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Frans Timmermans, European Commission Executive CP for the European Green Deal, is Interviewed About Climate Change; Aung San Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar Against Genocide Claims; Young Voices of Climate Change; Interview With Journalist Yoni Appelbaum; Interview With Former United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 12, 2019 - 13:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.




AMANPOUR: Europe charges ahead on climate, setting the continent a 2050 carbon neutral goal. Frans Timmermans is the man behind the E.U. green

deal joins me.

Plus --


AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR STATE COUNSELLOR: Surely, under the circumstances, genocidal intent cannot be the only hypothesis.


AMANPOUR: A global hero loses her luster. Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi defends her country against charges of genocide. The U.N.'s former high

commissioner for human rights joins us.

And --


YONI APPELBAUM, HISTORIAN AND IDEAS EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: We should be aware that this experiment can end, that it's not inevitable.


AMANPOUR: How America ends. A somber warning from the Atlantic Ideas editor, Yoni Appelbaum, about the fragility of democracy and what it takes

to protect it.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

The world is losing the climate race, that is according to the U.N. secretary general, Antonio Guterres, today in Madrid. The major climate

summit there is coming to a close but not before the teenage activist and "Time" person of the year, Greta Thunberg, took to the stage and railed

against companies and countries which are finding loopholes to get around the global goals.


GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Countries are finding clever ways around having to take real action, like double counting emissions reductions and

moving their emissions overseas and walking back on their promises to increase ambition or refusing to pay for solutions or loss in damage. This

has to stop.


AMANPOUR: And that call ahead of next December in Glasgow, Scotland, which will be a major benchmark when pledges made at the 2015 Paris Accords will

be reviewed.

Is Greta's message getting through? What is actually being delivered? Even if all the Paris pledges are kept, and that's a major if, average

temperatures are on track to raise by 3 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average.

E.U. climate commissioner, Frans Timmermans warns that Europe takes the lead and to make it the first climate neutral continent by 2050, according

to a green deal. He is presenting at this climate summit. And he's joining me now, having done that, from Madrid.

Frans Timmermans, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, here you are with this massively ambitious project and we've heard the E.U. commissioner, Ursula von der Leyen, say the same thing, this

must be Europe's man on the moon moment. But let me first ask you, because there you are in Madrid as the climate summit is wrapping up, what do you

make of Greta Thunberg who said that, you know, she wrote a list of the things that people aren't doing and the sort of, you know, sneaking around

their commitments?

TIMMERMANS: Well, we are so lucky to have her. Isn't it amazing that a 16-year-old young lady could get person of the year awarded by "Time"

magazine? I'm really, really very excited about that. And she's sending a very powerful message, and I think we should listen very carefully to what

she says. That is why the green deal we are presenting is a road map to lead us to a climate neutral Europe by 2050.

But to go there, we will have to take quite a number of measures, legal measures, to make it happen. And Greta can watch very carefully what we're

doing in the next months and years and see whether we can actually deliver what we promised. It is my firm belief that we can do that. We'll need

the support of all our member states and the European Parliament, but we can achieve this because we have massive support of more than 90 percent of

the European population.

AMANPOUR: You do, and we saw in the last round of elections that climate was the top issue, way over immigration. We've seen in the United States

in the midterms it was a major issue. And we see young people all over the world stepping out and doing their bit.

But I guess, how much more difficult will it be for you to start with this Green New Deal? You're talking about carbon neutral by 2050. I don't know

how doable that is. But if already countries are not even, you know, close to their targets that they promised in 2015, how realistic is this?

TIMMERMANS: Well, if people don't understand that we need to make a paradigm shift, that we really need to transform our economies and our

societies to face this challenge, if people don't understand that, we won't get there. But there's an increasing understanding in society, also in

business, that this is something we need to do.


And that's why we presenting this road map, which would give us the tools to get there, in transport, in our energy, in agriculture, in housing, in

all these areas where we need to reduce our emissions and where we can create a huge amount of new jobs if we reset our economy on a circular


AMANPOUR: Well, look, on that level, I just want to quote, as I said, the U.N. secretary general because he's talking about the -- you know, the

potential of new jobs and a radical new economy. The opportunities that green economies would provide, he says, the new climate economy tells us

that shifting to a low-carbon economy represents a $26 trillion growth opportunity that could create 65 million new jobs by 2030.

Now, that organization is a major international initiative, so examining how countries could do this. I mean, those figures sound really

impressive, right? What's not to live about that? Why is it hard to get that message across?

TIMMERMANS: That message is not hard to get across. The only problem is, these are not the same jobs people are having now.


TIMMERMANS: These are not the same jobs and the same business areas. So, you need to convince people that it's in their interests to take this leap

forward into the future. And when people fear loss more than they believe in opportunity, they would rather stick to what they have than embrace new

opportunities, and that's why we need to have a convincing story that would take people step by step into this new reality, and we can leave no one

behind because once people start losing out on this, they're going to stop this transformation and then we all lose.

AMANPOUR: So, tell me how, because it is -- you know, you sound a very hopeful note and you're right, there's so much of the world's population

that believes in this and wants to do something. And clearly, the world has the technology. As Ursula von der Leyen said, this should be a man on

the moon moment. The man on the moon moment was dramatic. I mean, surely this is not beyond human ambition and ability.

TIMMERMANS: Absolutely not. We have the means, we have the technology, we have the science. It's not always developed to the level we need to

develop it. We even have the capital available for this, we have the talent available for this, but because we live in an era where many, many

people are very insecure about the future, especially the middle classes in our societies, it is very, very difficult to convince people to take this

leap of faith.

So, we have to show concretely that we can do this. We have to look -- show the success stories we already have in the circular economy, we have

to show where it already works, where we are creating new jobs and then we have to also show that we can improve our natural environment, that we can

have big reforestation programs, that we can bring temperatures down in our inner cities, that we can improve air qualities everywhere. I mean, this

is something we can do, but we have to get going and we don't have any time to waste.

AMANPOUR: And we know that the E.U. commissioner is going to be visiting, you know, certain countries in Europe that are entirely fossil fuel

dependent. I think, you know, countries like Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, to try to get onboard with this.

Is it just persuasion or are you going to pay them off or what are you going to do to wrest them away from fossil fuel?

TIMMERMANS: Well, you know, even if these countries don't always say so, they know perfectly well there is no future in coal. Just look at the air

quality in Central European cities. You cannot, you cannot ask of people to live in that air quality in a sustainable way.

You know, we have 400,000 premature deaths in Europe because of poor air quality every year. And so, we need to do something, but it's difficult

for them. And we need to recognize that for them if they depend up to 80 percent of their energy on coal, it's difficult for them to get rid of

coal. And we -- I think we need to show solidarity as Europeans and help them make this transition and help coal regions reinvent their economy,

restructure it and create new jobs for coal miners in the future.

AMANPOUR: So, I had the Hungarian foreign minister on last week and we discussed some of this. And, you know, they have been quite skeptical, the

Hungarians, a little bit like President Trump on the issue of climate and man, humankind's responsibility and what it will do -- what it will take to

change it.

But, of course, at the same time, elections are speaking for many themselves, and the new mayor of Budapest is somebody who believes in this

emergency. So, how much do you also depend on if not the leaders of governments, then, you know, other civil society people who have been voted

in, plus, people on the streets?

TIMMERMANS: That's what I do. And I talk to many people at cities. And the people in Budapest made a clear choice.


And you know what, I also know that people who, for ideological reasons, cling to this idea that we don't have a climate crisis, they also have

children. And these children talk to them as well. And they can't just ignore their children, even if they ignore their citizens. So, I think

we're winning this battle. It's not about ideology, it's about finding practical solutions to what is a life-threatening situation, which is

climate change.

AMANPOUR: In your experience, do you think its people just being afraid to change their way of life, being afraid to, as you said, be left behind?

Because what we have also is people like yourself who are trying to do as much as possible, then you have the Green Party, for instance, who says,

actually, even this ambitious target that you have is not going far enough.

The Greens in the E.U. -- in the European Parliament, 74 MEPs, you know, that's almost 10 percent, think it's too little too late. They want

greater action, 65 percent cut in emissions by 2030 instead of your target of about 50, 55 for 2050.

TIMMERMANS: Yes. Well, sometimes, you know, the better is the enemy of the good. And we have to analyze very precisely how far we can go. That's

why we will do a very good impact assessment to see how far we can go by 2030. And I hope that we can come to the conclusion that we have to reduce

our emissions by 55 percent. And if we can come to that conclusion, then we're still on track to make it to be climate neutral by 2050.

So, I count on the support of our Green friends, because they will see that this green deal is the best thing that we've done forever in the European

commission in terms of making our society more sustainable. This is a comprehensive road map to take us into a future where we leave no one

behind. And I hope the Greens will understand that this is our best option to get there.

AMANPOUR: So, I know you're a diplomat and I know you're in the job, in the business of persuading people. But we have heard and we've watched and

I was in Madrid a couple of days ago at the summit, we have seen that the atmosphere maybe wasn't as great as you might all have hoped, that there

was some serious obfuscating, there are serious, you know, countries trying to block major important language and ambitions and targets.

And, of course, the United States, as you know, the U.S. government was represented, but not by the highest level and you know that the U.S.

government is skeptical under President Trump. How difficult is it if the U.S. is skeptical and isn't, you know, pulling its weight as you would like

it to?

TIMMERMANS: Well, it's absolutely clear that the Trump administration is skeptical and they have turned this into an ideology, ignoring all the

facts and ignoring all the science. But they're not the only ones in the U.S., you know, we have a lot of partners. We have a lot of partners in

California, in major cities in the U.S. U.S. business in general is on board for this. So, we can work with the U.S. to make sure that the U.S.

isn't left behind in this development.

And I'm really excited about the Americans I met here like Mike Bloomberg and others who are really on the same page with us. So, I really want to

look for our allies in the U.S., listen to them, because sometimes they have very innovative solutions. Perhaps bring some of our solutions to the

table, and together we will improve the situation. But you're also right, the situation here in Madrid is complicated. There's a lot of skepticism.

So, we have a lot of convincing to do.

AMANPOUR: So, Mike Bloomberg is who I interviewed when I was there. And as you know, he's just entered the U.S. presidential race as a Democratic

candidate. And as you also know, he has really plowed a huge amount of his fortune into trying to fix the climate crisis. And this is what he told

me. I mean, it's not news to you, but he was very passionate about the damage it's already doing.


FMR. MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Climate change has the potential to destroy our planet as we know it. I hope it

doesn't happen. It certainly probably is not going to happen in my lifetime, but we can go long ways.

Just look every day, you see forest fires, you see floods, you see droughts, you see things that we never had before. Talk to farmers. They

are growing different crops in different places at different times of the year. This is really serious stuff.


AMANPOUR: So, that's a major American presidential candidate with the climate as one of his top, top issues. Yet, the U.S. representative to

COP25, where you are right now has, for instance, said that she would not be happy in terms of trade and a carbon border tax. In other words, if

Europe imposes, you know, sanctions of some sort on countries that are skeptical and not helpful in this regard.


TIMMERMANS: Well, is it too much to ask of the U.S. administration just to look the facts into the eye? Is it too much to ask to listen to scientific

evidence? Is it too much to ask to look at what's happening on Greenland and in other places? Is it too much to ask to try and do something about

erratic weather and all the people suffering because of droughts and thunderstorms? I think not.

We need to get on the same page and take the measures so that we can make our planet livable for everyone, and we take everyone along in this. And I

think the United States has a huge responsibility in this. And I really count on the passion of the American people for their natural environment

and their sense of international responsibility to do the right thing.

AMANPOUR: And of course, they've had terrible, devastating wildfires in California, terrible floods over many, many parts of the country.

So, I guess, finally, what do you think COP25, where you are now, this summit, has achieved? And the major review summit next year in Glasgow to

see how countries are actually performing, what do you expect to find a year from now?

TIMMERMANS: Well, it would be of extreme importance to be well prepared for the next COP in Glasgow. And I will do my outmost to make sure the

European Union comes to the table with a full-fledged plan, with a plan is also subscribed to by all member states, where we can show clearly, if we

do this in the next 10 years, we will get to minus, let's say 55, and we will get to climate neutrality by 2050. As an open invitation to other

parts of the world to be part of this exciting journey.

And we do this -- I know it's difficult to do this. It's very, very hard. But sometimes it's good to do things that are hard because it mobilized the

best of humanity, the best of our creativity, and we should do this for the sake of our children.

AMANPOUR: On that hopeful note, Frans Timmermans, E.U. climate commissioner, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us tonight.

Now, for many, protecting our planet is a moral duty as well. Over in the Hague, in the Netherlands, moral values and human rights are at stake as

Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, defends her country over charges of genocide.

Not so long ago, she was the focus of American and international hero worship. She was an icon of democracy. After more than a dozen years of

house arrest, she emerged to become the de facto civilian leader of Myanmar after she won the nation's first free elections in 2015. But her

international support has plummeted and her fall from grace has been dramatic. Starkly demonstrated by her testimony at the International Court

of Justice in the Hague, where she continues to stand up for her army, which is being accused of genocide against the Muslim minority known as the

Rohingya people. Listen to her now.


AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR STATE COUNSELLOR: Rakhine today suffers an internal armed conflict between the Buddhist Arakan Army and Myanmar's

Defense Services. Muslims are not a party to this conflict but may, like other civilians in the conflict area, be affected by security measures that

are in place.


AMANPOUR: Now, in 2017, thousands of Rohingya were killed and more than 700,000 fled to neighboring Bangladesh during an army crackdown. Myanmar

has always said that was about tackling terrorism. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein is the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and he's joining me

now from New York.

Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, look, you've been dealing with this, obviously, while you were still high commissioner. What do you make, first and foremost, of

what we know? And Aung San Suu Kyi has asked that court to dismiss and drop this case.

HUSSEIN: Well, first of all, when I watched her speak, I thought to myself, you know, what a sad state of affairs that a global icon becomes

this shabby political sort of figure that is basically, instead of disowning the military, standing up for them.

I mean, I could almost close my eyes and imagine the voice of Bashar al- Assad. This is terrorism and counterterrorism. Well, I mean, her argument is premised on two points. One is that there were attacks by the ARSA and

the military was responding. And we condemn those attacks by the ARSA in 2016 and 2017, but the response was so disproportionate that it almost

redefines the meaning of collective punishment.

So, in response to attacks on military bases, you commit the vilest atrocities. I mean, what sort of defense is that, really? And -- so, very

disappointing. Very disappointing to see what was happening yesterday.


AMANPOUR: Just to clarify that ARSA is the terrorist organization, the extremist separatist organization that is the Rohingyas. But as you say,

it's separate from the general civilian population, which has borne the brunt of the crackdown.

Again, OK, so, let me play what the lawyer for the Gambia said in court. And he, of course, is really interesting. The Gambia bought this case on

behalf of Muslim nations to try to defend their beleaguered population in Myanmar. This is what the Gambian lawyer said.


ANDREW LOEWENSTEIN, LAWYER OF GAMBIA: One witness recounted, the soldiers killed the male members of my family. They shot them first and then slit

their throats. The courtyard was full of blood. They killed my husband, my father-in-law and my two nephews of 15 and eight years old. They even

killed the child in the same way.


AMANPOUR: I mean, it's horrible to listen to. And you and your, you know, time at the human rights commission heard a lot of that kind of terrible

violation of rights. I wonder what you thought, though, of Aung San Suu Kyi, as she listened to that almost impassively throughout the time when

that testimony and evidence was being presented?

HUSSEIN: Yes, I mean, it's the same sort of response that I had when I spoke to her, both in 2016 and early 2017. And what is so unconvincing

about the things that she's been saying is that -- and there's a sort of Trumpian aspect to this in terms of the way you see a parallel when it

comes to the impeachment proceedings, is that when she contested the claims that we were making at the time about the most frightful killings that were

taking place, she, at the same time, did, basically denied us entry into Rakhine. I had asked her repeatedly to send my investigators into Northern

Rakhine, and she denied it.

And now, we hear from her defense that, basically, the evidence is not there, it's incomplete. Having denied us entry to make those claims. It's

-- I mean, it's ridiculous, to be frank, absolutely ridiculous.

AMANPOUR: I mean, to your point, actually, the U.N. fact-finding mission this year in September concluded, there is no reasonable conclusion to draw

other than the inference of genocidal intent from the state's pattern of conduct. I mean, that's pretty clear and clear cut. And yet, one of Aung

San Suu Kyi's comments, as you heard earlier, was the idea that genocide is the only intent that you are focusing on seems to us, you know, wrong.

Why do you think Aung San Suu Kyi, after all she went through, after the support she got from the United States and the whole world, after the

general global celebrations of her freedom and her election as the first civilian democratic leader of Myanmar, what has brought her to this point?

Why is she sticking to this?

HUSSEIN: It's almost impossible for anyone else to divine. I simply cannot understand it. I mean, the argument that her defense is making is

that at best, this was a counterterrorism operation that went wrong. At worst, there may have been deportations, but if there were deportations,

it's not genocide. I mean, that's the argument they were making.

Really, when I looked at this -- I mean, I was the first international figure to say that this is a textbook case of ethnic cleansing. I then

looked at the details of our investigations and I was the first to point out that there could be acts of genocide that may have taken place.

Why did I make this transformation in thinking? It's because when I looked at the detail, I began to realize that the intent was destruction,

destruction of people in their homes, in their villages. The second part of it, it's a second part which is the calculation, the person in their

home makes, basically if they stay, they die, and they were killed in number. If they leave, they potentially save their lives.

What the defense needs to show, and they haven't shown, are large numbers of Rohingya who stayed in the villages that were under attack and lived,

and they can't show it. And if they let us in, we probably could have proven that.

Now, she has basically believed what the military have told her. And all the time, rather than create distance between herself and the military,

she's closed the distance. And I have to say, quite frankly, at some stage, you know, the charges of complicity may be there, or at least on a

mission that she didn't do everything she could. She had enormous international leverage. I mean, she was the darling of the international

press, fated in many cities, as you said, and she could have used this in her maneuvering with the military. She didn't.


And so, there is an air of complicity about this.

AMANPOUR: So what you're saying is very, very grave, because you're saying not only could the state and the military face charges and legitimately be

accused, which actually it is right now in this particular court, but you know, face the consequences, but that she herself, by an act of omission,

if not commission, could also be legally implicated.

HUSSEIN: Well -- yes, yes. Not on genocide but on other sort of charges, potentially, yes. And so, it's quite almost amazing to see her do this. I

mean, one suspects she's trying to curry favor with, you know, her own people so that she can win an election, but -- to win in an election and

represent a state seen widely throughout the world as having committed potentially genocide. I mean, what sort of trade-off is that? It's really

quite appalling.

And I think the judges will see straight through all of these arguments and realize that the acts of genocide as part of a state sort of plan were the

very things that actually came about in 2016 and 2017.

AMANPOUR: So, I just want to play in her defense, her -- part of her final statement in which she spoke about, again, rejecting what she called the

externalizing of Myanmar's justice. And this is what she said.


AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Where a country has a military justice system, neutralizing this system by externalizing justice, in effect, surgically

removes a critical limb from the body, the limb that helps armed forces to self-correct, to improve, to better perform their functions within the

constitutional order.


AMANPOUR: Do you buy that?

HUSSEIN: Look, it's all farcical. When the Burmese military executed those men in that famous photograph in Indin, the small village, and the

two Reuters reporters basically disclosed this to the rest of the world, the Reuters reporters were imprisoned for a period of 17 months.

The military who were convicted in Burma, or in Myanmar, served a total of seven months before they were -- pardon, the initial sentence was 10 years.

No one in their right minds can believe that the authorities in Myanmar are capable of doing this and dispensing with justice, a justice that would

satisfy the Rohingya. No one.

And so, these proceedings and the proceedings in the International Criminal Court, these are the right venues, and I'm pleased that at the very least,

Myanmar has accepted the authority of the International Court of Justice. This is a good step, and I hope the judges will judge in the right

direction and that the request for provisional measures would be also upheld and some relief will come to the Rohingya, the 600,000 who are still

in Northern Rakhine.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to play some soundbites from some of those Rohingyas and see. But first I want to ask you this because just also

wrote an op ed in the "Wall Street Journal" at the beginning of this session this week, what you've just touched on, the fact -- I mean, if you

were them, if you were Aung San Suu Kyi and the military, why would you present yourself in this forum? Doesn't it really kind of mean that you

have to accept and abide by the conclusions and the sentencing and, you know, the rulings?

HUSSEIN: Yes. I mean, it's exactly that. It's absolutely that. And so, let's see what happens. And there's also an automaticity and that once the

ruling is issued by the court, there is an immediate referral of this to the Security Council, the United Nations Security Council, and measures

could also be upheld in that fora, even though one knows that factually, it may be problematic because China is likely to come to the defense of

Myanmar. But theoretically, it can happen as well.

AMANPOUR: So, you just mentioned, obviously, the Rohingya, who are looking at this very closely, and just many of them, maybe not all because they're

probably afraid, but many would like to come back from the refugee camps on the border in Bangladesh. But here's what some of them have said about

this process that we're talking about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I don't believe a single word of her about our repatriation. They never even talk properly to us about

returning. They are simply cheating with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Suu Kyi was our hope, but she did nothing for us when she got into power. Now, she's lying in the Hague

about the persecution on our community.



AMANPOUR: I mean, you have known her.

And, again, we have all known her. We have all respected and we have all admired what she accomplished, and we are all just completely at a loss to

understand how this can happen.

And I just wonder, do you think she's personally culpable? Do you think she has an in-built nationalist animosity towards the Muslim minority?

AL HUSSEIN: In the beginning, I wasn't sure. And I have grown to think that, yes.

I mean, just in the way that she -- when she was campaigning for the election, she never ventured up to Northern Rakhine. She seemed to show no

interest in meeting the Rohingya, notwithstanding the fact that, from 2012 onwards, they lost all their rights. They were the most discriminated

people on Earth.

And for her not to show any apparent concern of course did make us think that that's what she -- she's basically a Burma nationalist. And it seems

now that this is absolutely what she is. It's very disappointing. And one has to be very careful, I suppose, when we lift people up to iconic status.

Their conduct must determine our view of them. And in her case, I think it's a very shabby conduct, and it won't stand her world in her reputation

in the future internationally, no matter what the people in her own country think of her.

AMANPOUR: You know, it's interesting, because a lot of people at the beginning came to her defense, saying, well, she's only a civilian, and

it's really the all-powerful military junta that is still in charge.

But on the other hand, other Burmese intellectual rules and academics said, well, no, actually, she has always been the moral voice, and even if she

had just spoken out, she could have affected the situation.


I mean, after the first attack on that border post in October 2016, I spoke to her. And I asked her for access into Northern Rakhine. She then went

to Singapore. And there's this clip -- I think it's still on YouTube -- where she's on a stage, and someone asks her about the events in Northern


And she sort of laughed it off and said, these were fabrications. I mean, she could have spoken, a stateswomen type sort of lexicon. She could have

said that, that we share a space, we share a history, we have to come to terms with that, and in a way that was soft and dignified, and she didn't.

And I think, from that point on, we began to realize she was not all what we had hoped she would be. And, again, for me, it was excruciating,

because every discussion became more and more difficult.

And then after my last one in early 2017, I didn't speak to her again. And she just brushed me aside as another Muslim international biased sort of

figure who was attacking her military, I mean, totally preposterous, ridiculous, really.

AMANPOUR: So, obviously, many of her fellow Nobel laureates have called for the prize to be rescinded. But whatever happens there, what do you

think her legal jeopardy is? What do you think the end result of this process will be at the European court?

AL HUSSEIN: Well, when you look at the former Yugoslavia -- and you and I met there many years ago.

In 2007, when the ICJ decided, in terms of Bosnia-Herzegovina, that genocide had taken place, three years, four years later, Milosevic was

handed over to the International Criminal Court -- or sorry -- the international court for the former Yugoslavia, the international tribunal

for the former Yugoslavia.

And so you never can say never. We will have to watch this. It is good that that these -- the proceedings are taking place. It is agonizing for

the Rohingya to watch some of what it is that the authorities in Myanmar are saying and the counsel on their behalf.

On the other hand, others, I think, are happy that the Gambia, together with Islamic countries and the Netherlands and Germany, have taken these

steps. And let's hope the judges decide it in the right way.

AMANPOUR: Zeid Al Hussein, thank you so much, former U.N. human rights commissioner.

And we turn now to America's deeply polarized politics.

"The Atlantic" is devoting its December issue to a special report called "How to Stop a Civil War," look at a country they say is coming apart.

Yoni Appelbaum is a senior editor of the magazine. And his article "How America Ends" explores the democratic -- demographic shift changing the

country's very fabric and its impact on politics today.


And he's joining our Hari Sreenivasan to discuss a cautionary tale for these times.


HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, "The Atlantic" has a package of stories right now on newsstands about how to avoid a civil


And your piece focuses on a demographic shift. And it's not just about the racial shift that's happening in the country come to 2042. What is the

transition that's under way?

YONI APPELBAUM, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, we have been a white Christian nation since our founding. We are no longer a white Christian nation.

That is, a majority of Americans are no longer both white and Christian.

Within a couple of decades, a majority of Americans won't be white. It's hard to think of many developed democracies that have ever seen the

majority population slide into the minority.

And most of the examples are right here in the United States in our own past.

SREENIVASAN: And how does this shift affect what is happening in our day- to-day lives, the increased polarity that we're seeing today?

APPELBAUM: It poses are really stark choice.

Those who have been in the majority have the option of making that majority more capacious, reaching out to new groups, to immigrants, to moderate

voters, trying to enlarge the definition of what it means to belong to America's cultural majority.

That's how at many points in the past previous cultural majorities have survived these sorts of transitions.

There's another choice. And at some moments in the American past, that's the choice that's been embraced. That is just running away from democracy.

If people no longer believe that they can win elections, they have the option of deciding to pursue other means of power in order to maintain


SREENIVASAN: Now, this is not the first demographic shift. You go -- at great lengths, you point out that there have been previous ones. Why are

you so concerned about this one?

There was a shift before the Civil War. There was one in the teens and '20s. What's so different about this?

APPELBAUM: You know, when I started thinking about how does one stop a civil war, my first instinct was just dismiss the question out of hand.

We're not about to fix bayonets and go charging at each other. We're not on the verge of civil war.

And then, the more I thought about that question, the more concerned I grew, because it could get so much worse, because, at moments of previous

demographic transition, things have gotten a lot worse than they are now.

We tend to regard this moment in political time as the worst crisis the nation has ever faced. Far from it. But I don't intend to offer that as

reassurance, but, rather, as a source of some alarm.

At past moments, we have gone through considerable upheaval along the way. The Civil War, the actual Civil War, left three-quarters-of-a-million

Americans dead. Nobody wants to go back to something like that.

And then so the question becomes, how do you navigate these sorts of transitions without watching political violence erupt?

SREENIVASAN: So, at the end of the Civil War, you also point out that there were ways that the South tried to maintain control, even though there

was going to be a moment here where they had to reckon with the fact that they were going to be on the losing side of this.

But that didn't stop segregation. That didn't stop slave ownership. That just changed dimensions.

APPELBAUM: You know, after the Civil War, we have a brief decade of Reconstruction, when we're trying to forge a more inclusive republic, one

which offers co-equal citizenship to African Americans.

And that proceeds, but it proceeds at the expense of those who have traditionally exercised power in the South. And there is what is

effectively an extraordinarily bloody counter-revolution in the South that historians call Redemption, a period in which Southern whites decided they

were not going to abide by the result of democratic elections. They were going to fix those elections.

There were violent coups in places like Wilmington, North Carolina, against democratically elected governments. We saw the Jim Crow laws come in and

various ballot access restrictions that effectively disenfranchised Southern black voters.

There was a decision by the traditional majority not to extend a full and co-equal citizenship and not to embrace the demographic future that they

were facing. And that was perhaps one of the sorriest chapters in American history.

It's evidence that things can go backwards. The arc does not invariably lead to greater enlargement of rights. It can lead to the repression of

rights and liberties. And that, in turn, counsels a degree of vigilance.

SREENIVASAN: What responsibility does the left have in this? I mean, it seems that the polarity between the parties increases as counter-reactions

to one another, right?

So does the right become more conservative or more far right because they see something from the left that is a greater threat to them, and vice


APPELBAUM: Yes, you can get stuck really easily in a downward spiral.

But what I should say is that many political scientists who have looked at this have seen the center-right as the really decisive force for democratic

stability. That was a little bit surprising for me.

I might have thought that the virulence of extremist movements would play a greater and more decisive role. In fact, not. If you have a robust

center-right, it can negotiate compromises between those who have traditionally exercised power in society and those who are trying to seize

the reins of power.


As long as those who have been in positions of power feel that there's a robust center-right that can defend their interests, that can guarantee

them a future in the renegotiated society, they will stick with democracy.

As the center-right falters, it's precisely the faltering of the center- right that opens up the opportunity for the far right and the far left. And so, in a weird way, the responsibility lies with the mainstream

Republican Party, the party that was pushing after 2012 to enlarge its appeal, and then buckled in the face of Donald Trump.

SREENIVASAN: So did it fail then or did it fail before that? I mean, we had the Tea Party emerge. That could be seen as a failure of the center-


APPELBAUM: Well, I think you can look at the last several decades of Western democracy and see broad failures that voters are out of patience


No longer do new generations have reason or confidence for believing that their lives will be better than their parents'. That's a fairly profound

failure. The United States has been embroiled in two decades of wars without end. That's a fairly profound failure.

We made massive bets on free trade that led to highly concentrated pain and highly diffuse gains. That was a concentrated failure, too.

And when you add up these failures, there's all kinds of reasons why voters might be losing patience and faith in the center, whether on the right or

the left. So there's a variety of reasons that the center-right has failed.

I think what I would really want to drive home is that we need the center- right to succeed. So, whatever the reasons for its failure, it needs to address them, and it needs to become robust and to regain its confidence if

we're going to see democratic stability reemerge.

SREENIVASAN: Now, I mean, we're about a year away, a little less.

What is the likelihood that the center-right can regain itself that fast or even really in the next four years?

APPELBAUM: Well, the 2020 election may be a turning point. You can watch the Republican Party come out of that chastened, humbled and determined to

recapture the things that had made it appeal to so many Americans in the first place.

Or you could watch the Republican Party stumble out of the 2020 election convinced that voters were not open to its message, that it needs a

champion like Donald Trump, whether because he wins or whether because he loses, but that only through that kind of countermajoritarian impulse, only

through suppressing votes, rather than seeking to woo them, can it maintain its grip on power.

And so, just like after 2012, the Republican Party faced a choice and faced that choice again in 2016. It's going to face a choice after 2020. And

that choice will matter, not just to Republican voters, but to all Americans.

SREENIVASAN: Is -- so, how -- if they want to take that high road, so to speak and say, let's try to reimagine a Republican Party that is a bigger

tent, let's go ahead and absorb the edges, how do they do that?

APPELBAUM: It's not a high road. It's narrow, calculated self-interest. And I think that's actually one reason why it could happen.

What they need to do is to do exactly what they themselves said they needed to do in 2012, to identify the kinds of principles that many Americans find

tremendously appealing. Many immigrant groups find the values that the Republican Party champions tremendously more appealing than the values that

the Democratic Party typically champions.

There is no reason that the Republican Party couldn't reach out to them, except that they find themselves repelled by its appeals to identity.

SREENIVASAN: So, if identity is such a big part of this now, what happens if the president does not win, and his supporters, their angst doesn't go

away? Do they feel like they have to now get into some sort of a fight for survival?


But often, when these coalitions have lost or let slip their grip on power, what they have discovered is that they wake up, and it's just another day,

that many of the dire prophecies of doom that they had listened to were false prophecies, that they can adjust rather rapidly, and succeed and

thrive in a nation that enlarges liberty and welcomes more citizens.

And this has been a persistent theme. The South, in many ways, froze in its development during the years of Jim Crow, and then thrived and

prospered when the civil rights movement finally brought a greater measure of justice.

It turned out that it was often poor Southern whites who had the most to lose through those racist and repressive policies, and that they had a lot

to gain by being part of a society that was more equal.

I think that's probably the case now.

SREENIVASAN: But despair wins. I mean, painting everything as an existential crisis, a zero sum game, wins over the idea that you're talking

about, as saying, hey, let's go ahead and help people understand our point of view, our world view.


It's just much easier to say, if we lose this guys, it's all over. You got to stick with me on this.

APPELBAUM: Sometimes, it does.

But Donald Trump garnered three million fewer votes than his opponent in 2016. I look back at earlier episodes, like Woodrow Wilson, who gave us

the Red Scare and the Palmer Raids, a great repression of civil liberties, slammed the doors shut immigration, re-segregated the federal civil


And he had a very particular vision of America as a country for white men. That was the vision of the Democratic Party. And it was a contested vision

within the Democratic Party. And it was eight short years until the Democratic Party nominated a very different sort of candidate, Al Smith, a

Catholic governor, who came in giving a great speech denouncing lynching in the South, and rebuilt that party to appeal to immigrants and to appeal to

the newly enfranchised women, who suddenly had the right to vote.

And the Democrats successfully competed for their support. And so you can see a party which gives into its counsel of fear, and then is still capable

of remaking itself. And Smith paved the way for FDR and one of the great uninterrupted sweeps of partisan dominance in American history.

But the Democrats didn't get there by embracing their fear. That's where they were in the short term. What enabled their long-term success was

enlarging their appeal.

SREENIVASAN: But what's at the core of the ethno-national kind of surge that's happening right now?

Because even when it comes to when we say a white voter, what is white has changed over time. I mean, who was considered white in 1900 was a much

smaller group of people than who we consider white today.


And that's actually one of the things that ought to give us all a little bit of hope in a moment like this. The boundaries of that cultural

majority have been continually renegotiated.

If we were at first a nation largely settled by the English, English became British, British became Northern European, Northern European became

undifferentiated European, and so on, right? There is nothing fixed about our identities. We're perfectly capable of renegotiating them.

And just as in the past, the things that have seemed to us like barriers that couldn't be breached, like identities that couldn't be erased, have

become simply American, that can happen again today. There is no reason that new immigrants cannot uphold the same values that have always defined


In fact, my experience of new immigrants to this country is that they are among the most fervent patriots I have ever met. They come here precisely

because they want to embrace this nation's values.

That message, I think, is a powerful one. And we have seen it reshape the politics of this country as people have been able to see these new groups

as fully and co-equally American, and it can again.

SREENIVASAN: Whether it's through the eyes of those new immigrants or the ones, the Americans, that have been here for a long time, one of the things

that might be distressing is, wait a minute, what happened to one person, one vote?

And whether it's through gerrymandering, whether it's through kind of all the kind of different machines that we have at play, you don't necessarily

feel like your pull on the lever is necessarily making that difference, right?

Are we destined for a future where the majority does not necessarily rule?

APPELBAUM: We have got that future right now. That future is our present, right, where the candidate who garnered fewer popular votes sits in the

Oval Office.

The Democrats have got more popular votes in most recent elections, and yet most justices on the Supreme Court were appointed by Republicans. So that

future is, in some sense, a description of America's reality. And it's purposeful.

The institutions of the United States were designed in order to safeguard the interests of rural voters in some ways.

SREENIVASAN: We also have structures in place that have very long consequences.

I mean, whether President Trump leaves in one year or five, the number of federal justices he's been able to appoint will outlast him. The Supreme

Court justices will outlast him. So, in a way, sometimes, these changes are almost generational in nature. It might take 20 years or 30 years for

a different crop of people to have different influences on our policies.

APPELBAUM: President Trump has had a profound impact on the federal bureaucracy, on the federal judiciary.

But most of the judges he's appointed are perfectly well-qualified for the benches on which they sit. I'm not particularly alarmed by his efforts to

reshape the federal judiciary.

What we need is a nation that abides by the rule of law and is responsive to the interests of voters.

So, the things that alarm me are not his appointments. They are, rather, the efforts by his administration, by some state-level Republican Parties

district the franchise, to deter people from voting, rather than inviting more participation, to gerrymander districts, rather than trying to set up

elections that are responsive to the will of voters.


The elements of our system that are supposed to be democratic, that are supposed to be responsive to the changing opinions of voters need to remain

that way.

And then the other elements of the system that are intended to give it a degree of status can function properly. It's when no part of the system is

responsive to the will of voters that we got into trouble.

SREENIVASAN: It seems like what you're describing now is what the South tried to do, to fight the math, that these efforts might be successful in

the short-term, but you just can't fight the shift of where the country's heading.

APPELBAUM: The South made a fatal mistake on the eve of the Civil War.

It passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which was a piece of legislation that said, we're not going to abide by states' rights. We're going to use the

coercive power of the federal government to reach into local communities to seize people we don't think have the legal right to be there, and to

leverage the police, the courts, local officials in order to bring those people back out of those communities and into bondage.

It was a fateful overreach, because it drove home the message to many Americans that they couldn't simply look away at what was happening in the

South. But, more than that, it was a fateful mistake, because the South had given up on moral suasion.

Rather than trying to have the argument about the justice of slavery, they simply went for coercive authority. They tried to win by power what they

could not win by rhetoric or by argument.

And whenever a political movement does that, it may achieve some degree of short-term success, but it tends to radicalize its opponents, it tends to

energize them, and it tends to sow the seeds of its ultimate defeat.

SREENIVASAN: So, why the title of your piece? Was it hyperbolic. Was it literal? Was it -- what are you trying to say?

APPELBAUM: I don't know how America ends. I hope it doesn't end yet.

But I wanted people think about that question, because it is the question we should be posing to ourselves. We should be aware that this experiment

can end, that it's not inevitable, that there's nothing about it which is self-corrective or self-sustaining, that it requires our active efforts and


And we should look back at those moments when it came close to ending to understand how it was that a great democratic experiment was jeopardized,

and then also how it was that it managed to right itself, and how Americans in those earlier areas rallied to the standard of greater justice and

greater freedom and righted the ship.

SREENIVASAN: Yoni Appelbaum, thanks again.

APPELBAUM: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: So, we must all guard our institutions and our planet.

Finally, we started the program talking about solutions to the climate crisis. And that is where we want to end it, through the eyes of young

people who have galvanized this global movement.

Correspondent Arwa Damon spoke to some of the kids attending the Madrid summit, as they urged the big shots there to take their pleas seriously.


HILDA NAKABUYE, UGANDAN CLIMATE ACTIVIST: You have been negotiating for the last 25 years, even before I was born.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hilda's generation does not deserve a crisis they did not create.

NAKABUYE: I am the voice of the dying children, displaced women and people suffering at the hands of climate crisis created by rich countries.

DAMON: She's at the forefront of the climate protests in her native Uganda, cleaning plastic filth out of Lake Victoria

When Hilda was just 10 years old, the changing climate dried her family's crops. There was no water for the livestock

NAKABUYE: We didn't have enough food. And then we started to sell off our property to survive. I missed three months without school, when other

people were at school. So I had to stay home because my parents couldn't afford. And it's too much.

DAMON: Words the big polluters don't want to hear or are turning away from. Despite all the signage declaring otherwise, these climate crisis

negotiations feel less like they're about saving the planet and more like a battle between the haves and have-nots.

But they won't give up.

(on camera): How old are you here?

NKOSILATHI NYATHI, ZIMBABWEAN CLIMATE ACTIVIST: Yes, I was 12. So, this was my profile then.

DAMON: And so people were listening to you when you were 12, that these clips of videos you did, they made a difference.

NYATHI: Yes, they did.

DAMON (voice-over): Nkosilathi got a UNICEF grant to get a biogas plant for his school to convert waste into energy.

His trip to the conference was his first time on a plane to address halls of power.

NYATHI: I also know the magnitude of the danger which is coming.

DAMON: They heard his words, but he feels like they didn't listen.

NYATHI: It hurts. It hurts. Naturally, it hurts.

I'm not actually seeing like real action the ground. But that's what I feel currently, that there's nothing which has been done.


DAMON: Leaders are even getting a dressing down from those too small to reach the podium.

LICYPRIYA KANGUJAM, INDIAN CLIMATE ACTIVIST: This is not fair. Our leaders are just busy blaming each other, instead of finding a long-term


DAMON: This girl is smaller than the banner she's carrying, but the smiles belie the severity of these children's future; 13-year-old Mounir dreams of

the stars. He wants to be a NASA scientist.

MOUNIR MBOGO, CHADIAN CLIMATE ACTIVIST: If they really love us, they should act now, because the climate change project should be taken

seriously. It's not a joke. It's about future generations and our living on Earth.

DAMON: It's the children who are the ones having grownup conversations.

NAKABUYE: I do this with all my heart and with love for the coming generation.


DAMON: Arwa Damon, CNN, Madrid.


AMANPOUR: Don't mess with the children.

That is it for now. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.