THE NEW YORK TIMES QUOTATION OF THE DAY – February 10, 2016:
SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL-MAKTOUM, the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, on a new office established amid a sweeping government reorganization.
The NYT article’s title is: “United Arab Emirates Want to Top the World in Happiness, Too.”
By BEN HUBBARD
The emirates already have the world’s tallest building and a wealth of international talent. Soon, they will also have ministers of happiness and tolerance.
RIYADH, Saugi Arabia money can’t buy happiness, at least not at current oil prices.
It seems that being the Persian Gulf nation known for building the biggest indoor ski slope and an island that looks like a palm tree just was not cutting it anymore. At least not in the happiness department. Oh, and it seems that tolerance is also in short supply.
So the government will appoint a minister of tolerance, too.
The sheikhs who rule the United Arab Emirates have announced the most sweeping government reorganization in their country’s 44-year history, which included the creation of the two new ministers.
The announcement was made with all the trappings of a royal decree by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the country’s prime minister — on Twitter.
“It is the beginning of a new journey of achievement and giving to the people, and we ask God to help us serve and take care of them,” Sheikh Mohammed said in one post in Arabic.
An attachment to the statement gices the names of 23 Ministers in the UAE 12th Cabinet. the 12th UAE Cabinet – the team which will achieve the Nation’s aspirations.
1945 at Yalta Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt – then at Port Said Roosevelt and Ibn Saud – a World organized by Churchill gave Stalin East Europe in exchange for ending support for the Trude Party in Iran and turn that oil to the Btrits with the US getting uncontested the Saudi oil. 70 years later we still watch the last gasp of that arrangement in US and British support for the Saudi Wahhabi Royal clan. The House of Bush cemented that relationship with the House of Saud supported by the House of Bin Laden.
PHOTO: An explosion and smoke rise after an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition at a weapons depot in Sanaa on September 11, 2015. (photo: Hani Mohammed/AP) What timing?
THE SAUDI RULES
By Robert Fisk, CounterPunch at Readers Supported News.
13 January 16
“Regrettable” and “unacceptable” represent the double standards we employ when our wealthy Saudi friends put their hands to bloody work. To find something “regrettable” means it causes us sadness. It disappoints us. The implication is that the good old Saudis have let us down, fallen from their previously high moral principles.
No wonder the Minister of Defense has popped across to Riyadh to un-crease the maps and explain those incomprehensible co-ordinates for the Saudi leaders of the “coalition against terror”. Sorting this logistics mess out for the Saudis does, I suppose, make it less “unacceptable” to have our personnel standing alongside the folk who kill women for adultery without even a fair trial and who chop off the heads of dozens of opponents, including a prominent Saudi Shia cleric.
Those very words – regrettable and unacceptable – are now the peak of the critical lexicon which we are permitted to use about the Saudis. Anything stronger would force us to ask why David Cameron lowered our flag when the last king of this weird autocracy died.
But wasn’t there, nine years ago, a small matter of the alleged bribery of Saudi officials by the British BAE Systems arms group? The Financial Times revealed how Robert Wardle, the UK director of the Serious Fraud Office, decided he might have to cancel his official investigation after being told “how the probe might cause Riyadh to cancel security and intelligence co-operation”. The advice to Wardle was that persisting with his official enquiry might “endanger lives in Britain”. Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara ordered the investigation closed.
But relax – this would elicit no expressions of outrage, condemnation or disgust at Saudi Arabia – nor any of the revulsion we show when other local head-choppers take out their swords. Any such UK involvement would be unacceptable. Even regrettable. We would be sad. Disappointed. Say no more.
The First Comments:
+8 # RMDC 2016-01-13 18:45
Uber neocons and Bush supporters David Frum and Richard Perle wrote a book called “The End of Evil: How to Win the War on Terror.” It was a best seller. It said that the war on terror was really a war on evil and it would not end until evil had been totally exterminated from the earth. This would mean killing all people who are evil – that is, not on the American side.
This is the American rules. It is essentially a crusade against infidels or heretics. That’s what the Saudis are doing.
What we need to do is recognize that the Americans, Brits, and Saudis are pure evil. The secular and tolerant societies in Syria, Iraq under Saddam, Libya under Qaddafi, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia are the good guys and they are being killed by the evil people.
I really don’t know how the war on terror will ever end. Right now it is just massacring innocent people and destroying nations. There is no longer a point, if there ever was one. Al Qaeda, the Saudis, ISIS, the Americans — they are all the same. They are all on a killing rampage. They are all head choppers.
+5 # Farafalla 2016-01-13 23:13
0 # Shades of gray matter 2016-01-14 00:39
Climate change means more fear, less fun for global middle class – UBS
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Mon, 11 Jan 2016
In a study of middle-class consumption in 215 cities around the world, UBS analysts found spending priorities were noticeably different in cities most at risk from climate change such as Los Angeles, Tokyo and Shanghai.
In those top-risk cities, the middle class spent between 0.6 and 0.8 percent more on housing compared to the national average, and less on luxuries, entertainment and durable goods.
The report said middle-class households are already changing their lifestyles in the cities most exposed to hotter temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather such as storms and floods.
“More fear, less fun is how we might sum it up,” said the study.
In places with high risks of climate-related shocks, people spend more on the upkeep of their properties. And homes may decrease in value if certain places become less appealing to live, eating into wealth, the report said.
Efforts to adapt to changing climate conditions – which remain modest and sporadic among the middle class – can also bring new costs.
In cities that suffer extreme heat, the middle-class is increasingly laying out for air conditioning, the report noted.
But some types of adaptation can create “a negative feedback loop”, it warned. For instance, higher demand for air conditioning requires more electricity, which can lead to grid failure and increased planet-warming emissions.
In addition, inadequate infrastructure and health care systems increase the need to rely on emergency government support when disasters strike. “In our assessment this is likely, even in the richest of countries,” the report said.
The largest cities are home to nearly a quarter of the global population and generate around half of global GDP, the report said.
Most of the global middle class lives in Southeast Asia, the region that has experienced the fastest urban population growth in recent years, it noted.
But 91 percent of weather-related losses in Asia are uninsured, it added, compared with 32 percent in the United States, which had the highest level of insurance penetration in the study sample.
DRIVER OF CONFLICT
The report also said climate-driven population shifts into urban areas have the potential to create and exacerbate conflict, as in Syria.
In the course of five years of drought starting in 2006, Syria lost 85 percent of its livestock and saw crop production plummet, child malnutrition worsen and the subsequent migration of 1.5 million residents from rural to urban areas.
“These conditions led to protests, which ultimately escalated into civil war,” Zurich-based UBS said in a statement.
However, the political and social clout of middle-class populations means their vulnerability to climate change risks should translate into pressure on governments to tackle global warming, the report noted.
“The middle class has two important qualities that make them critically important to the conversation about climate change: substantial assets and political influence,” said Paul Donovan, global economist and managing director at UBS Investment Bank.
“If the effects of climate change significantly hurt the middle class, the inevitable reaction should in turn elicit a strong response from policy makers.”
(Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a unique global network of policy research centers in Russia, China, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Our mission, dating back more than a century, is to advance the cause of peace through analysis and development of fresh policy ideas and direct engagement and collaboration with decisionmakers in government, business, and civil society. Working together, these centers bring the inestimable benefit of multiple national viewpoints to bilateral, regional, and global issues.
WASHINGTON—The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace announced today that Carnegie India, its sixth international center, will open in April 2016.
C. Raja Mohan will serve as the founding director of Carnegie India. Mohan has been a nonresident senior associate at Carnegie since 2012, as well as a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, and a visiting research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He also served as a member of India’s National Security Advisory Board. From 2009 to 2010, Mohan was the Henry Alfred Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the U.S. Library of Congress. Previously, he was a professor of South Asian studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. He is a columnist for the Indian Express and previously worked as the diplomatic editor and Washington correspondent of the Hindu.
“I am deeply honored to serve as the center’s founding director and to work even more closely with longtime Carnegie colleagues across the world. I look forward to the center contributing to India’s rich intellectual tradition through the in-depth, nonpartisan research of our scholars,” Mohan said. “I am confident that Carnegie India will add to Carnegie’s global reputation for quality, integrity, and independence.”
Shivnath Thukral will serve as Carnegie India’s managing director. He was group president of corporate branding and strategic initiatives at Essar, a $35 billion corporation. He spent fifteen years as a TV anchor and business analyst for India’s premier English TV news channel New Delhi Television, and was managing editor of the business television news channel NDTV Profit. A graduate of the Delhi School of Economics, he interned at the U.S. Senate and was awarded the Eisenhower Fellowship in 2012.
President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Williams J. Burns, said, “We are very proud to add Carnegie India to Carnegie’s network of international centers. We are especially proud to have Raja Mohan serve as its founding director and grateful for the generous support of our donors and Founders Committee members that made this milestone possible.”
Press Contact: Clara Hogan | +1 202 939 2233 | chogan at ceip.org
IRENA’s two added workshops during World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, that will be held January 16-21, 2016.
from: Virginia Yu <VYu@irena.org>
Sun, Jan 10, 2016 at 2:22 PM
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) announces two side events at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE – 1) Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy, 18 January, and 2) Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, 19 January.
1) The Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy will take place on 18th January, 2016 at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre) – future home of World Fair 2020), Abu Dhabi. The purpose of this workshop is to gather information and ideas from stakeholders that can feed into IRENA’s development of the medium-term strategy (1-2 years) for the Global Atlas. Workshop participants will engage in a practical discussion around how the Global Atlas can help overcome barriers to renewable energy development, generate ideas for more effective communication on the Global Atlas, and investigate the needs and ideas of data providers.
To register, please send an email to potentials at irena.org by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please read the final event concept note and announcement. Please connect to: www.irena.org
2) The Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, in collaboration with DLR will take place on 19th January, 2016 at IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.
With this training, IRENA gives an introduction of the capabilities of such tools and how they may be used to improve the design of policies for solar energy. To register, please send an email to carsten.hoyer-klick at dlr.de. We would be grateful to receive your confirmation by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please see the attached PDF.
IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City | P.O. Box 236 | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Tel: +97124179988 | Mob: +971566161584 | www.irena.org
Solar-Med-Atlas Workshop for Policy Makers.pdf 164K
Training Schedule 10:00h – 10:45h
- Introduction and expectations of the participants
- Analysis of the data in Geographical information systems (demonstration) – Interpretation of results
- Conclusions and further questions. Short assessment of the Global Atlas
Please bring along your laptops, to be able to participate in the hands on exercises.
Transportation: Shuttle bus will be provided from ADNEC at 9:15am going to IRENA HQ, then leaving again at 4:00 pm from IRENA HQ going to ADNEC
We thank IRENA for hosting the workshop in their headquarters.
Why do US weather-forcasters not mention “Climate Change?” Can a Prospective Presidential Candidate Win When he Denies Climate Change at a Time of Daily Record Temperatures or Precipitation Pointing at Climate Chage?
December 25, 2015
Science advocate Bill Nye explained on Tuesday that many parts of the United States were expected to see record temperatures over the Christmas holiday because of weather patterns associated with climate change and El Niño.
The month of December has already seen about 6,000 record-breaking warm temperatures across the United States, and experts predict that there could be dozens more before the end of the year.
But Nye pointed out during an interview with MSNBC that meteorologists were refusing to utter the words “climate change” to their viewers.
“We have a situation where no one in regular television will say the phrase ‘climate change,’” Nye declared, calling out MSNBC meteorologists by name.
“Nobody will mention this phrase. But the world’s getting warmer so when there’s an El Niño event, which is where the surface of the Pacific Ocean gets a little warmer, yes, you get these two things here in North America. You get more moisture in the atmosphere out west, which generally leads to more snow, which is what we have.”
“And then you get the warm weather back east,” he continued. “Since there’s more heat energy in the atmosphere, these two phenomena are amplified.”
The term climate change was accurate because “the local climates are changing,” Nye said. “So why nobody will say anything about this is what I would call charming and also troubling.”
“I think it’s been discussed extensively,” insisted MSNBC guest anchor Luke Russert.
Considering the political impact, Nye asserted that the eventual Republican presidential nominee may have already lost the election because none of the remaining GOP candidates accept climate science.
“I have a question for you, hard hitting political journalist,” Nye said to Russert. “Yes, a conservative can win the primaries without any millennial votes, right? Nobody in their 20s and early 30s is needed to win the primaries.”
“But can a conservative win the national election for president and deny climate change and alienate millennials?” he continued. “It’s a near-run thing. It’s a very close call.”
Al Gore’s heart was in the right place but his political know-how questionable and his leadership caused harm to his cause. Later on, in his run for the Presidency, Al Gore found himself squeezed between his own decision not to let Clinton help him – and the Green ‘Naderites’ that found him lacking in part because of the failure to find support for the Kyoto Protocol. President Obama was well familiar with the two great mistakes of Al Gore: 1) The fact that he did not understand that the Senators will never allow for a U.S. unilateral decrease in emissions if the growth of China and other countries will not bear a proportion of the responsibility. 2) That you must not speak of a legally binding international agreement because you really do not want to risk a vote in the Senate.
Looking back at the history of sustainable development and climate change, one has to start at the Rio Summit of 1992 with its high point in Agenda 21 and then go to COP1 of the UNFCCC in Berlin (1995) and jump to Kyoto (1997), followed by the empty years of the G.W. Bush/Cheney administration – until we reach the Copenhagen COP15 of 2009. That is when newly elected President Obama made his first move by going to Beijing on his way to the Conference in an attempt to make inroads with China. The Chinese agreed for the first time that they have grown to the point that they ought to worry about the effect of their emissions on the global environment and climate – but they were not ready to take the plunge without sharing this with the other BASIC countries – Brazil, India and South Africa. It took six more years for that first effort by President Obama to bear the fruits of the Paris COP21. Now the subject has opened up with nearly all countries having made voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and agreed to report their achievements on a cyclical basis. It is obvious the present commitments are only a first step in the right direction; it is anticipated that negotiations will now be possible between participating countries to further increase their efforts to decrease emissions. But one must start somewhere and Obama led to this starting position. The Senate cannot undo this.
The fact that in the meantime we saw the evolution of a sizable middle class in China that demands clean air has induced President Xi to be cooperative, but he still must keep an image of a developing country in his relationships with the old industrialized world and the lesser developed states. He is therefore slow in accepting outside monitoring of his forthcoming efforts – something that relates extremely well with another lesson President Obama has learned from Al Gore’s mistakes. President Obama does not want a strict legally binding agreement in his fight to move the world onto a path of slowing the effects of climate change. Why should he be interested in being undone by a Republican Senate obstructionist rejection?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pincas Jawetz, Editor of SustainabiliTank.info Media and former Consultant on Energy Policy.
for the complete issue of OUTREACH MAGAZINE please look at google for “OUTREACH MAGAZINE ISSUE OF December 18, 2015″
Oil Industry Tricks – TransCanada that innitiated the Keystone Pipeline project asks now Washington for a delay in its consideration – this in order to wait-out the Obama Presidency. But Secretary Kerry and President Obama – do not fall for it!
A Slick Gambit by the Makers of the Keystone Pipeline
By Adam Chandler, The Atlantic
04 November 15
Why TransCanada, the company angling to build the controversial $8 billion oil project, asked the State Department to delay its application?
In a move that further complicates an already protracted drama, TransCanada, the company behind the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline, has formally asked the State Department to delay its review of the controversial project.
“In order to allow time for certainty regarding the Nebraska route, TransCanada requests that the State Department pause in its review of the presidential permit application for KeystoneXL,” the company’s president wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Invoking Nebraska, where landowners have long been haggling with the company over possible routes for the pipeline, is a piquant twist in the years-long political saga. As my colleague Russell Berman reported in January, after Nebraska’s Supreme Court threw out a legal challenge to the project, the pipeline’s Republican supporters urged President Obama to approve it without delay. “No more excuses for President Obama,” former House Speaker John Boehner tweeted at the time.
With global oil prices low and new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seen as a less ardent supporter of the project, now in office, the surprise decision to request a delay is being viewed by some as a gambit to stall a decision until more favorable conditions return—like when President Obama is no longer in office.
The proposed 1,200-mile conduit, which would carry oil from the Canada sands to the Gulf of Mexico, has so far only carried venom between the consortium of liberal politicians and environmentalists that vigorously oppose it and the conservatives that vigorously support it. That latter camp includes all Republican presidential candidates.
Back in September, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who oversaw the early stages of the recommendation process, finally announced her opposition to the project. On Tuesday, her rival Bernie Sanders, who has opposed the project since in 2011, reiterated his disapproval.
In the meantime, TransCanada’s request doesn’t mean that the State Department is obligated to stop its review of the project. However, should the delay be granted, the company may have just assured that the issue finds its way back into the 2016 spotlight. (Update: White House officials told reporters that President Obama intends to decide on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline before he leaves office.)
Kerry’s determination spells almost certain death for the massive project, a seven-year political fight that has pitted oil companies and Republicans against environmentalists.
President Barack Obama is expected to speak from the White House at 11:45 a.m. ET. Watch him on CNN.
A new UN construct – a website that links the LIMA & PARIS COPs of the UNFCCC. The new LPAA (Lima-Paris Action Agenda) can it, and will it, break the basic lack of information flow from the overcrowded UN? Our belief is that only a direct French&Peruvian Governments joint effort could achieve the needed independence.
93 of 211,083
The Lima-Paris Action Agenda new website launched
3:14 PM (16 hours ago)
The Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) is a joint undertaking of the Peruvian and French COP Presidencies, the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the UNFCCC Secretariat.
It brings both state and non-state actors together on the global stage to accelerate cooperative climate action now and into the future in support of the new, universal climate change agreement which governments will reach in Paris.
To get more information about the LPAA and the launch of the website, see our press release – available in 3 languages:
o English newsroom.unfccc.int/lpaa/lpaa/wel…
o French newsroom.unfccc.int/fr/bienvenue/…
o Spanish newsroom.unfccc.int/es/bienvenida…
Stay tuned for the Spanish and French versions currently being developed – they will be available soon!
From GeorgeSoros.com, September 16, 2015
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
In the attached essay George Soros says that assuring the success of the new Ukraine should be the top priority of the European Union. In ‘Ukraine and Europe: What Should Be Done?’ Mr. Soros argues that of all the divisive crises that the EU faces – the euro, Greece, migration and the British EU referendum – the external threat posed by Russian aggression towards Ukraine should be treated as the most urgent, as it has the possibility of uniting the European Union. From that unity, the “spirit of solidarity” that “characterized the European Union’s early days” could be recaptured, helping to solve these other crises. In the essay, George calls on Ukraine’s allies to do “whatever it takes” to help the new Ukraine succeed. Though Ukraine and its allies cannot prevail militarily over a Russia willing to risk armed conflict, they can “outbid Russia financially” – an expenditure that Mr. Soros argues should be thought of as a defense expenditure. He describes the current €3.4 billion EU contribution to the IMF-led rescue package for Ukraine is “wholly inadequate”.
Ukraine & Europe: What Should Be Done?
Because of the structural defects of the euro, the European authorities have had to become masters of the art of muddling through one crisis after another. This practice is popularly known as kicking the can down the road although it would be more accurate to describe it as kicking the can uphill so that it keeps coming back. But Europe now faces at least five crises at the same time: four internal ones—the euro, Greece, migration, and the British referendum on whether to remain in the EU—and an external one, Russian aggression against Ukraine. The various crises tend to reinforce one another. Both the public and the authorities are overwhelmed. What can be done to arrest and reverse the process of disintegration?
Obviously five crises cannot all be solved at the same time. There is a need to give preferential treatment to some of them without neglecting any. I have been strenuously arguing that Ukraine should be given top priority. The internal crises tend to divide the European Union into debtor and creditor countries, the UK and the Continent, as well as “arrival” and “destination” countries. By contrast, an external threat like the Russian aggression against Ukraine ought to unite the European Union.
There is a new Ukraine that is determined to become the opposite of the old Ukraine. The old Ukraine had much in common with the old Greece that proved so difficult to reform: an economy that was dominated by oligarchs and a political class that exploited its position for private gain instead of serving the public. The new Ukraine, by contrast, is inspired by the spirit of the Maidan revolution in February 2014 and seeks to radically reform the country. By treating Ukraine like a second-class Greece that is not even a member of the European Union, Europe is in danger of turning the new Ukraine back into the old Ukraine. That would be a fatal mistake because the new Ukraine is one of the most valuable assets that Europe has, both for resisting Russian aggression and for recapturing the spirit of solidarity that characterized the European Union in its early days.
I feel I am in a strong position to make this argument because I have an intimate knowledge of the new Ukraine through both my Ukrainian foundation and my own involvement in the country. At the beginning of this year, I developed what I called “a winning strategy for Ukraine” and circulated it among the European authorities. I also outlined this strategy in these pages.*
I argued that sanctions against Russia are necessary but not sufficient. President Vladimir Putin has developed a very successful interpretation of the current situation with which to defend himself against the sanctions. He claims that all of Russia’s economic and political difficulties are due to the hostility of the Western powers, who want to deny Russia its rightful place in the world. Russia is the victim of their aggression. Putin’s argument appeals to the patriotism of Russian citizens, and asks them to put up with the hardships—which include financial instability and shortages—that the sanctions cause. The hardships actually reinforce his argument. The only way to prove Putin wrong is by establishing a better balance between sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine.
My “winning strategy” advocates effective financial assistance to Ukraine, which would combine large-scale budgetary support with affordable political risk insurance, along with other incentives for the private sector. Coupled with the radical economic and political reforms that the new Ukraine is eager to introduce, these measures would turn it into an attractive place for investment. The linchpin of economic reforms is the restructuring of the state gas monopoly, Naftogaz, moving from the current artificially low prices for gas to market-determined prices and providing direct subsidies for gas purchases to needy households.
The political reforms center on establishing an honest, independent, and competent judiciary and media, combating corruption, and making the civil service serve the -people instead of exploiting them. These reforms would also appeal to many people in Russia, who would demand similar reforms. That is what Putin is afraid of. That is why he has tried so hard to destabilize the new Ukraine.
If Ukraine’s allies combined the sanctions against Russia with effective assistance for the new Ukraine, no amount of propaganda could obscure the fact that Russia’s economic and political problems are caused by Putin’s policies. He could, of course—in clear violation of the Minsk II agreement of February 11, 2015—prevent the new Ukraine from succeeding by launching a large-scale military offensive. But that would be a political defeat for Putin. It would reveal the falsehood of his interpretation of the conflict with Ukraine; and a military conquest of part of eastern Ukraine would place a heavy economic and political burden on Russia.
President Putin has gained a temporary tactical advantage over Ukraine because he is willing to risk large-scale and even nuclear war while Ukraine’s allies are determined to avoid a direct military conflict with Russia. This has allowed him to alternate between hybrid war and hybrid peace at will, and he has exploited this advantage to the full. Ukraine cannot prevail over Russia militarily because President Putin can mobilize more and better-armed forces than Ukraine and its allies on the battlefield. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had to learn this lesson at great cost. But surely Europe and the US can outbid Russia financially.
This argument for European and American support had some impact among Ukraine’s allies but my assertion about their willingness to provide large-scale financial support proved to be wrong, at least until now. I attribute this to two factors. One is the Greek crisis, which was an outgrowth of the euro crisis and set a bad example for the European Union to follow in Ukraine. The other is the Minsk agreement itself that, for reasons explained below, induced the European authorities to continue keeping Ukraine on a tight financial leash.
The euro crisis has created an acute shortage of funds for budgetary purposes. The EU budget of E145 billion is only about one percent of the GDP of the member states, but Europe is barely growing and member states are clamoring to reduce their contributions to the EU budget. The shortage of funds is particularly acute in the eurozone, which has no budget of its own.
The European authorities under German leadership mishandled the Greek crisis. They started out by providing emergency loans to Greece at punitive interest rates; they imposed their own program of reform and micromanaged it instead of allowing Greece to take ownership and control of the reforms; and they always lent too little too late. The Greek authorities are far from blameless but the primary responsibility lies with Germany because it was in charge. The Greek national debt has become unsustainable but the European authorities are now unwilling to write down their loans to Greece.
A dispute over this point between them and the IMF has greatly complicated the recent and current negotiations. The authorities have corrected some of their mistakes—for instance, they insist on “bailing in” rather than “bailing out” bondholders (bailing in requires bondholders to write down the value of their bonds). But they repeat others. The biggest mistake has been to treat Ukraine in the same way as Greece. The new Ukraine seeks to be the opposite of Greece and, although it is not a member, it is actively defending the European Union against a military and political threat from Russia.
As I argued in my original case for a winning strategy, helping Ukraine should be treated as a defense expenditure. Seen in this light, the current E3.4 billion contribution from the European Union to the IMF-led rescue package for Ukraine is wholly inadequate. The European Union has the appropriate fiscal tool—the Macro-Financial Assistance mechanism (MFA)—that, with appropriate modifications, could be used to overcome the shortage of funds in the EU budget. The MFA allows the European Union to borrow funds from the financial markets, making use of its almost completely unused triple-A credit.
The EU budget has to allocate only 9 percent of the amount lent to Ukraine as a noncash reserve requirement against the possibility of a future default. In comparison, US budget rules imposed a 44 percent noncash reserve requirement on the latest $1 billion credit guarantee the US gave Ukraine, so the budgetary burden of the $2 billion US contribution to the IMF-led assistance package is actually greater than that of the European Union. But the MFA framework -agreement expired in 2009 when the Lisbon Treaty was introduced and needs to be renewed in order to be used on a larger scale. Allocating 1 percent of the EU budget to the defense of Ukraine seems appropriate; this would allow the European Union to contribute as much as E14 billion annually to the IMF-led assistance program—a contribution that would be large enough to allow for the European Union to do “whatever it takes” to help Ukraine succeed.
The Minsk II agreement of February 2015 followed a major military defeat inflicted on Ukraine by the separatists, strongly assisted by Russia. Ukraine was desperate for a cease-fire and negotiated under duress. The Minsk II agreement guaranteed a special status to the separatist enclaves in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and implied that Ukraine would subsidize them. President Putin exploited his advantage by keeping the text of the agreement deliberately ambiguous. It called for the Ukrainian government to negotiate with representatives of the Donbas region without specifying who they are.
The agreement was signed by Presidents Putin, Poroshenko, and François Hollande, and by Chancellor Angela Merkel. This has set a trap for the last two. They wanted an agreement bearing their signatures to hold; if it fails it must be Russia that scuttles it, not Ukraine. They were also anxious to avoid a military confrontation. This attitude led them to tolerate Russian and separatist violations of the cease-fire yet to insist that Ukraine should observe it to the letter. By taking a neutral position on the question of how President -Poroshenko would meet the requirements of the ambiguous agreement, they reinforced President Putin’s advantage.
After the agreement was reached, Ukraine came close to financial collapse because of delays in delivering the second IMF-led rescue package until March 11, 2015. The low point was reached in February when the Ukrainian public lost confidence in the national currency, the hryvnia. Official transactions were suspended and the hryvnia traded on the black market between thirty and forty to the dollar that day. Since then the currency has recovered to about twenty to twenty-five hryvnia to the dollar. A precarious financial stability has been reestablished but only at the cost of accelerated economic contraction. The sudden drop in the exchange rate led to higher inflation, a substantial drop in living standards, and a large reduction in imports; this has helped to narrow the trade deficit. At the same time, the budget has benefited from lower expenditures on social benefits for the general public and on the wages of government employees.
When I visited Ukraine this April, I found a troubling contradiction between objective reality, which was clearly deteriorating, and the reformist zeal of the new Ukraine that was under tremendous economic, political, and military pressure but still moving forward with its reforms, which were having a cumulative effect.
During 2014, the reform program for a new Ukraine was in the planning stage; only in 2015 did it result in a large number of laws being passed to meet the requirements of the IMF and, more recently, the Minsk agreement. Even so, the oligarchs—industrialists who use political influence to enrich themselves—were more experienced in defending their interests than the reformers were in curbing them. Just when the economy was on the brink of collapse and political tensions were at a peak, the government had to face a challenge from the most powerful oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky, who tried to use his militia to retain his control over a subsidiary of Naftogaz. The government was forced to resist this and managed to defeat him.
That was a turning point. Since then, the central bank has been exercising strict control over the banking system, although recapitalizing the banks will take time. Other oligarchs, notably Dmytro Firtash and Rinat Akhmetov, are being reined in. Regrettably, this happens on a case-by-case basis and not yet by the application of the rule of law. Efforts to reform the police and introduce online services in government and transparency in official procurement have made more progress. But the reformers are encountering resistance at every step and the general population is increasingly dissatisfied both with the slow speed of reforms and the continued decline in living standards. So the stress under which the reformers operate continues to increase and may reach a breaking point at any time.
The Greek crisis greatly intensified Ukraine’s problems by diverting the attention of the European authorities from Ukraine and reinforcing their tendency to treat it as yet another Greece. The effect on Chancellor Merkel has been especially detrimental. She had behaved as a truly European leader in standing up to President Putin but remained hesitant about giving wholehearted support to Ukraine. When it came to Greece, she abandoned her characteristic caution in order to prevent a Greek exit from the euro. This brought her into conflict with her own party and her minister of finance, Wolfgang Schäuble, who had the backing of her party. While she managed to keep Greece in the eurozone, at least for the time being, she used up much of her political capital in the process. The loss will be sorely felt by the new Ukraine, which needs all the support it can get in complying with the Minsk agreement.
The ambiguity of the Minsk agreement has forced the two sides into a charade where the task is to pass the obligation to make the next move to the other side. Kiev has been a fast learner. Under prodding from its allies it established the special status of the Donbas enclaves by passing a law that quoted the ambiguous text of the Minsk agreement verbatim. This has created a financial problem for President Putin by starving the enclaves of funds until they are willing to hold elections in accordance with Ukrainian law.
But it would be risky for Ukraine’s allies to push President Poroshenko too far in making unilateral concessions to the separatists. As the recent bloodshed in front of the Ukrainian parliament demonstrated, ultranationalist elements are on the verge of rebellion. In short, the political and economic condition of the new Ukraine is extremely precarious.
A critical examination of the recent Greek negotiations reveals where they went wrong. Greece should not have taken precedence over Ukraine and Ukraine should not have been treated as yet another Greece. A similar examination of the Minsk agreement leads to a more equivocal conclusion. Ukraine’s European allies fell into a trap, but the current impasse has brought one important benefit: it has stopped Russia from carrying its cease-fire violations beyond the point where it can deny them. It would be a pity to lose this advantage.
This analysis leads logically to a new winning strategy for Ukraine. Ukraine still should be reinstated as the top priority of the European Union because the new Ukraine is one of its great assets. Every effort should be made not only to preserve the new Ukraine but to assure its success. If by helping Ukraine the European Union could effectively rebuff the Russian menace, then most of the European Union’s other priorities would fall into place; if it fails, the other objectives would be pushed further out of reach.
How can the success of the new Ukraine be assured? The analysis on which the original winning strategy was based remains valid. It was and is clear that President Putin can always show Russia to be stronger than Ukraine and its allies by escalating its use of force. Ukraine cannot militarily prevail over Russia. This means that it cannot regain its territorial integrity, at least in the short term, but it can maintain its moral and political integrity. When it comes to a choice, the latter is by far the more important. The new Ukraine is eager to undertake radical economic and political reforms. It has a large population and a battle-tested army willing to defend the European Union by defending itself. Moreover, the spirit of volunteerism and self-sacrifice on which the new Ukraine is based is a highly perishable good: if it is depleted it will take a generation to replace it.
Chancellor Merkel has put the political and moral integrity of the new Ukraine under tremendous stress by pushing President Poroshenko to observe the Minsk agreement to the letter even if President Putin does not. This brought the benefit, however, of keeping the military conflict within bounds, an achievement that needs to be preserved. Attaining some degree of political and military stability has to be one of the objectives of a winning strategy.
It is the second part of the winning strategy that is missing. Ukraine’s allies have to decide and declare that they will do “whatever it takes” to enable Ukraine not only to survive but to introduce far-reaching economic and political reforms, and to flourish in spite of President Putin’s opposition. This approach would require significantly more money than is available within the current budget of the European Union. The two prongs of this updated winning strategy—keeping military conflict within bounds and providing Ukraine with adequate financial support to carry out radical reforms—have to be carefully reconciled because they are liable to interfere with each other.
The original strategy called for Ukraine’s allies to declare their commitment to do “whatever it takes” at the end of June in conjunction with extending the sanctions on Russia. The European Union missed that deadline. The next opportunity will arise at the end of the year and it should be combined with a promise to reduce the sanctions on Russia if it fulfills its obligations under the Minsk agreement. This will greatly enhance the chances of success by offering a significant material reward to Russia for abiding by the Minsk agreement as well as a -face-saving way out of its conflict with Ukraine.
The prospects of the Minsk agreement holding have greatly improved over the past few months. The weakness of oil prices and the further downward slide of the ruble have put renewed pressure on the Russian economy. But the decisive factor has been the decline in Russian oil production. Output has been falling year over year, and for the first time, both the quantity and quality of the petroleum output fell this year between the months of June and July. This means that the sanctions are biting and the lack of spare parts is accelerating the depletion of existing oil fields. Putin could compensate his cronies for their financial losses by allowing them to take over the properties of the less reliable oligarchs; but the only way he can arrest a general decline of the oil industry is by having some of the Western sanctions lifted. This consideration now outweighs the threat that the eventual prosperity of the new Ukraine poses. The fact that the period of maximum danger has passed without a large-scale military attack indicates that Putin has chosen to rely on more subtle means to destabilize the new Ukraine.
It is all the more important that Ukraine’s allies should embrace the modified winning strategy outlined here. The change in Putin’s attitude gives them more leeway to do so. They can provide some immediate financial support to Ukraine in order to relieve the financial and political stress without provoking countermeasures from Russia. And they must prepare the ground for a declaration at the end of the year promising to do “whatever it takes” to help the new Ukraine to succeed. That means that they must start to establish an MFA framework agreement now because the process will take several months to complete. It cannot begin without prior approval from the German Ministry of Finance.
There are some welcome signs that Chancellor Merkel is moving in the right direction. She moved far ahead of the German public and business community when she used her leadership position to forge European unanimity in imposing sanctions on Russia. It was only after the downing of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine that the German public caught up with her. She took an uncharacteristic political risk in order to keep Greece in the eurozone. She faced intense internal opposition, but that did not stop her from taking another bold step by announcing that Germany will process as many as 800,000 asylum seekers in 2015.
By doing so Germany has set a positive example for other member states to follow; it also has implicitly abandoned the Dublin Regulation, which requires asylum seekers to register and remain in the country of arrival and has been a source of friction between the “-arrival” and “destination” countries. This has brought about a dramatic shift in public attitudes toward asylum seekers. There has been an outpouring of sympathy that started in Germany and spread to the rest of Europe. If this trend gained momentum, it could lead to a positive resolution of the migration crisis.
Chancellor Merkel has correctly recognized that the migration crisis could destroy the European Union, first by causing a breakdown of the Schengen Treaty, which allows free movement within Europe, and eventually by undermining the common market. It would be an appropriate continuation of her recent risk-taking actions if she now combined firmness toward Russia with greater trust and support for Ukraine. The United States is -already more firmly committed to the new Ukraine than most European governments; President Obama could therefore play a constructive role in persuading Chancellor Merkel to move in this direction. With their joint support, the new winning strategy for Ukraine has a realistic chance of success. And success in Ukraine should give the European Union enough momentum to find a positive resolution of the various other problems it faces.
Chancellor Merkel’s bold initiative toward asylum seekers could have far-reaching effects. She has challenged the German anti-euro party, but that party was already divided in its opposition to immigrants and is likely to collapse under the weight of public sympathy for asylum seekers. This may encourage President Hollande to take on the National Front in France, which is split by the animosity between its founder and his daughter; and it may encourage Prime Minister Cameron to successfully challenge the anti–immigrant agitation of UKIP. This could transform the political landscape of the European Union.
There is a danger that Europe’s preoccupation with the migration crisis could once again divert attention from what in my judgment is an even more fundamental issue: the fate of the new Ukraine. This would be a tragic error. As I have argued here, the new Ukraine is the most valuable asset that Europe has. Losing it would cause irreparable harm: it could create a failed state of more than 40 million people and become another source of refugees. But by helping the new Ukraine, the European Union could save itself. By doing “whatever it takes” to enable the new Ukraine not only to survive but to flourish, the European Union would achieve a dual objective: it would protect itself from Putin’s Russia and it would recapture the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that used to fire people’s imagination in its early days. Chancellor Merkel has already -rekindled that spirit toward asylum seekers. Saving the new Ukraine would truly transform the political landscape in Europe.
*“A New Policy to Rescue Ukraine,” The New York Review, February 5, 2015.
From: Alexandra Soezer — alexandra.soezer at undp.org
The Ministry of Climate Change and Natural Disasters and UNDP MDG Carbon have issued the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) on Rural Electrification in Vanuatu.
The overall target of the NAMA is to support Vanuatu in achieving the goal defined in the National Energy Road Map (NERM), namely to provide access to electricity to all households in Vanuatu. The NAMA represents an opportunity for sustainable development for Vanuatu, and at the same time an opportunity for low carbon development. The government can build on the existing policy framework, which targets the implementation of various policies, plans and actions aimed at mitigating GHG emissions while achieving sustainable development, so as to define a comprehensive and coherent NAMA development framework for Vanuatu.
The implementation of the NAMA will be led by the Ministry of Climate Change and Natural Disasters as the NAMA Coordinating Authority (NCA). The National Advisory Board (NAB) will be appointed as NAMA Approver/Focal Point to the UNFCCC. The role of NAMA Implementing Entity (NIE) will be taken by the Department of Energy (DoE) in cooperation with the Project Management Unit (PMU).
Alexandra Soezer, Ph.D.
304 E 45th Street, FF-954
alexandra.soezer at undp.org
Catalan Independence Day in 2014 (Photo: sba73 - euobserver.com/political/130210)
By Nikolaj Nielsen
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather in the streets of Barcelona on Friday (11 September) to celebrate Catalan National Day in the lead-up to a plebiscite at the end of the month.
Catalan foreign affairs secretary Roger Albinyana told the EUobserver website that the plebiscite on 27 September will help set in motion a mandate for independence of the prosperous northern region.
“The question of independence will be key, will be nuclear, because political parties will be dividing themselves among those who favour independence from Spain and those who oppose independence from Spain”, he said.
The election has been billed as a plebiscite because of strong resistance from Madrid.
The movement’s chief architect, Artus Mas, has said he would declare unilateral independence should the pro-independence camp win a majority of seats.
A strong backing would put a plan in motion to create a government that would lay the institutional groundwork of a state.
Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy remains steadfastly opposed to Catalonia’s independence.
“No Spanish prime minister would accept this, neither I nor any other, unless he goes crazy”, he said last week.
But Albinyana said Madrid can no longer ignore the secessionist movement should a majority back independence following the regional election at the end of month.
“A democratic country cannot ignore the demands of the national minorities and especially if they are expressed in a democratic and peaceful and legal way, they have to be heard,” he said.
A poll earlier this week shows most back independence although it remains unclear if Barcelona’s newest mayor is also a supporter.
“The People’s Party, the conservative party, is going to lose the absolute majority, that is pretty clear”, said Albinyana.
“They might continue in government but they will need support from third parties, that might make them weak, which was not the case until now”, he said.
Albinyana said Catalonia’s more than 1000 years of history, its language, and identity have led to the movement.
“The institution that I am part of ‘Generalitat de Catalunya’ is an institution that was created in 1359. My president is president 129″, he said.
At the Vienna Institute for Managing Sustainability – October 28, 2015 – a Symposium on “Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals” that will come out from this year’s High Level UN General Assembly and move on to Paris2015. We intend to cover this process.
Fwd: Invitation to join the SDG Symposium on ‘Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business’ on 28 October 2015
From: Jingchao zhou of the Society for International Development (SID), Vienna, Austria.
The Institute for Managing Sustainability was originally founded by S.I.D. vice-president Uwe Schubert
> Subject: Invitation to join the SDG Symposium on ‘Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business’ on 28 October 2015 at the University of Economics and Business (Wirtschaftsuniversitaet) Institute for Managinng Sustainability.
> Registration: Please visit their website to register for the event and find out more about updates on the programme and speakers