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Not Seeing the Trees for the Forest

*Photo:AP

This morning, Blake makes a key point halfway through his post on the UN Human Rights Council and Burma. He writes:

It’s important to remember that it’s the 47 member states that make up the Council, not the U.N. itself, that is the source of the problem.

Many dance around this distinction, which extends to all parts of the UN, or fail to make it altogether, one minute blaming a veto-wielding member state on the Security Council for blocking action and the next minute blasting the UN itself. Sadly, some get the difference but exploit it anyway, bashing the UN purely as political cover.

The UN provides the world’s platform for international cooperation — a one-of-a-kind and invaluable service. What member states do with that platform is up to them and, therefore, their responsibility. The Secretariat would have true legitimacy issues were it to overtly attempt to force certain member states to act. It is clearly up to those member states with the most authority and power (most often the United States) to exert pressure on those impeding progress.

Unfortunately, in the case of the Human Rights Council, the United States has chosen not to run for a seat in the first two elections. Its ability to persuade Council members is thus significantly reduced.

The President highlighted Burma in his remarks during the opening session of the General Assembly, urging “all nations to use their diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom.” That includes strenuous U.S. pressure on members of the Human Rights Council voting today.

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NRA v UN

There is a bizarre concern buzzing in the far reaches of the blogosphere that the United Nations is currently plotting to take Americans’ guns away. Wulfe’s Mom Alaska asks, “Is more butchering of the US Constitution in our future?” Texas Fred is somewhat less measured, “this is nothing more than an effort to take guns out of the hands of every man and woman on earth, and unless you’re a part of this coming Gestapo, you’ll give up your guns or die keeping them…”

Why this sudden fretting from the Tinfoil Hat crowd? It may have to do with the fact that the National Rifle Association is fixing for a fight with the United Nations, with former Congressman Bob Barr leading the charge.

Here’s the story: Some 500,000 people are believed to be killed each year by small arms, and more than 600 million illicit arms are believed to be in circulation. To take on this issue, the United Nations Convened a ‘Small Arms Review Conference’ last year. The conference, though, ended in deadlock.

Still, member states thought this issue was important enough to keep on the table. Great Britain, Australia, Japan urged UN members to submit proposals about how a treaty to regulate the small arms trade might be structured. (Great Britain’s proposal, for example, would standardize weapons import/export documentation and mandate that governments certify arms exports only after ascertaining that weapons’ end use will not “provoke or prolong armed conflicts, aid in human rights abuses, destabilize countries or undermine peace in other ways.”)

The UN recently announced that nearly one hundred member states submitted ideas for such a treaty. Ban Ki Moon is expected to name an “experts panel” to begin to combine elements of member states proposals into one coherent proposal for member states to debate.

Sounds reasonable, right? Not to Bob Barr, who smells a global conspiracy to take away America’s guns. Barr (who has a blog!) says this is the first step in a slippery slope toward the international regulation of domestic gun purchases in the United States.

Of course, this could not be farther from the truth–Great Britain, after all, wants Washington to actually support a treaty. Still, expect a huge disinformation campaign from the NRA. If past behavior is any indication, a treaty intended to to make it harder for militants in Somalia to obtain AK-47s will be characterized as a UN conspiracy to deprive the good citizens of Des Moines of their Second Amendment rights. The NRA is very, very good at this.

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The Case for a More Regulated Biofuels Market

by Karl E. Watkin, Chairman of D1 Oils plc (D1), the UK-based global producer of biodiesel

Climate change is a global problem that can only be solved with globally implemented solutions. There is a Tsunami of dedication, commitment, and money being thrown at the problem. The commitment and enthusiasm is generally focussed and responsive, the money and regulation are sadly not; indeed the latter is probably the biggest remaining problem we need to address today. An ill-informed media distort the story making the implementation of sensible regulation ever more difficult, sometimes it seems there is someone trying to stop everyone doing anything.The total one-sided obsession of the media on the wrongful use of food grade land for biodiesel feed stocks and aircrafts’ contribution to carbon emissions are solid examples of poor reporting. This does not lead to proper and informed debate over the use of non-food feed stocks, but instead to the real contributors to global warming encouraging flawed policy making.

Billion dollar funds to develop technology-led businesses are in abundance but their agility is no match for the pace and energy of the developers. Developers are progressing their ideas in days and weeks; “venture” funds, which lost their “ad” many years ago, are dinosaurs that are not delivering the support which is required. Reasonable due diligence is still essential but time lines from concept presentation to delivery of funds need to be cut by 90 percent. Implementation risk is built into the investment community’s decision-making process, which considerably undermines the value and economic effectiveness of the emerging business.

Investment managers and funds themselves need more certainty — a certainty that can only be delivered in a regulated market. And that market, like climate change, is a global one. Governments need to recognize the imperative of acting in coordination with others and regulate for the long term. A period of at least 15 years is required; at worst a rolling 5-year regulated stable market is needed.

The emerging biodiesel industry, as one example, has seen and is experiencing the stupidity of governments acting in isolation and following short term interests. Germany removed a tax incentive this year for imported biodiesel which led to an immediate million-ton excess capacity in the European Bio Diesel industry. This would have been difficult for a mature industry to deal with, impossible for an emerging market.

Currently the US government is subsidizing the manufacture of biodiesel B99 at $1 a gallon, which producers are then exporting to the UK where, under a different subsidiary regime, the biodiesel receives a second subsidy. This madness strengthens the US industry but destroys the UK’s at a stroke.

At a micro level in the UK for example the biggest risk to the emerging climate change reduction businesses are local governments and antiquated planning policies. The need to consult with organizations such as RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and Natural England, who, as a matter of course, object to every planning application. The effect is that, like Nero, they fiddle with minutiae whilst the environment burns up. Speedier planning clearance of clearly beneficial projects is required

A 15-year, stable, regulated, informed global market in every area of climate change reduction is required from governments. If governments deliver that, entrepreneurs and technology supported by proactive and reactive adventurous funding will deliver the necessary solutions.

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UN condemns attack on peacekeepers in Darfur

United Nations officials, along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have condemned this weekend’s attack on African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Darfur. The attack resulted in the deaths of nearly a dozen people.

Ban called the attack as “shocking and brutal” and called “for the perpetrators to be held fully accountable for this outrageous act.”

More

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Terrible News from Darfur

The rebel assault on an AU outpost in Darfur was nothing short of a massacre. Hundreds of rebel troops descended on the AU base, attacking the outnumbered peacekeepers from all sides. Ten were killed and possibly dozens of troops were captured.

Yesterday’s attack will have and lasting consequences for the prospects of peace in Darfur. The Secretary General’s ability to raise troops for the hybrid peacekeeping mission has just become much, much harder. Member states, justifiably be concerned that their troops are merely targets, may be less forthcoming with their contributions. The attack also underscores the fact that there is very little peace to keep in Darfur. Spoilers are determined to keep spoiling — particularly as rebel groups and pro-government militia try to consolidate their gains ahead of the Libya-sponsored peace talks later this month.

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Ban Ki-moon voices outrage at deadly attacks on AU peacekeepers in Darfur

Condemning in the strongest possible terms the recent attack in Haskanita, South Darfur, which killed some 10 African Union (AU) peacekeepers, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for those responsible to be brought to justice for the “outrageous” act. Read more.

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