We used the last session of IS450 as a chance to hold a mock United Nations climate conference simulation. The participants brought forward many intriguing and instructive topics, and I applaud them for putting in the time and energy to make the simulation as successful as I, at least, judged it to be. At some point during the proceedings, there was majority agreement (finally!) on one small element of the overall framework resolution. Interestingly, though, immediately upon the successful passing of that small piece of the framework a couple of delegates put forward a motion to make the obligations legally binding. A heated discussion ensued debating the merits and disadvantages of such an approach.
In the current round of UNFCCC climate negotiations, behind held in Lima, Peru, Nicholas Stern (author of the well-known Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change) has argued against making international climate treaty obligations legally binding. What is Lord Stern’s rationale for this?
“Some may fear that commitments that are not internationally legally-binding may lack credibility,” he said.
“That, in my view, is a serious mistake. The sanctions available under the Kyoto Protocol, for example, were notionally legally-binding but were simply not credible and failed to guarantee domestic implementation of commitments.”
In Lima, negotiators are trying to hammer out the format that mitigation efforts should take. By the end of March next year countries have to declare their hands, but they have yet to formalize what will be included in these commitments and what will not.
Lord Stern believes that grounding the process in the laws and promises that countries undertake by themselves is a better model for a deal than a top-down process like Kyoto.
“It will be enforceable and deliverable through the arrangements and laws in the countries themselves.
“That way you will get stronger ambition as countries won’t be tempted to be hesitant about some type of international sanction.”
What do you think about Lord Stern argument? Would you support voluntary obligations over mandatory ones?
Here is an interview with Lord Stern from earlier this week in Lima, wherein he speaks on the link between economic growth, development, and better climate responsibility?
In a couple of weeks time, we will be finishing up the course with a UN simulation. Each of the participants will be required to give a 1-minute (maximum!) opening presentation to the conference. Here is the opening statement of Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council, to the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Warsaw, Poland in 2013. Your opening statements should follow a similar structure (but not length!).
So, if you’re not convinced by the ethical perspectives on climate change, then maybe you’ll be convinced to take it seriously if you are told that it could make state less secure going forward. In a new report from the US Department of Defence (i.e., “The Pentagon”), climate change is seen as a “threat multiplier.” In the language of Homer-Dixon, this means that climate change is viewed not as an exogenous cause of conflict, but as a factor that could negatively influence hypothesized exogenous causes of both civil and inter-state conflict. This is how Bloomberg News responded to the release of the report:
Global warming will worsen many of the challenges the U.S. military already is grappling with, the department said in areport yesterday.
“We refer to climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today -– from infectious disease to terrorism,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a blog post. “While scientists are converging toward consensus on future climate projections, uncertainty remains. But this cannot be an excuse for delaying action.”
Here is the report in its entirely. I am also providing a video excerpt of an MSNBC story on the release of the report, which has the added virtue of including an interview with the author of one of the readings that I think at least 2 of you read for Wednesday’s seminar! The author is Chris Parenti, who has written an interesting book called Climate of Chaos.
Here’s a topical story from the BBC website about a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which alerts readers to a record level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in oceans (see the charts below). What interested me more than the story itself, however, was an interesting exchange in the comments section. Here’s the exchange:
9TH SEPTEMBER 2014 – 17:18
This week POLI 1140 will be focused on the international political economy (IPE). As we’ll learn, much of the international institutional infrastructure for the current global economy was set up at a meeting in July 1944 in the New Hampshire mountain resort town of Bretton Woods. At the meeting, which the ailing economist John Maynard Keynes attended, created the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). (The International Trade Organization, which was planned, never came to fruition, and the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT), would later be formed, which has been morphed into the World Trade Organization (WTO). These three institutions–World Bank, IMF, WTO–support the liberal (neoliberal) economic order, each of which provides a different main function.
Yesterday, US President Barack Obama named an academic–Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim–as his nominee to head the World Bank. Convention dictates that the USA be given the power to select the World Bank president while European states are given the right to select the head of the IMF.
This definitely counts as an “outside-the-box” pick for Obama. First, Dr. Kim is a global health expert, and not an economist. This may signal a change in direction and philosophy at the World Bank.The New York Times reports:
Highly respected among global health experts, Dr. Kim is an anthropologist and a physician who co-founded the nonprofit Partners in Health and a former director of the department of H.I.V./AIDS at the World Health Organization.
“The leader of the World Bank should have a deep understanding of both the role that development plays in the world and the importance of creating conditions where assistance is no longer needed,” President Obama said Friday. “It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency.”
This move bears watching in the future. It also signals one of the major differences between Democratic and Republican presidents. It is highly doubtful that any of the Republican candidates for president would name somebody with a similar resume as the head of the World Bank.
For a quick video of the creating of the Bretton Woods system, see the video below (the relevant excerpt begins at 36:36).
We addressed the topic of development and underdevelopment in POLI 1100 this week. Amongst the many issues covered, we started to explore some of the alleged causes of economic growth and development. Why is there still such disparity in income and economic growth around the world, not only between countries, but within? Why have countries in the global “South” lagged behind, for the most part, their counterparts in the global “North”? There are various answers to this question and we addressed a couple of them in class. I showed clips from a fantastic documentary series put together by PBS, called (and based on the book of the same name) The Commanding Heights. All the information you’ll need is at the PBS website. Fortunately, each of the three 2-hour episodes has also been uploaded (in its entirety) to the Internet. From the narration at the beginning of the first episode, we learn that
This is the story of how the new global economy was born. A century-long battle as to which would control the commanding heights of the world’s economies–governments or markets.
I encourage you to watch all three episodes.
In POLI 1140, we have read an excerpt from Rwanda section of Samantha Power’s prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, in which Power assesses the reasons for the lack of response by the Clinton administration in the spring of 1994 to the developing genocide in Rwanda. Power makes many points but one of the most trenchant is that despite the apparently early decision by Clinton that he would not send US troops to Rwanda (fearful that another Somalia could ensue), many other actions–short of sending troops-could have been taken by the US government and military. Something as simple as sending planes with the capability to jam radio frequencies may have slowed down the killing and saved countless lives.
Here is a compelling and very informative documentary by PBS’ Frontline series on the events surrounding the Rwandan genocide, paying special attention to the lack of action on the part of the United Nations and the United States. Many of the ideas in Power’s book are addressed here.
The issue of the global debt crisis–and particularly the onerous debt levels of developing world (“Southern”) countries–was a topic that we covered in POLI 1100 today. It will allow me to combine two class topics–issues pertaining development and underdevelopment, and interest groups (NGOs)–into one blog post. The interest group, Global Issues, is dedicated to analyzing “social, political, economic, and environmental issues that affect us all” and has a section on debt relief for the developing world. Here are some facts and figures related to the scale of the debt crisis in the developing world:
Consider the following:
- In 1970, the world’s poorest countries (roughly 60 countries classified as low-income by the World Bank), owed $25 billion in debt.
- By 2002, this was $523 billion
- For Africa,
- In 1970, it was just under $11 billion
- By 2002, that was over half, to $295 billion
- Debts owed to the multilateral institutions such as the IMF and World Bank is currently around $153 billion
- For the poorest countries debts to multilateral institutions is around $70 billion.
$550 billion has been paid in both principal and interest over the last three decades, on $540bn of loans, and yet there is still a $523 billion dollar debt burden.
Here are some remarks by Professor Susan George on how to tackle the debt crisis. Money quote:
…there is no level of human suffering, which in and of itself, is going to change policy. The only way policy changes is because people demand it, and in this case, it has to be the people of the North, because the people of the South have very little political clout.
In POLI 1140, we spent part of last session watching major portions of the documentary, The Peacekeepers, which explored the role of the UN is setting up and escalating a peacekeeping mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The documentary used a behind-the-scenes approach to analyze the issues faced by the world’s foremost IGO in implementing its mandate to “protect international peace and security”. The focus of the documentary was on the Ituri region in the eastern DRC province of East Kivu.
As the above map notes, the UN, though the auspices of its Department of Peacekeeping Operations, currently has 16 active peacekeeping missions worldwide. The former DRC mission, known as MONUC, has been transformed, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1925, into MONUSCO.
As of the start of this year, this is the strength of the peacekeeping force in the DRC:
- 19,070 total uniformed personnel
- 16,975 military personnel
- 723 military observers
- 1,372 police (including formed units)
- 976 international civilian personnel*
- 2,868 local civilian staff*
- 588 United Nations Volunteers
Currently, in 16 DPKO-led peacekeeping operations, there are almost 120,000 personnel (uniformed and civilian) serving from 115 different countries, while approved resources for the 2012 fiscal year are almost $8 billion US.
Mind you, this is only one aspect of the world’s greatest IGO–the United Nations. Remember also that the UN is only as strong and as capable as its members states make it. Thus, when you hear somebody say “the UN did this,” or “the UN didn’t do that”, what you should remind these people is that they should be saying “the member states, which comprise the UN, did (or did not do) this, or that…”
In the National Post, Peter Godspeed argues that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pending visit to China represents somewhat of a foreign policy pivot for the Conservative government.
Like the United States, Canada is in the midst of a foreign policy pivot in Asia…
…Tuesday, Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister, arrives in the Chinese capital for what almost amounts to a traditional “Team Canada” trade mission, seeking to strengthen economic ties with Canada’s second-largest trading partner.
With four cabinet ministers — John Baird, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Ed Fast, the International Trade Minister, Gerry Ritz, the Agriculture Minister, and Joe Oliver, the Natural Resources Minister — and seven MPs and 40 business executives and academics, he hopes to build on rapidly expanding ties that have pushed bilateral trade to US$57.7-billion a year in 2010.
“China’s growth as an emerging market is very significant for Canada’s business community, and it is an economic relationship that requires the attention of the highest political level,” said Peter Harder, president of the Canada-China Business Council.
From the perspective of foreign-policy decision-making in IR theory, the makeup of the Team Canada mission to China would indicate the importance of the pluralist and organizational/bureaucratic models. The pluralist model notes the impact of powerful interest groups, such as the Canada-China Business Council, and business executives and academics. Radicals, especially Marxists, would note the absence of any environmental or union groups amongst the mission’s members.
About the tone of the trip, NDTV reports that
The visit can be seen as a change in attitude for Canada, which has a record of taking a hard stance on the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses, as it looks as if economic ties between the two nations are warming.