Yearly Archives: 2007
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has hailed the awarding of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore, noting Gore’s “exceptional commitment and conviction, as an example of the crucial role that individuals and civil society can play in encouraging multilateral responses to global issues.”
Although most headlines today will read the other way around, it’s importantly not to overlook that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been central to coalescing the “scientific consensus,” or what the public would recognize as the “scientific consensus.” (Hear Climate Expert Richard Moss’s assessment of the IPCC working group I report.) It’s hard to image that we’d even be where are now without such effort. The Nobel Committee said as much in its announcement:
Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.
I began writing a post this morning about something striking that I read in this Joseph Romm post yesterday, in which he discusses the similar new books Break Through, by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, and Cool it, by Bjorn Lomborg.
Shellenberger, Nordhaus, and Lomborg are part of a dangerous new movement that believes in the science behind climate change but doesn’t think the effects will be that bad (or that we need to drastically cut carbon emissions). Clearly, this runs the risk of turning into a warm bottle for some world leaders and some Americans who are desperately needed to put pressure on Congress. Why stress about impending devastation when you have an excuse not to? Such an enticing possibility could quickly take the wind out of the sails of those fighting for a quick and comprehensive (and possibly costly) response to these challenges.
Yesterday, the United Nations Foundation and the Vodafone Group Foundation announced the successful conclusion of a year long pilot program that integrated open source mobile phone technology into the public health systems of Kenya and Zambia. The pilot program equipped Palm Zires with a software tool called EpiSurveyor, created by the NGO Datadyne. (A little while back UN Dispatch featured a Delegates Lounge post by Datadyne’s Dr. Joel Selanikio, who was training public health officials in Zambia how to use EpiSurveyor.)
At the Heritage Foundation’s in house blog, Andrew Grossman admits ignorance to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Nothing wrong about that–you have to be fairly plugged in to know what the Convention is all about.
The problem is, he looks to Doug Bandow for enlightenment. Bandow, you may recall, was the syndicated columnist who resigned from CATO last year after it was revealed he was secretly on the take from Jack Abramoff, who paid Bandow $2,000 per column to shill on behalf of his clients. Bandow was picked up by an outfit called the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which apparently does not mind if one its “experts” used to accept cash to promote the clients of a now convicted felon.
Meanwhile, over at the Washington Note, Scott Paul offers some smart commentary on what is really at stake with the UNCLOS ratification battle:
The conventional wisdom is that multilateral treaties are dead on arrival in the Senate. If we’re interested in promoting the International Criminal Court, a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, or the Conventions on women’s rights, children’s rights, landmines, or biological diversity, we’ve got to get the Law of the Sea done.
My colleague Don Kraus sums it up:
“Think about it. If a Senate with a Democratic majority can not muster the 66 votes to pass a treaty supported by a Republican president, what is the possibility of doing so under a potential Democratic president who will face much stiffer Republican opposition?
“If the U.S, cannot join an agreement supported by environmental groups, petroleum trade associations, peace groups, the Coast Guard, Navy, departments of State, Commerce, and the Interior (just to name a few) — what is the chance that we engage on other agreements?
“One senate staffer I talked to recently has been yelling at groups coming to talk with him about climate change. He’s been telling them that he doesn’t want to talk to them unless the first words out of their mouth are “Law of the Sea,” because “if we can’t get this one through, none of the other agreements are going to get through.”
The stars are aligning on UNCLOS’ behalf. As Scott and Don like to say UNCLOS is “low hanging fruit.” Perhaps this helps explain why folks like Bandow and Frank Gaffney are on a mission to make UNCLOS into a boogey monster. (To wit: this ad, flagged by Matt Yglesias, from “America’s Survivial,” which is an outfit dedicated to opposing international treaties.) The stakes are high for the knee-jerk anti-UN crowd. UNCLOS’ wide support from diverse constituencies could mean ratification. And from there it is only a slippery slope to the moment when
UN tax collectors come knocking at their door the United States becomes more positively engaged in multilateral institutions that advance American interests by promoting the rule of law.
I certainly agree with Blake’s premise that the unilateral efforts of any one nation, even China, are unlikely to completely turn the tide in Myanmar. However, I think he overlooks one key aspect of China’s foreign policy arsenal, its veto on the UN Security Council.
Unfortunately, for those who see multilateral economic sanctions and curbing of weapons sales as a logical move forward, China chose today to withdraw that option, stating that it is “resolutely opposed” to Security Council sanctions. This announcement no doubt came as a relief to Than Shwe, who has been concerned enough about sanctions to state that he would meet with Aung San Suu Kyi if she stopped calling for them.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.