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Science diplomacy in the Danube Delta. With Ukraine or not?

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Ukraine has clearly defined integration of the European values as a priority for external and internal government policy since 2014. The scientific sphere is not an exception. Nowadays, integration into the European Research Area (ERA) is considered not only as geopolitical constant for Ukraine and Ukrainian science but also as a real instrument for scientists to join a European system approach, independent expertise and modern research infrastructures through consortia. On the other hand, Ukraine as a State will receive an extra funds for reestablishing its old-fashioned research facilities, formed mostly during the Soviet period, through instruments of the participation in common infrastructures and research infrastructure consortia.

The European Research Infrastructure Consortium is one of the policy instrument of ERA aimed at promoting, establishing and operating of the Research Infrastructures (RI) for the needs of several countries’ scientific community with minimal level of bureaucracy and fiscal burdens.

In this regard, it might be interesting for Ukraine to join Romania-initiated project aimed on creation of pan European distributed Research Infrastructure dedicated to Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies on River-Sea Systems (DANUBIUS-RI). The DANUBIUS PP project was included to the ESFRI Roadmap in 2015 and the preparatory phase was completed in 2019.

The research infrastructure will comprise a Hub and a Data Centre in Romania, a Technology Transfer Office in Ireland, and Supersites and Nodes across Europe. The Hub will provide leadership, coordination, and key scientific, educational and analytical capabilities. Supersites will be designated natural sites that provide the focus for observation, research and modelling at locations of high scientific importance and utilizing a range of opportunities to study RS systems from river source to coastal sea. Nodes will be centers of expertise providing facilities and services, data storage and provision, experimental and in situ measurements facilities, state-of-the-art analytical capabilities and implementation of standardized procedures and quality control (the DANUBIUS Commons).

European research on river-sea systems and their transitional environments is world- leading but fragmented, largely discipline-specific and often geographically isolated.

The lack of interdisciplinary research infrastructures has fueled this fragmentation. DANUBIUS-RI will fill the gap, drawing on existing research excellence across Europe, enhancing the impact of European research while maximizing the return on investment. It will provide access to a range of European river-sea systems, facilities and expertise; a ‘one-stop shop’ for knowledge exchange in managing river-sea systems; access to harmonized data; and a platform for interdisciplinary research, inspiration, education and training.

This structure will enable DANUBIUS-RI to build on existing expertise and synergies to support world-leading interdisciplinary research and innovation in freshwater-marine research.

The benefits to Ukraine of being member of the future (DANUBIUS-RI):

  • DANUBIUS-RI is the only European Research Infrastructure dedicated to Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies on River-Sea Systems worldwide. It gained the status of ESFRI Project in 2016, which demonstrates not only European support but its global relevance.
  • The access to the major opportunities given by DANUBIUS-RI will bring the opportunity to find science-based solutions that involve the highest standards at global level to solving national, regional and local problems occurring in river-sea systems in Ukraine. It will support gaining better knowledge of processes in the Black Sea and at contacts with major rivers (not just the Danube).
  • DANUBIUS-RI is working to become a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). This gives a very strict quality control system over the years – to maintain itself as an infrastructure promoting scientific excellence. Therefore, being part of DANUBIUS-ERIC means also becoming part of a strictly surveyed organization, which needs to implement excellence.
  • As a signatory of DANUBIUS-ERIC, Ukraine will give its scientists a direct and open access to all the work opportunities given by DANUBIUS-ERIC across Europe. Researchers and professionals will thus be able to train, work with and use all the data and facilities provided in all parts of the Research Infrastructure, no matter where they are located.
  • With Ukraine a member of the DANUBIUS-ERIC, Ukrainian students (from undergraduate to postgraduate) and postdoctorals will be able to develop and improve their training throughout Europe, using the opportunities offered by the various parts of the Research Infrastructure.
  • Membership of the ERIC will increase the opportunities for participation in future EC DG Research and Innovation – funded projects, in HORIZON EUROPE or following programmes.

That is why the Ukrainian participation in this consortium is very important not only from scientific point of view but also from practical significance of the project outputs for the needs of state environmental protection policy.

Ukraine took the first step towards the DANUBIUS–RI participation in 2016 year. Odesa State Ecological University became part of Horizon 2020 project “The preparatory phase for the Pan-European research infrastructure DANUBIUS–RI: the international center for advanced studies on river-sea systems”. According to the rules of project, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine joined to the Board of Governmental Representatives. In fact, it was Ukrainian first official practical step toward ERICs participation at all.

With starting activity in DANUBIUS PP project the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine faced new challenges. On the institutional level, the Ministry is responsible for the participation in the European Research Infrastructure Consortia and for the national consortium forming. But it should be mentioned that for participation in any ERIC and in DANUBIUS-ERIC in particular, Ukraine as non-EU statefaces two big challenges: harmonization of national legislation with EU legislation on ERIC activity and establishing national consortium of research infrastructures as a national part of ERIC.

The DANUBUIS ERIC Statute has the item concerning the obligations on behalf of the state such as annual membership fee, appointment of national representative and support of his(her) participation in Government Board meetings, tax exemptions and support of maintenance of the national research infrastructures involved in ERIC.

According to Ukrainian legislation, in this case,it should be used the Law “On International Treaty of Ukraine”. It means that DANUBIUS ERIC Statute requires ratification by Ukrainian Parliament. The ratification allows to agree to be bound by the terms of the Statute and to implement the EU Regulation “On European Research Infrastructures Consortium (ERIC)”in the same time which establish Value Added Tax exemptions.

The Statute ratification will become a legislative basis for determination of state body responsible for this ERIC, for membership fees and for ensuring of RI functioning.

The ERIC Statute also predicts the obligation of national RI establishment as legal entity that should be the part of ERIC. Only this legal entity can be use the option concerning tax exemptions. The essence of the problem is that Ukrainian legislation should make the binding of a specific legal entity to tax benefits arising from an international agreement.

The third important task of the preparatory period is the financing by the Ukrainian Party the national RIs and rising the level of technical readiness of Ukrainian infrastructures to comply with ERIC technical regulations. In this regards, the interesting for Ukraine is the Romanian experience.

In spite the membership in EU, Romanian has an enlightening experience in participation in ERICs that could be useful for Ukraine. Romania also needs pass through the coordination process with ministries and ratification procedures in Romanian Parliament.

The second pull of issues is building the national RI consortium integrated into ERIC.

The first step toward this process should be determination on the state level the goals, objectives, sources of funding, conditions creation of a consortium and only after this, gathering information and formulating proposals from individual organizations. In this regard, Ukraine could use the experience of Romanian Party. An appropriate way for the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine can be the adoption of R&D project “Specification of Strategy and actions for preparation of the national participation in the DANUBIUS-RI”.

During 2018-2019 years, Romanian Government financed the similar project DANS and from 2020 the project DANS 2 started.

The Term of reference for Ukrainian participation in DANUBIUS ERIC will be an important basic document and further steps of Ukraine in the preparation of the draft action planat the Governmental level regarding Ukraine’s participation in the international structure of DANUBIUS RI. In addition, such document will be an instrument for the financial resources accession for the creation of the Ukrainian part of the DANUBE delta supersite and for request funding from DANUBIUS ERIC.

Also, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine should pay attention on the additional document of the Romanian project “Specification of Strategy and actions for preparation of the national participation in the DANUBIUS-RI” with requirements to the network of observations and research stations that the Romania is creating on its territory as a part of the DANUBE DELTA supersite.

But in spite of importance being the part of EU integration process and building a working strategy of scientific development, Ukraine does not take appropriate steps to achieve state interests in R&D sphere. For became the equal partner in the Danube scientific chessboard Ukraine is explicitly required two components: appropriate legislation conditions and budget allocation.

C. Bradley, M. J. Bowes, J. Brils, J. Friedrich, J. Gault, S. Groom, T. Hein, P. Heininger, P. Michalopoulos, N. Panin, M. Schultz, A. Stanica, I. Andrei, A. Tyler & G. Umgiesser. 2018. Advancing integrated research on European river–sea systems: the DANUBIUS-RI project, International Journal of Water Resources Development, 34:6, 888-899, DOI: 10.1080/07900627.2017.1399107

Dr.Dmytro Cheberkus, PhD in economie, representative of Ukrainian national hub within Black sea assistance mechanisme

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Ramifications of The Pandemic In International Relations

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Ever since the global spread of the COVID-19 virus, claims have been made of the pandemic causing a massive impact in global politics and international relations. In the pre-pandemic era, international relations were defined by increasing bipolarity, greater isolationism, greater trade protectionism and increasing nationalism. While the West led by the US was gradually adopting a protectionist attitude, the East led by China in particular, was looking towards increasing multilateral cooperation. Alongside this, international organizations were seeing their roles diminishing. Moreover, populist leaders and authoritarian governments were gradually gathering influence globally, in stark contrast to a decline in democracy and neo-liberalism. These trends could be seen most clearly in the US/China conflict that has dominated most international relations rhetoric of the 21st century.

Although China had been hit with the pandemic first, through extreme lockdown measures, quick responses, mass screenings, targeted monitoring and an effective socio-political response, the country quickly reversed course and had flattened its curve by March, depicting the resilience of the country. With a mere 87,000 cases as of December 2020 in a country of 1.4 billion people, China’s effective policies to deal with the pandemic can hardly be sidelined. Nevertheless, as the virus had been identified in China first, this triggered a massive backlash from the West, particularly the US, where President Trump blasted China for covering-up details about the virus. Rumors were spread by the White House itself about the virus originating from a Wuhan lab, and the virus was labeled the Wuhan Virus – a move discouraged by the WHO. This inflammatory language worsened relations between the two countries. Going even further, President Trump terminated US involvement in the World Health Organization, claiming it to be controlled by Chinese authorities.

With this move the influence of the world’s most important health organization was weakened, further showcasing the decline of the liberal international world order, due to a diminishing trust in international organizations. Thus, the pre-Covid trend of a lack of trust in international organizations, continued during the COVID-19 pandemic as well. With Trump advocating for closed borders with his “We need the wall more than ever” expressions  on Twitter, and similar far-right leaders like France’s Le Pen ruing the “religion of borderless-ness” for the pandemic, the West’s protectionist, nationalistic ideas showed no signs of abating even during a global crisis.

In stark contrast, the East led by China continued on its path of greater cooperation and interdependence, through bilateral and multilateral engagements. With the US leaving a void in the global leadership spot for handling the pandemic, China stepped in and offered to assist other countries in handling the outbreaks in their respective countries. China’s foreign ministry’s spokesperson,  Hua Chunying, even stated that they would like to share China’s good practice and experience.

Furthering its charm offensive, China started shipping out masks and ventilators to countries that were very badly hit by the pandemic, like Italy, Spain and Serbia. With the countries of the European Union shutting down their borders and hoarding domestic supplies, despite Italy’s pleas for help, Italy turned to China for aid in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. This “mask diplomacy” along with China’s Health Silk Road has served to strengthen global public health governance, as envisioned by China.

Undeniably, the pandemic’s effects in the short-term have been wide-reaching, especially in the social and technological domain. However, expecting global politics and international relations to undergo a transformational change in the long-term, solely due to the COVID-19 pandemic is relatively far-fetched, especially if current global trends are assessed.

The virus may or may not have taken its toll on international diplomacy in the traditional context, but it has certainly shaken many things if not stirred them completely.

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Diplomatic Fiasco: PTI Government’s Failure on the Climate Diplomacy Front

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“Think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them”.– John F. Kerry

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have both declared that unrestrained climate change poses a threat to international peace and security. Presently, climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. We all will witness its impacts, making it a critical foreign policy and diplomatic issue. Climate change will overturn the 21st century world order and characterize how we live and work. Even so, in the midst  of a global pandemic, it is evident that climate change will be the major issue of this century. As countries will move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans will shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean and green, safe and healthy, and more resilient. Over the last decade, foreign policymakers have taken measures to better understand climate risks. To date, foreign policy responses to climate change have primarily centered on the security repercussions of climate change.

To chart a fresh course ahead, in order to initiate a global fight against climate change, President Joe Biden welcomed a diverse set of leaders from around the globe to explicate the connections between climate security, climate change and broader foreign policy objectives. The list of invitee included world leaders like President Xi Jinping of China and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, PM Modi of India, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to attend the two-days meeting to mark Washington’s return to the visible lines of the fight against climate risks. Though, Pakistan have its place in the same region, and fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change, it has been disqualified from the summit. Likewise,  Biden dispatched his climate envoy, former secretary of state John Kerry, to prepare the ground for the summit in meetings with global leaders. The U.S. invited the leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the 17 countries responsible for about 80-percent of global emissions and GDP, along with, heads of countries that are unambiguously vulnerable to climate impacts or are representing robust climate leadership.

The current global efforts towards mainstreaming of climate change in development policies and programs are getting more traction due to expanding avenues of domestic and international climate diplomacy. For developing countries, climate diplomacy is undoubtedly becoming a key incentive to integrate climate change issues into their foreign policy. Pakistan is also a relatively new player in the climate diplomacy arena with a nascent institutional setup. The climate diplomacy adaption experience of Pakistan is still at the embryonic stage. The main problem is the gradual decline in the aptitude and capacity of institution to develop a clear policy route. The policy decline is much more rapid under the PTI government. Pakistan’s ambassadorial clout has eroded over the years due to political unpredictability and economic timidity. Similarly, the government has failed even to built a national narrative on climate change issue. Imran Khan has been warning the world of catastrophe if the climate problem is not addressed, but has failed to come out with a clear policy direction on the issue.

Among the many challenges fronting the Imran Khan government will be tackling the notoriously dysfunctional U.S. – Pakistan relationship. The Biden presidency has designated climate change as a critical theme of its foreign policy, and indeed aware of Pakistan’s deep climate vulnerability. For the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan is not a foreign policy priority for U.S. administration. Many high-ranking Biden government officials, including climate change envoy John Kerry, know Pakistan well. When Kerry was Obama’s secretary of state, co-chaired US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue that counted renewable energy. Anybody familiar with how Islamabad and Washington have interacted over the last 74 years will resort to weary metaphors: a roller-coaster ride, the dynamic between an overbearing mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Biden and his experienced team of ex-Obama administration officials are likely to press Pakistan – for Islamabad, it is a catch-22 situation. In the indigenous context, internal political strife in Pakistan and economic dependency on other countries have raised questions about our ability to effectively fight our case in international arena. The latest diplomatic fiasco speaks very loud and clear about the government’s inability to deal with fast-changing geopolitics. Washington’s broader interests in Asia, including relationships with China and India, will determine its policy at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. It seems, Pakistan has no friends in the Biden administration. Thus, out-of-the-box thinking is required for Pakistan’s foreign policy decision makers.

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Gender Diplomacy: A concern For International Politics

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UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Diplomacy can be defined as an art of interaction between actors (states/ organizations) to achieve mutually benefitted desirable interests of pursuing parties, especially in the international arena of politics. While diplomacy is an integral part of the Liberal school of thought which has primarily dominated world politics, yet the field of diplomacy is itself deprived of liberal virtues of equality and parity. Weighing the balance of ratio between both genders in diplomacy, the dilemma of the day is that females do not reach the level of participation to be in parity with male partakers in diplomacy. Having a statistical outlook at patriarchy-ridden Foreign Services around the globe, female diplomats in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the United States of America, and France makeup to 30%-40% of Foreign Service. While even the developed states have not reached 50% of female diplomats in their respective states, developing states in the South show an even less percentile of female diplomats. South Asian states like Pakistan and India estimate to less than 15 and 20 percent of females in the skill of diplomacy, respectively.

Being an equal sharer in foreign policy-making and policy implementation is a fundamental democratic right of both genders; to serve the country and to shape the future of the land which is their identity, their respect, and their pride. Apart from this that the balanced ratio of diplomatic participants is an integral right, involving women in diplomatic interactions may aid and enhance the pursuance of goals by the states. I would like to back my argument with not only contemporary examples but historical evidence, as well. Turning pages of history back to 400 B.C. where women are named as ‘weavers’ in the writings of Aristophanes to Lysistrate; referring to women’s role as skilled and accomplished diplomats who helped in the resolution of the Peloponnesian war. This act of inter-mingle, unifying, and peace-making through the prowess of consular skill set by then women is explained by Aristophanes in a phrase: ‘Weavers of nations”. This brings me to another point is that in contemporary times as pinpointed by the United Nations, the peace-processes in which women are engagers, 35% of those tend to last for at least 15 years.

While men are more forgoing towards minor details during foreign relation analysis, women tend to put more attention to minute details, which consequently results in the production of best-suited foreign policies. But it is noteworthy that to get potential benefit from this healthy difference in nature between males and females, it is potent enough to bring anequal number of female Foreign Service Officers as compared to male Officers. Having such a salubrious balance of both feminine and masculine characteristics can also equate chances of war and peace, spontaneous and patient decisions, and use of both: hard and soft power. Eventually, this egalitarian level complies with Robert Putnam’s ‘Law of Increasing Disproportion’ which links the rank of authority and the degree of representation of high-status in society. Nevertheless, being an Ambassador, diplomat or even part of Foreign Service is a matter of great esteem and so women in diplomacy, represent women of the society. Linking the argumentative dots mentioned above, the United Nations’ report endorses the importance of the role of women in diplomacy by considering their input as a vital ingredient for stable and secure democracy.

Applying the United Nations’ analysis on the inclusion of women in the artistry of diplomacy on developing states, particularly in South Asia, we tend to project various prosperous benefits of women diplomats in the region, particularly in the context of the two-decades-long conflicts: Afghan-Taliban Conflict and the Kashmir dispute in the heart of South Asia. Women in diplomacy in Pakistan, India, and neighboring South Asian states might weaken the bone of contention between the by-birth rivals: India and Pakistan through conflict transformation strategies. While the involvement of Afghan females in the ongoing and forthcoming Afghan Peace Processes and the future Afghan government can not only uplift the societal status of women in Afghan society but will improve the longevity of sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Eventually, colleen diplomats can help to divert the state-centric state and regional security paradigm of South Asia to human-centric state and regional security, resulting in diversified and proactive approach; fostering fraternal ties leading to paced development in the region and abroad.

To conclude with, as I have highlighted the irony of the hour with an un-equal statistical ratio of gender parity in the course of diplomacy and the importance of achieving this parity by incorporating women in the skilled framework of diplomacy, I would like to propose universally applicable policy measures to acquire this equivalence.  The first and foremost step is to bring awareness in society for the encouragement and acceptance of more female diplomats as opposed to the conventional fields like medical and engineering sciences. Along with this policy changes should be made to ensure equal recruitment of female diplomats, specifically on merit to counter and curtail the patriarchal dominance, mostly due to the might of money. Lastly, a female-friendly environment should be promoted to utilize the feminine potential in Foreign Offices. Conclusively, equal participation of both genders will result in sustainably productive democracies—both, in letter and spirit. Hence, gender equality in diplomacy is essential for the growth and evolution of international politics.

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