The Security Council decided today to close down the UN observer mission in Syria, which I once predicted would be a “heroic failure”. But this isn’t quite the end of the UN political presence on the ground, as the BBC reports:
Although the 101 remaining military observers will leave Damascus over the next eight days, a civilian liaison office is due to remain and a new special envoy is expected to be appointed.
What can such a political mission achieve? Here’s a few historical analogies from a paper I wrote for USIP last year:
What happens if preventive diplomacy fails and decision makers choose to cross the Rubicon and unleash full-scale war? Counterintuitively, political missions may still have a role to play in this scenario, urging the parties to at least limit the level of violence and maintain some channels of communication during the fighting. As noted earlier in this report, UN missions currently play a role in trying to mitigate a number of ongoing conflicts, including those in Somalia and Afghanistan. The United Nations also has a long-standing presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which has continued to operate during crises such as Israel’s 2008–09 incursion into Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”). During that crisis, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) engaged in behind-the-scenes diplomacy with all sides—once Israel pulled back, UNSCO turned to facilitating the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. It is a conduit for communications with Hamas that other actors cannot undertake directly.
Political missions can thus play a useful functional role during active conflicts, although they are typically constrained by both security issues and a lack of political leverage. . . . A mission deployed during the early phase of a war can identify ways to mitigate the damage, but this ultimately depends on the combatants’ cooperation.
Syria’s combatants are unlikely to prove very cooperative.August 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm | More on Conflict and security, Middle East and North Africa |
There’s mounting confusion at the UN about who will replace Kofi Annan as the envoy to Syria. Everyone knows that it’s meant to be veteran UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi. But it’s widely rumored that Brahimi is holding up the announcement because he wants a clear vote of support from the Security Council, which is not so easy these days.
That’s all a bit sensitive. Ban Ki-moon gave a press conference in Timor-Leste today, and some impertinent journalist brought the issue up (as well as raising concerns about Timor’s future). Check out the subtle way that the UN transcript deals with the complex Brahimi issue:
Q: Are you confident the country will remain peaceful once the peacekeeepers [sic] leave? And the second question: Mr. [inaudible] …. is a strong candidate to replace Kofi Annan, are you going to announce officially here in East Timor?
SG: I didn’t clearly understand your first question, but for the second question: I am not in a position to inform on anything about the successor issue of Kofi Annan as Joint Special Envoy for Syria. I am in the process of actively searching for a successor and when I am ready I will certainly announce this as soon as possible.
Now we don’t know if the questioner said “Brahimi”. But it’s not a bad guess, and it wouldn’t be too hard to check. But maybe there’s another mediator in the frame: Mr. Inaudible, a master of quiet diplomacy?August 15, 2012 at 9:57 pm | More on Conflict and security, East Asia and Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, Off topic |
Here’s a great Hillary Clinton moment:
Interviewer: Okay. Which designers do you prefer?
Hillary Clinton: What designers of clothes?
Hillary Clinton: Would you ever ask a man that question?
Interviewer: Probably not. Probably not.
(Stolen from @HayesBrown Twitter feed.)August 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm | More on Influence and networks, North America, Off topic |
This from an investor briefing sent out today by Nomura, the Japanese bank:
August 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm | More on Economics and development, Global system |
- Even if the eurozone manages to get through August without the crisis taking a sharp turn for the worse, we believe that September could prove to be an even more challenging month for policymakers.
- The next Troika report on Greece, due in early September, could prove to be the crossroads moment for Athens.
- In Germany, we expect the constitutional court to approve ratification of ESM on 12 September, but the fiscal compact could prove more difficult, with yet more, and more difficult, cases set to follow.
- The Netherlands, too, is set to grab headlines on 12 September, when the general election is expected to result in an inconclusive outcome and protracted coalition negotiations.
- In Italy, parliamentary debates on electoral reform (ongoing) and the 2013 budget (forthcoming) threaten the stability of the Monti government as Silvio Berlusconi looks set to make a return to frontline politics.
- Portugal is struggling with fiscal slippage and increasing political tensions, suggesting that an attempt to renegotiate its bail-out terms may be imminent.
- In Spain, the government is struggling to maintain credibility with electors and markets alike. We believe a country bail-out package would be another serious blow.
- Possible bail-outs for Cyprus and Slovenia would add to policymakers’ woes and market concerns.
We therefore conclude that September – with its plethora of potentially destabilising events – promises to be a particularly testing, not to say dangerous, month, irrespective of what the ECB comes up with on 2 August.
Greenpeace’s Executive Director replies (sort of) to my post on why they’re part of the problem on global climate policy Alex Evans
Last week, I published a post here arguing that Greenpeace is (and has been for a long time) part of the problem on global climate policy – in a nutshell, because the organisation has for years and years ducked the twin issues of a global carbon budget, and the need for fair shares within it.
Greenpeace International’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, has now come back to me on Twitter with a reply. He says,
Which kind of begs the rejoinder: If Greenpeace is such a big advocate for the idea of carbon budgets, how come it hasn’t mentioned carbon budgets since 2009 (and never, as far as I can tell, in any of its own reports)? How come the Greenpeace International web page on “Climate Solutions” makes no reference whatsoever to the idea of a global carbon budget? And does Kumi Naidoo’s reply mean that they’ll be correcting that small oversight forthwith – and if not, why not?
More fundamentally, why is it that the report that Kumi Naidoo linked to in his tweet says nothing about the idea of fair shares to a global carbon budget?
If that’s all Kumi Naidoo has to say in reply, then it just proves the point that Greenpeace doesn’t get it about equity and carbon budgets. When Greenpeace talks about a carbon budget, it doesn’t talk about fair shares to it. When it talks about equity, it doesn’t talk about carbon budgets. It either doesn’t understand or – I would argue – doesn’t want to face up to the fact that that talk of carbon budgets and equity is simply meaningless unless you connect the dots between the two.
A carbon budget is just a concept until you actually share it out between all of the word’s countries. And equity is just a nice idea unless you’re talking about what it means in the context of fair entitlements to the space within global environmental limits.
I’m still hoping for a serious reply from Kumi Naidoo, in particular to my argument that Greenpeace’s silence about the issue of fair shares to a global carbon budget amounts to complicity in a 21st century form of enclosure (see the end of my original post). This wasn’t it.August 1, 2012 at 8:20 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Influence and networks | 3 Comments
Global concern is currently mounting all over again about the impacts of a more resource-scarce world, with particular attention focused at present on the risks of a renewed global food price spike following a spate of extreme weather in the US and around the world. Two weeks ago, corn and soyabean prices broke the record they had set during the 2008 food spike, while wheat prices have increased by 50% over the last five weeks.
These global trends have the potential to cause massive problems for a country like Ethiopia - where wheat is by far the country’s biggest import by value. And that’s before you take into account low agricultural yields and farm sizes, major exposure to drought, limited access to energy, and how these challenges will be magnified by high rates of population and economic growth, which will increase demand for resources – as well as intensifying climate change impacts
Against this backdrop, the NYU Center on International Cooperation has just published a new report of mine entitled Resources, Risks and Resilience: Scarcity and climate change in Ethiopia. This is the first in a series of CIC case studies on the risks that resource scarcity and climate change pose to poor countries – and on how those countries and their international partners can build resilience to them. (A second case study, on resource scarcity in Pakistan, is currently being prepared by David Steven; plans are also in train to undertake a third study on Nigeria.)
While the report sets out a daunting set of scarcity-driven challenges for Ethiopia, it also notes that Ethiopia’s government is well aware of the challenges it faces, and has put in place a battery of policies to address them – including, notably, the breathtaking aim of becoming a middle income country by 2025 with zero net growth in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as an extremely ambitious (and controversial) program of dam-building and large scale agricultural projects.
As well as assessing these policies, the report also identifies a range of vulnerabilities, policy gaps and exogenous risks that will need to be taken account of in future planning by the government and its international partners. It concludes by setting out a ten point agenda on how Ethiopia’s government and partners can improve their performance in managing scarcity issues. more »August 1, 2012 at 8:13 am | More on Africa, Climate and resource scarcity, Conflict and security, Economics and development |
Following my post last month on a UNECA advertisement in Addis Ababa inviting people vulnerable to climate change to “download coping strategies”, here’s another triumph of development communications to be found on the streets of Ethiopia’s capital. Um, is this ad about climate change… or a day spa?July 30, 2012 at 8:38 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Off topic | 1 Comment
As you can see, the owner of Wazir tailors in downtown Islamabad was in no doubt that Alexander trumped Osborne in the style stakes, using this timeless image taken from the 2010 Spending Review for his store front, with Osborne sadly not making the cut.July 27, 2012 at 4:53 pm | More on Off topic, UK |
On Twitter a couple of days ago, Greenpeace International’s executive director Kumi Naidoo penned an appeal for people to become Greenpeace members. I threw off a series of tweets in reply saying that Greenpeace was part of the problem rather than part of the solution on global climate policy and that there was no way I would ever join Greenpeace given its current position – prompting a few people (including Kumi himself) to ask what I meant, and why I was on such a downer on Greenpeace. Here’s my answer. more »July 26, 2012 at 10:05 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Influence and networks | 10 Comments
Language is one of the most neglected areas in the development field. It barely registers on any agenda to help poor countries despite its importance to a number of crucial areas and it being a barrier to progress in many fragile states. Why is this? more »July 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm | More on Africa, Economics and development, South Asia | 3 Comments
Continuing an occasional series about why the UK could take a leaf out of Norway’s foreign policy book on, well, pretty much every front (previous instalments here and here), here’s the BBC’s Richard Galpin on how Norway is dealing with terrorism a year on from Utoeya:
At the political level, the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg pledged to do everything to ensure the country’s core values were not undermined.”The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” he said.
A year later it seems the prime minister has kept his word. There have been no changes to the law to increase the powers of the police and security services, terrorism legislation remains the same and there have been no special provisions made for the trial of suspected terrorists. On the streets of Oslo, CCTV cameras are still a comparatively rare sight and the police can only carry weapons after getting special permission.
Even the gate leading to the parliament building in the heart of Oslo remains open and unguarded. “It is still easy to get access to parliament and we hope it will stay that way, ” said Lise Christoffersen, a Labour party MP.
Via Bruce Schneier. Full disclosure: I am slightly Norwegian (and feeling more so every day…)
July 24, 2012 at 6:28 am | More on Europe and Central Asia, Influence and networks | 1 Comment
What on earth is all this about?
When the winter comes in the squirrel has already stored 3000 nuts in different tree holes that provide the food storage to overcome the harshest season of the year. The nuts have been collected in past months and will be shared with the other members of the community if someone is in need. The squirrel is small but has adapted to live in all sorts of environments including European capitals. It’s agile, collaborative and last but not least independent.
On the other hand, the cow needs to take shelter in the stable during winter. It would not survive without the famer taking care it of all needs. Its life is quiet and relaxed. It just needs to feed, reproduce, and produce milk. But it consumes a lot of resources and life ends always in the abattoir. Its life depends entirely on others for maintenance and aims. Cows live all together but don’t collaborate. The farmer is in charge.
That is in fact the baseline concept for a conference being organized this September by a consortium of Danish and Swedish institutes on “how the European Union can foster and support such pioneers through the new socio-economic policies, namely social business and social innovation.” Does it all seem clearer now? Maybe not…
This metaphorical comparison aims to help civil society leaders and social entrepreneurs picture the transformation our society is going through: less leadership and help from governments and corporations, and the need for self-organisation, funding, support and development of solutions to social problems. We have to rethink our strategy, collaborate and innovate in order to transform from the cow to the squirrel.
The traditional resources as public funding and sponsorships are shrinking but new opportunities and synergies are emerging.
Fair enough. But where does the EU fit into this metaphor? Is it the cow? Or the tree the squirrels hide their nuts in? Or the abattoir? I’m confused…July 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm | More on Economics and development, Europe and Central Asia, Influence and networks, Off topic |
July 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm | More on Influence and networks |
A key challenge faced by those engaged in international human rights policy and practice is adopting an effective framework for protecting and promoting human rights around the world in a way that preserves and articulates their universal nature, while at the same time respecting local values and practices.
One way to approach this challenge is to examine values, norms, customs and practices in non-Western cultures which can act as ‘receptors’ for human rights principles and practice. A new Dutch collaborative research project adopts just such an approach (and is thus called the ‘Receptor Approach’). It brings together experts from around the world and from a variety of disciplines – law, anthropology, sociology, political science, international relations and philosophy among others. more »July 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm | More on Africa, Economics and development, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia |