BRICS Summit in Durban

Once-poor BRICS countries are preparing a better future without us

COLIN ROBERTSON The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Mar. 27 2013

On Wednesday, the leaders of the increasingly powerful group of countries known as BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – will meet for their fifth summit in Durban.

At the top of the BRICS agenda will be serious efforts to alleviate poverty and secure greater weight as newly emerging powers – both of which the five countries seem ready and able to do without any help from the West, using a new set of financial institutions they hope to create.

Setting the tone for the meeting, Xi Jinping of China, who is making his international debut as part of a trip that has taken him to Moscow and then Dar es Salaam, told journalists that these emerging economies “have become an important force for world peace” – while arguing that the “global economic governance system must reflect the profound changes in the global economic landscape, and the representation and voice of emerging markets and developing countries should be increased.”

Ending poverty is ambitious but doable mostly because of efforts in India and China. The World Bank global poverty rate fell from 42 per cent in 1990 to 25 per cent in 2005, and may yet fall by 205 to 15 per cent, or 900 million people.

To make this goal possible, this summit will debate a proposal to create a BRICS development bank. The idea came from economists Joseph Stiglitz, Nicholas Stern and Mattia Romani in the belief that the BRICS should “consolidate” funds to build infrastructure and “boost confidence for developed-country investors to participate in the expanding markets of the world and the growth story of the future.”

It would supplement but perhaps undermine, as former prime minister Paul Martin suggests,  the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank – institutions that BRICS members find sluggish and inflexible.

But what would it do that the others cannot? And would they not be better to seek reform of these existing institutions? The idea is likely to remain a topic for discussion at future meetings.

The BRICS countries together represent about 43 per cent of the world’s population and approximately one-fifth of global gross domestic product (GDP). In 2012, the BRICS accounted for approximately 11 per cent of global foreign direct investment flows ($465-billion) and about 17 per cent of world trade.

By 2020, the UNDP says in its 2013 report, the combined economic output of Brazil, China and India will surpass the aggregate production of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Other countries, including Nigeria, Indonesia and Turkey are looking toward eventual membership in the BRICS group. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who will be at the meeting, has suggested the grouping be expanded to “E-BRICS.”

Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill coined the BRIC acronym in 2001 as a clever shorthand to describe the largest emerging markets. He is unconvinced that South Africa, which joined the association in 2010, merits membership.

Within the BRICS there are tensions, old and new. There remain border tensions between China and Russia, and between China and India. South Africa, Brazil and India are democracies. China is not, and Russia is only in name. China and India, as consumers, want lower commodity prices, while Russia, Brazil and South Africa, as producers, want higher prices.

Then there are the disparities: China’s economy is 25 per cent larger than those of the other four BRICS nations combined, and 22 times larger than South Africa’s.

Some Africans decry China’s “neo-colonialism.” Nigeria’s central-bank governor Lamido Sanusi recently argued that Chinese activity in Africa is a new form of imperialism, sucking oil and resources out of the continent then selling back its manufactures.”

The BRICS also want more influence on issues of peace and security. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has asked for intervention by the BRICS “to stop the violence in his country and encourage the opening of a dialogue.”

Yet neither China nor especially Russia have behaved constructively at the United Nations Security Council. With authority comes responsibility. The BRICS aren’t there yet.

But the BRICS summit raises an important question for the West.

If the World Bank and the IMF aren’t working for the emerging nations, shouldn’t we try to fix them? Isn’t it time to redress the stranglehold whereby the World Bank is always headed by an American and the IMF by a European?

President Xi is on solid ground when he argues that the global economic governance system should reflect the profound changes in the global economic landscape. The G-20 was supposed to accomplish this but its performance to date has been a disappointment. There is still a ways to go.

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On the Re-Integration of CIDA into DFAIT

In the wake of the Federal Budget (March 21) the Globe and Mail published a series of pieces on the Government’s decision to fold CIDA into DFAIT. Below is the piece I wrote with links to the others in the series. I was surprised that most favoured the move. I spent Friday at an excellent Canadian International Council conference on China that included former Foreign Ministers and former senior officials – they, too, thought the move made sense. If they can take the shrewd and pragmatic ‘head’ of the old External Affairs, the entrepenurial ‘can-do’ spirit of the old Trade Commissioner Service and CIDA”s generous ‘heart’, it will work for Canada.

There is a lot of work ahead for the ‘new’ Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development but policy coherence is the first step if the Government is to accomplish its ambitious international agenda. Mergers are difficult things. The divorce and then re-union of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (PM Martin to PM Harper) absorbed a tremendous amount of energy by the departments’ best brains – hardly a productive use of their talents. Even with CIDA in DFAIT, their combined budget is still only about half that of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. One of the first challenges will be filtering and weaning the CIDA client list. Care must be taken not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, especially in areas where we have demonstrated capacity-building experience like youth, women and education.

In addition to the commentary in the Globe, I also recommend Jeremy KinsmanDoug Saunders, Scott Gilmore Bernard Wood. Joe Ingram and Aniket Bhushan of the North South Institute and Eric Morse and Eugene Lang. The Media Co-OP also has a perspective.

For further intellectual nourishment, read former World Bank president Robert Zoellick’s excellent speeches (2011) A New Social Contract for Development and Beyond Aid. There are also a pair of very good studies: Reinventing CIDA (2010) and Reinventing CIDA: One Year Later (2011) done for CDFAI by Gordon Smith and Barry Carin.

The CIDA move’s not radical. Canada is just playing catch up

COLIN ROBERTSON The Globe and Mail Friday, Mar. 22 2013

The re-integration of CIDA into Foreign Affairs and International Trade is a sensible move.

Sensible because, notwithstanding best efforts at the senior political level, whether the government of the day was Conservative or Liberal, there has too often been a disconnect in the field in the conduct of our foreign policy objectives and delivery of development assistance.

Also sensible because it will likely require a change in the current culture of CIDA and the capacity of Foreign Affairs to rise to the challenge. Neither is certain. It remains to be seen if they can also overcome tensions between domestic priorities and international commitments in the development sphere.

CIDA emerged during the initial expansionary phase of government in the early Trudeau years from the External Affairs Aid Office. It was intended to operate in the field as a development delivery agency, a bit like immigration selection. Instead, under the direction of Paul Gérin-Lajoie, the former Quebec education minister who served as CIDA president during this period, it developed an arguably independendist personality and a distinct culture.

Operating from its base across the Ottawa River in Quebec, there was no way CIDA would take direction from the striped pants brigade in the Pearson building. Long-term development, argued the prelates at CIDA, should not be subject to short-term diplomatic imperatives.

CIDA officers at missions overseas took their cue accordingly and, armed with separate and substantial budgets that eclipsed those of Foreign Affairs, they could and would often operate independently of the Ambassador or High Commissioner, even though the latter was intended to have overall responsibility. Immigration officers operate on a similar basis but their strict regulatory code is transparent and designed to protect the ambassador from facing invidious local pressures.

At home, CIDA has become the sustainer and often principal source of a plethora of non-government groups, all of which claimed to have development objectives, some of which were not in alignment with government policy.

Letting a thousand flowers bloom can have advantages, but over time these relationships came to resemble that of patron and client. There were a couple of problems with this approach.

First, CIDA became a policy center with a network of clients who, in turn, developed a sense of entitlement.

Second, the direction was not always congruent with our foreign policy. In the development world there is a tendency towards moralism and a disdain for the urgencies of realpolitik.

There were awkward conversations with foreign governments when the NGOs and, occasionally, the CIDA operative in the field, failed to appreciate the distinction between development and interference in the host country’s domestic affairs. This did not advance Canadian interests.

In recent speeches , CIDA Minister Julian Fantino has promised a new direction that would link CIDA programs directly to our trade and foreign policy objectives because “we have a duty and a responsibility to ensure that Canadian interests are promoted.”

CIDA partnerships would be broadened to include business as well as NGOS and multinational organizations. Mr. Fantino had no time for the moralists saying that “this is Canadian money” and that he found it “very strange that people would not expect Canadian investments to also promote Canadian values, Canadian business, the Canadian economy.” Nor would, he said , “NGOs be funded for life” scotching the belief that “CIDA only exists to keep NGOs afloat.”

This philosophical shift is not unique to Canada.

It is supported by an emerging school of thought that argues that after half a century and $2.4-trillion in investment the old approach to aid has not worked. In White Man’s Burden, William Easterly writes that multilateral and national aid agencies are staffed by well-meaning planners who see “poverty as a technical engineering problem that [their] answers will solve” when in reality “poverty is a complicated tangle of political, social, historical, institutional and technological factors.”

Even more radical is Dambisa Moyo, who argued in Dead Aid that aid is the fundamental cause of poverty and therefore eliminating aid is critical to spur growth in ailing African states.

We are not the first government to bring aid back under the direction of foreign affairs or to try to instill a ‘business’ perspective. The British, Australians and New Zealanders as well as other European countries are aiming at the same objective. As Britain’s Aid Minister Justine Green put it this past week, her objective, “for developing countries is an end to aid dependency through jobs.”

To end the turf battles over authority and accountability, former U.S. president George W. Bush brought US AID under the direction of the State Department and established the Millenium Challenge Corporation to address corruption. It added strict accountability measures and good governance conditionality to its grants with the hope that it would become the model for U.S. 21st-century development assistance.

The Obama Administration kept this structure and as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised to make US AID the premier development agency in the world. She described development an “indispensable foreign policy tool for advancing American interests and solving global problems.” But judging outcomes is difficult and he jury is still out on whether the approach is working.

The integration of CIDA into Foreign Affairs and the congruence of development and diplomatic policy makes sense and it should help Foreign Minister John Baird put flesh onto his ‘dignity agenda. But it will take much effort.

Hard questions will need to be asked on how and where our foreign aid is spent. The emphasis will need to be on outcomes that visibly advance development as well as Canadian interests. No easy task.

More Related to this Story

excerpted from Maclean’s Luiza Savage interview with CIDA Minister Julian Fantino ‘On Canada’s changing aid to Haiti, the merger of CIDA and DFAIT, and the role of the private sector in development’ Friday, May 10, 2013

Q: A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson, wrote that the merger was a good thing because CIDA had become “a policy centre with a network of clients who, in turn, developed a sense of entitlement.” He added that “the direction was not always congruent with our foreign policy. In the development world, there is a tendency towards moralism and a disdain for the urgencies of realpolitik.” Is there any truth to that? Was there a problem?

A: There was no problem. I think that there is a very fundamental need for us to coordinate our efforts with respect to what Canada does. We heard it here time and time again from the international community. You’ve got DFAIT working on projects in the same country and same location as what CIDA does, so there is a need to coordinate our efforts.

Q: So what will this mean on the ground?

A: We will create a united front on how we spend Canadian tax dollars in areas of development. It will mean more efficiencies and effectiveness. It will also mean that development will now be entrenched in Canadian law.

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    Canada, Energy and the Environment

    We need a national ecological strategy to match our energy ambitions

    The Globe and Mail Wednesday, Mar. 13 2013

    “There are an awful lot of folks who are trying to make up their minds, and trying to draw the right balance,” observed U.S. ambassador David Jacobson on the divide between the energy and security benefits of oil-sands imports and the environment. On the environment, he was emphatic: “There needs to be more progress.”

    Sadly, wrongly, the Keystone XL pipeline debate has become the U.S. environmental movement’s litmus test for the Obama administration’s position on climate change. In reality, the American emissions challenge is not so much Canadian production as American consumption.

    The columnist Fareed Zakaria wrote this week that Keystone XL is “a symbol of how emotion has taken the place of analysis and ideology now trumps science on both sides of the environmental debate.”

    But Canada is capable of demonstrating the “progress” requested by ambassador Jacobson – and if we do so, the benefits to Canada can be even greater.

    Start with the measurable climate-change achievements that can be met through provincial initiatives.

    British Columbia has a working carbon tax. Alberta has a carbon compliance market. Saskatchewan has piloted carbon capture and storage, including collaborative projects with Montana and North Dakota and the US Department of Energy.

    Leadership in getting out of coal-fired generation began in Ontario. Quebec has a cap on carbon. There are other projects – tidal power in the Bay of Fundy, alternative energy initiatives in biomass, wind and solar.

    In terms of land claims and constructive collaboration with First Nations, Manitoba and Quebec lead the way in their development of hydroelectricity, including transmission lines.

    Knit these initiatives together and look to the lessons learned in the negotiation of the Boreal Forest Accord. Its architect Avrim Lazar says the forest industry concluded that “our jobs and growth in the future will rest on making our environmental practices the highest in the world.”

    Make our experience the base for further regional ‘green’ initiatives, especially those that focus on water use. These will also give us critical components of a national energy strategy that will put us ahead of our climate-change obligations. Many companies in the energy sector are already using shadow carbon pricing.

    Draw on efforts taking place at the provincial level and by the premiers, who are working both Washington and their governor counterparts.

    In so doing, we can also go a long way towards developing a national energy strategy, one that should also include getting our oil and gas to tidewater. The discussions launched by premiers Redford, Alward and Marois deserve further debate at the Council of the Federation when they meet this summer.

    Trans-border environmental cooperation is well-entrenched. In 2009 Canada and the United States celebrated a century of co-operation protecting shared waters. Regional collaboration is especially strong at the premier and governor level.

    Premiers Wall, Redford and Selinger were all working Washington recently, the latter pair at the recent National Governors Association. Premier Wall made a useful observation that Americans need to be constantly reminded of their northern partner because “like a long-lasting marriage, it’s important to have a date night.”

    Premier Selinger argued that we also need to push the Americans to show some “progress” of their own on hydroelectricity, the cleanest energy in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions. Ambassador Doer is right when he decries US obfuscation in defining Canadian hydro under renewable-energy standards.

    We are in alignment with the US on our Copenhagen commitments. Our vehicle emission standards are in tandem.

    We are ahead, although not pure, on national coal standards that will see the eventual phase-out of coal generation. Ontario will close its coal-burning plants by the end of this year. A decade ago, coal fired 25 per cent of its grid.

    Our weak link is oil and gas regulations, now promised for mid-year.

    Usually, we are the ones making ‘asks’ of the United States on environmental issues such as Acid Rain, the Devil’s Lake water diversion, Great Lakes clean-up, and preserving the sanctity of the Arctic. Brian Mulroney artfully demonstrated that on Acid Rain, when we clean up our own act, we can ‘shame’ the United States into action.

    The perception that we are on the wrong side of the environmental fence doesn’t jibe with where Canadians tell pollsters they want their government to be.

    At his namesake convention this past weekend, Preston Manning encouraged Canadian Conservatives to make the environment a ‘sword’ rather than ‘shield’ and become “more positive and proactive.”

    We can meet or exceed Ambassador Jacobson’s expectations with a national ecological strategy that matches our energy strategy. To paraphrase Prime Minister Harper, we have within our capacity the ability not just to be an energy superpower, but to be an ‘eco-energy’ superpower

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    Does the Harper Government Have a Foreign Policy?

    Excerpted from IPOLITICS Mar 8, 2013 5:32 pm  |

    Panelists at the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa Friday highlighted the difference between the implementation and communication of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s foreign policy strategy.

    The session — titled, “Does conservative foreign policy need an overhaul?” — was hosted by Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, Friday morning at the Ottawa Convention Centre. Robertson was joined by panelists Carlo Dade, senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s School for International Development and Global Studies, Mark Cameron, former director of policy at the PMO, Monte Solberg, former minister of citizenship and immigration, and Steven Staples, president of the Rideau Institute.

    Robertson’s first question — is there a Harper foreign policy? — directed the discussion for the remainder of the session.

    For Staples, the answer is simple. If Harper has a set foreign policy strategy, Canadians don’t know what it is.

    “It seems to not necessarily follow predictable lines,” said Staples. “They really seem to be, as many foreign policies are, determined by domestic concerns, whether it’s in regards to throwing your political opponents offside or to satisfy a particular constituency.”

    Staples said the influence of domestic policy on foreign policy is not uncommon nor particularly unique to Canada.

    In the context of Latin America, Dade said the Harper government does seem to have a foreign policy strategy for this region. Dade was the last executive director of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL), Canada’s now-defunct Latin American think tank which fell victim to government cuts in 2011.

    “I’d like to give the government credit. We’re in an unbelievably good position in the Americas. How we wound up here, I can’t answer,” said Dade. “We don’t have a strategy so we can’t argue facts or evidence before us.”

    Cameron said that while Harper has an articulated foreign policy, it hasn’t always been consistently applied. He said it’s hard for the Harper government to balance longtime Canadian values with Canadian interests abroad.

    “Our values like freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, these are things that we believe in but we clearly can’t project those into 180 countries around the world,” said Cameron.

    Cameron cited the fact that Canada participated in a military mission in Libya but refuses do the same in Syria as an example of the Harper government’s poorly communicated foreign policy.

    However, panelists agreed that Harper has articulated one aspect of his foreign policy effectively — his government’s stance on Israel’s right to defend itself.

    “I think there is one thing that the prime minister has done to set Canada apart. He’s made it clear that he’s not prepared to just go along with other countries in the world, even at the cost of not sitting on the UN Security Council for instance,” said Solberg.

    On Israel and the Middle East, however, Dade cautioned Canada against following the U.S.

    “Canada is not the United States. Sometimes we forget this. Our interests are not as broad, they’re not as far. In terms of hard national interests, in the Middle East, we don’t have them. Sometimes I question our involvement,” said Dade.

    During the Q&A period of the session, a participant asked the panel what Harper’s foreign policy legacy might be. Staples said that while he believes Harper has yet to clearly outline his foreign policy, that doesn’t mean it’s too late.

    “It’s now time to find some sort of push, some sort of diplomatic keynote initiative … in order to distinguish themselves,” said Staples. “It might be the Arctic, it be might global disarmament, it could be something else, but I think they need to find that in the years ahead.”

    Panelists also highlighted the need for an increased conservative presence in the foreign policy discussions of the academic world, including universities and think tanks. Solberg noted this would require the financial support of business and philanthropy…

    Excerpted from National Post Carlo Dade March 3, 2013 Moving Toward a Conservative Foreign Policy

    One of the surprises at the just-completed 2013 Manning Networking Conference was that the event featured a panel on the oft-ignored area of Canadian foreign policy. Even more encouraging was that it was standing room only.

    The first question posed to the panelists — “Does the government have a foreign policy?” — was the most interesting. To the uninitiated, the answer would seem to be an easy “yes.” We have diplomats, embassies, a foreign affairs minister and all the other trappings of a functioning foreign policy. But many in the crowd knew better, and you could even hear a few dismissive snorts when the question was posed.

    The panel, which included former Conservative cabinet minister Monty Solberg, former Harper Prime Minister’s Office director Mark Cameron, myself and Steven Staples from the left-leaning Rideau Centre, did its best to offer a nuanced answer. But it’s a complicated issue — and a serious one for Canada’s future prosperity and standing in the world.

    Of course, Canada officially has a foreign policy and engages in diplomacy with other nations, both directly and through multi-lateral institutions. But the consensus on the panel seemed to be that the government, and the broader conservative movement from which it springs, don’t so much have a foreign policy as a vague foreign-policy vision, dressed up with a mish-mash of policy ideas.

    What conservatives lack, both in and out of government, is a coherent explanation of a set of priorities, with a detailed list of objectives to achieve these priorities and an accounting of what resources will be expended to accomplish this. In other words, a strategy.

    What also became apparent was that, beyond maintaining good relations with the U.S. and a general focus on defence and national security, the Canadian conservative movement lacks the people and institutions to develop such a strategy. What foreign-policy experts can be found on Canada’s right-wing are almost exclusively focused on those two areas.

    Make no mistake — these are important issues, especially in the contemporary Canadian context.

    But they are not the only issues of concern in today’s increasingly globalized world. The inability of conservatives to articulate well-researched and fully developed foreign policy ideas beyond managing our relationship with Washington and seeking international stability and Canadian domestic security, is a major blow to the credibility of the Canadian conservative movement at home and certainly abroad. These weaknesses are well known in Washington, Brasilia, Beijing and other capitals. Canada is a fully advanced, thoroughly complicated modern state. We can’t just wing our foreign policy on the fly. Yet, do conservatives in this country really know what a conservative foreign policy would even look like? What would its priorities be? How would it be distinct from those advanced by the opposition parties?

    These are serious questions, but not only are they not being answered, it’s unclear that there’s anyone to ask.

    The lack of a strong conservative foreign-policy establishment in Canada is becoming a self-sustaining cycle. There are so few right-leaning foreign policy experts in Canadian universities and think tanks that even while more and more Canadian students major in global affairs and international relations, they are only exposed to one side of the political spectrum. And when the media goes looking for experts to comment on government policy or international affairs, they are left with a deep pool of leftist and centrist voices, but almost no conservatives.

    The Harper government has done a credible job managing Canada’s foreign policy during challenging times. But even among supporters of the Conservative party, there is recognition that this has been largely based on luck: We’ve been making it making it up as we go along, which has been the analysis of the U.S. embassy in Ottawa. The lack of a consistent and coherent plan, combined with cuts to our foreign-affairs spending as part of the government’s overall cost-cutting efforts, threaten to leave Canadian interests exposed if we should find ourselves needing to respond to a diplomatic situation that we are not remotely equipped to handle.

    At the conclusion of last week’s conference in Ottawa, Preston Manning discussed the weakness of Canadian conservatives with regard to the environment and the need for the movement to start developing more capacity, more responses; a constructive conservative vision for what is arguably the greatest challenge facing the country and the globe.

    The same argument applies to the need for conservatives to start developing that ability with regard to foreign policy. Signing free-trade agreements and sending troops and ships to the world’s trouble spots is only a small part of what it should be doing on the world stage.

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    Unfinished Business: Canada-US Border and Regulatory Cooperation

    Excerpted from Inside Policy February-March 2013 MacDonald Laurier Institute

    Launched a year ago the Regulatory Cooperation and Beyond the Border Initiatives are making progress even if they are not generating headlines. The re-election of the Obama Administration, with its commitment to create jobs through doubling trade, offers the promise of more to come.  It is easier for people and goods to cross the border and we should see more improvements. While the regulatory thicket remains, its growth is curbed and, in time, we may even see some trimming of the ‘tyranny of small differences’ that frustrates business and undermines North American competitiveness. While process is often a placebo for real progress, in these initiatives process is progress but for it to take hold we need to see attitudinal change on the part of those who mind the border…

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    On Sequester

    The Brookings Institute’s Thomas Mann and MLA strategic adviser Colin Robertson
    discuss how the latest cuts to the US budget will affect Canadian economy with Hannah Thibedeau on Power and Politics. Friday, March 1, 2013

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