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  • Author: Amy Robinson, James Waldo
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In mid-October, thousands of English and Welsh citizens received phantom alerts that they had potentially been exposed to COVID-19. A quick Twitter tour reveals the spiraling fear, frustration, and confusion that ensued. Even though National Health Service (NHS) later updated the app, built using an Exposure Notification System (ENS) developed by Apple and Google, the incident still amplified mass hysteria and confusion.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Public Health, COVID-19, Contact Tracing
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Nicola De Blasio, Fridolin Pflugmann
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The transition to a low-carbon energy system will likely shake up the geopolitical status quo that has governed global energy systems for over a century. Policymakers need to rethink the role their country could play in a new energy world. Renewables are widely perceived as an opportunity to shatter the hegemony of fossil fuel-rich states and democratize the energy landscape. Virtually all countries have access to some renewable energy resources (especially solar and wind power) and could thus substitute foreign supply with local resources. Our research shows, however, that the role countries are likely to assume in decarbonized energy systems will be based not only on their resource endowment but also on their policy choices. Renewable hydrogen is enjoying growing political and commercial momentum as a versatile and sustainable energy carrier with the potential to play a key role in the global transition to a low-carbon economy; and it is often described as the ‘missing link’ in global decarbonization—especially for energy intensive sectors where emissions are hard to abate and electrification is not the preferred solution, such as steel production, high-temperature industrial heat, shipping, aviation, and heat for buildings. But making renewable hydrogen a significant part of the world’s future energy mix will require defining new and innovative national and international policies while developing appropriate market structures aimed at spurring innovation along value chains; scaling technologies while significantly reducing costs; and deploying enabling infrastructure at scale. Success is possible, but this transformational effort will require close coordination between policy, technology, capital, and society to avoid falling into the traps and inefficiencies of the past. Renewable hydrogen can be used for both mobility and stationary applications. As a sustainable mobility energy carrier, it can power fuel-cell electric vehicles or be the base for synthetic fuels. In stationary applications, it can be used to store renewable energy, both at utility scale or off-grid, providing backup to intermittent renewable energy sources and serving as a carbon-free heating source. From a geopolitical perspective, whether future renewable hydrogen energy systems will be as concentrated as today’s oil and gas supply or decentralized like renewables is strongly related to future market structures, technology, and enabling infrastructure availability.
  • Topic: Security, Energy Policy, Science and Technology, Geopolitics, Renewable Energy, Hydrogen
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Alan Ho, Jake Taylor
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Over the last year, there has been a renewed focus on improving American competitiveness in key fields of science and technology. Numerous bills and executive initiatives have been implemented or proposed to dramatically increase investment into science and technology. Recent examples, including the Endless Frontiers and the Clean Futures Act, use a wide variety of policy tools to advance research and development (R&D) along multiple axis. Here we consider the free market portion of these tools, in which the private sector plays a key role in determining topic and direction, while the public sector supports these activities through high-level directives, conditional contracts, and other mechanisms. While other approaches such as public purpose consortia and R&D tax credits have been considered elsewhere, here we focus on Advance Market Commitments. Advance Market Commitments (AMCs)are a powerful policy tool that can be used to ensure that America can retain leadership in technology fields such as climate change, computing, and medicine. In an AMC, a U.S. agency commits to buying some specified new technology before that technology exists. This provides a price, specification, and framework for evaluation that can streamline decision making and funding approaches in the private sector and accelerate progress towards well defined technical outcomes without being directed about the underlying solution and steps along the path. As such, AMCs represent a powerful option for ground-up technological building where private investment replaces the role of more traditional, blue sky government funding, and the larger market for the resulting product is jump-started by an initial government market.
  • Topic: Markets, Science and Technology, Vaccine
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Mark Lerner
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: We have seen software failures across every layer of government over the course of this pandemic. State governments have had significant issues with their unemployment insurance websites. Local governments have had outages and troubles with vaccine distribution services. Software systems at the Federal level have experienced significant security breaches. Trust in government is at “near-record lows,” in no small part because modern public services continually fail to meet people’s needs. The past year has shown that our public services continue to fail in the traditional ways: they cost too much, take too long to deliver, have a subpar quality, and regularly face security breaches. We have not made significant enough progress in improving government technology to prevent these troubles, let alone to provide effective, modern digital tools and technologies. Government services have largely not kept up with the raised expectations of the digital era, leaving many people without access to critical services they need. And yet, there is incredible momentum growing in the government technology space. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we are seeing a wave of technologists from the private sector expressing deep interest in working in the government, with many actually coming into government for the first time. Anecdotally, I’ve personally heard from all manner of technologists—from fresh graduates to high-level executives— looking to work in the public sector for the first time. Thousands of technologists are applying for jobs at the U.S. Digital Service, and thousands more are signing up to volunteer with the U.S. Digital Response. These people are deciding to work and make public services better after years of becoming more aware of the ways in which our public infrastructure is failing our neighbors in most need. The federal government is also allocating more money towards these problems, in recognition of their severity. The American Rescue Plan gave $200M to the U.S. Digital Service, and $1B to the Technology Modernization Fund. The Biden-Harris Administration’s FY2022 budget request calls for even more money for tech modernization programs. These massive investments show that Congress and the Administration take these challenges seriously, and are looking for ways to address this years-long problem. If we want to have a lasting impact on the way that our country serves its people, we need to make the most of this momentum to address the root causes beneath these repeated failures. We need to focus our efforts onto the long-term work of addressing the systemic problems that cause our most critical services to fail when they are most needed. I believe that hiring more in-house technical talent might be a silver bullet to addressing the federal government’s technology problems. In this report, I hope to convince you that we need to make hiring in-house technical talent our number one technology priority in building better digital services.
  • Topic: Government, Science and Technology, COVID-19, Information Technology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Catherine McAnney
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Lessons from the software behind America’s immigration system show us why modern technologists, from product managers to designers, are needed in government now more than ever. We know government tech projects often fail. Timelines get pushed out, contractors rapidly turn over, costs increase, and, ultimately, public services fail to meet the needs of the American people—often just as they need them most. One of the major reasons for these problems is that the federal government does not have the modern technical talent necessary to deliver large-scale IT programs that consistently work for the end user. This does not just include software engineers, but designers, researchers, and product managers too. In this case study, we’ll look at this issue through the lens of one of the most storied federal IT programs—the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) Electronic Immigration System (ELIS). We found that the program had challenges with its technical talent through the burdensome, nontechnical oversight and the lack of technical expertise on the ground. This case study pulls information from 13 GAO and OIG reports between 2005 and 2021, as well as interviews with 6 current or former senior leaders within USCIS, with a particular focus towards the technical talent associated with the project.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Immigration, Governance, Information Technology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Jake Taylor
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Tax credits for research and development are a means of incentivizing the private sector to invest their own resources on challenging problems. However, in practice, the fungibility of tax credits and other monetary elements can lead to misalignment between the public good represented by R&D and the actions of the company. In this policy brief, we consider the existing mechanism of tax credits. We see how they can encourage private sector risk-taking to enable research and development (R&D) outcomes. However, our goal is to go beyond economic growth benefits, and to include the less tangible considerations of public good and public purpose in the research and development domain. We then suggest an expansion of tax credits focused on supporting the researchers involved in the R&D and encouraging innovation in both large organizations and in startups and small businesses. This approach builds upon the existing framework of agency-led, mission-defined support of the private sector used by the U.S. government, as occurs in other programs such as America’s Seed Fund (sometimes known by its acronyms, SBIR and STTR). The integration of specific agency- and mission-focused elements to the credit system ensures that these additive credits support research and researchers whose R&D outcomes will improve the health, prosperity, and opportunity for the U.S. as a whole. Specific means of implementing this public-purpose R&D credit system under existing authorities within the executive branch are suggested, along with the public-facing mechanisms for creating and maintaining the evaluation approach of what constitutes “public purpose” as science and society progress.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, International Affairs, Tax Systems, Tax Credits
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Nicola De Blasio, Charles Hua, Alejandro Nuñez-Jimenez
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The transportation sector is the second-largest source of CO2 emissions, after electricity and heat generation, accounting for about 25 percent of global emissions.1 However, it is also one of the most challenging to decarbonize due to its distributed nature and the advantages of fossil fuels in terms of high energy densities, ease of transportation, and storage. Moreover, the degree of difficulty in decarbonizing varies significantly across the sector, making the challenge even more daunting. So far, emissions reduction strategies have focused on improving vehicle and system-wide efficiencies, mode switching, and electrification. The latter is proving relatively easy for smaller vehicles that travel shorter distances and carry lighter loads. However, sector-wide decarbonization pathways will require a transition to low-carbon fuels and the deployment of enabling infrastructure to support innovation at scale. Renewable hydrogen holds promise in sustainable mobility applications, whether by powering fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) like cars, trucks, and trains or as a feedstock for synthetic fuels for ships and airplanes. Fuel cells convert hydrogen-rich fuels into electricity through a chemical reaction. FCEVs use a fuel cell, rather than a battery, to power electric motors, and operate near-silently and produce no tailpipe emissions. Hydrogen-powered vehicles offer key advantages, including shorter refueling times, longer ranges, and a lower material footprint compared to lithium battery-powered alternatives. However, high costs of ownership and a lack of enabling infrastructure are key challenges that must be addressed through policy support, technological innovation, and financial investment. Hydrogen can complement existing efforts to electrify road and rail transportation and provide a scalable option for decarbonizing shipping and aviation. Figure 1 summarizes the mobility segments for which battery electric vehicles (BEVs), FCEVs, and vehicles running on bio- or hydrogen-based synthetic fuels are most applicable.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Environment, Natural Resources, Renewable Energy, Transportation, Hydrogen
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Nicola De Blasio, Fridolin Pflugmann, Henry Lee
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Clean hydrogen is experiencing unprecedented momentum as confidence in its ability to accelerate decarbonization efforts across multiple sectors is rising. New projects are announced almost every week. For example, an international developer, Intercontinental Energy, plans to build a plant in Oman that will produce almost 2 million tons of clean hydrogen and 10 million tons of clean ammonia.1 Dozens of other large-scale projects and several hundred smaller ones are already in the planning stage. Similarly, on the demand side, hydrogen is gaining support from customers. Prominent off-takers such as oil majors like Shell and bp, steelmakers like ThyssenKrupp, and world-leading ammonia producers like Yara are working on making a clean hydrogen economy a reality. Despite the optimism surrounding clean hydrogen, key uncertainties remain. One of hydrogen’s attractions is that it can provide carbon-free energy in multiple sectors—transport, heating, industry, and electricity generation. But this advantage also creates uncertainties. The infrastructure needed in an economy in which hydrogen is primarily used as a transport fuel is very different from one in which its primary value is as a heating fuel. Today no major hydrogen pipeline networks exist,2 and no liquified hydrogen ships are in commercial operation. There is a true chicken and egg problem. If there is no infrastructure to move hydrogen, will investments in supply and demand happen at the pace needed to meet national decarbonization targets? This challenge raises an even more pressing question: what should be the respective roles of the public and private sectors in deploying enabling infrastructure at scale?
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Infrastructure, Renewable Energy, Hydrogen
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Adam Moe Fejerskov, Maria-Louise Clausen, Sarah Seddig
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: The use of emerging technology in humanitarian settings carries significant risks. The complexity of these risks entails a need to understand and imagine risks beyond those commonly associated with a particular technology, field, or implementing organization. Recommendations: Apply an extensive interpretation of what risks may look like, where, when, for whom, and how they might occur. The indiscernible nature of risks related to technology use means identifying or imagining these moves beyond existing organizational experiences. Recognize that technology-related risks can emerge across the data chain and are not only relevant for engineering or operational staff.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Development, Migration, Poverty, Science and Technology, Capitalism, Inequality, Conflict, Borders, Violence, Peace
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Mohamed Aden Hassan, Sahra Ahmed Koshin, Peter Albrecht, Mark Bradbury, Fatima Dahir Mohamed, Abdirahman Edle Ali, Karuti Kanyinga, Nauja Kleist, George Michuki, Ahmed Musa, Jethro Norman, Obadia Okinda
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Diaspora humanitarianism is characterised by rapid mobilisation and engagement that is built upon social networks, affective motivations, informal delivery and accountability mechanisms. This has implications for how it fits into the broader international humanitarian system. KEY TAKEAWAYS: ​​■ Diaspora humanitarianism grows out of transnational connections that link diaspora groups with their families and homelands. This relational and affective dimension enables rapid mobilisation and delivery to hard-to-reach areas. ■ Remittances to conflict-affected countries surpass official humanitarian aid six times, blurring boundaries between short-term emergency relief and long-term development. ■ Accountability practices tend to be informal and trust-based, structured around reputation. Overall coordination with formal political or humanitarian systems is usually absent.
  • Topic: Development, Humanitarian Aid, Migration, Poverty, Diaspora, Inequality, Fragile States, Economy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Peter R. Orszag, Robert E. Rubin, Joseph E. Stiglitz
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Orszag, Rubin, and Stiglitz outline a new fiscal framework that they argue would better equip policymakers to face deep uncertainties about future interest rates (which, they say, may not remain low forever), hard-to-predict global shocks, and climate risks. They reject fiscal anchors—simple limits on deficits or debt as a share of GDP that governments adopt to check their spending and borrowing—that have historically guided fiscal policy and believe any attempts to modify such targets for the current period of low interest rates are likely to fail. Instead they propose making the budget respond more automatically to economic distress (through stronger automatic stabilizers) and to long-term fiscal pressures (e.g., embedding adjustment mechanisms in health care and pension programs), as well as creating an infrastructure program and extending debt maturities to insure against interest rate changes. Such a "streamlined dashboard" would then allow policymakers to use discretion as necessary to take any additional actions—either to provide more stimulus during short-term difficulties or to adjust the automatic features themselves—rather than adhering to fiscal targets that may no longer be appropriate when economic conditions change.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Economy, Fiscal Policy, Fiscal Deficit
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Julien Maire, Adnan Mazarei, Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In the last two decades, sovereign wealth funds (SWFs)—funds accumulated by a government that are invested in whole or in part abroad to benefit the country in the future—have faced increased public scrutiny over their investment patterns, financial results, and governance. This Policy Brief updates and expands a prototype scoreboard rating the transparency and accountability of SWFs, which Truman established in 2007. This fifth edition of the scoreboard shows that the average scores continued to improve for the 64 SWFs examined, but governance issues remain. New funds have emerged—many of them government holding companies or strategic investment funds—but the growth of assets under management by SWFs has slowed, in some cases partly because of withdrawals to help finance expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, raising questions about their future role.
  • Topic: Government, Markets, Sovereign Wealth Funds, Governance, Regulation, Capital
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Olivier Blanchard, Josh Felman, Arvind Subramanian
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Anew consensus on fiscal policy has emerged in advanced economies, that stimulus is both needed and feasible. At first blush, the scope for stimulus seems even greater in emerging markets, since their primary deficits are smaller and interest-growth differentials more favorable, suggesting that they can sustain much higher levels of debt. But more careful analysis suggests that this is not the case. The authors point out that what matters for debt sustainability are not current conditions but rather the range of possible future outcomes. And prospects for interest rates and growth are more uncertain in emerging markets, while primary balances are more difficult to adjust. As a result, debt limits are in fact tighter than advanced economies. Taking India as a case study, the authors argue that what is needed in the current situation is responsible, slow fiscal adjustment. More generally, one should be careful about importing wholesale the new fiscal consensus into emerging markets.
  • Topic: Emerging Markets, Monetary Policy, Fiscal Policy, Consensus
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Simeon Djankov, Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, Lisa Hyland, Eva (Yiwen) Zhang
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Despite many significant gains by women in the paid workforce in recent decades, the percentage of women participating in the labor force has remained lower than the percentage of male participants. Now, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic downturn it precipitated, the gap in labor force participation between men and women in some economies has actually widened, with potentially damaging repercussions for women’s career prospects and pay. The pandemic has disproportionately affected sectors employing more women, such as retail stores, restaurants, and the hotel and hospitality business. An increase in family caregiving responsibilities because of school and childcare closures has also fallen on working mothers' shoulders. Both factors have pulled women out of the labor force. The authors track trends in male and female labor force participation in 43 countries and find substantial differences across countries in the way women’s participation has been affected relative to that of men. In some countries, such as Colombia, Chile, and Cyprus, the gender gap in labor force participation widened the most during the pandemic. The gender gap also widened in the United States, driving 2.5 million women from their jobs in what Vice President Kamala Harris called a “national emergency” for women. In other economies, such as Luxembourg and Lithuania, the gender gap in labor force participation, unexpectedly, shrank during the early period of the pandemic. On average, female employees have fared better in countries where women are less concentrated in the services sector, less likely to be employed as temporary workers, and where laws supported greater equality at the onset of the crisis. Greater government expenditure on childcare in the pre-COVID-19 era, however, does not appear to have insulated female workers from the damaging repercussions of the pandemic.
  • Topic: Economics, Gender Issues, Labor Issues, Women, Services, COVID-19, Empowerment
  • Political Geography: Colombia, Chile, Cyprus, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Jeff D. Colgan, Thomas N. Hale
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: Climate change is the defining global challenge of the twenty-first century. It constitutes a direct threat to the safety and prosperity of Americans. U.S. President Joe Biden has committed to reorienting U.S. foreign policy to meet the climate challenge. This report provides an early assessment of the Biden administration’s international climate diplomacy against these goals in the first 100 days, recognizing that others have focused on domestic policy, and that climate change must be at the top of the U.S. foreign-policy agenda. It builds on a previous report by the Brown University Climate Solutions Lab, issued on October 8, 2020, that identified and recommended ten executive climate actions, which are central to advancing U.S. foreign-policy objectives. Of the 9 internationally-oriented climate pledges evaluated, made by the Biden campaign during the 2020 presidential election, the report finds that the Biden team has already delivered effectively on 4 of them, made some progress on 2, and taken baby steps or made no real progress on 3. These will require further attention and resources in the coming months.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Climate Change, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Albert Trithart
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: Sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) have been on the UN’s agenda for more than twenty-five years. Many of the earliest developments took place in the UN human rights mechanisms and Human Rights Council. Increasingly, however, UN agencies, funds, and programs are also integrating SOGIESC into their policy and programming. This paper explores what these UN entities have been doing to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. It looks at how the UN’s work on SOGIESC has intersected with its work on human rights, global public health, development, humanitarian affairs, peace and security, and gender. It also assesses what has been driving forward policy and programming on SOGIESC and the barriers that have held back further progress. The paper concludes with recommendations for the UN Secretariat, UN agencies, funds, and programs, supportive UN member states, and LGBTI activists across five areas: Building the human resources needed to institutionalize the UN’s work on SOGIESC; Making the UN a safe and accepting workplace for LGBTI people; Mainstreaming and coordinating work on SOGIESC; Strengthening partnerships between the UN and other actors; and Continuing to expand policy and programming on SOGIESC into new areas.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Human Rights, United Nations, Inequality, Sustainable Development Goals, LGBT+, Peace, Transgender
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Damian Lilly
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: In contrast to recent transitions, the next wave of UN peacekeeping transitions is set to occur in contexts where civilians continue to face threats of physical violence. These transitions are likely to have major implications for the protection of civilians (POC), which should be a key consideration for the UN when planning these missions’ exit strategies. As the mandate of a UN peacekeeping operation draws to an end and the UN reconfigures its presence, the strategic goals of POC will evolve. To ensure sound exit strategies, missions should revise their protection priorities and approaches as countries move from crisis management toward peacebuilding. This requires shifting from a military-dominated to a civilian-led approach to POC in coordination with humanitarian, development, and other peace actors. It also requires defining the target end state for POC—a difficult task due to political sensitivities and the technical challenges of assessing ongoing threats to civilians. In addition, exit strategies need to focus on enhancing national ownership and leadership of POC, as states ultimately have the primary responsibility for protecting their civilian population. Beyond these strategic considerations, the UN also needs to reconfigure its operational approach to POC both during peacekeeping transitions and after a mission’s closure. Under tier 1 of the UN Department of Peace Operations’ (DPO) POC concept (protection through dialogue), the UN needs to prioritize political engagement with host states and ensure that the mission’s followon presence continues to address POC in its political strategy and has adequate capacity in areas such as human rights monitoring. Under tier 2 (provision of physical protection), transferring tasks to host-state authorities without falling off a “physical protection cliff” requires delicate negotiations and significant capacity building. Finally, tier 3 (establishment of a protective environment) increases in importance as the strategic goals of a mission shift toward enhancing national ownership of POC and addressing the root causes of threats to civilians. Twenty years on from the Security Council first mandating a UN peacekeeping operation to protect civilians, the UN’s approach to POC is entering a new phase in which missions are being called upon not only to respond to threats to civilians but also to plan for their exit and a shift toward peacebuilding. To avoid the premature departure of UN peacekeeping operations when civilians continue to face threats, the UN should develop a system-wide strategy to ensure smooth and sustainable peacekeeping transitions.
  • Topic: Human Rights, United Nations, Peacekeeping, Civilians
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Lisa Sharland
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: Peacekeeping mission mandates now routinely include language on women, peace, and security (WPS). Despite this progress, negotiations in the Security Council on the inclusion of WPS language in mandates have at times been contested, and it is not always clear that more detailed or “stronger” language on WPS in mandates translates to changes in peacekeeping missions. The language included in mandates can even perpetuate stereotypes, including the assumption that every uniformed woman is responsible for implementing a mission’s WPS mandate. This paper explores the different elements of the WPS agenda that are included in peacekeeping mandates, assesses the factors that influence the inclusion of language on WPS, examines the drivers behind the implementation of the WPS agenda in the field, and assesses the impact that mandate language has on uniformed women peacekeepers. It concludes by considering how the Security Council and other stakeholders could advance the WPS agenda through mission mandates, including by: Proposing WPS language early in the Security Council’s mandating process; Facilitating engagement between country experts and WPS experts in member states’ permanent missions to the UN; Using informal consultations to understand the needs of women affected by conflict; Including language in mandates that reflects the contributions of both women and men to operational effectiveness; and Ensuring that approaches to WPS in the Security Council consider the full spectrum of gender.
  • Topic: Security, United Nations, Women, Conflict, Peace, UN Security Council
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Laura Cuzzuol, Welmoet Wels
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: The intersection between the protection of civilians (POC) and gender has been addressed in Security Council resolutions on POC and on women, peace, and security (WPS) since the late 1990s. Nonetheless, understanding how POC and gender converge, and translating this convergence into implementable action plans, are challenging tasks for peacekeeping missions. One challenge is that neither UN policies on POC in peacekeeping nor UN policies on making peacekeeping gender-responsive focus on the intersection between POC and gender. Likewise, the language in peacekeeping mandates does not always include firm and clear language related to gendered POC threats. At the mission level, POC strategy documents vary greatly in the extent to which they mention gender mainstreaming, and few provide concrete guidance. Accordingly, most missions do not undertake a structured, gendersensitive analysis of threats. When they do, they often focus on sexual and gender-based violence against women, with less attention to other gendered POC threats or POC threats to men, boys, and girls. Moreover, many missions do not systematically disaggregate POC-related data by sex, age, and other relevant demographic factors. Another challenge is the lack of coherence within the UN and between the UN and other stakeholders in conceptualizing and responding to gendered POC threats. While there are conversations on gendered POC threats within missions, and, to some extent, with interlocutors outside of missions, these usually amount to a relatively shallow form of coordination. To ensure the sustainability of their efforts to address gendered POC threats, missions also have to work with national and local actors. While there are many examples of missions grounding their POC work in local structures, it is difficult for missions to sustainably address gendered POC threats that are culturally grounded. To address these challenges, UN peacekeeping missions could consider developing “safeguarding frameworks” on the intersection of POC and gender. These frameworks could provide more detailed guidance that challenges the conflation of “gender” and “women” and the association of gender-related protection primarily with sexual violence. They could also dictate that missions need to assess the gender aspects of every threat and could help move missions from coordinating to integrating their work on POC and gender.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, United Nations, Peacekeeping, Civilians
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Masooma Rahmaty, Jimena Leiva Roesch
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Peace Institute
  • Abstract: Youth movements have played an increasingly prominent role in calling for action to address climate change. Many youth-led organizations are also engaged in initiatives to build peace in their communities. In global policymaking fora, however, youth remain sidelined. The sidelining of youth peacebuilders and climate activists can be attributed to four main factors. First, there are widespread misperceptions of youth grounded in age and gender stereotypes. Young men are often seen as perpetrators of violence, while young women are seen as passive victims. These misperceptions can lead policymakers to adopt a securitized approach to youth, peace, and security and overlook the efforts of young peacebuilders. In some cases, the perception that young activists are a threat to national security can also put them at risk. Second, global policy frameworks on youth are outdated and piecemeal. While the UN Security Council has passed three resolutions on youth, peace, and security since 2015, there is no comparable framework for youth and sustainable development or climate action. Moreover, there is no overarching global framework on youth that links the youth, peace, and security and youth climate action agendas. Third, youth organizations and activists are underfunded. Much of the work that young people do is voluntary. While there are some initiatives to direct more funding toward youth-led organizations, funding largely remains ad hoc, and many organizations lack the capacity to meet the onerous application and reporting requirements. Finally, youth have weak institutional links to global governance fora. There are some mechanisms for consulting and involving youth, including the secretary-general’s global envoy on youth, the UN-coordinated Global Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security, and the Youth Constituency of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, youth have no direct decision-making role in the work of the UN and its member states, and engagement is often ad hoc. To build peace and tackle climate change, governments and multilateral institutions must shift toward inclusive governance systems that involve and empower youth. They must also consider the synergies between youth, climate, and peace.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Governance, Youth, Peace
  • Political Geography: Global Focus