Africa Notes: ECOWAS acts in aftermath of coups

Regional cooperation in West Africa is such a unique thing. Where else do you see cooperation on economic matters appear to be so much more difficult that you switch to cooperating on security? Wasn’t the EU built on precisely the opposite logic?

BBC News – Ecowas to send troops after Mali, Guinea-Bissau coups.

Anyway, BBC (and others) are reporting what we have known would likely happen: ECOWAS is sending troops to deal with the aftermath of coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Doing this in Mali makes a lot of sense to me. The situation is such a mess (political struggles over both regime transition and secession). And we can hope, based on its past, that Mali could return to a peaceful and democratic path once these issues get sorted. Not that this will be easy!

But I wonder if Guinea-Bissau might be a harder case. On the one hand, G-B’s problems are a little more straightforward: this is “just” a coup. But on the other hand, the prospects for a peaceful and democratic path are really pretty bad here. No president has ever finished their term in office. And, as Lesley Anne Warner notes, G-B is indeed quite coup-prone. The country has had twice as many coup incidents (10, including failed and alleged plots) as any other country in Africa since 2000. And that doesn’t even include the assassination of President Vieira in 2009! Reuters has a nice timeline of just a few of the events in their violent past.

All of that leads me to wonder: how will ECOWAS gauge success here? What is the exit strategy? Or are West African leaders trying to send some sort of hard signal to the elites in G-B that business-as-usual (coups every few years) cannot be tolerated? I just don’t quite know at this point.

By the way, in case you are wondering whether Africa has gone “coup-crazy” this year, Jay Ulfelder has a nice analysis that shows that, statistically, we are still within the norm (Dart-Throwing Chimp).

Africa Notes: Charles Taylor, Guilty!

The Special Court of Sierra Leone found Charles Taylor Guilty. Here is the summary of the judgment. As it states, he was found guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of 11 crimes, including terrorism, slavery, rape, and the use of child soldiers.

As a number of observers have noted, the guilty verdict falls short of the prosecution’s goals (The Economist). Mr. Taylor was not held directly responsible for any of these crimes. As Kevin Heller reports:

the judges have rejected the prosecution’s allegations that he participated in a JCE to commit the crimes alleged in the indictment or that he had effective control over the RUF soldiers who committed the crimes (i.e, no ordering or command responsibility).  The verdict represents a colossal victory for Taylor, even if it means that he will still receive a substantial sentence. (Opinio Juris)

However, as Heller also notes, Taylor is the second head of state to be found guilty by an international tribunal. (Before being tried at Nuremberg Karl Doenitz was President of Germany for 23 days after Hitler’s suicide. Milosevic could have been the second but he died before a verdict was reached.) (Opinio Juris).

Despite the weaker verdict, some victims apparently felt that some justice had been done here. Said the sister of one victim:

It’s good, this one is good, it’s a signal to other people that they should not completely use their money on war, ammunition, to destroy lives (Reuters)

Besides Opinio Juris, another good place to look for further reporting on this is IntlLawGrrls.

Africa Notes: Regional Trade and Integration

There has been some interesting online commentary on intra-regional trade in Africa.

Trade between African states may be increasing.
It is commonly observed that trade between African states is below what is typically seen in other regions of the world. However, as noted over at tralac, this might be changing. They quote Aileen Kwa:

In terms of non-oil exports Africa’s internal trade is almost on par with its exports to the EU. Furthermore, the trade growth rate within Africa is the second highest after China and before the United States and the EU. Therefore, it is very promising, also in terms of the quality of exports.

Europe should focus more on regional blocs in Africa
Paul Collier suggests that this might be a good time for Europe to reconsider some of its trade strategy with African states, which has often involved individual trade deals with African governments rather than more efficient engagement with Africa’s regional blocs.

And, as I note in my post on the WTO today, there may be more that Africa’s regional blocs need to do before regional integration succeeds
[Africa Notes: WTO Roundup]

South Africa’s attempt at being a gateway to Africa might be underscoring the need for greater regional integration.
Some discussion has been had regarding whether South Africa is–or can be–a gateway to Africa. Clearly it would like to be in that position. Last month, South Africa launched its Dube TradePort, a new international passenger and cargo airport. According to its website it can handle 7.5 million passengers per year right now and will eventually be able to handle 45 million. Its cargo terminal can handle 100,000 tons per year and eventually will handle 2 million tons (more than what LAX currently handles). However, some say this is not enough. Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa and Charles Wachira have a nice critique of the argument that South Africa is a gateway and note there are other competitors (including Angola) for that title in the near-future. TRALAC reports that SA’s most recent Industrial Policy Action Plan has some clues to some of the key challenges:

trade barriers are not the main impediment to raising Africa’s intraregional trade levels, which remain almost trivial when compared with goods and services flows in other territories.
Instead, the main constraints relate to the absence, or inadequacy, of the physical infrastructure linkages required to facilitate trade flows, as well as the continent’s under- developed production structures, which decreases the opportunity for trade in complementary value-added products. (tralac)

Africa Notes: WTO Roundup

The WTO and Sustainable Development
Lesotho Ambassador Mothae Maruping is the current chair of the WTO’s Committee on Trade and Development. ICTSD has a nice report of their recent meeting and its focus on sustainable development. One thought is how to integrate the WTO’s Aid for Trade program with the goal of developing a green economy. Nevertheless, it is clear that some developing countries may also see the WTO as a shield from any radical green agenda that might try to restrict their ability to trade. The delegate from Benin:

Benin said that the WTO should facilitate the elimination of distorting trade practices related to environment that are “incompatible with sustainable development”. “It is important to avoid creating new trade barriers, imposing new conditions to aid, and deepening the technological gap between developed countries and developing countries

The WTO and Regional Integration within Africa
Peter Draper has a nice discussion of the relevance of WTO rules for regional integration efforts in Africa (ICTSD). He anchors his discussion with consideration of the proposed tripartite preferential trade agreement (T-PTA) between SADC, COMESA, and the EAC (basically uniting southern and eastern Africa). He points to a WTO report which singles some of the issues in maintaining coherence between WTO rules and the rules of these new trade arrangements. His overall conclusion seems to be that the negotiating parties strive to maintain coherence with WTO rules and perhaps even allow the WTO’s help with a “mulilateralizing regionalism” component.

Doha Round
Trying to Move Forward
The BRICS would like to remind us that Doha is not yet dead (MN). Both at their own summit last month and at a G-20 meeting in Mexico, they made this point. The WTO’s Director-General Pascal Lamy continues to try to breathe new life into the round. His most recent innovation is the creation of a 12-person panel of stakeholders which include corporate leaders, former heads of state, and leaders of various international institutions. Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae is the sole African representative to the panel.

Positive DevelopmentsAgriculture
One of the major sticking points has been agriculture, especially for many African countries. The Doha Round began with a major campaign criticizing European and American farm subsidies and support for undermining agriculture in developing countries. Many of these subsidies continue, but there are some signs of change in Europe, at least. ICTSD reported this week that total EU farm support has dropped a bit and overall trade-distorting support has dropped even further:

Overall trade-distorting support – a category including amber, blue, and de minimis support – reportedly fell to €18.3 billion, a figure that is below the €22 billion cap that would be established under the draft Doha agriculture accord. (ICTSD)

Is Doha Dead?

Monty Python: Not Dead Yet

Noted: BRICS roundup

The BRICS have been very active in recent weeks. The significance of an alliance of Brazil, India, and China is not lost on many. But occasionally some have wondered whether Russia deserves to be in the group and South Africa’s entry last year raised a few eyebrows (and still does).

The Summit
Their summit in New Delhi, held on March 29, included a number of activities that suggest the group is strengthening its institutional bonds. Here is a brief description of some of their outputs:

The Delhi Declaration, capturing the essence of discussion as well as putting forth common position of BRICS countries on various economic and political issues of global and regional importance was issued at the end of the Summit. The Declaration included Delhi Action Plan which highlights the activities to be undertaken under India’s chairmanship of BRICS to further cooperation. Two agreements namely- “Master Agreement on Extending Credit Facility in Local Currencies” and “BRICS Multilateral Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility Agreement”- were signed by the Development Banks from BRICS countries. The Leaders also released “The BRICS Report” focusing on synergies and complementarities between the BRICS economies and highlighting their role as growth drivers of the world economy. An updated edition of BRICS Statistical Publication was also issued at the occasion.

They make a number of bids for their relevance to any future decision-making about the global economy. There is, for instance, this statement in their declaration:

BRICS is a platform for dialogue and cooperation amongst countries that represent 43% of the world’s population, for the promotion of peace, security and development in a multi-polar, inter-dependent and increasingly complex, globalizing world. Coming, as we do, from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, the transcontinental dimension of our interaction adds to its value and significance.

In a recent op-ed, Jeffrey Sachs worries about whether the multi-polar environment signaled by the rise of the BRICS means a loss of leadership at a time when the world needs a clear leader (Business Insider). Jeremiah Kure at Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader voices a thought commonly heard in some corners of the developing world: maybe it is about time the US and the North Atlantic-led world order change.

The Global Economy
The clearest place where the BRICS are trying to have an impact involves the global economy. This year was only their fourth summit, but their action items are getting clearer. Collectively, they have a lot of potential to collaborate on financial and economic matters (Ghosh). One of their more tangible plans is the launching of a development bank in the first quarter of next year and apparently located in South Africa (Reuters). While this definitely provides a challenge for the other global IFIs, the BRICS are not yet giving up on the IMF and World Bank. They are just repeating their previous bid for greater voice in those global institutions. Most recently, they told the IMF they would provide more cash if they could expand their decision-making role (Reuters). Of course, there is some irony that it is euro-zone countries that are in need of this cash.

The BRICS also have not given up on the WTO’s Doha Round of trade negotiations.

we will explore outcomes in specific areas where progress is possible while preserving the centrality of development and within the overall framework of the single undertaking (ICTSD)

Beyond Economics and Finance
The BRICS agenda is not solely economic. Their own agreement that they are not bound by the West’s decisions to sanction Iran (which they definitely are not, legally), suggests they are interested in flexing some political muscle as well. (And it is useful to note that the only BRICS country NOT to ever have had nuclear weapons is Brazil, although it did have a bit of a program for a brief period of time.)

Climate Change
Unfortunately, the BRICS also seem unlikely to provide leadership on climate change. Their priorities are clearly on economic development. This is what they state in their declaration:

We affirm that the concept of a ‘green economy’, still to be defined at Rio+20, must be understood in the larger framework of sustainable development and poverty eradication and is a means to achieve these fundamental and overriding priorities, not an end in itself. National authorities must be given the flexibility and policy space to make their own choices out of a broad menu of options and define their paths towards sustainable development based on the country’s stage of development, national strategies, circumstances and priorities. We resist the introduction of trade and investment barriers in any form on the grounds of developing green economy.

Course Notes – IL & GEP: Equity and climate change governance

My students in both classes have been focusing on climate change governance this week. One of the key themes that emerges is the question of equity. Does fairness matter here? (A question I won’t directly address because it is a take-home exam question!). What are the politics of equity and how does that translate into legal texts? As one student posted on my International Law blog:

I would argue that the concept of equity and how to measure it is the underlying issue.

A great source on these issues is Parks and Roberts’ 2008 article, “Inequality and the global climate regime.” Inequality, they note, is relevant to the interests of states who vary in their production of emissions and their vulnerability to climate change, and their capabilities for action on climate change issues (decision-making power in international regimes, for instance).

What are the prospects for collaboration on climate change given such inequalities? As one of my students noted, there are mechanisms for side payments to developing countries, to make participation in these agreements more attractive:

One of the many obstacles to international environmental protection is the economic interests of poorer nations.  In working to eliminate CFCs, the international community managed to solve this problem by creating a fund to help developing nations

Another student, considering the Montreal Protocol and its side payments to developing countries, seems to wonder whether the reasons for treaty ratification should matter to us:

What would the compliance rate have been had the Protocol not provided for these incentives or provided assistance for developing countries? While some states signed the treaty out of real concern for the environment, it seems most states only did so for financial reasons and to avoid conflict.

One of my students makes an even bolder and (perhaps) more controversial claim about the rights of the current generation in developing countries:

The environment is important and I believe that the international community should take action to protect it.  However ensuring the welfare of people alive today is far more important than ensuring the welfare of the world’s future population.

The problem of inequality has been–and will continue to be for some time–THE main issue is negotiations about climate change and economic governance (where my IL class will turn their attention to next).

Course Notes – IL: The Precautionary Principle

A couple of my students have engaged in a discussion on our course blog regarding the precautionary principle.

One student noted some of the potential advantages to principle:

In the U.S. (considering the increase in political chatter about domestic oil drilling) perhaps some of the uncertainties about byproducts from drilling fluids, fracking fluids, and accident/spill oil and their health effect on local populations and food stocks could be used to mitigate some of the “Drill baby, drill!” legislation being put forth by policymakers who are in the pocket of big oil?

Another student notes a potential disadvantaget:

At what point is there enough research to predict or think that something may pose a risk or may harm the environment?

Indeed, there are broad range of usages of the concept, something Manson does a decent job sorting out in his article “Formulating the precautionary principle”.

I shared in class the findings of Wiener and Rogers, who compare the use of the principle in the US and Europe. They find that part of the reason for our differences is our different legal systems, including the degree of protections for corporations from lawsuits, access to the courts for potential litigants, and relationships between regulatory bodies and corporations. Ultimately, the precautionary principle is about risk management, and it seems reasonable to assume that different political and legal systems have evolved different means to assess and address risks. For a defense of the precautionary principle see Sandin et al. in the Journal of Risk Research. For some of the challenges see, for instance: Bristow 2003, Peterson 2007. These all probably are not the best sources but are decent places to start.

My own take is that it is easy to take the precautionary principle to an unreasonable absolutist place. There are also problems in terms of the selective application of the principle. Consider the issue of food risks. We may be quick to apply the principle to the introduction of new foods such as those which are “genetically modified”. But there are many foods that we currently consume that have both known and unknown risks. Even coffee, which I drink gallons of every week, has plenty of scientific evidence against (and for!) it.

Links and Feeds

I just updated my site to include an updated list of the news sites and blog feeds I follow. Much of it — except the major papers like Financial Times, The Economist, and The New York Times — can be accessed via the diagram below (just click on it to go to an interactive page). All of it is available on my new “Links and Feeds” page.