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Support for the Geneva Observer + China's Trolling Diplomacy + The "axis of regression" at work

OCTOBER 13, 2020



First things first: We’re absolutely delighted to announce that the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) Geneva, one of the most established European political foundations, has spontaneously chosen to support our media. The unsolicited support is earmarked to commission original pieces as well as to strengthen our briefings.

For Dr Olaf Wientzek, Director of Multilateral Dialogue Geneva for the KAS:

"What is happening in the numerous multilateral fora in Geneva is of key importance. Initiatives such as The Geneva Observer can play a crucial role in providing a better understanding of the ecosystem of International Geneva. This can help to not only better understand the Geneva-based organisations but also increase support for a values- and rules-based multilateralism."

We are deeply grateful to the KAS Geneva for its support.

Also, our congratulations to fellow journalist Priti Patnaik, founding editor of the Geneva Health Files, on winning support from the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism (the City University of New York). Delivering quality, independent journalism is hard, and costs time and effort. But we think it’s crucial to raise awareness about the importance of international cooperation and values-based multilateralism, and foster a stronger, more transparent, more inclusive, more accessible common conversation around International Geneva. Thank you for reading us, and if you like what you read, please share and encourage others to subscribe to our newsletter. And so, on to The Geneva Observer Briefing, from today "supported by the KAS Geneva."


Today in The Geneva Observer,Chinese diplomacy has become more aggressive and, for some, even outright confrontational. “There has been a generational shift and the change in behavior is striking,” a keen observer of the Geneva diplomatic scene tells us.

Le Monde foreign affairs columnist Alain Frachon analyses for The Geneva Observer (inFr/En) the origins of what is being called China’s “Wolf Warrior diplomacy,” the aggressive diplomatic style where stridency seems to have become the norm and social media the new theater of engagement. A posture that is part of a broader agenda for what researchers at Stanford calledin a recently-released study, “The Chinese communist party’s campaign to control global narratives.”

Is the campaign successful? An October 6, Pew survey reveals that “unfavorable views of China reach historic heights in many countries.” But does it matter. A Pew survey reveals that China has also been positioning itself successfully at the centre of the UN’s data collection for implementing and achieving the 2030 Sustainable development agenda. In 2019, a Letter of Intent was signed between China and the UN “on the establishment of the UN-National Bureau of Statistics of China, institute on Big Data” (signed for the UN by the Former Vice-Minister for Chinese foreign affairs, now Under-Secretary-General for the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs). And following on from this, president Xi announced at the General Assembly’s opening debate in September that China would be setting up a “UN Global Geospatial Knowledge and Innovation Center” as well as “an International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals to facilitate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

In the past weeks however, there have been signs of pushback. Canada’s new Permanent Representative to the UN, Bob Rae, was robust in his response to the Chinese representatives’ criticisms(around 3:48.01) when addressing the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee. He declared: “All of us come to this Chamber with examples in our countries of human rights abuses, we therefore have no right to comment on any abuses we believe to have taken place in other countries.” “I think [this is] false,” he said, before stating: “Canada cannot claim that our past has been one of no injustice … quite the opposite. [W]e accepted responsibility. We’ve established commissions of accountability and commissions of truth and reconciliation. Where are the commissions of truth and reconciliation in China?”


Last Act by Trump in Geneva?

Meanwhile, in what looks like another attempt to significantly alter the current human rights regime, this time by the Trump administration, the US along with Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda (described to The G|O by a human rights insider as a veritable “axis of regression”) are cosponsoring a virtual ceremonial signing of the Geneva Consensus Declaration on October 22.

Originally intended to be announced “on the margins of” the 2020 World Health Assembly, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead the signing ceremony. They claim “This Declaration further strengthens a coalition to achieve these four pillars: (1) better health for women, (2) the preservation of human life, (3) strengthening of family as the foundational unit of society, and (4) protecting every nation's national sovereignty in global politics.”

The Trump administration has kept up a continuous attack on the principle of international human rights law itself. A Commission on Unalienable Rights, set up by Mike Pompeo, issued areport over the summer described by Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth as“a frontal assault on international human rights law” favouring “anà la carteapproach to rights.”

A draft of the text obtained by The G|O makes it clear that the group is focusing on how to prevent resolutions and decisions in Geneva by the UN’s Human Rights Mechanisms and other specialized organizations such as WHO.

With a clear stance on pro-choice and overt disdain for diversity and inclusion, the document states, amongst other things, that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning” and that “any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process.” It also reaffirms that “the child ... needs special safeguards and care ... before as well as after birth” and that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

All the best,

The Geneva Observer

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