GOFAD out of an abundance of caution in interpreting the myriad of conflicting information, steered clear of the echo chamber of ‘self styled experts’ and ‘media huskers and hustlers’ that may be capitalizing on the political storm on the eve of the Guyana’s General Elections on March 2, 2020. It advocated that discussions on the way forward needs to place the objectives of the National Resource Fund (Sovereign Wealth Fund) Act in the broader context of Guyana's sustainable development. These include:
Interrelations of Government Take
Clive Thomas in an insightful article in the Guyana’s Sunday Stabroek News (February 16, 2019 p.13) referred to the debate on the Guyana 'Government’s Take' of the impending oil bonanza as disappointingly “more noise and nonsense". He points out that the arguments in the debate generally fail to recognize the technical component and the challenges of measuring ‘Government Take’ which is a price “determined by forces of demand and supply in an economic market worldwide.” He illustrates that the owners of the supply of petroleum acreage negotiate the fiscal terms and other conditions for granting permission to explore and that these fiscal terms and conditions include bonuses, rentals, royalties and production sharing agreements (PSAs). They also include investment incentives and the price the investor must pay to explore and develop the acreage.
Rystad Energy, an independent oil and gas consultancy service provides a comparison of total government take from several upstream projects in selected countries and shows that Guyana with 60% compares favourably with Brazil 63% and Suriname 65% and is higher than USA 57% and Israel 55%. But Thomas cautions that Guyana’s fiscal terms differ from those of other countries “irrespective of the competitiveness of these terms”. The significant lesson from Thomas’ analysis is that the fiscal terms are certain to be adjusted in time, since Guyana’s PSA is a dynamic document open to change and improvement.
Greater focus on the Context of the Negotiations
At the same time, a comment by Professor Havelock Brewster provides a sanguine interpretation of the context of Guyana’s negotiation with Exxon. He is of the view that the Guyana Government and its advisers had little or no access to insider information, nor the capacity to verify any of the crucial variables such as the amount of capital and start up cost; or the amount of output, operational cost, pricing and revenue. This is a true reflection of the adage ‘the devil is in the detail’. His view is that Guyana was treading in circumstances of ‘the unknown’. In this regard, the view from The Global Witness report that Guyana could have secured a much better percentage of “revenue”, more in line with that of other oil producing countries, needs further scrutiny. Brewster points out that consideration must be given to both the prevailing internal political issues, and the international issues. He concludes that this brings to the fore the nexus of concerns about Exxon negotiating strategy and leverage, the ongoing International Court case on the Venezuelan claim, Guaido’s close relationship with the US President, with strong support coming from both the Republican and Democratic Parties, emboldening Guaido ‘s claim that the oil belongs to Venezuela, and the effect of Russia’s and China’s backing of Maduro and the US stance on Venezuela vs Guyana. “All this must create considerable uncertainty, and political limits to driving too hard a bargain with Exxon. To put it simply, there must be, in such circumstances, a leaning towards locking in the deal, even at some cost, going for the bird in the hand rather the bird in the bush”. He goes further by indicating that the gamble could be obtaining the ideal or ending up with zero and states that “no other oil producing country, to my knowledge, has faced this kind of one-sided uncertainty in negotiating with Exxon”.
Charting the Way Forward
As Guyana moves forward with securing its best interest, it is estimated that it will realize US$165billion over the life of the present contract with Exxon. How it utilizes the oil bonanza to benefit the Guyanese people will be further explored. As a starter it will depend on the following:
These contending tendencies could have wider and long lasting implications. CARICOM member states may yet find themselves with a fragmented rather than a cohesive foreign policy. And this will not augur well, neither for Guyana nor CARICOM.
As Guyana continues to increase its oil lift at an estimate of one million barrels by the end March 2020, there is much debate on how Guyanese will benefit. The persistent questions being raised, include whether the negotiations with Exxon Mobil brokered a favorable deal for Guyana or if it squandered the patrimony of the Guyanese people to Exxon Mobil, Hess and the other international conglomerates involved in the exploration and eventual oil lift .
The current political climate in the lead up to the General elections on March 2 continues to fuel the debate with conflicting information and claims by the contending political parties. The main opposition groups are advocating what is best represented in an advertisement in the local newspapers that the government is culpable and incompetent for “selling property (oil) without knowing its value.” This view is complemented by a report, Signed Away issued by Global Witness, an International NGO, and published February 7. The Report concludes that by the terms of the negotiation with Exxon Mobil, Guyana stands to lose US$55 Billion over 40 years. In 2011, Global Witness exposed a US$ 1.1B bribe by Shell Limited with respect to Nigeria Oil exploration, implicating that country’s Minister of Natural Resources.
The Guyana Government on the other hand has contested this and other statements as false and misleading. It has launched a publication , GUYANA PUBIC SECTOR LOCAL CONTENT POLICY on February 10, 2020 by the Department of Energy in the office of the President. In essence, local content is recognized to be the sum of input of local goods and services including employment across the oil and gas value chain. It also establishes the benefits that are predicted to accrue for investments of the revenues from oil in education, health, infrastructure etc. It points to the fact that Guyanese suppliers have been sensitized to the available opportunities and that provision is made for Guyanese public awareness of the actual plans for the management of the resources from oil. Allied announcements of significance from the Department of Energy are that :
Subsequently, Exxon explained that royalty is based on participation at no cost to Guyana whereas working interest pays its share of costs to explore and develop the project. According to its statement, Exxon advanced all of Guyana’s share of the cost and Exxon would have borne the entire loss if they did not find oil: “from day 1 , Guyana receives 14.5% of the project cash flow. Then after Exxon recovers the cash it advanced to Guyana, Guyana’s cash flow leaps to 37% more for a total 52 % advantage. The opinions of Open Oil, Global Witness and the IMF are far less positive about the deal. These divergent perspectives require closer investigation, beyond the ability of GOFAD, under the present circumstances requiring the verification of conflicting information.
The National Resource Fund : Transparency and Accountability
However, there are important developments intended to enhance transparency and accountability. First, is the setting up of the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) commonly referred to as a Sovereign Wealth Fund. Second is the establishment of a Public Accountability and oversight Committee (POAC). According the Act, the POAC will comprise 22 members, independent of political affiliation and representing the community interest. It will be responsible for increasing public awareness through disseminating evidenced based information and active public engagement. The POAC will be charged with the responsibility of promoting short, medium and long term priorities for use of the resources from Oil, consistent with the Act establishing the National Resource Fund.
The establishment of the POAC is a recognition that in today’s world, for public policy to be effective, it can no longer be the preserve of state actors or limited to the notion of public-private partnership. Non-state actors – NGOs, civil society, corporations, think tanks, influential personalities, the media, faith-based organizations, youth etc. — play an increasingly influential role in the decision making including the conduct of diplomacy and international relations. It is therefore expedient that they be tapped as supportive advocates. In this regard, the University of Guyana Energy Think Tank (UGETT) is an important initiative to accelerate the working links between Civil Society and academia working in this cutting edge area, critical to Guyana’s sustainable development. UGETT has already been engaged in fostering an understanding of the issues related to the NRF and established in the NDF Act. See https://finance.gov.gy/publications/guyana-natural-resources-fund-bill-2018-2/
The NRF Act specifically refers to compliance and management of the fund with respect to good governance and international best practices, including the Santiago Principles. In this regard the Chilean Sovereign Wealth funds established since 2006 is a commitment transparency. It ensures access by the public to relevant activity through an exclusive website that publishes information on all the fund’s monthly, quarterly and annual reports; and the legislation pertaining to the funds at the recommendation of the Financial Committee in its annual reports. In Guyana’s Fund, the Bank of Guyana is responsible for the operational management of the fund which is authorized to expend one third on development programmes and an untouchable two-thirds to the NRF for the future. But, there are several outstanding elements of the Act still to be fulfilled, no doubt stymied by the pending elections on March 2. They include the actual appointment of members of the PAOC, Budget of the PAOC and renumeration of the members PAOC.
The POAC and Think Tanks such as UGETT therefore play a vital role and can together serve Guyana’s interests best, if, in addition, they focus their discussions on building capacity for monitoring and evaluation, highlight anti-corruption policies, promote lessons learned from the experiences of other oil and gas ventures especially in developed countries that help to avert looming outcomes such as the ‘Dutch Disease’
The Way Forward: Broader Strategic Issues of Sustainable Development
The discussion on the way forward needs to place the objectives of the NRF Act in the broader Guyana's sustainable development in the context of the Caribbean Community. These include:
[Today] we published a new book, “Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump’s War on the World’s Most Powerful Office.” It reflects nearly four years of thinking about the interaction of President Trump’s personality and the powers of the office he holds; thinking that has evolved as we have witnessed the ways in which the man and the office have coexisted and clashed. We think it is genuinely different from other works in the growing literature on President Trump and hope you will find it valuable.
The core argument we advance is that Trump—though not a political theorist by any means—is proposing a revision to a broadly shared understanding of the American presidency. This may seem to give too much credit to an administration that often appears to function more as an impulse control disorder than under any rational theory of governance. We argue, however, that behind all Trump’s violations of the norms of the presidency is an actual vision of the presidency—if only an inchoate vision that Trump himself might be unable to articulate. This vision, we argue, is radically different from the assumptions of the traditional presidency.
“Unmaking the Presidency” is an attempt to take this vision of the presidency seriously: to describe it in detail, to study how it manifests across a range of presidential powers, and ultimately to defend the traditional presidency from Trump’s proposed revision of the institution.
What is Trump’s vision? As we say in the book’s introduction: Most of all, Trump proposes a presidency that elevates the expressive and personal dimensions of the office over everything else. It is one in which the institutional office and the personality of its occupant are almost entirely merged—merged in their interests, in their impulses, in their finances, and in their public character. In elevating the expressive, vanity-plate dimensions of the office and making it a personal vehicle for the public self-expression of the officeholders, he proposes sublimating nearly all other traditional features of the presidency: its management functions; its expectation of good-faith execution of law; its expectation of ethical conduct, truthfulness, and service. This vision of the presidency thus unsurprisingly produces a genuinely novel set of deployments of the executive’s traditional powers, ones that are profoundly different from those of prior presidents.
One of the arguments we advance in “Unmaking of the Presidency” is that Trump’s abuse of his office is fundamentally different from traditional separation of powers fights over executive power, in which presidents have sought to aggrandize their office by pushing at the margins of its authorities. Trump’s abuses, as we try to show in the book, have not taken place at the edges of the president’s powers; they have almost uniformly occurred, rather, at the core of the president’s authorities. They have involved his powers to appoint and remove executive branch officials. They have involved his processless administration of the executive branch. They have involved his pardons, real and threatened. They have involved his supervision of law enforcement to reward his friends and punish his enemies. They have involved the impulsive and chaotic manner in which he conducts foreign policy. They have involved his pursuit of financial self-enrichment. They have involved his abusive speech. They have involved his lies.
Most fundamentally, they have involved what is perhaps the most novel proposition of the Trump’s presidency: that civic virtue does not matter. The traditional presidency places a high value on civic virtue. The effectiveness of the presidential oath of office depends on it pervasively. But Trump has operated his presidency without the slightest pretense of anything of the kind. He makes plain that it’s all about him, not about public service or about pursuit of the national good. This oathlessness, we argue, lies at the core of Trump’s vision, and it underlies many of the specific deployments of presidential power we discuss.
The book covers a lot of ground. It begins with Trump’s oath of office and then explores the disunity of the executive branch under his leadership, the total breakdown of executive branch decision-making processes, Trump’s highly innovative style of presidential speech, his inexhaustible fountain of lies and disinformation, his contempt for ethics regulations, his vision of justice and federal law enforcement, his approach to being investigated, his impulsive conduct of foreign affairs, and his use of the unreviewable powers of his office. The goal, along the way, is to describe how we came to form particular expectations of the presidency, so the book goes into a lot of history of the presidency—some of which, we hope, will be entertaining as well as interesting.
In the end, though, the book is a defense of the traditional presidency, which seems to us to need a defense right now.
Today, as we write these words, the Senate is beginning the impeachment trial of President Trump. One year from now, he will either be reinaugurated or replaced. That means we are in a year of decision: Is Trump’s vision of the presidency one the American public wants to ratify? Or is it a vision that requires repudiation?
Susan Hennessey is the Executive Editor of Lawfare and General Counsel of the Lawfare Institute. She is a Brookings Fellow in National Security Law. Prior to joining Brookings, Ms. Hennessey was an attorney in the Office of General Counsel of the National Security Agency. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several book
This week's post is by Jorge Heine, research professor at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, a Wilson Center global fellow and a non-resident senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing. Jorge is former Chile Ambassador to China This blog appeared in Global Times January 16 , 2020
The beginning of a new decade has a happy ring to it - a feeling of turning a page, of starting anew, of a fresh impetus. Yet, this year of the rat according to the Chinese calendar looks ominous, one in which the world will face many daunting challenges.
The gathering storm between the US and Iran brought to the fore by the killing of General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane over Iran with which the year began is, of course, the most obvious signal of simmering conflicts around the world.
How likely is it they will explode, drawing in many other players? Which are the flashpoints to watch? Is it true, as many say, that things will get worse before they get better? Here is my take on some key issues and how they will shape our increasingly endangered planet.
Global warming: Climate change is perhaps the defining issue of our time. We only have a small window of opportunity to do the needful to avoid reaching a 2-centigrade increase in temperatures that would be catastrophic. Yet, no substantial progress is taking place in reducing global carbon emissions. COP25, the big conference held on the subject in Madrid in December, was a fiasco. Some would say that the fires that engulf much of New South Wales and other states in Australia, burning eight million hectares and killing a billion animals, provide a frightening, hell-like preview of what we shall soon see elsewhere as a result of rising temperatures, widespread droughts and climate-change denialist governments.
The second cold war: Far from de-escalating, tensions between the United States and China, if anything, increased in 2019, and show few signs of abating in the new year. Yes, the first phase of a truce in the trade war between both countries is in the offing, and some details about what the second phase would entail are emerging. But tensions on the technology front have not diminished, and many seem happy to ratchet up, rather than down, the us-versus-them rhetoric that feeds on itself. In a US election year, this is unlikely to change. The relaunch of the Committee on the Present Danger, once focused on the Soviet Union, and now on China, is not encouraging.
An unraveling WTO: Much of the growth and prosperity we have seen in the course of the past three decades, which has led, among other things, to the achieving of the UN Millennium Development Goals, including the drastic, worldwide reduction of poverty, has been driven by high global trade volumes. This slowed down after the 2008-09 financial crisis. Yet, the entity responsible for this open trading system is in crisis. The Doha Round negotiations have stalled since 2008, thus rendering moot one of the WTO's main functions. Now, since December 10, 2019, its other function, that of resolving trade disputes, is also inoperative. Its Appellate Body, normally made up of seven members, has now been left with only one, as the US has blocked all new appointments, leaving it with no working quorum.
A go-for-it Brexit: Until the recent UK elections, there was still hope Brexit might be stalled in one way or another, and thus avoid what some consider to be the first step toward the break-up of Europe. With an overwhelming majority won by the Tories in these elections, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the helm, that hope is now gone. For the next few years, both Britain and the EU will be consumed by the protracted negotiations to make that happen, precluding the EU from playing a forward role in global affairs, at a time when it will be most needed.
A proxy-war riven Middle East: The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government, within the confines of its own consulate in Istanbul in 2018, indicated the degree to which all bets are off in a region that jumps from crisis to crisis. The Sunni-Shia conflict within the Muslim world, reflecting the geopolitical and ideological rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, is in full swing. Syria and Iraq stand firmly with Iran, Sunni-majority countries like Egypt do so with the Saudis, and those like Lebanon are caught in the middle. The full break-up of the US-Iran nuclear deal, and Tehran's signals that it now feels free to join the nuclear arms race, add to an already volatile situation.
A case can be made that all these issues are long-in-the-making processes that took many years to come to the fore and will not necessarily reach a boiling point in 2020. Touché. Yet, my point is a different one. It is the combination of such serious global governance issues with trade and technological tensions at a time of increasing disregard for once established norms of international behavior that creates such an international tinderbox.
And this is not by happenstance. As Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci put it, "a crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." As the unipolar world that emerged at the end of the Cold War gives way to a new one, whose hallmarks are globalization and multipolarity, there is resistance and reaction against the newly emerging order. In many ways, the populist movements in the developed world are a reaction against the decline of the West and the rise of the Rest. Their disregard for the established rules of international behavior is part of the appeal to their electoral base.
None of this makes for smooth sailing. But it does put a special premium on the leadership of the rising powers of the Global South to keep the ship of global governance on an even keel as we enter an especially fraught year.
This week’s blog is being presented by Prof Anthony Bryan, Senior Associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, DC and former Director of the Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies, St Augustine. He advises that while Guyana celebrated “First Oil” on 20 December 2019, the focus of this blog is on "first lift" scheduled by March 2020. He explains that “First lift is the technical term referring to the method that involves the use of artificial means to increase the flow of crude oil from a production well. That is when an abundant amount of crude is actually produced to meet the objectives of barrels daily”.
The Commonwealth has an estimated 232 billion barrels of oil reserves or about 17% of the world’s total. Reserves from 17 member countries contribute to this stock. Canada and Nigeria are the leaders. Guyana is about to join the team in a big way.
By the end of November 2019, the international oil companies (IOCs) Exxon-Mobil and Tullow Oil had made a record of 16 oil discoveries in the Stabroek Block of the deep water Guyana -Suriname Basin and ExxonMobil was preparing to begin oil production at the Liza Phase 1 well site. Production from that field should reach 120,000 barrels a day (b/d) in 2020.
Guyana’s first lift is expected by March 2020. By 2025 production could be 750,000 b/d and by the end of the decade, more than one million b/d of oil equivalent. Under the current Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) the IOCs have a 75% cost recovery with the remaining 25% profit oil equally split between the licensees and Guyana. The current royalty rate is 2%.
The impact on the Guyanese economy can be convulsive. In 2020 it will grow by 86%, and the per capita income could more than double to US$10,000. Rystad Energy estimates that national revenue will amount to more than US$117 billion over the lifetime of the projects.
With the windfall, and a population of less than 800,000 inhabitants, Guyana could become one of the world’s richest nations per capita. Obviously it will not happen overnight. The IOCs have to recover their investment and projected peak production is still some years away. The geology is right. But a national sense of euphoria is high and caution may be in short supply.
There are some harsh realities. Guyana is new to the game of oil and gas production. Four years ago it had no known oil reserves. Now it must race to provide the necessary legislation, institutional structures and management for first oil. Crafting oil legislation is a new experience for the Guyanese.
As a frontier oil province, the country is vulnerable to the many ‘above ground’ pitfalls that could accompany the boom. The explosion of money might be difficult to absorb and to manage. Inflation can rise stifling the development of other industries. The immediate danger is that any government will leverage now on future earnings taking on more debt.
The looming pitfall is the ‘resource curse’ or the ‘paradox of plenty’ where the destabilisation of traditional economic sectors occurs as the country becomes overly dependent on exports of a single commodity. Some cash-poor but resource-rich countries tend to be less developed precisely because of their resource wealth.
The government must ensure that the country has all the provisions in place to earn its fair share of the windfall. The population can become frustrated at the lack of any immediate tangible benefits that they may have expected from the oil revenues. Managing public expectations is critical. Regulations must be developed to protect against environmental degradation including oil spills. And finally there is the elephant in the room – namely leadership corruption – which is rampant in some emerging oil states. Maybe Guyana does not have such levels of corruption; but oversight institutions are crucial in order to combat this curse.
There are positive signs. In 2017, Guyana joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) that will monitor its resource governance. A sovereign wealth fund (SWF) has been established to invest and spend oil revenues in a manner that transcends political cycles and generations. Parliament has passed the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) that will strengthen revenue management. The government has also put forward a Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040 (GSDS) that is the roadmap for an economy defined by sustainable, efficient, low-carbon and resilient development for successive generations. The hydrocarbon resource revenues are expected to be the catalyst for growth and funding of the GSDS.
The key to Guyana’s success is the effective management of the oil and gas sector. Unfortunately, the political impasse in 2019 has delayed the implementation of some institutional arrangements for the management of the sector. The best laid plans are useless unless they are implemented.
Since oil is a depleting asset, the primary question is how to convert the income flows into physical, human and financial capital that can benefit generations. To that end, should Guyana seek to keep the oil in the ground for longer periods or to extract it rapidly and diversify into a more sustainable economy in case the value of the resource diminishes?
The oil price fluctuates constantly. Drilling is going on worldwide. The planet is awash with oil. Hydrocarbons will be with us for some decades to come, but they will be replaced eventually by forms of renewable energy. Guyana will prosper if the massive revenue quickly transforms the economy and the quality of life for its citizens. I am cautiously optimistic.
The Nobel Prize in Economics 2019 was awarded in November to Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) jointly with Michael Kremer, professor at Harvard University. This trio has often worked together, and their joint research has been acclaimed to considerably improve our ability to fight global poverty. According to the citation “in just two decades their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics which is now a flourishing field of research.” The book by Banerjee and Duflo, Good Economics in Bad Times is the focus of this blog. The authors are the sixth married couple to win the prize, with Dufflo being the youngest. Unlike previous winners, mostly older white males whose grand theories are built upon mathematics of dizzying complexities, they have made a name for themselves by studying the circumstances of the world’s poorest people. This Book is absorbing. It reads like a novel. It presents complex issues in simple concepts. It is, indeed, Good Economics.
The theme of this blog underscores the substance of the book, Good Economics in Bad Times by Banerjee and Duflo. In the introduction they expressed concerns about the superficial nature of public conversation on core economic issues such as immigration, trade, growth, inequality and the environment. They recognized the lack of awareness that problems facing the rich countries in the world were actually often eerily familiar to those they were studying in the developing world. In both, people are left behind by development, ballooning inequality, lack of faith in government, fractured societies and political systems and so on. The real world, they argue, is “sticky”, in contrast to the picture presented in textbooks. They write that “Economics imagines a world of irrepressible dynamism, in which rational actors respond quickly to incentives. Not so in practice."
The Book is a sequel to their 2011 book Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the way to fight Global Poverty. That study outlined how randomized controlled social policy trials, like clinical ones in medicine are cutting edge economic research. Their major objective is using research to fix thorny problems. And their philosophy is, rather than grand theorists, economists should see themselves as plumbers, practical ‘tinkerers’ interested above all in whether interventions actually work. “We wrote a book to hold on to hope, about where economic policy failed; where ideology has blinded us; where we have missed the obvious; about where and why good economics is useful especially in today’s world”
The authors' campaign is for vigilance against bad ideas. They elaborate the dynamics of “transitions”, meaning how people shift from job to job or from one region to another or how the unemployed, anxious about risk and attached to where they live, are much less likely to move far to seek work than economic theory suggests. Overcoming bad ideas are elaborated in various scenarios throughout the book. Takeaways that seem to diverge from traditional economics include:
A startling revelation based on actual surveys undertaken in various regions both in the developing and developed world is that people mistrust economists with only politicians ranked lower. Hence corrective action requires recognizing that the world is a sufficiently complicated and uncertain place and that the most valuable thing economists have to share is often not their conclusions, but the path they took to reach it. This means highlighting “the facts they knew, the way they interpreted those facts, the deductive steps they took, the remaining sources of their uncertainty.”
Economics, when done right, can help solve the thorniest social and political problems.
Banerjee and Duflo highlight the need for careful programme design to break through on some of the most intractable challenges. Drawing on the World Inequality data base between 2000 and 2018, they came to the amazingly bleak conclusion that “figuring the way out of this impasse [elimination of inequality] poses greater challenges than space travel, perhaps even the curing of cancer.” This is due to people’s distrust of government, the elite , NGOs, the private sector and different social groups. Yet they remain optimistic that "what we as economists have learned best to do, is to be hard headed about the facts, skeptical of slick answers and magic bullets, modest and honest about what we know and understand, and perhaps most importantly, willing to try ideas and solutions and be wrong, as long as it takes us toward the ultimate goal of building a more humane world".
Good Economics based on a wealth of community based research strongly suggests the high social value of, say, early childhood education, investing in human capital and gender equity. It also shows that immigration and inequality, globalization and technological disruption, slowing growth and accelerating climate change are sources of great anxiety across the world. The resources to address these challenges are there. Lacking, however, are ideas that will help jump the wall of disagreement and distrust that divides us. Hence the protection against bad ideas is to be vigilant, resist the obvious, be skeptical about promised miracles and resist quack remedies that replace policy analysis. To them the call for action is not just for academic economists, "it is for all of us who want a better, saner, more humane world. Economics is too important to be left to the economists"
The decade of 2020 has begun with St Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana headlining the Caribbean at the helm of global leadership at the United Nations. On January 2, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) signified the magnitude of its international status, the smallest country ever to sit on the Security Council, the highest UN organ. It is one of 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council, which also comprises 5 permanent members. At the UWI Vice Chancellor’s Forum on November 7, 2019, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves aptly described this moment as “St. Vincent and the Grenadines representing the World but with geographic interests of the Caribbean civilization". It is important to note that St. Vincent and the Grenadines continues its year as Chair of the Caribbean ACP Forum (CARIFORUM) and will assume the Chair of CARICOM in July, 2020.
At the same time, Guyana succeeds Palestine as Chair of the Group of Group of 77 (G-77). A formal handover on January 15, is significant. G-77 is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations. It provides the means for advancing South-South Cooperation and for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the United Nations system.
For The Record
This is not the first time that Caribbean countries have held prestigious positions in the UN system. In 1993, H. E. Mr. Samuel R. Insanally, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations, had the distinction of being the first CARICOM representative to be elected to the Presidency of the General Assembly. At the 58th General Assembly, in 2003, Ambassador Julian Hunte of St Lucia assumed the Presidency. Previous CARCOM non-permanent members of the Security Council include Guyana (1976 and 1983 ); Jamaica (1980 and 2000); and Trinidad and Tobago (1986). In the case of Chairs of G-77 the record shows: Jamaica 1977 and 2005; Guyana 1999 and Antigua and Barbuda 2008 .
What is at Stake
At the start of the new Decade of 2020, the international arena is consumed by mandates to achieve the comprehensive targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Within this framework for action, the most prominent for both the Security Council and the G77 are peace and security, climate change, equality and inclusiveness and financing for development. In recent years, the Security Council has found the Syrian conflict particularly difficult to manage, with Russia using its veto powers to bloc resolutions aimed at making the Assad regime accountable for atrocities documented by UN sources. St.Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will no doubt be involved in the debates on (a) institutional change resulting from the outsized power of veto wielding member states; (b) the issue of aspirants to permanent status including Brazil, Germany and India; (c) the peace keeping mandates including the scope, cost and abuses of peacekeepers; and (d) the case of protection of civilians and migrants, especially grave violations against children in conflict situations. It is reasonable to assume that the Caribbean interests in the Security Council will, in addition, revolve around achieving the goals of the Paris agreement on Climate Change; the priorities of the Alliance of Small Island States(AOSIS), upholding international humanitarian law, UN reform, the Convention on land degradation and comprehensive agreement on biodiversity and deforestation.
Within the G-77, Guyana as Chair may have greater leverage than SVG as a non-permanent member of the Security council. This has more to do with the structure of the G-77 and the more flexible scope of its programme than with the competence of the diplomats involved. The First Ministerial meeting of the G-77 held in Algeria in October 1967, and the adoption of the Charter of Algiers, the Group of 77 laid down the institutional mechanisms and structures that have contributed to shaping the international development agenda and changing the landscape of the global South for the past five decades. Over the years, the Group has gained an increasing role in the determination and conduct of international relations through global negotiations on major North-South and development issues. Today, the G-77 remains the only viable and operational mechanism in multilateral economic diplomacy within the U.N system. The growing membership to 135 members is proof of its enduring strength. Based on a public opinion survey by the Pew Research Center among G-77 Leaders 2018-2019, the emerging priorities include global financial stability, global economic stability, climate change, energy and the environment, technological innovation and cybersecurity, trade and investment and women empowerment. In addition, the sectoral meetings of G-77 in areas such as food and agriculture, energy, trade and finance, science and technology, industrialization and sustainable development, allows for increased participation by and in a variety of member states.
Grasping Opportunities to enhance Profile and Influence
On the basis of lessons learned, success arising from leadership positions for the Caribbean depends on a number of factors. Among them: the international environment, whether stable or volatile; cooperation among developed and developing country partners; technical and negotiating capability required to broker patterns of conflict and conflict management; financial sustainability to support administration and diplomacy and the backing of CARICOM Member states.
There are other success factors that must be considered to enhance the roles of SVG and Guyana in the leadership structures of the UN. Among them are adherence to a coordinated regional foreign policy, one of the pillars of CARICOM; recognition that the purpose of foreign policy is to utilize sovereignty to engage in multilateral/bilateral arrangements; sustaining and promoting the Caribbean as a zone of peace; standing firm on the AOSIS agenda for Climate action and building coalitions of the willing.
As St Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana embark on their respective journeys, it seems timely to refer Caribbean political leaders, diplomats, technicians, students and all citizens to the seminal works of Dr. Richard Bernal, The Influence of Small States on Superpowers and Hon. Camillo Gonsalves Globalized Climatized, Stigmatized. These two books inspire new thinking about small states exceptionalism: excelling in the international arena and the dynamics of the global reach of Caribbean leadership.
Richard Bernal, Influence of Small States on Superpowers, Lexington Books, 2015,
Camillo Gonsalves, Globalized, Climatized and Stigmatized, Independently published, 2019.
This blog is being written on New Year's Day 2020 when so many resolutions abound. As we reflected on the past Decade and in particular on the tenor and themes of our blogs during 2019, it became clear that activism for change was stimulated and dominated by the Youth across the regions of the World. We could only reference a few among the multitude that have had or could have a lasting impact. Their common denominators ranged from the fight for equality and social justice; demands to reduce poverty and violence, standing up against corrupt leadership; to articulating their active role in decision making, the need for greater civic participation and increasing access to health, sexual and reproductive rights, and educational facilities. Indeed, the sum total of most of the activism inspired by youth leadership covers the 17 Susutainable Development Goals (SDGs) on which hinge major targets of our universal resolutions: peace, security, happiness, and success. These are all targets that would make the World a better place in which to live.
Among a sample of youth activism, I reflect on four (4)
Resolutions are not enough: We need Action
Reflecting on these illustrations of Youth Activism, it is important to note that the Arab Springs despite the hope it brought for democracy, has witnessed a reversal toward even greater tyranny and violence in the Middle East. President Donald Trump has reversed the gains from the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest and the hopes of the Parkland 'March for our lives' has yet to yield substantive gun reform in the USA. Even the robust Gen Z movement admits to being ignored. However, by chance I came across an inspirational book by Marley Dias, a teenage wonder who started the #1000blackgirl books. Her mission for racial harmony is a campaign to inspire kids to make the world a better place and make their dreams come true. I have only read Marley Gets it Done and So can You, one of 4 books she has written. It is inspirational, creative, daring and fills the gap between hope and action. We plan to explore her other books and make them the subject of a review.
Given that GOFAD has spent several blogs illustrating the role of youth and Climate action, there is no other commentary that fully illustrates the title of this blog than the TED Talk by the 2019 Times Person of the Year, 16 year old Greta Thunberg, given one year ago. Let me let her tell you why meaningful New Year's resolutions must transcend hope with action. School strike for climate - save the world by changing the rules | Greta Thunberg | TEDxStockholm (Greta Thunberg | TEDxStockholm)
With every good wish for a New Year of bountiful happiness and success.
Notwithstanding the apprehensions of many observers noted in last week’s blog, we awaited the outcomes of COP 25 in Madrid with anticipation. The following statement from the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres aptly expresses the disappointing result: “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis". His assessment is fully endorsed by most of the reports that GOFAD was able to source. A final set of documents fell short on both the meeting’s main goals. They agreed on only weak and watered down commitments to the drastic cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases that had been promised. And a decision on regulations for new international carbon markets was deferred until next year in Glasgow at COP 26 (December 2020). Despite the disappointments, there are building blocks for future success in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement (2015). Because Madrid failed to clarify so many key issues, the onus now falls on the UK to resolve many of the most challenging questions. In Glasgow, the question of loss and damage, of carbon markets, transparency and many other technical issues will need to be solved. Most importantly, the countries will have to agree on a major boost in their carbon cutting if the world is to keep the rise in global temperatures under 1.5c this century.
Future success will depend on several factors. Chief among these, are a) reducing the disconnect among COP stakeholders, and b) pursuing collective leadership.
Reducing the Disconnect between the Larger polluters and the Smaller, Poorer, Less Polluting Countries
It was generally portrayed that major players including the larger polluters who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations. Yet, the presence and programmes highlighted by smaller, poorer, less polluting countries highlighted the worst impacts of climate change and reminded everyone what is at stake. So too were the expertise and dedication of the many hundreds of diplomats, researchers and policymakers who attended the summit alongside the politicians and the demonstrators who took to the streets for the past 18 months. This disconnect was the difference between the urgency underlined by the latest science, the demands for more ambitious climate targets from school strikers around the world, and the ‘torturous, convoluted nature of the talks’. Sriram Madhusoodanan from Corporate Accountability, a campaign group that monitors the presence of the oil and gas industry at COP said : “It's clear that civil society is at a boiling point, they are frustrated with the glacial pace and they are livid with the presence of polluters and their trade associations.” But for civil society and the persistence of the protestors progress would be even slower. Special reference also must be made to the progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American and Caribbean countries for achieving the best possible outcome against the will of big polluters. Laurence Tubiana from the European Climate Foundation, and an architect of the Paris agreement, described the result as "really a mixed bag, and a far cry from what science tells us is needed." See 'Never have I seen such a disconnect'.
The importance of Collective Leadership
An insightful BBC report reminds us that COP25 in Madrid only happened because the Chilean government, faced with mounting civil disorder, decided to cancel the meeting in Santiago and that Spain stepped in and in three weeks organised a well-resourced and well-run event. However, the fact that it was being run by one government, while hosted by another, gave rise to severe difficulties. The Report stated that “delegates were highly critical of the fact that when it came to the key text about ambition, the Chileans presented the lowest common denominator language first, resulting in a huge number of objections from countries eager to see more ambition on carbon cuts”. At the same time, experienced COP watchers said they should have started with high ambition and negotiated down to a compromise. It is therefore instructive that avoiding these anomalies should be an important outcome of the September 2020 in Liepzig encounter in preparation for the COP 26 Leadership in preparation for Glasgow. The hope is that by then the EU would have formalised its zero-carbon long term goal; updated its 2030 pledge to cut emissions by 55% of 1990 levels; and secure agreement from the Chinese to improve their nationally determined contribution (NDC). Back in 2014 the climate pact signed by President Obama and President Xi Jinping became the lynchpin of the Paris Agreement.
Rays of Hope from Latin America and the Caribbean
There is an opportunity for countries of the south acting in consort to make a difference especially in securing positive commitments to achieving zero carbon emissions, mitigating climate migration and stimulating positive provision for loss and damage in response to catastrophic damage.
Movement to Zero Carbon Emissions
The Zero Carbon Latin America and the Caribbean 2019 Report builds on the first Zero Carbon Report (2016), which called on the region to focus in the full decarbonization of four areas that produce 90 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions: power generation, transportation, land use and industry. It predicts that the transition to full decarbonization in these specific sectors will create further benefits, such as 7.7 million new permanent jobs and 28 million job-years in assignments related to green technologies, infrastructure deployment or transport electrification. The new edition was produced with the support of EUROCLIMA, a programme funded by the European Union, and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).
Prime Minster Mia Mottley’s Call to Action on Mitigating Climate Migration
The call by Prime Minister Mia Motley speaking on behalf of the Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) at the UN Climate action Summit is worth restating. It was for integrating human mobility in the COP and more generally in discussions on climate change as essential to prevent forced migration and support people who will be forced to leave their communities due to phenomena such as sea level rise, desertification, the melting of glaciers, the acidification of the ocean, droughts and hydrometeorological threats. By bringing together all parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the COPs represent the ideal platform to advance these discussions and achieve international consensus to address climate migration.
Caribbean Pavilion sponsored by CDB and the Case for a Pan Caribbean Partership for Climate Action
The Caribbean contributes negligibly to global carbon emissions, but still bears the brunt of climate change impacts. As a result the issue of loss and damage that was inconclusive at COP 25, must be in forefront of urgent decisions in light of recent catastrophic damage caused by Category 5 Hurricanes, Irma and Maria in 2017, and Dorian in 2019. The Caribbean pavilion at COP 25 represented a platform for several regional bodies, including CDB, the Caribbean Community and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) as well as extra-regional bodies, such as the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). This
strong presence with areas for debate and information sharing also represents a justification for a Pan Caribbean Partnership on Climate Action advocated in GOFAD’a Blog (October 10, 2019).
In preparing for COP 26 the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre which is responsible for coordinating the Region’s response to climate change, must press for financing a cooler planet, moving beyond business as usual and coming within striking distance of net-zero emissions by 2050. A long-term perspective that accounts for how spending on new technologies today may lower the cost of reducing emissions in the future is provided by Kenneth Gillingham wrestled with in a new 2100-word piece .
Youth Standing up for Human Rights: Demands resonating at COP 25 in Madrid With Apologies to our ChildrenRead Now
This blog is being written on World Human Rights Day (December 10, 2019). The theme, “Youth Standing up for Human Rights“ aptly describes their interventions at the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid, now in its second and final week. Reports highlight the involvement of young people in climate policy making, and demands that their rights be respected. By the time this blog is posted, the decisions from COP 25 should reveal if their demands have fallen on deaf ears. These twin events have triggered some random thoughts about the wide ranging scope of youth, human rights and the future.
Generally, Human Rights Day commemorates the day — December 10, 1948 - when the General Assembly of the UN adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This Declaration, one of UN’s major achievements, stipulates universal values and a shared standard of achievement for everyone in every country. While the Declaration is not a binding document, it inspired over 60 human rights instruments that today make a common standard of human rights. It is the most translated document around the globe, available in over 500 languages. More specifically, under the 2019 universal call to action "Stand Up for Human Rights," the aim is to celebrate the potential of youth as constructive agents of change, amplifying their voices, and engaging with a broad range of global audiences in the promotion and protection of rights.
Beyond the symbolism of World Human Rights Day, there are several examples of the power of youth in human rights initiatives that have multiplier effects by engaging wider communities. Amnesty International Kenya, for example, is a youth led inter-University Human Rights Debate. It was founded in 2012 to create a culture of human rights awareness and activism and influence knowledge, skills and capacity among young people. Human Rights Watch, that investigates and reports on human rights abuses around the world ranging from Syria's civil war, refugees in Europe, US Immigration and mass killings in the Philippines makes specific reference to the role of young people with political aspirations becoming involved in conflict resolution through participation in civic life. This is due to the fact that civic organizations tend to have lower access barriers, are less ideological, have greater “community focus” and are more “issue oriented” than political parties or other pressure groups.
More focused is Human Rights Day in South Africa that is historically linked with March 21, 1960, and the events of Sharpeville. Then, by coincidence or design, the digitization of the collection of Rosa Parks documents in the Library of Congress in New York was opened to the public on 2019 World Human Rights Day. Among the records highlighted at the launch were documents of Parks' affiliation with organizations and institutions including the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self- Development, an organization she founded with Elaine Eason Steele to promote youth development and civil rights education.
More far reaching in scope is the proclamation by United Nations General Assembly of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. It is to be noted that World Indigenous
Peoples Day, highlighting a population of 375-500 Million, occupying 22% of global land area, is celebrated on August 9th. However, the focus on indigenous languages aims at raising global attention on the critical risks to peoples representing the greater part of the world's diversity and speaking the major share of the world's 7000 languages. Most notable is that UNSECO has promoted the power of Language Technologies (LT) to make sure indigenous languages are preserved and promoted worldwide.
Sanguine reflections triggered by COP 25
Reflections on World AIDS Day and the remarkable efforts of Youth at COP 25 in Madrid have led to a search for the examples of the far reaching effects of human rights that defy the meaning of a one day celebration. The reports from Madrid so far signal the need for relentless all year round activism. Up to half a million people took part in a march in Madrid in support of rapid climate action, but according to observers, 'negotiators haven't got the message'.