The CSS Blog Network

Responsibility in Practice

Oil rig in a forest, courtesy of DW from the peg/flickr

Last December in Copenhagen, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres were at odds over how climate protection and economic development should be linked.

To make it short, the North argued that southern countries should develop themselves in a sustainable and ecological way. The South replied vehemently by claiming their right to development and their right to do it the same way the North did.

Apparently, Ecuador got a head start in understanding the concerns of the West and decided to put responsibility in practice. The country started the project Yasuni ITT in 2007. This project implies a conceptual break in the understanding of development and climate change.

The idea is pretty simple. Ecuador will not exploit the 850 millions of oil barrels that lie below the Yasuni forest for the sake of world heritage and climate change.

The rest of the world, mostly western countries, should in exchange contribute financially to a fund that will be internationally monitored and that will allow Ecuador to diversify its energy sources. The fund will amount to half of the benefits that Ecuador could make if it decided to exploit the oil, which is approximately €6 billion.

The project is supported by various Nobel Prize Laureates such as Mohammed Yunus, Desmond Tutu and Al Gore. Prominent environmental personalities are also on board.

This initiative is revolutionary for more than one reason.

  • It acknowledges the notion of ecological world heritage. The Yasuni forest not only benefits Ecuador. It’s also a reserve of biodiversity for the whole planet.
  • The project forces western countries to face up to their responsibilities. European and North American countries need to join the project if they want to remain credible. Unfortunately, only a few European countries, Germany, Norway, Spain and Switzerland, support the initiative.
  • It creates an example for the southern hemisphere. By renouncing oil exploitation, Ecuador acknowledges the responsibility of southern countries in the fight for climate change. It sets an example of ecological development that other countries could use. Being host of the most natural resources, the southern hemisphere has surely something to learn from the Ecuadorian experiment.
  • The project proposes to add a third generation of carbon bonds that could be traded on the ‘carbon market.’ This new generation (G3) of bonds would be given to countries that avoid or prevent environmental pollution of the atmosphere. This new concept challenges the previous understanding of carbon bonds that so far were only available for countries or companies that reduce  their level of pollution. By rewarding countries and companies that prevent pollution, this new system would move away from the “license to pollute” that has been created by the Kyoto Protocol and would ensure a more positive understanding of the carbon market.

So, why has such an alternative project not been given a greater public attention worldwide? Why only a few European countries are supporting it?

I think it is time for the West to put responsibility in practice.

The Michigan Mata Hari and Islamophobia

Linear algebra

Linear algebra or a devious Islamic plot? Photo: Ewan Cross/flickr

When 23-year-old Rima Fakih donned the sash and crown of Miss USA 2010 this past weekend, little did she know that she was also pinning a target on her ethnicity.

The Lebanese-American became the second woman of Arab descent to win the title. But today’s political climate, when it comes to Islam and US Muslims, is an about face from when Julie Hayek took the top prize in 1983. As a matter of fact, Hayek’s win was so uneventful she’d been forgotten about when observers claimed Fakih was the first Arab-American to win.

US rightwingers are apparently shocked, shocked, that a woman who happens to be of Arab descent is such a red-blooded American girl that she had the goods to win Miss USA.

Obviously something is amiss. Either the judges gave in to political correctness or Miss Fakih must be hiding a grenade in her string bikini.
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Deconstructing Swiss Identity

HELVETIQ, a new board game about Switzerland, created by a successful candidate for naturalization, photo: HELVETIQ, flickr

Swiss national identity and political culture hold a unique place in European history – and maintain an air of ‘exceptionalism’. But does a cohesive Swiss national identity exist today – and if so how can it be characterized?

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Dr Irène Herrmann on the evolution of Swiss political identity, showcasing the results of her Swiss National Foundation study.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Hanspeter Kriesi about Switzerland’s special nation-state status.
  • Security Watch articles on current Swiss foreign and domestic policy.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including studies on ethnic cleavages and immigration policies in Switzerland.
  • Primary Resources, including the Swiss Federal Charter of 1291 (“Bundesbrief”).
  • Links to relevant websites, such as the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring Swiss Diplomatic Documents, a project that publishes key documents on Swiss foreign policy.

Change in US Nuclear Policy?

CSS Analysis no 74: "Obama's Nuclear Policy: Limited Change"

CSS Analysis no 74: “Obama’s Nuclear Policy: Limited Change”

One year after Obama’s Prague speech, has the announced change in nuclear policy actually taken place?

In a newly published policy brief, CSS senior researcher Daniel Möckli assesses the practical results achieved by the Obama administration so far.

On the plus side, he argues, Obama has succeeded in reintroducing nuclear disarmament to the international agenda. But domestic factors, alliance policy, and strategic considerations limit the scope for major turns in US policy.

According to Möckli, neither a sustainable reinforcement of the non-proliferation regime nor substantial progress in multilateral arms control are in the offing.

The publication can be downloaded here. – Befriend Your Dearest Dictator


In May 2010, Amnesty International Portugal (AIP) surprised the internet crowd with a website that, at first, seemed just like another guerrilla marketing clue. intends to become a social network that deliberately resembles Facebook, yet with a special twist.

According to AIP, Tyrannybook is more than just a marketing campaign to raise people’s awareness about the organization in particular and human rights’ violations in general. The website will provide its users with live information updates on the world’s dictators and tyrants, and allow the public to keep track of a broad variety of human rights issues.

Once signed up, people may watch the dictators of their choice, such as Radovan Karadzic or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and network with peers to exchange news and ideas. As it is common for social networks, the more users there are, the more interaction will take place and the more information will be provided (not the last by the users themselves). But herein lays the problem.

The topic of human rights is a delicate issue that deserves a certain level of respect. It is questionable whether a social network based on Facebook can guarantee the necessary degree of seriousness. After all, Facebook has been struggling time and time again with users engaging in disrespectful behavior, personal insults or threats and the like (not to mention privacy concerns). Thus, how can AIP guarantee that users of Tyrannybook will not give in to similar misdemeanours?

Moreover, if the users provide parts of the information too, who can promise that the information is accurate and qualitatively reliable? Are mechanisms of self-control sufficient or is it just a question of time until we may find unpopular professors or entertainers alongside mass murderers and tyrants?

Besides, AIP has not done itself a favor listing China’s President Hu Jintao in the same category as Kim Jong-il and Robert Mugabe. Be it true or not, calling President Hu a dictator will most likely discredit Amnesty International in China and take away any potential leverage they might have had when bargaining with the People’s Republic, and the same holds true for other politicians too.

Then again, does Amnesty International need political correctness to fight for their cause?

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