not belong to the Islam, and later you want to fight them, why you don’t—why you let him learn these things from the beginning?

SMELSER: The foreign minister clearly believes improving Qatar’s education system is key to many aspects of the country’s development. And that development is being closely watched here in Washington, as US involvement in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf heats up. America hopes to be able to count on Qatar as an ally in a neighborhood where the US has long had trouble making friends and keeping them. For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser in Washington.

MCHUGH: Shaping an Iraqi government without Saddam Hussein, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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Iraqi Dissident

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PORTER: The global debate continues on a possible US led war against Iraq. However, one long standing Iraqi dissident is already looking beyond what he hopes will be an Iraqi regime change. Kanan Makiya says there are a number of what he calls “preconditions” which somehow must become the foundation for a new Iraqi government. Makiya recently spoke with Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: You’re a native of Baghdad and you came to the United States in 1968 to study at MIT and then you never went back.

Kanan Makiya: I couldn’t go back. I was politically active against the regime virtually as soon as I came out. And my father became a persona non grata in the early 1970s. Not that he’s political in any way, but they were inventing enemies and looking for them under every bed in those days.

BROCKMAN: You say that the new state must be a federal system of government. What do you mean by that?

Makiya: Well, federalism is a new idea in Arab politics. It was, it’s entered the Iraqi political scene driven by the Kurdish experience. The Kurdish political parties in 1992, when a Kurdish parliament was voted into existence, voted upon federalism as the kind of Iraq that they were happy to live under. And you’ve got to understand, we were just talking about the operations, the Kurds in Iraq have been through a traumatic experience. They have been brutalized. Their villages have been uprooted. Hundreds of thousands of people have been massacred and killed in genocidal operations. And the trauma of that experience lives with them still. So federalism is for them the condition sine qua non for staying inside Iraq. And I fully accept that, as do most Iraqis. The main Iraqi umbrella opposition group, called the Iraqi National Congress, back in 1992 adopted the federalism as an idea for the solution of the problem of the Iraqi state, post-Saddam. And ever since then every single Iraqi opposition group has defined itself as being for a federal system.

Now, there has not been a lot of discussion over what everybody means by this, and there are many definitions at play at the moment. One thing everybody is agreed upon—or two things everybody is—are, are agreed on. Number one, that federalism is a serious and real form of devolution of power from the center. Iraq, a very, very centralized state, which Baghdad has ruled over the provinces. In the view of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis now, in the opposition, will no longer be something like that. It will be a state in which the regions have far more central role to play in the determining of politics.

Secondly, everyone is agreed that federalism is the thin end of the wedge. This form of devolution of power is the thin end of the wedge of bringing democracy to Iraq. And beyond that, there are a lot of arguments in, at play at the moment. One of the things I’m doing is working with a team of other Iraqis under the auspices of the Department of State, in a project called “The Future of Iraq,” project, which is attempting to make, come up with a good working definition of what federalism might mean. Or at least lay out the options that are, that make sense. And these options will be brought to a conference of Iraqi opposition for a vote in the near future.

BROCKMAN: One of the other things you say is that a new state must be non-Arab. What do you mean by that?

Makiya: Well, if this follows from the discussion on federalism, one of the definitions at play about federalism is that it be ethnically based. The Kurds have been oppressed by an Arab state. So they in response, one of the Kurdish positions at play at the moment is that therefore we want an ethnic form of federalism—a Kurdish-Arab partnership, where the Kurdish national identity, which is not Arab, is recognized, and in the construction of the state.

The problem with that is that there are many ethnic groups in Iraq. Not as large necessarily as the Arabs and the Kurds, but there are Armenians, there are Chaldean Christians, there are Turkomans, there are Assyrians—and these would then all have to have, if you follow through with the principle of ethnic federalism—regions of their own. But it doesn’t, the formula doesn’t make sense. And in my opinion and in that of many other Iraqis would lead to great strife. So one has to resort to a geographic definition of what federalism might mean, where you would have geographically defined regions which might have a majority of Kurds in them, but they would also have Turkomans and Assyrians and Arabs, even. And those regions would have a share of national resources and perhaps even regional parliaments of their own. But they would not be defined, ethnicity would not be the basis of the new state. And if you follow that logic through that means Iraq, which has hitherto always defined itself as an Arab state, could no longer be an Arab state. It, just as the region cannot be a Kurdish region or a Syrian region or a Turkoman region, so too must the state as a whole not put a premium in a political sense on the quality of being an Arab.

So the thought here, my thought here, is to take out of the Iraqi nature of the state any ethnic definition. That means a major revolution in Middle Eastern politics. Because again, nothing like this has ever happened before. Iraq would in some—in a political sense, not of course in the cultural sense and certainly not in the historical sense—the country remains, you know, the culture of the people is Arab, and their history and so on, that is fine. And that will flourish I hope very much. But the Arabness should not enter into the political definition of being an Iraqi.

BROCKMAN: You say a new democratic Iraq then must be secular?

Makiya: I believe so. Again, following the same logic of federalism. That is if you are not going to give a primacy to Arabs because they are a majority or Kurds because they are the second largest majority—we have minority Christian groups, we have Chaldeans, we have Assyrians, we have other, smaller sects—ancient Near Eastern forms of Christianity which go back to the very, very early period of Christian history. I believe that in principle these groups should not be discriminated against in terms of their citizenship. So it should be possible in Iraq of the future for a Chaldean Christian to be prime minister or president, even, if that’s the system of government that’s chosen, as much as a Sunni or Shiite Arab or a Muslim or a Kurd or whatever. So religion, again, while I want it to flourish—and it certainly will flourish—as it flourishes in the United States, for instance—religion does not enter into the definition of citizenship. That is I think the, what I mean by secularism.

BROCKMAN: And you’re also calling for demilitarization of a new Iraq.

Makiya: Here there is a very important logic. First realize, let me say that that is not, that is not just an extreme position of just a few Iraqis. In 1991 some 400 people signed a very important document called “Charter ’91,” which called for a demilitarized Iraq. What they were saying is that they want something like a Japanese Article IX to be part of the future constitution of Iraq, in that the Iraqi army could never grow beyond a certain size. And constitutionally the country would take away from itself the option of waging war. So a, a prescribed limit of, which would be defined in a constitutional limit on the size of the armies—say two percent of the gross national product or something like that. Sets a cap on how large the army can grow. Conscription be banned. And a small professional army be the—allied Germany, Japan, post-World War II, be the answer.

What we have here is a different idea of strength that is being debated inside the opposition at the moment. The history of the Ba’ath regime is that strength stands in large armies, weapons of mass destruction, and a military-industrial complex, which this regime has successfully built up. But which we see has brought absolute disaster for the people of Iraq over the years. This notion of strength, which unfortunately is also culturally accepted in the Arab world—that you have to face up to Israel so you need a huge standing army, you need special weapons—Israel has nuclear weapons, so you need nuclear weapons—that game, that tit for tat game, which has escalated the arms race in the Middle East, is what I am calling for rejecting and what a lot of Iraqis want to do as well.

Now, we say strength is internal. Strength lies in the wealth-producing capabilities of a country. Strength lies in the educational potential, in what is happening in the economy, and so on and so forth. Not in these things and in these weapons of mass destruction and in these kind of large standing armies, which of course have become the norm in Iraq. You have to remember here, that Iraq developed its army way out of proportion to the size of its population. It was only possible to do that on the, so to speak, on the back of the oil revenues that fueled all of this. I once calculated in one of my first books, Republic of Fear, that the number of institutionally armed men in Iraq per thousand members of the population, and the figure is out of all proportion to other dictatorships in the world. Whether it be say, the Brazilian dictatorship of the ’60s, Iran under the Shah, or anything you could think of, Iraq is in a league unto its own. And that is what needs to be changed.

BROCKMAN: What kind of hope do you have for a new democratic Iraq.

Makiya: I must say that I have been hearing things from the Bush administration at the highest levels that give me a great, great deal of hope. Only the other day Condeleeza Rice said that the United States was in there for the long haul, that the United States was interested in the reconstruction of Iraq. And let’s not forget Iraq is a country that can pay for its own reconstruction. And that democracy was the goal. From the, my experiences with the senior officials in the Department of State and in the Vice President’s office and the Department of Defense, they are very serious about doing something dramatically new in Iraq. Something like what happened in Germany or Japan after World War II. And if that’s the case, if that is what actually follows through after the regime change takes place, then we are talking about a moment in the Middle East that’s as great as anything since the fall of the Ottoman Empire back in 1917.

BROCKMAN: Do you think you’d ever go back to Iraq?

Makiya: I certainly will. I absolutely certainly will. Feel my way in and try to be part of the process of rebuilding the country.

BROCKMAN: Kanan Makiya has lived in the United States since 1968. He is currently a professor of Near East Studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.

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Iraqi Collection

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MCHUGH: Kanan Makiya is also the Director of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Makiya says the Project is working with documents captured during the Gulf War.

Makiya: The project started—well, it followed actually my first visit to Northern Iraq in 1991, when I started to hear from Kurds that tons of Iraqi police—Mohabarat—that’s the intelligence services—and army intelligence documents had been captured by the Kurds during the uprising that followed the last Gulf War. And I went, entered Northern Iraq to see those documents. And low and behold they were there. Stored away in great big trunks, ammunition boxes, and so on, which the Kurds had just pulled these files off the shelves of the buildings that they occupied during the uprising. And then moved them into safe locations. This is a stunning archive that tells you the inside story, from the horse’s mouth so to speak, of the forms of totalitarian control that have been going on in Iraq for a very long time. The documents, we have some 3 million pages of documents. They have all been digitized and we are now indexing them and organizing them so that you can search through on different topics.

MCHUGH: Makiya hopes the collection will eventually end up in Baghdad in what he calls a “new and liberated” Iraq.

PORTER: Recently the Bush administration said if there is a war, the United States would stay in Iraq for an extended time afterwards to help with reconstruction. We’d like to know what you think. If there is an invasion, what should the US role be after the war? Email us your comments at: [email protected] We may use some or all of your comments on the air.

[Musical interlude]

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Muslim FBI Recruitment

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MCHUGH: The FBI continues to step up its recruitment drive among young Muslim Americans by doing the rounds at conventions and schools around the country. But not everyone in the Muslim American community feels the same way about joining law enforcement agencies. Some are suspicious that the FBI wants to use them as spies and informers against their own community. Nina-Maria Potts reports.

NINA-MARIA POTTS: Ali Iqbal, a 23-year-old Muslim-American from Chicago, has come to Washington, DC, to look for a wife. Being a traditional-minded young man, whose family comes from the Pakistan-Afghan border, he has come to seek a bride at the largest Islamic convention of the year, where young men and women may meet under Islamic conditions with community elders as chaperones. Ali Iqbal describes the marriage service this way.

[Sounds from a busy convention hall.]

Ali Iqbal: It’s just a way to get males and females to interact with each other in a controlled environment, where there is some kind of supervision, that there’s no, like dirty business going on. So it’s very controlled and it’s just a proper way of meeting females and males.

POTTS: Although Ali and his friend Safi Uddin, who’s 25 and works in information technology, are hoping to find wives the traditional way, they have been sidetracked by the FBI. They have decided to break with tradition by approaching the FBI recruitment booth, which has been set up for the first time at this convention, and occupies a very prominent position in the convention lobby. They have just been talking to an FBI agent about recruitment. Safi admits it took some courage to go over to the booth.

Safi Uddin: I think some people are a bit apprehensive. I think I was a bit apprehensive about approaching them, because I felt that other people would be like, “we have a traitor in our midst.”

POTTS: Ali agrees.

Iqbal: You can just see, we’ve been talking for 20 minutes, and I think me and Safi were the only ones that have even been there, except for the little kid that maybe stole some candy. But I think we’re the only ones that’s been interested in it, and you won’t see a lot of people looking into them.

POTTS: Both their families come from Pakistan. They say they would meet with opposition from immediate family here in America, as well as relatives back in Pakistan, if they were to join the FBI, as Safi explains.

Uddin: I think my parents would probably object, or they would feel a little bit apprehensive. You know, they might use me to get to other people. Obviously, if you want to pursue your dream or if you want to pursue a certain career, I mean you have to make sacrifices sometimes. And that means that, you know, sometimes you might, you can’t make everybody happy all the time.

POTTS: Safi sums up Muslim American attitudes towards joining law enforcement agencies this way.

Uddin: A lot of people I think are afraid right now, given the current situation, the current climate that’s going on, especially with what’s going on with a lot of Muslims if you will being “rounded up,” and being put in jail without trials, without any sort of attorney or representation. So a lot of Muslims feel at this moment a bit of fear, you know, approaching organizations like the NSA, the FBI, CIA, for looking for employment, you know, because they’re afraid that in some way the FBI may use them to tell their Muslim brothers or sisters or use them to go and infiltrate, if you will, you know, what are legitimate mosques and peace loving people, but use them to get to other people. And I think that’s a lot of the fear that’s going on. But, you know, that’s something we need to break.

POTTS: Ali sees his age group as a bridge between two generations, and agrees that there’s a need for change.

Iqbal: You won’t see a lot of Muslims in the FBI, but you do see a lot of Muslims in the engineering field and the medicine field, but not very many in the law enforcement. And I think that’s another step that maybe our kids will soon develop or we should start developing that for our children.

POTTS: Even though both Safi and Ali feel strongly that it’s their patriotic duty to join the FBI, the question of going undercover to a mosque in another city for example, is a tricky one. Safi is not at all sure he would be happy about it.

Uddin: Oh, that would be tough. I think that would be a very difficult decision to make. I would really have to question my superiors before I would even make a decision like that. Because I wouldn’t want that somebody would just tell me to go. I would definitely want to ask questions and be able to explore whatever “case” we may have against that certain place before going in and exploring.

POTTS: Meanwhile, at the FBI booth, Shefanda Jenkins, who has worked as a recruitment officer for several years, awaits more inquiries. She is optimistic about the turnout today, even though nobody appears to be lining up for information.

Shefanda Jenkins: Recruitment is going very fine. We have had several people to come over and visit with the table and I have given out very good information to those people.

POTTS: It is true that immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the FBI had some early successes in recruiting young Muslim Americans. Dr. Sayyid Muhammed Syeed, the Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America.

Dr. Sayyid Muhammed Syeed: They had given a certain telephone number. Their answering machines were inundated with responses from Muslim youth who had these linguistic capabilities. So that was a very clear indication how keen Muslims were in America to offer their support and help.

POTTS: Now, in an attempt to solidify these efforts, the FBI is making the rounds at various conventions and fairs across the country. Again, Shefanda Jenkins.

Jenkins: We’re trying to make this outfit as universally diversified as possible, so we try to get around to all types of conventions.

POTTS: While career choices and patriotic duty are obviously priorities for both Ali Iqbal and Safi Uddin, they haven’t forgotten their original reason for attending the convention—to find a Muslim bride. Ali explains what he’s looking for.

Uddin: I would say good-looking would definitely be up there, and there is definitely some good-looking girls here. If the girl has some culture and some class I think that goes a very far way.

POTTS: For Common Ground, I’m Nina-Maria Potts, in Washington, DC.

[Musical interlude]

PORTER: I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, Africa plans it’s own future.

South African President Thabo Mbeki: We will honor the commitment we have made to ourselves and the world that we will act firmly to extricate Africa out of her long night of misery.

PORTER: Plus, New York City’s often troubled relationship with the United Nations. And a cinematic swipe at Mexico’s president.

PROFESSOR ENRIQUE DE LA GARZA: [via a translator] The central point of the movie is that there are two Mexicos. There’s the Mexico of the rich, the powerful. Then there’s the other Mexico. It’s one of great poverty.

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PORTER: African leaders are making a concerted effort to pitch their new development plan for the continent to an international and American audience they hope will help bring it to life. NEPAD, which stands for the New Partnership for Africa Development is described as a vision and a program of action for the redevelopment of the continent. While it has won much praise for NEPAD, because it’s an African-designed initiative, it will need money to be implemented. That is why African leaders recently made the case for NEPAD to the United Nations, and to US lawmakers. Catherine Drew reports from Washington.

CATHERINE DREW: The New Partnership for African Development was born in July of 2001. It was the brainchild of regional leaders in Africa, and is a blueprint covering topics from health care to attracting investment, good governance to environmental protection. In return for social and economic reforms, African leaders hope the West will finance the plan. NEPAD has the backing of every African nation and was also endorsed last year at the meeting of the world’s richest industrialized nations—the G8.

[The sound of a gavel banging and a meeting coming to order. “Good afternoon to all of you.”]

DREW: And when the United Nations General Assembly began its annual session in September, it was debated by the world body for the first time. Leaders from South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, and Algeria, the main architects of the plan, addressed their international counterparts. South African President Thabo Mbeki.

South African President Thabo Mbeki: As Africans today, we stand in front of the peoples of the world to make the pledge that we will honor the commitment we have made to ourselves and the world that we will act firmly to extricate Africa out of her long night of misery.

DREW: President Mbeki said the continent was determined to launch a new development path—designed, owned, and implemented by Africans. Indeed, the NEPAD plan is comprehensive. The nations have been asked to pledge themselves to developing free and open democracies, respecting human rights, eliminating corruption, building free market economics and investing in the health and education of their peoples. NEPAD aims to achieve seven percent in annual economic growth. This year the estimate is around 3.5 percent, so reaching their goal will take billions of dollars in aid, investment, debt elimination, and increased trade, which the African leaders estimate will total $64 billion annually. Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo told world leaders that it will be in everyone’s interest to get NEPAD up and running.

Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo: We as Africans realize that even though this is our own program, designed by us for ourselves to be essentially implemented by ourselves, we need to have partners in the process of implementation.

DREW: And Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade tried to head off any potential criticism that the continent is asking for too much.

Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade: If we ask for moon, I think they must accept to discuss with us how to get the moon.

DREW: The plan has won a great deal of praise—and a few criticisms. Aid groups say they’re concerned that the plan relies too heavily on foreign assistance, conditional on reforms which may prove to be very radical for some countries. And there is great skepticism that the good governance rules can be effectively policed by a peer review mechanism. Many western leaders, convinced that Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe stole his March re-election through vote rigging and intimidation, were dismayed at the continent’s mild reaction to their neighbor. US Secretary of State Colin Powell told African leaders that the real test of NEPAD is yet to come.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell: We welcome this new direction in Africa’s development efforts. But countries that fail to live up to NEPAD’s commitments will suffer. Zimbabwe’s economic decline is a warning about the dangers of ignoring the linkage between good policies and human development.

DREW: And the issue of Zimbabwe was seized upon by American lawmakers, who invited South Africa’s Deputy Foreign Minister to brief them more fully about the NEPAD program. Members of the House of Representatives have been highly critical of President Mugabe and South Africa’s Aziz Pahad faced some tough questions—from Africa Sub-Committee chairman Edward Royce.

EDWARD ROYCE: South Africa asked the world to take a principled stand, and it seems to me there is a principled stand to be taken with respect to food being used as a weapon in Zimbabwe, with respect to the torture that’s going on. And I went to the Torture Convention, and a big part of the testimony this year was about torture in Zimbabwe.

SOUTH AFRICAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER AZIZ PAHAD: We have taken principled stands on this issue. Because as you say, Zimbabwe is fundamentally important to the future of all our countries in the region. And it is in the interest of the entire region to do everything possible to normalize the situation.

DREW: During the same hearing, some of America’s human rights groups were also given the chance to air their views on NEPAD. Amongst them there is concern that African governments have not consulted widely enough with their civil societies on the plan. Adotei Akwei is from Amnesty International.

Adotei Akwei: I do not think that they are incorrect in developing the relationships with potential support from western countries, but it certainly needs to be matched by a consultation within the country and with more specifics to come back with. Certainly here in Washington, on Capitol Hill, if you don’t have numbers no one is going to take you seriously.

CATHERINE DREW: The South African minister promised to come back to the lawmakers with more specifics, saying the NEPAD architects are currently working on the details of the plans which they hope will help alleviate poverty on the continent. For their part, western nations have pledged support. The G8 says it will contribute around $8 billion annually to Africa, starting in 2006, while individual members, like Canada, Great Britain, and the US have separately indicated that more funds will be available. While these amounts are unlikely to come close to the $64 billion African leaders say they will need annually, there does appear to be some optimism for the new scheme. African and Western leaders agree that the era of wealthy nations and donor institutions dictating how African countries should operate is over. Western observers say this is the first of it’s kind, African-initiated, African-owned, and African-run plan is perhaps the continent’s best chance of closing the gap between the developed and the developing world. For Common Ground Radio, I’m Catherine Drew in Washington.

PORTER: Coming up next on Common Ground, international relations and parking tickets. And later, a Mexican film takes aim at that country’s leader.

MCHUGH: You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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UN-NYC Relations

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PORTER: The relationship between the United States and the United Nations has been a rocky one over the past half century. Even today many UN members are at odds with Washington over how best to deal with Iraq. But it’s perhaps with New York, the host city of the UN, that the world body has had the most difficult relationship. Anger at traffic jams, unpaid parking fines, and undiplomatic behavior have long been political hot potatoes in the big apple. It seems diplomats and city hall don’t see eye-to-eye on how the UN should behave in its adopted city.

MCHUGH: Now, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying hard to improve that relationship.

PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective and respectful and successful.

MCHUGH: In his address to the UN General Assembly US President Bush meant to say respected instead of respectful but for many New Yorkers that slip of the tongue rings true. Since 1948 some big apple residents say the United Nations and it’s diplomats have not been respectful enough. The main sticking point is not grand policy over the Middle East or Bosnia but something which affects every New Yorker every day of the year.

[The sound of busy city traffic.]

Anyone who has driven in New York city knows it is a parking nightmare—but not for UN diplomats. They park anywhere and everywhere, and they use their diplomatic immunity to avoid paying millions of dollars in parking fines

LAURENTI: Well as the line goes New York City is a city of ten million dreams and one parking space.

MCHUGH: Jeff Laurenti is from the United Nations Association of the United States of America.

LAURENTI: The fact that parking is such a premium therefore leads to certain tensions between those who are subject to New York City rules and regulations and law and that class of New York residents—the diplomats—who have diplomatic immunity from any crime they may commit, such as a parking violation.

MCHUGH: And the scale of the problem is huge. In 1996 the diplomatic corps was issued no fewer than 160,000 parking tickets. Russia was the worst offender that year, amassing a staggering 32,000 parking tickets. The hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid fines proved a hot political issue over the years with both Mayors Guiliani and Bloomberg threatening to tow diplomats’ cars away. And The New York Daily News turned the issue into something of a crusade, publishing 30 articles on the subject in just six months. As a result New Yorkers are a bit touchy when the subject comes up.

NEW YORK CITY “MAN ON THE STREET #1”: They raised all the prices for all the parking tickets and these guys get away with murder. They live in the city for free, they get away with everything. But, you know, what you gonna do!

NEW YORK CITY “MAN ON THE STREET #2”: It doesn’t benefit the city as I see it, because there is too much commotion and there’s too much aggravation for the city. And since the 9/11 attacks it gives us too open access to further attacks like that, for the amount of people being here.

MCHUGH: In fact, since the September 11th attacks there are less parking spaces and even more congestion. The parking shortage led to calls for diplomat’s cars to be towed. Only intervention by Secretary of State Colin Powell stopped an embarrassing face-off between New York and the diplomatic community. But things may be changing.

NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: [speaking at the United Nations] New York City’s relationship with the UN has never been better than it is today. Of course, like all neighbors we have our friendly disagreements from time to time about local problems. As a matter of fact, if you own the illegally parked black Lincoln Town Car with license plate DPL1234, I’m sorry, it’s about to be towed. [light laughter]

MCHUGH: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, here addressing the United Nations General Assembly, has been determined to improve things. One of his first meetings after assuming office was a private dinner with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Mayor Bloomberg also appointed his own sister to head up the city’s commission for the United Nations. The measures appear to be working—parking violations are declining.

[The sound of busy city traffic.]

MCHUGH: It’s estimated the United Nations brings in $3 to $4 billion a year. Diplomats spend heavily on East Side restaurants, and scores of hotels depend on visiting delegates attending the big summits held every year. But the friction between the city and its UN may be hard to eradicate altogether. According to some, New Yorkers just love to hate the diplomats. Again, Jeff Laurenti.

LAURENTI: New Yorkers are by nature a griping lot and they like to believe that they live in one of the most difficult cities in the world to live in, one of the most pressured, one of the most high stacked vertically, congested on the ground, and difficult to get around. And they glory in the tribulations of getting through a day in New York. And the General Assembly, every fall when it brings it’s processions of presidents, princes, prime ministers, and potentates to town, creates gridlock on the East Side to let these motorcades go to their urgently important luncheons and dinners and such. And New Yorker’s find this a wonderful additional opportunity to gripe.

MCHUGH: Until our love affair with automobiles declines and the number of New York city parking spaces increases, city officials and UN representatives will need to continue exercising their diplomatic skills to maintain a parking truce.

[Musical interlude]

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Y Tu Mama

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PORTER: The Mexican film Y Tu Mama Tambien, has been a surprise art house hit across the US. On one level the movie tells the story of two high school boys on a road adventure with a 20-something woman. But as correspondent Reese Erlich explains, the film also makes a biting commentary about the contradictions facing Mexico since the election of President Vincente Fox.

[Music from the movie, Y Tu Mama Tambien, on a CD entitled La Serenita.]

REESE ERLICH: Y Tu Mama Tambien, which means “And Your Mother, Too,” is a raucous and sultry film that doesn’t, at first, reveal its true intentions. At the beginning of the film, we meet two very immature high school students who could be straight out of any American teen movie. In this scene, the two students, Julio and Tenoch, fantasize about making love with a beautiful young woman, who also happens to be married to Tenoch’s cousin. The two boys try to convince her to drive from Mexico City to a non-existent beach on the coast.

[Dialogue from the movie, all translated from Spanish.]

LUISA: You’re going to Puerto Escondido?

TENOCH: No, it sucks. It’s a bunch of yuppie backpackers and wannabe surfers.

JULIO: We know a beach no one knows about.

LUISA: What’s it called?

TENOCH: Something “Mouth.” Oh yeah. “Heaven’s Mouth.”

JULIO: Heaven’s Mouth, totally. It’s like paradise.

TENOCH: Better than paradise. It’s a slice of heaven right here on earth.

TENOCH: A tropical heaven. Putting roots down on earth.

JULIO: She should come with us.

TENOCH: Yeah, why don’t you come along?

LUISA: You’d take me along? Is there a place to sleep?

TENOCH: Sure, there’s plenty of place to sleep on the warm sand under a roof of stars.

JULIO: We can drink coconuts and bring plenty of forties.

LUISA: What’s that?

TENOCH: Big bottles of beer.

[More music from the movie’s soundtrack.]

ERLICH: The trio get into a beat-up old car and drive towards the coast. The three, who come from well-to-do families, see appalling scenes of traffic accidents, poverty, and police brutality. Enrique de la Garza, a sociology professor at the Metropolitan University in Mexico City, says that’s when we begin to understand the film’s deeper meaning.

PROFESSOR ENRIQUE DE LA GARZA: [via a translator] The central point of the movie is that there are two Mexicos. There’s the Mexico of the rich, the powerful, those with political power. Then there’s the other Mexico, which we see on the road and at the beach. It’s one of great poverty. People don’t have enough to eat. It’s a corrupt Mexico. There’s a beautiful Mexico, but also a dirty and ugly one.

[More music from the movie’s soundtrack.]

ERLICH: Tenoch is the son of a corrupt politician of the old ruling party. Julio’s family supports the opposition, led by newly elected President Vincente Fox. The two boys squabble and fight constantly, just like the two political parties. They also abuse Luisa—the married woman they’re traveling with—at one point shoving her. In a hilarious scene, Luisa refuses to go on until the two squabbling parties agree to her rules. She finally gets back into the car and lays down the law.

[Dialogue from the movie, all translated from Spanish.]

LUISA: I’m going to sunbathe naked and I don’t want you sniffing around like dogs. I pick the music. The minute I ask, you shut your mouths. You cook. No stories about your poor girlfriends. If I ask, you stay 10 yards from me, better yet, 100. You don’t speak of things you don’t agree on. Even better, you keep your mouths shut. You’re not allowed to contradict me, much less push me.

[The sound of a car driving down a road.]

GARZA: [via a translator] I think the demands signify a questioning of traditional relations. She represents a third way because she’s a foreigner. She has a very open attitude toward relationships. She demands to have relations with them. She understands the problems between rich and poor, and tries to provide a third way, representing the influence of a wider, global culture. The film shows that not everything can be resolved within the internal boundaries of Mexico. There are new elements that she represents that must be incorporated into Mexico.

[More music from the movie’s soundtrack.]

ERLICH: The film continues to mix politics, sexually explicit scenes, and a wild pop music sound track. Luisa ends up sleeping with both boys individually, and all three have a romp as well. Such open relationships, including a homosexual one, are too much for many Mexicans, says Professor Garza. Y Tu Mama Tambien is not a mainstream success in Mexico, unlike earlier hits such as Amores Perros and Like Water for Chocolate.

GARZA: [via a translator] Mexican society, especially in terms of sexual relations, is still very traditional. Academics and professionals in Mexico City like the film very much. But in general Mexican audiences don’t like the straightforward, sexual language. The relations between the woman and the teens, and then between the two boys, has caused a certain opposition in those sectors.

[More music from the movie’s soundtrack.]

ERLICH: Garza notes that the film doesn’t pretend to offer solutions to Mexico’s many contradictions. But it’s a vivid and entertaining exposé of the problems facing modern Mexico. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich.

[More music from the movie’s soundtrack.]

PORTER: Y Tu Mama Tambien director Alfonso Cuaron is getting notice in Hollywood. He’s been hired to direct the third movie in the Harry Potter series.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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