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Progress watch 2012: Smart phones, jobs returning to America, and war crimes trials

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In The Hague, two international war criminals were found guilty in landmark rulings: the International Criminal Court convicted Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese rebel, of recruiting child soldiers. The conviction, after a two-year trial, was a first for the ICC, established a decade ago. The verdict "was the culmination of decades of hope that accountability for the most serious crimes would be achieved," says James Goldston, founding director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. "It took 10 years, but this conviction [is] an enormous accomplishment and a major step forward for international justice."

In a long-awaited verdict from a different court, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted of war crimes. He is effectively the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes. (The formal distinction goes to Karl Dönitz, who served as president of Germany for the 23 days between Hitler's suicide and the dissolution of the government after Germany's surrender in World War II.)

Not all of this year's good news comes on the heels of tragedy. In Nigeria, Egypt, and India, mobile technology is expanding entrepreneurship so quickly that small, mobile-tech-heavy businesses make up 38 percent of the gross domestic product, according to a study released earlier this year by global consultancy Booz Allen.

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