World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu spoke this morning at the Center for Global Development and fielded several questions about plans for a BRICS-led development bank. That issue will be on the agenda as the BRICS meet for their annual summit next week in Durban, South Africa. The host country appears to be particularly keen on the project.
As a former senior advisor to the Indian finance ministry turned World Bank higher-up, Basu has a unique perspective on the idea. He argued that the notion of an emerging-market led development bank responds to pent-up demand for capital to fund large infrastructure projects in major emerging economies. Neither the private sector nor the World Bank, he acknowledged, is responding adequately to that need. "There's scope for more multilateral organizations to do lending," he said. "You have space." On a recent trip to South Africa, Basu reportedly said much the same.
But Basu also expressed the hope that the Washington-based lender could up its game on infrastructure lending and meet some of the need driving the BRICS project. "We should be so effective and good that the space for [a BRICS bank] is limited." The economist suggested that the momentum could well dissipate, leaving the countries to find a face-saving exit from a project some have touted as an alternative to the World Bank.
Today brought the startling news that Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda has presented himself to the U.S. embassy in Kigali and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ntaganda has been a leader of the M23 rebel movement in eastern Congo, which has reportedly enjoyed support from the Rwandan government (although Rwanda has vehemently denied this). The ICC issued a sealed arrest warrant for him in January 2006. Two years later, the court made the arrest warrant public.
To this point, Ntaganda has mostly lived openly in eastern Congo, where the Congolese government lacked the wherewithal and inclination to challenge him directly. His fortunes began to change recently, however, as the M23 militia movement clashed directly with government forces -- and then apparently splintered from within. The Rwandan government first reported the news that Ntaganda had made his way to Kigali and presented himself to the U.S. embassy.
Neither Rwanda nor the United States is an ICC member and neither has a legal obligation to effect the warlord's transfer. U.S. law limits official cooperation with the court and prohibits the provision of funds to the court. The law -- the American Service-members' Protection Act -- also prohibits the U.S. government from transferring any Americans to the court, but there is no explicit prohibition on U.S. involvement in transferring non-U.S. citizens.
That legislation notwithstanding, the U.S. approach to the court has been gradually evolving from the outright hostility on display during the Bush administration's first term. In 2005, the United States allowed a Security Council referral of Darfur to the ICC. Shortly after it took office, the Obama administration began attending annual meetings of ICC members. In 2011, it voted affirmatively to refer the Libya case to the court.
To this point, however, the United States has not been directly involved (at least publicly) in the transfer of indictees to the ICC. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland reported today that the United States "strongly supports" the ICC investigation in Congo and is seeking to facilitate Ntaganda's transfer to the Hague. Whether the United States will seek to involve another government as an intermediary and whether the Rwandan authorities will cooperate with the transfer remains to be seen.
Guest post by Joseph O'Mahoney, a visiting lecturer in political science at Brown University.
In a recent post, David Bosco asked about the value of additional U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea. Sanctions are always presented as being about changing the target state's behavior. But if that's the test, sanctions don’t work especially well. Even the recently popular micro-targeted "smart sanctions" have generally not gotten results.
That doesn't mean sanctions aren't worthwhile. As David Baldwin has pointed out, foreign policy decisionmakers can use sanctions in multiple ways that have little to do with changing rogue state behavior. In fact, sanctions like those recently imposed on North Korea are unlikely to be aimed at their nominal target. North Korea is not really hurting any more than it was before. Instead, as Bosco pointed out, the real target of weak sanctions is often the international community.
When rules are broken and no costly enforcement action results, members of the international community may wonder whether the rules are changing. In the rough and tumble of international politics, it's often hard to know which rules really matter and which ones don't. As Michael Chwe has shown, public rituals like mostly symbolic sanctions can help coordinate collective expectations.
In effect, these sanctions can reassure the members of the community that they all still value the rule, even though they have not taken costly action to enforce it. For example, symbolic sanctions were instrumental in promoting the incipient laws of war when their status was under threat in the interwar period. Laboratory experiments have also confirmed that cooperation significantly increases if participants jointly agree to mild, non-deterrent sanctions.
The new U.N. sanctions might not alter Pyongyang's course, but they're quite good at generating reassurance that the international community is on the same page.
Several weeks ago, Prashanth Parameswaran described here the attention that the government of Shinzo Abe has been lavishing on members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Earlier this week, another apparent step in that process took place in Tokyo when Japan's vice defence minister, Akinori Eto, met with ASEAN representatives to discuss regional security isues. Agence France Presse has the story:
The meeting is the first high-ranking defence dialogue of its kind since hawkish Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office late December following a landslide victory in general elections.
"Our country changed governments late last year," Eto said. "Under the new regime, we want to reinforce cooperation in security and defence with ASEAN countries and contribute to peace in the region," he added.
Ahead of the meeting, the ASEAN participants met Abe late Tuesday and voiced their high expectations from Japan "in dealing with various security issues of the Asia-Pacific region," the defence ministry said in a statement.
Japan, along with several members of ASEAN have locked horns with China over separate territorial disputes.
Fareed Zakaria believes that China has begun to shift its North Korea policy. Obama administration officials tell Zakaria that Beijing is increasingly exasperated with the North's behavior. One key piece of evidence that he cites is less than convincing however: China's recent Security Council vote for new sanctions. Here's how Zakaria describes it:
The most important new development, however, is China’s attitude change. In a remarkable shift, China — which sustains its neighbor North Korea economically — helped draft and then voted last week for U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.
Zakaria and the administration officials he's talking to could be right, but China's vote for UN sanctions certainly doesn't make the case. In October 2006, Beijing backed Resolution 1718 imposing sanctions on the regime. At that meeting, China's UN ambassador chastised North Korea for acting "flagrantly" and "supported the Security Council for making [a] firm and appropriate response." Then, in June 2009, China voted for Resolution 1874, which expanded existing sanctions. At the time, China's representative chastised the North for its "disregard of the common objection of the international community." If China's support of the latest round of sanctions is "the most important new development" in the relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang, then that relationship may not be changing much at all.
The British foreign policy machinery is working toward two different and possibly contradictory goals. First, British diplomats are making a final push to secure a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that would impose strict conditions on arms transfers by governments. Negotiations foundered last fall in part because of U.S. nervousness about the possible impact of the issue on the U.S. presidential election. But diplomats are meeting in New York this week in an attempt to finalize the long-sought treaty, and the U.K. is very much in the lead. Here's foreign secretary William Hague's latest plea in the Huffington Post:
[T]he case for an effective treaty, an arms trade treaty, that will save lives, reduce human suffering and bring consistency to the global trade in conventional arms is overwhelming....When terrorists are the beneficiaries of an unfettered proliferation of conventional arms they threaten the security of not just the countries where they seek refuge, but also their neighbours and the rest of the world. It is clear our endeavour is more urgent than ever. And so next month Britain will return to the United Nations determined that, after more than six years of hard work, the international community will conclude a treaty whose legacy will endure for generations to come....
The ATT will not solve all our problems, but it offers us the chance to take a very significant step forward. A global Arms Trade Treaty that denies rogue states illegal arms will make us all more secure. It will help prevent instability and stop arms reaching terrorists. But more than this it will offer the prospect of a better future to millions who live in the shadow of conflict. This is the prize on offer in March. History will not forgive those who seek to prevent it and we will not rest until we have secured it.
At the same time, British officials are edging ever closer to providing weapons and military training to certain Syria rebels. Last month, London unsuccesfully sought changes to the European Union's blanket arms embargo on Syria to allow military support for the rebels. The Guardian reports today that David Cameron's government may be prepared to skirt the EU embargo soon if it is not modified:
Britain is to keep open its options on providing arms to Syrian rebels after David Cameron indicated that Britain would be prepared to bypass the EU arms embargo if other member states refuse to lift the measure in May.
The prime minister, who last week approved the provision of armoured four-wheel drive vehicles and body armour for Syrian opposition leader as part of a £9.4m package of non-lethal equipment, warned that inaction could encourage jihadi groups.
So Britain is simultaneously advocating a treaty that would impose tough conditions on arms transfers into conflict zones and agitating to send weapons to Syrian rebels, some of whom have clearly committed war crimes (including the recent abduction of UN peacekeepers). As Foreign Office lawyers would likely rush to point out, there's no necessary contradiction here. The draft text of the Arms Trade Treaty prohibits weapons shipments "for the purpose of" facilitating international crimes (a very low bar).
But it also would require every state to scrutinize possible transfers in the following way:
1. In considering whether to authorize an export of conventional arms within the scope of this Treaty, each State Party shall assess whether the proposed export would contribute to or undermine peace and security.
2. Prior to authorization and pursuant to its national control system, the State Party shall assess whether the proposed export of conventional arms could:
(a) Be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law;
(b) Be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights law; or
(c) Be used to commit or facilitate an act constituting an offence under international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism to which the transferring State is a Party.
Were the arms trade treaty in effect today, Britain would have an international legal obligation (they already have a European obligation) to assess the likelihood that weapons sent to Syrian rebels would be used for rights violations. The fact that London would almost certainly decide that the likelihood was low points to one of the weakest aspects of the treaty: it relies entirely on national judgement calls not open to independent review.
When North Korea detonated a nuclear device on February 12, diplomats in New York knew just what to do. The UN Security Council's dance with North Korea is by now quite well scripted. Pyongyang provokes the Council's members with a missile launch, a nuclear test, or some other mischief. If the provocation is daring enough and if Washington and Beijing can agree, the Council responds with either a stern statement or incrementally tightened sanctions. The Council members then applaud themselves for their resolve, North Korea responds with bluster, tensions briefly ratchet up, and then the cycle begins again.
In a new report published by the International Peace Institute, Eduardo Zachary Albrecht wonders if this ritual is doing any good. Albrecht wants the Council to stop playing the provocation-reaction game:
The Security Council’s current approach of matching these provocations with expanded but largely rhetorical sanctions has, unfortunately, played further into the hands of the DPRK in a multitude of ways. Resolutions and condemnations contribute to fulfilling both the DPRK’s strategic interests and its normative conditions. In essence, the more the government is chastised and isolated, the more it can exploit and enjoy that gray area in the international legal system it has cut out for itself.
By this point, it's very hard to believe that the Council's sanctions are deterring the north in any meaningful way. Nor do the sanctions appear to be rendering the regime incapable of developing its nuclear program. They do, however, highlight the Council's inability to get its way. What's more, they give the regime another excuse to engage in dangerous brinksmanship and to expand its well-developed victimization narrative. Given all this, is the small additional sanctions tightening that each new resolution yields worth the expenditure of diplomatic capital? It's possible that the answer is yes. Perhaps each turn of the screw makes it that much harder for the north to produce the next bomb or ballistic missile--or to export them.
But it's also possible that the Council members are bound to the sanctions ritual for reasons that have little to do with containing the North's nuclear ambitions or altering its trajectory. The practice may be so well established that the failure to respond to a provocation somehow—even if with measures that make no real difference—will produce unacceptable domestic political costs. Better a new round of sanctions, U.S. leaders may calculate, than accusations of appeasement.
If the domestic audience is one factor, the international audience is another. The spectacle of international condemnation and punishment may be having its most important impact not in Pyongyang (or Tehran, for that matter) but on other leaders who have had occasional radioactive thoughts. Recent precedent suggests that the Security Council won't stop states hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. But it will often make the process of acquiring them drawn-out and painful. Viewed from this broader perspective, the apparently futile sanctions game may make some strategic sense.
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization
Several sources are reporting that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may offer Egypt a stopgap loan while negotiations continue on the main $4.8 billion package. An IMF spokesperson would say only that the fund "is fully committed to supporting Egypt at this critical time" and is "currently reviewing the authorities' economic program and their macroeconomic projections and...are discussing with them the next steps in our engagement."
There are conflicting accounts of whether Egyptian officials belive such an emergency measure is necessary. Negotiations on the larger loan package have proceeded fitfully for months but have apparently run into fresh difficulties. The Financial Times has this account of the key sticking points:
At a time when Egypt’s foreign reserves have reached $13.5bn – below the critical level of three months of imports – Cairo favours a gradual approach to reform even as it is forced to cut its imports of fuel and wheat. Another complicating factor in IMF negotiations is the fact that Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist president, is reluctant to introduce measures such as a sales tax ahead of parliamentary elections.
The IMF deal faces even deeper potential problems both from the demand and the supply side. The post-Mubarak political atmosphere in Egypt is not particularly friendly to the IMF; many Egyptians recall that the Fund several times provided backing to the government of Hosni Mubarak. An Islamist party has insisted that any deal with the international lender must secure religious approval. As Reuters reported last month:
The Salafist Nour Party says the loan agreement, seen as vital to easing a deep economic crisis, must be approved by a body of senior scholars at Al-Azhar, a religious institution whose new role is embedded in the constitution.
Such a challenge could complicate the Muslim Brotherhood-led administration's effort to finalize the International Monetary Fund deal that was tentatively agreed last year but shelved following political unrest in Cairo.
Meanwhile, key IMF board members (and the United States in particular) face questions about whether Egypt's troubled government deserves international funding. Several observers have insisted that any loan package include strict conditions on human rights and freedom of expression. All of which means that a deal struck by IMF staff and Egyptian officials may still face serious obstacles.
The tense dance continues in a financial atmosphere that appears increasingly threatening. The ratings agency Fitch warned two weeks ago that further delay could be dangerous:
An IMF deal is vital for a sustained improvement in the balance of payments, and to prevent uncontrolled currency depreciation. A sustained period without IMF support could result in tighter capital controls and a sharper fall in the pound. The need for an IMF deal is becoming more pressing in the absence of further pledges of bilateral support beyond a reported agreement by Qatar to buy USD2.5bn of Egyptian T-bonds in March.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released millions in U.S. budget aid after receiving assurances that Egypt would "complete the IMF process." It now looks increasingly likely that some kind of emergency loan will be necessary to buy time.
David Bosco reports on the new world order for The Multilateralist.