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America's UN Promises: Contradictions within Foreign Policy?

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 18, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

In June, the United States joined a United Nations resolution supporting the protection of human rights from the impact of climate change. Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Vietnam – all developing, coastal countries most affected by the consequences of climate change – introduced the resolution to the UN Human Rights Council on June 22, 2017. When the text was first introduced it was unclear whether the U.S. would support the resolution, given the Trump administration's past actions regarding international climate change (such as withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and refusing to endorse a joint statement on climate change at the G7 summit in Italy in May).

The U.S. had a few routes they could have taken with respect to the resolution in the UN Human Rights Council. They could have voted against it, abstained from voting, or voted in favor of it. If they were to vote against it, it would have actively undermined the action towards supporting protection of human rights from the impact of climate change. Or the U.S. could have been more passive and abstained from voting. But by actively supporting the resolution, it shows the rest of the world that the U.S. is still interested in continuing, at least at some level, a proactive international climate change initiative that characterized the Obama administration.

The resolution itself acknowledges that climate change is impacting human rights and states have to take action to address climate change. Although the resolution is not binding, it calls on participating countries to take steps to better integrate human rights into climate action. Specifically, the resolution focuses on two specific issues. The first issue is that children are the most vulnerable groups to the impacts of climate change. The resolution insists on the recognition of existing obligations under international law for governments and businesses to protect the rights and interests of children when taking climate change action. The resolution also addresses the challenges climate-induced migrants face. These challenges include anything from rising sea levels to flooding arable land.

Debates and negotiations within the UN regarding the interlinkage between climate change and human rights have been going on for many years. Although American support represents a global consensus on the resolution, it hardly counters the Trump administration’s policy steps the past few months. Most recently, Trump has promised to end U.S. payments to the Green Climate Fund, a finance mechanism meant to help developing countries pay for climate adaptation and mitigation projects. But part of the human rights resolution that the U.S. signed calls on developed countries to continue payments to the Green Climate Fund, something the Trump administration has explicitly promised it will not do; this shows where the current administration’s policies are at odds with the UN human rights resolution. 


Climate Change News


Avery Dorsey is a third-year senior at American University in Washington D.C., and is studying for a degree in International Relations with a minor in Chinese.

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Member Spotlight: Shari Wilson

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 11, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I have been a member of the IRC since 2005. My husband Chris Steineger and I love to travel, have been to more than 50 countries, and host delegations for dinners at our home through the Global Ties KC organization. As well as being involved with Global Ties KC, Chris is a former IRC board member.

Additionally, I have given talks and programs on climate change, Green Schools, and environmental education in Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, and Germany. Recently, I traveled to Vietnam and Laos; the State Department funded two teacher-training workshops (one in each country, about 170 teachers total) on using art to teach environmental concepts. We also held community festivals in each location. The workshops were very well received – I learned as much as I taught (if not more), and we are working on future projects! 

To nominate another IRC member or to share your own story as it relates to international relations, please click here ».

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India and the Largest Solar Power Project in the World

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 4, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

In modern society, the need for power is an ever-present, yet often overlooked reality. Every time we use our cars or phones, every time we turn on the lights or cook something on our stoves, we need power. The question of how to obtain that power is an important one and many believe that finding sustainable power sources will be a key part of ensuring the future prosperity of humanity. There are many innovative ideas about sustainable energy sources, but one of the most recognizable and readily accessible is solar energy.  

Today I would like to focus on a huge solar energy project that most people have probably never heard about. Tucked away in the town of Kamuthi in the Ramanathapuram district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is the world’s largest solar plant. Completed in September of last year the Kamuthi Solar Power Project spreads out over an area of 2,500 acres, contains 2.5 million solar panels, and has a capacity of 648 megawatts. Despite its massive scale the project took only approximately eight months to complete. When working at full capacity this plant will produce enough energy to power close to 150,000 homes. In addition to providing clean energy to thousands of families the plant itself is something to be marveled at. Not only does the sheer size of the plant compensate for whatever cloud cover may come its way, but some of its maintenance is self-powered. To keep the panels working at peak capacity they need to be cleaned of dust and dirt regularly. Instead of using thousands of gallons of water to do this, the plant uses solar powered, dry cleaning robots that provide daily upkeep of the solar panels.

The project was commissioned by Adani Power and cost $679 million to build. With the success of this plant, Adani is contributing to a national goal of powering 60 million homes with solar energy by the year 2020. Should India meet this goal it will take its place as one of the top three solar energy producers in the world alongside China and the United States.



Al Jazeera
Clean Technica

Annelissa Taylor is a second-year Master student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and is working toward her degree in Public Administration.

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Flooding in Peru

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 28, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

March and April 2017 were two of the most disastrous months for Peru since 1998. During its rainy season, Peru received ten times more rain than it typically receives, displacing thousands of people. Several towns and homes were washed away as rivers rose and landslides swept, making regions in Peru uninhabitable. A reported 70+ were killed in the floods and more than 70,000 people fled their homes and are now homeless. More than 50 percent of Peru is in emergency status and disaster relief programs are in effect. Leaders in Peru believe that the rains are due to climate change since glaciers in the Andes have already retreated and crop cycles have had major shifts.


Being from Peru, this development is close to my heart as I have extended family members who were in danger from the flooding. However, I found that my family in Peru provided aid during natural disasters. In March I scrolled through Facebook to find uncles and cousins post videos of themselves building sandbag barriers to divert rushing rivers going through streets. This was at the very beginning of the season, when no one knew the extent of the damage the rains would cause nationwide. Thankfully, no one in my family was negatively affected by the flooding.

The height of the flooding took place several months ago, but the cleanup, along with the need for national and international aid, continue. Medical supplies are still being collected in the 50 percent chance that El Niño shows up later this year.





New York Times
Global Giving


Luigi Cruz is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Missouri–Kansas City studying for a bachelor's degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing.

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Rejecting Intolerance

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 21, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

My hometown of Overland Park, Kansas is a bubble. Not in the sense that nothing can get out, but it seems as if no danger, poverty, or real world ugliness can penetrate the city limits. The same can be said about Leawood, Prairie Village, and Mission Hills: nothing bad happens here. We know that terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and engineering disasters occur all the time, but their absence from our communities has tricked us into believing that we are immune to them. Which is why we are caught unprepared to confront these ugly realities when hate crimes occur in our neighborhoods, including the 2014 Overland Park Jewish Community shootings and the shooting at an Olathe bar in February 2017.

The shooting at the Jewish Community Center had a profound effect on me when it first happened. Since I was born, the JCC has retained an important and changing role in my life though I am not a part of the Jewish faith. From attending preschool and summer day camps at the JCC to having been employed there for more than three years, the Jewish Community Center has integrated itself and an educated understanding of the Jewish faith into my life. The JCC is as much of a part of the Johnson County bubble as anything else with which I had constant interaction.

That bubble burst on April 14, 2014, when I received a text message from my boss at the JCC warning all employees to stay away as a shooting had taken place. In an age where mass shootings garner undivided attention from the American public to the delight of 24-hour news networks, I still felt compelled to spend the next several hours figuring out what was going on, if every one of my coworkers and other members were okay. I wasn’t scheduled to work that day, but that didn’t calm the reality of the situation in which someone decided to attack a community that I have been a part of my entire life.

The only way to recover from a tragedy like this is not to repair the protective bubble that was burst. We cannot let our socioeconomic privilege and culturally segregated community provide a false sense of security from reality. We must instead recognize that we are not immune to hate and understand the importance of coming together and rejecting intolerance and violence. 


Peter Fortunato is a sophomore at the University of Miami Ohio, pursuing a Bachelor degree in both International Studies and Statistics, and minoring in Spanish.

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Member Spotlight: Holly Nielsen, Baring Vostok Capital Partners

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 14, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017

Life is a journey; and careers can be too. Coming of age in the 1970s meant a fascination with the Soviet Union. President Nixon’s visit to Moscow made quite an impression. In college during the years of U.S.-Soviet détente, I chose to study Russian as my foreign language. After KU Law School, I joined a law firm in Houston with energy clients. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and then the Soviet Union dissolved at the end of 1991, I worked with our energy clients on early commercial projects in Russia, and then excitedly moved to Moscow to open a branch office for the law firm in 1992.

For twenty years, I had a front-row seat at one of the most interesting historical events of my lifetime – Russia’s transition from a communist system and planned economy to a democratic system and commercial market economy. I worked in the Moscow offices of three U.S. law firms, and spent three years in the late '90s working with the Harvard Institute for International Development as an adviser to Russian government officials developing the securities market and securities regulation. Eleven years ago, I joined a client private equity firm as general counsel. Our investors are institutions in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, and the portfolio companies in which we invest are businesses operating in the former Soviet countries primarily in the areas of financial services, consumer goods, telecom and media, and minerals and mining.

My daughters began their education in Russian public preschools and primary schools, and I wanted them to transition to U.S. high schools and English language education for their secondary years. In 2010, we repatriated to Kansas City, but with a wonderful work arrangement: I continue to work as a lawyer for the international private equity firm, but from my home office in Kansas City, and with travel to Europe every couple of months.

The world is interconnected and virtual today; with the advantage of technology and early mornings, I happily work from the middle of the U.S. with my colleagues in Moscow, London, and Channel Islands and our investors around the world. I’m glad to have found the IRC community in Kansas City to share my love of foreign policy and all things international. 


To nominate another IRC member or to share your own story as it relates to international relations, please click here ».

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The Search for ISIS

Posted By IRC, Monday, August 7, 2017
Updated: Sunday, July 2, 2017

The United States continues the search for ISIS leaders; two of the most recent being pursued are Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Raw and Turki al-Bin’ali. Another example comes from late April when American commandos intercepted Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, who had been tracked by United States Special Operations forces for months. The helicopter-borne commandos had hoped to take Uzbeki alive, but a firefight broke out resulting in his death. Despite missing the chance to gather human intelligence, the commandos collected cellphones and other materials that proved useful for U.S. intelligence and military services.



Despite these successes and the continued hunt for ISIS leaders, the supreme leader and caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains at large as far as the U.S. is aware. The Russian government maintains that Baghdadi may have been killed in a Russian airstrike in Syria, but the U.S. military is unconvinced. Colonel Dillon, the spokesman for the international coalition fighting ISIS, affirms that there is no concrete evidence on whether or not Baghdadi is still active. Military officials say they don’t care whether Baghdadi was killed by Russians or the American-backed coalition.  


If Baghdadi is dead, one of his two lieutenants will likely take his place. Both former Iraqi army officers under Saddam Hussein, they are the War Minister Obaidi and head of ISIS's Amniya security agency, Jumaili. Ironically, Jumaili is in a similar situation to Baghdadi, with his death affirmed by some, but questioned by others. On April 1, Reuters reported that a statement from the Iraqi directorate of military intelligence confirms Jumaili’s death. However, U.S. military officials told NBC that the Iraqi military report was unconfirmed.


In summary, the U.S. and coalition forces, as well as Russia and its allies, are continuing attacks on ISIS and its leaders. However, there is a degree of uncertainty in the ongoing war. The first and second in command of ISIS could still be alive and well, directing ISIS and its atrocities from unknown locations.




New York Times 1
New York Times 2
Reuters 1
Reuters 2


Jake Janeiro is a senior at the University of Kansas and is majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations.

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China Goes Green

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 31, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Handling the horizon threat of climate change has been on the international community’s agenda for quite some time now. Western powers have taken the lead in pursuing ‘green’ policies to combat climate change. Most of the backlash on the topic of climate change is aimed towards developing countries, particularly China. In the final days of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009, negotiations between the U.S. and China eventually collapsed. Observers looked at the climate summit as disheartening and unproductive.

During this time, China’s coal consumption had been increasing for decades as their government pushed for industrialization. Four years after the Copenhagen conference, China went so far as to add 500 new 600-megawatt coal plants, accounting for more than 40% of global coal consumption in 2009. On January 17, 2010, popular Chinese television host Larry Hsien Ping Lang devoted an entire episode of his current affairs talk show, Larry’s Eyes on Finance, to global warming. Lang went on to tell millions of viewers that the goal of Europe and the United States at the Copenhagen negotiations was to prevent China from being a global leader by forcing developing countries to lower carbon emissions and halt industrialization processes. Lang’s provocative statements led to more than half a dozen books on the West’s climate conspiracy to be published, as well as many social media posts. Looking from the outside in to China’s push for industrialization it was clear they had no interest in any sort of environmental considerations.


China’s sudden embrace of climate science came in 2012 when Beijing’s Renmin University of China, with assistance from Yale University, conducted a national climate survey that resulted in contradictory findings. The survey suggested that 93% of Chinese people believe climate change is happening, and the majority of respondents believe it “will harm themselves and their own family.” A similar survey in the U.S. found that only 70% believe in climate change, and a far smaller portion says it will affect them. At the same time, 55% of Chinese people think humans are the primary cause of global warming, a percentage comparable to the percentage of US citizens who think similarly.

These statistics revealed an unknown truth in China – a large majority of the public disagrees with climate skeptics. The survey brought light to climate change, driving skepticism from China’s mainstream. By China’s 12th Five-Year Plan in 2011, a green strategy had begun, proposing to turn low-carbon industries into a major driver of the economy. China, who was once dependent on coal to drive industrialization, has committed $761 billion by 2020 to transition off fossil fuels. In an effort to increase public awareness concerning climate change, China’s new climate policies are accompanied by extensive state outreach and education for the 45% of the population who were unsure if humans are to blame for climate change. 



Foreign Policy

Avery Dorsey is a third year senior at American University in Washington D.C., and is studying for a degree in International Relations with a minor in Chinese.

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What I Found in Jordan

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 24, 2017
Updated: Monday, June 26, 2017

What do you expect when you visit a place such as Jordan? Different climate? Different food? You expect some "culture shock," right? However, while studying abroad I noticed one thing in particular that was very strange; Jordan may be very different, but the parts that stood out the most weren’t the food, the climate, or the language, but in fact the tiny aspects of the way that people live their everyday lives. Through my visit to Jordan, I discovered that this country and my homeland aren’t that different after all, and the similarities might be even more surprising.

This might sound like an oxymoron, but Missouri and Jordan are simultaneously very different and very similar. Waiters don’t expect a tip, and restaurants serve refreshments only out of bottles and cans, not from the tap. There’s also the whole communication system of honks and horns in the midnight streets of Amman. On the other hand, Jordanians are frequently out and about, shopping, just like we do here on weekends. There are taxis everywhere, and people enjoying their lunch in the same spot every day. There are friends walking up and down the streets to greet one another just as you might see in Missouri.           

So what do you get when you visit Jordan? All the hummus you can eat? Yes, absolutely. The best hummus you’ll ever have? Right again. But, hummus aside, you’ll also find the realization that we, as humans, aren’t so different from each other, even if we’re halfway across the world. It’s in the tiny differences that make us human where we can find how similar we all truly are. I’ve come to the conclusion that we have much more in common than we actually believe. That’s what I found in Jordan.


Zachary Walker is a sophomore attending the University of Central Missouri, majoring in Political Science and International Studies.

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Travel Ban Round Two: Looking Ahead to National and Local Change

Posted By IRC, Monday, July 17, 2017
Updated: Sunday, July 2, 2017

On January 27, President Trump issued his first executive order, instituting a travel ban that prevented citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for ninety days. The original order was ultimately blocked by the courts, but on June 26, the Supreme Court agreed to put part of the new travel ban, excepting Iraq, in place. The full case will be heard in October. In the meantime, the ban will exclude those without a "bona fide relationship with any person or entity in the United States."

In the past few decades, the United States has become home to an increasing number of immigrants born around the world. Kansas City mirrors this national trend. The number of citizens in the Kansas City who are foreign-born has quadrupled from approximately 33 thousand in 1994 to nearly 135 thousand in 2015. Nationally, the number of foreign-born citizens in the U.S. has increased from nearly 20 million people in 1990 to almost 40 million in 2015.

In 2015, Kansas had more than 800 immigrants from Iran and more than 15,000 immigrants from a number of African nations. Missouri at that time was home to more than 1,500 Iranian immigrants and 135,000 foreign-born citizens from Africa. Though these statistics do not specify particular African countries, surely immigrants from Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are among those included in these numbers.

In fact, immigrants from nations now part of the travel ban play an increasingly important role in Kansas City’s two states. Emporia, Kansas, has experienced an influx of refugees from Somalia in recent years. Many of these refugees, for whom entry into this country would now be prohibited, have entered into the Kansas workforce. Across the state line, immigrants from Somalia and Sudan comprise a large portion of the workforce of the Tyson Foods plant in Noel, Missouri. On both sides of the state line, immigration from travel-ban-affected nations has been influential.

The travel ban will doubtless diminish immigration from the seven nations, each of which are predominantly Muslim. This will likely influence American sentiment and existing animosity regarding Muslims in the U.S. as a consequence. The travel ban will certainly affect immigration, but only time will tell how profoundly this policy will shape our nation and our city.



Migration Policy Institute
Springfield News Leader

Liz Orr is a senior at the University of Kansas, double-majoring in Global and International Studies and French with a minor in Economics.

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