Tag Archives: International Relations

Was anything serious ever solved during a summit?

There is a proliferation of summit meetings all over the world. Representatives of international organizations, governments and NGOs, among other stakeholders, are on the world’s roads and in the skies to address and, allegedly, solve global problems. And global problems we have plenty, some of which are looking threatening. But the question is what the outcome of all these meetings might be.

The recent G7 summit in Bavaria provided photo opportunities and promises to reduce emissions. Binding obligations, though, were difficult to find. The whole event cost the German taxpayer around €260 million – well invested money? There was and continues to be an apparently never-ending chain of meetings to finally settle the Greek insolvency. Each of those meetings is connected to a qualification like the last chance, or 2 minutes before 12. Alas, no solution so far. A similar rush of get-togethers is registered for the otherwise not-so-noteworthy city of Minsk (addressing the Russia/ Ukraine problems), Tel Aviv (debating the near east crisis), and Geneva (whatever has to be addressed).

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Are the problems at FIFA issues for international relations?

In recent weeks and days, sports politics have dominated the headlines. The world football association, FIFA, was and is accused of being corrupt, untransparent, and hopelessly dominated by a group of old men and thugs.

Part of the problem is the huge amount of money coming in from TV stations and sponsors, and redistributed apparently at Fiat. The decision-making regarding whose application will be supported for the world championship competitions seems to be not very rational. Decision-making procedures follow the principle of one country/one vote, resulting in the unsatisfying situation that the Tongan Football Association has the same influence as the biggest association, the German DFB, representing almost 7 million players. As a result, corruption is rife.

What would make the rules more democratic and transparent?

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The new nuclear arms race: Why is it that governments are re-investing in nuclear weapons and capabilities, that are broadly futile for inner-state and asymmetrical conflicts?

Hardly anybody talks about it, but nation states are again investing a lot of money in their nuclear capabilities. After the end of the Cold War, nukes were apparently losing their fatal attraction. Now this has been reversed. The U.S., China and Russia are all introducing new attack weapons, but also BMD (ballistic missile defense) systems. Dozens of billions of dollars are invested here for modernization and upgrading.
If this is compatible with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which commits the member states to eliminate nukes or to at least show good faith to eliminate them, is doubtful. In addition, the club of the five nuclear states after WW2 is expanding, and keeps expanding (Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea, possibly Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc.).
No wonder that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has just moved their famous “doomsday clock” (symbolically telling us how far we are from total destruction) two minutes closer to midnight. It´s now three minutes to midnight – the closest since 1983.

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How can we explain the disastrous handling of MH370 by applying International Relations theories?

Exactly a year ago, MH370, the doomed flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared. Not delayed, so far not destroyed, it just got lost.

Among anger and sorrow from friends and relatives of the 239 passengers and crew that disappeared, the performance of the governments involved in solving the puzzle hasn’t looked good – Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and China. Stuff happens. A catastrophe of such magnitude without any clues is truly exceptional, and therefore also, obviously, ripe with conspiracy theories.

So our question for this week is: putting aside technical matters, conspiracies and wild speculations, how can we explain such a disastrous handling of an event by applying International Relations theories?

Image credit: Flickr user Paul Rowbotham

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Is it worth studying International Relations today?

At the beginning of 2015, the world looks more confused than ever. So one would assume that we do need a lot of good specialists to bring a sense of clarity and transparency to what is happening in Global Politics. Alas, what we see is that a lot of people in most countries give up understanding the chaos, resigning in the face of too much complexity. This includes decision makers who are skeptical re. the interference of self-appointed specialists. Plus, media reporting on global affairs is about as simplistic as the reality is complicated.
So why should young people today start a career by studying International Relations/ Global Politics? What can they expect from such a degree? What can taxpayers expect from such an investment? And politicians from these experts?

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Is there any way that politics could influence global oil prices (in either direction)? Or do we have to accept the market’s and a cartel’s (OPEC) dominance?

Over the last 12 months, oil prices in global markets have been volatile. This has been a problem for some (Russia, Saudi, Venezuela), and a blessing for others (China and India). For some governments, the Russian government in particular, falling oil prices pose a serious threat.

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In a world economy where all BRICS are weak or weakening, where Japan is combating its crisis, and only the U.S. has significant growth rates, the weakness of the Eurozone is worrying. What should be done?

The new EU Commission finds itself in the middle of a shooting-out between two increasingly outspoken camps: Should growth be stimulated by quantitative easing, and by state-induced spending programs? Or should austerity policy be continued, accompanied by structural reform in the southern EU countries? This is indeed a question that indicates a divide – mostly between Germany, Finland and the Baltic countries in the second groups, and most of the others in the first. The problems of France and Italy to push their budget deficits below the 3 per cent limit of annual debt against GDP. The southern governments not only encourage themselves, but also Germany to increase spending, forget about balancing the budget (to be reached in Germany in 2015 for the first time in decades), and instead start spending and investing into infrastructure and other goodies. A related fight is going on in the ECB, where a majority supports the line of Mario Draghi to do “whatever it costs” to save the Euro, against some other central bank governors criticizing the lax attitude of the ECB, buying very questionable state bonds ignoring their market value.

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What are the risks and opportunities connected with the protests in Hong Kong?

Pasu Au Yeung/Flickr/Creative Commons

During the last weeks, tens of thousands took part in demonstrations in Hong Kong, demanding – in different ways and forms – more democracy. The protests were set in motion when China’s National People’s Congress announced that candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 chief executive elections would have to be approved by a Beijing-controlled committee; this, according to the protesters, contradicts the principle of universal suffrage that was established in the handover agreement in 1997. More recently some of the protest leaders became more daring and called for “self-determination” and “independence”.

So far, no meaningful procedure of conflict resolution has been established. The Beijing leadership tries to remain invisible, but calls the shots behind the curtains. The local administration is general powerless and clueless. Increasingly, ‘ordinary’ Hong Kong citizens feel embarrassed and harassed by the ongoing blockades of main thoroughfares and businesses.
In the mainland, many mid-level officials explain their conviction that the current form of governances is not sustainable. Against this background, Hong Kong could also be treated as a laboratory. But currently, the dominant position seems to be to prevent by (virtually) all means a June 4, 2.0. From the outside it is not clear what, if any, spaces for compromise exists.

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