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SINGAPORE --- “Just turn on the faucet.”
That’s the answer most Americans and others in the developed world would give if asked how to get plenty of clean water. But for about two billion people, such a response is meaningless. These people – almost a third of the world’s population – do not have access to water that can be drunk without adverse health effects. An even greater number lack access to adequate sanitation, which is a principal reason that more than two million children die of diarrheal diseases each year.
Thirty years ago this month, the first cases of what was to become known as AIDS were diagnosed. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 25 million persons have died from AIDS. More than 60 million people have been infected, and in southern Africa alone there are 14 million children orphaned because of AIDS.
DUBAI --- Take a look at Barack Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo. It was beautifully written and radiated good intentions. The U.S. government relied heavily on new media tools to disseminate it throughout the Arab world and beyond. Arab opinion of Obama improved significantly; and then it dropped like a rock.
Throughout the world, billions of people rely on their faith to lift them above lives of hardship or the banality of arid secularism. For them, belief trumps politics, and efforts to influence them must incorporate faith as part of any appeal.
DOHA --- My conversation with two North African friends ranged widely, from the role of satellite television in the Arab world to the prospects for electoral reform in the region. Then we came to how other nations would deal with the new dynamics of Arab politics. One of my friends said, “In the past, diplomacy has been with the leaders, but now it must be with the people.”
DOHA --- In past sessions of the Al Jazeera Forum, held each year in the network’s Qatar hometown, reform in the Arab world was discussed with an air of resignation: “Someday…maybe.”
In testimony to Congress last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the existence of an ongoing “information war” that the United States is losing. In addition to saying that “Al Jazeera is winning,” Clinton pointed to the major investments in international broadcasting being made by China and Russia.
The Chinese effort is of particular importance. As Secretary Clinton said, “We are in a competition for influence with China; let’s put aside the moral, humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in, and let’s just talk straight realpolitik.”
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