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/

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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.

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

G20 needs new blood, sense of mission

The Hill Times  OPINION

by John Sinclair. 

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

G20 needs new blood, sense of mission

Trudeau might suggest a tighter-knit forum for decisions on core global issues, starting with climate change.

As China prepares to host the G20 leaders’ summit for the first time this week, it is promising a different kind of summit, one focused on global development and the challenges of implementing the pro-poor goals of the UN’s new Agenda 2030.

But China seems fated to do little better than past chairs. The G20 is starting to look as tired as the G7. It needs new blood and a new sense of mission. Perhaps there are too many Europeans; certainly there is no voice at the table for the poorest nations.

The G20 started in 1999 as a club of finance ministers mainly G7 but augmented by the BRICS and a few other friendly minor countries, including some middle-income developing countries. The goal was to make symbolic amends for an ineffective International Monetary Fund response to the recent Asian financial crisis.

The world has avoided a new depression in 2008 via massive stimulus packages implemented by a G20, upgraded to a Leaders’ Summit. However, the regulatory reform of the flawed global financial systems that triggered the crisis is still unfinished. Indeed, the situation has been compounded by the ripple effect of recent European financial disorder. As for the upcoming United States election, it is being fought over who can most forcefully say globalization is the cause of all our social ills, including growing inequality and underemployment.

The global financial crisis continues into its eighth year. And it is in the second year of a refugee crisis, as Europe copes badly with the flow of battered humanity escaping the conflict in Syria. The Brexit referendum bombshell, driven by the UK’s own distinct crisis of unwanted migrants from inside the European Union, has stunned an already stalled Europe. Deep depression describes the mood in the very dis-united United Kingdom. Meanwhile many countries, rich and poor, are struggling with trade losses due to China’s policy of a calculated slowdown to 6.5 per cent growth.

China has perhaps over-invited developing countries as summit guests since there will be no big news, no bold new G20 action, no new aid pledges for the least developed or fragile states. Everybody is waiting for a breakthrough in the gloomy economic news.

But the latest IMF forecasts are all about shrinking growth. Global growth is down to 3.1 per cent for 2016, with most of that coming from emerging economies. They’re led by India, moving slightly ahead of China. The growth forecast for so-called advanced economies is just 1.8 per cent. All this is conveniently blamed upon Brexit. It means a major G20 preoccupation this weekend will be how to help the UK and EU find a soft landing after the folly of that referendum.

So what might we see out of Hangzhou? The working agenda is dominated by work by  finance ministers and central bank governors. There is again a pre-negotiated communiqué. The Leaders appear somewhat bystanders.

Once more there will be “almost completed” deals on structural reform, tougher regulation of footloose bankers and this year’s special innovation: promises of more infrastructure spending. Talk about reformed international financial architecture is promised, but the horse is already out of the stable, symbolized by China’s new $50-billion-plus Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. [Canada announced plans to finally join just days before the G20 meeting.]

Another round of technical debate is needed to forge a broad consensus around so-called tax fairness reform. The present package is essentially designed for large/high-income economies.  In many European countries public pressure insists governments stop tax-avoiding, profit-shifting companies like Starbucks or Google. But the same OECD countries are home to multinational giants seeking every way of avoiding paying taxes. The weakest victims, poorer developing countries, are essentially excluded from both the design and benefits of new OECD/G20 anti-tax-evasion measures. They are to be denied access to key data on taxes evasion by multinational giants.

What key innovations for an enhanced G20 might Prime Minister Justin Trudeau press? He has gone to China a few days early to “reset” the bilateral relationship. He might use that access and Chinese respect for his prime ministerial father’s boldness to get China’s sympathetic ear for an effort to transform the G20 into strictly a leaders’ dialogue.

They need to break the common image of the G20 as a vehicle used by a tired G7 to try to get the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) to align with their worldview. Mr. Trudeau might suggest that leaders act more boldly to revamp the G20 as a tighter-knit forum for debate and decisions on core global issues, economic and political, starting with climate change. An encouraging precedent is that reportedly the United States and China plan to jointly announce their ratification of the Paris climate agreement on the eve of the summit.

Another G20 initiative could be a new Marshall Plan designed to assure financing, public and private, for the poorest countries in implementing the UN’s Agenda 2030.

And why not encourage the 2017 G20, under German leadership, to target a lasting peace for the Middle East?

G20 finance ministers and central bankers would still have their own high-level meetings on topics like upgraded financial regulation. They could simply mandate a small delegation to report at one session of an otherwise leaders-only G20 meeting.

Acting together, G20 leaders could mobilize the resources and political willpower to counter the economic pessimism reflected in Trumpism and the rise of the radical conservative right in Europe. They should also show the driving spirit to ensure the UN Agenda 2030 is not a fanciful dream, but something realizable.

The G20 needs a more compact forum, but one with the inclusiveness of the UN. It could start by adding a permanent seat for least-developed and fragile states, perhaps by reducing the disproportionate European presence.

John Sinclair is a Cambridge-educated economics graduate formerly with the Canadian International Development Agency and the World Bank. He comments on international development with the McLeod Group, teaches, and writes.

 

 

Poverty lose out to ‘shirt-fronting’ at Brisbane G20

Published in EMBASSY, Wednesday, November 12, 2014—16 Opinion

Climate change, poverty lose out to ‘shirt-fronting’ at G20

It is becoming harder each year to see anything new and bold, anything that speaks to a better global future, from the G20. The 20 most powerful global leaders will gather this weekend in Brisbane, Australia, talk in private, have their photo-ops, then issue a pre-packaged communiqué that has been endlessly fine-tuned over several months to the point of tedium by twenty anonymous bureaucrats, the sherpas.

We won’t even get to see the big fight: ‘shirt-fronting’ host Tony Abbott versa black-belt holder, Vladimir Putin. (Some well-informed punters suggested 10-1 odds on a Putin win.)

Meanwhile the world outside, our world, stumbles on into another year of under-performing economies and a billion plus global citizens still living on less than $1.25 per day. This year’s rotating chair, Australia, almost succeeded in removing the existential topic of climate change from the agenda as mere ‘clutter’, until a last minute reprieve under pressure from the US and EU.

It is not clear if we are dealing with incompetence or indifference, but I fear the latter.

Of course the sherpas, respecting PM Abbott’s goals, have put together a busy but dull agenda, much of it is unfinished work from previous summits. Timely effective implementation does not seem to be a G20 strong point. Too many ‘decisions’ becomes subject to further studies. Maybe it needs a better accountability framework, one that is public and independently assessed.

Under the heading ‘a more resilient global economy’ the leaders will sign off on further regulations for those ‘too-big-to-fail’ banks that led us into the global financial crisis back in 2008. However past G20 decisions have done little for a struggling Europe. And now the German powerhouse is stalled and China admits to planning for slower growth.

PM Abbott’s favourite is a largely private sector-driven G20 push on infrastructure, to be supported by a newly created knowledge ‘Hub’ for those who don’t know quite what to do.

Meanwhile an impatient China has simply set up its own $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Bank.

There is more on the agenda – after all they have to touch at least lightly upon everything in the draft communiqué. They say they will discuss reforming global institutions – but, blocked by the US Congress, the very modest 2010 IMF reform package is still not implemented and the BRICS, in frustration at this inaction, have now announced their own IMF clone. The G20 plans to talk about ‘modernising international taxation’, a polite way of saying stopping the tax avoidance activities of companies such as Starbucks and Apple as they shuffle huge worldwide profits into countries such as Ireland and Luxembourg where very low taxes need to be paid. Will they remember to include the idea of a financial transactions tax to create new funds for climate action and development?

The meeting will plead for progress on the work of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) but the same reform package was rejected last year by veto-holding developing countries, notably India, since it failed to include any action to reduce huge US and EU agricultural subsidies that undermine the efforts of low-income country farmers. And those same G20 member industrialised countries, with Canada to the fore, are busy cooking up trade side-deals that undermine the WTO mandate for multilateralism. Sadly, the big fix idea for burgeoning unemployment, especially of the young, is discredited trickle-down economics. The G20 will call upon themselves to speed-up (+2%) growth, itself dependent on that plan for a surge in private investment on infrastructure.

All this suggests some holes in the master-plan for Brisbane. But it also points to serious structural flaws in the G20. Most fundamental is inadequately engaged leadership. There is too little focus on fundamental global challenges; too much technical clutter that should be left to others. The G20 is also institutionally weak. It has no secretariat. Its leaders probably rely too much on advice from IMF and OECD officials plus international bankers. It has no leadership continuity beyond the flimsy idea of the troika in which a team of ‘volunteers’, mainly bureaucrats seconded by the next chairman’s country, takes over afresh.

Moreover, despite being much more inclusive than the old elitist G7, the G20 needs to gain a permanent voice for the most vulnerable of low-income countries, the fragiles, known now as the ‘g7+’. Not unlike the IMF, the main problem is over-representation by Europe with 5/20 formal seats plus Spain with a permanent guest ticket. Any volunteers?

A by now perennial criticism is that the G20, both Leaders and Finance Ministers, have obsessed about mending Humpty after the global financial crisis at the expense of everything else we expect to concern global leaders. This is the last G20 before the UN membership at a summit next September sets in place a very ambitious global development agenda for the next 15 years, one set to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. One might think the G20 would be devoting at least half of its time to this topic (and at least a sold chunk of the other half to Climate Change) leaving topics like the minutiae of new banking rules and efforts to resuscitate the WTO to technocrats. In practice the words ‘Post-2015 Agenda’ do not even appear once in the baseline framework posted on its Australian-managed website. How many lines will it merit in the Brisbane Action Plan? Perhaps a few passing words of moral support? Certainly expect no promises of aggressive unified G20 leadership at the critical Financing for Development conference next July in Ethiopia.

Intriguingly yesterday’s de facto summit of the G2 – USA and China – saw public pledges by Presidents Obama and Xi to work more closely on global issues, including specifically climate change. Is this a new opening for G20 leadership?

Is Canada a party to all this? Yes. We certainly had our sherpa at all the planning meetings. Moreover as Australia’s special ‘mate’ we have had privileged opportunities to influence them, beyond the idea of excluding Russia (something a BRICS’ public statement saying ‘hands off our G20’ quickly squelched). We probably support the incrementalist economics – but so far the Harper government has been dismissive of Opposition calls for a big infrastructure program using our new-found budget surplus. The government more broadly probably dislikes the idea of any action that challenges their dated view that the G7 is still the right place for serious global leadership. Overall we are happy to have had the Australians talking our party line, thus saving us from always being the spoiler.

John Sinclair, a Cambridge-educated economist, worked as a development practitioner at CIDA and the World Bank. He is a member of the McLeod Group. He is also a Distinguished Associate of the former North-South Institute.

Global Partnership ready for Action?

Posted on CIPS site, Ottawa University. Feb. 25, 2015

Link: http://cips.uottawa.ca/is-the-global-partnership-ready-for-action/

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation was born at a global conference held in Busan, Korea in 2011 to confront concerns that old-fashioned aid (ODA) was not working. Billions were being spent and the Global South’s poor and vulnerable remained frozen in their fate. Grant aid had to be understood as a necessary but not sufficient condition. Out of the Busan conference came a more inclusive concept, Development Co-operation, embracing elements such as trade, private sector, human rights and environmental sustainability.

Western donors, including Canada, had warily signed on to another part of the answer, ‘country ownership’, which implies that aid succeeds only when programs are designed and implemented by the beneficiaries rather than being imposed by outsiders. Another set of actors, the BRICS and other emerging economies, has now entered the donor arena as well as being seen as the West’s saviour from the worst impact of the global financial crisis. The past decade has seen them become a major force in development co-operation.

The presence of these new actors provided both an opportunity and a geopolitical challenge for the Global Partnership (GP) as a bridge between industrialized North and emerging South. But moving on is proving complex and demanding. The GP has not failed, but success is far from sure.

A key opportunity is almost ready for prime time: this September will see enactment of the UN’s Post-2015 Agenda, the principal goal of which is a world free from extreme poverty. The GP has made a substantive contribution to the implementation of Post-2015 its prime objective.

The GP’s first High Level meeting, hosted in April 2014 by Mexico, had 1500 participants: old donors, new providers, an increasingly differentiated array of recipients, civil society organizations (CSOs) and not least the private sector. The stakeholder-mix wins a prize for inclusiveness, but is still far from being successful effectiveness. Indeed, in a crowded field of competing actors, elements of a surprisingly more assertive UN system are challenging the GP on relevance. Some in the G77 (the UN caucus of developing countries) see it as lacking legitimacy and being just a revamped OECD donor instrument.

2015 will be a challenging year for the GP under its new co-chairs, the Netherlands, Mexico and Malawi, who are working with a very modest support team of officials from the OECD and the UNDP. The next six months will see the GP trying to establish its credibility as an organization that can deliver innovative support on the ground and transform from talk-shop to delivery vehicle.

But many of its members worry that the GP still has too little depth. It is fine to hold conferences and regional workshops, but the ultimate test is whether Southern partners see relevant and credible action that helps brings poverty-reducing programming and better governance at the local level. Trust was reported as a shaky commodity inside the GP, yet is essential for success. CSOs who clapped at Busan when they were formally recognized as independent development actors now grumble at being often excluded on the ground.

The key breakthrough–engaging the new emerging countries—has not happened. They do not even contribute to set-piece global meetings, except via the occasional junior official sent as a note-taker. GP thinking is still dominated by OECD countries who seem hesitant to share or boldly step forward. Equally wary ‘new’ donors see no real merit in taking up the challenge because they see no real partnership on offer.

The time frame is getting tighter, with September set for the Post-2015 Agenda Summit sign-off in New York. In July, GP member donors, Canada included, must find the will to reach consensus on how to pay for the implementation of Post-2015 at the UN global conference on Financing for Development. They are hoping to finesse this by talking of ‘innovative financial mechanisms’—which significantly means diverting scarce grant ODA to subsidize quasi-commercial lending to ‘leverage’ a stronger role for private foreign investors.

Any resolution will be a hard sell. These are hard times for OECD countries. Low-income developing countries are also wary, even if impatient to get back on the growth ladder. They know they need to raise more resources domestically, but they also need a bigger share in assured increases in grant aid (especially given that most of the proposed ‘innovations’ seem likely to only benefit middle-income developing countries rather than themselves).

Are too many eggs being placed in one rather shaky basket? Most private companies, even the big multinationals, do not see ‘pro-poor development’ as their thing, wanting open markets and more opportunities for profit. Canada’s Harper government seems more confused than most: it essentially wants already-diminished grant aid further diverted in order to facilitate Canadian commercial interests.

So what more can one hope for from the GP beyond better monitoring systems or small pilot programs called Voluntary Initiatives? To be relevant to the remaining billion poorest and to Post-2015, these initiatives need to be quickly scalable.

The GP contains the powerful donors of the North, but they are not adequately exercising the leverage of which they are capable. To succeed, they must demonstrate their commitment to partnership starting with high-level dialogue with key new donors and leading partner countries. The Partnership is only just now getting its troops together, (including the senior officials who still effectively shape the agenda of the World Bank and other multilateral institutions) to sell the practical merits of an effective Global Partnership.

Time is running out to make the partnership concrete. Hesitant steps, worse a stumble, could leave the GP unable to deliver its now core mission of becoming a key partner in implementing the Post-2015 Agenda.

Global Partnership – ready to broaden its mandate?

Global Partnership for Effective Cooperation

Updated for a global audience in February 2014 on Global Partnership/GPEDC blog site ; original published by CIPS on September 4, 2013.

 John Sinclair, Distinguished Associate, North-South Institute, Canada.

Global Partnership – ready to Broaden Its Mandate?

Partnership, especially global, has to be a good thing. Many saw the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation as a last-minute compromise reached at the 2011 Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea, but the Global Partnership’s first High Level meeting in Mexico on April 15-16 is the opportunity to prove its mettle.

The question remaining is whether the Global Partnership can evolve into a leading element in the new global architecture on sustainable development or risks remaining just a slightly enlarged, post-Busan technical forum.

The Global Partnership was conceived as a bridge, political as well as technical, between North and South. However for it to function, Western donors must find common cause with new development actors from an invigorated South such as China, India and Brazil. They must also respect country leadership from increasingly diverse recipient-partners ranging from lower-middle-income Vietnam to highly vulnerable Haiti.

“A Global Partnership linked ministerially to the G20, but also well co-ordinated with the UN, could be a win-win solution for development effectiveness.”

While the Global Partnership continues to find its feet, North and South are moving ahead on the Post-2015 Agenda, the stage beyond the Millennium Development Goals. Building upon his High-Level Panel and extensive consultations, the United Nations’ Secretary-General has proposed to build a consensus around two main objectives: the global elimination of extreme poverty and a set of sustainable development goals linking economic growth, social justice and environmental protection. The UN’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is accelerating its work to frame these new goals later in 2014.

An enhanced Global Partnership could play a more engaged role in building that consensus. A modest first step is already happening. The Global Partnership is informally extending beyond monitoring post-Busan performance to a role in helping frame the Post-2015 Development Agenda. But its leadership is still wary, focusing for now on their first High-Level Meeting.

Today’s Global Partnership, with its tripartite ministerial leadership from the UK, Indonesia and Nigeria, works through a committee of 15 international ‘worthies’, selected, with what some might see as only partial legitimacy, to reflect views from different country groupings, international organisations, the private sector and civil society. It has a modest secretariat drawn from the United Nations Development Programme and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This is all far from optimal for a global leadership role. The Partnership risks being left as a weak voice which will defer on strategic issues to traditional global governance fora such as the OECD Development Assistance Committee and the somewhat tired Bretton Woods’ Committees.

Why not start, even if incrementally, to move towards a stronger role? To do this the Global Partnership needs a broader mandate. Busan already saw a shift in vocabulary from aid to development effectiveness. But development post-Busan must be understood more broadly to embrace trade and investment, intellectual property rights, climate change, global governance, etc. Encouragingly that broader agenda is already entering Post-2015 thinking.

In that same spirit the Global Partnership could be reformatted to include a broader–based, more representative ministerial-level body, perhaps as an enlarged steering committee on some sort of ‘constituency’ basis like the OWG. This enlarged Ministerial membership might be broadly aligned with that of the current low-key development working group of the G20. Conveniently, two of the Partnership’s Co-Chairs already sit as nations around the G20 table.

None of this will be easy. The exact mechanics will need to be worked out within the Partnership and with the G20. The latter has its own challenges of legitimacy and flawed inclusiveness. It needs to quickly add a so-called fragile state. Conveniently one is already on the Global Partnership steering committee.

Maybe more problematically, some influential NY voices within the G77 see Busan, thus the Global Partnership, as a ‘plot’ challenging the primacy of the UN. The G77 might prefer another body, the so-called High Level Political Forum, born at Rio+20 to work on the ‘how’ of Post-2015; however, it is also seen as stunted in terms of real power.

The occasion for a first step could be the High-Level Meeting. Could ministers, especially those from countries already within the G20, in Mexico reach beyond the Global Partnership’s Development Effectiveness mandate to encompass the related challenges of merging Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals and new Sustainable Development Goals?

Their formal agenda is important but somewhat technical, including post-Busan monitoring, future roles for the private sector, South-South co-operation, domestic resource mobilization and country-level implementation. This is not the stuff that usually grabs the attention of busy ministers. Moreover, there are more problematic issues that, although raised in Busan or the UN’s Open Working Group, may require a high-level political forum such as a G20 working group enriched with some Global Partnership ministers to build consensus or frame needed compromises.

To move forward global leaders, from South and North, need to agree that there is no one ‘right’ global forum for decision-making or dialogue. Many ideas have their roots in the UN system; others emerge in fora such as the G20 or the Bretton Woods Institutions. None of these fora should have an exclusive right to global power and leadership. Indeed, in our multi-polar world enhanced inclusivity is ever more the institutional challenge.

With this opportunity and also institutional ambiguity, maybe the Partnership even at this late hour might add an informal session in Mexico on its own mandate and future place in global governance? After all this will be first time the Global Partnership comes together as 100+ ministers at a meeting of old and new donors/partners and recipients. The session might be difficult, but still an invaluable exploration. Even to deal with its original Busan mandate, the Global Partnership needs greater legitimacy and empowerment. In a G20 context, North and South have learned to work as partners countering the global financial crisis. Extending that spirit to break the traditionalism within OECD and G77 circles might be a big boost towards the mindset needed for an effective Partnership.

An important caveat is that some low-income, still aid-dependent, developing countries find an enhanced Global Partnership role a worrying concept.  They fear it could distract traditional donors from maintaining the essential flow of conventional aid. Emerging Economies, the BRICS (that is, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), need to reassure them that this new broader development agenda will have space for both their own needs and those of the fragile states and LICs (Low Income Countries).

A Global Partnership linked ministerially to the G20 will be institutionally a bold step. But, especially if it is also well co-ordinated with the UN, it could be a win-win solution for development effectiveness. Its first challenge could be to assist with the trouble-shooting and consensus–building essential for a successful outcome on the Post-2015 Agenda and its new Sustainable Development Goals. Beyond that, an enhanced ministerial leadership of the Global Partnership building upon its development effectiveness focus, could play a key role in pushing the G20 itself, still overly focused on the global financial crisis, towards a broader geo-political agenda, including issues of equitable and inclusive global development. This would hopefully finally displace any lingering G8 dreams of continuing exclusivity in global leadership. Voices of moderation and partnership in North and South should welcome and support this transition.