The United States is pushing for an Arctic agenda that promotes resource cooperation among Arctic and non-Arctic countries as part of a broader effort to foster diplomatic engagement in the High North. During a recent visit to Tromso, Norway in the Arctic Circle, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized that the United States is “committed to responsible management of those [Arctic] resources,” including oil, natural gas and other mineral resources. But while much attention is being focused on these lucrative mineral resources, there are significant opportunities for the United States and the other Arctic countries to enhance broader international cooperation, beginning with fisheries conservation.
The Arctic is emerging as one of the most important maritime domains in the world. Environmental change is giving rise to new sea lanes that will cut the transit time between the Pacific and Atlantic, and opening up new areas for commercial development, including for oil, natural gas and minerals extraction, as well as fishing. There is no doubt that the opening of the Arctic is leading today to increased military, commercial and scientific activities. As these activities increase, it will become ever more important for Arctic countries and non-Arctic countries to cooperate around a range of emerging trends, including offshore energy development that could generate environmental challenges, commercial activity that could contribute to greater demand for search and rescue and other law enforcement capabilities, and increased military presence from Arctic (and potentially non-Arctic) countries that could foment uncertainty and lead to misperceptions about other countries’ intentions in the region.
As U.S. policymakers look for opportunities to enhance cooperation in the Arctic Circle, it may be useful to begin with fisheries conservation. This rather low-politics area of engagement could get partners comfortably engaged in a discussion on Arctic issues that could then snowball into a broader conversation about cooperation around other security and foreign policy interests in the region.
Here are a couple of ways that cooperation around protecting fisheries may serve broader foreign policy purposes in the Arctic Circle:
Yesterday at the Rayburn House Office Building, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hosted a discussion, “Biodiversity Conservation in Afghanistan Advances U.S. Security Interests,” focusing on improving livelihoods and governance through natural resource management in Afghanistan – a cornerstone to long-term stability and achieving U.S. security interests in the state. As I learned yesterday, currently the most significant threats to Afghanistan’s natural resources include illegal hunting and trading, as well as an increase in deforestation and desertification. “Almost 80% of Afghanistan’s people depend directly upon the natural resource base for their survival and livelihoods, and three decades of near-continuous conflict has badly degraded this base,” said Afghanistan program director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. David Lawson. Most of WCS’s work in Afghanistan is community-based conservation, focusing on the local level, mobilizing local communities to institute new policies, laws and regulations and training community members “in natural resource management so they can work together to help build a sustainable future,” Lawson said.
Another part of WCS’s work involves central governmental capacity building, which works to “improve the capacity of the government to take responsibility and manage the country’s critical resources,” according to Lawson. With help from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock and the National Environmental Protection Agency, WCS has helped the Afghan government to write environmental laws and regulations, as well as build nationally protected area networks, train officials and build government structures. Afghan individuals and communities participating in natural resource management benefit by generating income (some of them for the first time) and, as Lawson noted, “being able to benefit directly from conservation activities, and that actions taken to protect and preserve the environment can directly contribute to poverty reduction and improved community livelihoods.”
I spent this weekend catching up on last week’s news – a busy week, with obviously nothing bigger than the pending British royal weeding (although, we regular Us Weekly readers have known for weeks that this was coming). Oh yes, and the DPRK has built a new nuclear plant, and you should all have been keeping up on the steady reports from Lisbon.
On Monday, we mentioned the successful conference on the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Japan through last week. While I haven’t yet had time to read the details of the new Nagoya Protocol, it is worth highlighting an important foreign policy aspect of the conference: It was a big win for Japan, a long-standing and critical U.S. ally. In an editorial, The Asahi Shimbun sounded off with well-earned pride: “Agreement has been reached on the second major environmental treaty bearing the name of a Japanese city.” (See this article for a tight summary of what the conference accomplished, as well.)
Also last week, in what’s sure to be an important step in sculpting a renewed partnership with Japan, our fellow CNASers Patrick, Abe, and Dan released a report appropriately titled “Renewal: Revitalizing the U.S.-Japan Alliance.” This report follows on collaboration between CNAS and the Tokyo Foundation, which culminated last week in the release of a joint statement on the future of the alliance.
We had a hand in the natural security section, which outlines areas ripe for cooperation, which I thought I’d post here in light of Japan’s environmental negotiations success:
With two of the world’s leading science establishments, the United States and Japan acting in concert have a unique capacity to create a “green alliance” that addresses environmental and natural resource challenges. Together, Washington and Tokyo should address their dependence on scarce or insecure natural resources. This means above all reducing reliance on oil. The two allies can cooperate on advanced biofuels, energy storage technologies and infrastructure, including smart grid adoption. U.S. and Japanese companies have merged or established relationships that extend to wind, solar, nuclear and other non-petroleum energy sources. Both governments should supplement the private sector’s ongoing efforts by emphasizing cooperation to design demonstration projects for critical emerging technologies that are ready for testing and evaluation.
Just beyond the tranquil picturesque landscape of the demilitarized zone on the Korean Peninsula lies modern day North Korea, a bizarre and mysterious world unto itself. The country is shrouded in uncertainty and most of what the outside world knows comes through accounts from defectors, rumors printed by the South Korean press and North Korean state-run media announcements. Case in point: at a recent U.S. Senate Hearing examining the current security situation on the Korean Peninsula, Senator John McCain asked Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (and CNAS co-founder), if Kim Jong-un was the “likely successor” to his father Kim Jong-il, who has ruled since 1994. Secretary Campbell succinctly replied, “Your guess is as good as ours, sir.”
The regime of Kim Jong-Il consistently draws the attention of the international community due to its ominous chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons capabilities and often erratic behavior. Furthermore, the humanitarian situation is extremely dire, with 8.7 million people in need of food assistance, 1 in 3 children under the age of 5 malnourished, and twenty-seven percent of the population at or below the absolute poverty level, living on less than 1 dollar a day.
However, while North Korea’s humanitarian and military challenges gain prominent attention by Western media and governments, the state of North Korean’s ecosystem is rarely covered despite the vast implications this issue will have for the Korean peninsula in the years ahead. In the case of the DPRK, the past is prologue: famine and drought in the mid-1990s precipitated rampant deforestation, land erosion, pillaging of forests, pollution, and the contamination of water supplies, which all still negatively affect the country today.
From 1994 to 1997, when the famine was at its worst, North Koreans had little or no electricity, resorting mostly to firewood to heat their homes. Undoubtedly, the use of firewood during the energy crisis led to a sharp decline in forest resources. Fires, landslides, insect damage, and drought have further contributed to the degradation of forests since the 1990s. Journalistic accounts, such as Barbara Demick’s novel, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, articulate the desperation of North Koreans during the famine, explaining that children would kill and eat rats, mice, frogs, tadpoles, and grasshoppers just to have something to fill their stomachs. Throughout the famine, North Koreans often resorted to a variety of other wild foods, such as grass, mushrooms, and tree bark, to alleviate their hunger, leaving many forests barren of vegetation or animal life. Indeed, the dietary dependency North Koreans have on the natural environment has significantly impacted the diversity (or lack thereof) of plant and animal life today.
I almost forgot to flag this for you all. You need to check out the current (soon to be last month's) edition of Scientific American for this: "How Much Is Left? The Limits of Earth's Resources: A graphical accounting of the limits to what one planet can provide."
Does it have energy? Check. Does it mention minerals? You betcha. Does it - dare I say it - raise the troubles of biodiversity loss? You can count on it.
It's not a long piece, but a good overview of relevant info, cool graphs, and an interesting piece to SciAm's annual single-concept edition, this year on "The End."
If you work within the natural resources and national security/foreign policy world, you may want to join us on the Hill next Wednesday at noon for a lunch discussion on that exact topic. This will be a great conversation - everything from Yemen's water woes, to Pakistan's water woes, to China's water woes...
A little pop analysis. Here are the number of mentions of our major natural security topics in the just-released National Security Strategy:
Climate Change: 28
Agriculture: 3 (including specifically regarding India and Afghanistan)
Conservation (forests): 1
By comparison - and this is very interesting:
Nuclear (energy and other): 74
That's right, folks. The new NSS mentions "energy" more than "engagement" or "military." And "climate change" appears more than "intelligence."
And for full context, here is a word cloud of the document (note: removed the words "United States").