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Flooding, Fires, and Climate Finance: This Week in International Climate Negotiations

The World Resources Institute recently released updated estimates of the “fast-start” climate mitigation and adaption commitments rich nations made to poor countries after the Copenhagen summit. The headline figures are pretty impressive: Developed nations have set aside an estimated $27.9 billion, a combined total that is only $2 billion shy of the amount they promised between now and 2012. Environmental think tank WRI was quick to note that “while this represents a significant step in the right direction, developed countries still have much to do in meeting their Copenhagen fast-start pledge.” With unprecedented costs of combating climate-related disasters in Pakistan and Russia, one must ask, is this pledge a big enough step?

Fast-start money matters

First a bit of background: The fast-start pledge was only intended to help fund poorer, more vulnerable countries’ climate efforts from now through 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol is due to expire. The negotiators who cobbled together the non-binding Copenhagen Accord at the eleventh hour of the last big climate summit hoped to have a successor treaty with larger, binding climate finance figures in place before then. The Accord established a goal of ramping up mitigation and adaption funding to $100 billion by 2020.

Unfortunately, the diverging negotiating positions of rich and poor countries that have emerged since the Copenhagen summit make it less likely that a binding treaty will be agreed upon and ratified by 2012. This dreaded “Kyoto gap”–as the expected space between the end of the current greenhouse gas regulatory regime and whatever comes next is now being referred to–has developing countries clamoring for assurances that rich nations are still committed to cooperatively addressing the threat of climate change.

One simple way for the developed world to reaffirm its resolve is by meeting the existing fast-start pledge made in Copenhagen. The importance of this point was made explicit before the Bonn climate talks by the environmental ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India, and China–an influential collection of emerging economies that have coalesced into the “BASIC” negotiating block. In a joint press release, the BASIC ministers warned that “fast-start finance will be the key for an effective result in the climate change negotiations in Cancun.”

Tallying the pledges

Although the Bonn talks failed to establish firmer climate finance figures, WRI’s estimates suggest that the developed world has still made progress in fulfilling the commitment it made in Copenhagen. In March 2010, WRI found that developed countries had only allocated some $23.2 billion. The fast-start financing picture has improved considerably since then. By mid-August, rich countries had collectively exceeded their 2010 pledge by a quarter of a billion dollars and were less than that amount away from reaching the $10 billion promised in 2011. The biggest shortfall is in 2012 but–given that some major countries like the US have not yet begun budget negotiations for that year–that nearly $3 billion gap seems less daunting.

The analysis accompanying WRI’s new figures warns of two likely sticking points: additionality and delivery. In other words, are countries’ fast-start promises additional to existing development aid and will they actually pony up the cash? On both points, there are reasons for developing countries–and anyone holding out hopes that rich and poor countries can agree on a Kyoto successor treaty–to be wary.

Neither the Copenhagen summit nor the Bonn talks succeeded in establishing what exactly “additionality” means. “As a result,” WRI notes, “countries have proposed a variety of methods for defining the additionality of their fast-start finance.” With literally billions of dollars in immediate question, this is a huge stumbling block that could continue to drag down the progress of ongoing climate negotiations.

Another worry for international negotiators is whether or not these funds will every make it to the vulnerable developing countries that need them. “Though the commitments are clear, their delivery is uncertain,” WRI warns. Like the US aid in 2012, WRI points out that “some of the funds have yet to go through national budget appropriations processes.” (How effectively the funds are spent when they make it there is more of a concern for the international institutions disbursing the aid, the national politicians trying to get their hands on it, and the citizens whose futures depend on it.)

Problematic precedents

Further complicating the fast-start finance picture are the recent bills racked up by Pakistan and Russia in disasters that many are attributing to climate change. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain told Reuters rebuilding his country may cost “more than $10 to $15 billion” over five years, while the cost of wildfires to Russia’s economy has been estimated in the $15 billion range. These disasters have made painfully clear that $10 billion a year spread across the entire developing world will not go very far to address the very real cost living with a changing climate.

Poor country negotiators pointed out the inadequacy of the fast-start figures at the Bonn talks. This enraged developed nation’s who thought they’d settled on agreeable climate finance figures in Copenhagen. The US negotiator Jonathan Pershing complained that some countries were asking for “staggering sums out of line with reality.” He and other developed nation negotiators are likely downplaying the bridge funding the fast-start dollars represent and focusing on drafting a new treaty that will codify the hundreds of billions promised annually beginning in 2020.

What Pershing was referring to at Bonn was not scientific or economic reality, but rather the increasingly bleak political reality of the international climate negotiations. The success developed nations have had in reaching their fast-start commitments in spite of the fraught domestic and international politics of climate change is a rare glimmer of hope. Whether it will be overshadowed by lingering, legitimate concerns about the additionality, delivery, or adequacy of the aid remains to be seen.

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UPDATE: Mass Rape In DRC Topic Of Emergency Security Council Session

Between July 30 and August 3rd, two militia groups in eastern DRC went on a rampage and gang-raped at least 179 women in a community of villages. The UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo has a base about 30 kilometers from the site of the attack–but apparently was unaware of the attacks as they were happening.

How and why the peacekeeping mission failed to respond to the attack is the topic of discussion at an emergency Security Council meeting this morning.  Ambassador Rice tweets that she will brief the press after the council adjourns this morning. You can watch that briefing here, so stay tuned. In the meantime,  Hillary Clinton, who visited rape victims in the DRC last year and chaired a Security Council about rape as a tactic of war, released a statement:

The United States is deeply concerned by reports of the mass rape of women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – an armed, illegal rebel group that has terrorized eastern Congo for over a decade – and elements of the Mai Mai, community-based militia groups in eastern Congo. This horrific attack is yet another example of how sexual violence undermines efforts to achieve and maintain stability in areas torn by conflict but striving for peace.

The United States has repeatedly condemned the epidemic of sexual violence in conflict zones around the world, and we will continue to speak out on this issue for those who cannot speak for themselves. Less than a year ago, I presided over the UN Security Council session where Resolution 1888 (2009) was unanimously adopted, underscoring the importance of preventing and responding to sexual violence as a tactic of war against civilians. Now the international community must build on this action with specific steps to protect local populations against sexual and gender-based violence and bring to justice those who commit such atrocities.

Sexual violence harms more than its immediate victims. It denies and destroys our common dignity, it shreds the fabric that weaves us together as humans, it endangers families and communities, it erodes social and political stability, and it undermines economic progress. These travesties, committed with impunity against innocent civilians who play no role in armed conflict, hold us all back.

When I visited the DRC last year, I learned an old proverb — “No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come.” In the depths of this dark night of suffering and pain, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. The United States will do everything we can to work with the UN and the DRC government to hold the perpetrators of these acts accountable, and to create a safe environment for women, girls, and all civilians living in the eastern Congo.

UPDATE: The Security Council session concluded and council President Vitaly Churkin, the Russian UN Ambassador, read out a “press statement” agreed upon by the council. The statement “demanded that all parties…cease all forms of sexual violence.” It called upon the government of the DRC to investigate the attacks. 

In terms of anything more substantial, it seems that we will have to wait until the council is briefed by two other UN officials dispatched to the region.  The second in command at UN Peacekeeping, Atul Khare and the newly appointed Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom, are leading an investigation into why a UN peacekeeping force nearby did not intervene.  The initial reactions from Churkin and Ambassador Rice was unequivocal that something went deeply wrong.  Ambassador Churkin said “clearly, not everything worked as it should.” Ambassador Rice echoed this sentiment, saying “things did not occur as they should have.”

It seems we will have to wait for the Wallstrom and Khare briefing for answers. 

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South Sudan Watch: Gerrymandering, Sudan-Style

JUBA, Sudan—Sudan’s national elections in April highlighted the fact that elections are a process, not a one-day event that happens only on polling day (or during polling period, since Sudan had five days of polling). This is significant because a process can be manipulated more easily and more subtly than a one-day or five-day event. Some thoughts on this note…

An analyst friend of mine has examined “lessons learned” from the elections with an aim of providing recommendations for the conduct of the referendum (I’ll highlight his paper on this blog when it is published). He argues that the conventional wisdom on the relationship between Sudan’s April elections and the looming southern self-determination vote is wrong. According to my friend, who has worked on elections in several contexts, the idea that the two events are markedly different and should be treated so runs contrary to the fact that the referendum and elections are in fact quite similar from a technical stand point. So if there’s anything to be learned from the April polls, it’s that what happens in the run-up to the polls—for example, during voter registration—can and will likely have a big impact on the fairness and credibility of the south’s independence vote on January 9, 2011.

Today I had the chance to interview the deputy chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, and the head of the commission’s southern bureau, Justice Chan Reec Madut. The interview didn’t yield any stories for the AP wire, but I wanted to share his insights. Justice Chan is the deputy chief justice of the Supreme Court of Southern Sudan, has been serving on the bench in Sudan since 1979, and has a degree in legal anthropology from Harvard.  Ithoroughly enjoyed hearing his perspectives on referendum-related issues. Here’s part of the transcript from the interview:

Under the elections law, the secretary-general had a lot of power and he was able to manipulate things. And even the state high committees in the southern were all answerable to Khartoum. Now the high committees report to the southern bureau which is here [in Juba]. So we have a chance of correcting things…

There are attempts currently being made by the [southern] Minister of Humanitarian Affairs to transport people living in the north to the south. I don’t know how soon they are going to do that. But certainly there will be [some southerners] there who will hang around. They have been there for 20 years, through the war. They will have difficulties coming down here. They don’t have houses here anymore and their children are in school [in the north]. So we certainly consider some of them will stay there and that they will register there. But voting in northern Sudan is our greatest area of fear. Because there are talks in the media that there are two million southerners in the north which is not true because during the census Khartoum went on record saying there were 500,000 there so how did it jump like that? So you can see that kind of mentality, it is an indication that this issue could be manipulated.

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UN Direct

Piracy at the Security Council; Eminent Persons on LDCs Appointed, and more from today at the UN


Somalia: this morning the Security Council held an open debate on legal responses to piracy off of the coast of Somalia, in which the SG reported that in the past seven months there have been 139 piracy-related incidents and 30 hijacked ships, while 17 ships and 450 sailors are currently being held at ransom.  In response, he proposed seven legal mechanisms to bring perpetrators to justice: 1) build regional State capacity to prosecute and imprison perpetrators; 2) locate a Somali court in a third country and apply Somali law; 3 & 4) assist a regional State/States to establish special chambers within their national court system; 5) establish a regional tribunal (involving regional States & the AU); 6) create an international “hybrid” tribunal; and 7) establish a full international tribunal under Ch. VII.  In order to more fully explore these options and related issues, he announced his intention to appoint a Special Adviser on Legal Issues Related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which, though yet to be confirmed, is rumored to be Jack Lang.  As a sign of progress, however, the SG did note that in the past 18 months almost 600 Somali men have been prosecuted or convicted as a result of investigations by 11 States.   In her statement, Ambassador Rice commended the SG for his report and analysis of the seven legal options, and concluded by stating that piracy will not be resolved until Somalia is stabilized and, in this regard, the U.S. strongly supports the Djibouti Peace Process and Transitional Federal Government.  The debate concluded with the reading of a Presidential Statement.  (Note, as of yesterday Japan has a new Perm Rep, H.E. Mr. Tsuneo Nishida, who is replacing Ambassador Takasu, who held the position since 2007) 

DRC: the mass rape of women and children in the DRC has continued to receive strong international condemnation, and UNICEF’s Anthony Lake and Secretary Clinton have now both issued statements. 

UN-HABITAT: this morning the GA elected Joan Clos of Spain as Executive Director of UN-Habitat for a four year term beginning October 18.

Eminent Persons on LDCs: today the SG appointed a Group of Eminent Persons on Least Developed Countries, to advise on international support to LDCs in advance of the 4th UN Conference on LDCs, scheduled to take place in Istanbul from May 30-June 3, 2011.  The membership of the 10-member group, which will be co-chaired by Alpha Oumar Konaré (former President of Mali) and Jacques Delors (former President of the EC) and includes former President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn, can be found here

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UNHCR: “We are going to need massive amounts of funding” (Video)

CNN interviews a UN Refugee Agency worker on the ground in Pakistan. On its website, UNHCR says “$40 provides 10 blankets for flood victims in Pakistan displaced by floods; $100 provides a refugee with a survival kit containing a blanket, a mattress, a kitchen set, a cooking stove and soap; $200 provides an all-weather tent to shelter a displaced family.”

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What The Haiti Earthquake Can Teach Us About Pakistan Flood Response

The emergency phase of the Pakistan flood effort continues at pace.  Apparently, there are some 800,000 people reachable only by air.  That’s 800,000 people who’s only lifeline is a handful of US and Pakistani helicopters in the area.

In about one month there will be another meeting at the UN for the launch of a “consolidated appeal” for Pakistan.  This happens when the emergency phase of a humanitarian disaster ends and the long term recovery efforts begin.  This typically costs much more than emergency operations.  The Pakistan flood appeal is likely to be the biggest ever. 

The thing is, this appeal is just that–an appeal. There is only a little bit of designated money  set aside for these things.  Donors don’t have to give if they don’t want to–and there are plenty of places around the world that don’t seem to capture donors’ attention.  Still, because of the strategic importance of Pakistan, chances are they will elicit a pretty good response from donors. The problem is, donors might be wary of how their money is spent. In fact, there are already concerns that fear of government corruption are slowing donors’ reponse. 

Here is where the response to the Haiti earthquake might provide some guidance for a way forward:  In both places you had a democratic and internationally supported but weak civilian government.  For long term recovery efforts to be sustainable, donors must ultimately empower and strengthen the civilian government’s capacity to deliver services to its people.  To help thread the needle between wanting to empower a civilian government while satisfying donor’s concerns about transparency, the Haitian government created an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, co-chaired by Haiti’s Prime Minister and Bill Clinton, to “conduct strategic planning and coordination and implement resources from bilateral and multilateral donors, non-governmental organizations, and the business sector, with all necessary transparency and accountability.”

Having a high profile, internationally respected non-Haitian as a co-chair is certainly a boon to Haiti’s fund raising effort, while having the top government official as a co-chair ensures that this is a Haitian-driven proces.  Will Pakistan create a similar hybrid commission?  If so, who would be the prominent international co-chair?  On the one hand, the United States is by far the largest donor to Pakistan relief efforts so far. On the other hand, a prominent US role may be politically untenable

Who would you nominate to co-Chair an “Interim Pakistan Recovery Commission?”  Queen Rania?  Tony Blair?  Send us your thoughts via Twitter, @UNDispatch. 

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