Tag: global governance

So You Want to Be the Next Director-General of the World Health Organization…

It should come as no surprise to anyone that a political scientist like me gets really excited about elections and campaigns, and we’re currently in the thick of a doozy of a campaign season. Candidates have splashy websites and brochures, and they regularly meet with voters to pitch their candidacies. Whoever wins will take over an organization whose standing in the world is up in the air—and the winner will have a big job restoring the organization’s place in the larger global landscape.

Of course, I’m talking about the campaign for the next Director-General of the World Health Organization. What else would I be describing?

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Advancing Global Environmental Governance

93552865-environmental-pollution[Note: This is a guest post by Peter M. Haas of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst]

Transboundary and global environmental threats require collection action.  Concretely, this means developing forms of governance that apply common rules, norms and decision making procedures.  Ideally, such governance should be resilient in the sense that it is able to persist over time and respond quickly and accurately to new threats.

Yet the record of international environmental governance is mixed, at best. According to a recent UNEP overview of global environmental governance, some regimes have effectively addressed the problems at hand, many haven’t, and we still don’t know about the effectiveness of a surprisingly large number of regimes. 

A recent collective project on international environmental governance (here and here) raises the questions of what configurations of actors can constructively promote better environmental management.

This post reports on some of the findings. Continue reading


Global Governance, Big Surveillance, and Intelligence Cooperation

Menwith Hill Radome ECHELONMy very quick search suggests that there’s insufficient work on this subject. I know that Alexander Cooley has turned up some pretty amazing things on older intelligence cooperation, Mark Laffey and Jutta Weldes have done some great work on policing and global governance, and there’s a lot of cognate stuff under the rubric of bio-politics (e.g.) and permanent states of exception, but it seems to me that more direct analysis is called for.  Continue reading


On the Word ‘Global’

The word ‘global’ has become so frequently used in Western strategic debate that is has almost become background music. On one level, overuse robs it of resonance. But on another, it might be contributing to the conceptual and rhetorical overstretch that has led the US to overextend itself.

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Podcast No. 19: Interview with Daniel Drezner

DreznerFP2The nineteenth Duck of Minerva podcast features Daniel Drezner of Tufts University. Professor Drezner ruminates on, among other things his intellectual and educational background, his experiences as an academic blogger.

As was the case with last week’s episode, this podcast is a bit more “bare bones” than usual. I didn’t put in introductory remarks; I have not produced an m4a version at this time. The file located here is the mp3 version. Explanation: I am still a bit pressed for time right now. Also, I am very, very tired.

I should reiterate important change to procedures. From now on, the Minervacast feed will host mp3 versions of the podcasts. The whiteoliphaunt feed will host m4a versions of the podcast [note: see earlier remarks about the m4a version of this podcast]. Unless I hear otherwise, we will continue this approach into the foreseeable future.

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Peter Piot’s Memoir on Infectious Disease

I just finished reading Peter Piot’s lively memoir No Time to Lose of his time as an epidemiologist helping identify the Ebola virus in the 1970s through to his service as the first director of UNAIDS. It is an engaging read not least because Piot conveys a profound empathy for those affected by disease. Piot also projects additional warmth and humanity, from his appreciation for Congolese music to good beer.

More substantively, Piot has a proportionate sense of the outrageousness of bureaucratic politics in the UN system, while recognizing the need to navigate in those shark-filled waters.

Unlike many memoirs, there is some bite here, with some choice words for donors who talk a big game but don’t provide much money (here, France and Italy were named) to mid-level careerists who put turf before those they are meant to serve, as well as some for campaigners whose occasional “extreme” demands or tactics can backfire (his account of an AIDS activist calling France a shit-hole on a live fundraising telethon was on point here).

One aspect of the book made me rethink what I thought I knew about transnational advocacy movements, and his epilogue made me question what scope there is for coordination not only in the UN system but also within the interagency process in the U.S. government.

Who Are the Advocates? 

When we think of transnational advocacy movements, our paradigmatic actors are activists, the charismatic leaders of groups leading protests and petitions like Greenpeace, Oxfam, ACT UP, and Doctors Without Borders. However, if you go back to Keck and Sikkink’s foundational book Activists Beyond Borders, you will find that the advocacy networks in their view may also include state actors and representatives of intergovernmental organizations (pg. 9).  However, these are the final items six and seven in their list, and in the ten years plus since Keck and Sikkink came out, NGO activists captured the lion’s share of scholarly attention in the literature (This is not a systematic finding but my sense as a reader of that literature). 

But when you read Piot’s account of his efforts to help cobble together a broad coalition to fight AIDS, you realize that Piot was an advocate and that those change agents inside governments and international organizations deserve more attention as central figures in transnational campaigns. Piot captured some of the breadth of this movement:

But by the turn of the of the millennium our “brilliant coalition” was taking shape in its diversity and apparent chaos. What could the South African Chamber of Mines, Anglican Church, Community Party, and trades unions have in common with the Treatment Action Campaign, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and UNAIDS? A common goal: defeating the AIDS epidemic and caring for its victims. A powerful joint desire to be a force for change.

The Piots of this world need to take center stage in our analysis, not least because every activist campaign needs countless Piots inside to have their ideas become policy. 
Can Organizations Work Together?
In a sense, this book is a coming of age story, of Piot’s transition from medical professional to skilled political operator. So much of what passes for politics in this book is the jostling for position among mid-level careerists in intergovernmental organizations and within countries. UNDP and UNICEF jockey for turf internationally with similar dynamics at play inside countries with the CDC and the NIH having difficulty at times playing nice within the U.S. government. 
Among these, Piot comes across as an adult, and for such petty games, Piot has little patience. Nonetheless, he became sufficiently attuned to their inherent part of the game. To survive in this business, he describes his persona as chameleonic (something in common with his UNAIDS successor Michel Sidibe). In an obsessive desire to help those suffering, Piot adopted a healthy, ethical pragmatism and flexibility, of a willingness to work with whoever was needed to get the job the done. 
But, his epilogue to the book, leaves me uneasy about the scope and capacity for coordinated action. Even if the financial crisis were not leading to more miserly patterns of foreign aid, the collective response of the international system may be largely unmanageable. Here, Piot wrote of his sense that UNAIDS, the “most advanced” attempt to coordinate various UN agencies to “deliver as one” was fraught:

Over the years I became increasingly skeptical as to whether the current UN coordination governance could ever by effective operationally, despite the goodwill of many, if not most, staff. The two main obstacles for delivering as one UN were the institutional interests of individual agencies — careers, political influence, budgets–and the incoherence and volatility of its member states, which not only had different, sometimes mutually exclusive, interests, but which also lacked internal coherence…

This resonated strongly with me as this week the Obama Administration issued an enigmatic statement suggesting that the much ballyhooed interagency Global Health Initiative would be reconceived/mothballed, leading analysts like Laurie Garrett and Amanda Glassman to parse what went wrong in this grandiose effort to conduct a “whole of government” response.

Here, Piot’s conclusions are ones we should take to heart when we think about global and national governance of development, health, and foreign policy writ large:

My conclusion on UN coordination was that it was a collective failure, and that the international community goes for some bold mergers and acquisitions as the current plethora of organizations is too expensive, or that it accepts that pluralism is a strength, as long as only effective and well-managed institutions are supported and others closed down.

Interestingly, he suggests that setting up institutions outside of the UN system like the Global Fund is “not a solution” as much as he tried to make it a success. Frankly, I’m not sure what to do with that.

Any Regrets?

Aside from the time away from family, Piot’s main regret is whether or not he could have done more   to save lives earlier and faster. Here, I’m struck by the other quasi-memoir on HIV/AIDS that also came out this year Tinderbox by journalist Craig Timberg and public health professional David Halperin. In that book, they charge Piot with late attention to male circumcision, a powerful AIDS prevention technology that took too long to gain currency. 

Piot at one point, in what might be a veiled reference to the duo, dimisses efforts to identify what prevention strategy worked in Uganda to stem the tide of new infections – was it A (abstinence), was it B (be faithful), or was it C (condoms), writing: “However, some scientists and journalists continue to fuel the debate in a fairly obsessive search for the magic bullet in HIV in prevention…” And to be fair, Halperin has long been obsessive about male circumcision, but as I wrote in a piece for CSIS in 2008, perhaps rightfully so. 

Was Piot slow to the uptake on the promise of male circumcision? He praises it as one strategy among many that have taken center stage of late on prevention, but I don’t know the internal history well enough to judge. In general though, I agree with those like Mead Over who see the prevention agenda to have largely been a failure amidst this incredible and important turn to treatment access over the last decade. 
But, I would be wary of blaming Piot for that. While one can quibble on the margins with aspects of his service (I think some campaigners would say he was too accommodating of the branded pharmaceuticals companies), Peter Piot clearly has been on the right side of history on HIV/AIDS with remarkable skill, poise, grace, and pragmatism.

Power Shift in Global Economic Governance

Has the worm finally turned? Reuters today featured a story on the emerging market economies’ push-back against the status quo of Western-dominated global economic governance. The piece features an explicit demand (and overt exercise of financial leverage) for a power shift in the predominant international financial institutions, specifically in the context of the IMF’s recent request for an additional $600 billion in resources from its member states to help bail out Europe.

Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal is quoted in the story as saying:”What we can be certain of is that large developing nations will not agree to provide additional funds without a greater say in the IMF, and this applies to all global economic governance organizations.”

Interesting, the story also highlights the fact that emerging market economies, while demanding more voice and influence in the IFIs, are also turning away from existing international institutions in favor of regional alternatives, such as the Arab Monetary Fund and Islamic Development Bank in the Middle East and the Chiang Mai initiative in East Asia. This fact is neither new or shocking, but the tone of such a public speech is remarkable.

Ironically (or pathetically, depending how you look at it), there was also a recent news story that revealed that Obama is considering the nomination of Larry Summers as the next World Bank president when Robert Zoellick’s term expires in May 2012 (note: thanks to Martin Edwards for alerting me to this one). This would, oh so predictably: (1) sustain the stubborn Western tradition of keeping an American at helm of the World Bank (and by corollary, a European at the head of the Fund); (2) uphold the image of the Bretton Woods institutions as being first and foremost accountable to the Wall Street-Treasury complex, and (3) continue to alienate the very countries upon whose financial generosity these institutions will increasingly depend in the coming years.

Martin Edwards and I are conspiring on an op-ed on that little tidbit of information and its implications for the legitimacy and relevance of the World Bank, so stay tuned.


From LSE to the ICC?

Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi’s second son and purported successor, Saif Al-Islam Alqadhafi fueled the protests the other night with his disjointed speech. The irony of Saif’s complicity in all of this is that he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation under David Held at London School of Economics titled: “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions.” From the Abstract:

This dissertation analyses the problem of how to create more just and democratic global governing institutions, exploring the approach of a more formal system of collective decision-making by the three main actors in global society: governments, civil society and the business sector.

The thesis explains and adopts three philosophical foundations in support of the argument. The first is liberal individualism; the thesis argues that there are strong motivations for free individuals to seek fair terms of cooperation within the necessary constraints of being members of a global society. Drawing on the works of David Hume, John Rawls and Ned McClennen, it elaborates significant self-interested and moral motives that prompt individuals to seek cooperation on fair terms if they expect others to do so. Secondly, it supports a theory of global justice, rejecting the limits of Rawls’s view of international justice based on what he calls ‘peoples’ rather than persons. Thirdly, the thesis adopts and applies David Held’s eight cosmopolitan principles to support the concept and specific structures of ‘Collective Management’.

I’ve read through the first couple of chapters and one question just jumps out from all of this: How does the author of this dissertation end up participating in the slaughter of civilians demanding greater rights from a repressive regime? David Held offers his observations here and comes to this conclusion:

“The Saif I came to know was one committed to strong liberal values and democratic standards,” Held said. “He looked very much to Britain and to the US for inspiration and he certainly was passionately committed to constitutional reform of his country, the rule of law, to democratic elections and to human rights.

“After his speech on Monday, there is no way now in which he can be a credible agent of reform. He was developing a set of democratic and liberal beliefs and he was putting those into practice. He saw them as seeds – as a stepping stone for the reform of his country.

“The only way I can make sense of his speech is that the speed of change in the Middle East has caught him unawares and overwhelmed him. The position he has taken compromised him in every way, and made him the enemy of ideals he once proclaimed.”

Saif’s expertise on global governance institutions may very well grow in the near future. His actions make him a participant in what likely constitute crimes against humanity and he will probably get a much closer look at the ICC — from the inside….

(Update: Apparently there may be another, partial answer to my question about how the author of this dissertation could be complicit in these crimes. He didn’t write it all. There is now a Wiki page that is tracking instances of plagiarism in the thesis.)


It’s About Time. (For Regime Change.)

Finally, a resolution to the four-month-old stand-off with the hijackers of the Faina off the coast of Somalia. NY Times reported today that the pirate crew will disembark from the Faina after some sum of money, paid by the ship owners, was air-dropped onboard:

“According to one of the pirates, the owners of the ship had paid the ransom; the pirates had counted the money; and now they were just waiting for nightfall to slip away from the ship.

The hijacking of the Ukrainian ship, called the Faina, stirred up fears of a new epoch of piracy and helped precipitate a rash of similar attacks off Somalia’s coast and an unprecedented naval response in return. Warships from China, India, Italy, Russia, France, the United States, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Greece, Turkey, Britain and Germany have all joined the fight against the pirates, though the attacks have continued.

The pirates aboard the Faina would not reveal how much they had netted in ransom — originally they were asking for more than $20 million. According to businessmen on shore, the ransom was around $3 million and the money was dropped by parachute from a small plane, which seems to be the new way to deliver pirate booty. Last month, a huge Saudi oil tanker that had been hijacked was freed in a similar way.”

You can look at this in two ways. One: as a triumph of diplomacy with no loss of life. Two: as an excruciatingly glacial policy response to an incident emblematic of a widespread human security problem afflicting civilian and commercial traffic on the high seas – a global governance failure which could be changed with a shift in priorities and some savvy institution building, if these could only be sparked off by a bit of political imagination.

I don’t have concrete proposals, but I tend to see it through the latter lens. Four months? Surely this track record could be improved if governments took hostage taking at sea seriously as a human security problem. In fact, the protection and liberation of hostages was one of the ‘human security problems’ identified by respondents to my human security survey that has not attracted significant advocacy or global policy response.

In other words, this strikes me as an example of what Radoslav Dmitrov and his collaborators called a “non-regime” on p. 235 of their 2007 International Studies Review article: “a transnational public policy arena characterized by the absence of multilateral agreement for policy coordination.”

I wonder how this might be changed. Readers are invited to submit their ideas: what concrete goals could human security activists push for in terms of mechanisms to protect and assist victims of high seas piracy?


APSA Redux: Georgia, Russia and the Future of Global Order

Besides Dan’s creative performance at the Network Theory panel, the most noteworthy event I attended at this year’s APSA conference was the early Saturday morning roundtable “The Future of Global Order.”

Jeff Legro, Dan Drezner, John Ikenberry and Bruce Jentleson spoke all too eloquently (especially given the hour) of the crisis in global institutions, the changing nature of sovereignty, the rise of the global south, and the legitimacy gap between existing institutions of global governance and the balance of power. Their points differed in emphasis but shared an agreement with the premise of the panel: that existing global institutions are inadequate to solve the political crises of the hour, and that the future is therefore uncertain.

But then, Barbara Koremenos issued a rejoinder that began by taking the panel abstract and refuting it sentence by sentence:

“International institutions are not under siege. Very few are falling apart, and even those that have, like the ABM treaty, did so according to the rule of law. American hegemony is not in decline, or if so only when compared to to where it was in 1991. The sanctity of the nation state is not under assault from terrorists. Institutions still matter – why else would Russia feel so threatened by NATO? And I see no evidence that the have nots of today are better organized than in the 70s.”

Listening, I asked myself what the Russo-Georgia war tells us about this debate. I decided I come down on Barbara’s side. Under an earlier international order, the crisis could easily have been a trigger event for a real great power confrontation… instead the war lasted for only a few days, fewer than 1000 people died (so it may not even count as a war at all), and parties on both sides of the dispute are still bending over backward to invoke international law and international institutions, albeit self-servingly and contradictorily, in their political rhetoric; while, effectively, standing down.

Seems to me like the global order is in reasonably good hands.


Confessions of a Scrabulous Addict Afficionado

The big news story of the day seems to be the “demise” of Scrabulous. “Scrabulous is dead,” claims Slashdot. “Scrabulous No More,” begins the equivalent post at Digital Savant.

Well no, Scrabulous is not dead (not yet anyway), no matter how many laments may appear on Facebook status messages. You can still play Scrabulous, for pity’s sake, just not on Facebook. Instead, you must create an account on the regular Scrabulous site, and play there. (Or, try out Facebook’s new Hasbro-owned application, boringly named “Scrabble.”)

While Facebook users are bemoaning the loss of a popular application, some commentators are claiming this could be a good thing. Dan Drezner‘s Facebook status message today read “Daniel Drezner is confident that labor productivity will boom and the economy will rebound with the suspension of the Scrabulous feature.” His sentiment is echoed by Floyd Sklaver at Justout and Helen Popkin at MSNBC.

Well, I don’t care what Drezner or anyone else says. Scrabulous on Facebook made me more productive, for three reasons:

1) It was a fun way to keep my brain on its toes when I might otherwise have degenerated into more passive forms of online entertainment, such as watching the Clerks’ Jedi Politics YouTube video clip again, or trying to figure out Where the Hell Matt is on Google Earth.

2) It was also an incentive to take a healthy five-minute break here and there – I vaguely recall that in my old retail days before becoming a professor, employees were actually allowed regular five-minute breaks, and at least one 30-minute break, mandated by law, because this was known to boost productivity and also, just to be a really nice idea.

3) Finally, Scrabulous served a valuable professional networking function, keeping in me in touch periodically with colleagues and friends I too seldom connect with in real-space, or for anything other than work online. Those social relations are the grease in the cogs of intellectual productivity. This is why the National Science Foundation encourages grantees to spend taxpayer money on “synergistic activities” that bring together researchers in social settings – because it knows the best ideas happen when the nerds actually put the books away and sit down over drinks.

After a day of experimentation, I can honestly say, however, that the off-Facebook version will make me less productive – at least if I play by email. In this version of the game, every time your partner makes a move, it will show up in your email inbox insistently, rather than appearing quietly in a secluded corner of Facebook where it waits patiently until you happen to log in and check whose turn it is.

Also, the email version reduces the benefits while increasing the risks. It’s more distracting, so you can afford to play with fewer friends simultaneously without getting addicted. Goodbye social networking! On the other hand, being forced to play regular Scrabulous may help me network doubly well because I’m no longer limited to those friends who are on Facebook, nor must I go through the awkward process of recruiting new friends to Facebook to entice them to a game.

Anyway, as Lawrence Lessig has famously argued, architecture constitutes governance, just as do norms, laws, and markets.Today, Scrabulous did not die; its architecture was modified. How this will ultimately affect the nature of interactions that the game facilitated remains to be seen, but so far I’m adapting, Borg-like, instead of donning black.

So what’s the point of this little tirade? Sorry, I’m not sure I have one and anyway no time to explain, I see I have just received an email from one of my two lucky remaining Scrabulous partners…


The Mitchell Report and Global Governance

Obviously, the Mitchell Report is all the big news in the world of sports, culture, and politics this morning, and is receiving saturation coverage. Rather than try to add my 2 cents as a baseball fan, I thought I might try to tease out an interesting IR angle to the whole thing.

As I was driving home yesterday, I heard Selig in his press conference assert that Baseball had one of the most stringent testing drug policies (now) of any major sport. The radio commentators were discussing this and said, well, if by major sport you mean NFL, NBA, and MLB, then yes. But, compared to the testing at the Olympic level, it has a long way to go.

Earlier this morning, on my way into work, I heard Sen. McCain on ESPN, and they were asking him what, if anything, the government could do about this (and recall that most of the good stuff in the Mitchell Report is the result of government work–the hearing and several drug busts and plea agreements). McCain said (paraphrasing): Not much, except to fund the USADA to improve testing practices and perhaps work more with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

From an IR perspective, I think this raises a rather interesting question–given that there is a robust international organization with a well developed regime of anti-doping rules and norms that apply to international sport, why is it that the major US sports feel that they are somehow exempt or above or beyond these global norms? Past attempts to apply Olympic-level testing to US pro athletes (NHL hockey and NBA basketball players) by the USOC met with resistance from the leagues and players associations of those sports.

So, why is it that the US and US-based organizations place themselves above this global anti-doping norm? Many major international sports have an Olympic-caliber anti-doping regime, which requires tough random testing, and a number of their most significant events have been hit by drug scandals (Tour de France…). As US pro sports go global in an ever increasing way (particularly baseball and basketball), how can they make global inroads and yet flout a global norm on drug testing?


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