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Friday, November 10


Friday, November 10

Audrey Azoulay UNESCO


New UNESCO head amidst organisational turmoil

UNESCO Azoulay
Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Today, Audrey Azoulay is expected to be confirmed as director-general of UNESCO, the UN body tasked with promoting global collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms.

Azoulay’s confirmation comes just weeks after the US and Israel announced they would withdraw from the organisation by the end of 2018, citing the mounting US dues and an “anti-Israel bias”.

Tension between UNESCO and the US-Israel duo have been mounting for years; in 2011, President Barack Obama froze funding for the body after it admitted Palestine as a full member. This has hampered the organisation’s ability to promote key objectives, like expanding access to drinking water in Iraq and promoting literacy among Afghanistan’s police force.

In recent years, the organisation has been used as a platform on which countries have engaged in political quarrels. Ms Azoulay will face the difficult task of finding common ground among participants. Though it remains unclear how willing member states will be to cooperate, expect the new director-general to focus her efforts on the spread of literacy and civic education.

Delve deeper: Us against the world: Israel, the US and UNESCO


Saudi Crown Prince solidifies power, pushes further isolation of Qatar

Bahrain to institute visa’s for Qatari citizens
Photo: Getty

Starting today, Bahrain will begin imposing entry visa requirements on Qatari nationals, citing the need to ensure “security and stability”. Manama has blamed Doha for supporting terrorist attacks and civil unrest within the island kingdom.

The move is in line with the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar, which began this summer. As part of his efforts to counter Iranian influence in the region, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is credited with orchestrating the embargo against Qatar, which restored diplomatic relations with Tehran in August.

Along with coordinating the blacklisting of his country’s neighbor, bin Salman has overseen the Kingdom’s intervention in Yemen’s civil war and, more recently, has organised a purge to solidify his succession of the throne. The  “anti-corruption” campaign has led to the arrests of 11 princes, four ministers and numerous former ministers.

Under bin Salman’s rule, expect Riyadh to maintain pressure on Qatar and increasingly flex its muscles to counter Tehran on the international stage. Moving forward, Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah will likely be the next target of the young prince.


Catholic Church to host talks on a nuclear-weapon-free world

Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

Against a backdrop of an endangered Iran nuclear deal and a nuclear-armed North Korea, the Vatican commences two days of talks on nuclear disarmament today.

Delegates from the UN, NATO, Russia, United States, South Korea and Iran will meet with Nobel peace laureates and nuclear experts to explore the prospects of a ‘nuclear free world’.

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Today’s conference hopes to build on a UN resolution in July that banned nuclear weapons. While the agreement is the first to explicitly ban ‘the bomb’, it passed without endorsement from the nine nuclear states or NATO allies.

Traditionally, the Vatican had tolerated deterrence, but the slow of disarmament and plans by the UK, US and Russia to upgrade their arsenals and delivery systems has prompted a shift toward urgent disarmament.

While nuclear deterrence isn’t going anywhere, the talks will offer an opportunity for Russian and US delegates to discuss an extension of START—the US-Russia treaty that commits to disarmament quotas and inspections. Due to expire in 2021, the White House has demonstrated interest in extending the deal.


TPP on the block at APEC summit, Brazilian pension reforms

Nagoya Port
Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

After days of buildup and dozens of bilateral meetings, around 20 of the Asia Pacific’s top leaders will descend on Danang, Vietnam today for the APEC summit. Among them will be Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand’s newly elected premier, Jacinda Ardern. Sideline talks between Trump and Putin are likely, but have not been confirmed. The leaders of the TPP-11 countries are also slated to meet later in the day to hash out a future course for the troubled multilateral trade deal; if all goes smoothly, a reformed deal could—in principle—be signed today.

Senior Brazilian lawmakers are locked in debate on how to progress President Michel Temer’s pension reform proposals. Plagued by corruption scandals, many believe the president is too politically weak to push the changes through without a significant watering down of their main provisions. Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles believes the reforms will be passed by 2018.

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