Friday, June 22, 2012

Re-examining Assistance to Fragile and Post Conflict States

Approximately two billion people live in countries affected by fragility and conflict.[1] Poverty rates in fragile states average 54 percent compared with 22 percent for low-income countries as a whole.[2] These “fragile states” represent a major challenge for global poverty reduction, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, for peace and stability and for global issues such as the war on terror.[3]  The African continent contains the majority of fragile states with most Africans living on less than two dollars a day. The average lifespan in these countries is under 50. Drought and famine persist.[4]
Fragile states are characterized by violence, a legacy of conflict, weak governance and limited administrative capacity.  Underlying fragility is a history of divided identity, political fragmentation, and weak institutions.  Transitioning out of fragility is a complex and arduous task. The effort requires a multipronged approach to secure peace, rebuild institutions, and accelerate growth and poverty reduction.[5] 
The focus of the international community has been on providing financial and technical assistance and on external intervention, especially since problems of fragility can, in some instances, be transnational.  Nonetheless insufficient emphasis has been placed on understanding the role that domestic leadership processes play in lifting countries out of fragility or causing or keeping countries in fragility.

[1] Ashraf Ghani & Clare Lockhart, Fixing Failing States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World, (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008), 6-9.
[2] The World Bank, Global Monitoring Report 2007: Confronting the Challenges of Gender Equality, (Washington DC: The World Bank Group, 2007), 10-12.
[3] The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics, such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development.
[4] See “Africa Rising” in The Economist, (December 3, 2011).
The World Bank, World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development, (Washington, DC: The World Bank Group, 2011), 145. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Role of Leadership in Fragile States

Approximately sixty countries have been designated ‘Fragile States’ by international development agencies. Home to two billion of the world’s poorest people, these fragile states are characterized by violence, weak institutions and shattered economies. Not only do they pose a challenge to regional security, they often become the breeding grounds for terrorism.
Donor agencies pour billions of dollars annually into these countries – through policy advice and conditional loans – to alleviate fragility and promote development. Development, however it is defined, involves economic, social and political transformation.  Such a transformation is shaped by ideas, engages multiple interests, and proceeds within rules and norms set by political institutions. Since the structure of political institutions is influenced by human agency, leadership becomes important to study. Leadership is crucial particularly in fragile states, where institutions are weak or have been destroyed by conflict; however, a systematic effort to examine the role of leaders and coalitions in fragile states is lacking.
My doctoral dissertation sought to create a methodology to improve understanding of the role of different leadership strategies in bringing about transitions in and out of fragility. To make the scope manageable, the study focused on: (i) leadership at the national level; and (ii) fragile states in Africa. It did so by examining: (i) evidence from country level panel data on leadership (regime) change and fragility; and (ii) in-depth analytical case studies of transitions in and out of fragility in four countries: Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa. 
The analysis looked at the relationship between the change agent’s leadership strategy (the independent variable: political participation and inclusion, economic growth and inclusion, and security and justice) and fragility outcomes (dependent variable: conflict and security indicators, economic indicators, and the approach to political inclusion). 
The results of the regression analysis exhibit a robust association between leadership change and fragility. Furthermore, the country cases show how different types of leadership strategies lead to varying trajectories of fragile states’ post-transition. The case studies reveal different approaches to sequencing of political inclusion and the role of leadership exit in transitions from fragility.
Spurred by the positive results, I am planning further work on this empirical study and will seek to more carefully evaluate the impact of leadership strategies on fragility outcomes over time, and the way these evolve as well. More to come!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Environment and Economics: No Compromise? Part 2

The historical importance of unintended consequences
    Historians encounter the workings of unintended consequences whether they deal with political institutions, ideas or demography. But there is probably no other branch of the discipline in which unintended consequences play such an important part as they do in environmental history. Consider the Aswan Dam. Begun in 1960 and completed in 1971, this archetypal Cold War prestige project was designed to 'build pyramids for the living' (in Nasser's words). It would control the Nile flood, allow its water to be used more systematically for irrigation, and generate electricity. These things the dam achieved. It also had serious unwanted consequences. To replace the silt that no longer came down the Nile, electricity from the dam had to go into manufacturing chemical fertilizer. Salinization, the scourge of irrigation regimes, increased without the flushing provided by the annual flood, while Egypt's irrigation canals became a breeding ground for the snails that carry schistosomiasis, a disease of the liver, intestines and urinary tract that now affects the entire population in many rural areas. Deprived of silt, the Nile Delta shrank, displacing people and depriving the Mediterranean of nutrients, which destroyed the sardine and shrimp fisheries. This was not quite the 'everlasting prosperity' Nasser had promised.
    The unintended consequences of the Aswan Dam, like those of other great hydrological schemes from the Punjab to the Central Asian catastrophe of the Aral Sea, were regional in their effects. Other kinds of human impact on the environment have had global consequences. McNeill says that this is true of the unwitting world-historical role played by the American chemical engineer Thomas Midgely. In 1921, Midgely calculated that adding lead to petrol would make it burn better and prevent engine knock - it was a 'gift from God', said the first company to sell the fuel. Not until half a century later, by which time cars had burned 25 trillion liters, did public health concerns overcome industry resistance and usher in the unleaded era. Nor was leaded petrol Midgely's only legacy. In 1930, he invented Freon, the first of the chlorofluorocarbons used as refrigerants, solvents and sprays. In the thirty years following World War Two, intensive use of CFCs created holes in the ozone layer that protects life on earth from ultraviolet radiation. 
   Beginning in the 1970s, scientific research and unusually prompt international action led to sharply reduced use of CFCs, over the protests of chemical manufacturers. On the other hand, some of the CFCs released into the atmosphere before the Montreal Protocol of 1987 will still be destroying ozone in 2087. Enhanced radiation will increase the risk of cataracts, damaged immune systems and skin cancers in humans; it will also continue to kill phytoplankton, the basis of ocean food chains.
    The Aswan Dam and Thomas Midgely both have a place in John McNeill's excellent environmental history of the 20th century. McNeill has done a vast amount of research and his range is truly global. He discusses the effects of oil extraction from Tampico to the Niger delta, the problems caused by air pollution from the 'sulphuric triangle' between Dresden, Prague and Cracow to the Hanshin district of Japan; and on the subject of deforestation in the tropics ('one of the central events of our time') he draws on evidence from Indonesia as well as Brazil.
The growing resource crunch: Blood for Oil?
Since September 11th and the commencement of the "war on terror," the world's attention has been focused on the relationship between U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and the seas of crude oil that lie beneath the region's soil. Michael Klare traces oil's impact on international affairs since World War II, revealing its influence on the Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter doctrines. He shows how America's own wells are drying up as our demand increases; by 2010, the United States will need to import 60 percent of its oil. And since most of this supply will have to come from chronically unstable, often violently anti-American zones-the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea, Latin America, and Africa-our dependency is bound to lead to recurrent military involvement.
     Oil in the US is a major source of energy and a key driver of economic growth. The military machine also requires a large supply of oil. Local production is incapable of supporting this large demand and hence the US is now a net importer of oil. Klare traces the beginning of the alliance with the autocratic regime in Saudi Arabia during the WW II years, as the US oil production starting falling behind the demand. Under the agreement forged by President Roosevelt, the US would be obliged to protect the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia and would receive a guarantee of US firms’ dominance in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. The Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon and Carter administrations continued this policy of protecting and providing the Saudi regime with billions of dollars of advanced arms, in return for the drilling rights. At the same time, there was growing dissidence in the intellectual elite in the Arab world, who were perturbed by what they saw as US meddling in Arab affairs. Saddam Hussein’s attempt to take over the fertile oil fields of Kuwait only worsened the discontent. Though the Kuwaitis were grateful for US protection, radical Islamists’ fury only grew. This culminated in the 9/11 attacks on the US mainland.
    The energy strategy adopted by the Bush administration does not break from tradition, and carries on increasing the dependence on petroleum. There is, and Klare documents this beautifully in relation to petroleum, a very pathological cycle that could be easily stopped. The US insists on cheap oil, this leads to bloodshed and high oil prices; this comes back to lower quality of life for the workers, and so on. As he points out, the pipelines cannot be protected. American policy makers are deceiving the public when they suggest they can stabilize the Middle East and protect cheap oil. Not only can the pipelines not be protected, but also on America's current consumption path, according to the author, the Gulf States would have to double production to keep up with American demand. He is also intellectually powerful in painting a future picture when China, Russia, and Europe are in armed competition with the USA for energy from Central Asia, Latin America, under the Spratley Islands, and other regions with proven oil reserves.
    Cheap oil has become a mantra, and military power has become the unquestioned means of achieving that. However, the US doesn't have enough guns or blood to stabilize a world that it antagonizes every time it deploys into an "occupation" mode, and cheap oil is going to be extremely expensive in terms of American blood on the floor. Cheap oil for the US is a major contributor to unemployment and destabilization within Arabia. Klare insists that buying oil from Saudi Arabia subsidizes terrorism. Buying cheap oil from Saudi Arabia increases the number of unemployed who might be inspired to become terrorism. Klare is also very effective in objectively criticizing the manner in which the US Administrations have integrated anti-terrorism initiatives with energy-protection initiatives. Bin Laden is still at large, but we have an occupation army sitting on top of the Iraqi oil fields.
    The book ends as intelligently as it begins, with emphasis on getting to a post-petroleum economy. We could start with neighborhood level solar power, efficient wind power, energy conservation (which must also apply to water), a gradual elimination of chlorine-based and petroleum-based industries, a move toward self-sustenance across the board, and what Klare cites as his big three steps:
1) Divorce energy purchases from security commitments---stop tolerating dictators and arming terrorist nations for the sake of cheap oil.
2) Reduce our reliance on imported oil, drastically.
3) Prepare the way for a transition to a post-petroleum economy that includes conservation, hybrid vehicles, enhanced public transportation, and usage of renewable sources of energy like solar energy, wind power and so on.
    In Something New Under the Sun, McNeill infuses a substrate of ecology with a lively historical sensibility to the significance of politics, international relations, technological change, and great events. He charts and explores the breathtaking ways in which we have changed the natural world with a keen eye for character and a refreshing respect for the unforeseen in history. He introduces us to little-known figures like Thomas Midgely, the chemical engineer, who, McNeill claims, had more impact on the atmosphere than any other organism in earth history. From Midgely's work with General Motors came the inventions of leaded gasoline and of Freon, the first of the chlorofluorocarbons that drift into the stratosphere and rupture ozone molecules. McNeill recounts episodes of environmental disaster -- the mercury poisoning of Japan's Mina Mata Bay, the death of the Aral Sea in Soviet Central Asia -- but shows too the successes of environmental policy in reversing pollution of the air and water. He fashions his story without pronouncements of doom or sermons on the ethical lapses of humankind.
    McNeill assesses the ecological course we have taken in the twentieth century as an interesting evolutionary gamble. We have become exquisitely adapted to particular circumstances -- a stable climate, cheap energy, rapid economic growth. But our fossil fuel-based civilization is so ecologically disruptive that it undermines the stability of these conditions. McNeill does not speculate on the consequences, but his insights illuminate the new path we have made in this global century.
    In his path breaking Resource Wars, world security expert Michael T. Klare alerted us to the role of resources in conflicts in the post-Cold War world. Now, in Blood and Oil, he concentrates on a single precious commodity, petroleum, while issuing a warning to the United States-its most powerful, and most dependent, global consumer. With clarity and urgency, Blood and Oil delineates the United States' predicament and cautions that it is time to change the country's energy policies, before it spends the next decades paying for oil with blood.
    Klare insists that the US needs to work on three key areas in order to achieve energy autonomy and integrity.
i.    A “paradigm shift” with regards the way the US thinks about its energy needs.
ii.  No more oil for protection policy for undemocratic and terrorist breeding nations.
iii.Reduction in US dependence on imported oil by decreasing consumption by:
a. Improved fuel efficiency of light vehicles.
b. Development of new types of vehicles – especially hybrids, and hydrogen fueled vehicles.
c. Enhance the appeal of mass transit.
Klare makes it clear that if the US does not heal itself from the inside out, that no amount of guns, blood, or destruction will save it from the inevitable implosion of the unstable places where oil is to be found.

The two books have different geographic focus and starkly different styles, within some commonality in themes.  In particular, both are environmental histories with a common underlying theme of unintended consequences: McNeill records mankind's unintended impact on the ecology, while Klare documents the unintended consequences of US oil policy. At the same time, the two authors have dramatically different styles: McNeill provides a dispassionate and painstaking analysis, while Klare's style is passionate and at times indignant.  Interestingly, both appear to have an underlying moral commitment: McNeill's commitment to the natural environment which mankind disrupts and affects, and Klare's outrage at destructive and self serving pursuit of US oil interests.  This makes for compelling reading.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Environment and Economics: No Compromise? -- Part 1

           This essay reviews two important treatises on environmental history: Something New Under the Sun and Blood and Oil.  J.R. McNeill's Something New Under the Sun documents the broad sweep of environmental evolution over the last century, and Michael Klare's Blood and Oil documents the troubled history of the US foreign policy conquests in pursuit of oil.
The developments of the last century were unprecedented. Total population quadrupled, while urban population increased thirteen times, world output increased fourteen times, energy use increased sixteen times, and industrial production increased forty times. All this human activity generated a tremendous amount of waste, including agricultural residue, mine tailings, and emissions into the atmosphere, rivers, lakes, and seas. Wetlands have been drained or filled and highways and cities built. For the first time, humankind is influencing ecology on a global scale. McNeill catalogues the impact of all this activity, from America to Zimbabwe, and finds the results are not all bad. For instance, the automobile replaced the horse, which required more land to feed and whose waste products and carcasses were sources of urban stench and disease. 
Public attitudes changed in the 1950s and 1960s because cities such as London, Pittsburgh, and Osaka grew so polluted that they became almost unlivable. Major selective cleanups have proceeded even as global waste has grown in volume and cities and rivers have deteriorated. Something new under the Sun is an informative, dispassionate treatment that recounts the last century's environmental history with admirable impartiality.
The world's growing economy is dependent on oil: the supply is running out. The US, China, India, and other powers are engaged in an escalating game of brinkmanship to secure its continued flow. This is the premise of Michael Klare's Blood and Oil. The US, with less than 5% of the world's total population, consumes about 25% of the world's total supply of oil. With no meaningful conservation being attempted, Klare sees the United States' energy behavior dominated by four key trends: "an increasing need for imported oil; a pronounced shift toward unstable and unfriendly suppliers in dangerous parts of the world; a greater risk of anti-American or civil violence; and increased competition for what will likely be a diminishing supply pool."
Growing pain? Man and the environment
During the twentieth century, the human race, without intending anything of the sort, has undertaken a giant, uncontrolled experiment on the earth. In time, according to J. R. McNeill in his new book, the environmental dimension of twentieth-century history will overshadow the importance of events like the world wars, the rise and fall of communism, and the spread of mass literacy. 
Contrary to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes that "there is nothing new under the sun," McNeill sets out to show that the massive change we have wrought in our physical world has indeed created something new. McNeill contends that we have refashioned the earth's air, water, and soil, and the biosphere to an extent not seen before.
Something New under the Sun begins with chapters on the lithosphere and pedosphere (the rocky crust of the earth and its soil cover), the atmosphere and the hydrosphere, showing how each was modified by human intervention. Human intervention often meant that soil, air and water were degraded, eroded, polluted or exhausted. He then deals with the biosphere: the space occupied by all living things. They serve as the fulcrum of the book and contain some of its strongest arguments. McNeill tells a story of increasing human mastery. He shows how the co-evolution of species gave way to a process of 'unnatural' selection that made the chances for survival of other species heavily dependent on their compatibility with humans. Some prospered, either through domestication (livestock, rice) or because they found niches in a human-dominated biosphere (rats, crabgrass, the tuberculosis bacillus). Others proved incapable of domestication (bison, the blue whale) or unable to adjust (the gorilla, the smallpox virus) and faced extinction. 
Reviewing the quickening pace of extinction rates in the 20th century, McNeill suggests that we may be in the early stages of a mass extinction on a par with the disappearance of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But this mass extinction, if it is one, will have a known cause: the activities of a rogue mammal species. Those activities are surveyed in the second part of the book. 
McNeill identifies three major 'engines of change': a steep increase in population prompting migration, urbanization and the search for more resources; a new, fossil-fuel based energy regime; and a belief in economic growth that transcends the lines of political conflict - although the commitment to growth was reinforced by the 'security anxiety' of 20th-century regimes. McNeill criticizes both Capitalism and Communism for their role in the exploitation of nature. He quotes Soviet leaders as saying, 'Let the fragile green breast of Siberia be dressed in the cement armor of cities, armed with the stone muzzle of factory chimneys, and girded with iron belts of railways. Let the Taiga be burned and felled, let the steppes be trampled.' 
It was the Soviet determination to 'correct nature's mistakes' that turned most of the Aral Sea into a life-threatening saltpan. The high environmental costs of imperialism are repeatedly noted. McNeill also shows that decolonization has done little to change the process of rapid deforestation. He contends that whoever governed, shortsighted developmentalism ruled.

(Part 2 to follow...)
Books Reviewed:
1.McNeil, John R., Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World, W.W. Norton & Company, New York and London, 2000.
2.Klare, Michael T., Blood and Oil: The dangers and consequences of America’s growing petroleum dependency, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2004.