PPC News

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Speaks at Cooper Union

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in New York for the UN General Assembly, gave an address at Cooper Union College on Monday. The event was sponsored by Churches for Middle East Peace. President Abbas was introduced by Ambassador Warren Clark, executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace and a WNDC member, who was also interviewed by news media after the speech. 

President Abbas’s  speech made repeated references to great figures of American history, including Abraham Lincoln, who spoke at Cooper Union, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Abbas compared the courage shown by President Obama and Secretary Kerry in pursuing Middle East peace to the courage demonstrated by Lincoln’s  in arguing “at this very podium”  for the end of slavery. He called on his audience to “rethink Palestine,” and urged the students listening to him to follow the “Seeds of Peace.”  “Seeds of Peace” is an organization, founded in 1993, that brings together Israelis, Palestinians and other high school students in Maine every summer.

Planned protests of his speech did not materialize, although his appearance was highly controversial. 

Speech can be heard  here.  

OSCE’s Michael Link Touts “Relevance” of Alliances in Ukraine Crisis

President Obama is absolutely correct to emphasize building alliances and working to strengthen international organizations to stop ISIS (see “Defeating ISIS—The U.S. Leads a United WorldPPC News 9/11).  It is also correct policy in dealing with the crisis in Ukraine. 

On September 11, Michael Link, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) director of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), spoke in Washington on the “OSCE’s New Relevance and the Ukrainian Crisis.”

No other organization has OSCE/ODIHR mandates, with its Russia/Ukraine border monitoring mission, drone surveying, and election observation. OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) recently took measures (commended by Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter) to rapidly adapt to new monitoring needs arising from the protocol signed in Minsk on September 5.  The SMM also has a clearinghouse mechanism among the parties to deal with cease fire violations.

 Ambassador to Ukraine Ambassador Tagliavini represents the OSCE Chairmanship in a tripartite Contact Group that also includes Ukraine and the Russian Federation. An OSCE official is the only other official at the podium with Vladimir Putin when ceasefires and negotiations have been announced. ODIHR was the organization monitoring the May 25 early Presidential elections, which were a key element in moving towards a solution to the crisis in Ukraine.

With 57 participating States in North America, Europe and Asia, the OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization. If an organization like OSCE—with   its permanent principles of cooperation and consultation as a way of solving and avoiding crises—existed in the Middle East, Mr. Link observed, it would make a vast difference. The post facto building of ad hoc alliances is less effective. “You need rules,” Link said, quoting James Madison, “men are not angels.”

Elizabeth Clark, Chair, PPC International Affairs Task Forcea

Defeating ISIS—The U.S. Leads a United World

The methods and strategy that will defeat the barbarous Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are necessarily “on another planet” from the ISIS world of bloody beheadings and murderous genocides. It is world of interdependence, multilateral cooperation, and action among international and regional organizations. The global unanimity on ISIS is overwhelming—and will reinforce a drive to defeat its ruthless ambitions. 

Indeed that reinforcement is happening now as the UN unanimously condemns ISIS under an UN Charter article that includes the use of military force. The UN crossed into Syria to deliver humanitarian aid without Syria’s permission, theoretically violating Syrian sovereignty. The Arab League is speaking out and acting against ISIS, in de facto alliance with the U.S.

Significantly, at its recent summit meeting in Wales, NATO put the ISIS threat on the NATO table, making it clear that threats NATO must deal with are not artificially contained in one regional framework.

A new idea that is surfacing is that we don’t need fewer international organizations to secure global order, we need more. A New York Times editorial (August 24) stated that “creating a new regional force may be required” to combat ISIS.

 The US cannot “go it alone,” nor can it opt out. U.S. leadership, as President Obama stated yesterday, is the one constant in an uncertain world. We are the indispensable nation leading from within alliances and international and regional organizations. There is little evidence that the Republican Party accepts this new world, however.  After Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke of the vital work of building alliances to combat ISIS on PBS News Hour, his Republican counterpart, Jim Inhofe, spoke only of attacks and threats to the homeland, and repeatedly attacked the President for not having a strategy. But the President does have a strategy. In an interdependent world, when essential, we will rally other nations behind “our common security and common humanity.”

Ellizabeth Spiro Clark, Chair
PPC Human Rights and International Organizations Task Force 

Poverty Disproportionately Affects Minority Children

The 2014 Kids Count Data Book released July 22 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation includes some worrisome facts about child poverty in our country. The official child poverty rate, which had dropped to 16 percent from 1990 to 2000, reached 22 percent by 2010 and remains roughly at that level. Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy development. The chart below from the report shows disparities in poverty rates among minority and non-Hispanic white children. .   


                         Race and Ethnic Gaps in Well-Being of Children



African American


American Indian

Non-Hispanic White

Children in poverty





Children whose parents lack secure employment





Children living in households with a housing cost  burden





Children living in high-poverty areas





Source: The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2014). 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book. Baltimore, MD: Author. Retrieved from http://www.aecf.org/resources/the-2014-kids-count-data-book/.

Spotlight and Solutions for Campus Rape

On July 13, New York Times published “Reporting Rape and Wishing She Hadn’t,” a disturbing narrative of how Hobart and William Smith Colleges handled a rape allegation by a freshman. The victim, Anna, and witnesses described her being raped by members of the school’s popular football team while other students photographed these acts.

After accusing her assailants, Anna was harassed by other students and subjected to threats and obscenities on her dorm door. She did not receive justice: the college investigative panel ignored key evidence, misrepresented Anna’s and witnesses’ statements, and repeatedly interrupted Anna as she attempted to testify. The panel immediately cleared the accused, issuing a statement of their decision only a few hours after the last witness had testified. A local prosecutor also dismissed the case, despite DNA evidence, claiming that he had “nothing to work with” by the time he got the case.  

Student-victims like Anna often report their assaults to their colleges, which cannot discriminate by sex if they receive federal funding, according to Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972. The Department of Education clarified in 2011 through a “Dear Colleague” letter that sexual harassment and violence interferes with the right to a non-discriminatory educational environment. Students’ option to report the crime to the police (rather than rely on the university to handle the case) does not negate the responsibility of universities to provide a safe learning environment. Anna’s story—and  many others, like the settlement by University of Connecticut with five student sexual assault victims for $1.28 million—show that our institutions of higher learning need immediate, systemic reform.

As a result of hundreds of cases like Anna’s, students have mobilized, filing Title IX complaints that have resulted in federal investigations at 71 higher education institutions. The government and universities are addressing the issue also. A White House Task Force released recommendations and plans to evaluate effective prevention strategies in April. Senator Claire McCaskill’s office recently surveyed 440 institutions nationwide, finding that 40 percent of schools had not investigated any assaults (estimated as affecting one in five female students) in five years; one-fifth don’t train faculty and staff, and one-third do not train students. Dartmouth College, with its own problematic history, held a summit with representatives from 60 schools earlier this month.

 Many universities are finally adopting practices that have significant potential to curb such violence:

More …. 

 Veena Trehan

Public Policy Committee