City Development States: Why Lagos Works Better than Nigeria

city development stateNigeria is not known for strong governance. On the contrary, it is arguably one of worse governed countries in the world, losing hundreds of billions of dollars to corruption and waste over the past four decades. Yet, it has two important governance achievements worth emulating.

First, it has devised a system of decentralization that has sharply reduced ethnic conflict. And second it has a major metropolis that increasingly is acting like one of a handful of city development states–large urban areas in developing countries that are driving progress forward in a way typically associated with well-managed central governments.

In Nigeria’s case, the central government has worked so badly for so long and is so poisoned by its access to and dependence on oil money that state and city led development may be the only way to achieve progress. Continue reading


Armed with their billions, these NGOs have waded into the world, turning potential revolutionaries into salaried activists, funding artists, intellectuals and filmmakers, gently luring them away from radical confrontation, ushering them in the direction of multi-culturalism, gender, community development-the discourse couched in the language of identity politics and human rights…

Arundhati Roy, via Casper TK. Read the whole thing.

Chairs of UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on post-MDGs announced


We’ve known for a while that David Cameron will be one of the co-chairs of the UN Secretary-General’s panel on what comes after the MDGs, when they expire in 2015.  Today the SG announced the other two co-chairs: President Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, and President Yudhoyono of Indonesia.  So that’s one each from a high, middle and low-income country, one woman – you can see the work that went into putting that together, and it’s a good job.  The UN secretariat will now start hitting the phones to assemble the rest of the panel, and they will be announced after the Rio+20 conference in June.

And in case you were wondering, the three are ‘delighted’ to have been asked, and are hoping for an ‘ambitious’ agenda….the full text of their statement is here.

Sustainability: a game you can lose, but can’t win

It is useful to think of sustainability in the metaphor of an athletic game: It is possible to “lose”–that is, to become unsustainable, as happened to the Western Roman Empire. But the converse does not hold. Because we continually confront challenges, there is no point at which a society has “won”–become sustainable in perpetuity, or at least for a very long time. Success, rather, consists of staying in the game.

- Jospeh Tainter, author of The Collapse of Complex Societies, in a 2009 talk you can read here.

Is the EU about to stuff it up on international climate change (again)?

So near, and yet so far – as so often in EU climate policy. Back in December of last year, at the Durban climate summit, it looked as though the EU was finally getting on the front foot and managing to set the agenda for once on international climate policy.

Where the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit had seen the EU and its partners badly outflanked by a low ambition consensus of the US and the BASIC countries (leading to a voluntary pledge-and-review approach rather than the binding targets-and-timetables approach that the EU wanted), it appeared at the 2011 Durban summit that a new dynamic might be emerging – based on a partnership between the EU and low income countries who were not only increasingly focusing on global mitigation scenarios, but also increasingly prepared to break ranks with the G77 and speak out about the need for emerging economies to do more to reduce their own emissions.

The surprising spectacle of the EU managing to gets its act together will have made many US and emerging economy policymakers sit up and take notice. But all of them will also have been wondering whether the EU and its partners would manage to build on this initial success and turn it in to an inflection point on the global climate agenda, with the new alliance not only maintaining political momentum, but also converting it into design principles for future climate policy.

Alas, the signs now emerging are not good if this Reuters piece today is to be believed:

The European Union recommitted to providing 7.2 billion euros ($9.4 billion) for the Green Climate Fund over 2010-12, according to draft conclusions seen by Reuters ahead of a meeting of EU finance ministers next week. But after that, how much cash will flow is unclear as the text, drafted against the backdrop of acute economic crisis in the euro zone, states the need to “scale up climate finance from 2013 to 2020″, but does not specify how.

The article goes on to detail that EU ministers are arguing over how much of the money should come from public and how much from private sources – needless to say, many ministers would find it a lot easier to exhort the private sector to do more than to do pony up the cash themselves.

Although the article doesn’t name names on which countries are causing the problems, it’s a fair bet that Poland figures prominently among them, especially given that Poland vetoed plans for the EU to adopt a 30% (rather than merely 20%) emissions reduction target by 2020. In the background, there’s the further problem that Italy and Spain – two countries who in the past tended to side with calls for more ambitious action – are likely to fall away as their economies implode.

Although the Green Climate Fund is far from being the biggest issue on the climate negotiating table, it matters a lot to many low income countries. If the EU looks like it can’t be trusted to stick with them on the issues they really mind about most, then it’s hard to see an EU-low income country alliance setting the pace on the larger global climate agenda over the next couple of years – and we can look forward to lots of crowing from emerging economies made gleeful by the opportunity to argue that this is what happens when G77 solidarity is allowed to fracture.

When NATO was cool

Robert Silvers is best-known for editing the New York Review of Books since its foundation, but he started out at The Paris Review, the classic “little magazine”.  But how did he get there?  It all began with a posting to NATO HQ in the 1950s:

I was a soldier at NATO military headquarters—called SHAPE—near Paris. One of the best things about working there was that, by some international understanding, practically everyone had Wednesday afternoon off—you could go to the Louvre, you could go to the Café de Flore. And there, one Wednesday afternoon, at the kiosk in front of the Flore, I bought a copy of The Paris Review and took it back to our international barracks at Rocquencourt and read it in my bunk. I thought I should know more about it.

For unknown to NATO, some of my old college friends at the Noonday Press in New York had asked me to be their scout in Paris and see what books I might find for translation. So on some of those Wednesday afternoons, I would see publishers.

One of the people he went to see was George Plimpton, who took him to a party:

The sun began to set over the Luxembourg Gardens nearby, and suddenly the lights came on in the street, and George said, “Pati Hill is having drinks on the Île Saint Louis, and why don’t we go over there?” So we walked down to the Île de la Cité and over the little bridge to the Quai d’Anjou and found the beautiful Pati Hill—once a model, now a writer for the Review—and she offered us tall glasses of blanc de blanc in her charming rooms near the Seine. And among the blur of American and French writers and artists there, I talked to John Train, who was one of the founders of The Paris Review, and he asked me to see him at his flat on the Avenue Franco-Russe the following Wednesday.

The rest is literary history.  Could a NATO official follow the same path now?

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