Lessons learned from the international climate process
For many years, the problem of global climate change – one of the most serious environmental threats of our time – has been making international headlines and has been the subject of high-level political negotiations.
A new milestone will soon appear on the thorny path of the international climate process: the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes into force on December 31, 2020. This document extends the period of the Kyoto Protocol for 2013-2020 (hence its informal name – “Kyoto-2”), and contains a whole set of amendments to the Kyoto regime, including updated quantitative indicators of greenhouse gas emission cuts for a group of developed countries.
Climate activists are likely to mark this “historic” stage in the battle against global warming with new marches, and the leaders of many countries – to renew their calls to “raise the level of ambition” in the name of averting a global climate collapse.
What doesn’t immediately meet the eye here, however, is why “Kyoto-2” is coming into force at the very close of its second commitment period (2013-2020).
Let’s take a look at the real – not retouched – picture of the events of the lengthy negotiating process going under the auspices of the UNFCCC. However, if we take a look at what is going on “behind the scenes,” many things will clear up.
The first attempt to find the key to solving the problem of global warming was made by the UN member states in the early 1990s, by adopting the abovementioned Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. The general atmosphere of enthusiasm, inspired by the proposed concept of sustainable development, made it possible to come up with the world’s first-ever climate treaty that took a mere 15 months to agree on.
The long and arduous negotiations that followed – from the development of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC (1997) to the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement (2015) – resulted in a series of major successes and very painful failures: the chaotic work of the Hague Conference (2000), which led to a six-month suspension of all activities; the jubilation over the outcome of the Marrakesh meeting (2001), which finalized the agreement on the entire set of rules for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol; the euphoria in Montreal (2005) following the launch of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the decision to start negotiations on the second period, the collapse of the Copenhagen Conference (2009); the adoption of the Durban Platform for Action (2011), which inspired hope for a positive outcome of the talks on the new climate regime, and the cynical disregard for procedural rules and UN principles displayed during the Doha Conference (2012), which called into question the legitimacy of its decisions, and sealed the fate of “Kyoto-2.”
What has over the years been happening at the UNFCCC negotiation platform, reminds one of the topsy-turvy world of Lewis Carroll’s timeless Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The situation was further complicated by the West European countries’ essentially dual climate diplomacy purported to spearhead the international campaign to save the Earth’s climate. From the outside, it looks like a sincere desire to find a speedy solution to an acute environmental problem, which, however, hides a clear temptation to use pro-environment rhetoric to achieve economic advantages by changing the global energy balance that would rule out any multivariate national energy strategies, and, secondly, to redirect international cash flows, all the way to limiting investments in projects related to fossil energy sources.
Moreover, we have very often seen far from perfect methods being used to achieve these goals. Some people, for sure, would prefer not to make public little-known examples of this so as not to sally the reputation of the West’s environmental diplomacy. There are multiple examples of this that have piled up over the entire period of negotiations.
The 2000 session was traditionally presided over by a representative of the host country – then the Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment of the Netherlands, Jan Pronk. His thinly-veiled political bias, unwillingness to listen to partners and, in particular, his arrogantly demonstrative refusal to give the floor to the Russian representative at one time forced the Russian delegation to temporarily leave the conference room in protest. The Russian delegation eventually managed to fulfill its tasks during that session. However, the chairman’s arrogant behavior had a very deplorable effect on the overall results of the conference, which failed to achieve a balanced solution and take into account the interests of all participating countries and thus led to its suspension for a period of six months.
It was in The Hague that the EU’s “green aggressiveness,” which reflected so badly on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, was manifested so clearly. Due to the intransigence demonstrated during the conference by the German and French environment ministers, Jurgen Trittin and Dominique Voynet, both representatives of their governments’ “Green” political wing, the European Union blocked the adoption of a US proposal to ensure greater flexibility in the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol by taking into account the potential of the land use sector in absorbing greenhouse emissions.
The participants were stunned by this short-sightedness, as the United States was then the world’s biggest polluter, accounting for about 17 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. It was the conference in The Hague that precipitated America’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. And with the United States out, the coverage of total global emissions in the Kyoto Protocol’s initial commitment period dropped from 47 percent to 30 percent.
Examples of the European Union’s “odd” attitude continued, During the 2001 meeting in Marrakesh, the participants worked well into the night in consultations initiated by British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, who was trying to convince the Russian delegation that the proposed threshold for the allowable offset of the use of the absorptive capacity of forests in fulfilling the obligations under the KP, which differed by just a few units from the earlier agreed indicator for Japan, was a “good deal.” But the truth was that in 2002, the area of forested territories in Japan was about 25 million hectares, compared to 621 million hectares in Russia – almost 25 times more! Margaret Beckett still believed that we should agree on numbers that were virtually similar to the Japanese.
This begs a simple question: “Are you serious? What about math and logic?
Throughout the negotiation period, Western European representatives have never tired of calling – and keep calling now for “raising the level of ambition.” But here, too, we see a clear split of the European Union’s climate consciousness.
In 2005, Belarus expressed a desire to join the club of countries committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, and thereby, to increase, though modestly, the Kyoto Protocol’s coverage of global emissions. The participating nations approved changes to the Protocol, making it incumbent on Belarus to reduce its emissions by eight percent. And still, the European Union refused to ratify this. If this is not a case of double standards, then what is?
Therefore, the crushing fiasco of the 2009 Copenhagen Conference came as no surprise at all.
Everything that could have been done wrong, Denmark did as chairman of the conference, starting with the decision to force the members of official delegations to stand in a tens, if not hundreds of meters-long line for security checks along with numerous observers (representatives of NGOs, the business community, and journalists), resulting in the negotiators being an hour or more late to the consultations room, and ending with a complete confusion during the closing stage of the high-profile event.
And this at a time when the heads of state and government of 119 countries had gathered in Copenhagen to adopt a fundamentally new document to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which would give a start to the implementation of a strategy of truly collective climate efforts, which included commitments not only for developed, but also for developing countries.
The stakes were high and political tensions were going through roof. On the night before the closing day of the conference, the heads of a number of states and governments representing major groups of countries, including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, joined in the talks. It seemed that after a series of exhausting informal discussions, a compromise was finally at hand. But!.. Without waiting for the final official meeting of the conference, French President Nicolas Sarkozy left the meeting early in the morning and lost no time telling journalists before entering his plane that “the deal has been reached.” The morning papers came out with splashy headlines and triumphant reports about a “historic climate breakthrough.” Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, who had presided over the conference, was equally in a rush to submit the final document titled “Copenhagen Agreement” for adoption by the conference, without bothering to first hold formal consultations with all its participants.
Many leaders, who had not taken part in the overnight meeting, felt themselves insulted, with Hugo Chavez mincing no words when expressing his indignation. “They are trying to slip something through the crack under the door!” he fumed. The emotional discussion about the violation of the basic UN principles and the lack of transparency continued for a whole 13 hours. Neither Rasmussen nor UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was able to save the situation. As a result, the Copenhagen Agreement was never signed, blocked by representatives of a number of developing countries, led by Venezuela.
The fiasco in Copenhagen cost the participants another six years of negotiations, started virtually from scratch, until the Paris Agreement was finally inked in 2015. A whole six years of practical work to tackle the climate problem had thus been wasted.
The events of the Doha Conference (2012) top the list of anti-records in environmental diplomacy when, amid heated discussions of the configuration of “Kyoto-2,” where basic national interests were at stake, the Europeans at the very last moment and without proper coordination with all participating countries added a provision that actually emasculated the so-called emission quotas saved by non-EU countries with transitional economies (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine). This automatically increased by almost three times (!) the burden of obligations for these countries and undermined the integrity of the regime of compliance with the Kyoto Protocol within its first and second periods.
Responding to the request of the Qatari presidency, and trying to rectify the clearly abnormal situation without putting at risk the constructive conclusion of the conference, Russia Belarus and Ukraine came up with a compromise option. Based on the results of urgent informal consultations presided over by the conference chair Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the State of Qatar, the participants worked out an algorithm for their further action, whereby the chairman would submit the Russian-Belarusian-Ukrainian proposal for formal consideration by a plenary session.
And … the chairman did not keep his word.
Almost immediately after opening the final plenary session, he, without raising his head or looking into the hall, proceeded to approve the draft Doha Amendment in its original form. The question on the order of the session, raised by the Russian delegation, was demonstrably ignored, which in itself is a gross violation of the rules of procedure of the UNFCCC, and the package of final documents was allegedly approved by a consensual decision. Nonsense!
But this is not the end of the story! What makes the whole thing even more outrageous, all this did not happen spontaneously, but had apparently been planned in advance – something Norway’s environmental minister Bård Vegar Solhjell, one of the two ministers appointed to head the process of unofficial ministerial consultations, unashamedly admitted later in an article, titled “This is how Kyoto-2 came about.” Here are some quotes from that article in an unofficial translation from Norwegian, published in the online version of Aftenposten newspaper on December 11, 2012: “Bomb … Russia refuses to surrender … In a brief discussion in the corner, someone says:’ We can do this just like we did in Cancun.’ What does it mean? To put forward a proposal [the draft of the entire final document] and ignore the protests that we know will come from Russia …”
“Backstage” diplomacy”… Compared to this, the “highly likely”-style tricks that the Western Europeans are playing today are no longer surprising.
Our response was honest, open and legally substantiated. In June 2013, during a session of the subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC, Russia, with the active support of the Belarusian and Ukrainian delegations, proposed adding to the agenda of the Conference of the Parties a new item – “Decision-making within the UNFCCC process” to serve as a barrier to manipulation and violation of the generally recognized legal norms and UN principles. Do you think the European Union supported us? No, for the most part it kept silent.
It took us two weeks of grueling procedural discussions to achieve this goal, but it was worth the effort. The inclusion of this item on the agenda of the UNFCCC governing body was an important contribution to the prevention of legal and political nihilism within the international climate process.
But what was the outcome of “Kyoto-2” accord? Well, just like the popular Russian saying goes, “What you reap is what you sow”…
The natural reaction from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine to the gross disregard for the UN procedures and principles at the Doha conference resulted in their refusal to ratify the Doha Amendment (as for Russia, long before Doha, we officially announced that we were not going to assume obligations under “Kyoto-2,” due to its extremely limited value for easing anthropogenic pressure on the climate). New Zealand and Japan refused to commit themselves to reducing emissions in the framework of “Kyoto-2.” Such major emitters of greenhouse gases as the United States and Canada remain outside the Kyoto regime. As a result, compared to the first period of the Kyoto Protocol, the coverage of global emissions fell by another four times – from 30 percent to 7.6 percent. Is it possible to use it as an instrument of tackling the problem of global climate change?
Most notably, after Doha, the European Union refused to ratify the Doha Amendment for a whole five years, apparently reflecting on its position as the only major player bound to cut emissions in keeping with “Kyoto-2,” and even to provide financial assistance for climate goals to developing countries.
In fact, “Kyoto-2” only put off for a whole eight years the implementation of collective international legal measures to solve the problem of climate change. It will fade into oblivion after briefly appearing to the world in the guise of a full-fledged document: it officially takes effect on December 31, 2020, only to expire that very same day. What a sad and ironic coincidence!
Now all hopes are pinned on the Paris Agreement. However, the international community should learn serious lessons from the almost 30-year history of the climate process, from all its twists and turns and “crooked mirror” diplomacy, so that further efforts to combat global climate change are truly comprehensive, balanced, rest on a solid foundation of laws and the basic principles of the UN, thus making a genuine, not fictitious, contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If this is not done, then the Paris Climate Agreement, which took years of painstaking diplomatic effort to come by, may repeat the sad fate of “Kyoto-2.”
From our partner International Affairs
Relevance of green politics in the contemporary world
Green theory is a critical theory in International relations which is gaining its relevance very much in recent times as the world couldn’t help itself in fostering climate change and in controlling global warming.
Green theory came into existence in the time of the late 20th century world where there was an increased need for addressing environmental issues. During the 1970s, environmentalism became a dominant concern in the society where people started to argue on the solutions to fight pollution. The USA introduced NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) and Clean Air Act which was one of the huge movements that brought awareness to include environmental problems as a major concern in the society. Before that, environmentalism and pollution control was overlooked by the majority of countries. Since then, there has always been a wide scope for green theory in this industrialized modern world; as pollution is increasing, the responsibility for controlling it is also increasing.
When ideologies such as liberalism and realism failed to save the environmental aspect of society, there came a need for a different way of thinking which led to the emergence of Green theory. Green theory discussed the green aspect in political, economic and social life.
Concepts of Green Theory
Green theory, green politics, green economy and green security are very similar concepts which are also intermingled in general. This Greens ideology doesn’t only focus on saving the environment but also aims in achieving ecological sustainability in three main areas: Environmentalism, social liberalism and democracy. The aspects of the political world are analyzed through a green perspective.
Green theory in international relations is known as green political theory – an ecological political theory that doesn’t come under environmentalism. The concept of Green political theory is often misunderstood with environmentalism. Green political thinkers are called Greens and environmentalism thinkers are called environmentalists. In a common view, one can find that environmentalism is often science based and green politics is the social perspective.
Green theory in IR focuses on climate justice, global justice, modern development and security. As the world faces many transnational environmental – related problems, there came a compulsive requirement for Green Theory in international relations
Understanding Green Political theory
The main difference between environmentalism and green political theory is that :-
Environmentalism focuses on issues such as acid rain, global warming, need for growing trees and on saving the environment within the man-made structure which is Anthropocentrism – human-centered perspective of the world. Whereas green political theory focuses on the same but in a social aspect between human and nature, arguing that the man-made structure itself is responsible for the destruction and considers human as a part of nature, which is ecocentrism – nature centered perspective of the world.
Environmentalists believe that humans should bring change in the world by taking certain measures to reduce pollution. Hence they depend on governments, institutions and international organizations, trying to bring stability within the existing structure of the world where they rely on the concept of sustainable development.
On the contrary, Greens believe that the world has already reached the limits of development and sustainable development will only make the condition worse, as there is no more possibility for it. Greens do not depend on humans to bring a change, instead argue that the whole structure which is responsible for this condition should be changed.
Thus Green political theory critically examines and attacks the current world structures that are responsible for the situation and suggests that the idea of sustainable development even makes it worse when there is an immediate need for a complete shift.
Understanding the reality through green theory
The nations are self-centered and while they thrive for meeting their self-interests, balance of power, and security, global change is not a possibility. Combined contributions and effective steps are not possible when countries seek only mutual benefits and struggle with insecurities. No nation can trust and rely on any nation. It can be seen that Industrialization is the core element that connects the structures which are responsible for global warming and pollution.
Considering the factors that environmentalists depend on:
The International organizations are not a sovereign entity. They are heavily funded by super powers and hence considered an agent or actor of those super powers, as they cannot voice against the countries which provide them to operate. So, the reality is that the powerful nations provide and help the developing nations in cutting their green gas emissions, reducing pollution, poverty, etc while the developed nations’ polluting index itself is much worse compared to other countries. In 2019, Agenda 2030 plan set by the UN in 2015 to achieve various sustainable goals by 2030 was declared impossible in a report published in the UNSG.
The United States uses oil and natural gasses more than any other countries which emits over fifteen tons of greenhouse gasses per person every year. The US was the largest polluter of the atmosphere till the emergence of China as a superpower. Now China is the largest greenhouse gas emitter which emits twice as much as the US!. China alone is responsible for around 31% of the world’s emissions. The other top countries which rank next to China and the USA are India, Russia, and Japan , which are responsible for 60% of the total global pollution. Instead of taking immediate steps to stop polluting the environment, these developed nations focus more on other interests and issues.
Thirdly, the Capitalist structure of the world as accused of being heavily selfish by the Marxists is a huge responsible factor standing as a constraint for an effective change. In this capitalist society, bringing a change, for example; cutting out potential harmful substances such as the plastics; stopping production and consuming of unnecessary products, switching to alternatives from fossil fuel based transportations (Transportation sectors are the largest contributors to global warming followed by other manufacturing industries) would affect the manufacturing company of the product which would also directly affect the economy of the countries. Even if there’s a possibility of banning those polluting products posing no nexus in the economy of the country, those industries or the MNCs will easily influence not only the government but also the people of the country to maintain its richness.
Thus under this system, where development is still considered a possibility without destruction, no organization or individual can bring an actual change by following the goals set in global conferences (such as COP27, UNCC) in achieving net zero emissions or by using alternative energies for fossil fuels, etc. The first question itself is “Without changing the platform which runs on fossil fuel and without constructing a new platform for alternatives, how can any change be brought?”. The whole structure of the world must be changed to attain the goals of the future.
The feasibility and constraints in rapidly changing the system are the challenges posed on the green political thinkers. Meeting these challenges by innovative solutions and the growing need for a change in the world to safeguard our future is of great interest in today’s world. And as the countries keep on postponing and failing to achieve their sustainable goals set under this current system, green politics becomes very much relevant in the contemporary world.
Green theory in International relations provides unique ideas such as decentralization to bring real change, as state-centered hopes are not promising; consciousness on the limits of modern development; ecological modernization as an alternative to sustainable development; green security, green economy, etc which are evolving but always critical in nature. Green political theory is crucial for questioning the countries and the organizations to bring real solutions and changes.
Russia Has Lost Soft Power War with Ukraine – Global Soft Power Index 2023
Russia is the world’s only nation brand to lose soft power over the past year, while Ukraine has seen the strongest soft power improvement, according to the Global Soft Power Index 2023 released today. The Global Soft Power Index is a research study conducted annually by brand evaluation consultancy Brand Finance on a representative sample of 100,000+ respondents in 100+ markets worldwide, measuring perceptions of 121 nation brands.
While Russia‘s Familiarity and Influence have gone up because of the impact that its decision to go to war has had on lives the world over, the nation’s Reputation has been severely damaged. Russia’s Reputation ranking in the study, one of the main determinants of soft power, has fallen from 23rd to an abysmal 105th resulting in a soft power score erosion of -1.3 points and causing it to drop out of the Index’s overall top 10 ranking, down to 13th.
Alongside the three key performance indicators of Familiarity, Reputation, and Influence, the Global Soft Power Index also measures perceptions of nation brands across 35 attributes grouped under 8 Soft Power Pillars. Russia has lost ground relative to others in the Index on all 35 attributes apart from “affairs I follow closely”. It now ranks 119th for the People & Values pillar and for the “good relations with other countries” attribute in International Relations. In addition, global sanctions have caused the nation’s perceptions as “easy to do business in and with” to fall by 61 places and having “future growth potential” by 74 places.
David Haigh, Chairman & CEO of Brand Finance, commented:“While nations have turned to soft power to restore trade and tourism after a devastating health crisis, the world order has been disrupted by the hard power of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. An event that would be hard to believe were it not for the intensity of the images we have been seeing for months and the consequences the conflict is having on politics and the economy alike.”
At the same time, Ukraine gains +10.1 points (more than any other nation) driven by a steep increase in Familiarity and Influence, and jumps 14 ranks up to 37th from 51st the previous year. Ukraine now ranks 3rd in the world for “affairs I follow closely” and sees significant gains across attributes accentuated in official communications and media reports, such as “respects law and human rights” (up 69 to 29th), “tolerant and inclusive” (up 63 to 44th), and “leader in technology and innovation” (up 26 to 50th). The popularity of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his ministers, and advisors, results in the nation going up 36 ranks to 12th on “internationally admired leaders”.
Nevertheless, many other attributes are affected negatively, from the obvious “safe and secure” (down 60 to 118th) or “great place to visit” (down 38 to 118th), to perceptions of Ukraine’s culture and people as the focus shifts to their suffering.
USA unrivalled as the soft power superpower
Under President Joe Biden, the United States reclaimed its top spot in the ranking in last year’s Index and has further increased the lead over other nation brands this year. The USA’s overall score is up +4.1 points to an all-time high of 74.8. With the strengthening of the dollar and widely publicised large-scale investment projects by the federal government, perceptions of the US economy are on the up, resulting in America claiming the top spot for Business & Trade from China. The US also benefits from the introduction of a new “invests in space exploration” attribute in the Education & Science pillar, where it ranks 1st in the world. In fact, the US ranks 1st in twelve and among the top 3 in four more categories, bagging 16 soft power medals – more than any other nation brand in the Index.
The US records stable scores across most categories. However, mounting problems with shootings, gun crime, and police violence continue to erode perceptions of the country as “safe and secure” (down from 21st in 2020 to 62nd this year) and of its people as “friendly” (down from 5th in 2020 to 103rd this year).
The end of the Second Elizabethan Era
In the United Kingdom, 2022 will be remembered as the end of an era. The passing of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96, after 70 years on the throne, shook the nation. At the same time, intense media coverage of the period of mourning and the monarch’s spectacular funeral attended by the world’s leaders reminded the global public of Britain’s greatest soft power assets. The UK has defended its 2nd position in the Index this year, with an increase of +2.4 points to 65.8, recording increases across a number of attributes, from “good relations with other countries” (up 7 ranks) to “appealing lifestyle” (up 5 ranks).
Last year will also go down in British history for its three prime ministers. After the fall of Boris Johnson’s government, Liz Truss shot to power as quickly as she lost it to Rishi Sunak, becoming the country’s shortest-serving prime minister ever. While the nation’s overall Reputation has not been dented, perceptions of the UK as “politically stable and well-governed” declined relative to others (down 10 ranks).
Germany post-Merkel holds its own
Many worried about Germany losing its international standing after the departure of Angela Merkel. A year later, the nation has largely held its own, retaining 3rd position in the Index, with an increase of +1.2 points to 65.8. Olaf Scholz’s government has struggled with criticism of its hesitant response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but this has had little impact on the nation’s perceptions among the global public. Germany’s nation brand strength transcends political crises, proving its resilience regardless of who is in charge.
China retains “future growth potential” despite COVID-19 restrictions
Although China has seen marginal growth of its Global Soft Power Index score (+0.8 to 65.0), it dropped in the ranking from 4th in 2022 to 5th in 2023, overtaken by Japan. While most nations accelerated their global engagement across trade, investment, tourism, and talent, China remained closed last year, maintaining a “zero COVID” policy. Reduced mental and physical availability of China’s nation brand among global audiences undermined its ability to improve perceptions at the same pace as competing economies, resulting in some relative declines, such as in the People & Values (down 57 to 95th) and Media & Communication (down 12 to 24th) pillars.
Nevertheless, on many metrics China has largely defended its position from last year and it remains 2nd in the world for Influence, behind only the US, and 3rd in the Education & Science pillar, with particularly strong performance across “leader in technology and innovation” (2nd), “leader in science” (3rd), and the new attribute: “invests in space exploration” (3rd). The nation also maintains its global #1 positions for “easy to do business in and with” and “future growth potential”, pointing to the resilience of its Business & Trade credentials, despite an overall rank drop for the pillar to 3rd. Revised economic growth forecasts by the International Monetary Fund confirm that China is back in business in 2023, predicting 5.2% GDP growth, above the level of previous expectations as private consumption rebounds following the country’s opening post-COVID at the end of 2022.
UAE enters top 10 for the first time
With otherwise little change in the top 10, the performance of the United Arab Emirates is a standout. For the fourth year running, the Emirates achieved the highest score of any Middle Eastern nation brand, but this year’s increase of +3.2 to 55.2 has meant a jump of five ranks to allow it to claim 10th position in the global ranking for the first time. Both Reputation and Influence of the Gulf nation have seen notable increases this year.
David Haigh, Chairman & CEO of Brand Finance, commented: “The UAE was one of the first economies to roll out mass vaccination and open during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving it a head start ahead of others and allowing it to maintain positive perceptions across the Business & Trade pillar with a particular improvement on the “future growth potential” attribute, where it ranks 3rd globally. The successful showcase of the Emirates as a global trade hub thanks to EXPO 2020 has also undoubtedly provided a significant boost. At the same time, the UAE is one of the largest donors of foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, which is recognised by the global general public counting it among the world’s most “generous” nations – 3rd.”
Perceptions of the UAE’s Governance and International Relations are on the up too and the nation’s salience is only expected to grow. The Emirates Mars Mission has landed the UAE at 8th for “invests in space exploration”, while hosting the world’s most high-profile climate conference, COP 28, will put the nation firmly in the spotlight in 2023. The historically oil-heavy economy continues to increase its commitment to diversification, innovation, and investment in a more Sustainable Future. The UAE already scores relatively high on the new soft power pillar of that name, placing 19th globally.
The Dilemma of Science Diplomacy: Between Advancement of Humanity and The Source of Rivalry
In the past decades, science and technology have gained more ground in foreign affairs decision making processes. The emergence of more complex global problems has raised awareness that policymakers need to collaborate with researchers and scientists to create effective solutions. This is where the term science diplomacy has become increasingly noticeable over the years. The complicated challenges are faced by numerous countries simultaneously; therefore, both inter-state collaboration and scientific evidence are considered indispensable to overcome those challenges, thus, bringing science to the foreground of policy-making. Science diplomacy is then expected to close the gap by presenting a contemporary approach to global challenges. The existence of science in diplomacy conveys two important promises: scientific advice and networks that could help build the world better amid the complexity of transnational issues and leverage that international actors can use to strengthen their foreign policy.
However, these two promises contradict each other as bestowing political power in science makes it laden with interests. By using science diplomacy, states will be confronted with the dilemma of either using science to improve the life of people or using science to pursue their national interests. This article will further analyze this dilemma on how science and technology are imperatively needed to resolve global challenges. Yet, at the same time, its existence becomes one of the sources of power that create a rivalry between states.
The Extent of Science Diplomacy in International Affairs
The development of science and technology is pivotal in solving complex human issues at both national and international levels. However, innovative inventions resulting from scientific evolution need to be acknowledged by policymakers and put into policy implementation first before they can be advantageous for overcoming global challenges. In this case, diplomacy could be one field of policy and decision-making where science can appear both as transformative solutions for international issues or as leverage tools for states to achieve domestic gains, which then refers to as science diplomacy. Simply put, science diplomacy is the use of scientific collaborations among nations to address common problems facing 21st-century humanity and to build constructive international partnerships. According to Legrand and Stone, science diplomacy is not limited to exchanges only between states, but the practice has been unfolded to have wider global policy ramifications.
Over the last 15 years, the involvement of researchers as transnational actors in public policy and global governance are increasingly visible and making a distinguishable impact in various dimensions, including social, political, and economical. The increasing entanglement of science in diplomacy is caused by three main factors as follows:
- The growth of transnational challenges. Recent international issues tend to spread and transgress national borders. For instance, concerns about cyber security, the transmission of disease, labor migrations and digital communities indicated how states had developed higher levels of interdependency towards each other. These are all matters that demand the implementation of sophisticated scientific knowledge.
- The disaggregation of transnational policy-making. Although powerful sovereign actors are still considered the most important actors in the international arena, non-state actors’ emersion started gaining influence as significant players in managing policy challenges. This creates an opening where new subjects can be integrated into transnational relations, necessarily science and technology.
- The turn to science diplomacy. The science paradigm is rarely contested when disputes over transnational issues occur. This circumstance started shifting when the rationalist traditions within public policy were ascending. As a result, scientific advice in understanding government challenges becomes matters to create policy responses related to economic inequality, social unrest, or depletion of natural resources.
The extent of science diplomacy’s contribution to international affairs ranges in countless essential issues. Cross-border partnerships and multinational research networks have accomplished consequential scientific discovery: from gene-edited plants that could endure climate change to the identification of SARS Coronavirus and the formulation of its vaccines in less than two years. Recently, the involvement of science in diplomacy has made a significant impact in improving global health. Cooperation between governmental and non-governmental public health experts with diplomats and political leaders successfully assisted the dealing with some health challenges such as HIV/AIDS, the spread of the infectious Ebola Virus and MERS, as well as managing swine flu through coordinated global response.
Further, science diplomacy has also been impacting economic dimensions. Initiatives conducted by governments and foundations along with United Nations have successfully employed technology to reduce extreme poverty. The rapid growth of digital technology also fortuitously generates new opportunities for people in the least developed countries. In environmental dimensions, The Paris Agreement was another accomplishment facilitated by science diplomacy and considered a game changer in dealing with climate change. The successful narratives above show how scientific research could eliminate major global challenges and save human lives. Undeniably, the integration of science in diplomacy become imperatives approach currently in improving humanity.
Science in Diplomacy: Creating Rivalry
Away from its contribution to solving major global challenges, the existence of science could also be the source of power which function to leverage states in international relations. According to Royal Society, science for diplomacy enables actors to conceive science as a means to cultivate or even improve international relations between states. However, the usage of science in diplomacy could not be separated from political objectives. This is in line with Nye’s argumentation which stated that the strategy of using science is pursued with genuine scientific interest, yet strategic political goals clearly champion the approach. Consequently, science in and for diplomacy drew a paradox, for it can be seen only as a way to exploit science in international political affairs to achieve national interests.
Science is inherently neutral and perceived as a force for good. Royal Society also claimed that science offers a non-ideological setting for interaction and free idea exchange, regardless of ethnic, national, or religious roots. The integration of science in policymaking has inflicted a political dimension into it; hence their neutrality is questionable. Nevertheless, by bestowing political objectives upon science, it can become a powerful tool to leverage states’ bargaining power. In this case, science becomes a source of contested power that creates rivalry. This was clearly seen during the Cold War Period when the United States and Uni Soviets attempted to attain nuclear and space capacities to maintain their hegemony.
The current trajectory of science in international relations is internalized much the same way, particularly when science and technology are growing at a breakneck speed. Looks at the Technology War between the United States and China, where both countries compete to increase their science capacity. As China gains more ground in technological developments, Xi Jinping Government is increasingly being reckoned in global political affairs. Its presence is welcomed progressively in Global South as a key player in building a digital backbone. China is even considered a systemic threat by the US following its increasing domination over science and technology. This narrative showed how science became a contested power which could leverage states’ position in the international arena. Thus, science diplomacy should be understood as something other than a contemporary approach to resolving the complex global issue. It also needs to be addressed as the source of rivalry among states.
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