At the recent Kuwait International Conference on Reconstruction of Iraq, countries and international organizations pledged US$30 billion to reconstruct Iraq after years of war, falling well short of the US$80 billion estimated necessary by the Iraqi government. As this case aptly demonstrates, civil wars create lasting damage that can take decades to overcome. Despite such huge costs, the international community struggles to find effective ways to prevent conflict escalation, relegating their involvement to the post-conflict reconstruction phase. But might there be ways to address conflicts before they erupt into all out war?
In 2013, Venezuela was a defective democracy experiencing serious breaches of civil and political rights, but with more or less functioning electoral institutions, and accountability between the branches of the state. Today, the country is an authoritarian regime. President Nicolás Maduro’s government crossed into that territory on March 29 this year, when the Supreme Court, following instructions from the executive, stripped the country’s National Assembly of its competences, triggering the wave of demonstrations that continues today (42 a day on average) and that has cost the life of 126 Venezuelans. Another definitive step occurred on July 16, with the election, through massive electoral fraud, of a Constituent Assembly with total powers over the National Assembly and aimed at rewriting the national constitution.
There are two main victims of the Venezuelan crisis. The first are the Venezuelan people, who have not only witnessed a dramatic deterioration of their living conditions, but have also lost the ability to live together in harmony, for an undetermined amount of time. The second victim, on which I focus here, is multilateralism—the ability of states to bring collective solutions to conflicts and crises through institutions and other forms of cooperation.
G20 agenda hints at China’s vision for global order with focus on long-term rather than immediate concerns
With the approach of the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, there is expectation that China might clarify its position on the contested South China Sea. Contrary to expectations, those Asian neighbors and Western leaders who want to seize the occasion to press China on immediate issues will be disappointed. There will be little space to question publicly China’s drive into the South China and East China Seas, to seek confirmed implementation by China of UN sanctions targeting North Korea, to ask for more direct involvement by China in resolving the most urgent issue of our time – the Middle East in tatters and resulting refugee flows – or even to challenge China’s record-breaking attack on human rights and legal activists at home.
Instead, the summit offers China’s leader Xi Jinping a unique occasion to shine and for China to extoll its complementary – or alternative – vision of the global order.
As host country, China has engineered impeccable rhetoric and goals that are hard to disagree with, if somewhat distant and abstract, for the G20 leaders to focus on. US President Barack Obama is now a lame-duck president with much uncertainty over what follows him. European leaders are weakened by the continent’s inward turn, so powerfully shown by the Brexit. Western leaders are on the defensive much more than their Chinese counterparts. There may be isolated supporters in favor of focusing on issues of the day – Australia, Japan and even Korea spring to mind. Others like Brazil or Indonesia may not fully support China’s professed goals for the G20. Few will take the risk of disowning them. Too much of their economy is now tied to China’s fortune.
When Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo stepped up to the podium at the African Union (AU) this week to sign up to the AU’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), it was not clear whether this was a high point or a low point for the initiative.
Was it a great triumph for the 11-year-long effort by the APRM to reform the political, economic and social governance of Africa that it had managed to entice one of the continent’s most notorious autocrats into its democratic embrace? After all, when the APRM was launched in 2003, it was strongly criticised for being a voluntary mechanism that would leave the least democratic African leaders untouched. And yet, here was one of them joining.
Or was Obiang’s signing onto APRM a Groucho Marx moment instead: as one journalist quipped, a case of ‘who would want to join any organisation that would have Obiang as a member?’ » More
“Today, the OSCE is not the organization over which foreign ministers are racking their brains when they wake up early in the morning.” This was how Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore characterized the state of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at the end of Ireland’s presidency in 2012. A year later, however, the OSCE for once finds itself in the headlines. Just a few days before a routine meeting of OSCE foreign ministers in Kyiv, the Ukrainian government – which holds the 2013 OSCE presidency – decided to move the country closer to Russia by breaking off trade negotiations with the European Union. In the run-up to the meeting, police violence against peaceful protesters and the biggest street demonstrations since the 2004 “Orange Revolution” dominated the scene in Kyiv.
In response to Ukraine’s actions, only half of the 57 OSCE members sent their top personnel to Kyiv. US Secretary of State John Kerry deliberately boycotted the event, and Britain and France sent deputies in lieu of their foreign ministers. Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, decided to meet with Serbian and Kosovar leaders in Brussels instead. By not attending this year’s ministerial meeting, Kerry and others did the OSCE a disservice. For 40 years the organization has been a powerful symbol of dialogue and the search for consensus and compromise between East and West. Boycotts and deliberate snubs may be useful for alliance-building and zero-sum games, but they are not in keeping with the “spirit of Helsinki” or the principles of cooperative security. » More