Brazil – can she be everybody’s friend?

Brazil’s diplomats must be quietly pleased with their week’s work.

Last weekend, the country’s President, Dilma Rousseff, fresh from being named the world’s second most powerful woman (after Chancellor Merkel of Germany) by Forbes magazine, was one of the guests of honour at the 50th anniversary summit of the African Union in Ethiopia. A few days later she was playing host to the American Vice-President, Joe Biden, who confirmed Ms Rousseff has been invited to Washington on a state visit in October.

This one week in President Rousseff’s diary demonstrates something significant that has changed without much coverage in the western media – the unique role Brazil has been carving out for itself in world affairs. Brasilia sees itself as the emerging power  that’s uniquely placed to be the intermediary between the established powers in the global North and the global South.

So far, Brazil has played this role with some success in international trade talks and climate change negotiations, but has had less success persuading other countries to support its bid for a permanent seat on a reformed UN Security Council or its ill-fated attempt – along with Turkey – in 2010 to broker a deal between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

What lies behind this ambition? Continue reading

Early reactions to the High-level Panel Post-2015 report

Below, you can find my summary of the High-level Panel report on what should replace the Millennium Development Goals. Here’s a summary of reaction to its publication.

Ban Ki-Moon is grateful. Sweden has won a great victory. Save the Children – it’s pretty good. Sightsavers: more comprehensive and ambitious than I dared hope. UK – let’s finish the job on poverty. ODI happy disaster risk reduction is in. President Johnson-Sirleaf: “we can be the first generation to eradicate global poverty.”

Oxfam fuming: “The Panel has failed to recognize the growing consensus that high levels of inequality are both morally repugnant and damaging for growth and stability.” “Really HLP? You *don’t* think the world needs to reduce inequality?” One Campaign welcomes specific commitment to ending poverty. Op-ed from John Podesta (plus his 5 minute take on YouTube) – American panelist:

President Barack Obama believes it. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia believes it. I believe it, too: By 2030, we can eradicate extreme poverty.

This is not a hollow platitude. The generations living today are the first in human history that could eliminate extreme deprivation and hunger. It is critical that all nations strive to meet this goal. Not only for our own security, though we know that a more prosperous world is more stable, but because ending extreme poverty is the right thing to do.

UN Foundation: “a particularly significant and bold contribution to the development of a new framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals.” DFID has a snazzy infographic. Grand Challenges Canada – it’s a smorgasbord. Patricia Espinosa (Mexican panelist): “Además de completar las Metas de Desarrollo del Milenio, la nueva agenda debe crear bases para la prosperidad de las generaciones futuras.”

WaterAid: “delighted that the Panel has heard the call for a goal on universal access to water and sanitation. We will only succeed in ending poverty if ambitious targets are also agreed that by 2030 everyone everywhere has access to water, sanitation and hygiene.” IISD analysis.

BBC leads with end poverty angle, but notes failure to include goal on income inequality:

Among 12 measurable goals set out in the report are an end to child marriage and equal rights for women to open bank accounts and own property. The panel also recommends bringing together development and environmental agendas, with targets for reducing food waste, slowing deforestation and protecting ecosystems.

It also stresses the need for countries to give citizens confidence in their governments by promoting the rule of law, free speech, transparency and cracking down on corruption.

Economist: towards the end of poverty (not always with us). Guardian focuses on lack of inequality:

Nice goals, but the elephant in the post-2015 room is inequality,” said Andy Sumner, a development economist at King’s College London. “We find in our number-crunching that poverty can only be ended if inequality falls so one should ask: where’s the inequality goal? Something resembling that elephant in the room [– on data disaggregation –] is in annex 1 of the report, but will anyone remember an annex note in 2030?

Claire Melamed – missed opportunity on global partnerships:

While getting global agreement on much of this agenda is notoriously difficult and the report can’t change that, the panel could have helped the politics along by linking the most difficult issues to specific outcomes – improved trade rules to job creation and equitable growth, for example, or financing commitments to outcomes in health or education (so, rather than a generic commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid, commitments to provide financing to meet specific objectives in other goals).

WRI – a major breakthrough on sustainability. UNFPA – welcomes goal to end child marriage. WWF: “there is finally recognition that poverty cannot be eradicated and the well-being of people across the globe cannot be secured without addressing the grave pressures on the environment and the natural systems that support human life on this planet.”

Reuters:

Among the recommendations, the 69-page report says large businesses should be obliged to report social and environmental impacts, in addition to their financial accounts.

Mark Leon Goldberg: important proposal for Global Partnership on Development Data. Charles Kenny:

The biggest positive of the report is the example it sets for the formal negotiations on post-2015.  The panel was a group 27 people including three heads of state and numerous others with very close ties to or roles in different national governments.  If they can agree twelve ‘indicative’ goals that are reasonably coherent, somewhat selective, and involve a lot of targets that are important, compelling, time bound and measurable, maybe (maybe) the UN General Assembly can manage something similar.

And Tearfund – making probably the most important point of all: “It’ll be interesting to see how quickly we can work together globally to break the political deadlock which has so far prevented this vision from becoming reality.” Continue reading

After 2015 – the High Level Panel reports

The Secretary General’s High Level Panel has published its report (download here) on the post-2015 development agenda – here’s quick review of what it’s come up with.

The heart of the Panel’s recommendations are easy to grasp. First, it calls for an end to absolute poverty by 2030. This shift from poverty reduction to poverty eradication would be a big deal if taken seriously. It would set a global social floor – placing a powerful obligation on governments and the international community to ensure everyone gains basic rights and economic opportunities.

However, it also creates a huge strategic challenge. It’s already proving heart to get health, education, income etc. to the poorest of the poor, those live in the toughest environments and face the greatest obstacles to a better life for them and their families. Business-as-usual is not going to bring this group out of poverty – nor is the market magically going to ride to the rescue (although it can help).

Delivering zero-based poverty goals (and ones with a great emphasis on quality of outcome as well) requires a fundamental rethink of how development is delivered.

The Panel then adds three more sets of objectives, each of which is more ambitious and complex than the core poverty agenda that dominated the Millennium Development Goals.

It sets out a vision for an economic transformation that would deliver growth that is more widespread and, above all, delivers more and better jobs, especially in regions such as Africa where work forces are growing fastest, but also across a world that is gripped by an endemic jobs crisis.

Then it wants to change the direction of that growth to make it more sustainable – transforming the way we use energy, eat, travel etc. in order to stabilize the climate and protect other natural systems. This is the Rio+20 agenda revisited.

And finally it addresses the enablers needed to support prosperity, arguing that we need to do more to tackle the conflict and insecurity that makes development impossible, while building the robust institutions and governance capable of responding to the challenges of an increasingly complex world.

The nub of the report, however, is in the Panel’s fifth ‘transformative shift’ – building  a global partnership that can deliver change:

A renewed global partnership will require a new spirit from national leaders, but also – no less important – it will require many others to adopt new mind-sets and change their behaviour. These changes will not happen overnight. But we must move beyond business-as-usual – and we must start today.

The new global partnership should encourage everyone to alter their worldview, profoundly and dramatically. It should lead all countries to move willingly towards merging the environmental and development agendas, and tackling poverty’s symptoms and causes in a unified and universal way.

This is easier said than done, of course. On poverty, the way ahead is far from clear, but at least there is the beginning of a debate on what it will take to end poverty by 2030. It’s less clear that we know how to solve the global jobs crisis, that we want to shift to a green growth trajectory, or that outsiders can help build stronger institutions in the world’s weakest states.

The next couple of years will show whether there is political will to crack these conundrums – and what levers the international system has to drive change.

As you thumb through the report, there are two pages to look out for. On page 19, you’ll find the Panel’s estimate of the potential impact of full implementation. Some big numbers are thrown around:

1.2 billion fewer people hungry and in extreme poverty. 100 million more kids alive and 4.4 million women who survive pregnancy and childbirth. 470 million more good jobs. 1.2 billion more people with electricity to 2° C.  Governments more accountable for the $30 trillion they spend.

And then there’s the goals themselves, which can be found in a couple of fat appendices that start on page 29 onwards (yep the main report itself is commendably short). There was a big debate about how specific the Panel should be in proposing concrete goals and targets, and the result is compromise – we get illustrative goals (a dozen of them) and targets (nearly 60) that are intended to act as “as examples that can be used to promote continued deliberation and debate.”

I’d put the chances of anyone listening to that injunction at slightly less than zero, as constituencies howl about areas that have or haven’t been goaled. So here’s the list for you start arguing with:

(1) end poverty; (2) empower girls and women and achieve gender equality; (3) provide quality education and lifelong learning; (4) ensure healthy lives; (5) ensure food security and good nutrition; (6) achieve universal access to water and sanitation; (7) secure sustainable energy; (8) create jobs, sustainable livelihoods and equitable growth; (9) manage natural resources and assets sustainably; (10) ensure good governance and effective institutions; (11) ensure stable and peaceful societies; (12) create a global enabling environment and catalyze long-term finance.

More on the reaction to the report as it rolls in, but I think this is a good start: a clear and simple contribution to a debate that has been dominated by waffle and wishful thinking. Some vision there too.

But remember: this is just the opening shots in a debate that is going to take two years or more to unfold. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

Are India & China really destined to rivalry?

China and India are the two giants of what are called the emerging powers – they are the ’I’ and ‘C’ in the BRICS  – but despite their membership of that grouping, relations between them have long been uneasy.

They fought a brief war in 1962 high in the Himalayas over their disputed border. It ended with India humiliated and to this day anti-Chinese rhetoric is commonly heard at demonstrations and in the Indian media. For their part, the Chinese resent that India has hosted the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan government in exile, since they fled after the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

I wrote last week that China’s maritime borders remain tense and a possible flashpoint. But this week, there is potentially better news from China’s south western border where Beijing has taken a significant step to improving relations with India with a visit to Delhi by the new Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang.

The visit followed a month when tensions had been running high after soldiers from the two sides moved into an area on the disputed border and faced off. This ended when ahead of Mr Li’s scheduled visit, senior officials from both sides picked up the phone and agreed to pull their troops back.

There had been pressure on the Indian government not to back down with anti-Chinese protests in several parts of the country and expressions of outrage in mainstream and social media. In China, there was little public and media reaction as the incident went largely unreported, although past studies of how India is viewed on Chinese social media suggest a none too flattering opinion – more condescending than hostile.

So why did both governments decide compromise was better than confrontation?

You won’t be surprised to hear that part of the answer is economics. As both countries have grown rapidly over the past decade, trade between them has shot up from $2 billion to $75 billion a year and China is now India’s largest trading partner. Although, there are concerns in Delhi about the size of the trade deficit, both sides are keen to see this grow further and during this week’s talks Li Keqiang told his counterpart, Manmohan Singh, that Beijing would address the trade deficit.

China has clearly decided that better relations with India are a priority. The official media made much of the fact this was Mr Li’s first official trip abroad since taking office in March and has talked  up the visit. On arriving in Delhi, Li said the fact it was his first foreign trip showed “the great importance Beijing attaches to its relations with Delhi”.

What he didn’t explicitly say was why. And, in addition to trade, the answer there seems to be the United States.

Washington has made a huge effort to improve its relations with India over the past few years, even going as far as to sign an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation in 2008 despite the fact India never signed the nuclear non-proliferation  treaty and has developed its own nuclear weapons arsenal.

Many in Beijing have interpreted this as part of an American attempt to contain China.  The Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”, which has seen the US boost its military and diplomatic focus on China’s neighbourhood, has intensified Beijing’s concerns. Some China-watchers have dubbed this the “go west” strategy – facing containment on its eastern seaboard where it is ringed with allies and friends of the US like Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines, Beijing has decided to give itself options to its west.

This may lead to better relations between China and India which makes for a more stable world, but not everyone gets to benefit.

This week, my programme, The World Tonight, heard from some of the people who are losing out in a rare report from Nepal. Traditionally, India has had the greatest influence over Kathmandu, but in recent years China has become more influential. Many Tibetans fleeing Chinese rule of their homeland end up in neighbouring Nepal, but the Nepalese government, allegedly out of deference to China, is restricting their entry and making life difficult for those who get across the border.

A reminder of the human cost of great power politics which remains as much a factor of today’s world as it has throughout history.

Exactly

Steve Richards:

For all the specific reasons that explain the destabilising crises that unnerve Prime Ministers, there is one constant factor. No 10 is under-powered. This townhouse, with its tiny units of advisers and officials, cannot cope with the modern demands of leadership. When the then Prime Minister of France Lionel Jospin visited London, he was introduced to Blair’s economic adviser. Jospin asked Blair where the rest of the adviser’s department was. He was told that he had only one economic adviser. Jospin thought he was joking.

There needs to be a big, well-resourced highly political Prime Ministerial department to reflect the responsibilities of a modern Prime Minister. Precisely because of all the weekly crises, Prime Ministers quickly become too weak to establish a proper department, fearful they will look too arrogant. The move can be made only at the beginning, when Prime Ministerial popularity is fleetingly high. The next Prime Minister should announce his plans to appoint political advisers, top officials, and party-based people in a big new department on Day One – before the crises erupt.

“We’ll stop hurting our brothers and sisters” – What success at the G8 would look like

 

Protesters in London call on G8 leaders to beat hunger

It has become to fashionable to say that G8 meetings never achieve anything. It is also incorrect. Civil society campaigners have made use of G8 meetings in the past to achieve major steps forward on debt, on access to HIV/AIDS treatment, and on maternal and child health. But whereas, in the past, campaigners have tended to focus on urging leaders getting out their cheque books, and though money can and does save lives, this year campaigners are much more focused on calling on the G8 to rewrite their rule book, to address the causes of hunger and not only the symptoms. 

The G8’s role is not to decide for the world, only to agree what they will do themselves. And so it is right that the UK hosts have described the meeting as about “Putting our own house in order”. And the UK, to their credit, have taken on serious core issues in putting the problems of land grabs and tax dodging at the heart of the discussions, and highlighting transparency as key to the solution. But to actually help poor people the leaders will need to take bold action. And what is on the table at present is not ambitious enough to offer real hope to the millions of people whom land grabs and tax dodging leave impoverished and hungry.

Of course, it’s easy for NGOs to call for more ambition. As a British Government official once joked to me, “even when we deliver a massive result, Oxfam say we need to achieve 10% more.” (To which my initial reaction was to think: “Oh no! Only 10%?”) So rather than just call out “Higher, Higher!” it’s only fair that we campaigners say what success would look like.  Here then is a sketch of what I think success would mean on two of the big issues, land grabbing and tax dodging. By this I don’t mean what is needed to fix these challenges – I mean only what the G8 meeting would need to do to start to fix them.

On land, success at the G8 would include a land transparency initiative, and regulatory guidance to G8 companies and investors, so that the G8 is not complicit in land grabbing. As French Development Minister Pascal Canfin said this week, “Without transparency and without protections, land investment can end up as looting. Where the Voluntary Guidelines are not being followed, land investment shouldn’t follow.”

On tax, success at the G8 would include a public registry of the ultimate owners of offshore assets, a deal on sharing of tax information not only between rich countries but with the poorest countries too, and – as they hold one third of the offshore wealth – these agreements must include, in full, all the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. If the British Prime Minister and other G8 leaders deliver on this they will have sided with tax justice.

At the kids’ group I teach in church, I asked everyone what they could do to help other people. “I’ll share my stuff,” said one; “I’ll help with the cooking,” said another. Then one boy said, “I’ll stop hurting my brothers and sisters.” It wasn’t the answer we’d expected, but reflecting on it, it was an excellent one. And, on land grabbing and tax dodging, an appropriate ambition for the world’s richest countries, one that will need a step up in the negotiations to achieve. “Primum non nocere.” First, do no harm.

First-Do-No-Harm

Page 30 of 498« First...1020...293031...405060...Last »