BLOGGING FOREIGN POLICY
One of the most basic logics in international relations (and in life in general) is that many efforts to cooperate will under-produce because the potential participants have a temptation to free ride on the efforts of those with greater motivations. The academic literature has coincided with the policy debates – that in alliances, countries will tend to under-provide which leads to uneven burden-sharing. Historically, Canada has, at times, been seen as a free rider because it has spent less of its gross domestic product on defence than the NATO standard of two percent and less than what the United States would like. Given the extremely uneven burden-sharing in Afghanistan, it is time to revisit this notion even as defence budget cuts across the alliance suggest that there is much free-riding in its future. More …
This question of free-riding may become clearest if Canada seriously faces its submarine problem. One way to deal with the combination of few submarines (with extremely poor operational histories as of late) and three oceans to monitor is to give up on having a submarine capability and rely on the United States. This would seem to be an act of free-riding that the Americans could resent on the basis that the Canadians would not be doing their fair share of keeping the nearby seas secure. The reality is that we are already there – the semi-operational sub is not providing the Americans with much added situational awareness. The Americans, as they always have, are running their submarines through the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans because it is in their interest to do so. The real question is whether the Canadians can make a deal to get the reconnaissance information that the American subs are providing.
This could be seen as free-riding, but Canada is not so much a free rider as a relatively quiet rider. Canada provides a great deal to American security so that the Americans can focus their efforts elsewhere. That the U.S.-Canadian border is undefended should not be taken for granted and actually requires the Canadians to do a great deal of work. The Americans save a great deal of resources not having to position troops or ships to deal with northern threats. The efforts by the Canadians to provide law and order, to be a stable country, is something that should not be taken lightly, especially as the U.S. shifts its attention to the violence engulfing large swaths of Mexico. The mutual trust between the U.S. and Canada over immigration and customs is deep and crucial, even if Congresspeople and Senators still think that the 9/11 terrorists came from up north (nope, they got their visas from American embassies).
For more than half a century, NORAD has meant that Canadians play key roles in the defense of the United States. Canadian planes are often the first to encounter Russian planes voyaging over the Arctic. The Deputy Commander of NORAD is a Canadian, and that officeholder can be put into very important situations, such as commanding all of North American airspace on 9/11. Again, this is not a loud, visible effort that gets heaps of press in Washington, DC, but it makes a difference to American calculations, deployments, and grand strategies (even if the occasional map codes all of North America as U.S. homeland).
Despite these contributions to American defence, contributions that are hardly cost-free, Canadians will continue to be annoyed by the more ignorant Americans who think that Canada is free riding on the American efforts to provide security in the NATO alliance and beyond. The good news is that fewer Americans (although still many since so many watch Fox News) are in this state of ignorance, as they have watched Canadians fight alongside Americans in some of the toughest places in Afghanistan. While Americans do have short memories (I exemplify this American tendency), one of the products of the Afghan mission is to make Canadians a bit louder in NATO and in North America, reminding their southern ally of the contributions Canada made in September 2011 and since then. Afghanistan has not only helped Canada shed the label of free rider (the Germans are now paying the price for their limited effort in Afghanistan and their absence over Libya) but also challenges the notion that Canada is a quiet ally. And it is okay (and probably smart) to remind Americans of Canada’s contributions when they do forget.
After years of neglect, the Canadian government seems to be ratcheting up international cooperation with its Latin American counterparts. The increase in diplomatic overtures is motivated by the promise of forging new trade relationships and enhancing existing ties, but also by the apparent continent-wide consequences of organized crime and drug trafficking. More …
While an “Americas Strategy” was launched in 2007, the government only recently started matching its rhetorical commitments with action. The Foreign Minister has already made two trips to Latin America in 2013, before and after the Prime Minister’s visit in May. As the many press releases on the most recent visit make clear, strengthening regional and thereby hemispheric security – especially support for more law and order – is at the center of Canada’s renewed engagement with the region.
Canada’s ambitions on this front are lofty, but not matched by adequate investment. Since 2009, Canada’s flagship security program – the so-called Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) – has allocated just $15 million a year for all of Latin America and the Caribbean. (It is rather more difficult to determine Canada’s precise development aid portfolio for Latin America.) While paltry, the ACCBP is intended to support the efforts of dozens of governments and NGOs to tackle transnational crime, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, corruption, and police and justice reform. By way of comparison, the United States devoted some $860 million in security assistance to Latin American and Caribbean countries in 2012, the lowest amount in years. Adding in development assistance and American aid rises to over $2.1 billion a year.
As the Canadian government calls for more prosperity and security in Latin America, it would do well to carefully examine the transformations underway south of the United States. Although sharing a hemisphere with Canada, Latin America is more foreign to many Canadians than other parts of the world. When considered at all, it is typically associated with murderous cartels, drug trafficking, and authoritarian leaders. But the truth is that the region is exceedingly diverse and dynamic; most countries have experienced dramatic transformations over the past two decades. Its rapid economic growth, coupled with the declining influence of the United States, is emboldening larger countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico to start solving their own security problems, in their own ways.
There is no denying that the United States still plays a fundamental role in shaping security priorities in Latin America. It is also generally accepted that in spite of the proliferation of regional and sub-regional organizations across the region, the Organization of American States (OAS) remains one of the more capable in influencing debate, including on sensitive security matters. But it is also true that new emerging patterns of international cooperation are privileging South and Central American priorities over those set by North Americans.
A widening number of Latin American countries are especially seized with a new formulation of security, that of “citizen security” – a decidedly homegrown concept. Citizen security emerged in opposition to conventional national security paradigms favored in the past. During the Cold War, more than three quarters of all Latin American countries experienced a decade or more of military rule. Most Central and South American states exhibited national security postures, which emphasized the central place of military and policing institutions. State security organs were routinely deployed to crush opposition movements and soon morphed into mano dura approaches to deal with local crime.
In exchange for confronting communism and the drug cartels, governments received generous assistance from the United States and its allies. However, a wave of democracy from the 1980s onward generated sweeping reforms and more articulated civil societies. In the 1990s, mayors joined with civil society leaders and scholars to demand fundamental changes – they wanted security priorities to be determined from below, and began working to subvert the national security paradigm by calling for more attention to citizen participation and state accountability.
As with most revolutionary ideas, the citizen security project did not immediately catch-on. Conservative international institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank were at first unsure of how to engage with the project’s advocates, conscious of the political connotations of working on delicate security matters. Bilateral government donors were likewise preoccupied about the way citizen security challenged their interests, mandates, and operational guidelines. Not-for profit agencies and foundations such as the Open Society Institute and International Development Research Center, while also initially apprehensive, were more alert to the possibilities for change that the project represented.
Over time, all of these entities came to endorse citizen security, in large part because of pressure from their Latin American counterparts. They also came to see how citizen security represented a merging of hard and soft measures, combining efforts to address gangs, the arms trade, human trafficking, money laundering, and cyber-crime with community policing, judicial reform, youth programs, and other preventive measures.
A shift in the form and function of international cooperation for security has taken place over the past two decades. Owing to the graduation of many countries to middle income status, donors are recalibrating their strategies to emphasize political and trade considerations, as Canada has done. In some cases, as with the European Union, they are reducing the size of their footprint in the region. Meanwhile, most donors are also re-focusing their attention to specific Central and South American countries, where citizen insecurity is especially acute.
The United States and European Union countries are advocating a more balanced approach to citizen security, emphasizing both transnational and local challenges and regional solutions. And while they pursue distinct policies across the Central and South America, they are prepared to invest in more nuanced preventive strategies designed to empower citizens – a stark contrast to the overwhelming focus on the war on drugs.
While confronted with monumental challenges, Latin Americans are in fact setting a new standard for citizen security. The region is at the epicenter of a global debate on drug policy and countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Uruguay are calling for policies emphasizing decriminalization, public health and harm reduction rather than coercion and incarceration. Equally novel, governments across the region are investing in new forms of security cooperation, including training and capacity support for police and judicial personnel as well as exchanges of information and “lessons learned”. Countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico are exporting their citizen security models around the neighborhood. After years of failing to develop a genuinely regional project, Latin America is taking tentative steps to establishing a common security community.
Canada could make an important contribution to advancing the citizen security agenda in Lain America, but only if it ups its game and sheds the traditional, narrow conceptualization of security to which it still clings. Current investments are puny – Canada could expand its influence by developing an Americas Fund, perhaps even a joint trust fund with other like-minded partners in and outside of Latin America, to advance innovative safety and security schemes.
Canada could also refocus its cooperation with a small selection of countries facing acute difficulties, while simultaneously promoting south-south and triangular assistance with countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. Also, the Canadian government could usefully re-examine its own increasingly outdated approach to drug policy. Rather than adopting a narrow focus on supply reduction, Canada should listen carefully to the debate underway in Latin America and identify opportunities for engagement that increase the chances for peace over a war without end.
There is a temptation to think that the interests of the Canadian defence contractors and the preferences of the Canadian Forces always converge, but this is not always the case. The Conservative government has become a big fan of defence “industrial” policy, where the defence procurement decisions are driven in part by what is best for Canadian firms and job creation at home. The Canadian Forces are not entirely thrilled with this. Why? Basic economics and simple math. The economics is all about competition and economies of scale, leading to higher production costs. The basic math is this: if the Canadian Forces have to buy more expensive kit, then they will have to buy less or cut spending elsewhere. This is all exacerbated by the Harper government’s austerity campaign. Let me explain. More …
Whenever governments limit choices of where equipment can be produced, they are, by definition, reducing competition. The defence sector already has enough problems with getting sufficient competition to lead to higher quality/less expensive equipment, but if you tilt the competition towards domestic producers, there will be less pressure to reduce costs. To be clear, if Canadian producers were already producing the least expensive, high quality material, there would be no need for the government to favor domestic producers. They would win in the competition. But because they would otherwise lose, favoring them means buying more expensive stuff.
A key challenge facing the Canadian defence industry is economies of scale—most of their competitors in the world serve larger markets. As they produce and sell greater numbers of planes, ships, radar systems, whatever, the costs of the initial research and development per unit go down. Defence systems tend to have very expensive startup costs, so economies of scale are particularly important in this sector. Canada has a small military, so it will always be a limited market for Canadian producers. Sure, some Canadian companies do well in international competition, which means that they can compete well at home. But many do not, and have not.
The best/worst example of this is ship-building. The effort to re-capitalize the Royal Canadian Navy by building ships in Vancouver and Halifax is mighty good for those shipyards, but is awful from a budgetary standpoint. There are other countries that could have sold Canada more capable, less expensive ships than what the Canadian shipyards will eventually produce. Sure, the ship-building competition within Canada was lauded at the time for being fairly systematic, but it was gamed—the competition was only among Canadian shipyards. Sure, the RCN learned not to buy used ships from the British due to the sub fiasco, but there are companies beyond Canadian shores that could provide excellent ships sooner and for less.
Why? Because Canada is making a huge mistake—it is turning defence contracting into an exercise in domestic job creation. Ask the Americans what happens when procurement is guided by job creation pressures. You end up getting more than you want and less than you need. Congress often forces the U.S. military to buy equipment it does not want, because such programs employ Americans. This makes it very, very hard to kill under-performing programs. The advantage Canada has over the U.S. is party discipline, which means that prime ministers are not beholden to individual members of parliament as they shape defence procurement policy. But once you really emphasize the job creation part of defence procurement, the more politicized subsequent decisions will be. What makes sense for the Harper government in the short-term, winning in 2015, is going to be very damaging to Canadian politics and to defence contracting in the long run. The procurement system is already broken—turning it into industrial policy will only make things worse.
All defence procurement decisions are, of course, political. All government decisions are political. But playing favorites in defence procurement now will give today’s winners more incentive to pressure tomorrow’s politicians, and today’s losers will have to up their game in trying to exert influence the next time.
Coming back to the present day, this is the worst time to be engaging in industrial policy. If there was flexibility in the budget, if the Canadian government was spending more money rather than cutting back, then the government could afford the luxury of buying Canadian. But we live in a time of austerity (well, government-induced austerity), so the government wants to cut military spending. Which means now is the time when the military can least afford procurement as industrial policy.
Thus, while we often think of the military-industrial complex as a single entity pushing in the same direction, it is very clear why the Canadian Forces and Canadian defence contractors do not see eye to eye on spending defence dollars in Canada to subsidize some companies and win some votes.
The paralysis over Syria is yet another sign of the dysfunction within the United Nation’s Security Council. The Council is supposed to prevent large-scale violence and occasionally sanctions military action to do precisely that. The fact that the decision for making this call is limited to just five of its members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – is an historical anachronism. It reflects a division of power agreed at the end of the Second World War that no longer accords with reality. And while diplomats from the other 188 members of the United Nations grumble away, no one seems to know how to break the deadlock. More …
There are countless reasons why the Security Council needs reforming. One of the more compelling is that its lack of meaningful representation undermines its legitimacy. Take the case of peace support operations. Peace-keeping mandates intended for the so-called “global south” are drafted by a Council that unashamedly excludes the vast majority of troop-contributing countries and mission-hosting states. Not surprisingly, governments and civil societies at the sharp end of these missions – especially in Africa, the Americas and Asia – are demanding a greater say in decisions that affect them. Questions of international peace and security are frankly too important to be decided by five countries alone.
Reform is a life and death issue for many civilians around the world. This is because the Security Council is the primary arbitrator of international peace and security, including sensitive questions related to the use, and limits, of force. In some cases the Security Council is side-stepped altogether by its permanent members. The bombing campaign in Kosovo during the late 1990s was conducted without United Nations approval. More controversially, in spite of much arm-twisting, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was launched without authorization by the Council. Even former Secretary General Kofi Annan later declared it illegal.
Yet many more forceful interventions in the world’s hot spots were sanctioned with the imprimatur of the Security Council. The United Nations has approved at least 68 peace-keeping operations since the late 1940s. Almost 100,000 peace-keepers are currently deployed around the world trying, often in unimaginably harsh conditions, to keep the peace. They do so impartially, on the basis of consent of the parties, and with clear proscriptions over the use of force. Even so, certain decisions of the Council continue to be controversial, confirming anxieties about its lack of representation and potential for abuse.
For example, the Council mandated NATO-led operations in Libya starting in March 2011, ostensibly to protect civilians at risk of being killed by President Muammar Gaddafi’s forces. Some UN member states, Brazil among them, felt that the Libyan mission went far beyond its mandate to “protect civilians” and amounted instead to regime change. During the negotiations in the weeks before the campaign, permanent and non-permanent members of the Council – Brazil, China, Germany, India, and Russia – abstained from the resolution authorizing force. Brazil went one step further in September 2011 calling for “responsibility while protecting.” The effect of Brazil’s proposal on many other United Nations member states was electric. In demanding more checks and balances over peace operations, Brazilian diplomats were trying to resolve the age-old question: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”
At the center of Brazil’s proposal is a call for greater accountability over Security Council decisions and the tightening up of oversight over missions once they are agreed. While a welcome contribution to the discussion, it is not entirely without precedent. In fact, it builds on an earlier construct – the so-called responsibility to protect (R2P) – floated more than a decade ago by a Canadian-led international commission on intervention and state sovereignty. The R2P concept highlights the duty, the responsibility, for states to intervene – including with the possible resort to force – in extreme cases involving genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
So, what more can countries like Brazil do to press the case for Security Council reform? A new publication coming out on World Humanitarian Day on 19 August by the Igarapé Institute and the Brazilian Center for International Relations outlines a few possibilities. Rather than walking away from it, Brazil should double down on the responsibility while protecting concept. Brazil could set up an independent committee to review and clarify the United Nation’s humanitarian and human rights-related responsibilities in the wake of intervention. It could propose constructive ways to bridge the accountability deficit that so often emerges after blue helmets are deployed to societies wrecked by conflict. Instead of shouting from the sidelines, Brazil and its allies can set out a positive vision for reform with concrete guidance for how the international architecture can be fixed for the better.
This piece was coauthored with Conor Foley, a humanitarian aid worker based in Brasilia, and first appeared in the Huffington Post.
Egypt’s military leadership is playing with fire. During a televised cadet graduation ceremony on Wednesday, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for Egyptians to return to the streets to show that they back the military and its mandate to confront “violence and potential terrorism.” More …
Implicit in Sisi’s call is the military’s hope that such a show of public support will effectively counter continued protests by pro-Morsi supporters and strengthen the secular opposition. He also chose to explicitly encourage the idea of “national resistance” against terrorism. The military has been pushing this idea with increasing fervor since the coup, and it’s clear which “terrorists” they have in mind: the members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood that are refusing to accept Morsi’s removal from power. The military is leading the charge to vilify and de facto criminalize the Brotherhood, ensuring that all Muslim Brotherhood media outlets have been banned and filling the airwaves with patriotic calls to stamp out “terrorist elements.”
How successful this campaign has been will be more apparent on Friday, but the past few weeks have made clear that many Egyptians are relieved to see the marginalization of the Brotherhood, even if the price was the marginalization of the democratic process. But Brotherhood supporters, having won several general elections and a constitutional referendum, will not surrender their stance easily. Sisi evidently recognizes this. Brotherhood supporters feel like their rightful chance to rule has been denied, and that they were sacrificed to facilitate the return to power of the corrupt elites of the Mubarak-era. Real or not, this sense of betrayal is fueling a defiant mix of protests and rioting, and more violence seems inevitable.
The military coup has left 100 dead already. Many of those deaths are the work of illusive thugs in plain clothes, including a 17 year-old girl and Morsi supporter who died recently at the hands of a gang in the town of Mansourra. A security building was bombed in Mansourra a few days later in what’s believed to be a retaliatory attack. Protests and clashes typically happen at night when its cooler and protestors and thugs can break their fasts. Doing their utmost to keep their hands clean, both the military and police are often nowhere to be found when the violence breaks out in dark streets.
In the eyes of Brotherhood supporters, the military and police are complicit in the death of their supporters; their calculated absence has done little to conceal their position on the political standoff. General Sisi too has tried to stay out of the media limelight since the coup in an attempt to convince the world that the transition to civilian rule is underway. But now, the jig is up. Sisi made his commitment to keeping a tight grip on the political process plain when he asked Egyptians to ‘”show the world” that he and the military have the mandate to govern.
Sisi is clearly feeling the heat of the international community for overthrowing a democratically elected government. But to respond with a call for protests to be matched by more protests is hardly the strategy of a man who truly wants “national reconciliation” unless it is on his terms, and it could put the lives of thousands of Egyptians at risk. Whatever Egyptians want politically, they don’t want the current violence and chaos to continue or worsen, which is exactly what Sisi invited with his Wednesday speech. The coming days in Egypt will be violent and unsettling to watch.
The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, made news when he informed Congress of the options facing the U.S. for addressing the Syrian civil war. He did not cite my definition of the Mideast as the Land of Lousy Alternatives or my argument that saving Syria will take a super-hero or ten. Instead, he went through the various options, enumerating their costs. In a time of austerity and sequestration, merely specifying the potential budgetary impact of military action in another Mideast conflict is probably sufficient to kill the intervention ambitions of most (although Senator Lindsey Graham seems impervious to this type of thinking), The military’s conclusion that the Syrian situation really does present few alternatives for outsiders to make a difference is important on its own, but it’s also significant for what it tells us about the U.S. military’s current outlook on intervening in civil wars generally, and civil-military relations in the U.S. More …
Dempsey wrote this letter to Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, in the aftermath of his confirmation hearings (for a second term as Chairman) to explain the stance he took at the hearings. He went through the options:
- Train, advise and assist the opposition
- Conduct limited missile strikes
- Set up a no-fly zone
- Establish buffer zones, most likely across the borders with Turkey or Jordan
- Take control of Mr. Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile (NYT)
Dempsey pointed out the costs of each option, but also that “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.” In other words, none of these would lead to a rebel victory; any first step would probably require additional steps. This is not the “Powell” doctrine of only fighting conventional wars with popular support against feeble opposition but rather the informed experience after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya that regime change is a pretty difficult exercise that has not just costs but heaps of consequences.
A few words on each option. Training and equipping the opposition did work in the case of Croatia in that it helped tip the balance in Bosnia, but the general circumstances in the Syria case are not the same – the opposition here is fragmented and includes many actors that are very hostile to the U.S. Limited missile strikes are just that: limited. They might make folks in the U.S. feel good, but they will not change the circumstances on the ground in any appreciable way. A no-fly zone would only have a marginal impact because Assad, like Hussein of 1990s Iraq, has plenty of repressive capacity on the ground. Buffer zones are a nice idea but so were the “safe havens” in Bosnia that became killing fields. Finally the effort to get Assad’s chemical weapons would require a war. So, even if one does not think of the costs and consequences, the tool box is largely empty of tools that would make a significant difference.
The second “revelation” in this letter is that the U.S. military is not chomping at the bit. The reality is that the U.S. military has never been a big fan of intervening in civil wars–its leadership pushed hard against intervention in Bosnia. People like to think of American soldiers as Rambos looking for some place to do some killing, but they knew before Afghanistan and Iraq – and they know much better now – that getting involved in other people’s civil wars is not only bloody, it is also incredibly hard to be successful. Even if Assad’s government was taken out, the conflict would not be over. Whatever arrogance existed in 2003 about the day after “victory” is gone now. State-building is a very hard business that the U.S. military would like to get out of. I do believe that Dempsey’s opposition here is far more informed and nuanced than Powell’s in the early 1990’s, but that really does not matter too much. What matters here is that the forces for intervention do not have an ally in the U.S. military. Sorry, John McCain, but it looks like you will have to intervene on your own.
The third part of this story is how incredibly healthy American civil-military relations can be at times. Sure, you have a fairly passionate set of hearings for the re-confirmation of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but what happens? The relevant body in the legislature, the Senate, gets to ask some pesky questions and put the Chairman’s feet to the fire. The Chairman provides additional information to the committee to reflect his thinking about the advice he is going to give to the President. As a result, he has a better understanding of what the senators are thinking, and the senators have a better idea of what the Chairman is thinking. Better understanding does not necessarily lead to happiness and singing kumbaya, but it fosters better oversight. The key point here is that the process (aside from the holds that some senators may place on a nomination) works. The public is now better informed about the reluctance of the administration to intervene in Syria.
Not all countries have legislative processes that provide greater transparency about what the military’s stance is on key questions of the day, or that equip legislators with the tools they need to conduct oversight. The American process is hardly perfect, but we should take note when U.S. political institutions work as they were designed to do. It should not be so exceptional either in the current American context or in the comparative context. Yet it is.
One of the foremost challenges Christian Paradis faces in his new role as Canada’s minister of international development is the need for better accountability structures across the complex patchwork of global development actors.
This is a hot topic in the international debates on what post-2015 framework should follow the Millennium Development Goals that have guided global anti-poverty efforts since 2000. Local governments, donor governments, private companies, civil society organizations, international agencies and philanthropists all have a role to play. But even when all sides share common goals, there needs to be a clear way to track responsibilities over time. More …
Nowhere is this more relevant than Mozambique, one of 20 focus countries in Canada’s current international assistance strategy. The country’s history is complex. Having suffered a brutal civil war from 1977 to 1992, it has since seen major progress on many fronts. Over the past decade alone, average per capita incomes grew more than 50 per cent while child mortality declined nearly 40 per cent, backed significantly by external aid. The country’s natural resource industry is booming, and mining companies, including Canadian firms, are investing hugely in local production. However, the progress builds from an incredibly low starting point. Mozambique still ranks 185th out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index. One in 10 children still don’t live to see their fifth birthday, and more than half of the population still lives on less than $1.25 per day, according to the latest available data.
In May I visited Maputo, the national capital. On a Friday night I was riding in the passenger seat as my friend Erik Charas drove me back to my hotel following dinner and a concert. Erik is a highly respected local entrepreneur, best known as the founding publisher of Verdade, Mozambique’s most widely read newspaper. It is distributed for free, guided by a simple mission of empowering local citizens with the tool of public information. Erik is a former mentee of Graça Machel and is also an accomplished social entrepreneur. His latest business venture introducing affordable, working-class apartments is popular enough to garner strangers’ unsolicited purchase offers when he strolls through public cafés.
A couple of weeks before my visit, Erik was detained overnight by police for not paying a bribe at an informal roadside check point. Given his profile and sophisticated knowledge of the law, the issue was picked up by local media and generated significant public attention. Erik was confident that the detention was illegal, and so asked for a proper written record of it at the police station. By the time I arrived, the legal proceedings had not yet started to churn in any direction.
Against that backdrop, I was not entirely surprised when two police officers wearing military-style greens and machine guns pulled Erik and me over as we were driving. However, I was surprised when the lead officer recognized Erik’s face and dejectedly waved us on, clearly wanting to avoid a public debacle. Even more remarkable was that we were pulled over again a second time by different police only a few minutes later, just outside my hotel. But this time the police didn’t recognize Erik and so an apparent shakedown sequence began. I don’t speak Portuguese, but I understood enough to know that Erik was declining the officer’s instructions. Agitation grew quickly until I heard the officer cock his machine gun. Erik simply drove away mid-sentence, in defiance of the threat.
Sadly, police intimidation is not uncommon in much of the world, but this was a shockingly crass breakdown of public institutions in the middle of what is otherwise a peaceful tourist zone. Locals later told me the problem in Maputo is recent and growing, a new fact of life for nighttime driving.
The obvious question is, who should be held accountable? The answer, alas, is less simple. I am not an expert on Mozambique, but this type of problem probably results from multiple factors. Part of it is likely driven by extremely low wages for front-line police officers, who feel compelled to supplement their incomes amidst a rising cost of living. Part of it is likely driven by the strain of highly visible inequalities, with the natural resource boom boosting elites’ incomes while rising prices eat away at others’ stagnant paycheques.
Part of the problem is by definition a breakdown in the discipline of public institutions. But many level-headed locals believe this to be a byproduct of a structurally flawed relationship between the national government and foreign companies. There is a broad concern that the natural resource contracts are providing huge returns for foreign investors and the politicians, but not much for local Mozambicans. And once the contracts are set, even when highly flawed, they are typically in place for decades, with no recourse for Mozambicans to cry foul and renegotiate. The rule of law protects bad contracts, even if it does not prevent them.
Such difficult situations need multi-pronged solutions. Canada should not meddle in other countries’ politics, but it should support local development and democratic processes while enforcing the highest standards for its own companies. On one side, aid budgets can continue to support targeted service-delivery initiatives, like the health programs that have been hugely successful all around Africa. They can also help to ensure local civil servants’ wages are properly indexed, especially when foreign industries are pushing up the cost of living. And they can support, with no strings attached, local think-tanks that promote transparency in public debates and critical evaluations of public finances.
At the same time, new ground rules are needed for extractive industries themselves. Firms that make or facilitate bribes of course need to be punished, but that sets too low a bar. Although companies should not be expected to play the role of governments, some form of global “fair share” principle is probably required as a minimum percentage of profits that always stays within a host country. Cash transfers could be sent directly to citizens through modern banking technology, as World Bank researchers have recently suggested. Companies could support specific job training and co-op programs as a standard portion of their revenues. They could also commit a common portion to local think-tanks that promote public debate.
As a major player in natural resources, Canada has a responsibility to tackle these global issues. In 2010, the Harper government helped introduce the important G8 accountability report that tracks progress on government commitments. Amidst the shifting weight of responsibilities in the global economy, post-2015 accountability needs to incorporate the private sector too. The Canadian government should work closely with Australian counterparts to propose a draft in time for the November 2014 Brisbane G20 summit. Minister Paradis’ previous portfolio at Natural Resources positions him well to play a key role. If he can bring industry and policy leaders together to create higher explicit performance standards on all sides, Canada can be at the forefront in defining new notions of accountability. In Mozambique and all the other emerging resource exporters, countless citizens will be grateful.
This article first appeared in the Ottawa Citizen
Time is running out for Canada to complete a free trade agreement with the European Union.
The most plausible scenario is that a deal will still be made, but several deadlines for completion have already been missed and an alternate scenario could come to pass. Whatever the outcome, it will likely have a domino effect on the rest of Canada’s trade agenda – and, in turn, on the living standards of current and future generations of Canadians. More …
Scenario #1 (70% chance): A comprehensive Canada-EU trade deal is signed.
Canada-EU negotiations are in their final stages. This week, the EU’s top diplomat in Ottawa Matthias Brinkmann said the deal was down to “fine tuning in the final stretch”. So the odds are good that the deal will be made. If it is not signed before the end of summer, it could be signed later in the year or, as Brinkmann is now signaling, in 2014.
Under this scenario, Canada would gain freer access to 28 countries with a combined economy of more than $17 trillion – larger than the U.S. market. In addition to selling goods and services in the EU market, Canadian companies could invest to serve both Europe and other markets from a European base. Canadians would benefit from having freer access to the best European technologies, goods, services, and agricultural products. Europe would, in turn, benefit from access to the Canadian market and a platform to enter the United States.
An agreement with the EU also signals to other potential trade partners that it is worth putting in the effort to negotiate comprehensive deals with Canada. This could lend momentum to Canada’s other trade negotiations, including bilateral talks with India and Japan, the new 21 country international services agreement negotiations, and the 10-country Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.
Scenario #2 (30% chance): No Canada-EU deal gets signed.
Under this scenario, negotiators are not able to work out their differences on some of the toughest, most controversial issues (such as Canada’s access to the EU market for beef and access to each other’s government procurement markets – a key EU demand).
It is unlikely that a narrower deal that leaves out the most controversial issues will come to pass. The Europeans said from the outset that they wanted a comprehensive agreement, or none at all. Both parties want their special “offensive” interests addressed, and the negotiation is about trade-offs. So if there’s no big deal, there’s no deal.
Under a no-deal scenario, the negotiations are unlikely to be officially closed. But negotiators could simply stop scheduling negotiating rounds.
A no-deal scenario would be bad economic news for Canada, whose trade volumes flat-lined over the past decade. Canadian companies need new markets if they are to grow – and in turn bolster Canadians’ living standards.
This is a very real possibility. In addition to missed deadlines for a final agreement, there is now a much bigger prize on offer for Europe. The first round of U.S.-EU free trade talks last week threatens to put the Canada-EU project on the backburner. It is no secret that freer access to the U.S. market would offer the EU a much bigger economic boost than would access to Canada. EU trade negotiators will prioritize that deal, especially after EU-US negotiations kick into high gear in the fall.
If the U.S. gets a deal with the EU but Canada does not, our companies will be at a disadvantage in the EU market where they will face higher barriers than American businesses. And several other major economies already have or are negotiating deals with the EU. So Canada’s companies could be at a disadvantage relative to many major economies.
In addition, this could make it harder to sign other trade deals, such as those with fast-growing markets or in important new areas such as services. Why take negotiations with Canada seriously if we haven’t been able to complete a major trade deal since the Canada-U.S. deal in the 1980s?
Under a no-deal scenario, Canada may need to consider whether and how to attach itself to the EU-U.S. talks. And if a no-deal scenario is a real possibility, we should have that discussion now rather than years into the EU-U.S. negotiations. Being at the table for those talks might at least give Canadians the same access the Americans will get in the EU market.
With a small domestic market, Canada depends on global opportunities – such as those on offer in the EU – to bolster our citizens’ living standards. In short, a lot is at stake here for Canada, and the clock is ticking.
With the cabinet shuffle finally announced (via Twitter!), it is time for the new officials to come up with to-do lists and not just lists of potential adversaries. So, what should the new Minister of National Defence, Rob Nicholson, focus on? Given that the key theme of the next few years will be where to cut the budget more so than where to deploy the Canadian Forces, here is a list of a few key priorities and some suggestions: More …
- The F-35 decision is still up in the air (sorry), with the committee continuing to study the issue and then make recommendations. This one decision will greatly influence the future of the Canadian Forces, because whatever plane is purchased will define the Canadian air capability for thirty years or so, and because how the F-35 impasse gets resolved will influence the military procurement process going forward. The minister should be preparing for the implications of an F-35 decision that could reflect the impact of opposition within Parliament, demonstrate a serious re-thinking of what Canada needs an air force for (expeditions or defence), herald a change in how Canada procures its weapon systems, or some combination thereof.
- The ship procurement process, which involved a competition among shipyards, was viewed as more sensible but it is looking less promising now. Reports of incredibly expensive designs suggest that the ships will follow the F-35 path of spiraling costs for dubious improvements in capabilities. While there is greater pressure to view procurement as industrial policy—to spend on Canadian-made weapons systems to buttress Canadian companies—the new Minister might want to look around the world and see what other governments are getting for their money. The answer, when it comes to ships, is a politically painful one: importing ships costs far, far less than building them at home. A strong Minister of National Defence should fight with the other cabinet officers to make sure we’re getting the most bang for each buck we spend, even if that means not supporting Canadian industry. It is the Prime Minister’s job to manage that tradeoff; the Defence Minister’s job is to advocate for what is best for Canadian defence (although to be clear—not what the military wants but what is best for the country’s security).
- Speaking of ships, it is time to make a real decision on the submarine program. Each progress report seems to suggest one step forward and two steps back. Given the budgetary pressures, it is time to, well, cut bait and move on. Yes, this leaves Canada with a significant gap, but the gap is going to exist anyway, whether large amounts of money are spent on the broken subs or not. Just as Canada relies heavily on the United States in other defence areas, Canada will need to rely on American sub-surface capabilities.
- The new Minister will have to confront a basic reality about the size of the force: if you are going to cut budgets, holding onto a symbolic number is unhelpful. Cutting the overall size of the force is a smarter way to cut the military’s budget than keeping the number but gutting operations, training and maintenance. If the army is not going to be sent overseas anytime in the near future, it might make sense to cut the number of fusiliers, bombardiers, sappers, and others somewhat rather than keep the same number of people but limit how much they can exercise.
The new Minister of National Defence will have to face this reality head on. With a relatively static defence budget, escalating personnel costs, and weapons programs that are ever more expensive, choices will have to be made. I’ve suggested a few key areas, but there is more to consider. Perhaps to guide these decisions, Nicholson should figure out what Canada’s military is for, and what Canada’s national security strategy really is. Determining the threats to Canada and the capabilities country needs to counter these threats will help the Minister make the hard choices.
While appointing a new Minister of National Defence is an opportunity to re-think many important questions, all decisions are really in the hands of the Prime Minister and his office. So, while we might see a different style from the new Minister of National Defence, I actually expect more of the same in terms of policies, because of deeply rooted denial that hard choices need to be made. Neither the Harper government nor the Canadian Forces seem ready to face the tradeoff music. The ideas of the past—the budget can be managed by focusing on administration and not on the big programs, the force can stay the same size yet have less money, domestic production will not cost too much, and so on—are likely to guide the near-term future of the Canadian Forces, even if there is a new guy at the top of the chain of command. Again, this is a chance to re-consider and re-focus, but the political forces in play suggest that this will be an opportunity missed.
I am pleased that Deepak Ohbrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has responded to my recent writing on Canada’s lackluster approach to digital diplomacy. He highlights Ottawa’s support for the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran as “a perfect example of our government’s commitment to using social media as a means of speaking directly with people around the world.” More …
I agree with him – but only to a point. In my report, “The Digital Diplomacy Revolution,” I acknowledged that the Global Dialogue is “an important and innovative step forward,” but I also noted that it is an exception. To date, Canada has been digital diplomacy laggard. Our closest allies, the United States and Britain, use these tools extensively, whereas Canada has largely sat on the sidelines of the digital diplomacy revolution.
Mr. Ohbrai seems to be unaware of how far Canada is lagging behind. Because our embassies and ambassadors have a minimal presence in social media networks, Canada’s voice is largely absent from the fastest-growing arena of public diplomacy.
Nor does Mr. Ohbrai appear to have a clear grasp of his government’s approach to digital diplomacy. He writes: “Our government is taking an approach that is broad enough to account for the unlimited potential of ‘digital diplomacy,’ yet specific enough in the values it purports.” Do you understand what that means?
Here is the nub of the problem: The Conservative government has imposed extraordinarily strict controls on the public communications of its diplomats and other officials. These rules prevent the effective use of social media for diplomacy. They make it virtually impossible for Canadian ambassadors to speak in public, including on social media, without seeking prior approval from a centralized communications-vetting system in Ottawa.
Britain’s approach, by contrast, is to trust its ambassadors to craft their messages and to select appropriate channels of communications. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office calls this “presumed competence” – British ambassadors are assumed to have the knowledge and skill to determine when and how to speak in public.
Canada should move towards this approach. It is not possible to pursue digital diplomacy effectively unless Canadian diplomats, and particularly our ambassadors, are permitted to communicate in “real time” without seeking prior approval from Ottawa.
Nor is there any time to lose. The structure of international affairs is changing: power is diffusing not only from rich to rising countries, but also from states to non-state actors and individuals – and, more generally, from hierarchies to decentralized networks. To operate successfully in a world of increasingly fragmented and diffused power, foreign ministries will need to master the art of cultivating and managing diverse networks of public and private actors. Social media are critical to this task.
This post originally appeared on the CIPSBlog.