Clinton fears efforts to ‘re-Sovietize’ Europe

Updated 07 December 2012
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Clinton fears efforts to ‘re-Sovietize’ Europe

DUBLIN: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned yesterday about a new effort by oppressive governments to “re-Sovietize” much of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Speaking to a group of lawyers and civil society advocates on the sidelines of an international human rights conference, Clinton took aim at what she described as a new wave of repressive tactics and laws aimed at criminalizing US outreach efforts. The trends are indicative of a larger reversal of freedoms for citizens of Russia, Belarus, Turkmenistan and other countries that emerged from the breakup of the Soviet Union two decades ago.
“There is a move to re-Sovietize the region,” Clinton lamented.
“It’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that,” she said, referring to Russian-led efforts for greater regional integration. “But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.”
In a windswept tent outside the Dublin conference center hosting the annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Clinton heard tales of struggle from 11 human rights advocates.
Andrey Aranbaev, an environmentalist from Turkmenistan, accused Western nations of forsaking his compatriots.
“My country Turkmenistan is world-famous for two things: one of the largest gas supplies and gross human rights violations,” he said through an interpreter. “Almost all international actors are talking about Turkmenistan’s gas. But almost no one is talking about the gross human rights violations.”
“Human rights and democracy in Turkmenistan was sold for gas,” Aranbaev added.
Igor Kochetkov of the Russian LGBT Network said Russian authorities were trying to prohibit even the discussion of discrimination based on sexual orientation. And Olga Zakharova, a journalist with Freedom Files in Russia, said even use of social media was becoming more restrictive.
Clinton said she understood the complaints many of them lodged.
“We agree with your assessment that the space for civil society and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms is shrinking, and governments are becoming much more aggressive in trying to stifle dissent, prevent the free expression and exchange of views,” she said.
“It’s distressing that 20 years into the post-Soviet era ... so many of the hoped-for indicators of progress are retreating,” Clinton said. “And the impact on individuals and organizations is becoming more oppressive.”
Clinton said there is a concerted effort to eliminate both American and international assistance for human rights advocates.
“We are trying to fight that, but it is very difficult,” she said. “We will have to come up with new ways to support you, since everything we have been doing in some places, most notably Russia, is being criminalized. And the impact is not so great on us, but it’s terrible on you.”
The problem is compounded by America’s limited influence with some governments, she added.
In Belarus, “we have struck out so far,” Clinton said.


Drought adds to Afghanistan woes

Afghan children fill canisters with water from a water pump outside their temporary homes on the outskirts of Jalalabad. Files/AFP
Updated 27 May 2018
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Drought adds to Afghanistan woes

  • Intensified conflict in many parts of the country is worsening the effects of the drought
  • More than $115 million was required for a six-month response in the 20 provinces

KABUL: Rain and snow are as important as peace for Afghanistan. But the landlocked and mountainous country this year had its lowest rainfall for years, causing widespread drought and leaving 2 million people facing food shortages.
Livestock in many areas have died, and some farmers have been forced to send their herds for pasture to neighboring Turkmenistan.
Thousands of people have left their homes already due to water shortages, with fears that the situation will worsen in autumn, Afghan and UN officials say.
Twenty of the country’s 34 provinces, including the northern region — Afghanistan’s food basket — have been badly affected, they said.
The aid-reliant Afghan government has begun delivering aid to affected areas. But assistance will be needed for months to come. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said rapid action was needed to enable delivery of food and water. More than $115 million was required for a six-month response in the 20 provinces, it said.
“Drought is gripping large parts of Afghanistan, with more than 2 million people expected to become severely food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance for survival,” OCHA said.
“A quick, comprehensive response will enable the delivery of food and water to the rural villages and help to avoid the migration of families to cities where they risk losing all of their few possessions, and where they lack shelter and access to health facilities and schools for their children,” it said.
Water points and fountains across the country have dried up, and the lack of rain and snow melt has made rivers run low or dry up, the organization said.
About 1.5 million goats and sheep in northeast regions are struggling to find food and more than half of the 1,000 villages in the province are suffering from lack of water.
Intensified conflict in many parts of the country is worsening the effects of the drought, limiting communities’ access to markets.
In Helmand, village elders reportedly need to obtain special approval from the armed groups to access markets in areas under government control.
In Uruzgan province, people often cannot access the main market in Tirinkot due to fighting and insecurity on the roads to the provincial capital. Following a temporary closure of the road to neighboring Kandahar province in April due to fighting, wheat prices went up by 50 percent in the city, and the price for fresh produce quadrupled within days.
Engineer Mohammed Sediq Hassani, chief of planning in the government’s Disaster Management Department, said the drought has directly and indirectly taken the lives of dozens of people.

“The impact of drought in terms of taking lives is intangible and slow. An indirect impact can be the recent floods, which claimed the lives of 73 people. Floods happen when there is a drought because of the change of the climate,” he told Arab News.