›March 29, 2007 // By Sean PeoplesAcademics and policymakers alike appreciate the complexity of new threats to national security like non-state actors and global terror networks. But a report released in September 2006 by the Princeton Project on National Security (PPNS) warns that ignoring unfashionable, but long-established geopolitical threats can endanger U.S. foreign policy. Billed as a bipartisan initiative, PPNS is ultimately an academic affair, with members of its group including such luminaries as Francis Fukuyama, G. John Ikenberry, Laurie Garrett, Thomas Homer-Dixon, Tod Lindberg, and Walter Russell Mead, among many others. The initiative engaged these experts to develop a basic framework of principle threats to U.S. national security and potential responses.
The old and new geopolitical dynamics are worth elucidating, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, gives us something to consider:
“Old geopolitics has not gone away. China and Asia are rising rapidly, industrially, and economically. However, we are now just as threatened by the inability of governments to address terrorists within their country, prevent spread of disease and take care of the environment.”The report cites energy independence and increased consumption as the dominant new challenges, particularly as U.S. consumption of oil increases, and in turn increases our dependence on foreign nations (featuring a who’s-who along the continuum of unpredictability). Rightly, the report supports incentives for energy alternatives. It also supports a gasoline tax and stricter fuel efficiency standards as ways to promote smarter approaches to increasing climatic changes.
Promoting these changes is a good start, but convincing policymakers to adopt them may be a greater challenge.
›March 27, 2007 // By Geoff DabelkoThe vista of Ethiopia’s ancient Rift Valley, speckled with shimmering lakes, stretches before me as our motorized caravan heads south from Lake Langano, part of a study tour on population- health-environment issues organized by the Packard Foundation. Sadly, the country’s unrelenting poverty and insecurity are as breathtaking as the view—Ethiopia currently ranks 170 out of 177 countries on the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Index. These numbers become quite personal when child after child sprints alongside the truck, looking for any morsel. Here, I don’t need to read between the lines of endless reports to see the country’s severe population, health, and environment challenges—they are visible in the protruding ribcages of the cattle and the barren eroding terraces in the nation’s rural highlands.
When analyzing environment, conflict, and cooperation, scholars and practitioners most often focus on organized violence where people die at the business end of a gun. We commonly set aside “little c” conflict where the violence is not organized. However, while the Ethiopian troops fighting the Islamic Courts in Somalia garner the most attention, we should not miss the quieter—yet often more lethal—conflicts. For example, Ethiopia, like much of the Horn of Africa, continues to be beset by pastoralist/farmer conflicts over its shrinking resource base—increasingly exacerbated by population growth, environmental degradation, and likely climate change. In today’s globalized world, these local conflicts may also have larger “neighborhood” effects, contributing to wars and humanitarian disasters, as in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Another classic example of local environmental conflict lies in Ethiopia’s national parks, which successive governments carved from inhabited land in the mid-1960s and 1970s. Those disadvantaged by the parks often took their revenge on the state by burning buildings, cutting trees, and hunting wildlife. Some resettled the parks, bringing cattle and cultivating sorghum. This conflict presents a terrible dilemma, but also an opportunity: if the government and its partners can offer residents secure livelihoods tied to sound environmental practices, “parks versus people” might be transformed into “peace parks.”
These intertwined environment-population-security challenges are daunting and sometimes difficult to grasp. Driving past mile after mile of Ethiopia’s treeless “forests” gave me a dramatic snapshot of the scope of the problem. While no weapons were evident, I could see that the lack of sustainable livelihoods produces plenty of casualties without a single shot. Despite these sobering sights, the people I met gave me hope—particularly the energy and imagination of a small farmers’ support group outside Addis Ababa. With some initial technical assistance from the Ethiopian NGO LEM and the Packard Foundation, this 32-member group is undertaking reforestation projects, producing honey as an alternative livelihood strategy, providing health and family planning services, and employing a more sustainable farming strategy. More efforts like these—and better awareness and promotion of them—could help turn deadly environments into safe, sustainable neighborhoods.
›March 27, 2007 // By Alison WilliamsWhat do climate change and non-proliferation have in common? Not much, Carnegie Endowment President Jessica Mathews said yesterday at a remarkably frank and insightful discussion at the Wilson Center. Yet climate change and non-proliferation are often lumped together as the “ultimate global issues” and approached similarly, she said:
“With non-proliferation, the world is vulnerable to the smallest, poorest, most miserable country on the planet—North Korea.… Climate change is totally different. There are really only seven political actors that matter, and only two that really matter.”Those two, of course, are the United States and China, whose combined carbon emissions add up to 39 percent of the world’s total. Given this fact, Mathews believes the solution to climate change is anything but global. It is incumbent upon the biggest emitters to take the first steps. With them in the lead, the world will follow suit, she thinks. But without them, no real change can occur.
In contrast, United Nations Foundation Senior Fellow Mohamed El-Ashry argued for a more diplomatic track, in which the United Nations would harness its convening power to bring the necessary parties to the table. The skeptic in me wonders whether the UN has this much power. El-Ashry himself, when asked whether UNEP would have more authority if it were upgraded to the status of an agency, said, “You wake up one morning and think of your cat as a tiger, but it is still a cat.”
The UN is a bit of a cat itself right now. Does it have the credibility, legitimacy, or sway to bring all the necessary actors to the table? I’m not so sure. And the former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, certainly didn’t help. The man did once say that the United Nations does not exist, and that “there is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States.”
Whether the solution should be global or local, yesterday’s debate was utterly refreshing. Representatives from the U.S. Department of State, EPA, and other organizations were on hand to debate the relative merits of multilateral and bilateral agreements, unilateral action, and global commitment. While little may have been resolved, this was the sort of open and honest dialogue about climate change that we hope to see more of. Take the time to watch the webcast.
›March 26, 2007 // By Geoff DabelkoThose of you following the new analysis of environment, conflict, and security will know Dr. Colin Kahl’s work, principally his 2006 book States, Scarcity, and Civil Strife in the Developing World. Those of us in the Washington, DC area were pleased to learn recently that Colin will take up an appointment this fall at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service. He has been a regular writer and speaker for the Environmental Change and Security Program.
Using Kenya and the Philippines as cases, Colin has pushed ahead our understanding of environmental scarcity and conflict links in a number of ways. He showed how top-down exploitation of environment and population linkages pitting one group against another (Moi in Kenya) must be added to our traditional conceptions of bottom-up grievance-based causal connections. He proposed a notion of “groupness” to explain why Moi in the early 1990s was able to use environmental (land) and population concerns to stir up violence in rural areas where tribal affiliations were stronger while lower levels of tribal affiliations or “groupness” in urban areas meant that violent conflict was largely absent between the same groups. Colin also presents a strong critique of the alleged “scarcity versus abundance” dichotomy when explaining resource connections to conflict. His review of Paul Collier et al’s oft-cited treatise on the abundance side of the ledger forcefully argues for viewing scarcity versus abundance as a false dichotomy while taking to task Collier’s operationalization of abundance.
Perhaps a bit of insider baseball but let me just urge those interested in really understanding these links to check out Colin’s work and say those of us working in DC welcome the opportunity to call on him as a local.
›March 15, 2007 // By Karen BencalaWhile the crisis in Darfur is often characterized as an ethnically motivated genocide, Stephan Faris argues in April’s Atlantic Monthly (available online to subscribers only) that the true cause may be climate change. Severe land degradation in the region has been blamed on poor land use practices by farmers and herders, but new climate models indicate that warming ocean temperatures are the culprit behind the loss of fertile land.
“Given the particular pattern of ocean-temperature changes worldwide, the models strongly predicted a disruption in African monsoons. ‘This was not caused by people cutting trees or overgrazing,’ says Columbia University’s Alessandra Giannini, who led one of the analyses.”Furthermore, Faris points out that the violence is not necessarily merely between Arabs and blacks, but between farmers (largely black Africans) and herders (largely Arabs). Historically, the two groups shared the fertile land. Now, however, farmers—who once allowed herders to pass through their land and drink from their wells—are constructing fences and fighting to maintain their way of life on the diminished amount of productive land.
If climate change is the real cause of the conflict, Faris concludes, the solution must account for this reality and address the environmental crisis in order to make peace. And he calls on all of us to accept some of the blame for the crisis:
“If the region’s collapse was in some part caused by the emissions from our factories, power plants, and automobiles, we bear some responsibility for the dying. ‘This changes us from the position of Good Samaritans—disinterested, uninvolved people who may feel a moral obligation—to a position where we, unconsciously and without malice, created the conditions that led to this crisis,’ says Michael Byers, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia. ‘We cannot stand by and look at it as a situation of discretionary involvement. We are already involved.’”That said however, researchers at the African Centre for Technology Studies an international policy research organization based in Nairobi, Kenya, say that while environmental changes have decreased agricultural production, these problems must be examined within the wider context of a long history of discrimination and governance problems: “The legacies of colonialism, political discrimination, and lack of adequate governance in Darfur should not be underestimated in favor of an environmental explanation-particularly as it serves the interests of some actors to use environmental change as a non-political scapegoat for conflict.” (forthcoming ECSP Report 12)
Book Review – ‘Bridges Over Water: Understanding Transboundary Water Conflict, Negotiation and Cooperation’›March 13, 2007 // By Karen BencalaThe discourse around water resources is slowly moving away from predictions of water wars and toward the potential of cooperation. In the forthcoming textbook Bridges Over Water: Understanding Transboundary Water Conflict, Negotiation and Cooperation (World Scientific, Fall 2007), authors Ariel Dinar, Shlomi Dinar, Stephen McCaffrey, and Daene McKinney provide both theoretical and applied approaches to making cooperation a reality. Father and son team Ariel and Shlomi Dinar are apt candidates to explore this topic with their experience in both water resources and international negotiation.
A welcome addition the water oeuvre, the book explores the problems of shared water resources and potential solutions through the disciplines of economics, law, and politics, giving the reader a broad understanding of the complexities of water management. It also serves as a literature review, citing seminal papers and analyses on conflict and cooperation. But the book’s meat lies in its analysis of tools for developing cooperation around a water resource. Additionally, the case studies of transboundary water cooperation in the Mekong, Ganges, and Indus River basins, and the Aral Sea basin provide context and put a face to the economic and political processes described in the book, helping weave a holistic understanding of transboundary water decision-making.
As a graduate-level economics text, it appropriately goes into great depth on how water management decisions are made in two thorough chapters on game theory. At the same time, these chapters appear as quite a jump from the seemingly more general overview on water, conflict, and negotiation that could be appropriate for multiple audiences. Despite the book’s different technical levels, it importantly bridges the gap between theory and practice, and skillfully examines the various tools and approaches that can be used to create an environment where cooperation is attainable.
›March 12, 2007 // By Julie DohertyK.Y. Amoako, distinguished diplomat, former Wilson Center African Scholar, and former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, will discuss regionalism as a major movement in world politics—particularly in Africa—on the Wilson Center’s radio show Dialogue this week.
Drawing on his experience at the United Nations Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHGA), Amoako will explore regionalism’s potential to accelerate progress and strengthen stability, as well as improve Africa’s campaign against HIV/AIDS.
Created in 2003 by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, CHGA’s mandate was twofold: to clarify data on HIV/AIDS’s impact on state structures and economic development; and to assist governments in consolidating the design and implementation of policies and programs to help govern the epidemic. In the process, CHGA consulted more than 1,000 Africans.
›March 5, 2007 // By Geoff DabelkoBuilding things rather than blowing them up is how New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof describes a primary approach of one U.S. military base in the Horn of Africa. In his March 3 column, Kristof, who regularly writes on humanitarian, poverty, health, and development issues in the region, writes approvingly of the recognition within the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) that force and fear alone are not going to win the war on terror. As evidence Kristof cites the actions and words of the U.S. military.
“The U.S. started to realize that there’s more to counterterrorism than capture-kill kinetics,” said Capt. Patrick Myers of the Navy, director of plans and policy here. “Our mission is 95 percent at least civil affairs. … It’s trying to get at the root causes of why people want to take on the U.S.”Kristof describes the possibility of the traditional warfighting mission coexisting alongside increased humanitarian roles.
The 1,800 troops here do serve a traditional military purpose, for the base was used to support operations against terrorists in Somalia recently and is available to reach Sudan, Yemen or other hot spots. But the forces here spend much of their time drilling wells or building hospitals; they rushed to respond when a building collapsed in Kenya and when a passenger ferry capsized in Djibouti.Kristof suggests this muscular humanitarian mission should be central to the new Africa Command the U.S. military recently announced. Standing up this regional command will mean breaking most of sub-Saharan Africa out of European Command where most of it save the Horn and North Africa has historically been situated. While some may question whether outside military interventions aren’t more the problem than the solution, the emphasis on a military humanitarian role recognizes security and stability as a necessary precondition for lasting development.
Rear Adm. James Hart, commander of the task force at Camp Lemonier, suggested that if people in nearby countries feel they have opportunities to improve their lives, then “the chance of extremism being welcomed greatly, if not completely, diminishes.”
For the historically inclined, it is worth remembering that General Anthony Zinni, the Marine four star who headed CENTCOM just before the war in Iraq, had internalized these lessons and practiced humanitarian and development engagement to support his stability missions. Unfortunately it was thinking like his that was jettisoned when the Iraq war started.
Join the Conversation
- The Year Ahead in Environment and Energy Friday, January 23, 2015
- Scaling the Mountain: Women, Health, and the Environment in Nepal Wednesday, January 7, 2015
- Emerging Priorities for Maternal Health in Nigeria (Abuja and Washington, DC) Friday, December 5, 2014
- Zimbabwe Battles with Energy Poverty | Inter Press Service
- Pollution Blamed as Leading Cause of Death in Developing World
- Focus on Gender: Farming app is out of touch with reality - SciDev.Net
- OPINION: Brazil Can Help Steer SDGs Towards Ambitious Targets | Inter Press Service
- Antiguan Shanty Dwellers Ask if Poverty Will Be the Death of Them | Inter Press Service