Editorial - December 2015/January 2016

Welcome to the December 2015/January 2016 edition of Global Insight. Events in Syria, the fallout from the ongoing conflict and dilemmas over what should be done continue to dominate the global agenda. We’re able to bring you four in-depth and exclusive one-to-one interviews with some of the foremost authorities on the most pressing issues and challenges: former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; Anders Fogh Rasmussen who was the Secretary-General of NATO from 2009 to 2014; José Manuel Barroso, who, as President of the European Union for a decade from 2004 was recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012; and Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
Kofi Annan was appointed in 2013 by current UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to be his special envoy and attempt to broker peace in Syria. Given this, and the fact that he oversaw the development of the humanitarian principle of responsibility to protect during his time heading the UN, his views are telling. ‘One cannot intervene in every situation. And I think the Syrian situation is a particularly difficult one and doesn’t lend itself, necessarily, to the kind of intervention that we saw in responsibility to protect,’ he says, before adding: ‘the pressure is still there, whether you do it under the responsibility to protect or under moral and legal obligations to protect people who are trapped in this situation to try and end the war. The international community of the countries concerned have an obligation to make an effort.’
Rasmussen conveys strong views on the diplomatic and military effort, particularly the role of Russia. ‘The primary goal of the Russian engagement in Syria is to save the Assad regime,’ he says. ‘You cannot fight ISIS and, at the same time, save the Assad regime. The Assad regime is not a bulwark against ISIS. On the contrary, the brutality of the Assad regime fuels the recruitment of fighters for ISIS.’ Rasmussen’s interview, conducted at the Vienna conference in October, also proves remarkably prescient. ‘Russia has now sent a clear signal through the violation of Turkish air space, that if you are to exercise a no-fly zone, there is a clear risk that you will have to shoot down Russian aircrafts’, something that sparked serious concerns that the conflict would escalate when it occurred at the end of November.
Barroso, meanwhile, makes clear the scale of the challenge being faced by Europe when confronting the refugee crisis. ‘I think it’s the most important challenge we have been facing over all these years. Much more serious than, for instance, the financial crisis,’ he says, ‘because it’s much more difficult to find a stable solution.’
As attempts to do exactly that continue, the insight of these leading figures can only help inform ongoing debates on some of the key issues.
James Lewis