Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bribery, Power and Respect

Related to the Wikileaks Mark has been talking about in his posts recently, there was an interesting exchange between the Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, and Todd Stern, the chief U.S. negotiator on climate. To a certain extent, much of this seems to be symptomatic of a much broader distrust that exists between the worlds most powerful nations and the smallest, least powerful. It really relates to power and respect, who has it and who doesn't.

Throughout the meetings here in Cancun, it is clear that countries like the U.S. view the outcome of last years meetings, the Copenhagen Accord, as a success that can and should be built on as a means of forging some sort of international agreement. From the perspective of the smallest and least powerful countries, it was a violation of trust and a confirmation of long-held suspicions that the UN is anything but a democracy. The level of anger and distrust in the negotiation process created by the Copenhagen Accord should not be underestimated.

At the end of the two week conference in Copenhagen, heads of state flew in from around the world to help broker a deal to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Instead of the heads of state participating in the UN negotiation process that had been ongoing for a week and a half, many of the most powerful, including President Obama, got together in a back room and forged the Copenhagen Accord without the input of small, less powerful countries.

Afterward, the U.S. and others tried to convince those same countries to sign on to the Accord and legitimize it. It is now widely alleged that this "convincing" involved providing financial incentives for smaller countries to agree to the Copenhagen Accord. Money=power.

Bolivia has been outspoken in claiming that what happened is tantamount to bribery and a corruption of the democratic UN process. Solon stated "one country, because of its economic power, is resorting to blackmail. This is not a negotiating process between countries who respect each other. It's an imposition." In a later press conference Stern was asked about the Bolivian ambassadors comments where he said, "we can eliminate any cause or accusation of bribery by eliminating any money."

So what was the U.S. role in facilitating support for the Copenhagen Accord? Was it really bribery or simply a subtle, or not so subtle exertion of power? And is there a difference? Small countries with fragile economies are in a difficult position that they are acutely aware of. While they by and large did not have much of a role at all in contributing to climate change, they are likely to shoulder much of the environmental and social costs that accrue. At the same time, they are far less resilient than rich countries and therefore need their financial help if they are to adapt and adjust to changing conditions a survive. But to what extent are those small countries beholden to the rich for accepting help dealing with a problem the economic powers created in the first place? It is the height of dysfunction played out on an international stage. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

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