President Barack Obama has handed himself his sharpest challenge yet: a year of showing his unclenched fist to Iran has produced nothing and now he is toughening up his stance with a missile shield for the US naval forces in the Gulf. What will this do to his presidency? There was so much hope and much of that energy remains, even if it is not being so effectively tapped, but in confronting Iran, might Obama seriously lose his way?
Copenhagen is a city where people like to party. Coming into December, the city was all dressed up for a climate party with posters of green exhortation everywhere and different official and unofficial events laid on. But in the end as everybody knows, the climate conference was no party. Yet there is this terrible sense of hangover around. Political leaders, delegates, activists and journalists have reeled away from the site and the recriminations have started about who just behaved badly and who actually threw up.
Around the city there were also some particularly crude advertisements using sex to sell booze with the slogan, “Party now, Apologize later.” But that’s another way the conference was not like a party. No-one has apologised. Even though the city encouraged them. One set of posters that went up well before the conference showed world leaders in 2020 apologizing for having failed in Copenhagen in 2009: ageing Obamas, Merkels, Browns et al look down and acknowledge their fault. But there have been no apologies. Instead they have passed the blame.
Let’s try something different. Instead of blame and apology let’s take some time to discuss results, reasons and response. It’s a lengthy discussion that must start now because it’s already time to shake off that hangover. Continue reading
As thousands of negotiators, activists, diplomats, scientists, politicians and journalists start pouring into Copenhagen for the climate summit – formally said, the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – the question has been raised whether we should want them to succeed or fail. Which, of course, begs the next question: what is success at Copenhagen?
So is Copenhagen not the time to seal a new climate deal after all? Is it time for a re-think? My own view is that it’s best never to stop thinking, then you don’t have to make the effort to start up again. Continue reading
The Copenhagen climate conference in December is crucial for the future well being of the vast majority of humanity alive today and the billions yet to be born. Its prospects are not good, however, and it is beset by multi-layered complexities. There needs to be much more political energy going into it now in order to achieve anything that can be politely called success in three months time. Continue reading
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stepped out in front of all the contending parties to state the UK’s position five months ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit in a speech today. Committing the UK to spend on helping poor countries adapt to the consequences of climate change on top of overseas development aid, Brown proposed “a working figure” for support for adaptation and mitigation from the world’s rich countries “of around $100 billion per annum by 2020.” Continue reading
President Obama’s 4th June speech in Cairo about relations with the Islamic world rightly got huge plaudits, including here. It doesn’t solve all problems but doors are open for new dialogue, policies and approaches. But as Washington wins credit and credibility through expressions of openness and respect and heads towards better links with the Muslim world, is Europe moving the opposite way? Continue reading
To assist poor countries facing the double and connected problems of climate change and violent conflict, adaptation to climate change has to be combined with peacebuilding. For this to be possible, organisations – governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental alike – that work on development, the environment and peace issues have to move out of their boxes and make more than one leap of imagination and policy so the links are visible between both problems and solutions. It is not inevitable that the Obama administration will succeed in this. Help is needed! Continue reading
President Obama’s speech in Cairo on 4 June offers further evidence of his unrivalled communication skills and of his will and capacity to address thorny issues by reframing and reshaping them in a way that offers new openings for change and improvement. As an opening to the Muslim world, is it possible to imagine an American president doing better given the realities in which he works? For many of the issues he raised, the question is if interlocutors and counterparts will step forward able to use the opportunities he is creating. And over Israel and Palestine, that is a familiar and awkward question. Continue reading
It’s a big week for US policy and the Middle East, a defining moment for the Obama administration’s impact. What happens this week will not alone be enough to achieve regional cooperation with the US on peace and security but, if it goes wrong, that will be enough to make that cooperation next to impossible for several years again. Continue reading