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
There’s a very thoughtful article on where social democracy needs to go next over at Renewal (h/t to Casper for the link), which is thoroughly worth a read. Here’s a quick sample, including some pretty arresting numbers (emphasis added). What a pleasant surprise, incidentally, to see mainstream centre left thinking integrating scarcity and environmental limits into its analysis without fuss, for once – would that this were more the norm…
February 19, 2013 at 8:19 am | More on Economics and development, Global system, Influence and networks | Comments Off
Social democracy today is bereft of an economic programme. So is the broader left, which has not yet developed an alternative to an unappealing and discredited state socialism. The slow and steady build-up of democratic wealth-holding institutions provides an obvious avenue for the re-animation and re-radicalisation of both, through the generation of a new set of economic institutions and political power bases. But this will require a long-term commitment to evolutionary change and a willingness to step outside of the false choices and immediate constraints of crisis management.
In doing this, the assumptions behind austerity must be called into question. It is a deep irony that the Great Recession is unfolding among some of the richest societies the world has ever known. While the relations of production remain contested, the forces of production have been reaching new heights. In the United States in 2011, the economy produced almost $200,000 (over £125,000) per family of four. In Britain in the same year, the equivalent number was almost $150,000 (almost £95,000). In Germany, it was nearly $160,000 (£100,000). Even in Greece, going through the agony of austerity, production reached over $100,000 (£63,000) per four-person household (OECD, 2012). This is wealth enough – especially given the resource constraints imposed by climate change and emerging energy, mineral, water and other limits to unending growth. The challenge is not technological but organisational and political. It is a matter of systemic design.
Finding myself watching Empire Strikes Back last night, I found myself reflecting once again on the general crappiness of the rebels’ defenses – for instance, the gun that looks like a radar dish and appears to fail to inflict any damage on anything whatsoever during the battle.
So it’s especially pleasing that Wired’s national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman has decided to employ his knowledge of counter-insurgency doctrine to a setting out a detailed tactical analysis of the Battle of Hoth. Sample:
From a military perspective, Hoth should have been a total debacle for the Rebel Alliance. Overconfident that they can evade Imperial surveillance, they hole up on unforgiving frigid terrain at the far end of the cosmos. Huddled into the lone Echo Base are all their major players: politically crucial Princess Leia; ace pilot Han Solo; and their game-changer, Luke Skywalker, who isn’t even a Jedi yet.
The defenses the Alliance constructed on Hoth could not be more favorable to Vader if the villain constructed them himself. The single Rebel base (!) is defended by a few artillery pieces on its north slope, protecting its main power generator. An ion cannon is its main anti-aircraft/spacecraft defense. Its outermost perimeter defense is an energy shield that can deflect Imperial laser bombardment. But the shield has two huge flaws: It can’t stop an Imperial landing force from entering the atmosphere, and it can only open in a discrete place for a limited time so the Rebels’ Ion Cannon can protect an evacuation. In essence, the Rebels built a shield that can’t keep an invader out and complicates their own escape.
Later comes this gem, which will doubtless have caught a few of his readers by surprise:
Nor does [the Imperial] “blockade” trap Luke, who flies to Dagobah without a single Imperial ship harassing him. That’s the worst possible news for the Empire: Luke is about to rekindle the Jedi order that poses the biggest danger to the preservation of everything Vader and Emperor Palpatine have built. While I’m not comparing the Rebel Alliance to al-Qaida or the Galactic Empire to the United States, in strategic terms, this is like Osama bin Laden’s escape from the December 2001 battle at Tora Bora, Afghanistan — a disaster masquerading as a tactical success.
I did wonder about that reference to “freedom fighters” in the scrolling plot summary at the start of the film… February 14, 2013 at 8:42 am | More on Conflict and security | Comments Off
Here’s that nice Bill Gates extolling the gospel of measuring what we do in development:
And here, via former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios, is the Duke of Wellington:
Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by His Majesty’s ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.
We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.
Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.
This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both: February 13, 2013 at 9:54 am | More on Economics and development | Comments Off
1.) To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or, perchance…
2.) To see to it the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.
Your most obedient servant,
Last year saw a big tipping point in China that went relatively unnoticed: its working age population shrank, kicking off a trend that will carry on over the next 20 years.
The head of China’s national statistics bureau, quoted in the FT, carefully says that “there are different opinions on whether this means that the demographic dividend that has driven growth in China for many years is now coming to an end”, but admits that the trend is “worrying” – all the more so, presumably, since it hadn’t been expected this fast. Here’s HSBC’s co-head of economics, in the same article:
“Most projections … estimated that the decline in the working-age population would start around the middle of this decade. But [these numbers] show it has already happened, which suggests the decline over the next few decades will be faster than expected.”
To see this tipping point in its larger context, it’s worth taking another look at a presentation that David did for the British Council in 2010, available here on Global Dashboard. In it, he notes that the world has now split into three demographic groups:
- One in which population is stable or shrinking, including Europe and Japan, and in which half of its people will be over 40 in 2015;
- A second group of countries in which the population peak is in sight, including China and India, and in which half the population will be under 30 in 2015; and
- A third group that includes the world’s most fragile states, mostly in Africa, where population growth is still rapid – and where half the population will be under 20 in 2015.
Each of these groups faces distinct challenges, he argued. For group 1, it’s how to “grow old gracefully” – not just coping with rapid ageing, but also using their last shot at being ‘rule-makers’ on the global stage. Group 3, meanwhile, faces the challenge of providing jobs for its mushrooming youth bulges, so that demographic change is a springboard for prosperity rather than a driver of anger and instability.
But for countries in group 2, like China, the challenge is especially demanding. They face a balancing act: on one hand, they need to work at home to build the infrastructure needed to underpin the next wave of prosperity, while managing both middle class aspirations and the needs of the poor. But at the same time, they face growing exposure to transboundary threats, and need to figure out where they fit in to managing them – and how this will affect growth strategies at home. No easy task… January 28, 2013 at 1:44 pm | More on Economics and development, Europe and Central Asia | Comments Off
Remember back in 2006 and 2007 when it looked as though the US was about to get really serious on climate policy? You know, when not only Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama but even John McCain supported legislation on cap and trade? Well, Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol has just published a 140 page report (pdf) about what happened next and where it all went wrong, commissioned by the Rockefeller Family Fund. It’s very very good. David Roberts at Grist has the best summary I’ve seen if you’re too busy or lazy to read the whole thing: here are the key messages that he picks out from the report:
Enviros vastly overstated Obama’s agency throughout the process and his responsibility for the outcome. Skocpol exaggerates enviro cluelessness a bit here — I doubt all that many really think they would have won if Obama had just made a few more speeches — but she’s definitely on to something. An amazing amount of the commentary around the bill was devoted to criticizing Obama, or saying what Obama should do, or questioning Obama’s heart. Enviros were constantly “calling on” Obama to say or do this thing or the other. But Obama was not at the center of the action. The dynamics that mattered took place in Congress. Obama did not exactly distinguish himself as a climate champion, but he was a sideshow — he could not have changed the outcome.
On public opinion, cap-and-trade supporters were too concerned with breadth and too little concerned with intensity. An enormous amount of time and money went into national polls and national advertising. National polls tell enviros what they want to hear: In the abstract, majorities always support clean air and clean energy. Enviros mistook these poll results for constituencies. But poll results do not attend town halls or write members of Congress or exhort their fellow citizens through ideological media. Constituencies do that.
Failure to fight back in the summer of 2009 was a fateful mistake. Just after the Waxman-Markey bill passed the House, summer arrived, legislators went home, and enviros cracked a beer and put their feet up. Meanwhile, a well-funded, well-organized Tea Party invaded town halls, dominated talk radio and Fox News, and generally scared the bejesus out of Republican legislators. They bashed on “cap-and-tax” for months, with very little pushback. By the time the Senate returned to consider the bill, members had learned their lesson.
Most of all:
Enviros were slow to perceive and understand the accelerating radicalization of the Republican Party. The USCAP strategy was based on securing the support — or at least defusing the opposition — of key business constituencies. The presumption was that the GOP is the party of business and would follow the lead of key corporate constituents. It was further based on securing the support of key “maverick” Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The presumption there was that their support would provide cover for other moderate Republicans to cross the line. Both presumptions were based on an outdated model of the Republican Party.
(more…) January 16, 2013 at 7:42 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Influence and networks, North America | 1 Comment
In plenary and group feedback time, use the “there’s just so much participation going on I can’t capture it all!” trick to ignore or skip over what you don’t want to deal with or what doesn’t fit with where you need the workshop to go. After a few ignores, most people will give up and start grumbling, but that makes them look bad, not you. When this happens, give a pep talk about how important everyone’s participation is, admonish the group for not participating, ask if they are tired, and have the day’s volunteer animator lead an embarrassing (singing/dancing) ice breaker to motivate them.
Just one of a range of ‘facipulation‘ strategies brought to you by the achingly funny blog Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like. January 11, 2013 at 7:24 am | More on Economics and development, Influence and networks | Comments Off
January 11, 2013 at 5:40 am | More on What we're watching | Comments Off
The received wisdom about the Tea Party is that it’s pretty different in character to the old Moral Majority style religious right that was such a huge factor in US politics in the 1980s. But not all that different, it turns out.
Polling undertaken in 2010 by the US-based Public Religion Research Institute found that 47% of Americans who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement also said that they are part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement; and two years later, a poll by the same organisation undertaken just before the 2012 election found that 79% of voters in Romney’s coalition were white Christians – among whom white evangelicals were by far the largest component.
As a result, Protestant fundamentalists views and concerns continue to shape Republican positions on climate change and environment policy. Despite moves among some US evangelicals towards much more progressive positions on the environment, this remains the exception rather than the norm. Another 2012 PRRI poll included data suggesting that – wait for it – nearly 65% of white evangelical Protestants believe that the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence of Biblical end times (rather than human-caused climate change); and 55% of Republicans say the government should not do more to address climate change.
Admittedly, the political clout of the religious right appears to be on the ebb, and Romney’s poor result in the 2012 election led PRRI to proclaim “the end of a white Christian strategy among voters”. It’s also important to note that a significant and growing majority of the US public that believes that climate change is happening (69% in 2011) and believes that the US government should do more to address the problem (67%).
But while conservative Christians may gradually be losing their capacity to set political agendas, their continuing dominance in the Republican Party means that they have a continuing capacity to block political agendas – particularly given on-going Republican dominance in the House of Representatives. The religious right still matters (like hell, as one might say) for environmental politics in the US and globally. January 9, 2013 at 9:11 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Influence and networks, North America | 1 Comment
Here’s a snapshot of the defining features of the world in 2030, courtesy of the US National Intelligence Council’s excellent Global Trends 2030 report, the latest in a series of reports – published, in each case, shortly after US Presidential elections so as to be ready in the in-tray of the new National Security Adviser, whatever the political stripe of the incoming Administration.
The report pulls no punches on the risks of rising inequality – indeed, one of its four headline scenarios is entitled ‘Gini out of the bottle’, and describes a world in which inequalities within countries lead to “increasing political and social tensions”, inequalities in China “increase and split the Party” with middle class expectations not met except among the “very ‘well-connected’”, and “more countries fail, fueled in part by the dearth of international cooperation on assistance and development”.
It’s also emphatic about the risks that come from the food, water and energy nexus. A new Human Resilience Index, commissioned by the NIC from Sandia National Laboratories and presented in the report, is based on a mixture of demographic and ecological indicators. This focus on scarcity issues leads to some interesting conclusions – e.g. Ethiopia is cited as the world’s 10th most fragile country on this basis, ahead of Pakistan, Niger or Chad (c.f. a report of mine on scarcity risks in Ethiopia from a few months back). Interestingly, the index also concludes that the world’s 15 most fragile places in 2030 are precisely the same ones as the index identifies in 2008, albeit in a different order.
Also interesting – NIC also worked with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to identify natural disaster scenarios that could be so severe as to cause nations to collapse. They found four: staple crop catastrophes (which could be triggered, for example, by atmospheric aerosols following volcanic eruptions); tsunamis in selected regions (including Tokyo); erosion and depletion of soils; and solar geomagnetic storms.
And prospects for multilateral cooperation in all this? In essence, NIC concludes that the jury’s still out, and much will depend on whether the US and China can work together. On climate, the worst case scenario is that “global economic slowdown makes it impossible for the US, China and other major emitters to reach meaningful agreement … the result leaves UN sponsored climate negotiations in a state of collapse, with greenhouse gas emissions unchecked”. (I thought that was where we were already, but there we are.)
And the best case? Not that great, it turns out: “Cheaper and more plentiful natural gas makes emissions targets easier to achieve, but ‘two degree’ target would be unlikely to be met”. The silver lining? ”As disparities between rich and poor countries decrease, rising powers may be more prepared to make sacrifices”. Which kind of leaves the question hanging, “…and will the US be prepared to make any sacrifices?” December 12, 2012 at 6:49 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Conflict and security, Cooperation and coherence, Economics and development, Global system | Comments Off
December 7, 2012 at 4:39 am | More on What we're watching | 2 Comments
Lots of Brits will, like me, have been pleasantly surprised – astonished, in fact – by Henry Porter’s Observer piece over the weekend arguing that
things seem to be changing rapidly in the US and that may just help create the circumstances for a new carbon tax, which is aimed at controlling the rise in global temperatures and which, astonishingly, might be acceptable to conservatives. The opportunity arises, however, not because conservatives have moved lockstep into Obama’s camp, but principally because of America’s vast budget deficit and the approachingfiscal cliff.
And here’s the the bit that really had my jaw on the table:
The most surprising fact in this hushed debate is that the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute is prepared to contemplate the idea and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, has murmured that a carbon tax would not violate his principles.
Well, up to a point. In fact, while Grover Norquist had indeed made murmurings indicating some openness to a carbon tax, he’d backed away from that position very decisively more than two weeks before Henry Porter’s article (nul points for fact-checking there, Observer). Here’s Think Progress on the 13th of November:
Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist raised a lot of eyebrows on Monday when he told National Journal that a carbon tax might be on the table if it were swapped with a cut to the income tax. “It’s possible you could structure something that wasn’t an increase and didn’t violate the pledge,” he reportedly said …
But one day later, after being criticized by the American Energy Alliance, the advocacy arm of a Koch-supported energy think tank devoted to promoting fossil fuel development, Norquist has completely reversed his statement, saying there virtually “no conceivable way” he could support a tax on carbon.
“Grover, just butch it up and oppose this lousy idea directly. This word-smithing is giving us all headaches,” wrote AEA in its newsletter, while promoting a newly-published study labeling carbon taxes “political cronyism.” Americans for Tax Reform issued this statement this morning: “Americans for Tax Reform opposes a carbon tax and will work tirelessly to ensure one does not become law.”
And here’s an excerpt from a piece in The Hill two days after that:
The entire House GOP leadership team has registered its opposition to climate legislation that raises revenue, underscoring the long odds that taxing carbon emissions has in negotiations on the fiscal cliff.
The Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity greeted Wednesday’s election of the House GOP leadership team by pointing out that the lawmakers are among the signers of the group’s “no climate tax” pledge. Signers agree to “oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.” They include Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who all retained their leadership posts.
All this said, it does appear that there’s increased interest in a carbon tax among some US conservatives; as Michele de Nevers and Lawrence MacDonald at CGD note in a joint blog post, there was a big turn-out for an AEI-hosted event on the issue last month – and who knows what might yet emerge from fiscal cliff negotiations as the deadline looms ever closer? Even so, it looks like it would be unwise for anyone to hold their breath for a GOP Damascene conversion on a carbon tax – more’s the pity. December 5, 2012 at 5:44 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, North America | Comments Off
Climate, scarcity and sustainability are among the most important – and politically challenging – elements of the post-2015 development agenda on what should succeed the Millennium Development Goals.
While sustainability issues did not feature heavily at the recent London meeting of the new UN High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which was focused mainly on household level poverty, they are likely to figure much more prominently at the Panel’s second and third meetings – in Monrovia in February and Bali in March – since these meetings will focus on national and global level issues respectively.
Before these meetings, sustainability advocates have some hard thinking to do: on both their policy objectives and their political tactics, in both the Panel and the post-2015 agenda as a whole. To try to contribute to that thought process, here’s a 6 page think piece. It’s deliberately provocative, and also still a working draft – so feedback is very welcome.
Update: The paper’s now been finalised and published as a Center on International Cooperation think piece; many thanks to everyone who commented. November 22, 2012 at 8:42 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Economics and development | Comments Off