On December 6 Venezuelans will head to the polls in a decisive election that will determine the composition of the nation’s National Assembly. While President Nicolas Maduro has done his best to prevent an opposition victory – gerrymandering districts and monopolizing the airwaves – several polls have shown widespread dissatisfaction with the current ruling party. Unlike most elections, December 6 will not be about the direction voters wish their country go in. Rather, it will be a test of Venezuela’s electoral and institutional integrity as Maduro will surely continue to undermine any semblance of democratic process in Venezuela while he is in power.

With the world’s attention captured by Russian airstrikes in Syria, Russian president Vladimir Putin hopes to distract from his stalled and costly intervention in eastern Ukraine. For the tiny Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania however, the lessons of Crimea and the Donbas are not so easily forgotten. In recent months, the Baltics have been taking concrete steps to upgrade their military capabilities and develop a strategic response to the threat of Russian aggression on their own territory.

Last week, millions of Argentines went to the polls to cast their ballot for the first election in 12 years that did not include the surname Kirchner. With nearly all the votes counted, the two leading candidates – Mauricio Macri of the Cambiemos party and Daniel Scioli of the Victory Front ruling party (FPV) —will head to a presidential runoff next month. Although polling suggested a wide gap between the two candidates, Mr. Scioli and Mr. Macri finished with 36.7% and 34.5%, respectively. Despite the heated campaign, both candidates will have to act quickly in the post-Kirchner era and guide their country out of the economic malaise that has plagued Argentina for several years.

Last week, the Obama administration instructed the U.S. government to take all necessary steps to initiate the adoption process for the Iranian nuclear deal, as negotiated last July between Iran and the P5 + 1 nations. After receiving approval from the United Nations Security Council, Iran began to take all necessary steps to restrain its nuclear program, while the United States and Europe began issuing approved sanction waivers for Iranian energy and financial companies.

On November 2nd the Global Fairness Initiative will present its annual Fairness Award to Houcine Abassi, Secretary General of the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT), Paul Brest from Stanford Law School and Myrtle Witbooi, General Secretary of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union.  The award is of particular interest this year because Mr. Abassi is a member of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet which was recently awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize "for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.” 

By James LeGrice of Insight Consulting Group 

Europe is no longer insulated from Syria’s civil war. This month, refugees, mainly from Syria, arrived in Greece at a rate of over 5,000 per day. They join half a million who have fled Syria and other conflict zones this year to a European Union drastically unprepared for an exodus of this magnitude. There is a risk now that European nations will opt for quick solutions to deliver short term results at the expense of long term challenges. Europe is divided on how to accommodate, and whether it even should accommodate, the refugees.

In early September FormarHub, along with IQLatino and the IDEA Center at Miami Dade Community College, hosted a multi-day conference with young Latino leaders in education called Leading Education. Though the conference’s central theme was education a common secondary thread was entrepreneurship and it’s potential to solve the education gap in Latin America as well as other deep-seated issues plaguing Latin American countries like lack of access to health care and finance for low-income populations.

Ever since Russia’s covert invasion of eastern Ukraine last year turned the Donbas into a war zone, millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes in search of shelter and safety. The vast majority of those displaced have decided to remain in Ukraine, but now find themselves strangers in their own country. Uprooted from their communities, living in temporary shelters or basements far away from home, and lacking employment opportunities and social benefits, these internally displaced persons (IDPs) pose an immense challenge to a beleaguered Ukrainian state.

Pope Francis wrapped up his tour of the United States this week after a series of speeches where he pressed leaders to address some of the critical issues affecting the world today. Flanked by two devout Catholic statesmen – Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House John Boehner – Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress to urge its leaders to use their power and summon “a spirit of cooperation” to act on climate change and address the income inequality that is afflicting the globe. As the increasingly popular leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis tried to leverage his voice to spur an overly lethargic and partisan Congress into action.

By Jesica Lindgren, General Counsel, Blue Star Strategies

Increasingly, foreign nationals who want to visit the U.S. temporarily – for business, to visit an ill relative, or for vacation – are unable to secure a U.S. visa. In some cases, their visa request is denied; in others, their existing visa is revoked.  The applicant is typically seeking a B-1 (for business) and/or B-2 (for pleasure, tourism and / or medical treatment). And in the context of recent U.S. sanctions on Russians and Venezuelans, foreign nationals must also be aware of the political climate in which the U.S. visa process sits. This article presents a few key lessons stemming from our experience with clients encountering temporary U.S. visitor visa issues, with a more comprehensive note attached. 

Blue Star wanted to include this excerpt from an upcoming chapter in Dorothee Baumann-Pauly & Justine Nolan's "Business and Human Rights: From Principles to Practice" (Routledge, 2016) by Blue Star Senior Advisor Barbara Shailor because of the many labor rights abuses that have come to light recently, from the Rohingya in Myanmar to the workers on Thai fishing boats.  The below provides a look at the history of labor rights and makes the case an ongoing labor movement. 

Worker organizations -- unions and new forms of worker mobilization – are central forces in developing human rights and corporate accountability.

Untrammeled competition among businesses can lead to a race to the bottom.  Thus, markets are always bounded by laws – to protect competition (anti-trust law), to enforce agreements (contract law), and to protect other social values (environmental, consumer, and worker protection laws). 

Blue Star Strategies recently signed an MOU with Equitable Origin (EO) to become a Qualified Implementation Consultant for the EO100™ Standard.  Equitable Origin’s mission is to promote best practices and responsible energy development so as to reduce the social and environmental impact of energy development operations.

EO developed a voluntary independent certification process whereby production sites are certified in internationally-recognized standards related to: corporate governance, accountability and ethics; human rights, social impact, and community development; fair labor and working conditions; indigenous peoples’ rights; and climate change, biodiversity and the environment.