Tag Archives | United Nations

Global Knowledge and Transnational Crime

posted by Thaddeus B. Herman

On Tuesday, Oct. 16th, the Center for Global Studies held its second event in a year-long series dedicated to the globalization of knowledge. Around 20 individuals attended to hear Dr. Yulia Zabyelina, Assistant Professor at John Jay college of Criminal Justice at City University of New York, speak about Transnational Organized Crime. Zabyelina’s scholarship relates to ‘crimes of the powerful’ – defined as crimes committed at the upper levels of government where it is difficult for individuals to be prosecuted or held responsible.

Zabyelina opened the event by asking the question “How does legal immunity provide an opportunity for serious misconduct to its holders?” This question relates to the topic of research she is currently undertaking in preparation for a new book. In her research, Zabyelina focuses on misconduct by representatives of the state, specifically diplomatic representatives.

Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) is different than organized crime. Organized crime elicits services that are in response to public demand, are often associated with the desire to have monopoly control in a particular area, and use a pattern of violence and/or corruption through methods of extortion, loan sharking, gambling, bootlegging, or prostitution, among others. TOC, on the other hand, is defined by the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNCTOC) as an offence that has been:

  • Committed in more than one State;
  • Committed in one State but a substantial part of its preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another State;
  • Committed in one State but involves an organized criminal group that engages in criminal activities in more than one State; or
  • Committed in one State but has substantial effects in another State.

Conventional forms of TOC have included drug or human trafficking, migrant smuggling, or firearms trafficking. Whereas new and emerging forms include natural resource trafficking, counterfeit goods trafficking, cultural property trafficking, and cybercrime.

In her presentation, Zabyelina pointed out that typical theories dealing with crimes focus on causes such as poverty or lack of general opportunity because of life’s circumstances. TOC, on the other hand, is committed by smart, capable individuals who engage in sophisticated operations. This “elite deviance” is perpetrated by those who commit crimes despite having high educational and financial means. While Zabyelina pointed out there is literature on corporate crime and corruption, she intends for her research to fill an important gap in knowledge on elite deviance through TOC. Elite deviants are those who, according to the Criminaloid theory posited by Cesare Lombroso in 1876, project a respectable, upright façade in an attempt to conceal a criminal personality, enjoy the respect of society, and – because of their established connections with the government – are less likely to meet with opposition.

Zabyelina’s research is focusing on those individuals who have legal immunity that exempts them from search, arrest, and civil or criminal prosecution. Often, legal immunity also includes privileges such as exception from fiscal obligations. Individuals who may receive immunity are usually Heads of State, diplomatic corps, international civil servants, peacekeepers, MPs, or judges. The legal sources for diplomatic immunity vary from international conventions, such as the Vienna Convention of 1961 or the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies of 1947, to local domestic laws and constitutions of various States. Diplomatic agents are of particular interest to Zabyelina and were defined by her as “a public official who acts as an intermediary between a foreign nation (the receiving state) and the nation which employed and accredited the diplomat agent (the sending State)”. Diplomatic agents of various types make up a diplomatic corps and may hold titles as ambassadors, envoys, ministers plenipotentiary, chargé d’affaires, consuls and vice-consuls, or administrative and technical staff of diplomatic missions.

A typology of offenses by a diplomatic corps was offered by Zabyelina as one fruit of her research. This typology included four types of abuse:

  1. State-authority crime: crime committed on behalf of state institutions
  2. Diplomats as victims: crime without the diplomatic agent’s conscious involvement or knowledge
  3. Diplomats as co-conspirators: diplomats who have deliberately exploited legal immunity to profit from criminal activity
  4. Diplomats as principle offenders: diplomats who have abused diplomatic entitlements for profit as the principal perpetrator of a criminal act.

She provided several case studies to illustrate this abuse. Zabyelina pointed out that the North Korean government has been involved in state-sponsored criminal activity in order to help fund the regime, which is an example of the first type of abuse. As an example of the second type of abuse, Zabyelina highlighted an event that took place in 2012 which saw a shipment of drugs to the United Nations headquarters from Mexico in what appeared to be an imitation of a diplomatic pouch – which traditionally have not been subject to search. As no diplomat was found to be responsible for the crime, this act was perceived as an example of diplomats as victims of crimes. An example of the last type of crime comes from an event where an Ethiopian diplomat was arrested at Heathrow Airport for attempting to smuggle 123 pounds of cannabis through security. When detained, she attempted to use diplomatic immunity as a way to escape consequences of her actions. Her activity resulted in a prison sentence of 33 months.

The presentation ended with an open question followed by discussion with a lively interaction between the audience and presenter. An attendee asked how Zabyelina finds source material from states – especially when it is related to deviant behavior committed by their own diplomats. Zabyelina identified five areas from where she gathers her information:

  1. Mass media and journalism
  2. Court files
  3. Her colleague’s connection to the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services – where her college has interns working to help collect information
  4. Reports or investigations undertaken by international organizations
  5. Interviews with diplomats, members of the chambers of commerce, employees of the New York Police Department, and members of the US State Department

Overall it was an event which elaborated upon a very interesting aspect of global knowledge production.  For more information on the topic,  please look at the library guide – Global Knowledge and Transnational Crime.

 

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Happy Birthday, United Nations!

un_day1

October 24th marks United Nations Day, the anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Charter in 1945.  The United Nations uses this day as an opportunity to not only celebrate the collaborative efforts of member nations, but also to reaffirm pressing endeavors of the organization and to lay out goals for the year to come. In his UN Day message for 2014, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated, “At this critical moment, let us reaffirm our commitment to empowering the marginalized and vulnerable.  On United Nations Day, I call on Governments and individuals to work in common cause for the common good.”

One such common effort of United Nations member states will be the Post-2015 Development Agenda, a plan currently under construction to succeed the Millennium Development Goals as a framework for global development that will stretch to 2030. While the push to achieve the MDGs continues through the plan’s target date of December 2015, United Nations organs and agencies will immediately undertake the new development agenda after 2015.  As described in a previous post on Global Currents, the process of developing a post-2015 agenda for development has been underway since 2010, when the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda was created, as well as a High-level Panel of Eminent Persons to advise on the post-2015 developmental framework.

In early October, the High-Level Panel released an interactive online report on the agenda, entitled  “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies Through Sustainable Development.”  Through their research, which involved consultations on the individual, company, and national level through The World We Want, the panel developed 12 Illustrative Goals for global development based on Five Transformative Shifts. These goals build on the Millenium Development Goals and extend and transform them to satisfy the opinions of the public and the shifting needs of the world.  The Five Transformative Shifts are as follows:

  1. Leave no one behind.
  2. Put sustainable development at the core.
  3. Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth.
  4. Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all.
  5. Forge a new global partnership.

While the transformative shifts represent ambiguous, widely arching objectives, the 12 illustrative goals delineate just how the transformative shifts can be implemented in more specific, measurable terms. The Panel believes that if the 12 Illustrative Goals are reached, then these shifts will be accomplished. The UN hopes to use the momentum that was started by the Millennium Development Goals to keep member states and UN agencies moving towards worldwide improvement in areas such as poverty, hunger, water, sanitation, education and healthcare.

Consult the sources below for more information on Global Development and the United Nations’ Development Agenda:

Websites

Report on Post-2015 Agenda by High-level Panel of Imminent Persons

The World We Want 2015

List of UN Partners on MDGs

U.S. Agency for International Development

Human Rights Watch

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC Online Journals and Databases)

Brolan, C. E., Lee, S., Kim, D., & Hill, P. S. (2014). Back to the future: what would the post-2015 global development goals look like if we replicated methods used to construct the millennium development goals?. Globalization & Health, 10(1), 1-15.

Cook, Sarah, Dugarova, Esuna (2014). Rethinking Social Development for a Post-2015 World. Development, 57(1), 30–35.

Slack, L. (2014). The post-2015 Global Agenda – a role for local government. Commonwealth Journal Of Local Governance, (15), 173-177.

Books

Black, Robert E.,, Singhal, Atul,Uauy, Ricardo. (Eds.) (2014). International nutrition :achieving millennium goals and beyond. Basel, Switzerland : Karger ; Vevey, Switzerland : Nestlé Nutrition Institut.

Dodds, Felix., Laguna Celis, Jorge.Thompson, Elizabeth. (2014). From Rio+20 to a new development agenda: building a bridge to a sustainable future. London ; New York : Routledge.

Haslam, Paul Alexander,, Schafer, Jessica,, Beaudet, Pierre,Haslam, Paul Alexander. (Eds.) (2012). Introduction to international development :approaches, actors, and issues. Don Mills, Ontario, Canada : Oxford University Press.

 

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World Press Freedom Day 2014

World Press Freedom Index 2014 map: “freedom of the press worldwide.” (By Reporters Without Borders)

The Importance of Free Press

Saturday, May 3rd marks World Press Freedom Day 2014. This event, organized by UNESCO, presents a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the importance of free press and intellectual freedom, and the great impact that these issues have on creating a world with just and corruption-free governance.  The role of journalism is to bring issues of government, culture, science, environment, and society into the public light – to inform the people and hopefully to spark dialogues that include the diverse public into the process of shaping public policy.  A UNESCO press release explains that a free news media not only helps in policy shaping but also leads to the reduction of poverty through intellectual empowerment and increased mobility of groups that can be disproportionately affected by poverty, such as women and youth.

Global Obstacles to Free Press

In order to provide this service, journalists and the news media need to be free to report the news truthfully. In many places around the world, journalists do not have this freedom.  UNESCO reports that journalists face obstacles including censorship, arrest, and even threats of physical harm and death.  It is the goal of organizations such as Reporters without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, and many more, to protect the rights of journalists and raise awareness about the threats to press freedom that exist in the world.

Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2014 ranks countries based on pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency,  and infrastructure.  The United States has fallen thirteen places on the list in the past year, currently residing in 46th place.  This change is largely due to the government’s efforts to increase security and track down whistleblowers and leaks. These actions by the government, according to Reporters Without Borders, inhibit journalists from revealing information to the public that may be in the interest of the public good.  Other countries have fallen on the list because of armed conflict. These countries include Lebanon and Iraq (due to the conflict in neighboring Syria), and Mali, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (due to the activities of guerrilla and terrorist groups in the region). In some cases, organized crime is a danger to journalists and has caused a decline in press freedom in certain countries, most notably Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, and Paraguay.

Improving Press Freedom for the Future

Increasing press freedom is a major goal of the UN’s Post-2015 Development Goals.  Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”  The 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Protocols Additional 1 and 2 to the Geneva Conventions also include provisions for press freedom.  These international agreements create a powerful impetus for countries around the world to keep striving for greater press freedom and to keep assessing the ways that journalists and reporters are treated.

Additional Organizations

ARTICLE 19 is an international human rights organisation which defends and promotes freedom of expression and freedom of information all over the world.

The Ethical Journalism Initiative website is a new campaign to rekindle old values in media worldwide, launched by the International Federation of Journalists.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) is a press advocacy group representing media organizations in North America, South America and the Caribbean.

The International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) is a global network of around 90 non-governmental organisations that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression.

The International News Safety Institute (INSI) is a coalition of news organisations, journalist support groups and individuals exclusively dedicated to the safety of news media staff working in dangerous environments.

International Press Institute is the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, dedicated to freedom of the press and improving the standards and practices of journalism.

News and Websites

Tadias – World Free Press Day 2014

UNESCO – Free Media Contribute to Good Governance, Empowerment and Eradicating Poverty

UNESCO Freedom of Expression Toolkit – A Guide for Students

Press freedom in the digital age: new threats, new challenges – The Council of Europe’s Commissioner: Human Rights Comment

Webcast of the UN Briefing for World Press Freedom Day 2014 – May 1, 2014

Scholarly Articles (Available through UIUC E-journals)

Policinski, G. (2012). A Free Press? It’s Not That Simple. Insights On Law & Society12(3), 4-7.

THEMUDO, N. S. (2013). Reassessing the Impact of Civil Society: Nonprofit Sector, Press Freedom, and Corruption. Governance26(1), 63-89. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0491.2012.01602.x

Books at the UIUC Library

Czepek, Andrea.; Hellwig, Melanie; Nowak, Eva. (Eds.) (2009). Press freedom and pluralism in Europe :concepts and conditionsBristol, UK: Intellect.

Knightley, Phillip. (2004) The first casualty :the war correspondent as hero and myth-maker from the Crimea to Iraq Baltimore, Md. : Johns Hopkins University Press,

Price, Monroe E.,; Abbott, Susan; Morgan, Libby. (Eds.) (2011). Measures of press freedom and media contributions to development: evaluating the evaluatorsNew York : Peter Lang.

Siegel, Paul. (2014). Communication law in America. Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield.

Smith, Dean C.. (2013).  A theory of shield laws :journalists, their sources, and popular constitutionalismEl Paso : LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC.

Wasserman, Herman. (Eds.) (2013). Press freedom in Africa :comparative perspectivesLondon : Routledge.

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The Politics of Water

 

The Problem:

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing humanitarian crises facing the world today.  Access to water resources has far-reaching political and social implications, especially in areas where water is scarce. Natural water basins do not comply with man-made political borders, and as a result the allocation of precious water resources becomes a point of negotiation in transnational treaties and agreements.   Adding to the politicization of water is the connection between water and energy production.  Water is needed for all types of energy production, and energy is needed for the extraction and dissemination of clean water (UNIDO, 2014).

Water also affects social and cultural issues, such as gender and income inequality.  Since women are traditionally the family members responsible for the retrieval of water, women end up spending many hours of their day collecting water (many times still from polluted or unclean sources) for their family’s survival rather than working outside the home or pursuing education.  When people must spend such a large portion of their time procuring basic resources such as water, their ability to better their situation through work or education becomes even more limited.  This means that the poorest people in the world remain poor, as long as they are struggling daily to obtain water.

Probably the most heart wrenching aspects of the global water crisis is its disproportionate effect on children.   Unicef reported in 2013 that over 2,000 children die every day from diarrheal diseases, an estimated 1,800 of which stem from issues of water and hygiene. Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programme, puts these numbers into perspective, saying, “The numbers can be numbing, but they represent real lives, of real children. Every child is important. Every child has the right to health, the right to survive, the right to a future that is as good as we can make it” (UNICEF, 2013).

Solutions:

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals address the issue of clean water and sanitation. Target 7.C of the goals promises to, “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation” (UN, 2013).  According to the UN website, this goal was met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.  More than 2 billion people gained improved access to drinking water between 1990 and 2010.

How are these goals being met?  In addition to awareness campaigns such as World Water Day (which happens to be coming up on March 22nd!), there are countless organizations working to provide clean and accessible drinking water to the world’s poor and to manage and conserve freshwater resources.  Many organizations work to set up programs in water-scarce countries that provide financing to families and communities for setting up clean water and sanitation services.  Others directly provide wells, pumps, and latrines, as well as training for community members on maintaining the clean-water technology.  Organizations range from non-profits to institutional coalitions to for-profit companies that donate a portion of profits to the cause. These types of charities and organizations are making strides in bringing safe and clean water to world populations, but it is a massive undertaking and the effort will require cooperation across cultures and political borders.

Learn more about water! Check out the resources below:

Websites

FAO Legal Office – Water Treaties Database

UNESCO Water Links Worldwide

27 Water Crisis Orgs to Follow Right Now

World Water Day 2014

UN Millenium Development Goals

Selected Scholarly Articles (Accessed through UIUC E-Journals)

Ciampi, M. (2013). ‘Water divide’ in the global risk society. International Review Of Sociology, 23(1), 243-260.

Lall, U., Heikkila, T., Brown, C., & Siegfried, T. (2008). WATER IN THE 21ST CENTURY: DEFINING THE ELEMENTS OF GLOBAL CRISES AND POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS. Journal Of International Affairs, 61(2), 1-17.

Sivakumar, Bellie. (2011). Water Crisis: from conflict to cooperation, an overview. Hydrological Sciences Journal. 56(4), 531-552.

Trottier, J. (2008). Water crises: political construction or physical reality?. Contemporary Politics, 14(2), 197-214.

Latest Books at UIUC Library

Allan, J. A. (Eds.) (2013). Handbook of land and water grabs in Africa: foreign direct investment and food and water security. London : Routledge.

Chellaney, Brahma. (2013). Water, peace, and war :confronting the global water crisis. Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Groenfeldt, David. (2013). Water ethics: a values approach to solving the water crisis. Abingdon : Earthscan from Routledge.

Hughes, Richard. (2013). Religion, law, and the present water crisis. New York : Peter Lang.

Thielbörger, Pierre.. (2013). The right(s) to water: the multi-level governance of a unique human right.  Berlin : Springer.

Additional Resources from UIUC

Multimedia: 

How to Ensure Sustainable Access to Water for Food in a World of Growing Scarcity

Problematizing Production Potential: Water Scarcity, Access, and Borders in the 21st Century Agricultural Economy

 

 

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New Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report: Debates and Implications

Climate change is an issue that, perhaps more than any other, exemplifies the complexity of intergovernmental cooperation and international policymaking. For decades, climate change has been debated and discussed in the forum of international politics, most notably since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was negotiated in 1992. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988, produces reports on the status of climate change based on the latest in peer-reviewed scientific literature on the topic. Since its inception, the IPCC has published four major reports on the status of climate change, each of which have been heavily relied upon by policymakers worldwide in creating environmental policy at the national and international levels.
This week, the IPCC released Working Group I of the Fifth Assessment Report (Working groups II, III, and the Final Synthesis Report will be released in 2014.) The report states that it is “extremely likely” that human activities have been a contributing factor to climate change in the last 60 years. This shows an increase in certainty of human involvement in climate change since the IPCC’s last report in 2007. The report provides projections of future climate change, with four scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides a peak “target” level of greenhouse gas emissions, at which climate changes will become irreversible.
Since becoming a topic of international discussion, as well as grounds for national and international environmental policy, the science of climate change has often been mired in public skepticism. The IPCC itself came under attack by skeptics in 2009, when thousands of emails between IPCC scientists were leaked to the public. Critics claimed that the emails showed negligence and even deliberate tampering of climate data. While eight independent committees found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct in the emails, public distrust of climate science remains an issue and influences environmental policy.
Nevertheless, international leaders are certain to draw upon the findings of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report in negotiating a new treaty to reduce emissions. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, plans to assemble a panel of world leaders in 2014 to negotiate just such a treaty, and once again the world will watch as climate change becomes a forum for international debate and policymaking.

Official releases on the new study:

Summary of the UN Committee’s finding for policymakers
IPCC Press Release
IPCC “More Info” page about AR5

Press coverage of AR5:

New York Times
Reuters

Official government policies on climate change:

EU Summary of policy on climate change
EPA website on climate change

Selected Books at UIUC Library on Climate Change/Politics:

Boasson, Elin Lerum; Wettestad, Jørgen. (2013) EU Climate Policy: industry, policy interaction and external environment. Farnham, Surrey, England : Ashgate.

Kellow, Aynsley J.Boehmer-Christiansen, Sonja. (Eds.) (2010) The international politics of climate change. Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar.

Osofsky, Hari M.; McAllister, Lesley K. (2012) Climate change law and policy. New York : Wolters Kluwer.

Wang, Weiguang; Zheng, Guoguang; Pan, Jiahua. (Eds.) (2012) China’s climate change policies. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; Routledge.

Scholarly articles on politics of climate change:

Andonova, L. B., Betsill, M. M., & Bulkeley, H. (2009). Transnational Climate Governance. Global Environmental Politics, 9(2), 52-73.

Compston, H. (2010). The Politics of Climate Policy: Strategic Options for National Governments. Political Quarterly, 81(1), 107-115.

Davidson, S. (2010). Climategate hits the IPCC. Institute Of Public Affairs Review, 62(1), 26-28.

Ravindranath, N. H. (2010). IPCC: accomplishments, controversies and challenges. Current Science, 99(1), 26-35.

Zajko, M. (2011). The Shifting Politics of Climate Science. Society, 48(6), 457-461.

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Global Issues Surrounding the Syrian Civil War

The conflict in Syria has garnered the attention of the world since its inception in 2011, prompting the international community to address issues of terrorism, chemical weapons, and the growing humanitarian and refugee crisis arising from the struggle. In 2012, the United Nations, the League of Arab States, and the Foreign Ministers of the world’s leading powers agreed to the Geneva Plan, which sought to end the violence in Syria and facilitate a Democratic transition in the country. The plan, however, has thus far failed to be implemented and the conflict has only intensified, with tensions rising in the international community. Tensions have come to a high point in August and September of 2013 as UN weapons inspectors confirmed that chemical weapons were used in an attack near Damascus that killed more than 300 people. UN negotiations to craft a resolution to rid Syria of chemical weapons are the current focal point of disagreements between the United States and Russia. The framework of a deal to eliminate Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons was agreed upon by United States and Russian representatives in the UN on September 14th. However, negotiations are ongoing concerning the details of the deal and how it should be enforced, with the United States threatening the use of force if the chemical weapons are not given up.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues to escalate. The UN refugee agency estimates the number of refugees that have crossed the border since the conflict began in 2011 to be over 2 million, a number that is rising by 5,000 daily. The surge of displaced Syrians into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq creates the immense challenge of providing the refugees with food, housing, and healthcare. Moreover, millions of Syrians remaining in the country are in need of humanitarian aid. UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos stated during an appeal for humanitarian aid in Syria that, “Ordinary women, men and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis” (UNOCA, 2013). Although humanitarian organizations have made an immense effort to help those in need, the escalating violence continues to place the Syrian people in danger.

Check out the video of the recent Teach-in on Syria, from the Center for Global Studies at UIUC.

Latest Books at UIUC Library on Syrian Conflict:
• Martini, Jeffrey; York, Erin; Young, William. (2013) Syria as an arena of strategic competition Santa Monica, CA: Rand Group.
• Pierret, Thomas. (2013). Religion and state in Syria :the Sunni Ulama from coup to revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• Wieland, Carsten., Almquist, Adam., Nassif, Helena.Hinnebusch, Raymond. (2013) The Syrian uprising: dynamics of an insurgency. Fife, Scotland: University of St. Andrews Centre for Syrian Studies.

Major News Outlets on Syria:
The Guardian – Latest news from Syria

Al Jazeera – Syria’s War

CBS News In-depth coverage of Syria Crisis:

BBC News – Syria Conflict

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