Whilst today's political drama is soon forgotten in favour of tomorrow's diplomatic crisis, certain global and international issues remain ongoing thorns in Society’s side.
Examples relevant to Wider Europe, future EU Enlargement and the present European Neighbourhood Policy include (but are not limited to): arms' exports to "blood" destinations; increasing global domination of Chinese interests; the role of civil society; climate change and environmental issues; the challenges of cyberspace; the ongoing Euro financial crisis (particularly in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Cyprus); the importance of governance, especially in Africa; new growth markets; the Gulf Cooperation Council; the world’s hot spots; the increasing importance of oil supplies; and the fragile access that many people have to limited water supplies.
Concerning arms sales, the UK's Export Control Organisation is responsible for legislating, assessing and issuing export and trade licences for specific categories of "controlled" goods. This encompasses items that include so-called dual-use goods, torture goods and radioactive sources, as well as military items. Whether a licence is required depends on factors that include the items proposed for export and any sanctions in force on the export destination. If items exported from the UK are controlled, a licence is needed to export legally. Exporters are responsible for complying with the law, understanding the regulations and keeping themselves informed. Everything granted a license is categorised. Licences can be revoked. Which countries have sold weapons and riot control equipment that are being used against today's protesters? If arms have to be exported, is it preferable to sanction the sale of tear gas rather than bullets? Should arms only be sold to democratic states: in other words, not to dictators? Is this realistic? How can soft power be promoted so that it is more valuable than hard power?
As China will be the dominant country of the 21st Century, (despite competition from the USA, India, Brazil and Russia), it is important to understand the EU's relationship with China.
Democratic government is relatively new in some countries of Wider Europe. Sometimes, countries have to build everything from the beginning, particularly in post-conflict environments e.g. Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Government may face difficulties in drafting laws and policies, and implementing regulations that meet the needs of its citizens. Civil society organizations (CSOs), if they exist, often lack the capacity to participate in public policy debate and development. Civil society engagement in democratic policy-making requires: increasing the capacity of CSOs to influence policy-making; assisting them to take actions that will shape policy; promoting debate within civil society about the process of drafting laws and public policies; and increasing awareness of public authorities of the need to create an environment for participatory democracy. Open societies need to strengthen government institutions, as well as increase the rights of minorities, develop civic participation, build up international ties (particularly with Europe), develop governance and increase access to education at all levels. Government institutions have to be helped to prevent corruption. Leaders in new democracies include young journalists, police officers, government administrators, political party staff, business community leaders, civil society activists and local members of international organizations.
Environmental issues are critical today, particularly those that relate to climate change. Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty - the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - to start considering what to do to reduce global warming, and cope with future temperature increases. The UN Climate Change Conference held in Durban in 2011 sought to establish a new treaty to limit carbon emissions. It agreed to a legally binding deal comprising all countries, to be prepared by 2015 and take effect in 2020. There was progress regarding the creation of a Green Climate Fund to distribute US$100 billion per year to help poor countries adapt to climate change impacts.
International negotiators at the December 2014 UN climate change talks in Lima agreed on a plan to fight global warming that would for the first time commit all countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The plan was hailed as an important first step towards a climate change deal due to be finalised in Paris in 2015. Campaigners said the plan was far too weak to limit warming to the internationally agreed limit of 2C above pre-industrial levels, or to protect poor countries from climate change.
A combination of events such as coordinated cyber attacks, or a cyber incident occurring during a disaster of another kind, should be a serious concern for policy makers. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (January 2011), Governments and policy-makers should plan to withstand and recover from cyber events, both accidental and deliberate, although (it reported) very few single cyber-related events have the capacity to cause global catastrophe 1 …
But, there are significant and growing risks of
localised misery and loss as a result of compromised computer and telecommunications services. Reliable internet and other computer facilities are essential, for example, for recovery from large-scale disasters.
It is not useful to use the term cyber war to describe espionage, hacktivist blockading, spear-phishing or defacing of websites, as recently seen in connection with WikiLeaks. The Guardian said on 17 January 2011 that the report came at a time of "heightened awareness of online attacks", following hacking protests against companies caught up in the WikiLeaks controversy.
The OECD study found that it was highly unlikely there would ever be "a pure cyber war fought solely in cyberspace" with equivalent effects to recent wars in Afghanistan, the Balkans or the Middle East.
The study took the view that very few single cyber events could cause a global shock. Possible examples included a successful attack on one of the technical protocols on which the Internet depends, or a large solar flare wiping out key communications components such as satellites.
However, as cyber weapons can be used with a degree of anonymity, threats of reprisals (and international treaties) may be baseless. Systems are as secure as the staff who run them.
Note that China says its plan to build a "cyber blue team" is a training mechanism to defend the national internet, not a "hacker's army".
The IMF said in June 2011 that it had been targeted by a sophisticated cyber attack that had breached its systems with the hack intending to install software that would create a "digital insider presence".
The London Conference on Cyberspace, 1-2 November 2011 reviewed key issues - from potential cyber attacks on intelligence information and infrastructure to intellectual property rights and copyright infringement. The evolving cyber security vulnerabilities of governments, businesses, and individuals require continuous dialogue on how to create a safe online environment while utilizing the internet’s full potential for stimulating economic growth and information exchange.
The OECD report concluded that cyber weaponry would be increasingly deployed and with increasing effect by ideological activists of all persuasions and interests.
The United States is preparing for cyber conflict, and has launched its own military cyber command. The UK in October 2010 rated cyber attacks as one of the top external threats, promising to spend an extra £650 million ($1 billion US) on the issue.
Two recently unverified cyber attacks with military overtones related to Iran (slowing down its uranium processing), and Syria (disabling its airspace to allow Israeli aircraft to damage nuclear installations).
Europe's GIPSI economies have been seriously weakened by the ongoing Euro crisis, with Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy being ranked badly (according to the severity of their credit risk) relative to the Eurozone's "Triple A" countries. Sketchy phrases are bandied about: one size fits none; decoupling; systemic Eurozone problems; Stability and Growth Pact has teeth - but false ones; Greek (and Cypriot) accident waiting to happen - when, not if; extend and pretend. Two key questions are: Will the Euro break up? and Will Germany continue to lead the EU?
Many think of governance in terms of the weak situation that exists in many of today's transition/developing countries - for example, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Africa, the key issue is how to provide conditions of certainty, honesty, reliability, accountability and transparency that will build capacity in African politicians to: deliver quality public services that meet citizens' demands; overcome urban and rural poverty; increase domestic and foreign direct investment; and generate sustainable private sector development that will grow African economies away from aid dependence.
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As Tony Blair's Africa Governance Initiative says, "there is a consensus that Africa's growth and development will be led by Africans themselves… based on two principles, both of which arise from the findings of the 2005 Commission for Africa":
- without progress on governance - particularly the development of effective government systems and visionary political leadership - all other reforms will have limited effect in reducing poverty in Africa; and
- developing a thriving private sector through investment and reform is the only way to create sustainable development that will move Africa beyond aid.
To improve governance, African leaders created an African Peer Review Mechanism in 2003 which 30 countries have joined. The system involves governments, civil society and the private sector, and encourages countries to adopt sound policies, priorities and standards for economic and political development: see Look at How Africa is Changing.
Concerning the EU's link with Africa, details are given in Africa and Europe in Partnership.
But, the term good governance goes beyond national and local politics, and has to be applied at global and corporate levels, (as well as governance in cyberspace).
Global governance is not government but a minimum framework of principles, rules and laws that are necessary to tackle global problems, and which are upheld by international organisations, national governments and other stakeholders.
Concerning global economic governance, "increased multilateralism can lead to increased congestion and contentiousness. The future of the G20, and the form of international cooperation that it represents, will depend on the ability of member nations to massage their differences, in order to strike a balance between the respective interests of the developed and developing worlds": (source - Global economic governance in transition, International Affairs, 3/86, May 2010, Page 617).
With respect to corporate financial governance, this relates to the behaviour of firms and their relationship with capital markets. Naked short-selling and its regulation (if desirable) is an important aspect of governance.
There are different groupings of growth economies: the BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; MIKT - Mexico, Indonesia, (South) Korea and Turkey; and the Next Eleven (N11) - Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam. These countries all have high potential to become the world's largest growing economies in the 21st century. (Goldman Sachs) criteria used to define them include macroeconomic stability, political maturity, openness of trade, investment policies and education quality, as well as country size and demographics. Critical to further global growth is completion of the Doha Round of world trade negotiations. Launched in November 2001 and named the Doha Development Agenda, this round of trade negotiations is broader than past global trade negotiations, and specifically targeted at addressing the needs of developing countries. The focus of negotiations has been on: reforming agricultural subsidies; improving access to global markets; and ensuring that new liberalisation in the global economy respects the need for sustainable economic growth in developing countries. Whilst the successful conclusion of the Doha negotiations would confirm the central role of multilateral liberalisation and rule-making, and confirm the WTO as a powerful shield against protectionist backsliding, the most recent round of negotiations, 23-29 July 2008, broke down after failing to reach a compromise on agricultural import rules. The EU's objectives for the Doha Round are: market access for the industrial goods sector; improvement to, and clarification of, the WTO rulebook on subsides that distort the production of industrial goods; and, for the agriculture sector, an agreement that reforms farm subsidy programmes throughout the rich world in line with the EU's wide-ranging 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
The EU's relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates), and the Council's own website, are given below.
The EU's relations with the world's (main) Hot Spots are outlined below.
There are also Hot Spot organisations that cross borders, such as al-Qaeda, the Taleban, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. Access to the websites of organisations such as these varies, but the material on them can be unpleasant, (if you can upload it). Further information can be found by searching the web under International Terrorist Entities.
The Jamestown Foundation offers an in-depth analysis on al-Qaeda and the war on terror.
An interesting research project being implemented by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment is the Transnational Radical Islamism Project. This currently conducts the following thematic research:
- Radical Islamist networks on the European continent
- Islamist militancy in Saudi Arabia
- Islamist insurgent groups in Iraq and their external links
- The evolution of radical Islamism in Afghanistan and Pakistan
- Al-Qaida’s "Jihadi strategic studies"-literature and the al-Qaida strategist Abu Mus‘ab al-Suri
- Al-Qaida and Jihadi groups on the Internet
- CBRN-manuals on Jihadi websites
- Terrorist threats to critical infrastructure
- Databases and collection of primary sources on radical Islamism
Permanent high oil prices could weaken trade balances, add to inflation, put pressure on central banks to raise interest rates, and derail the global economic recovery. To offset supply disruption, oil can be released from emergency stocks, of which OECD countries hold 1.6bn barrels. Current prices are not yet near the all-time high of US$147.02 for Brent crude (July 2008). Any shortfall on global markets could be offset in principle by increased output from Saudi Arabia.
Credit Suisse has reported that annual world water use has risen sixfold during the past century, more than double the rate of population growth. By 2025, almost two-thirds of the global population will live in countries where water will be a scarce commodity. Some argue that the next World War will be fought over access to water. Asia looks vulnerable, with China possibly syphoning off Tibet's water supply to make up for shortages in the parched north. Elsewhere, the Israel-Palestine conflict is at least partly about securing supplies from the River Jordan. Similarly, water is a major feature of the strife in Sudan that has left Darfur devastated. Please see the following useful articles: