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It's a Small World After All...

Posted By IRC, Monday, February 26, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 22, 2018

For six weeks over the summer of 2017 I was given the opportunity to study the French language at the École l'Étoile in Paris, France. The first two weeks were spent on a tour of Northern France, from Strasbourg to Étretat, and through the chateaus of the Loire Valley before landing in Paris for the last four weeks. The tour featured some of the highlights of French tourism, including memorials and battle sites from World War I and II, as well as medieval relics like Mont Saint Michel.

Our time in Paris also provided many opportunities for sight-seeing. Though the hot and crowded day I spent at Versailles was not my favorite part of the trip, I was surprised at how touched I was by the Eiffel Tower; or, as I prefer, La Dame de Fer: the Iron Lady. Most often, those edifices which loom large in our mind fall flat in person; however, what I thought would be another tourist trap turned into one of my favorite spots on earth. There is a reason why so many pieces of poetry, literature, and music are dedicated to La Dame de Fer: she is striking.

To stand under her gave one the impression of all the history of that ancient city, yet it also brings to mind the relentless machine of progress. This was especially true with the twinkling lights that comeon at night. I sat and gazed at her in awe of my ability to be in another part of the world, yet feel completely at home.

My entire experience in Paris, though a wonderful global experience, reminded me of how small the world is. I had waited so long to go abroad that France had adopted a mystical aura in my mind. Once I was there, I realized how many things were similar to those at home: I saw rolling hills of farms that brought to mind the medieval fiefdoms of France, but also the Midwestern landscape I see when traversing I-29 through Missouri on my way home to South Dakota. I left France understanding just how close all the peoples of the world truly are, and how little separates us. I also left knowing it would not be long before La Dame de Fer and I meet again.

Maya Van Nuys is a junior at the University of Kansas with majors in Global and International Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies and minors in French and Economics.

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The Reviled Refugees of Manus

Posted By IRC, Monday, February 19, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Last week, UN officials once again called upon the Australian government to address the situation regarding refugees on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) and to "live up to its responsibilities." More than 700 refugees remain in offshore processing facilities where health, security, and human rights are frequently put in jeopardy. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments to take a humane solution.

According to the UNHCR, 3172 refugees have been transferred by Australia to facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru since 2013. The refugees hail from a range of regions from the Middle East to Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, most of them risking their lives in a dangerous sea crossing to the Australian coast. These were the refugees that were called into question by President Trump’s tweet in February 2017, calling an Obama-era agreement to bring 1250 refugees to the US with the Australian government a “dumb deal."

After the Papua New Guinean Supreme Court ruled the Australian facilities as unconstitutional, the camp was set for closure on October 31, 2017 – a move that the UN Human Rights Committee disparaged for not allowing "adequate arrangements for long-term viable relocation solutions for all refugees and asylum seekers." A representative for the UNHCR found the construction of the new sites unfinished, with "heavy machinery on the ground as well, fences still being constructed." They also found the new sites lacking in trauma-counseling and interpretation services.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were alarmed by the conditions on the island after police forcibly removed refugees to the new unfinished sites in late November. Multiple security incidents have been reported at the new facilities, where an ongoing dispute between local landowners and the government’s contractor – JDA Wokman – have interrupted services to the refugee holding facilities. Local residents have also approached the government detainment facilities, sometimes armed with machetes and batons, and threatened the asylum seekers inside. Since the initiation of the program, more than six refugees have died, including Faysal Ahmed, who was denied appropriate medical treatment 13 times.

Australia has refused to resettle any refugees on the mainland, insisting it would have to find third country resettlement options. The country also has repeatedly denied a New Zealand offer to take in a number of refugees, claiming that such a move would make Australia a backdoor for New Zealand and encourage more crossings.  One must hope that a viable and humane solution is quickly found.




Official News Bulletin 

UNHCR Fact Sheet on the Situation on Manus Island

LA Times

NY Times 


Wenhan Sun is a high school student at The Barstow School. 

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Kashmir: A Land Divided and Torn

Posted By IRC, Monday, February 12, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Since its creation in 1947, Kashmir has been a land divided and torn. The mountainous region east of Pakistan and north of the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab is home to a diverse group of people. Kashmiris include Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, and the land is claimed by Pakistan, India, and China. Over the years, tens of thousands of lives have been lost in wars, skirmishes, and bloody protests.

The most recent quarrel occurred January 27, 2018, when Indian soldiers killed two Kashmiri separatists and injured nine others in the Indian occupied Srinagar, Kashmir. The military had prepared for protests that day, lining the streets with riot-geared soldiers and issuing a curfew. Protesters are said to have started throwing rocks at the soldiers and damaging vehicles prior, leading the military to open fire. The soldiers claim the act to be in self-defense, yet are still charged with attempt to murder and murder by state police.

The fight for Kashmir began just after the removal of British rule and the partition of India and Pakistan: India as a Hindu nation and Pakistan as a Muslim nation. Kashmir, under the rule of Hari Singh, was given the option to join either country or remain independent. Singh, a Hindu, initially chose an independent state, but was pressured into aligning with India. This ultimately lead to the first of three wars fought over Kashmir.

Today, Kashmir is a majority Muslim state, with nearly 60% of the population following the Islamic faith. Its future still is being fought over, with inhabitants pushing to join Pakistan or India or even become independent. As the two countries are split on land ownership as well as religion, it often becomes a religious battle.


Ellis Gilham is a freshman at Metropolitan Community College studying International Relations and Journalism.


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Diversity: An International Student's Perspective

Posted By IRC, Monday, February 5, 2018
Updated: Friday, February 2, 2018

My name is Antoine Precheur. I am a French student athlete who arrived in the United States two years ago. The first thing that struck me when I arrived here is the diversity on campus and on my soccer team. On campus, I realized that there were people from everywhere in the world. While most of the international students were from India, many came from the Middle East, Asia, or even Europe. In addition to the diversity on campus, I was impressed by the diversity of the soccer team. My team is composed of 10 Americans and 13 members from nine different countries (Venezuela, Brazil, Columbia, Nigeria, Spain, Italy, Hungary, France, and Germany).

While diversity is beneficial, it can get complicated. Indeed, it is crucial to be open-minded in this kind of environment. Sometimes, a joke you make can be misinterpreted by somebody from a different country, or a gesture you make to be polite can be seen as rude. There are also very different manners to greet each other. For example, in France, our way to greet a girl is to kiss her on the cheek. In the United States, it would be considered inappropriate. When I arrived here, I did not know that, so I tried to kiss a girl on the cheek and embarrassed her! This situation could happen to many people from different origins and cultures.

Kansas City is a deeply diverse city. I experienced that on campus and in my soccer team. Because of this, it is important to be open-minded about how international people behave and act. Being open to different points of view enriches our understanding of the world around us and helps us to better relate to our fellow citizens.

Antoine Precheur is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Finance and Entrepreneurship.

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Adventures in a Moroccan Medina

Posted By IRC, Monday, October 9, 2017
Updated: Sunday, October 8, 2017

While studying abroad for a semester in France, I had the opportunity to visit approximately a dozen countries. The most culturally enriching experience was the four days I spent staying in the heart of the Medina in Casablanca, Morocco. Admittedly, I picked Casablanca because it was the cheapest flight and because I love the film named after it. Although many friends told me I should have booked a trip to Marrakech instead, I remained optimistic and was rewarded with a wonderful, peaceful weekend in a beautiful port city unlike any I have ever been to.

So many things about Casablanca are so drastically different than what I was accustomed to. The streets are narrow and constantly bustling with cars, motorbikes, and pedestrians, and every morning I woke up to the sound of morning prayers being led over the loudspeaker from the mosque down the street. Morocco is unlike anywhere else I have ever been, yet I was frequently reminded of home.

The hospitality shown to me by my hosts and the shop owners in the Medina helped me to recall the kindness that Kansas City is so well known for. There was a group of children that played soccer every afternoon and between games of tag we would sit and I’d listen to their stories from school, just like the children I have babysat and watched grow up in my own neighborhood. At the time I had already been living abroad for four months, but this was quite honestly the first time I felt homesick. Between wandering through the Medina, visiting the beautiful Hassan II Mosque, and eating a whole lot of tajine, I was able to find a little piece of home in this wonderful new land, and it brings me joy to think that someone from Casablanca might be able to find a piece of home here, too.

Jessie Roach is a senior at the University of Kansas studying Global and International Studies and Political Science.

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Crisis in Venezuela

Posted By IRC, Monday, October 2, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

Venezuela has been in the news for many months for a number of different issues. Political strife and deep economic issues have plagued the country for some time. This political tension has caused many anti-government protests that have resulted in the death of dozens of people. These issues have also resulted in many starving citizens. Let’s take a look at some of the problems and what is causing them.

Venezuelan politics are split into two groups: Chavistas are those who support the socialist ideals of the late president Hugo Chavez, and the other group opposes their ideals. The current president, Nicolas Maduro, is a Chavista who has continued Chavez’s policies. This has resulted in many protests against the government by those who think Chavistas have destroyed Venezuela’s democratic institutions and mismanaged the economic budget.

Oil has long been the leading source of revenue for the country, accounting for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export revenues. Their oil revenue has declined significantly due to decisions made during the Chavez government, which has had significant effects on the economy.

Inflation has been another considerable economic problem in Venezuela, as the currency has become increasingly worthless. In early July, the minimum wage increased 50 percent. Knowledge of macroeconomics shows that this adjustment does not solve the inflation issue and could make the problem even worse. According to the International Monetary Fund, the country’s inflation could reach up to 720 percent by the end of this year. The main cause of this hyperinflation has been government overspending and mismanaged funds. Food, medicine, and cash shortages have also contributed to the issue.

These are the political and economic issues that Venezuela is currently dealing with. We can only hope that these problems can be resolved in a way that restores stability within Venezuela.




John Pawlewicz is a senior at the University of Kansas studying Economics.

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Lessons from Versailles: Isolationism, Victory, and Repercussions

Posted By IRC, Monday, September 25, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

When World War One finally ended on the November 11, 1918, more than 38 million military and civilian casualties had been reported between both sides, making this war one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. As a result of the war, the governments of four European powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russian, and Ottoman Empire) collapsed. The Allied Powers, led by Great Britain, France, and the United States, spearheaded the Paris Peace Conference. The Treaty of Versailles declared that Germany was responsible for starting the war and for causing all of the war’s destruction. Because the treaty was extremely (but not effectively) coercive, the Treaty of Versailles was destined to fail and should not have been expected to last more than twenty years.

Coming into November of 1918, both the Allied and the German armies were completely exhausted and ready for an armistice. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson offered his Fourteen Points as groundwork for a peace settlement after the war was over. The Germans, knowing fully well that they were very nearly exhausting their military in terms of personnel and supplies, decided to sue for peace on the terms of Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The armistice was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, and all fighting ceased.

Going into to the peace talks, the German government was under the impression that the Allies would honor Wilson’s Fourteen Points, as that was what they had advertised to the Germans in order to get them to stop fighting. However, once the German envoy arrived in Paris, they found that the British and French had instead planned for an unconditional surrender on the part of the Germans, as well as severe reparation payments, extremely limited military, and demilitarization of the industrial areas of Germany.

Due to the unclear communication, and the resultant punitive settlements the Germans agreed to, the German people felt betrayed for years after the war. After the Treaty of Versailles was signed, both the United States and United Kingdom resigned to very isolated positions in the international system. The United States Congress also failed to ratify the treaty to join the League of Nations. With neither the US nor UK wanting to involve themselves in European affairs, France was left as the sole enforcer of the Treaty of Versailles.

Building off of the animosity that stemmed from the miscommunication by the Allies and the French occupation, Adolf Hitler was able stroke the nationalistic fervor that was rising in Germany. By now, the credibility of the Treaty of Versailles was beginning to wear off, to the point where it was completely ignored.

After reviewing the Treaty of Versailles, the Supreme Allied Commander, Ferdinand Foch, proclaimed: “This is not a peace. This is an armistice for twenty years.” Foch’s words proved to be prophetic as the Second World War began 20 years and 64 days after the Treaty of Versailles was signed. The treaty was flawed from the beginning, demanding impossibly high reparations and humiliating Germany on the international stage. The French lacked the true capability and credibility to effectively enforce the treaty, which as a result was eventually ignored. It was too late for Europe once the British and French actually started to worry about Germany. Luckily, the Allies learned from the mistakes of the Versailles Treaty and were able to end World War II effectively and maintain peace for more than 75 years.




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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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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