The U.S. government took several steps over the weekend to reassure Afghans that America will not abandon their country once the NATO combat mission ends in 2014. Although the assurances do not include a security commitment to Afghanistan per se, the Obama administration and other international partners have agreed to continue development assistance aimed at improving the tenuous security environment.
On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton elevated Afghanistan’s role as a strategic partner of the United States. “The United States declared Afghanistan a major, non-NATO ally on Saturday, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton personally delivering the news of Afghanistan’s entry into a club that includes Israel, Japan, Pakistan and other close Asian and Middle Eastern allies,” The New York Times reported.
Defense News reports on a forum on the Law of the Sea Convention hosted by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Atlantic Council that featured keynote addresses by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martine Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who both urged the U.S. Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention in order to safeguard American interests and U.S. Armed Forces.
Dr. Fravel links to a story in the Philippine Star that reports that Chinese maritime vessels have imposed fishing restrictions on Filipino fisherman in an area approximately 120-nautical miles off the coast of the Philippine island Luzon, an area that would be considered within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
Today is World Water Day, a day to promote awareness of the acute water and food shortages plaguing the estimated 1 out of 8 persons that lack reliable access to clean drinking water.
This morning at 10:30 AM, tune into the State Department's website where you can watch Secretary of State Clinton deliver her remarks on World Water Day. According to a State Department release, Secretary Clinton will also launch the new U.S. Water Partnership (USWP) today. The statement says that “The USWP is a public-private partnership formed to share U.S. knowledge, leverage and mobilize resources, and facilitate cross-sector partnerships to find solutions to global water accessibility challenges, especially in the developing world.”
The Director of National Intelligence will also release the Global Water Security Intelligence Community Assessment, a long-awaited report from the intelligence community that describes the security challenges associated with increased water scarcity.
Hopefully the rollout of the IC report timed with a major speech by Secretary Clinton will generate some greater awareness within the security community about the importance of water security to U.S. national security and foreign policy. As Secretary Clinton said in a speech in 2010, “water represents one of the great diplomatic and development opportunities of our time.” As the United States rebalances in the Asia Pacific, perhaps water can serve as a touchstone for building strategic partnerships with countries already beset by water insecurity, a challenge likely to be exacerbated in the future. It is something that security practitioners should consider.
The disturbing report of a U.S. Army sergeant slaying at least 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday in southern Afghanistan is the most recent in a series of incidents exacerbating tensions between Afghans and Americans. Three weeks ago, the U.S. military accidentally burned copies of the Koran at Bagram Airbase that incited deadly anti-U.S. demonstrations across the country. These incidents are not only exacerbating tensions between U.S. military personnel and Afghans in the near term, but may also undermine the ability of U.S. aid and development personnel from establishing the presence and relationships they need with Afghans to complete development projects essential to the country’s long-term stability.
On Sunday, The New York Times published a report citing concerns that aid and development companies share about Afghanistan’s deteriorating security environment. The spate of demonstrations set off by the Koran burnings three weeks ago and added to by the U.S. Army sergeant’s killing of at least 16 civilians, coupled with the Karzai government’s plan to ban private security companies by the end of March, is worrying aid and development groups charged with carrying out projects in some of the most volatile regions of the country. According to The New York Times, the situation has “left the private groups that carry out most of the American-financed development work in Afghanistan scrambling to sort out their operations, imperiling billions of dollars in projects.” The prospect that these development projects could be left unfinished “threatens a vital part of the Obama administration’s plans for Afghanistan, which envision a continuing development mission after the end of the NATO combat mission in 2014,” The New York Times report added.
Last week, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released its new climate change and development strategy. The document, according to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, provides a roadmap for promoting sustainable global growth that leverages USAID’s long history of development activities, including disaster risk reduction, natural resources management and energy sector reform.
According to the strategy, USAID’s goal is to “enable countries to accelerate their transition to climate-resilient low emission sustainable economic development.” To achieve this goal, the strategy delineates three strategic objectives:
- Accelerate the transition to low emission development through investments in clean energy and sustainable landscapes;
- Increase resilience of people, places, and livelihoods through investments in adaptation; and
- Strengthen development outcomes by integrating climate change in Agency programming, learning, policy dialogues and operations.
What is noteworthy is that the strategy explicitly addresses the budget-constrained environment that USAID must adapt to. “In order to effectively use these resources in a budget-constrained environment, USAID is committed to focusing and concentrating climate change investments for maximum impact,” the strategy reads, recognizing that USAID cannot operate in every developing country that is at risk from global climate change. Indeed, USAID – as we’re seeing with many federal agencies now – must make hard choices about where it will operate. To make those choices, USAID lays out three criteria it will consider when deciding which countries to dedicate dollars to for climate change and development activities:
Christine and Will are spending this week in Hamburg, Germany, where they will be leading a game simulation based on international climate change negotiations coming up this December in Cancun. In their absence, welcome to a week of me on the blog! Since it’s my very last week here at CNAS, I hope to share some of the things that I’ve learned in my time here as well as the typical news and events fare. Hope you enjoy!
Last weekend, New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin posed an intriguing question on his Dot Earth blog: do the top billion need new goals? He was referring to a new version of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of 8 comprehensive goals to achieve sustainable development for the poorest people in the world (often referred to as the “bottom billion” after Paul Collier’s book title), including benchmark targets for income, hunger, maternal and child health, education, gender inequality and environmental degradation. But goals for the already developed world would look at the opposite end of the spectrum: instead of finding ways to speed up development, these goals would identify factors that could slow growth and reverse prosperity in the rich countries in the future.
Throughout my all-too-short time here working with the Natural Security program, I’ve learned a great deal about energy policy in the United States, alternative fuel resources and the potential effects of climate change, some of it expected and some quite shocking. But everything I’ve learned points me towards a conclusion that I (along with many others) had already reached- that the United States’ addiction to fossil fuels could very quickly prove an impediment to economic development, and sooner than many people think.
Last week I spent a few days in Tokyo at a symposium hosted by the University of Tokyo on the role of natural resources and infrastructure in post-conflict peacebuilding. The symposium was the second in a series of symposia for a project I’m attached to that seeks to improve American and Japanese post-conflict security and diplomacy initiatives by helping policymakers understand the importance of integrating natural resource management and infrastructure redevelopment into peacebuilding efforts.
The timing for the symposium could not have been better given the agenda, which included several case study presentations on Afghanistan. In fact, the news that General McChrystal had been relieved of his command broke the morning of the symposium, which prompted questions of what the change in command meant for America’s development priorities in Afghanistan. It is worth noting that, generally, there was consensus among the U.S. researchers that our development priorities aren’t likely to be affected given that the president has made clear that any long-term strategy in Afghanistan will strike a balance between our defense, development and diplomatic levers – a “whole-of-government” approach.
The presentations on Afghanistan covered a broad range of topics: from poppies and the opium drug trade to agricultural development as an opportunity for demobilizing and reintegrating combatants into civil society. Rather nicely, each of the speakers complemented the other by reiterating the importance of natural resources in restoring stability and security in Afghanistan (something we’ve covered well here on the blog).
Is it just me, or are we seeing a lot on agriculture in the media lately? It's almost as though global-trend watchers are getting nervous. I noticed (or perceived, at least) an upward trend in ag coverage about a week back, hence my post two Mondays ago focused on its role in Afghanistan. Last week also witnessed a great Rolling Stone piece on investors purchasing land in Africa and elsewhere in order to bank on projected food shortages, which I'll get to tomorrow.
But for today I'll begin with yesterday's Financial Times. Part of its coverage came in the form of a special section on commodities (which is worth skimming in whole). The headline sounds quite reassuring: “Agriculture: Bumper Harvests Bring Stability.” Its author examines only the macro level, and describes food production abundance resulting this year from high prices. This stability he describes is in prices, not in the social and political conditions we monitor here at CNAS – and to be sure, the two do not always meet. He does, however, quote one expert who looks beyond just world prices, with a less optimistic result:
Emmanuel Jayet, agricultural commodities analyst at Société Générale in Paris, says that the factors that contributed to the 2007-08 crisis – rapidly rising consumption on the back of population growth, leading to insufficient supply – exist still.
“The sharp supply tightness that we had in 2008 – which was not only an investor story, but actual supply tightness – was a warning signal,” he says. “My concern is that consumption is growing steadily, and that production may not keep pace with rising demand.”