There is little doubt that our geo-political problems are becoming more and more intricate and intractable. We presently have on our hands the middle East crisis, the Ukrainian crisis, the Iraq and Syria crisis, the economic crisis of the West, the border crisis between the US and Mexico (with thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the border), the territory disputes between Japan and China, North and South Korea, the EU-Africa crisis with refugees arriving almost daily in Lampedusa, Italy attempting to get a foot-hold in Europe, and the list goes on and on. The world is indeed a sorry mess.
It has not dawned yet on our myopic politicians, our so called leaders and statesmen, that, as the Pope has repeatedly declared, the problem is one of inequality and distributive justice; that as long as there are desperate people in desperate circumstances there will be refugees crossing the borders in search of a better life. Usually those crisis lead to wars and socio-political global turmoil benefiting none, not even the affluent countries.
I have a modest solution which some may find laughable, even absurd, but it is practically historically inevitable within our ongoing process of globalization. Before I suggest the solution let us consider some present geo-political realities. There is a polity in place which can be termed a Continental nation in the true sense of that word. It is Australia. It is completely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean which functions as its borders. It is a nation with a common language and a multicultural background, including the aboriginal culture which is now respected if not exactly promoted.
There is another mega-country which is already well on its way in becoming a continental nation: the European Union; it now encompasses most of the European nations and a common culture called Western. It is not perfect, not all the nations of Europe belong to it (Norway, Belarus, and Switzerland, for example) and they do not possess a common language; they have democracy in common which now seems to be in peril with right wing party representative in the EU Parliament. They possess a couple of imprtant linguae francae (English, German, French) which everybody studies in school thus facilitating communication. The EU cannot be properly called a continental nation since Russia encompasses two continents: Europe, up to the Ural mountains, and Asia, from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean.
Then there is the United States which likes to think of itself as a continental power, straddling the North American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean and beyond, all the way to Hawaii and bordering Russia in Alaska, allowing it to call itself a Pacific power, if not exactly an Asian one.
Africa, despite the African Union and a common African heritage (heavily influenced by European nationalism and colonialism), mostly symbolical, remains a puzzle of disparate nations with no common political purpose.
It remains true, however that the only truly continental nation remains Australia. The name United States of America remains a misnomer since America, geographically speaking, is a continent, not a nation which is also a continent. An American, properly speaking, is anybody born on the continent called America just an an Australian is anybody born on the Continent of Australia, not to be confused with Austria which is a European nation. Even if we disregard Australia’s Western cultural background rooted in Anglo-Saxon culture, an Australian is not an Asian, since he/she was not born on the Asian continent, although he may become a citizen of one or other Asian nations.
But to return to my modest proposal; it is basically this: why not speed-up the process a bit and make the US a truly continental nation! President Obama should reject the Monroe doctrine which spoke of spheres of influence and proposed that European colonizers mind their business and not meddle with “American” politics, and invite all the nations of the continent, including Canada and Brazil, to join the Union, on one condition, that they accept democracy as their preferred political institution, promote social justice and free trade and respect the culture of all the disparate nations that will form the Union. Unless they accept those conditions of respect for democracy and the rule of fairness and justice, they would not be welcome into the union. These would be similar to the conditions imposed on European wishing to enter the EU.
I suspect that most, if not all the American nations would give such an invitation serious consideration, maybe even decide to accept it. No nation would be coerced into the union. That would automatically solve the sorry spectacle of unattended destitute children from Latin America crossing the US-Mexican border.
Four years ago people laughed at vice-president Joe Biden’s suggestion that it made more sense to divide Iraq in three nations according to ethnic religious criteria (Kurds in the North, Sunni in the middle and Shiite in the south) then keep up an artificially forced political union. Nobody is laughing now, in fact what Biden proposed then seems to be happening, willy-nilly, as we speak.
Similarly one may laugh and make fun of my proposal of a genuine United States of America, if it makes your day, go right ahead and call it unpatriotic and “un-American,” and silly because not cognizant of geo-political Machiavellian realities, but, believe me, it will happen, sooner or later; you may not see it, but your grandchildren may. Given that it may now be the solution to the thorny problem of emigrations and refugee status, the question arises, at least in theory: Why not sooner rather than later?
Australia needs to shore up development aid to match its reinforced engagement
Australia’s active global engagement on development and its focus on fragile small island states and disaster risk reduction are commendable. However successive cuts to the country’s aid budget since 2013 are impairing its efforts, according to a new OECD Review.
The latest DAC Peer Review of Australia says the introduction of a robust performance-based framework for aid policy in 2014 and the integration of aid agency AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2013 – though not without challenges – have encouraged innovation and a more development-friendly outlook on trade. Australia now needs to restore its official development assistance (ODA), which projections indicate could drop to an all-time low of 0.22% of gross national income in 2017/18.
“Australia uses its voice on the global stage to advocate for responses to challenges faced by small island developing states, in particular to build resilience and mitigate disaster risk. At the same time the decline in aid flows, despite steady economic growth, has affected the scope of development and humanitarian programmes, and we encourage Australia to find a way to reverse this trend,” said OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Chair Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.
Australia provided USD 3.28 billion in net ODA in 2016 (0.27% of GNI), down 5.4% from USD 3.49 billion (0.29% of GNI) in 2015 and slipping further away from a target for donors to provide 0.7% of GNI as ODA. By comparison, the average ratio of ODA to GNI for DAC donors was 0.32% in 2016, and six DAC members have now reached a UN target of 0.7%.
The top five recipients of Australian aid in 2015/16 were Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Viet Nam and the Philippines. Australia sends slightly less of its aid to least-developed countries than the DAC average but over a quarter of its ODA goes to small island developing states which are vulnerable to crises, including from weather-related shocks such as cyclones.
The Review says Australia fully implemented four and partially implemented another four of 12 recommendations in a 2013 Peer Review. The four recommendations not implemented included one to reach a stated goal of ODA at 0.5% of GNI by 2016/17.
Each DAC member is reviewed every five years in order to monitor its performance, hold it accountable for past commitments and recommend improvements. Reviews use input from officials in the review country and partner countries – Solomon Islands for this Review – as well as civil society and the private sector.
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