This month, the UN High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda moves in to the home straight, with its report due to be submitted to the Secretary-General on the 1st of June. So is it going to amount to anything? Well, Duncan Green certainly isn’t holding his breath:
The post-2015 discussion typifies the kind of ‘magical thinking’ that abounds in aid circles, in which well-intentioned developmentistas debate how the world should be improved. These discussions and the mountains of policy papers, blogs etc that accompany them, are often based on what I call ‘If I ruled the World’ (IRW) thinking. IRW, then I would do X, Y, Z – Rights for (disenfranchised group of your choice)! More Infrastructure! Better Data! Jobs!
Owen Barder, for his part, observed a month ago that “it would simplify my twitter timeline if people would tweet things they think should NOT be a central plank of the post 2015 framework”.
And it is indeed becoming increasingly apparent that in NGOs, UN agencies, foundations and, yes, governments all around the world, a coterie of aid industry hacks is having a lovely time playing ‘fantasy development goals’ without feeling any particular pressure to consider what exactly is supposed to happen as a result of a glossy new set of targets.
This irks Duncan, who observes acidly: ”What, after all, is the point of the post-2015 process, beyond creating (another) international forum for debating development?”
This is what the NGOs like to call ‘good challenge’, and this is the right moment to be asking it. The post-2015 agenda needs (more development jargon incoming) a theory of influence. So here for what they’re worth are five possible (and not mutually exclusive) answers to his question. (more…) May 1, 2013 at 7:23 am | More on Economics and development, Global system, Influence and networks | 5 Comments
UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening in a speech today:
“South Africa has made enormous progress over the past two decades, to the extent that it is now the region’s economic powerhouse and Britain’s biggest trading partner in Africa. We are proud of the work the UK has done in partnership with the South African government, helping the country’s transition from apartheid to a flourishing, growing democracy.
“I have agreed with my South African counterparts that South Africa is now in a position to fund its own development. It is right that our relationship changes to one of mutual co-operation and trade, one that is focused on delivering benefits for the people of Britain and South Africa as well as for Africa as a whole.”
Media release from South African Department for International Relations and Cooperation, a few hours later:
UK unilateral decision to terminate Official Development Aid to SA
The South African government has noted with regret the unilateral announcement by the government of the United Kingdom regarding the termination of the Official Development Aid to South Africa as from the year 2015.
This is such a major decision with far reaching implications on the projects that are currently running and it is tantamount to redefining our relationship.
Ordinarily, the UK government should have informed the government of South Africa through official diplomatic channels of their intentions and allowed for proper consultations to take place, and the modalities of the announcement agreed on. We have a SA/UK Bilateral Forum which is scheduled for some time this year and the review of the SA/UK strategy which includes the ODA, would take place there and decisions about how to move forward were expected to be discussed in that forum.
This unilateral announcement no doubt will affect how our bilateral relations going forward will be conducted.
What the hell happened?
Update: the Guardian has this from a DFID press officer:
Today’s announcement comes after months of discussions with the South African government. DfID ministers and senior officials have met with the South African government on many occasions to discuss our decision.
An observation: this looks like a retreat from the original wording of Greening’s speech: calling it “our decision” sounds rather different (read: unilateral) from Greening’s argument that she and her South African counterparts had “agreed” that SA was now in a position to fund its own development.
Update 2: Foreign Secretary William Hague has now entered the fray, intoning magisterially that ”I am not going to fling accusations” while making clear – in the same sentence, no less – that the whole kerfuffle is the result of “bureaucratic confusion, perhaps on the South African side”. But here’s the key quote:
“We don’t continue to give aid to countries that are raising their incomes, that have growing economies.”
Surely this bold new doctrine rules out most – or possibly even all – of the countries that DFID spends money on? I love policy made up on the hoof. It’s always such fun. April 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm | More on Africa, Economics and development, UK | Comments Off
Dear Jeff Sachs, Johan Rockstrom, Marcus Ohman and Guido Schmidt-Traub,
I’m a long-standing admirer of your work, especially Johan’s pioneering research on planetary boundaries and Jeff’s critical contributions to connecting the dots between environment and development. But I’m struggling a bit with a couple of aspects of your recent paper on Sustainable Development and Planetary Boundaries, and wondered if I could ask you a few quick questions for clarification.
First, some background. Back in November last year, I published a think piece on how sustainability issues, and especially planetary boundaries, might fit in to the post-2015 development agenda. Like you, I argued that it was essential that the successor framework to the MDGs should explicitly recognise the centrality of planetary boundaries - and the consequent need for future growth and development to take place in a fundamentally different way.
I also argued that the only way to start making this agenda real is to recognise explicitly that “no developing country will assent to goals on natural resource limits without explicit assurances about fair shares to environmental space, and protection of their right to develop”. In practice:
“at regional and global level … emphasis on fair shares within environmental limits would reframe equity discussions around how to share out entitlements or assets rather than – as now – burdens. This would nudge policy discussions towards clearer recognition of the need to protect fair shares of finite environmental space for developing countries and poor people – and of the need for all countries to bring (and then keep) their own consumption levels within their fair shares, or else pay others a fair price for the right to use some of their entitlement”.
As you will recognise, my argument is based on the principle of “contraction and convergence”, an idea first developed in the context of global climate policy by the London-based Global Commons Institute. In essence, C&C argues that global greenhouse gas emissions must contract to within sustainable limits; and, at the same time, that countries’ entitlements to emit carbon should converge to equal per capita shares of the atmosphere, for reasons of both justice and realpolitik.
So I was interested to see that your paper explicitly mentions C&C at the outset – summarising it as a policy whereby “rich countries need to substantially reduce their standard of living, and developing countries can grow until they converge at the lower income of high-income countries [at which point] economic growth would need to stop.”
This, you argue, is one of “three unattractive alternatives” for reconciling economic growth and planetary boundaries – the other two being for the rich world to “kick away the ladder” and keep poor countries poor; or for all of us to head over the environmental precipice together. Like the ‘kick away the ladder’ scenario, you suggest, C&C appears “politically impossible in HICs, MICs and LICs alike”, given that
“Developing countries around the world want to achieve economic progress, end extreme poverty in all its forms, and achieve higher per capita incomes. These aspirations are right and cannot be compromised on. An agenda that posits barriers to growth will not be supported by politicians and people around the world. Likewise, it seems impossible that politicians in rich countries would ever agree to drastically lower the standard of living. And why would developing countries agree to stop economic growth at a level of income that is below the income enjoyed by rich countries today?”
However, this is where I started to get confused by your paper.
First of all, I’m unsure as to whom you have been reading to give you the impression that contraction and convergence was ever about ending growth, or about trying to equalise per capita income; certainly the Global Commons Institute, which as noted above applies C&C to the much more specific context of the need to cap and then find a way to share out global emissions, argues no such thing.
To be sure, the underlying logic of C&C can in principle be applied to other international level planetary boundaries besides carbon – as for example I did in my paper on post-2015 and sustainability. However, this remains a very far cry from calling for it to be applied to growth or income.
(Indeed, in a paper I wrote for Oxfam and WWF in 2011 on Scarcity, Fair Shares and Development, I argued explicitly that campaigners should resist the temptation to jump into the limits to growth argument, and should instead maintain a clear distinction between limits to growth on one hand – where the jury is still out – and limits to key resources and ecosystem services on the other hand, where the basis for action is already evident.)
In fact, I have yet to come across any paper that argues that the idea of contraction and convergence is about limiting and equalising per capita incomes – and would see any paper that does argue this point as being based on either a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation. I wonder if you could clarify where you got the impression that C&C was about this?
The second question I’d like to put to you is about the ‘Sustainable Development Trajectory’ that you posit as the desirable alternative to the ”three unattractive options” that you identify at the beginning of your paper.
In your first recommendation, you argue that:
“The science of planetary boundaries makes clear that are on an unsustainable trajectory. The world must reject the three baseline scenarios outlined in Section I (kick away the ladder, contract and converge, business as usual) and strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Trajectory.”
In your second recommendation, you then argue that (emphasis added):
“Achieving the Sustainable Development Trajectory will require an unprecedented effort by all countries – rich and poor – that will only be possible under a shared global framework for sustainable development. Such a global framework must have the following global features:
a) Provide an ethical foundation based on the principle of convergence and the “right to development”
As far as I can tell, what you are calling for here is more or less what I would understand by the logic of contraction and convergence: namely, explicit recognition that: (a) global problems need global solutions; (b) global consumption levels of key resources and environmental services must be brought within sustainable use limits; and (c) for reasons of both practicality and ethics, this has to be coupled with respect for the right to develop, and fair shares within finite environmental space.
So I wonder whether you would:
1) be happy to agree that the definition of C&C used in your paper is based on a misunderstanding – or, alternatively, point me towards the source for your definition?
2) concur that the logic of C&C as its advocates understand it (i.e. as defined above) is actually indispensable in reaching a viable synthesis of environment and development objectives at point when we risk overshooting planetary boundaries?
3) acknowledge that in cases where multilateral approaches based on quantified targets and timetables are needed - in the case of climate change, most obviously and urgently - then, by extension, the application of C&C must also be quantified, through the definition of (i) a global carbon budget and (ii) entitlements for all countries that are determined on the basis of convergence to equal per capita levels by some agreed date?
I should wrap up by saying again that I’m a huge admirer of your work, and agree very much with where I think you’re coming from – but since we all clearly agree on the crucial importance of the issues we’re discussing and their relevance to the post-2015 agenda, and since I think you may have got the wrong impression about contraction and convergence, I thought it would be helpful to write this note up to try to clarify.
Alex Evans April 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Economics and development | 4 Comments
Via PublicShaming, a helpful snapshot of people who think that (a) Chechnya and Czechoslovakia are the same place, and (b) the latter still exists.
Isn’t it wonderful how social media gives a voice to the voiceless! April 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm | More on Influence and networks | Comments Off
Enthusiasm for foreign intereventions from the sky seems to ebb and flow as the years go by. Back during the Kosovo intervention, Clinton and Blair were widely criticised for thinking that an intervention based on aerial bombing would allow them to get away without deploying boots on the ground. (In the event, Milosevic did blink first by accepting the terms of an international peace plan before NATO had to deploy ground troops – although the arrival of KFOR followed shortly afterwards.)
A few years later, widespread calls from advocacy groups for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Darfur were met with scepticism in government, given the size of the country and the fact that halting Sudanese government air missions (especially “barrel bombing” from Antonov transport aircraft) clearly wasn’t going to halt the more fundamental problem of janjaweed attacks on the ground.
By the time of the Libyan civil war in 2011, no-fly zones seemed to be back in vogue, with France, Britain, the US, Canada and other countries undertaking numerous sorties over the country, as well as imposing a naval blockade, under UN SCR 1973.
Now, the world has been wringing its hands over the continually worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Syria for more than two years. Demands for action by the west are understandably mounting – yet it’s surprising that almost all the debate about possible interventions has focused on arming the rebels, with much less discussion of a no-fly zone.
I’m instinctively wary of non-specific demands that “something must be done” (see Max Hastings in the FT today for a good presentation of this view). But given that so much of the Syrian government’s advantage – and capacity to inflict atrocities – stems from its air superiority, a no-fly zone looks like a such an obvious option that it seems odd (at least to my inexpert eye) that it hasn’t been more widely discussed.
Still, this may finally be changing: Senate Armed Forces Committee Chair Carl Levin came out in favour of the idea last month, and rumours suggest that the Administration is thinking about it too – all the more so if it takes a decision to go in to the country to secure chemical weapons stockpiles. April 22, 2013 at 11:01 am | More on Conflict and security, Middle East and North Africa | Comments Off
Full marks to Buzzfeed for identifying the key point amid today’s information blizzard from Boston (and for keeping their heads while all around them are losing theirs):
April 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm | More on Influence and networks | Comments Off
Yesterday, the conspiracy nuts at Infowars and the proud tabloid hacks at the New York Post, the amateur sleuths on Reddit and and the top-notch journalists at CNN shared something: They each failed to understand their new roles in a radically changed news environment.
The traditional journalists ignored the reality that their audiences were swimming in information, good and bad, and weren’t waiting for anyone’s permission to share it. The Redditors didn’t realize that as many people were looking at their wild, superficially compelling speculations as at John King’s. (The leader of Reddit’s bombing investigation told BuzzFeed yesterday, in complete seriousness: “Things shouldn’t be going any further than this forum and the FBI.”)
The shift here is, basically, from the media having one major responsibility — finding, vetting, and sharing new information — to having another one: guiding an audience that has already been exposed to much more.
The job of a news organization — and of a citizen — has changed with frightening speed in a world where information is everywhere; where the tip line is public; where the distinction between source, subject, and publisher has blurred; and where, crucially, questionable reports and anonymous postings are part of the fabric of that story.
Honestly, the Westminster village can be so up itself in its sheer self-referentiality. More or less every piece I’ve read today on why David Miliband might have taken the job running the International Rescue Committee in New York has taken it as a given that his motivation must of course be rooted in Westminster factors, above all the “permanent pantomime” of his relationship with his brother Ed.
No doubt that will have been a factor, but it’s still astonishing that so little of today’s coverage stops to think about how Miliband’s decision might also have been influenced by a calculation about the politics of New York rather than Westminster.
- Since 2007, the senior UN post that has been informally regarded as ‘belonging’ to Britain is that of… why, Under Secretary General (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs. (The current postholder is my former boss Valerie Amos; before her it was career FCO diplomat John Holmes.) When Ban Ki-moon and his team finish their term, in 2016, David Miliband will have impeccable credentials on emergency relief and foreign policy and management of international organisations.
- Britain also has a pretty strong claim to an alternative, more senior USG post - or even to an additional one. Until recently, Britain had two USG posts (the other being the low profile but important role of running Safety and Security). Prior to 2005, Britain had a 12 year track record of filling the crucial post of USG for Political Affairs - the UN’s equivalent of Foreign Secretary (so another post that Miliband would be obviously qualified to fill). And for a little while, we fielded the post of Deputy Secretary-General too, in the form of Mark Malloch Brown. Who knows what Britain might end up with in 2016 if the government decided to make a strong push. And on that note…
- …when these jobs come up again in 2016, there’s a substantial chance that the government taking the decision on who to nominate for which post will led by one… Ed Miliband. Even if the Conservatives were still in power after the next election, the widespread respect for David Miliband on all sides of the Commons and in the Foreign Office (including William Hague himself) would still give him a strong shot at nomination.
Obviously the domestic political context will have been a factor in his decision. But David Miliband is far too experienced a foreign policy operator not to be competely aware of all the points above. And remember that he’ll still be only be 51 when Ban Ki-moon’s administration wraps up… March 27, 2013 at 12:39 pm | More on Global system, UK | 4 Comments
This summer will mark five years since 2008, the year of both the first flush of the global financial crisis, and of the peak of the combined food and fuel spike.
As David Steven and I have observed in various papers, the last decade was bookended by shocks – 9/11 at one end, and these two at the other. And while the resource spike and the credit crunch lacked the visual vividness of September 11, they were arguably just as significant in the way that they shook assumptions about the stability or direction of globalisation.
But it’s also intesting to look back now at that strange year, and reflect on how many of the initial fears, hopes and assumptions about the twin crises have been proved wrong with the benefit of five years’ hindsight – as well as various shifts that have taken place since 2008 that no-one foresaw at the time. Here are ten things that lots of us (well, I, anyway) got wrong or missed altogether back in 2008 – adapted from a futures presentation I gave to Oxfam last week.
(more…) March 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Conflict and security, Economics and development, Global system, Influence and networks | Comments Off
Or so you might believe from your RSS feeds this morning. The Guardian, BBC, FT and others are all carrying the story that (as the Guardian has it), “David Cameron gives green light for aid cash to go on military”. Various NGO campaigners have predictably gone, well, ballistic.
But actually… both David Cameron’s actual remarks, and the background briefing subsequently given to the press, have stressed that all this would happen within existing rules on what counts as aid, i.e. the OECD DAC definition of ODA.
These rules are abundantly clear about what can and can’t count as ODA in the security and conflict domain. First and foremost, it counts as aid only if it’s “administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective”.
This principle is applied in a pretty conservative way, too. The rules are explicit, for instance, that activities to combat terrorism are “not reportable as ODA, as they generally target perceived threats to donor, as much as to recipient countries”; given the effect on development of Boko Haram or AQIM in the Sahel, you could well argue that that’s actually too restrictive.
What about peacekeeping? Bottom line: some of it’s allowed, but not “the enforcement aspects”. The sort of stuff you can include from peacekeeping, on the other hand, is stuff like human rights, election monitoring, rehabilitation of demobilised soldiers, advice on economic stabilisation, or mine removal. In other words, the sort of stuff that DFID already funds loads of, and rightly so. Spending on “military services and equipment” is only allowed if it’s being used for humanitarian assistance or development services.
Against this backdrop, people taking to Twitter and the airwaves to denounce the diversion of aid from schools to soldiers have either not got their facts right, or are being disingenuous. (In fairness, the anonymous government spokesperson who’s been saying that “hundreds of millions” could be diverted from DFID to MOD is being disingenous too – it’s very, very hard to see how that much could be spent through MOD while keeping within ODA rules.)
So it’s a non-story, basically - and I’m not sure that development advocates are helping their case by being this easy to provoke into fury even when the facts don’t warrant it. February 21, 2013 at 10:00 am | More on Conflict and security, Economics and development | Comments Off
Breaking news on the post-2015 development agenda just in from Richard in New York, who reports that the UN Secretary-General has set a major new agenda on what should follow the Millennium Development Goals when they expire:
I believe quinoa is truly a food for the MDGs and can make an important contribution to post-2015 development strategies.
And we’ll have more from Ban Ki-moon a bit later in the programme. February 21, 2013 at 9:19 am | More on Economics and development, Off topic | Comments Off
Now this campaign really annoys me. A gaggle of NGOs have joined forces to launch a declaration demanding that the European Union scrap its emissions trading scheme. The declaration makes some totally valid points about the scheme’s poor track record on driving real emissions reductions, its handouts of what are effectively freebie subsidies to large polluters, its price volatility and recent collapse in carbon prices, and its susceptibility to fraud; all of which is true. And I’d be the first to agree that when you get the design of an emissions trading scheme wrong, it can lead to disastrous consequences – the Clean Development Mechanism being a case in point that I’ve written about here before.
But what’s so infuriating about this campaign is that there is not a single word on how the EU ETS could be fixed. It’s just taken as a given that scrapping it is the only possible way to deal with its flaws. Worse still, the declaration completely fails to say what its signatories would propose to do instead, other than some incredibly vague references to “regulation” (nothing on what sort of regulation, of course); the need for a “zero waste philosophy”; and… well, that’s it.
I really thought the NGO movement had started to grow out of this sort of crap – the bleating from the sidelines, safe in the protest comfort zone, with no serious attempt to engage with real world trade-offs or set out an agenda for action other than whingeing. Even Greenpeace isn’t this bad, and that’s saying something. February 20, 2013 at 11:10 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Influence and networks | Comments Off