The List

The World's Most Inappropriate Government Agencies

Five offices that should consider updating their image.

The Backward Classes Bureau

Country: India 
What they do: Provide welfare services for and represent the interests of poor Indians. Approximately 50 percent of the world's second most populous country are members of "backward classes," a rather blunt designation for lower-caste Hindus and other disadvantaged religious and ethnic communities.

The National Commission for Backward Classes (a separate body from the bureau) maintains an extensive list of criteria for what are known as "other backward classes" (OBCs) -- meaning that, frequently, new groups gain or old groups lose the designation.

A key indicator of backwardness is the type of job generally held by members of the given caste/class. Generally, Indians involved in agriculture or traditional craft making, with little parliamentary representation, or of low education or economic status, qualify for OBC designation.

The practice of having an agency for backward-class affairs was written into the 1949 Indian Constitution, and the first commission was created in 1953. In India's 28 states, there are literally hundreds of groups that are classified as OBCs. Backward classes are reserved 27 percent of university placements, an extremely valuable commodity in modern India. Few will disagree with the principles behind the work the bureau is performing, but a name change is definitely in order.

The KGB 
Country: Belarus 
What they do: What the KGB does best. Belarus remains an outlier of Soviet-style authoritarianism in Eastern Europe, and its longtime leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, is commonly known as "Europe's last dictator."

Lending credence to that claim is the fact that Belarus has never bothered to change the name of its State Security Committee, or KGB. Russia at least had the sense to change its notorious spy agency's name to the more anodyne Federal Security Service, but Minsk apparently prefers the naked truth to Orwellian doublespeak.

The Belarusian KGB touts itself as a jack-of-all trades intelligence agency: Its website lists counterintelligence, foreign intelligence, crime prevention (including terrorism), governmental operations security, and international law enforcement cooperation. The KGB also claims to have excellent relations with Interpol.

It seems, however, that the KGB is not quite up to par with the brutality of its Soviet predecessor. After anti-government activist Andrey Kuzminsky displayed the banned national flag favored by the opposition in a protest, agents descended on his house for interrogation -- but left him with a mere warning. Lest it seems the KGB isn't all that bad, though, the bureau regularly raids media outlets and bans what it deems "extremist materials." The State Department's 2009 Human Rights Report accuses the KGB of beating detainees, gross privacy abuses, whitewashing anti-Semitic crimes and materials, interfering with NGO activities, and a whole host of other human rights violations.

Central Propaganda Department  
Country: China 
What they do: Enforce proper thinking. The ruling Communist Party greatly fears a potential free flow of information to its populace and has created a massive network of censorship to avoid such a possibility. State propaganda is an integral aspect of most authoritarian governments -- and a good number of democratic ones for that matter -- but rarely is the agency behind these efforts so transparent about its intentions.

Interestingly, the department is not officially part of the Chinese government, and is given no legal authority to enforce media censorship -- but according to a 2005 report by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, it still screens content to ensure that "anything that is inconsistent with the Communist Party's political dogma" never sees the light of day and works closely with state authorities tasked with restricting information.

The department's main strategy to restrict content is the encouragement of self-censorship among Chinese journalists. News outlets are expected to take their cues on what constitutes acceptable reporting, and what the party wants reported, through comments made by party officials. Furthermore, editors are forced to attend "indoctrination sessions." The department also handles "red tourism," a package of the most important sites in China, as perceived by the party, for visitors to see and maintains China's version of Civil War battlefield sites, the party's "patriotic education" bases.

Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice

Country: Saudi Arabia

What they do: Enforce a strict interpretation of sharia. The committee is tasked with enforcing the Saudi state's hard-line interpretation of religious law, looking to punish those guilty of actions deemed "un-Islamic."

The mutaween (religious police), charged with carrying out the dictates of the committee are all too eager to crack down on homosexuals, interaction between single men and women, and Saudis straying from Islam's dietary restrictions, or regulate anything else they so desire. On the committee's official government website, some of the most recent queries dealt with whether Muslims are allowed to participate in April Fools Day, whether watching sitcoms is acceptable, or if Saudis can use mobile-phone ring tones (no, no, and no, respectively).

The committee became internationally infamous for causing the deaths of 15 schoolgirls, killed in a 2002 fire. The girls weren't allowed out of the building because they weren't wearing proper Islamic dress -- some were beaten as they tried to escape the flames. In early April, the committee had sentenced a Lebanese "sorcerer" to death, but he was granted a stay of execution at the last moment. Despite the propagation of vice and virtue committees elsewhere, such as in Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip, the powers of the Saudi agency have been scaled back in the last few years: the mutaween are no longer able to interrogate those suspected of un-Islamic behavior, and they lost their carte blanche legal authority due to outcry over the death of two Saudis in their custody.

Ministry of Lands, Land Reform, and Rural Resettlement 
Country: Zimbabwe 
What they do: Ruin the economy of a once-promising country. Upon gaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe appeared to be an African success story, with a burgeoning agricultural sector and modest economic growth. Today, agricultural production has plummeted, making the former grain exporter heavily dependent on food aid.

Much of the current disaster has to do with President Robert Mugabe's disastrous land reform and redistributive policies. The ministry's website claims the program "revolves around land reform where the systematic dispossession and alienation of the land from the black indigenous people during the period of colonial rule, are adequately addressed." The ministry also promises to "enhance agricultural productivity, leading to industrial and economic empowerment and macro economic growth in the long term." Reality tells a different story. Inflation levels were reported as high as 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion percent before the country encouraged the use of foreign currencies in 2009. Unemployment levels are as high as 80 percent. Agricultural production since land reform began has fallen by more than half and approximately 1 million refugees have flooded neighboring South Africa in the last few year

Veterans of the Zimbabwean wars of independence (Mugabe was a major figure in the struggle) against the white-dominated regime in then-Rhodesia were encouraged to seize commercially white-owned farms by force. Around 4,000 white farmers have had their land expropriated and redistributed in the last 10 years. Promises of state assistance for the new farmers have not been kept, decimating Zimbabwe's agricultural production and turning this once breadbasket into a basketcase.


The List

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

World leaders are fast converging on Washington for Barack Obama's nuclear security summit. Here's FP's definitive guide to who they are and what they want.

Delegations from 46 countries are in the United States this week for a summit on nuclear security, but the foreign leaders in attendance are unlikely to let their time in Washington go by without raising other concerns. Here's a look at who's coming and what's on their agenda.


Who's coming: Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci

What they want: Counterterrorism help in North Africa. Obama's nuclear strategy hinges on keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists -- something Algeria, where the terrorist group al Qaeda in the Maghreb is very active -- has historically been engaged in.


Who's coming: President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

What they want:  Ideally, U.S. support for Argentina's claim on the Falkland Islands. In reality, the Argentines will likely focus on following Chile's lead in drawing down their large stockpile of fissile material.


Who's coming: President Serzh Sargsyan

What they want: U.S. backing in the Turkish-Armenian rapproachement. President Sargysan will hold a rare bilateral meeting with Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama have been attempting to reconcile bitter adversaries Turkey and Armenia, relations between which grew further complicated in March after a U.S. congressional committee decided to label the World War I-era killing of Armenians a genocide over vociferous Turkish objections.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

What they want: To be a major backer of Obama's nuclear policy. Australia has made eliminating chemical and nuclear weapons a foreign-relations priority. With the U.S. health-care vote postponing Obama's trip to the region and Rudd's own health-care debate bruising him domestically, Australia might just want some Obama love.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Yves Leterme

What they want: For Obama to stop snubbing the European Union. The Belgians take their leading role in the EU very seriously and lately, they have not been happy. In February, Obama decided not to attend a U.S.-EU summit in Madrid and this week he failed to invite a single EU representative to the signing of his new START agreement in Prague.


Who's coming: President Lula da Silva

What they want: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Brazil wants to play a larger role on the international stage and will probably make a point by defending all countries' right to peaceful nuclear energy -- a reference to Iran's nuclear program. Lula has come out against a round of fresh sanctions against the Islamic Republic, arguing that such steps would only radicalize the regime. Although Brazil denies backing Iran outright, Iranian President Ahmadinejad came to Brazilia last year and Lula plans to visit Tehran in May.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Stephen Harper

What they want: A commemorative DVD of the Olympic gold medal-hockey match. Defense arrangements between Canada and the United States are already the closest in the world. Canada's involvement will be, for the most part, symbolic.


Who's coming: President Sebastián Piñera

What they want: To get some props. Chile just delivered the last of its highly enriched uranium to the United States last month, in line with Obama's push to recover the world's unsecured nuclear material. Piñera, who was just inaugurated in March, will also meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao to discuss bilateral trade.


Who's coming: President Hu Jintao

What they want: Great-power status. China sees this as an opportunity to depict itself as a responsible world power. But the Chinese president reportedly agreed only to attend if the United States does not embarrass him following his visit by declaring China a "currency manipulator." Economic issues as well as Iran's nuclear program will likely be on the table when Hu sits down with Obama for a bilateral meeting, but both sides have agreed to respect each other's "core interests."

Czech Republic

Who's coming: Prime Minister Jan Fischer

What they want: U.S. security assurances. The Czechs, who had agreed to host the now-nixed U.S. missile-defense system in Eastern Europe, want to know the United States is still there for them, particularly in light of increasing U.S.-Russian cooperation.


Who's coming: Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit

What they want: For the world to focus on Israel. The delegation is expected to criticize Israel's nuclear program. Egyptian diplomats will also continue their push for an Arab-Israeli peace agreement.


Who's coming: President Tarja Halonen

What they want: To give women their due. President Halonen is the chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and will be hosting a luncheon of American women leaders at the Finnish Embassy.


Who's coming: President Nicolas Sarkozy

What they want: Having had a private dinner with Obama just two weeks earlier, Sarkozy will likely be generally supportive of nonproliferation policies and trade relations with other countries. A strong supporter of U.N. sanctions on Iran, Sarkozy will be closely involved in lobbying other Security Council states to ramp up the pressure on the Islamic Republic.


Who's coming: President Mikheil Saakashvili

What they want: To drive a wedge between the U.S. and Russia. Saakashvilli, who requested a bilateral meeting with Obama and was denied, will also seek to pressure France against selling its Mistral-class ships to Russia.


Who's coming: Chancellor Angela Merkel

What they want: Germany has backed tougher sanctions on Iran for years, and will work with the United States to convince the Russian and Chinese leadership to get on board. Merkel is also looking to prove her influence on the world stage prior to important regional elections in Germany on May 9.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

What they want: Help with Pakistan. India is expected to push for greater oversight of loose nuclear material, especially given New Delhi's constant fear that terrorists could potentially steal some from archrival Pakistan's nuclear facilities.


Who's coming: Vice President Boediono

What they want: Finally, a visit. After two delays, President Obama is slated to travel to Indonesia this June. During his visit, he will sign a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which will enhance defense, political, and economic ties between the two countries. Indonesia is currently fighting an Islamic insurgency and seeks continued U.S. funding and military training.


Who's coming: Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor

What they want: Not to be the center of attention. In light of a recent East Jerusalem settlements row with the Obama administration, Israel is looking look to keep a low profile in Washington. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would not attend the summit for fear of a joint Egyptian-Turkish verbal assault on Israel's secret nuclear weapons arsenal.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

What they want: To go nuclear. Italy is planning to revitalize its nuclear energy program, and on Friday concluded a deal with France to rebuild it. Berlusconi has said he wants 25 percent of Italian power to come from nuclear sources. Italians will be hoping Berlusconi doesn't tell any more off-color jokes about Obama.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

What they want: To stay in power. Perhaps the most controversial issue regarding the longtime U.S. troop presence in Japan is the Futenma Air Force Base on the island of Okinawa, which the Japanese government agreed to move in 2006 to reduce friction with Okinawa residents. With a poor public approval rating, Hatoyama is under pressure to complete a deal -- with some claiming failure could cost him his job.


Who's coming: King Abdullah II

What do they want: Peace process progress. The Hashemite Kingdom maintains a constantly precarious position in the Middle East, being one of only two Arab states (Egypt is the other) that have formal relations with Israel. King Abdullah, who recently claimed that his country's relations with Israel are at their lowest point since peace was agreed 16 years ago, will push Obama for greater efforts to restart stagnated Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and likely will argue that pressure on Israel is key to success.


Who's coming: President Nursultan Nazarbayev

What they want: To be a disarmament leader. Kazakhstan is home to 20 percent of the world's uranium supply, making it a key partner in any effort to secure nuclear materials. The ex-Soviet republic dismantled the weapons program it gained by default following the USSR's breakup in 1991, and last year offered to host a centralized international nuclear fuel bank. Kazakhstan has been taking out ads around Washington touting its leadership role on nuclear disarmament.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak

What they want: Face time with Obama. Prime Minister Najib's winning of a bilateral meeting with President Obama showcases Malaysia's growing importance to the United States. Najib will be a man on a mission during his first official visit to Washington, making numerous stops to promote deeper U.S.-Malaysian ties. Malaysia is also a member of the Association of Southeastern Nations (ASEAN), which is seeking expanded trade ties with the U.S.


Who's coming: President Felipe Calderón

What they want: Help with the drug war. Mexico faces a major problem on its northern border, as a war on drug cartels has yet to make much progress into its fourth year. Three people tied to the U.S. consulate in the besieged town of Ciudad Juarez were killed last month in drug-related violence, putting Calderón's battle with the narcotraficantes back on the front pages and raising new questions in Washington about the Mexican president's strategy.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi

What they want: To keep the aid coming. The North African country has been the recipient of substantial U.S. military assistance, with $9 million given to Rabat since President Obama took office in January 2009. Fears of terrorists using Western Sahara, a disputed territory controlled by Morocco, has also increased the country's profile: the U.S. Senate last month voiced support for Morocco's proposal to address the situation by allowing more local autonomy to Western Saharans.

The Netherlands

Who's coming: Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

What they want: A graceful departure. The Dutch have been a close ally in U.S. foreign-policy missions, contributing troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan. But Balkenende announced in February that the 1,600 Dutch troops in Afghanistan would leave the country by the end of the year, and the Netherlands previously withdrew its 1,3500 troops from Iraq in March 2005.

New Zealand

Who's coming: Prime Minister John Key

What do they want: To bring the troops home and keep the whales safe. New Zealand has contributed more than 200 troops to the Afghan conflict, including 71 elite Special Airborne Services soldiers. Prime Minister Key announced last September they would be withdrawn by the end of 2014. New Zealand has also been a key mediator in global whaling issues, much to U.S. appreciation.


Who's coming: Acting President Goodluck Jonathan

What they want: Legitimacy. Jonathan's meeting with Obama highlights the strategic importance of Africa's most populous country at a time of crisis. After last December's failed bombing of a U.S. airliner by a Nigerian national, the two leaders are expected to discuss closer ties in fighting terrorism, as well as Nigeria's substantial oil reserves. Jonathan is also looking to portray himself as the legitimate leader of Nigeria, have assumed control of the government in February due to President Umaru Yar'Adua's illness.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg

What they want: Arctic sovereignty. Norway has asserted itself as a new power with aggressive moves to claim parts of the Arctic, where climate change is expected to uncover substantial reserves of natural resources. Norway and the United States took the lead at a March conference of Arctic powers, which also included Canada, Denmark, and Russia.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani

What they want: Nuclear cooperation. Pakistan expects considerable U.S. assistance in its fight against Taliban fighters in the country's restive Northwest Frontier Province. Chief among Pakistani wishes is a U.S.-Pakistani nuclear agreement, similar to the one the U.S. has offered bitter rival India -- though the Obama administration seems cold to the idea.


Who's coming: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

What they want: Counterterrorism help. U.S.-Philippine talks will focus on combating extremism in the southern islands of the archipelago nation. Expect the U.S. side to seek assurances that the upcoming 2010 Philippine general elections won't turn out like last year's, during which 46 people were killed in post-election violence.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Donald Tusk

What they want: Protection from Russia. Tusk will likely thank Obama for the U.S. decision to station Patriot missiles in Morag, Poland, following a period of tension earlier this year over the U.S. cancellation of its missile-defense plans. Tusk is looking for reassurances that Poland's interests will not be lost in the "reset" of U.S.-Russia relations. Given the 2,000 troops Poland has stationed in Afghanistan, the upcoming offensive in Kandahar may get some attention as well.


Who's coming: President Lee Myung-bak

What they want: To keep the pressure on Kim Jong Il. South Korea will praise the United States for its decision to continue providing Seoul with extended nuclear deterrence against North Korea, as well as for its decision to continue targeting North Korea with nuclear weapons. South Korea and the United States will also discuss how to coax North Korea back to the six-party talks over its nuclear program.


Who's coming: President Dmitry Medvedev

What they want: To push back on missile defense. Russia is seeking to link the recently signed disarmament treaty to the planned U.S. missile-defense shield in Romania and Bulgaria. But the discussions this week are more likely to focus on Iran, how to persuade China to agree to U.N. sanctions, and how severe the sanctions resolutions can be while still securing Moscow's critical Security Council vote.

Saudi Arabia

Who's coming: Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud

What they want: To keep nukes out of Iran. Saudi Arabia will push the United States to jumpstart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Prince Muqrin, the powerful Saudi intelligence chief, is also sure to discuss regional archrival Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program. With its vast oil resources, Saudi Arabia may be essential to convincing an energy-hungry China to agree to sanctions on Iran.


Who's coming: Not Abhisit Vejjajiva. The Thai prime minister has cancelled his trip to Washington in light of the growing unrest in Bangkok. His replacement is not yet known.

What they want: To show they're still in control. Thailand will lobby for greater economic aid and assistance from the United States. Even though Thailand continues to hedge against America's declining influence in East Asia by cozying up to Beijing, look for the Thai delegation to seek to reassure the United States that Abhisit's administration is still in control and won't be going the way of Kyrgyzstan.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

What they want: To set the record straight. The Turkish government is furious about a pending House of Representatives resolution that labels the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, and wants the Obama administration to lobby against its passage. Turkey will also discuss its apparent reluctance to endorse sanctions against Iran with the United States.

United Kingdom

Who's coming: Foreign Minister David Miliband

What they want: To make the relationship special again. The British and the Americans will focus on two major issues: the future ISAF drive into Kandahar, and how to deal with an increasingly defiant Iran. With a close general election just a month away, Prime Minister Gordon Brown chose to stay at home to begin campaigning.


Who's coming: President Viktor Yanukovich

What they want: To make an introduction. Look for the Ukrainians and Americans to spend some time feeling each other out, as this is the first time Yanukovich -- considered more pro-Russian than his predecessor -- will be visiting the United States as president of Ukraine. The two countries are sure to discuss the chaos in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the usual range of American-Eastern European issues, including NATO, the Eurasian gas market, and Russia's influence among former Soviet satellites.


Who's coming: President Nguyen Tan Dung

What they want: Energy help. The Vietnamese and American delegations are likely to focus on any major agreements reached during the 2010 ASEAN Summit, which has just drawn to a close in Hanoi. The Vietnamese will also push for the United States to begin providing civilian nuclear assistance following the recently signed bilateral nuclear energy pact.


Who's coming: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

What they want: Trade talks. During the summit, U.S. and Singaporean officials will probably discuss bilateral economic relations. Expect for Singapore to push for increased trade between the two countries and explain its plan to revalue its currency. Also look for the two countries to discuss the economic and financial implications of an appreciation in the Chinese yuan.


Who's coming: President Doris Leuthard

What they want: To talk about anything but banking. Swiss and American officials are likely to discuss general U.S.-EU relations, as well as the global economic recovery, the Greek debt crisis, and international financial reform. Don't look for the Swiss to give much on banking transparency.

South Africa

Who's coming: President Jacob Zuma

What they want: To demonstrate stability. In their bilateral meeting, Obama will be anxious to hear how Zuma plans to help resolve the ongoing power-sharing dispute in Zimbabwe between President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Prime Minister Tsvangirai's MDC party. Also, look for Zuma to assure Obama that he will be able to ease the tension that has gripped South African society in the wake of the murder of white-supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche.


Who's coming: Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

What they want: Respect for Europe. The United States will thank Spain for its contributions to ISAF in Afghanistan, and the two countries will discuss future NATO strategy in Kandahar. Zapatero, however, was reportedly angry about Obama's decision to skip the annual U.S.-EU summit that Spain, will be hosting in Madrid this May. He will likely seek assurances that Obama takes U.S.-EU relations seriously.


Who's coming: John Fredrik Reinfeldt

What they want: Focus on Climate. Sweden will focus its attention on international climate-change policy. Potential topics include a discussion of what was (and was not) achieved during last year's Copenhagen Summit, as well as the newly launched Swedish-American Green Alliance.

United Arab Emirates

Who's coming: Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed

What they want: With the passage last December of a U.S.-UAE civilian nuclear energy deal, the UAE will be sure push for the U.S. to begin ramping up bilateral nuclear commerce. With questions about Israeli policy sure to come up, the UAE may also have an opportunity to vent about the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai in January.

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