Syria Talks Stall, But Israeli And US Leaders Take Opportunity To Talk Middle East Peace
During a break in talks about the world’s finances, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland to discuss Middle East peace. According to Ha’aretz, the talks focused on details of the draft framework agreement that are likely to become the basis for future negotiations.
Kerry’s moments with Israel’s leader likely were a welcome respite from negotiations over Syria, which did not get off to a good start.
“Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem accused Arab neighbors of sowing terrorism and insurrection, and he dismissed as interlopers the United States and other Western backers of Syrian rebels. He urged attending nations to stop funding the rebels and to leave the Damascus government alone,” reports the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the United Nations mediator for Syrian peace talks, Lakhdar Brahimi, announced plans to convene separate talks with rival delegations before full talks resume on Friday. When and if the talks resume, the sides have yet to come to any semblance of a consensus on what the role of Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad will be moving forward.
UN Report Warns Of Dangers Posed By Inefficient Land Use
According to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), as much as 4 million acres of cropland could be gained in the next six years if food systems shrink their waste footprint and people adopt changes to their inefficient diets.
The report was released at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“If we can do a better job of matching land use with land potential, we won’t need as much land,” said Jeffrey Herrick, one of the authors of the report.
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said it is critical to recognize that “land is a finite resource” that will not last forever.
“The findings of the International Resources Panel show that the world has witnessed an unprecedented sharp decline in terrestrial ecosystem services and functions during the past decades. Forests and wetlands have been converted to agricultural land to feed growing populations but at a cost that is not sustainable,” he said.
Does The Road To Stability In Sudan Begin At The Grassroots Level?
Mark Fathi Massoud believes the path to stability in Sudan may have to start on the grassroots level. He points to Somaliland as an example which leaders in civil society could model their movement.
“In 1991, the breakaway region of Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia after decades of authoritarian rule and civil war. Here, respected local elders banded together at the grass roots – and without Western support – to build a regional model of democracy from the bottom up. Today, Somaliland is a bastion of local stability amid a wider state collapse. Fortunately, several groups in South Sudanese civil society hold the potential to foster this kind of grass-roots reconciliation, including local elders, religious leaders, women’s groups, and health professionals working with youth torn apart by decades of war.”
He says the lead may be taken by women activists, who have been outspoken on matters related to human rights abuses and to promote relief programs focused on displaced and marginalized persons. Unlike in many Middle Eastern nations, African women serve an integral role in society performing various duties and tasks critical to the functioning of the local villages.
“Church pastors and community leaders – of both genders – are another important resource that could help diffuse tensions. Aid groups typically cannot enter new areas without the support and help of local elders or others who hold their community’s confidence. And even without foreign assistance, locally instituted dialogues among these community leaders can help to bridge divides, as the case of Somaliland reveals,” he adds.