CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Building Trust

Pyongyang-Kaesong highway
The Arch of Reunification is a sculptural arch located in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. It was constructed in 2001 to commemorate Korean reunification proposals put forward by Kim Il-sung. Photo: bryanh/flickr.

What do student exchange programs have in common with prisoner exchanges; and what does the release of information on missing persons have to do with a game of soccer, or a joint-economic development project? They are all examples of measures that can be used for confidence building in peace processes (albeit in different contexts and conflict phases). Generally speaking, confidence building measures (CBMs) can be understood as “a series of actions that are negotiated, agreed and implemented by the conflict parties in order to build confidence, without specifically focusing on the root causes of the conflict.” In other words, by letting parties collaborate on something that is not strategically important to them, they build the trust needed to subsequently address the strategic issues.

The Experts’ IR Roundup in Zurich – Part 2

The MAS ETH SPCM is offered in cooperation with leading academic partner institutions (Photo: ETH Zurich)

Our colleagues at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) recently hosted the “Security and Resources” module of their Master of Advanced Studies in Security Policy and Crisis Management program. Practitioners and scholars from around the world traveled to Zurich to discuss issues such as grand strategy, security policy development, crisis leadership and risk management. Given the fertile nature of these discussions, ISN staff members took the opportunity to speak to the lecturers and a Swiss course participant about five security-related issues currently on their minds. The following podcasts present their personal preoccupations and opinions.


Colombia: Cómo los ataques a la infraestructura de energía afectan a los ciudadanos

Electricity cables in Colombia
Cables de electricidad en Barranquilla, Colombia. Foto de Lucho Molina en Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

En los últimos meses las FARC y el ELN han incrementado los ataques a la infraestructura energética de Colombia. Si bien este tipo de ataques afectan la vida de muchos colombianos comunes y corrientes, son más discutidos dentro del tema mayor del terrorismo. Sin embargo, hay unos cuantos bloggers colombianos que ofrecen diferentes perspectivas.

Alejandro Gaviria describe el sombrío panorama de los ataques hasta fines de agosto de 2012:

A New Information Revolution?

Revolutionary Times. Photo: Brian Leadingham/flickr

Remember when TIME magazine selected You – Yes, You – as Person of the Year? It was back in 2006 when the magazine’s editors decided that the year’s big story was about community and collaboration on the internet – i.e., “about the many wresting power from the few…and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.” Given the overarching theme we have explored over the last thirteen weeks – that the international system is undergoing fundamental and irreversible changes in its structure – we think it is only right to close the first part of our three-part Editorial Plan by revisiting TIME’s initial claim. We believe it’s right not only because social media has stopped being a “massive social experiment” and has become an integral (and complex) part of people’s lives, but also because the topic points us towards the second part of our plan, which will begin on April 2.

Indeed, if the initial part of the plan focused on answering a simple question (how is the structure of international system changing at its most fundamental level?) then the second part begs us to answer a follow-on question – if the international system is transforming itself in major ways, what impact are these changes having on power relationships throughout the world, whether formal or not? While answering this question is our next overarching objective, we have a transitional one we need to address this week – are the internet and social media helping to change the international system by empowering non-state actors and individuals? In other words, is the internet further eroding the state’s traditional monopoly on power when it’s the state that ultimately controls access to new and old media in the first place?

These are the questions we consider this week in our dossier, “The New Information Revolution.”

Business and Finance

Corporate Influence on the Global Economy

How influential are multinational corporations in today’s global economy? One way of answering the question would be to analyze the nature and extent of corporate influence in mainstream media, on governments and public policy, and on international institutions and agreements – such as at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Today, however, we  take a simpler, but nonetheless revealing, approach: comparing the economic size of corporations with the size of national economies.

The map below pairs South American countries (measured in terms of aggregate GDP) with equivalently sized corporations (measured in terms of annual revenue). Hover your mouse over a country to see how the figures compare (view large map).

If Paraguay, Guyana, Bolivia or Suriname were corporations, they wouldn’t make Fortune’s list of the Global 500.  Indeed, the GDP of those four countries combined is smaller than the annual revenue of Vinci – a construction company you’ve probably never heard of (unless you’re French).

Brazil is the only South American country whose economy clearly outsizes any of the world’s corporations. With a GDP of 2.1 trillion, its economy is roughly five times the size of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest corporation. Wal-Mart’s revenue in 2011 (~421 billion) falls between the GDPs of Saudi Arabia and Norway respectively – and exceeds the  GDPs of the next 170 countries. Maybe the G20 should consider inviting CEO Mike Duke to their next summit.