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Showing posts with label CFR. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CFR. Show all posts

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fixing our Broken World

How to Fix Our Broken World—in 17 Bullet Points

By Mother Jones author Tim McDonnell Fri Sep. 25, 2015 6:10 AM EDT

Here's why you should care about the United Nations' newest heap of jargon.

Bangladesh is already being dramatically affected by climate change.  
As the United Nations convenes in New York this week for its 70th General Assembly, one of the most prominent items on the schedule is to formally sign off on its brand-new Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs, which have been in the works for a few years, are basically a to-do list for all the world's governments from now until 2030. They're also a seemingly impenetrable pile of diplo-jargon.

"If you were to pick up the document, your first reaction could be that it's a lot of 'blah blah blah,'" said Peter Hazlewood, director of development at the World Resources Institute.

Still, the SDGs could have a significant impact on the allocation of resources to fight climate change and other environmental issues over the next decade. Here's what you need to know.

Replacing the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs are a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals, enacted in 2000. There were eight specific MDGs, all targeted at different aspects of extreme poverty: Reduce the child mortality rate by two-thirds, vastly expand access to clean drinking water, turn the tide against HIV/AIDS, etc. Of course, the goals aren't legally binding. Instead, the point was to give developed-country governments and international financial institutions such as the World Bank a target to shoot at when they make decisions about how to spend aid dollars or invest in certain projects. It's a way of saying: "We agree that these are the world's top priorities right now."

The "we" in that sentence was pretty controversial, since—according to lore, at least—the goals were drawn up behind closed doors in the UN basement by a group of elite diplomats. For that reason, it took years for a critical mass of governments to actually rally behind the MDGs and start to implement them. And even then, the they were sometimes criticized for being too narrow and not sufficiently focused on the root causes of poverty.
"Goals such as 'End poverty in all its forms everywhere,' may seem so broad that they will be easy to ignore," Michael Specter wrote.
As of the end of this year, the MDGs will have reached their expiration date. How well did we do on meeting them? So-so. Global poverty and childhood mortality have been greatly reduced; for example, between 1990 and 2015 the portion of people in developing countries living on less than $1.25 per day fell from 50 percent to 14 percent. Still, obviously, global poverty has not been eradicated. The UN's own recent assessment found many goals were un-met, especially with respect to gender equality and conflict refugee issues.

And even in the best scenario, it's far from clear how much impact the MDGs actually had on any of the issues they sought to address. During the same time period, for example, China was developing rapidly and opening up to international trade, which had a huge impact on lifting its citizens out of poverty—quite separately from anything the UN was doing. But it's safe to say that the MDGs loomed over budget conversations at agencies like USAID, and in that way had a tangible impact on how the US and other rich governments spent money on aid.

The MDGs "were far from perfect, and you cannot attribute all progress to them," Hazlewood said. "But you can make a strong case that they had a galvanizing effect."

So what are the Sustainable Development Goals? This time around, while still including poverty, the focus has swung much more toward environmental issues, including climate change adaptation. Here are the 17 goals:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

If that seems like a lot, well, it is. While the MDGs were too narrow, the SDGs could very well be too broad. As Michael Specter pointed out in the New Yorker, "goals such as 'End poverty in all its forms everywhere,' may seem so broad that they will be easy to ignore." UK Prime Minister David Cameron said as much last year, warning that with so many goals, "there's a real danger they will end up sitting on a bookshelf, gathering dust." Even just reading the list seems overwhelming; imagine being a head of state trying to implement it in your sprawling national bureaucracy.

And they're not cheap: By some estimates, they could cost more than $7 trillion a year to implement, and there's still no clear consensus on where exactly that money will come from. It would likely be a mix of private-sector investment; aid from the UN and developed countries; and increased spending by developing countries.


Chart by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)

At the same time, the goals' breadth could be a strength, as less affluent countries become more involved in implementing them—as opposed to only being on the receiving end of aid dollars. They could provide an impetus for developing countries to get more serious about things under their control, like empowering women, or conserving natural resources, or making urban planning decisions with an eye toward climate impacts. At the very least, the goals provide ammunition for diplomatic peer-pressure: No country wants to look lackadaisical compared to the one next door, or act in direct contravention of the goals, lest they scare off donors or investors. And it could be a way for US agencies to justify increased spending on climate adaptation.

"These are universal goals," Hazlewood said. "It's not just about what the US should be doing with countries in Africa; it's about what every country in the world needs to do."

What's next? Of course, the UN can't compel any country to do any of these things. So the goals won't matter unless individual national governments take them seriously. Unlike the old MDGs, the SDGs were developed over several years with maximum transparency, involving a huge, diverse cast of governments, NGOs, and private companies. The rationale for that strategy was to increase everyone's stake in the goals, so that when they come into effect, countries will swiftly incorporate them into national policy decisions—in other words, take them off the page and into practice. We'll have to wait and see if that will really happen.

"With the MDGs it took years to get any kind of traction and for countries to take them seriously," Hazlewood said. "But this time we can get the process off to a better start."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Facebook, Internet, and Public Diplomacy

Source: Council on Foreign Relations | Lee Hudson Teslik, Associate Editor, CFR.org

Interviewed by the Council on Foreign Relations, Facebook’s vice president of global communications Elliott Schrage outlines a strategy for governments seeking to incorporate online social networking into their public diplomacy efforts.

Here is an extract from the interview:

If we’re looking at public diplomacy efforts, how should governments structure the way they are thinking about Facebook and other sites like it?

It’s much too narrow to view this through the prism of advertising. This is really about communications and outreach. So the question is, how do you build an audience? How do you establish a community of interests? That’s as true for the maker of laundry detergent as it is for someone who has a stimulus package for economic growth.

The question is: How do you create a community, and how do you build and nurture a community? To some extent, Facebook and the tools associated with it are incredibly valuable, perhaps even more valuable for people who have clear messages or clear issues that they want to address. Sure, advertising is one mechanism, but really what it’s about is communicating a message, finding a community, and building that community, engaging that community. So, do I see Facebook as being an incredibly valuable tool for public diplomacy? Absolutely.

Some of the most interesting uses of Facebook have been for the purpose of social action, which is essentially political action, whether it’s an extraordinary rallying of support by the Colombian community around the world to protest the terrorist activities of FARC–the Colombian militants–or whether it’s students protesting bank fees and bank charges in Great Britain, or whether it’s the Obama presidential campaign generating almost six million supporters on Facebook as a means of communicating his policies, his positions, and his campaign activities.

The State Department is now Twittering. From an outreach perspective, it seems like there’s a problem, or at least a limitation, for governments wanting to use these sorts of social networking technologies, because the people signing up for their feeds or their fan pages are going to be the people who want to be hearing that government’s message anyway.

The question is, what are the public diplomacy messages? If the messages are “we care about the rights of women,” and there are actions being taken either in a particular country or around the world, there are people who care about that who will want to learn that information. And if that information feeds into their stream, or their “news feed,” that information will be shared with their friends. And some of their friends will find that information interesting and they’ll want to sign up. The viral nature of communication through Facebook is, if anything, enhanced by thoughtful public diplomacy–if it’s thoughtful and if it really connects with an audience.

The challenge is, how do we move the dialogue away from a government-to-government dialogue, and more toward engaging citizens on the ground. I don’t think the United States has a particularly strong track record of doing that successfully. But I would say, based on my conversations with people in the new administration, they have a sensitivity to these issues and to [social media] as a priority like no other administration has had certainly since the dawn of the Internet era. So you’re going to see much more innovation, much more creativity. We have not yet designed the Internet equivalent, or the social networking equivalent, of Voice of America [the official radio and television broadcasting service of the U.S. government]. Voice of America was, for its time, an incredibly powerful tool. Incredibly powerful. But we have not yet come up with the tools and techniques for the social networking era that engage people in a way that the Voice of America really couldn’t, because it was constrained by being a one-way media.