Global nightmare, false alarm, or new geopolitical order

It is likely we will see a fundamental shake-up in the global pecking order in the aftermath of the US election.

We have had a month now to calm our jangling nerves. President-elect Donald Trump sat down and had a civilized conversation with President Barack Obama. He promised to keep a couple of popular features of Obamacare and said he understood global warming was partly man-made. But he clearly plans to be an almost omnipotent president. One has only to look at the military men he is recruiting to his cabinet. He will probably control both Congress and Senate for four years and, maybe worse for Americans, shape the Supreme Court for another decade. What can Canada expect and can we find a safe path forward in the geopolitical confusion that is likely to come?

Is it the end of the world as we know it? It is likely we are seeing a fundamental shake-up in the global pecking order. The United States, under a weakened Obama, was already fading. Europe is too weak and divided to be a stand-in. Whatever else, this seems like the end of the US as the all-purpose global leader. The world, shaped by the US, has experienced a decade of mismanaged domestic economic policies that has led to the continuing global financial crisis. This has been combined with a series of misjudged and costly military interventions across Asia and the Middle East, including in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The US is no longer everybody’s favourite model. China and Russia, with their complementary aspirations for regional and global spheres of influence, are likely to become more substantial military powers in the next decade or two, especially if their present partnership holds. Somewhat bizarrely, the Trump of “America First” talks as if, as long as the US is not directly challenged, he is prepared to tolerate their aspirations. Bye-bye Ukraine and South China Sea.

China is expected to regain its global leadership in overall economic performance in the next few years. As it completes a politically driven shift of focus to a pro-poor, internal consumption approach, its economic growth will likely stabilize at a healthy 7 percent per year, on the way to surpassing the US’s gross national income (GNI) by roughly 2025. Especially with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal dead in the water, China will again become the driver of many global resource markets. It will be dominant in shaping Asian markets, both as a consumer and seller. Geopolitically, it could start to fill the vacated US shoes. Somewhat perversely, the present Chinese approach of boosting domestic consumption to provide jobs for otherwise uncompetitive workers might emerge as a sensible strategy for Trump to use in meeting his own promises to rust-belt voters, those “left behind” poor white male Americans.

However, we should have no illusions that Trump might emerge as a closet liberal, even if he is wriggling back from a few extreme positions on Obamacare and that wall along the Mexican border. As Paul Krugman notes, a Trump-inspired Keynesian push, even one that includes substantial tax cuts for the rich, could temporarily be better than a few more years of global financial crisis. Indeed, for some in the international development community, Trump’s policy message resonates with the UN’s global Agenda 2030, with its signature “no one left behind” policy.

There is no such semi-silver-lining for the Paris agreement on climate change. Last month’s COP22 meeting in Morocco to formalize the treaty put in place a legalistic trick designed to undermine the immediate Trump threat. The treaty now forbids any signatory to withdraw for the next four years. This is mandatory solidarity! Of course, Trump and his emerging team of climate deniers can do a lot of damage inside the US itself, although a couple of European leaders have suggested that they might promote new global trade rules that would apply a special tariff penalty to any country (that is, the US) that fails to meet its carbon reduction target. The Trump threat could also have an inhibiting effect on Canada’s new plan for a universal, slowly escalating carbon tax. We will have to grit our teeth and hope that the benefits of the green technology people are hoping for turn out to be real. (Who knows, in extremis, California, which already co-ordinates some green policies with us, might one day ponder joining Canada!)

Trump’s international policy stances, especially his seeming admiration of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his hesitation over confronting China, could lead to a whole new set of partnerships. For example, in the UN Security Council, a new alignment of power could sometimes find the US on the side of Russia and/or China, shirking the traditional positions of the G7/OECD block of liberal votes on human rights or international development. Canada could find itself on the losing side of important debates. The situation could be worsened by a division in the voting of members of a diminished European Union and a post-Brexit United Kingdom.

It is hard to define what will be the future path of the other two Asian giants, India and Japan. They certainly have no inclination to kowtow to China, but they desperately need market access and partnerships to sustain their own economic growth. They, probably along with Indonesia, Thailand and even Vietnam, will want to opt into any new China-led agreement that replaces the failed US-led TPP. With political support from a more inward-looking Trump-led USA uncertain, fence-sitting may not be a very easy option. The choices will be even more painful for OECD-linked Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Independent of Trump’s plans, Japan, similar to much of Europe in its current anti-immigrant hysteria, will need to seek out substantial immigration to counter the shrinking of its population. It is increasingly essential for Japan, although it might be culturally painful, to have more person-power to sustain a strong economy. It will need to sign a formal trade deal with China, as well as signing up for China’s Asia Infrastructure Bank. If it does not, its global competitiveness will slowly decline.

India’s situation is more optimistic. It is now, after all, the world’s largest country, in population terms, and the fastest growing economically. But that growth rate is an aberration, the result of China’s transition to a new inward-looking policy, which has temporarily lowered China’s growth rate to closer to 6 percent. Also, because of its long history of intraregional tensions with Pakistan and other countries, India cannot lead its own economic bloc in South Asia. It will therefore need to find an accommodation with China. This should not be impossible, since there is a complementarity in their mindsets and management skills — one the world’s largest democracy, the other the world’s strongest economy (after the US), and both very education/skills-focused societies. They could overcome past tensions and form a great partnership. If that fails, India will likely end up aligning with the US, but only after Trump.

Under Trump, the US might seek once again to be the hegemon for the Americas. This will likely fail. Why would Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, Latin America’s dominant economies, give up their independence when they have their own, albeit more modest, regional partnerships? They will wait for Trump to go, and hope, as will many others, that the US will quickly regain its place as a constructive world leader (hopefully a chastened one), a neighbourly quasi-social democracy just like Canada.

Africa, which has the biggest concentration of the world’s poorest, must find the political will to move to a more inclusive, more equitable and liberal-minded political model. Over the very long term it has untapped potential from its natural resources, land and minerals, but in order to access these it needs a more highly skilled population, and it has to control that population’s growth. It is starting on these journeys, but slowly and erratically. Aid to Africa is a significant part of the US’s assistance program, and it will be be a major setback for Africa if it loses that aid under a President Trump. If this happens, it will also open up even more space for China, whose aggressive aid and investment presence is already by many counts the biggest among all the donors, even the major multilaterals. The impact on Africa of global warming-induced droughts is a new threat to the continent’s progress. This threat will only be compounded if the Trump government stays offside in the global struggle to combat climate change.

The Middle East will require a lot of healing to recover from its multiple wars, many of which the US triggered as a result of its post 9/11 paranoia. The countries most affected are Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Palestine. The US remains an active player in this region, but more as an ambiguous peacemaker than as an active warmonger. The uncomfortable accommodation between Russia and the US as both fight ISIS may even deepen under President Trump, who seems to want to avoid further costly US entanglement in the region’s destructive conflicts. He seems to have lost his bombing blitz urges, as long as there is no direct threat to the USA. This is a possible “plus” point for Trump’s impact (Hillary Clinton was the more eager hawk), but the region’s physical and political rehabilitation will take longer than Trump’s term. The Sunni-Shia/hence Saudi-Iranian competition is deep-rooted, and there is no resolution in sight, unless an even more drastic fall in oil prices makes that competition totally unaffordable for both!

This complex framework of changing power relations points to many challenges for Canada. The US political elite has just had a deafening wake-up call from those citizens who are left behind economically and ignored politically. Canada cannot expect to escape significant collateral damage, living as we do next to this seriously wounded and bitter giant.

We need to be part of the diplomatic effort to get Trump and his administration to recognize the folly of not confronting the existential threat of global warming. Over the medium term, we need to take measured steps to move beyond our historical economic linkages with the now weakened EU and UK, recognizing they alone can no longer be sufficient for our economic future, even our global security. Those steps involve understanding and responding proactively to the major shifts of power and global leadership in Asia. As Australia has already been doing for a decade or more, we need to connect to the emerging networks of Asian partnerships, notably (but not exclusively) those centred on China and India. Less critically, we could bypass the US to link more strongly to Latin America. These networks are not sitting waiting for us; we will need to seek them out and earn their trust. This effort will be part of our commitment to a better global future, including implementing the UN’s Agenda 2030 on sustainable development, as a donor and as a global citizen.

Today’s multi-ethnic Canada is well placed to succeed in these efforts. We should seize this unplanned opportunity for bold changes, to think outside the box. The President Trump crisis facing our southern neighbours should serve as the trigger for a decade of Canadian outreach to the new emerging centres of power in an increasingly multipolar world.

 

URL: http://policyoptions.irpp.org/fr/magazines/decembre-2016/global-nightmare-false-alarm-or-new-geopolitical-order/

Global nightmare, false alarm or new geopolitical order?

We have had a month now to calm our jangling nerves. President-elect Donald Trump sat down and had a civilized conversation with President Barack Obama. He promised to keep a couple of popular features of Obamacare and said he understood global warming was partly man-made. But he clearly plans to be an almost omnipotent president. One has only to look at the military men he is recruiting to his cabinet. He will probably control both Congress and Senate for four years and, maybe worse for Americans, shape the Supreme Court for another decade. What can Canada expect and can we find a safe path forward in the geopolitical confusion that is likely to come?

Is it the end of the world as we know it? It is likely we are seeing a fundamental shake-up in the global pecking order. The United States, under a weakened Obama, was already fading. Europe is too weak and divided to be a stand-in. Whatever else, this seems like the end of the US as the all-purpose global leader. The world, shaped by the US, has experienced a decade of mismanaged domestic economic policies that has led to the continuing global financial crisis. This has been combined with a series of misjudged and costly military interventions across Asia and the Middle East, including in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The US is no longer everybody’s favourite model. China and Russia, with their complementary aspirations for regional and global spheres of influence, are likely to become more substantial military powers in the next decade or two, especially if their present partnership holds. Somewhat bizarrely, the Trump of “America First” talks as if, as long as the US is not directly challenged, he is prepared to tolerate their aspirations. Bye-bye Ukraine and South China Sea.

China is expected to regain its global leadership in overall economic performance in the next few years. As it completes a politically driven shift of focus to a pro-poor, internal consumption approach, its economic growth will likely stabilize at a healthy 7 percent per year, on the way to surpassing the US’s gross national income (GNI) by roughly 2025. Especially with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal dead in the water, China will again become the driver of many global resource markets. It will be dominant in shaping Asian markets, both as a consumer and seller. Geopolitically, it could start to fill the vacated US shoes. Somewhat perversely, the present Chinese approach of boosting domestic consumption to provide jobs for otherwise uncompetitive workers might emerge as a sensible strategy for Trump to use in meeting his own promises to rust-belt voters, those “left behind” poor white male Americans.

However, we should have no illusions that Trump might emerge as a closet liberal, even if he is wriggling back from a few extreme positions on Obamacare and that wall along the Mexican border. As Paul Krugman notes, a Trump-inspired Keynesian push, even one that includes substantial tax cuts for the rich, could temporarily be better than a few more years of global financial crisis. Indeed, for some in the international development community, Trump’s policy message resonates with the UN’s global Agenda 2030, with its signature “no one left behind” policy.

There is no such semi-silver-lining for the Paris agreement on climate change. Last month’s COP22 meeting in Morocco to formalize the treaty put in place a legalistic trick designed to undermine the immediate Trump threat. The treaty now forbids any signatory to withdraw for the next four years. This is mandatory solidarity! Of course, Trump and his emerging team of climate deniers can do a lot of damage inside the US itself, although a couple of European leaders have suggested that they might promote new global trade rules that would apply a special tariff penalty to any country (that is, the US) that fails to meet its carbon reduction target. The Trump threat could also have an inhibiting effect on Canada’s new plan for a universal, slowly escalating carbon tax. We will have to grit our teeth and hope that the benefits of the green technology people are hoping for turn out to be real. (Who knows, in extremis, California, which already co-ordinates some green policies with us, might one day ponder joining Canada!)

Trump’s international policy stances, especially his seeming admiration of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his hesitation over confronting China, could lead to a whole new set of partnerships. For example, in the UN Security Council, a new alignment of power could sometimes find the US on the side of Russia and/or China, shirking the traditional positions of the G7/OECD block of liberal votes on human rights or international development. Canada could find itself on the losing side of important debates. The situation could be worsened by a division in the voting of members of a diminished European Union and a post-Brexit United Kingdom.

It is hard to define what will be the future path of the other two Asian giants, India and Japan. They certainly have no inclination to kowtow to China, but they desperately need market access and partnerships to sustain their own economic growth. They, probably along with Indonesia, Thailand and even Vietnam, will want to opt into any new China-led agreement that replaces the failed US-led TPP. With political support from a more inward-looking Trump-led USA uncertain, fence-sitting may not be a very easy option. The choices will be even more painful for OECD-linked Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Independent of Trump’s plans, Japan, similar to much of Europe in its current anti-immigrant hysteria, will need to seek out substantial immigration to counter the shrinking of its population. It is increasingly essential for Japan, although it might be culturally painful, to have more person-power to sustain a strong economy. It will need to sign a formal trade deal with China, as well as signing up for China’s Asia Infrastructure Bank. If it does not, its global competitiveness will slowly decline.

India’s situation is more optimistic. It is now, after all, the world’s largest country, in population terms, and the fastest growing economically. But that growth rate is an aberration, the result of China’s transition to a new inward-looking policy, which has temporarily lowered China’s growth rate to closer to 6 percent. Also, because of its long history of intraregional tensions with Pakistan and other countries, India cannot lead its own economic bloc in South Asia. It will therefore need to find an accommodation with China. This should not be impossible, since there is a complementarity in their mindsets and management skills — one the world’s largest democracy, the other the world’s strongest economy (after the US), and both very education/skills-focused societies. They could overcome past tensions and form a great partnership. If that fails, India will likely end up aligning with the US, but only after Trump.

Under Trump, the US might seek once again to be the hegemon for the Americas. This will likely fail. Why would Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, Latin America’s dominant economies, give up their independence when they have their own, albeit more modest, regional partnerships? They will wait for Trump to go, and hope, as will many others, that the US will quickly regain its place as a constructive world leader (hopefully a chastened one), a neighbourly quasi-social democracy just like Canada.

Africa, which has the biggest concentration of the world’s poorest, must find the political will to move to a more inclusive, more equitable and liberal-minded political model. Over the very long term it has untapped potential from its natural resources, land and minerals, but in order to access these it needs a more highly skilled population, and it has to control that population’s growth. It is starting on these journeys, but slowly and erratically. Aid to Africa is a significant part of the US’s assistance program, and it will be be a major setback for Africa if it loses that aid under a President Trump. If this happens, it will also open up even more space for China, whose aggressive aid and investment presence is already by many counts the biggest among all the donors, even the major multilaterals. The impact on Africa of global warming-induced droughts is a new threat to the continent’s progress. This threat will only be compounded if the Trump government stays offside in the global struggle to combat climate change.

The Middle East will require a lot of healing to recover from its multiple wars, many of which the US triggered as a result of its post 9/11 paranoia. The countries most affected are Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Palestine. The US remains an active player in this region, but more as an ambiguous peacemaker than as an active warmonger. The uncomfortable accommodation between Russia and the US as both fight ISIS may even deepen under President Trump, who seems to want to avoid further costly US entanglement in the region’s destructive conflicts. He seems to have lost his bombing blitz urges, as long as there is no direct threat to the USA. This is a possible “plus” point for Trump’s impact (Hillary Clinton was the more eager hawk), but the region’s physical and political rehabilitation will take longer than Trump’s term. The Sunni-Shia/hence Saudi-Iranian competition is deep-rooted, and there is no resolution in sight, unless an even more drastic fall in oil prices makes that competition totally unaffordable for both!

This complex framework of changing power relations points to many challenges for Canada. The US political elite has just had a deafening wake-up call from those citizens who are left behind economically and ignored politically. Canada cannot expect to escape significant collateral damage, living as we do next to this seriously wounded and bitter giant.

We need to be part of the diplomatic effort to get Trump and his administration to recognize the folly of not confronting the existential threat of global warming. Over the medium term, we need to take measured steps to move beyond our historical economic linkages with the now weakened EU and UK, recognizing they alone can no longer be sufficient for our economic future, even our global security. Those steps involve understanding and responding proactively to the major shifts of power and global leadership in Asia. As Australia has already been doing for a decade or more, we need to connect to the emerging networks of Asian partnerships, notably (but not exclusively) those centred on China and India. Less critically, we could bypass the US to link more strongly to Latin America. These networks are not sitting waiting for us; we will need to seek them out and earn their trust. This effort will be part of our commitment to a better global future, including implementing the UN’s Agenda 2030 on sustainable development, as a donor and as a global citizen.

Today’s multi-ethnic Canada is well placed to succeed in these efforts. We should seize this unplanned opportunity for bold changes, to think outside the box. The President Trump crisis facing our southern neighbours should serve as the trigger for a decade of Canadian outreach to the new emerging centres of power in an increasingly multipolar world.

Global Nightmare – Trump and a new geopolitical order

cips-logo

Global nightmare, false alarm — or a first step to a new geopolitical order?

posted OU CIPS.  November 22, 2016. John Sinclair

[ Also see expanded text  published Dec 2016 on ‘Policy Options’ ]

We have had a few days now to calm our jangling nerves. President-elect Trump has already had a civilized conversation with President Obama and “promised” to keep a couple of features from Obamacare. But he is going to be an almost omnipotent president, controlling both Congress and Senate and, maybe worse for Americans, shaping the Supreme Court for a decade or more.

Is this the end of the world as we know it? Or was the US, even under Obama, already fading as the all-purpose global leader? After a decade of badly mismanaged global and domestic economic policies, plus a series of costly interventions across Asia and the Middle East, the US is nobody’s favourite. China and Russia, especially if they collaborate, are as likely to be global stars in the next two decades. China may also regain its traditional economic lead as it completes its shift to pro-poor, internal consumption-driven growth (stabilizing at a healthy 7% p.a.). Interestingly Trump may launch that very same domestic strategy to meet the demands of his core voters, the “left behind” poor white males.

However, Trump will never emerge as a closet liberal, even if he has already wriggled away from some extreme positions on Obamacare and that Mexican wall. As Paul Krugman notes, even a Trump-inspired Keynesian push, including some tax cuts for the rich, is temporarily better than more years of global financial crisis. Indeed, for development folks, some of Trump’s messages actually resonate with the core theme of the just-launched UN Agenda 2030 and its “no one left behind” signature policy.

There is no such silver lining for the Paris treaty on climate change. The Morocco meeting that just formalized the treaty used a legalistic trick to undermine the Trump threat by denying any signatory the right to withdraw for the next four years. Of course, Trump and his team will likely do much damage inside the US itself, although a couple of European leaders have suggested that any country failing to meet its carbon reduction targets could be sanctioned via tariffs. The Trump threat could certainly have an inhibiting effect on Canada’s plan for a carbon tax. We will have to grit our teeth and hope for the promised new job benefits of green technology. Maybe California, which already coordinates green policies with us, will simply opt to join Canada.

Trump’s international policy stances will likely lead to a completely new set of geopolitical partnerships. Around such Security Council issues as human rights or development, we may start to see an alignment of Trump’s USA with Russia and China pushing back with their triple veto. On the liberal side might be a diminished EU, supported by Canada, and a struggling post-Brexit but still veto-wielding UK.

It is hard to define the future path for Japan and India, who have no inclination to cow-tow to China, but desperately need access and partnership for their own growth.

To break out economically, Japan must reconcile itself to substantial immigration for the person-power to sustain a strong economy. Failure means likely joining the post “hard Brexit” UK as a struggling, once major economy.

India has a more optimistic outlook. It is now the world’s fastest growing population, but that lead is an aberration, the result of China’s pro-poor, internally focused growth  policy. India must accommodate with China; their complementarity of mindsets and management skills could produce a great partnership. If that fails, India will likely align with the US, but only post-Trump.

Under Trump, the US might seek once again to be the hegemon for all the Americas. This will likely fail. Why would Brazil or Argentina give up their policy independence? They will wait for Trump to go, hoping that the USA regains its place as a world leader, but a chastened one, as a sensible social democracy like its neighbour to the north.

Africa, with the biggest concentration of the world’s poorest, must find the political will to move to a more inclusive, more equitable political model. It is starting on that political journey, but slowly and erratically. The prospects of losing a significant part of the USAID programme under Trump will be a major setback. The growing impact of global-warming-induced droughts on Africa has its own accelerating pace even without Trump’s Myron Ebell compounding it.

The Middle East has much healing still to do from the series of wars, often rooted in US post-9/11 paranoia: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Palestine. The US is now more a struggling ambiguous peacemaker than an active warmonger. The recent accommodation between Russia and the US in fighting ISIS may deepen under President Trump, who seems to want no role in such costly situations. This is a possible “plus” point for Trump’s impact (Hillary was the greater hawk) but it will take longer than Trump’s term to achieve the physical and political rehabilitation needed to put this region back on its feet.

This framework has many suggested challenges for Canada. Canada cannot hope to be immune from the certain shake up for US political actors, both the inner elites and the grassroots, but should instead seize this forced opportunity for bold changes.

Canada will join the immediate diplomatic effort to get the Trump administration to recognize the folly of not confronting the existential threat of global warming. We will retain our historic linkages to the weakened EU and UK but recognize they can no longer be sufficient. We also need to understand and respond proactively to the major shifts of power in Asia. We need to connect to new partnership networks with Asia, critically China and India, and perhaps by-pass the US to link more strongly with Latin America.

Finally, we must not overlook our commitment to implementing Agenda 2030, ensuring “no one left behind,” not only in the American rust belt, but globally.

http://www.cips-cepi.ca/2016/11/22/global-nightmare-false-alarm-or-a-first-step-to-a-new-geopolitical-order/

Expanded version in Policy Options,

http://policyoptions.irpp.org/fr/magazines/decembre-2016/global-nightmare-false-alarm-or-new-geopolitical-order/

 

 

 

From ‘Assistance’ to Cooperation and Partnership :Policy Options

The countries we help through international assistance are no longer just recipients, but partners in a global mission to meet sustainable development goals.

September 20, 2016. published in ‘Policy Options’. 

The global economic crisis of 2008, and the stagnation and political crises that followed, have made us acutely aware that our future can no longer rely on relationships with other developed countries. The North (basically OECD countries) and the South (developing countries), rich and poor, must increasingly cooperate.

Our vocabulary and thinking is changing. We are moving beyond what we used to call “assistance,” the charitable response of richer nations to global poverty, to something less paternalistic. We now talk of “development cooperation.” Today’s assistance is multifaceted, and includes more than just financial and technical aid. It can include preferential tariffs on goods from the least­developed countries (LDCs); tweaking the legal frameworks defining what constitutes a refugee; and adjusting intellectual property rules to allow for preferential transfers of technology to LDCs. Development cooperation also encompasses a topic that is particularly hot today: fair payment of taxation by foreign investors, for example, a Canadian mining company operating in a poor African country.

As the federal government reviews its international assistance policies, it should be guided by this evolving vision of development, with financial aid as just one component. The UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development will shape how the government approaches cooperation, seeing the countries it assists as partners in a collective mission to alleviate poverty, rather than mere recipients.

Building relationships through partnerships and enhanced development cooperation

Looking ahead, for political, commercial and security reasons, Canada will need to engage with a more complex array of actors. Some of these countries will be very poor. Our trading and investment partners are as likely to be emerging developing economies as they are familiar OECD countries. The BRICS and other middle­income countries (MICs) are already competing with the United States and other G­7 nations as economic actors. They are reshaping global markets as suppliers and buyers, sometimes as equity investors. The economies of these countries are growing much faster than ours is, even during this extended period of economic stagnation. Today’s BRICS superstar is India, which, despite its 300 million poor, is now growing at about 7 percent per year — faster than China.

 

Critically, more and more developing countries, even the poorest, are changing socially: they are more democratic, and their populations are better educated, with growing expectations of enhanced well­being for their sons and daughters. These expectations are often frustrated by Northern unwillingness to share old privileges and power that have been jealously guarded since the Second World War. One symbolic battlefield is around fairer, more representative governance of global institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. The battle, often driven by the BRICS, has led to the creation of several parallel global financial institutions. One recent (2015) dramatic step was the creation by China of its US$50 billion+ Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. We saw most major European countries rushing to join as founding contributors, despite very public US objections. Canada belatedly asked China if it could join, after stalling for months under US pressure.

These rapidly changing power relationships between Southern and Northern powers yield a key message: Canada, as a middle power that was substantially absent from the global dialogue for a decade, has a lot of catching up to do. We need new friends, new partnerships in the world.

Obvious candidates are the BRICS, notably China, India and Brazil; but there are also emerging lower­middle­income developing countries (LMICs) such as Ghana, Vietnam, Indonesia, even Egypt or Nigeria. These and other nations could soon be important trade and investment partners for Canada. Of course, old neighbours and friends in the OECD and the G­7 will still be important, but they won’t be enough. Indeed, some of them are already ahead of Canada in building their own new South­facing partnerships.

An enhanced development cooperation approach is a key entry point, a place where we can build relationships and demonstrate our merit as a good partner, to show mutual respect and build trust. However, such partnerships require more than a 24­hour drop­by trade mission, with Canadian politicians desperately searching for a few deals to sign. We need sustained engagements on the ground, over decades, sharing in the struggles of partner countries to end poverty.

Canada was such an engaged partner for many decades. CIDA was the vehicle for our development cooperation activities since the late 1960s — activities that were seen as innovative (the first to provide funding for multiyear programs, rather than individual NGO­led projects) and generous (our aid level peaked at 0.54 percent of GNI in 1975 under Pierre Trudeau). But our leadership presence slowly faded, first from the austerity measures under the Chrétien government, then from the very ambiguous engagement of the Harper years, when our credibility as an innovative donor decreased. Programs became more politicized, and budget cuts sent overall international assistance to a low of 0.23 percent of gross national income (GNI).

But who now should be the beneficiaries of our development assistance? The 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development’s core target is to eliminate extreme poverty. The extremely poor population largely resides within the LDCs. Unfortunately, the Harper era saw a distortion toward countries that were considered political or commercial favourites, rather than toward the LDCs. Looking forward, the poorest, still numbering about 1 billion, are in two overlapping country groupings. These are the 48 UN­listed LDCs and some 20 “fragile” countries that are vulnerable and conflict­-afflicted, such as Haiti. An updated list of countries of focus for Canada is urgently needed, and it should consist mainly of LDCs and the ‘fragiles’. Our funding for LDCs should meet the UN aid target of 0.20 percent of GNI.

 

Aid focused on the poorest will meet our commitment under Agenda 2030’s signature principle of “No ­One Left Behind.” However, it does not preclude development cooperation with a few middle­ income countries with whom Canada has important strategic or historic ties, such as the Caribbean states. For them, there could be customized agreements, partnerships or actions that do not require diverting scarce aid. These could focus on arrangements around trade, investment, technology transfer and fairer taxation. They could include possible new cooperation instruments that seek to help engage the private sector, or so­called “triangular cooperation”: innovative aid projects involving partnerships between Canada, a new developing country donor such as Brazil or China, and an LDC or other poorer country.

The 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development as our guide

The universality principle embedded in the preamble of Agenda 2030 brings development cooperation into the heart of Canadian domestic policy. It means all countries, developing and developed, are committed to the same goals as core economic and social performance targets. It is Canada’s statement of global solidarity. This “obligation,” essentially putting Canada on equal footing with developing nations, was once seen as an unacceptable intrusion by former Conservative foreign affairs minister John Baird.

There is a synergy between many of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the Trudeau government’s core domestic policy commitments such as working toward gender equity, tackling neglect of our Indigenous population and fighting climate change. This synergy is being taken very seriously as a domestic policy mandate by many Western countries. Already the leaders of Germany and Finland have made full public presentations in the UN on their “whole of government” governance structures for SDGs. Canada has been slower to act, and we have yet to announce our plan. Logically it should be driven by a powerful office that reports directly to the prime minister, and coordinates and monitors activities in partnership with the provinces and territories.

Canada is now in the middle of a complex consultation, seeking new thinking on how to be a better development cooperation partner. Drawing upon Agenda 2030, there are easy­to­select thematic priorities such as gender equity, climate change and poverty elimination. But the real challenge is how we frame and implement the new programs. The rules of the game have changed. Under the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness, recipient countries should be in the driver’s seat. Partnership is becoming the new norm of international development cooperation. We need to learn how to work differently: it is not a federal department’s choices but the recipient’s stated priorities that should dictate the framework for development cooperation. To this end we will need new cooperation strategies that are prepared jointly with our partner countries. Such strategies should be built around stable four­ to five­year budget commitments.

 

All this means we need to recognize the many practical challenges confronting Canada’s aid officials and partners like civil society organizations. We could start by reclaiming the name CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency), the brand recognized by ordinary Canadians and our partner­ recipients. Global Affairs Canada staff involved in implementing development programs need empathetic senior managers who understand that some of the most effective work is inherently risky. Tidy goals set in Ottawa often fail to internalize the challenges of working in another continent and culture. Finally, the government requires staff who are working closely with their clients on the ground. This requires decentralization — Global Affairs’ development assistance teams working out of our embassies with delegated authority.

As long as they are generous, and delivered effectively and with commitment, our development cooperation programs in the least developed and middle­income countries can be key to the future economic and political partnerships Canada needs as a middle power in a troubled world.

URL:  https://jsinclair43.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/from-assistance-to-cooperation-and-partnership-policy-options/

 

John Sinclair.    September 20, 2016

Decentralisation – an instrument of choice

Draft: A policy development note by John Sinclair – July 2016  

It is well understood in the development business that decentralization makes sense. When people in Ottawa try to plan and control development programs located 10,000 kilometres away, projects are much more vulnerable to poorly informed design and local adaptation. Can you Imagine Canadian aid officials paying to build a bread factory with a roof designed to Canadian winter snowload specs when it was to be located on the equator? But it happened at huge costs in time, money and credibility. This sort of thing happens far too often. Somebody responsible and informed on the ground can greatly minimize this risk.

Canada’s record for many decades is as one of the most highly centralized of bilateral donors. Officials talked of ‘localitis ‘as a failing – being too close to the country knowledge could undermine objectivity. This became an obsession in the control-focused Harper decade where project documents gathered dust on Bev Oda’s desk and our partners never knew for months if a project was approved or rejected.  The small CIDA team on the ground had no delegated authority to communicate with the nominally partner country without a HQ authorisation. This meant projects and country strategies were designed in Ottawa for a country that key staff often saw once, maybe twice, a year on a brief mission. Senior management, including policy-makers, most likely had never visited any recipient country except for an international conference.

How can such approaches be seen as developmentally optimal or cost-effective? The net effect is that we dismissed the value of local knowledge of the partner country officials despite the reality that they obviously better knew its economic and social realities. They are also the ones accountable, increasingly via democratic governance, for the wellbeing of their citizens.

How have these bad practices survived?  The explanations are many but a key factor is an imbalance of power, and, in the Canada context, an excessively bureaucratic approach to ‘accountability’.  Western donor institutions and multilateral institutions like the World Bank, controlled the money. They, their staff, far too often thought they knew best. This is not partnership.

That mindset was nominally rejected a decade ago by Canada and the international donor community when we signed the Paris Declaration (2005) which recognized development  effectiveness required ‘country ownership’ and a  ‘country in the driver’s seat’.

The old HQ-centric approach to our relationship with developing countries was never developmentally effective. And now, it is no longer politically acceptable in a world where most developing countries, even the poorest, have governments and citizens/civil societies who feel empowered to be masters in their own land.

The way forward is decentralisation.

Central to Canada really being ‘back,’ is that our relationship with developing countries needs to be a real partnership. As a donor this means our programming should be responsive and inclusive. This is particularly true of the core countries where it needs to be managed in a decentralized mode by strong professionals, with empowered leadership, a resident country director.  The rationale is very practical, not just political correctness. Effectiveness and impact improve substantially if we are close enough to see our partners weekly if not daily – not for reasons of control or book-keeping, but to ensure an optimal understanding of current local realities and the early correction of flawed approaches.

Decentralisation is not new. In the mid-80s CIDA launched into a massive decentralisation exercise following the lead of other bilateral donors. It probably over-reached and, in a strained relationship, let DFAIT co-opt too much of the special start-up funding for buildings. Within three years the pilot was closed. The official explanation was cost; the reality is more that senior management inside CIDA, but also in central agencies, such as Finance, Foreign Affairs and PCO, felt insecure – they had lost their driver’s seat position for what was seen as a distant co-piloting exercise via an in situ partnership between an empowered CIDA field team and the national planning office of  a country such as Tanzania.

Many DAC donors, notably the US, UK and Nordics, have shown more staying power than Canada.  They, including Canada, pushed the World Bank into its massive decentralisation in the late-90s. But we have only returned to decentralisation in a few donor favorites where it was effectively mandatory.

Will the Trudeau government reverse this situation?  The basic arguments still hold. Indeed, in today’s world, Canada wants a stronger set of relationships with developing countries for political and economic reasons. But it is not so clear that the present generation of GAC senior bureaucrats are willing to let go and allow development partnerships to be designed and driven in situ, not a Pearson Building tower. Key will be if good managers will eagerly leave Headquarters. In the World Bank transition, its President bluntly told managers: no promotions, no career, without a stint as a decentralised director!

Cost is often raised as a problem. But decentralisation was affordable once and the technique of using local professionals in so-called PSU’s (program support units) not only dramatically reduced costs but meant that the Canadian field staff had even close contact with local policy-makers and think-tanks. Decentralisation is an enriching professional experience, but to work staff need a distinct set of skills and attitudes to sustain the partnership.

An in-situ director quickly gets to know the inside story on host government policy. Delegated authority, as evidence of trust from the HQ, in turn facilitates a trusting working relationship with host country ministers and senior officials. Donors in situ often work together in thematic partnerships. In the Canadian embassy, it is typically the development people, not the lone trade officer, who learn first of big local deals and scams. As Canada shift attention to the poorest, especially fragile states, often with absorptive capacity constraints, we will need even more of that closeness for effective implementation.

For Canada to regain its political and professional credibility as a partner in the developing world the present GAC consultations needs to draw some bold conclusions on strengthening decentralisation. That ‘boldness’ should emerge from recognition of the effectiveness and relationship gains from such partnership. Certainly more ODA is needed by LDCs, but decentralisation will help ensure us a richer return from that investment.

Budget 2016 and world’s poorest

Printed originally in THE HILL TIMES, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2016. OPINION

Why did the federal budget forget the world’s poorest?

JOHN SINCLAIR

”Canada is back” is our message at the United Nations and in Washington, but on the ground in our priority aid-recipi- ent countries, especially the least developed amongst them, “old usual” seems to be still the norm. Last month’s first Liberal budget speech did not even have a few token words about the promised mandate shift to a pro-poor approach in our development co-operation. Buried in a technical annex there was a token aid increase of $256 million over two years: inadequate to even restore cuts imposed by the Harper government.

Of course these are also difficult times for Canadians, but the budget was bold in its response: middle-class tax relief and infrastructure spending to keep the economy growing. The budget was commendably bold in its new agenda for our indigenous peoples, as we committed to finally tackle their “third world” conditions.

Domestically, Canada chose a sensible Keynesian approach with its $30-billion budget deficit. But none of this went to the global bottom billion, the poorest, overwhelmingly in Africa and South Asia, that the international community, Canada included, promised to ensure were not left behind.

We need a bold response to their needs as fellow global citizens. Can we afford not to, morally or as international development actors?

The appropriate response is framed by the UN’s new Agenda 2030, with its Sustain- able Development or “Golden Goals” and its “transformational” ambitions. This should
be the template for future development co-operation, paralleling Mr. Trudeau’s strong commitment to our indigenous peoples. Indeed, the Agenda’s Universality Principle means Canada will soon be setting public targets for its own development goals, just as developing countries like Senegal and India.

So why the divergence in approaches, domestic versus global? The goodwill is there for sure, as demonstrated in our response to the tragic flow of refugees from Syria. But there is little evidence of practical change from old norms when it comes to development programming. Was the finance minister not hearing the right messages from his advisers and cabinet colleagues?

The budget failed to show the bold signal needed to demonstrate Canada was back for the developing world.

We must now hope a bolder message will emerge from the upcoming public consultations on a new co-operation policy and funding framework.

Canada’s future should no longer be tied to our traditional trading and invest- ment partners. We are talking longer term, not the next two to three years. Today, economies are depressed almost everywhere: in Europe, the Global South, even the United States. They will recover, but future global leadership will need to be shared. By Agenda 2030’s end-date, China, India, even Brazil, will all be back as global drivers although being oil-rich will be of little benefit to us or even the Saudis. A new Canada, more economically self-confident, at ease with its indigenous peoples, with a more mobile and internationally adventurous population, will want new partners in a rapidly developing Global South.

But to get there, Canada and Canadians need credibility as a partner. We should seek a stronger role in working with the increasingly diverse nations of the South. Its new mega-economies like India will soon far exceed our own in size.

However, the more fundamental challenge will be for the poorest and most frag- ile states. They want effective development at home more than aid. Our support should allow them to move beyond today’s frequent violence and human misery. The streams
of desperate refugees in Europe will not be solved by more humanitarian aid. Sadly, we seem to lack a longer-term perspective; our responses are hesitant and temporary.

What should be the new paradigm for Canada in the Global South? What actions should hopefully follow the anticipated consultations on a new development policy and funding framework?

The following is an incomplete list of desirable responses:

  • Agenda 2030 should be formally adopted as the framework for Canada’s re-energized, development co-operation program, followed by Agenda 2030-compliant country strategies;
  • Commit to reach the 0.15 % of gross national income (GNI) UN target for aid to least developed countries in 2016. Update the priority country list to comprise at least 70 per cent of the least developed countries should easily does this;
  • A medium-term aid commitment of 0.50% of GNI by 2020.This just will match Canada’s aid level effort of the mid-70s (the peak was 0.54%) ;
  • Build closer trusting development partnerships by enhanced decentralization;
  • Achieve meaningful policy coherence: require development perspectives be formally part of decision-making on new political and trade initiatives;
  • Respond to humanitarian crises with new money, not by diverting regular development programming;
  • Respect civil society organizations as development partners, not contractors;
  • Increase funding for public engagement in schools;
  • Restore for Canadians and our development partners the CIDA brand that they know and respect. This can be inside Global Affairs Canada;
  • Set a public, aspirational official development assistance goal of 0.7 per cent;
  • Require a strong development back-ground in senior operational staff, especially new recruits and managers.

Enhanced development co-operation is a sound investment by Canadians in global wellbeing and security. Their future is our future.

Is Canada ‘Fit for Purpose’ in face of a new global agenda?

Is Canada ‘Fit for Purpose’ in the face of a new global agenda?

Ottawa University CIPS blog published Nov 3/2015

 by Julia Sanchez and John Sinclair

Canada has just elected a new government committed to ‘putting Canada back on the global stage’ by re-establishing Canada’s leadership position in promoting human rights and ending poverty. This commitment will be put to the test as key moments in the international agenda, all with important domestic ramifications, are before us almost immediately. The new government will have the opportunity to show this renewed leadership at the critical meeting on Climate Change in Paris, in December, itself following on the G20 Summit in Turkey, as well as a Commonwealth Summit, both in November.

Canada is remembered as an actor that used to contribute well above its middle-power weight in development, diplomacy and peacekeeping. Will the new Canadian government become an active player in a re-energised UN?

 Change is also in the air at the United Nations.  On September 25 in New York we saw the adoption and celebration of Agenda 2030 by well over 100 heads of state and world leaders, including Pope Francis and President Barack Obama. Its substance is encompassed in a complex array of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. The central message of the new agenda, which builds on the successes and shortcomings of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), is to ‘leave no one behind’ on the journey to eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.

Agenda 2030 will be challenging, covering as it does social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability. It embraces much more than a reworked social development agenda, including totally new dimensions such as climate change, decent work, access to justice and peaceful and inclusive societies. So how do we walk-the-talk of this transformational agenda? At the UN a key discussion is focused on being ‘Fit for Purpose’. How might Canada prepare to play a leadership role in this new global setting?

During the recent UN Summit on Sustainable Development which adopted Agenda 2030 in New York, and anticipating that there would be change back home, we set out to find some answers to that very question. We held informal interviews, under Chatham House rules, with a number of senior UN officials, all at the forefront of steering the UN on the path of this transformational agenda. We asked them how a new Canadian government might build a stronger relationship with the UN family, to enhance its credibility and play a leadership role in the implementation of the new global agenda.

Our interlocutors saw the UN itself on the cusp of major institutional change. The organization — and especially its specialised agencies — will need to be much more focused on an effective presence on the ground, with closer working partnerships with governments, civil society and private sector actors, especially in low-income and fragile states.

In this context, they welcomed the possibility that a new Canadian government, for a long time absent from UN leadership, would be keen to build a more supportive partnership with both the UN institutions and other member states. They noted that over the last decade Canada has cut funding for some important UN agencies, and that we failed to support important UN resolutions and programs.  Our absence from peacekeeping was particularly regretted.

Despite all that, their sense was that Canada was still remembered as an actor that had contributed well above its middle-power weight in areas such as development, diplomacy and peacekeeping. Their hope was that a new Canadian government would become an active player in a re-energised UN, especially in living up to the ambitions of Agenda 2030.

For Canada to respond we need our own ‘Fit for Purpose’ assessment. Our aid budget has been sharply reduced in recent years. The driving philosophy of our aid program has been far from pro-poor.  Our interlocutors recognised that a new, more assertive development co-operation approach will take time to build. But they stressed the need for an ambitious agenda in Canada.

There have been immense changes in the global context over the last decade, which Canada now has to recognise and adapt to. There are new economic players, such as the BRICS, who are increasingly impatient with a world symbolised by a G7 that holds to old leadership ‘privileges’. These UN officials wondered whether Canada would be prepared to be a mediating voice promoting partnerships between a wary North and an impatient Global South. In playing such a mediating role, they suggested we need to recognise that such partnerships will also be crucial on the path to Canada’s own future.

Universality, a central principle of Agenda 2030 — which makes its new Global Goals applicable to both rich and poor countries alike — was essentially rejected by the Harper government. Our interlocutors suggested Canada would do better to follow the lead of major European nations, such as Germany, who are seeing the universal nature of this agenda as an opportunity to reshape their own population’s vision of the world and provide a better understanding of how international and national policies can be complementary.

They specifically saw opportunities for Canada to re-join the community of peacekeepers. It was not an issue of deploying thousands of boots on the ground, but rather the contributing of organizational skills and strengthening rights commitments to presently over-stretched UN efforts.

From a Canadian civil society perspective, there are additional challenges and opportunities in the new Agenda. Our UN interlocutors called for a renewed championing of civil society’s participation in the implementation of Agenda 2030, including enhanced consultation and dialogue with its own civil society at home. They hoped a new Canadian government, working with civil society, could rebuild public support for sustainable development.

Implementation of Agenda 2030 requires re-purposing of the UN. It will reshape the world in which Canada acts economically and politically. Our new government will want to provide political support for these changes. And to do this effectively, it must undergo transformations of its own with respect to how it engages with the world. Enhanced policy coherence and an all-of-government approach to implementing the new agenda need to be part of the process. Is Canada up for the task? Paris will likely be a first chance to walk the talk.

Julia Sanchez is the President of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation. John Sinclair is a regular CIPS contributor and a member of the McLeod Group.

See more at: http://cips.uottawa.ca/is-canada-fit-for-purpose-in-the-face-of-a-new-global-agenda-2/#sthash.1Mut8LAG.dpuf