New Year resolutions that matter. There are millions of these, circulating the globe. Here are some of my favorites — past and present. All are a public diplomacy challenge to the U.S. and its allies, as noted below.
1.The tragedy of COVID-19 continues to be overwhelming, especially in developing countries. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reports that an expert panel estimated that “even under a moderate scenario of what lies ahead an additional 168,000 children will die in poorer regions of the world because of the coronavirus.
The paradox,” says Mr. Kristof, “is that if the world moves aggressively to address the crisis” in needy lands, “the year could be remembered a blip. But the nightmare is a prolonged crisis in the poor countries and a turning point — on our watch — that ends the march of progress for humanity.”
2. Then there’s plight of those in needy regions who have helped fellow citizens survive, but who desperately need assistance if they, too, are to survive. Anne Gearan of the Washington Post reports: “Mohammad F., an interpreter who worked for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, remains desperate for help to resettle in the United States.
“Mr. President-elect Joe Biden,” he writes in broken English: “We helped you achieve your mission, now you help us to get to safety [correct spelling, from a beginner in English]. Thank you very much.”
To the American Midwest
3. And there’s the clarion call of need for help here at home. In a CNN newsletter published January 2 called “The Good”, there’s the story of Dr. Richard Bates, who’s voluntarily driving COVID-19 vaccines to a rural area 150 miles away from his workplace at the MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland, Michigan.
The obstetrician realized that acquiring the vaccine may be easier said than done at smaller, distant medical centers. Last month, Dr. Bates drove almost 150 miles in his silver pickup truck to transport a cooler carrying 130 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to a Midland Hospital. His destination: Alpena, Michigan, a city of 10,000 people on Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay.
Dr. Bates says watching his fellow physicians and nurses get the vaccine, some in tears of relief, “is an unbelievable experience, not unlike delivering a new baby. He plans to make at least four of the three-hour round trips to make sure people in Alpena get the protection they need.
And a tribute to a remarkable Middle East envoy
4. Seldom, in these times of turmoil, is there sufficient recognition of silent but essential diplomatic efforts to ease tensions in this conflict-ridden region. As 2021 dawns, New York Times correspondent David M. Halbfinger chronicles the remarkable, largely unheralded achievements of a retiring United Nations envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Preventive diplomacy by its nature,” the Times correspondent writes, “does not often lead to splashy headlines for the practitioner.” He’s referring to Nickolay E. Mladenov, who worked quietly behind the scenes the past six years to help keep the Gaza strip from boiling over, to preserve the possibility of a two-state (Israeli-Palestinian) easing of tensions. Mr. Mladenov’s main tasks: to keep those tensions in check and build support for Arab-Israeli diplomatic normalization as a vastly preferable alternative to the Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
- In the Times correspondent’s view, Mr. Mladenov “did notch at least one achievement that is eye-catching. He earned the respect of just about everyone he dealt with, many of whom view one another as enemies.”
- A very honest broker,” said Rami Hamdallah, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.
- Moshe Kahlon, a former Israeli finance minister: “I personally depended on him.” in the words of Jason Greenlatt, a former U.S. envoy to the Middle East: “A man of integrity.”
According to Times correspondent Halbfinger, the departing mediator conceded that he “caught flak” because of his bluntness. “I don’t talk about this conflict in the usual way… You cannot go into a Tel Aviv restaurant, shoot at people, and tell me later it was legitimate resistance. No. it’s not.”
Mr. Mladenov was equally candid, according to the Times correspondent, when Israeli soldiers killed a 15-year-old Palestinian Gaza boy during demonstrations in 2018. He tweeted: “Stop shooting at children!”
Truth and the wisdom of the ages
5. Former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Schulz turned 100 years old just days before 2020 turned into 2021. “The best leaders,” he observed, “trust their followers with the truth and you know what happens as a result? Their followers trust them back. With that bond, they can do big, hard things together, changing the world for the better.” Might that be a hinge event for the Middle East in 2021, just months after four Arab states — Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates — recognized Israel?
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More