The Global Affairs team share some of the most important weekly headlines that you may otherwise have missed.
A note from the editor
What a week it’s been!
Debates over aid for Israel, Ukraine and Gaza in the US. A former Trump Lawyer pleading guilty on a count of conspiracy. India preparing for its upcoming manned space flight in 2024. All while UK inflation refuses to budge.
A lot goes on Outside OX1, however a lot also occurs within it. This week we will be featuring a spotlight for ‘A History of Ordinary People in Africa’, an exhibition which aims to share the everyday experiences of those who live in Sudan.
While the aim of Outside OX1 is to… well… look outside OX1, we also encourage our readers to explore what’s available to them in Oxford. While it may be hard to fathom in the gloomy depths of the Social Sciences library or as you risk your life on the Cowley Road roundabout, there are a lot of fascinating speakers, events and exhibitions on Global Affairs which take place every week.
There’s a ton of interesting events out there. If any of these stories interest you then make sure to take advantage of them!
*David – Make sure to read this week’s OX1 first of course!
Biden calls for $105 billion in aid for Israel, Ukraine and Gaza
President Joe Biden has submitted a supplemental funding request to Congress, pledging to provide crucial military and humanitarian assistance in Ukraine and Israel. The total cost of the proposal is pegged at just over $105 billion.
The administration is seeking $61.4. billion for Ukraine to replenish Pentagon stockpiles, sustain the economy and provide critical services to displaced civilians. The news follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s announcement on Friday that Ukrainian troops had successfully resisted a Russian offensive on the eastern town of Avdiivka, seen by many as a gateway to the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk.
A further $14.3 billion is earmarked for Israel, of which $10.6 billion would be allocated to military aid and the strengthening of the Iron Dome missile defense system. The proposal includes a separate $9.15 billion commitment to humanitarian aid in both Ukraine and the blockaded Palestinian Gaza Strip.
Biden has also called for $13.6 billion for domestic border security operations, including additional asylum officers, law enforcement personnel, and measures to clamp down on the flow of fentanyl into the country. According to the funding request, $2 billion would also be directed towards ‘security assistance’ in the Indo-Pacific region and Taiwan as it tries to stave off aggression from China.
Addressing the nation from the Oval Office on Thursday, Biden characterized the threat posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and terror group Hamas as “pure unadulterated evil” which corrodes democracy itself. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has also stressed the need for urgent and decisive action, commenting that the budget request comes at a global “inflection point”. However, Congressional approval for Biden’s sweeping proposals is likely to be complicated by standstill in the House, which remains without a speaker.
It is expected that the administration will submit another request for supplemental funds in the coming days to strengthen natural disaster relief efforts and contribute resources towards FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
20 Truck Loads Through the Rafah to the Gaza Strip
Humanitarian aid has been finally allowed to make its way to the Gaza Strip as of October 20th, 2023.
This past Wednesday US president Joe Biden visited Israel to negotiate sending aid to Gaza through the Rafah crossing. After much deliberation from multiple parties, it was decided that 20 trucks of humanitarian aid would be sent to Gaza to provide relief. This deal was made between the US, Israel and Egypt, according to The Guardian.
The 20th of October convoys passed through the Rafah crossing in order to aid 2.3 million civilians that desperately needed water, food, fuel, and other basic human supplies. Antonio Guterres is the UN secretary-general, and during his visit to Cario he said, “We need food, water, medicine and fuel now. We need it at scale and we need it to be sustained, it is not one small operation that is required.”
However, without sufficient amounts of supplies the people in Gaza are prone to starvation, due to only eating one meal a day. Hospital workers have limited supplies, and they cannot properly treat the civilians that have been caught in the middle of the crossfire.
World Food Programme, Cindy McCain reported to Al Jazeera saying, “The situation inside Gaza is dire. Not only is there no food, there is no water, electricity, or fuel. And that combination is not only catastrophic but can lead to more starvation and disease as well,” she said. “We’ve got to get more trucks in.”
James Bays a foreign correspondent for Al Jazeera, said that it’s “significant” that supplies are crossing through Rafah because there is hope that more aid can be sent through in the future. Yet, the amount of supplies needs to increase later on in order to provide more support for the Gazan people.
Additionally, Gaza’s residents were relying on 100 loads daily of humanitarian aid even before the conflict took flight, according to Reuters. Now, lesser amounts of materials are making their way through the border, and this leaves the civilians to ration what was already in short supply. However, the people want peace more than anything else. They want the bombing to cease because they’re tired of seeing their loved ones dying and their homes being destroyed.
A civilian Salwa Abu Taya said, “we want safety, we are civilians, not soldiers, children are out on the street, this is one, two, three, four young children they all ended up on the street, with no food or water, not even international protection nor human rights.”
The war has shown that they don’t have basic human rights because these civilians don’t have access to food, water, and their lives are being threatened everyday.
This ongoing conflict has proven the resilience of the people that live on the Gaza Strip, and their strength continues to grow as they grapple with the repercussions of war.
UN attempts to negotiate a humanitarian ceasefire amidst Hamas-Israel conflict
This week witnessed an enduring escalation in the Israel-Hamas conflict, with ceasefire agreements remaining elusive.
In a bid to broker peace, diplomatic efforts were initiated at the United Nations, starting with a resolution tabled by Russia on 16th October 2023 (1). Aimed at instituting a humanitarian ceasefire amidst the Gaza strife, the resolution however stumbled at the voting stage, facing opposition from France, Japan, the UK, and the US.
The following day marked a grim episode as an explosion at Gaza’s Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital claimed hundreds of lives. The incident sparked protests across the Middle East, with fingers being pointed at an Israeli airstrike (2). Contrarily, Israeli forces attributed the blast to a misfired rocket by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group (3).
On 18th October, Brazil stepped onto the diplomatic stage, proposing a resolution to establish humanitarian pauses for aid delivery to Gaza. Unlike the earlier Russian resolution, this one condemned Hamas, but was vetoed by a US veto (4).
Come 21st October, Cairo, Egypt became the backdrop for a peace summit, convening nations like Jordan, Palestine, France, Russia, China, the UK, the US, Qatar, and South Africa under the “Cairo Summit for Peace.” Spearheaded by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the summit endeavoured to draft a blueprint to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and rekindle peace dialogues between Israel and the Palestinians. The discourse centred on aid delivery, ceasefire proposals, and a potential two-state solution, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas championing the cause for humanitarian corridors. However, the absence of Israeli and senior US officials cast a shadow on the summit’s prospective impact (5).
On the same day, a glimmer of hope was seen as Egypt’s crossing opened, albeit allowing only a small fraction of the awaiting aid into Gaza. While 200 trucks stood by on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, only a mere 20 were allowed to go through to Gaza (6).
As the week drew to a close, a breakthrough was witnessed with the release of two hostages by Hamas, facilitated by Qatar’s mediation (7). Yet Sunday morning reported Israeli strikes targeting a mosque in the West Bank’s Jenin and two Syrian airports (8). Additionally, a second convoy of 17 aid trucks entered the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing (9).
China celebrates a decade of Belt and Road Initiative
Leaders from over 20 nations gathered in Beijing over the week to celebrate a decade of Xi Jinping’s signature global development plan. Originally initiated in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) aims to connect China and over 150 nations by investing in infrastructure to facilitate the transactions of trade, capital, technologies, and people. Since its inception, the Chinese government has invested around sixty billion U.S. dollars to 155 participating nations primarily in the Global South to assist the development of key infrastructure. During the lavish banquet, Xi introduced a new pilot zone to promote e-commerce, and reaffirmed to enhance connectivity across Asia, Africa, South America and beyond.
Noticeably, the majority of delegations present were from the global south, and did not include many European nations compared to the second forum held four years ago. The absence of such countries illustrate the growing skepticism towards the project, and increasing strategic concerns of China’s influence by major powers, such as the United States. The skeptics of BRI accuse China of pursuing a “debt-trap diplomacy,” in which China would provide funding for critical infrastructure in emerging economies, but when the nation is unable to meet the debt payment, it is forced into a disadvantageous deal to compensate for the debt. For example, when Sri Lanka failed to make payments, it signed a contract between China to lease one of its major ports for 99 years. Western nations and officials have criticized the methods of BRI, and have characterized it as a scheme in which China is forcing to increase their influence over the world.
As the initiative has hit the ten year mark, more analysis and research on the efficacy of BRI has been published. With China’s economy facing its own struggles since the pandemic, the prospect of BRI may have its course changed in the upcoming years.
Former Trump lawyer pleads guilty to conspiracy
Kenneth Chesebro, an appellate lawyer who became involved in the Trump campaign’s post-election efforts to prevent Joe Biden from winning the 2020 election, has pleaded guilty to a single felony count of conspiracy to file false documents.
He is the third of 19 co-defendants to plead guilty in the Fulton county racketeering case. This case was brought forward by the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis and it charges Trump and 18 of his associates on 41 counts of various crimes in Georgia for their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, including forgery and racketeering. Racketeering is a type of organised crime involving coercive or fraudulent operations in order to collect a profit.
He is accused of writing a memo laying out instructions for fake pro-Trump electors to meet in the six states where Trump lost and cast votes for him. Atlanta lawyer Rachel Kaufman told the BBC that his guilty plea can be seen as a huge win for Fulton County prosecutors as they continue to construct their case against Trump, and that “the chips are falling and falling on Trump”.
Stubborn UK inflation is stuck at 6.7%
This week UK inflation data was released for September, which showed CPI inflation remained steady at 6.7% – the same as it was in August and only just below the 6.8% recorded in July.
Falling prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages were offset by a rise in the price of motor fuels. While the price of motor fuels is generally accepted to be in the hands of international oil markets, there were plenty of signs that problems in the UK domestic economy were also causing inflation.
Core CPI (a measure which excludes products with the most volatile prices) rose by 6.1% in September, and services inflation rose to 6.9%; the latter is likely to reflect ongoing issues for firms trying to hire new staff.
Neither the Bank of England nor the treasury will be pleased by this data release as it shows the bank may need to raise interest rates further to control inflation. It also looks increasingly unlikely that Rishi Sunak will be able to meet his pledge to half inflation by the end of the year.
India launches crucial successful launch ahead of manned space mission in 2024
On Saturday morning (October 21st), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully conducted an unmanned test of its emergency escape system for its crew capsule that would be used for the upcoming Gaganyaan missions scheduled tentatively for 2024. Named after the Sanskrit word for vehicle to the sky, the Gaganyaan missions would make India only the fourth nation (after the US, Russia and China) to send astronauts into space.
The test flight, known as TV-D1 (Test Vehicle Demonstration 1), was launched from one of India’s main spaceports at Sriharikota following a brief delay which stopped the countdown 5 seconds before launch. The reason for the stoppage was quickly identified and corrected, ensuring a prompt launch and successful test within an hour of the initial time set for the launch.
This test sets the stage for further unmanned test launches, including one with a humanoid robot named Vyommitra (which is Sanskrit for “space friend”) unveiled by ISRO in 2019. The Gaganyaan manned mission then intends to carry three astronauts into Earth’s orbit for a period of 3 days before splashing down into the Indian Ocean. The project has been developed at the cost of 90bn rupees ($1bn; £897m).
The test on Saturday generated a lot of interest in India and abroad as it followed not long after the country made history by becoming the first to land near the Moon’s south pole on 23 August 2023. Furthermore, following the Gaganyaan missions, ISRO plans on setting up a permanent space station by 2035, and sending astronauts to the Moon by 2040.
Society spotlight – A History of Ordinary People in Africa (HOPIA)
A History of Ordinary People in Africa (HOPIA) is a cultural heritage project consisting of a series of historical exhibitions. Identity, Belonging, & Change: A Historical Portrait of Everyday Life in Sudan is the second exhibition in the series, and is undertaken by members of the Oxford University Africa Society and Oxford Sudanese Society, in partnership with Fusion Arts Oxford and supported by the Cultural Programme of the Oxford Humanities Division, and the Oxford African Studies Centre.
In the final days of our preparation towards the exhibition we were struck by the conflict that had just broken out in the North-East African country. Due to concerns over the safety of our participants we decided to postpone the exhibition.
Six months after the war, ordinary Sudanese people still suffer, as they are caught between two warring parties that have both been responsible for atrocities on civilians.
During the launch event on October 21, keynote speaker Bayan Abubakart illustrated that, the life of Sudanese people across ages has been shaped by repeated cycles of oppression and liberation, and some of the patterns of violence we witness today can be traced back to the 19th century. Despite all this, the Sudanese people have maintained unbroken threads of open and intimate acts of resistance.
As curators of this exhibition on Sudan, we have had the privilege to work with and listened to these inspiring stories. The exhibition lends credence to the rich and diverse culture of the people and their communities of belonging, their love, hospitality, and passion for standing for one another as a nation and the African continent as a whole.
Our hope is that participants explore these inspiring stories while keeping Sudanese people in their positive thoughts and hope for a quick restoration of peace.
The Oxford University Sudanese Society and Hadhereen Relief Fund are partnering to raise funds to support urgent medical aid needed in Sudan.
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