Categories
International Relations Foreign policy Finance

How to Prevent Economic Crises

G20 Summit, courtesy of The Prime Minister's Office/flickr (Crown Copyright)
G20 Summit, courtesy of The Prime Minister's Office/flickr (Crown Copyright)

The global economy is strongly integrated, and domestic economic policies are strongly… well, domestic.

A landmark report by Chatham House and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) argues that the way in which nations design their economic policies is woefully inadequate to prevent financial and economic crises.

Entitled “Preventing Crises and Promoting Economic Growth: A Framework for International Policy Cooperation“, the report is the outcome of a nine-month international research project. Authors Paola Subacchi and Paul Jenkins consulted with finance and foreign affairs ministries, multilateral institutions and research institutes in Europe, Asia and North America.

They call for national policy-makers to recognize the spillover effects of their policies on other countries as well on the wider economic system. In practice, this would mean accompanying internationally relevant domestic policies by “international impact assessments”.

The report also proposes a new framework for G20 policy cooperation. Indeed, cooperation tends to be “only feasible when interdependencies are made clear by incidents of instability and volatility as happens during crises, i.e. when the costs of non-cooperation are painfully evident“.

Categories
Technology Internet

Disaster Relief 2.0

Disaster Relief 2.0“The 2010 Haiti earthquake response will be remembered as the moment when the level of access to mobile and online communication enabled a kind of collective intelligence to emerge.”

Last week, The UN Foundation, the Vodafone Foundation and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published a report on the future of information sharing in humanitarian emergencies. The paper examines the role of volunteer and technical communities (dubbed “V&TCs”) in providing information to aid agencies on the ground.

Paradoxically, aid workers in Haiti last year faced two opposite problems. At first, they lacked the most basic sources of information – even the UN offices had been destroyed and many employees had perished. In no time, internet communities mobilized to fill the gap, collecting data online, from satellite images or from SMS.

But then, established humanitarian institutions – and especially UN agencies – had no procedure in place to integrate such masses of external information, and overstretched aid workers soon faced a state of information overload.

Some NGOs focussing on information services in emergencies existed before the Haiti earthquake (e.g. MapAction, Télécoms Sans Frontières, Sahana). According to the report, the earthquake triggered a boom last year. Some of the key V&TCs involved in Haiti it mentions are OpenStreetMap, CrisisMappers, Crisis Commons, the 4636 Alliance and Ushahidi.

Disaster Relief 2.0” raises several issues regarding the management of information in international emergencies, especially with a view to better exploiting the potential of V&TCs. From the established humanitarian system’s point of view, reliability and professionalism are core values that can be problematic in loosely organized volunteer communities.

On the other hand, those communities have the potential to help solve the current humanitarian system’s “data silos” problem. Coordinated by OCHA, humanitarian relief is organized around clusters (shelter, health,  nutrition, etc…). According to the report, proprietary information systems and individual standards are major impediments to the exchange of data between those clusters and with actors external to the system such as V&CTs.

The arrival of these internet communities on the scene is likely to make the silos crumble. They will bring their open source and semantic web philosophies, hopefully fostering the development of open standards and structured data. Humanitarian aid 2.0 is on its way, hold on!

Categories
International Relations Security

All Eyes on Libya

Libyan Uprising, by Libyan_Uprising.svg: Rafy, en:User:Interchange88 derivative work: War.dog (Libyan_Uprising.svg) [CC0 (creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Libyan Uprising (Source WikiCommons)
How do you follow the situation in Libya? Where do you get your background information from?

Here is a selection of fascinating links we’ve come across:

We’ve missed your favourite source of information? Leave us a comment!

Categories
Security

Geneva Peacebuilding Platform

Geneva Peacebuilbing Platform

The Geneva Peacebuilding Platform (GPP) has just launched its new website – have a look!

The platform was founded in 2008 as a hub for peacebuilding actors, resources and expertise in Geneva. Behind the initiative is the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), an ISN partner, as well as Interpeace, the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) and the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP).

GPP aims to serve as a forum for the development of innovative and practical approaches to peacebuilding. In their own words, it “works to build bridges across communities, to advance the practical understanding of peacebuilding and to provide a springboard for new ideas.

I recommend you check out the Peacebuilding Guide hosted on the website. It provides a database of over 70 organizations within the Geneva peacebuilding community with several interesting filters. You can search by sector or country of activities, or by entering keywords corresponding to the organisation’s mandate.

Interesting inspiration for the ISN’s own IR Directory!

Categories
Security Foreign policy

Fund Peace, not War

Tunnel, courtesy of twicepix/flickr
Tunnel, courtesy of twicepix/flickr

Back in the days when I was practising for my driving test came the moment to overcome my first tunnel. There are lots of these in Switzerland, and they tend to be rather long… My teacher warned: “Don’t look at the wall, or you’ll crash right into it; focus on the middle of the lane instead”.

Indeed, one of our many cognitive biases is to focus too much on immediate dangers, while losing sight of the way out.

The US Congress was contemplating the wall and forgot about the lane when it voted to cut all of the funding for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 17 February.

If you aren’t familiar with USIP yet, I recommend you take a look at their excellent publications series, or at this praise of their field work by Anthony C Zinni, a former commander in chief of the United States Central Command.

Meanwhile, a wave of support for USIP’s work has spread in the hope of persuading the Senate to vote otherwise. Two senior staff members argue here that it makes a lot of economic sense to invest in peace and conflict prevention rather than pay for the wars these efforts contribute to avoid. As Anthony Zinni puts it, “the institute’s entire budget [$43 million] would not pay for the Afghan war for three hours“.

Last autumn, a study by Media Tenor and the Institute for Economics and Peace measured peace reporting in international media. Their detailed case study of Afghanistan demonstrates that media coverage has been focusing on defence and crime, while neglecting news of progress in critical areas needed to build lasting peace.

Lack of visibility is a real problem when it comes to persuading busy non-experts to give you money. On the face of it, “I trained 20 people in negotiation skills this month” doesn’t sound quite as decisive for national security as “I killed an insurgent today”.

Building peace is not spectacular. It’s slow and a lot hard unrewarding work. But it’s still the most efficient way out of the tunnel. Good luck and a lot of courage to our colleagues at USIP!