Wesleyan Alum speaks about new book: includes Africa case studies

WESeminar: Youth at War, Youth Building Peace, Youth on the Margins

As the next generation of leaders, young people are key players in creating sustainable peace in areas torn apart by war. In conflict zones youth constitute a reservoir brimming with potential energy, ready to be channeled for good or ill. Yet, what causes some young people to return to the life of a fighter while others choose to work for a better future? Stephanie Schwartz ’08 will lead a discussion on youth’s increasing impact on modern civil conflict and how the international policy community is reacting.

Presenter: Stephanie Schwartz ’08 is a Program Specialist at the U.S. Institute of Peace and author of Youth in Post-Conflict Reconstruction: Agents of Change, a book based on her Wesleyan Senior Thesis

Hansel Lecture Hall (001), Public Affairs Center, 3 pm

The WTO, Summer 2010

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been central to my research agenda for a long time now. I am currently in the process of completing a book manuscript that examines African participation and influence in global economic governance. I begin with the assumption that they have to work through coalitions, and then proceed to consider how different institutional environments impact their ability to form and maintain such coalitions. I find that those institutional environments can vary in several important ways, including how specific international and regional institutions overlap. For instance, when institutional environments require rule-making to take place across multiple institutions (such as the case of trade-related food safety measures, where rules are made at the WTO, Codex-Alimentarius Commission and elsewhere), then the obstacles to forming and maintaining coalitions increase. And, indeed, we see African states have more difficulties in impacting rule-making in such environments.

Given the centrality of the WTO to most areas of economic governance, I pay close attention to on-going developments in that organization. This past summer, several stories grabbed my attention: the status of the on-going Doha Round of negotiations, Lamy’s attempts to invigorate that round with a “cocktail approach”, and the on-going struggle to reform trade-distorting US domestic cotton support. This post touches on those themes and several others.

Doha Round Status

The Doha Round is not dead, though reports of its demise recur on a regular basis. One needs to remember that multilateral trade negotiating rounds have always taken a long time to conclude (last time, the Uruguay Round began in 1986 and only officially concluded in 1994). Additionally, there are now many more member states and economic power is more diffuse than it was during past rounds. So it should be no surprise that there have been a number of obstacles to concluding the current round of negotiations. Indeed, towards the beginning of the summer, attempts to conclude the Doha Round seemed to take another blow, as the G8 abandoned a pledge to conclude trade negotiations this year. However, some also cautiously report on continued progress, including sources in India (for instance, The Economic Times).

Director-General Pascal Lamy’s recent report to the WTO General Council tries to frame the WTO’s Doha Round and “Aid for Trade” as important contributions to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. However, his main strategy for keeping Doha alive seems to be linked to beverages…

“Shaken, Not Stirred.” Cocktail Approaches to Negotiations

My attention has been captured lately by Director-General Pascal Lamy’s new strategy in multilateral negotiations: the cocktail approach. He seems very excited about it. There are three core ingredients to this cocktail: (1) Chair-led consultations, (2) informal bilateral discussions, and (3) consultations with Lamy. He speaks of these dynamics as occurring both horizontally and vertically. The idea, apparently, is that these ingredients are already here, and that what is needed is for us to shake them vigorously (perhaps Lamy has an affinity for Bond, since he says that simply stirring this favorite cocktail of his is not enough).

Generally speaking, his method would involve:“Chair-led processes within the Negotiating Groups, maintaining an overview of the entire negotiating landscape (transparency and inclusiveness), and smaller groups in variable geometry and bilateral contacts remain necessary and essential –moving towards a more horizontal view of the issues (negotiating groups and the TNC remaining the anchor of the negotiating process).”

This is not the first time a cocktail approach has been used to encourage progress in WTO negotiations. The idea goes back at least to Tim Josling and Allan Rae who describe its application to agriculture negotiations back in 1999. The idea, they suggested,was to take current tariff levels and treat each level with a different modality. For instance, states could eliminate tariffs where current levels are below 5%, but for tarriffs that are extremely high (say, 300%) states may agree to simply allow space for bargaining. In their analysis applying the “cocktail” approach did have some benefit for African states. Their approach was embraced by a number of negotiators in the early phases of the Doha Round and continues to be mentioned today.

Looking at the broader negotiation literature, cocktails have had other metaphorical use. Cocktail can refer to a hybrid approach in negotiating tactics by individual actors intent on pushing or securing an advantage (see Matos et al. 1998).

Cotton

I am also asked, when I speak about the role African states play on the cotton issue, whether they are merely following another state’s lead (Brazil). I always say that this might be the case with dispute settlement, where African states have only acted as third-party supporters of Brazil’s activities. However, African states have clearly been leading players in using cotton as an issue to press for greater advantage in negotiations on agriculture in the Doha Round. If Brazil’s strategy has been to use judicial processes, African states have tried to push for a legislated solution.

This summer it became even clearer that Brazil stands alone on the cotton issue. It seems to have forgotten the rhetoric of how the “South”, including Africa, is hurt by wrong-headed agricultural policies in the industrialized “North”. Indeed, Brazil’s cotton farmers now apparently are being paid US subsidies. In return for not applying WTO-authorised trade sanctions, Brazil has decided to accept payment from the US to its farmers. As the Financial Times notes, this just makes them new stakeholders in the US Farm Bill. This is too bad, as Brazilian sanctions, while generating a number of negative externalities for Brazilian consumers and American exporters, could also have generated positive externalities for Africa’s more needy cotton farmers.

The WTO is not just the Doha Round

While the apparent lack of progress in the Doha Round might seem to signal a lack of commitment by the international community to this organization, it is far from being the case that the WTO’s relevance relies only on that round.

For one thing, the WTO administers a number of international agreements. One of those, which member states do not have to sign, is the Government Procurement Agreement. This agreement tries to encourage transparency and the principle of non-discrimination in government procurement. Signing the agreement ensures formal access to government procurement contracts in other signatory countries. The United States is one of 40 such countries. So, as the Financial Times reported, it is not surprising that China is actively trying to negotiate access to the agreement. Accession requires the consent of the current parties (Article XXIV, 2).

Indeed, the WTO has played a central role in economic disputes between the US and China in recent years. See, for instance, recent US concerns about China’s garments and textiles.

The WTO also plays a central role in many economic disputes between Europe and the United States. Two of those disputes, one about European subsidies for Airbus andanother about tariffs on certain electronic products, both resulted in WTO panel decisions that favored the US, though Europe is appealing at least the Airbus decision.

My colleague, Peter Rutland, has a nice piece in the Financial Times about Russia’s bid to enter the WTO. It is, as he notes, “embarrassing” that Russia is the only major economy not included in the 153-member organization. He notes many of the important obstacles to that bid: some member countries (Georgia) don’t like Russia very much these days, Russian leaders don’t always seem particularly committed to the process, and the United States has raised a number of objections along the way. Rutland’s piece is partly a reminder that some of these and other challenges remain, even as US President Obama announced last month a joint commitment with Russia to see the bid through. I think that much of this analysis is right, but I would add one more obstacle to Russia’s bid: the on-going Doha Round. If Russia were to join, it would also have a major voice in the on-going negotiations (especially if they continue to drag out). Russia is a big enough player that it could upset many of the deals and alliances that have been made over the last decade. That could be both good and bad for progress in the negotiations. But is is unlikely that it would be neutral.

My new co-authored article on patronage

wpid-PastedGraphic-2010-08-5-00-03.jpg

David K. Leonard, Jennifer N. Brass, Michael Nelson, Sophal Ear, Dan Fahey, Tasha Fairfield, Martha Johnson Gning, Michael Halderman, Brendan McSherry, Devra C. Moehler, Wilson Prichard, Robin Turner, Tuong Vu, Jeroen Dijkman. 2010. “Does Patronage Still Drive Politics for the Rural Poor in the Developing World? A Comparative Perspective from the Livestock Sector.” Development and Change. (p 475-494)

If one didn’t know any better, one might think that we were trying to set a record for the number of co-authors on a social science journal article. Indeed, the question of author order has come up recently in our discipline. David Lake has suggested we list people in order of their contribution, and I would have to agree that this is the fairest way to go. And when in doubt, listing alphabetically isn’t a bad backup plan. Essentially, this is what happened with our article, though I would suggest that David’s name deserves even greater recognition than simply being listed first.

I am actually very excited to see that co-authorship is on the rise. Fisher et al. noticed this back in 1998 and Lee Sigelman has updated this analysis more recently. I think this is a signal that we are really progressing in our discipline, which is not to say that collaboration is always a good thing. But when done well, it can be rewarding.

For those of you interested in what our article was actually about, here is the abstract:

Is the analysis of patron–client networks still important to the understanding of developing country politics or has it now been overtaken by a focus on ‘social capital’? Drawing on seventeen country studies of the political environment for livestock policy in poor countries, this article concludes that although the nature of patronage has changed significantly, it remains highly relevant to the ways peasant interests are treated. Peasant populations were found either to have no clear connection to their political leaders or to be controlled by political clientage. Furthermore, communities ‘free’ of patron–client ties to the centre generally are not better represented by political associations but instead receive fewer benefits from the state. Nonetheless, patterns of clientage are different from what they were forty years ago. First, patronage chains today often have a global reach, through trade, bilateral donor governments and international NGOs. Second, the resources that fuel political clientage today are less monopolistic and less adequate to the task of purchasing peasant political loyalty. Thus the bonds of patronage are less tight than they were historically. Third, it follows from the preceding point and the greater diversity of patrons operating today that elite conflicts are much more likely to create spaces in which peasant interests can eventually be aggregated into autonomous associations with independent political significance in the national polity. NGOs are playing an important role in opening up this political space although at the moment, they most often act like a new type of patron.

The spread of norms and the UN vote to make access to water a human right

A friend from my Peace Corps days posted on Facebook the UN press release that the General Assembly has adopted a resolution “Recognizing Access to Clean Water, Sanitation as Human Right, By Recorded Vote of 122 in Favour, None Against, 41 Abstentions.”

This isn’t exactly getting major press coverage. And, indeed, just because the UN General Assembly calls something a human right doesn’t automatically make it so, though it can be important in the development of such a norm. Some, however, have argued that it already is a human right. Since we need water to live, and since a right to life is enshrined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights, then perhaps there is already consensus on this? (See the post by Jennifer Vettel at Columbia’s Earth Institute). But 41 nations did choose to abstain, including (please note with appropriate shock) famed human rights-leading Canada. Of course, the US also abstained. As did, apparently, some developing countries who were concerned about incurring greater legal obligations for providing water to their citizens then they could possibly fulfill (see the Huffington Post on this).

So what is the significance of this General Assembly vote? At this point, it seems to me unclear that much will change if change requires politically costly choices. As Iman Kurdi suggests in his post on ArabNews.com, it is unlikely that Israel or Turkey will change or reverse their dam-building, which has infuriated neighbors in the past. So I would expect others interested in building dams (Ethiopia, for instance) are probably proceeding without giving such human rights concerns a second thought. Possibly the biggest impact will be to act as a fundraiser for the UN’s various water and sanitation-related initiatives. As the International Law Observer reports, there is a clear non-binding appeal to states and international organizations to commit resources.

While the impact of the resolution is therefore limited. It does help bring needed publicity and international attention to an important problem. One of my students here at Wesleyan University, Oluwayimika Taiwo-Peters, is tackling this head-on in her home-country of Nigeria this summer. She is visiting local schools as part of a health education program she created, and installing a rainwater catchment system at a local school. Her activities remind me of my old Peace Corps days as a water and sanitation volunteer in Northern Ghana! But the bottom-line is that for many people in Africa — and close to a billion people worldwide — reliable access to safe water and sanitation is an important obstacle to development and happiness. So I will hold out the hope that this norm continues to grow.

And since we are talking about norms, this isn’t a bad place to mention Schrad’s recent book on The Political Power of Bad Ideas, which The Duck of Minerva reviews. The excellent point of the book is to explore how not just good ideas (we need clean water) but also bad ideas (prohibition counts as one of these, in his view) can be spread via advocacy networks. I haven’t read this yet, but Charli Carpenter’s post makes me want to!

“France attacked an African camp and killed Muslims”

A little over a week ago, a French raid in Algeria to free an aid worker, Michael Germaneau, failed. He was already dead, and perhaps even dead before they got there.

Global Voices had a nice roundup of some of the African sources on this raid, one of which cited the quote I used for the title here.

Both France’s military and aid programs in Northern Africa has often been contentious (probably an understatement). Just a few years ago, French aid workers were jailed in Chad on child trafficking charges, where France has intervened militarily several times in the past decade. David Leonard has argued that there are reasons for cautious optimism about France’s evolving military role in Africa. At least, he seems to say, both the French military and French civil society seem to be more reflective about the nature of their interventions.

But the question the blogosphere seems to be asking is how fragile French relations with this part of Africa actually is. Were there clear winners or losers in this failed raid? France is clearly not a winner, having failed at getting the hostage, facing allegation that it negotiated with the al Qaida-affiliated group that held Germaneau, and having upset local politicians. One thing I would like to know is the extent to which Algerian muslims are identifying with the al-Qaida-affiliated groups in the region. But other than possibly increasing local opposition to France and the West, it is also unclear what the hostage-takers possibly got out of this. One possible winner? The US military’s counter-terrorism training program in the region seems more important than ever.

What is our responsibility to alleviate poverty around the world?

I noticed today that Yahoo! News (yes, I know, not a very impressive source for news, but I still have an email account with them and visit their website daily) had a link to Poke’s Global Rich List:

Global Rich List.

This list will tell you just how rich you are compared to the rest of the world.  Most Americans are easily within the top 10%. If you have an income of $50,000 or so, you are easily within the top 1%. They use World Bank data to source their numbers. Now, there are a number of problems with their methodology. It doesn’t, for instance, take into account relative purchasing power ($50,000 would buy me a lot more in Ghana than it does in the US). But it does remind me of a great article I often have my students read, one that was introduced to me by Amy Gurowtiz at UC Berkeley.

Peter Singer’s “Solution to World Poverty”, which appeared in the New York Times Magazine over a decade ago, presents a fantastic version of a cosmopolitan argument for our individual responsibility towards others in the word.

There are alternative views on individual and collective responsibility, and I won’t relate them all here. But I offer these today as interesting food for thought.

And if you do feel inspired to donate something somewhere, I might suggest that the Kibera School for Girls, a project founded by Wesleyan students I have had the privilege to teach, might be a good place to start.

Nigeria, Airport Security, and US Africa Policy

I’ve been away from this blog for the holidays, but now that I’m back I’m ready to start commenting on the recent news about the terrorism scare in Nigeria.

Consider the clip of the BBC news report posted below. The US has singled out Nigeria for tougher airport security rules.  Now this MIGHT be a reasonable policy idea. It definitely could play well with Americans now scared about flying (I just flew and I must say I am not scared at all by any of this.  I’m still safer flying than driving my car.)  But it could backfire in a big way in a place like Nigeria.

Nigerians are clearly worried by this turn in US policy.  And they rightfully sense that there is a double standard.  Did we publicly ask Britain to change its airport security polices after the shoe bomber incident?  No, as Nigerian information minister Dora Akunlyi mentioned in a report I heard on NPR this morning.  And of course, the US has grown a number of “terrorists” of its own.  So should the action of one individual impact our policy towards Nigeria?

The US should be aware that these policies could backfire.  According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 79% of Nigerians had a favorable view of the US in 2009. However, that may be largely part of an “Obama effect” as the percentage hovered in the low 60s for much of the Bush Administration years.  And approval of US anti-terrorism efforts was a much lower 49% in 2006.  Unfortunately, these statistics do not mention the possible differences between Muslim Nigerians and Christian Nigerians.  The US could lose support among the Nigerian public.  We could, indeed, foster the very conditions that lead people to turn against the US.  I’m not saying this is going to happen, only that it is a concern that we should consider.

The attempted bombing by Nigerian Umar Abdulmutallab was likely a random event in terms of its connection to Nigeria.  Should we continue to pay attention to possible terrorist threats from Nigeria? Sure.  But we should do so in a way that positively engages Nigerians, not in a way that may place them in the unsavory category of terrorist-producing states.  Unfortunately, our targeting of their airport security seems to have done just that.

clipped from news.bbc.co.uk

US screening ‘risks Nigeria ties’

Lagos Airport, file image

Checking-in to Nigerian airports now takes longer

The US is risking its ties with Nigeria by asking travellers from the country to undergo stiffer airport security, Nigeria’s information minister says.

Dora Akunyili said she was disappointed with the US decision, which came after a Nigerian man was charged with trying to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.

Earlier senior Nigerian officials confirmed they had officially asked the US to scrap the new rules.

blog it

Some good news from Darfur

clipped from news.bbc.co.uk

On Thursday, the minister for humanitarian assistance, Haroun Lual Ruun, said Khartoum would allow those UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) remaining in Darfur to “expand their existing operations”.

I think what we’re hearing… is that new NGOs with new names, new logos, if necessary, can come in
John Holmes UN humanitarian chief

“We have also agreed to further improve the NGOs operating environment by easing travel and visas restrictions, by reviewing the need for individual technical agreements for NGOs,” he said.

He was speaking during a visit to Sudan by UN humanitarian chief John Holmes and US envoy to Sudan Scott Gration.

Mr Holmes said that if trust was restored between the humanitarian community and Sudanese authorities, capacity lost after the expulsions could be recovered.

“I think what we’re hearing… is that new NGOs with new names, new logos, if necessary, can come in,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Displaced Sudanese women in Darfur, March 2009

blog it

News and Comment: the G20 and Africa Part 2

The G20 has a lot of issues on its plate and at the top of the list, obviously, is the on-going financial crisis.  I have already commented on the problems African countries face in getting their voices heard. On that point, Africa may have an ally in Pope Benedict who, recently returned from his Africa travels, noted the problems of adequate representation from those “who suffer most from the harmful effects of a crisis for which they do not bear responsibility”. The Pope suggests states rely on the UN and associated institutions. Jeffrey Sachs has also jumped on this bandwagon, noting that while South Africa will be present “South Africa by itself represents South Africa”.  And we all know that South Africa is not a “typical” African country (if there is such a thing).

On the point of South Africa, it might be useful to remember that President Motlanthe himself may not be in the strongest position to represent his country’s interests, given all the recent upheaval within the South African political system and the temporary nature of his position as President.

NGOs, such as Oxfam, are trying to use their influence to encourage the G20 to commit to aiding Africa as it deals with the crisis. Duncan Green, head of research for Oxfam, highlights their main requests of the G20 in a recent blog post. He comments as well on a leaked copy of a G20 communique, obtained by the Financial Times.  Indeed, the way these conferences usually go, it is likely that at least some of the major decisions have already been negotiated ahead of time. Which leaves one to wonder whether adding an African voice at this point could make a difference.

The World Bank has published figures (reported on BBC News) that somewhat echo the gloomy global economic forecasts of the IMF and OECD.

The forecast predicts that developing countries will need $1.3tn in external financing to repay debt and cover balance of payments problems, and may fall short.

The idea that African countries, in particular, could be major losers in this crisis has been underscored by a number of analysts and commentators including Egypt’s finance minister, Oxfam’s Duncan Green (commenting on the case of Zambia), and Kofi Anan (who argues that the crisis “hits Africa twice”).

Other G20 news:

Apparently, protestors see the G20 meeting as an opportunity to demonstrate their unhappiness with a wide range of global issues, from the financial crisis to the “siege of Gaza” to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  While I understand their frustrations with global leadership on these matters, I don’t think it helps their cause to get into fights with the British police.  Apparently, these frustrations are being vented worldwide.

China is trying to exhibit its leadership potential as well.  This has included lobbying for a new “super-sovereign reserve currency to replace the U.S. dollar”, the provision of advice to rich countries, and lobbying to stop states from moving towards trade and investment protectionism.

The Chinese are not the only ones worried about protectionism. Pascal Lamy, head of the WTO, has warned that moves towards protectionism may further impact the already troubled Doha round of trade negotiations.