Commentary, Uncategorized

The spirit of Paris – alive and kicking

Written by Jasmin Cantzler for The Climate Analytics Blog. Jasmin is a fellow Hertie graduate.

Today the presidents of the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas polluters, China and the US, ratified the Paris Agreement.

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama’s ratification, ahead of the G20 meeting in China, shows that the momentum to address climate change is strong as ever, making the possibility of the Paris Agreement’s entry into force by the end of this year or early next ever more likely.

On the 12th of December 2015, the plenary halls at Le Bourget on the outskirts of Paris erupted in standing ovations, tears and cheers – a turmoil of emotions of relief and euphoria.

The Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 governments after a two-week negotiation marathon, was a remarkable achievement and a landmark in the global fight against climate change, rattling off the shock and lethargy following the failure of Copenhagen.

But since the wave of euphoria, detractors set in, with many assuming the Agreement would not be operational until 2020. Luckily, the world seems determined to prove them otherwise.

To recap the rulebook: The Paris Agreement will automatically enter into force 30 days after it has been ratified by at least 55 countries, and by countries representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Both conditions have to be met before the agreement is legally binding.

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In April this year, the Paris Agreement opened for signature and ratification.

Since then, our ratification tracker followed not just the actual ratification but also the statements made by government officials about their intention to ratify – and when.

With China and the US (together accounting for 37.98% of global emissions) keeping their promises made during the signing ceremony in April to ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of the year, the spirit of Paris proves to be alive and kicking.

Including the US and China, 26 parties have ratified the Agreement as of 3 September 2016.

Another 32 countries have signalled their intent to do so by the end of 2016, bringing the possibility of an early entry into force within reach by meeting both conditions (number of countries and share of global emissions).

With two of the world’s top emitters showing their determination to combat climate change, the momentum is likely to continue and boost participation by other governments.

Investors managing over USD 13 trillion in assets also urged G20 leaders to swiftly ratify the agreement, reminding them of their “responsibility to work with the private sector”, stating that the “Paris Agreement on climate change provides a clear signal to investors that the transition to the low-carbon, clean energy economy is inevitable and already underway”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will hold an event during the UN General Assembly in September, which will allow governments to deposit their instruments of ratification to “keep up momentum on the development agenda and climate change” and to “bring that Agreement into force this year.”

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Governments have shown in Paris that they are ready to “converge onto a common path, onto a common direction of travel”towards a low-carbon economy. As our work with the Climate Action Tracker has shown, the current climate pledges by governments are certainly not yet sufficient to take us anywhere near the agreed long-term temperature goal of 1.5°C, instead we projected they would keep warming to 2.7˚C, but this ratification is the first step.

Paris achieved a common direction for all to pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” and “aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible”. The latter means zero global greenhouse-gas emissions by mid-century to be consistent with the 1.5°C efforts.

We look to Governments to accelerate climate action and get us on a path to that Paris Agreement temperature goal. Their first step must be to ratify it.

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Uncategorized

The Internship Grind: Better Know An Intern #3

We love the Better Know An Intern series here at Development Intern. One of the main reasons to start this site was to build a platform for other interns so they wouldn’t be anonymous, interchangeable, part-timers.

Clement’s short interview profiles have reminded us how good it is to hear from a wide range of people (like our contributors). Do you ever feel like telling your story or giving your opinion on something in the industry? Then please join our writers’ group and pitch me your ideas!

In this Better Know an Intern, we get to better know Jolan Remcsak. He talks about coming from France/La Réunion, the need for more sleep as an intern, and how impending doom is the greatest challenge the United Nations faces today.

As always, help support the Internship Grind by contributing to Clement’s Generosity crowdfunding campaign. You can also check out his blog here.

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“Our collective continued fixation on low overhead and aid worker personal life sacrifice forces us and our donors feel as if we must choose between white interns or brown babies. And only a really horrible person would ever choose the white interns.”

J. kicking some ass. Read this if you donate to charities.

Background reading

White Interns Vs. Brown Babies

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We Want You!

Development Intern is now 18 months on from its first ever post, reblogged from a wordpress site I started so I could vent my frustrations somewhere away from the office.

I really enjoyed blogging. I loved trying to write my way through issues I was grappling with at work – both professional and theoretical. I liked discovering and engaging with the amazing development blogosphere. I liked getting recognition for my thoughts and having people respond to what I said – a massive departure from the relative anonymity of a long-term intern.

But I couldn’t keep it up.

Successful blogs need to be updated regularly and I just didn’t have the energy or, frankly, the inspiration to keep churning out three pieces a week. My blog wound down. Other (much better and more popular) development blogs closed down as well: Think Africa Press, Kariobangi, even the mighty Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like. Too often, the burden of keeping such sites going is concentrated on one person and it gets to be too much.

So why not get other people involved? I had figured out the tricky back-end business of putting together a website and built a modest audience. I realised I could

With a relatively stable bunch of regular writers, we’ve put out close to 100 posts in that time. A lot of them I think are genuinely great blog posts which I often refer back to in my academic and professional life. 18 months is actually relatively long lived for a development blog. But things inevitably start to slow down. People lose interest or get distracted by work/university or run out of things to write about or get poached by thieving Australians running a different website*….

But I don’t want this site to run down. How can I stop that? By inviting more people to get involved!

Running this site has shown me that a) there are some amazing voices out there that deserve a platform (probably a better one) that I can give them and b) having more people involved means you cover more diverse topics and gather different points of view. Of course I should get more people on board.

Join us here!

This was previously our internal writers group. We post ideas for blog posts, discuss articles and generally help each other out. Now, I’m inviting you guys to join. I will continue to act as editor and site manager, helping you craft your messages and promoting them as best I can. I will also regularly post ideas for articles anybody can write.

This is blogging made easy. Here’s to another 18 months with you guys.

___

*Obviously, I’m super proud of Jennifer becoming editor at WhyDev and only very occasionally curse out Brendan and Weh.

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The Semi Obligatory Year In Review Blog Post

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Development Is Political. Why Does Anyone Pretend Otherwise?

Development experts tend to depict their policy recommendations as technocratic and impartial. That is to say, economic policy and governmental reform, when it has originated from with the development bureaucracy, is often endowed with an apolitical quality. Its proponents will laud such a policy as time-tested, proven, and driven by empirical studies. However, a perceptive eye reveals that development is often, or perhaps always, DEEPLY political and highly influenced by certain ideologies.

Imagine if an organization arrived on the East coast of the US and advertised that it knew exactly how the US should reinvigorate its economy and initiate new growth. It would probably receive more than a few skeptical raised eyebrows from the American populace. Even more, if it suggested its plan was apolitical, something both the Republican and the Democrats might agree upon (simply unimaginable considering the current political climate), there would be furore. Our bitterly partisan politicians would certainly be quick to discern with whom this organization’s ideologies aligned. What’s more, nobody would take this claim of impartiality seriously, seriously undermining the credibility of the organisation as a whole. So why do development organisations maintain this charade?

A peak into development history (and quite a history it is) is quick to yield quite a few examples of this routine deception. “Structural Adjustments” are probably the poster child for policies that rely heavily on certain political and ideological trends. These policies emerged in the 1980’s in an era of neoliberal enthusiasm led by figures like Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher. Based on what is now called by prominent development historians (such as Irma Adelman) the “government is evil” school of thought, these structural adjustment programs propagated a variety of liberalizing policies on much of the developing world. At the time, these policies (for example the reduction of barriers to trade, or minimization of state budgets) were sold as necessary steps on the road to development. Of course hindsight indicates otherwise, and it is now quite clear that these policies were more informed by ideology than the sort of impartial reasoning upon which they were sold. For more information on the effects of structural adjustment policies look here.

Recent events further reveal the political nature of development work. It was discovered by the AP that USAID was the mastermind behind a Cuban twitter platform that sought to both stir up unrest among Cuba’s youth as well as gather personal data on the websites users. An explicit hope of the program was to initiate a sort of “Cuban Spring” – or, to put it a little less gracefully, regime change. Such a program is not that unlike many other ill-fated foreign policy moves by the US, but the fact that the operation was funded by USAID might be a bit more surprising. The American consciousness is more likely to associate the USAID logo with a selfless humanitarian and his bags of disaster relief food aid (the sort of “beneficent” charity work that often brands development more generally) than with diplomats or military strategists. Americans simply do not see aid as a mere “carrot” among various sticks in the diplomat’s political toolbox, but stories like this belie that reality.

We can see the political influences on development organizations themselves, rather than their policies, through recent news concerning World Vision. A major evangelical development organization, World Vision, announced last week a policy change that would allow the organization to hire employees in same-sex marriages, and then promptly rescinded it following outrage from quite a few of its supporters. Here we see the globally contentious issue of gay rights impacting the bureaucratic procedures of World Vision, mechanisms which are often assumed to be crafted with only the efficient execution of development work in mind. Again, it is clear politics pervades development, even into the realm of internal organizational matters.

In short, politics is an inevitable part of the development industry. Though we may try to separate our policy recommendations from the cultural biases, economic ideologies, and power relations of our respective nations, we have a remarkably poor history of doing so.

So why is it then that the politics of development is so rarely given its due as a condition that profoundly affects the way in which policy is executed?

A few issues may be at work here. For one, the development industry generally seems to be plagued by a chronic lack of controversy. That is not to say that we do not have our debates, often even with raised voices (did anyone else see that Twitter battle between Sachs and Mwenda!?). However, the “business of doing good” is often protected from necessary scepticism because of its good intentions, especially from the critiques of external voices. I suppose no one wants to be the critic of the hard working humanitarian [Ed: except Bill Easterly and his tyrannical experts].

Second, while the professionalization of development has its perks, the new(ish) infrastructure to educate and train practitioners has only further veiled the political nature of this work. There are hundreds of schools across the globe, in major international hubs, as well as tiny colleges (like the one I attend), that offer degrees in Development Economics or Studies. While this can lead to a better informed and highly professional development practitioner base, it also augments our capacity within the industry to make our recommendations appear impartial and empirically grounded. Our supposed authority as experts and technocrats finds new life thanks to our various development degrees and certificates.

This post does not intend to be a call to action, as I see no way development may be depoliticized.

Rather what is necessary is an industry-wide paradigm shift to a mindset which recognizes the highly political nature of our work. When public policy comes up around the dinner table at a family reunion, I take each Aunt or Uncle’s policy recommendations with a grain of salt, keeping in mind their respective political ideologies, not to mention my own. Especially candid family members often announce their party affiliations before descending into awkward, and vaguely confrontational debate. Development “experts,” on the other hand, must only announce their various credentials, their numerous degrees, or their hard-earned experience elsewhere to gain entrance into the highest echelon of policy circles abroad and to speak with an almost unquestioned authority once within.

I do not believe it is unreasonable to hold development experts, in the very least, to the same degree of scrutiny one might apply to a casual family meal. Let’s face it, Uncle George, I love you, but we will never agree on issues of American public policy….. we probably shouldn’t on development policy either.

(Final Note: Read James Ferguson, “The Anti-Politics Machine” if you want to know more about the ways in which development work is obscured from its political and ideological roots!)

 

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