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The Venezuelan Crisis and Fragmented Multilateralism in the Americas

Image courtesy of Nicole Resseguie-Snyder/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 23 August 2017.

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.

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G20 Summit: Leaving West to Deal With Crises, China Focuses on Positives

Rules

This article was originally published by YaleGlobal Online on 30 August 2016.

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.

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Signing Up for Peer Review Will Test Both Obiang and the AU

17th Ordinary AU Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Photo: Embassy of Equatorial Guinea/flickr.

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

The OSCE after the Kyiv Ministerial

OSCE Ministerial Council meeting on 5 December in Kyiv

OSCE Ministerial Council meeting on 5 December, 2013, in Kyiv. Photo: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly/flickr.

“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.

US Boycott

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

In Defense of World Government

Flags of the world, courtesy of Ban All Nukes generation/Flickr

WASHINGTON, DC – Unlike in the past, there probably will not be large protests at the upcoming Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, or at the subsequent World Trade Organization meeting of trade ministers in Bali. But that is not because these international institutions are perceived as effective and legitimate. It is because, compared to a decade ago, they are seen as too small and impotent in the face of larger market forces to bother about.

The 2008 global financial crisis and its aftermath have caused a loss of faith not only in markets, but also in the ability of democratic governments to ensure that the benefits of market-led growth are widely shared. On economic, financial, tax, trade, and climate issues, many people around the world are fearful or angry, believing  that a worldwide cabal of bankers, corporations, and G-20 elites uses insider deals to monopolize the benefits of globalization.

But few people – whether ordinary citizens or internationally oriented economists – recognize that our seemingly weak and ineffectual multilateral institutions are the world’s best hope for managing and democratizing the global market. Only these institutions are capable of preventing the elite capture and insider rents that are putting global prosperity at long-term risk. » More

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