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  • Author: Alan Reynolds
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Estimates of the elasticity of taxable income (ETI) investigate how high‐​income taxpayers faced with changes in marginal tax rates respond in ways that reduce expected revenue from higher tax rates, or raise more than expected from lower tax rates. Diamond and Saez (2011) pioneered the use of a statistical formula, which Saez developed, to convert an ETI estimate into a revenue‐​maximizing (“socially optimal”) top tax rate. For the United States, they found that the optimal top rate was about 73 percent when combining the marginal tax rates on income, payrolls, and sales at the federal, state, and local levels. A related paper by Piketty, Saez, and Stantcheva (2014) concluded that, at the highest income levels, the ETI was so small that comparable top tax rates as high as 83 percent could maximize short‐​term revenues, supposedly without suppressing long‐​term economic growth. Such studies could be viewed as part of a larger effort to minimize any efficiency costs of distortive taxation while maximizing assumed revenue gains and redistributive benefits.
  • Topic: Economics, History, Tax Systems, High-Income People
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Diego A. Diaz, Cristian Larroulet
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The number and impact of natural disasters are increasing because of climate change and more people living in urban areas (Sanderson and Sharma 2016). The mechanism is simple, at least when considering climatic events: higher temperatures lead to higher rates of water evaporation, which increases the chance of flooding events (Wallace et al. 2014; IPCC 2001). The number of hot days has increased and the number of cold days has decreased in land areas, with model projections indicating that extreme precipitation events will continue to increase, resulting in more floods and landslides. At the same time, mid‐​continental areas will get dryer, which will increase the chance of droughts and wildfires (Van Aalst 2006). The course of action taken by humanity in the next decades will likely play a pivotal role since extreme differences in projections are expected if global temperatures rise 2°C in comparison to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels (Allen et al. 2019). What are the economic impacts of natural disasters? This question has been addressed to a large extent in the literature, but it still does not have a conclusive response. The seemingly natural reasoning that destruction cannot lead to a net benefit for society was explained almost two centuries ago by Bastiat (1850) in his famous broken window fallacy. A shopkeeper’s son, Bastiat relates, breaks a pane of glass in his father’s store. The father, angry due to the boy’s careless action, is offered consolation by the spectators, who claim that the event is positive for the economy since it provides labor to glaziers. While Bastiat acknowledges that the accident brings trade to the glazier since the shopkeeper has to replace the window, regarding the event as wealth‐​increasing conveys a narrow perspective. The shopkeeper ends up poorer since he cannot spend the same money elsewhere, and if the boy had not broken the window, then the labor and other materials that were used to repair the damage would have been used elsewhere, potentially making the tangible wealth of the community grow.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Natural Disasters, Crisis Management, Institutions, Urban
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Diego Zuluaga
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: When the Libra Association first announced its plan to launch a private digital currency for domestic and cross‐​border payments — then consisting of a single token backed by a mix of stable fiat currencies — financial inclusion was a big part of its business case. With 1.7 billion people globally lacking a bank or mobile money account, Libra thought it was imperative for some of the world’s largest companies, including the leading social media platform, to join forces and bring cheap payments to the world’s “unbanked.” And while this project has faced a rocky reception from central bankers and regulators — for reasons good and bad — even they often frame the case for their own, public digital currencies (CBDCs) in terms of bringing cheap and fast electronic payments to the greatest possible number of people, as cash use and cash acceptance decline.
  • Topic: Finance, Banks, Inclusion , Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Charles W. Calomiris
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: What we use as our medium of exchange is subject to dramatic change over time, and sometimes bank regulation has accelerated such changes. The national banking system, founded in 1863, envisioned the creation of a uniform medium of exchange in the form of national bank notes, which replaced the preexisting system of state bank note issuance. But the creation of the national banking system soon resulted in the diminished importance of bank notes as a medium of exchange. Under the new system, state banks faced a prohibitive tax of 10 percent per year on any notes they issued, and national banks had to maintain collateral at the Treasury for their outstanding national bank notes equal to 111 percent of their outstanding notes, and also had to maintain an additional 5 percent in required government‐​currency (“greenback”) cash reserves on hand. That meant that if a bank wanted to make loans, it had to find an alternative to bank notes as a funding source for those loans. Deposits had been growing in importance leading up to the National Banking Act of 1863, but the act accelerated the growth of deposits markedly, and they became the primary funding vehicle for loans. As Comptroller Eckels remarked in 1896: “And thus it has come about that deposit taking is now the feature, and the issuing of circulating notes but the incident, in national banking, instead of, as in the early history of the system, the note‐​issuing function being the feature and deposit banking but the incident” (Eckels 1896: 565; emphasis added).
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Finance, Banks, Loans
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Dong He
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The globalized economy now moves at the speed of electrons — and the future of money is inexorably going digital, too. New forms of digital money, such as central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and so‐​called global stablecoins, are shaping the future of money and payments. CBDCs are a digital form of fiat currency issued by a central bank. Some central banks started exploring CBDCs a few years ago, and those explorations have gathered momentum since Facebook and its partners announced their intention to launch the Libra stablecoin in June 2019. Because the stablecoins issued by large technological companies or platforms (Big Techs) have the potential to be adopted by businesses and households everywhere, they are called “global stablecoins,” or GSCs, in shorthand.
  • Topic: Geopolitics, Global Political Economy, Money, Currency, Trade
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David Andolfatto
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The literature examining the question of central bank digital currency (CBDC) has grown immensely in a very short time. Much progress has been made since I first learned of the idea in a blogpost authored by J. P. Koning in 2014. That modest article soon led me to openly speculate on the merits of a central bank cryptocurrency in a talk I delivered at the International Workshop on P2P Financial Systems in Frankfurt (Andolfatto 2015). My audience, which consisted mainly of entrepreneurs, seemed to receive my talk with a polite mixture of bemusement and anxiety. Surely, I couldn’t be serious? To be honest, I’m not sure that I was. But then the threat of Facebook’s Libra came along, and central bankers around the world suddenly began to take the idea very seriously indeed.
  • Topic: Finance, Social Media, Central Bank, Currency, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: George Selgin
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Various proposals for a central bank digital currency (CBDC) involve different technical solutions to as many distinct problems. My concern is with the monetary policy implications of those (e.g., Bordo and Levin 2019; Ricks 2020) that would allow anyone to place deposits in a Fed Master Account, directly or using ordinary banks as brokers.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Banks, Central Bank, Financial Stability, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jesús Fernández‐​Villaverde
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The monetary arrangements of societies are the result of the interplay of technology and ideas. Technology determines, for example, which coins can be minted and at what cost. For centuries, minting small‐​denomination coinage was too costly to induce Western European governments to supply enough small change (Sargent and Velde 2002). Only the arrival of steam‐​driven presses fixed this problem (Doty 1998). Simultaneously, ideas about private property and the scope of government determined whether private entrepreneurs were allowed to compete with governments in the supply of small change (Selgin 2008). Technology and ideas about money engage dialectically. Technological advances shape our ideas about money by making new monetary arrangements feasible. Ideas about desirable outcomes direct innovators to develop new technologies.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Monetary Policy, Cryptocurrencies
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Caitlin Long
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Stablecoins are financial obligations issued on a blockchain. They are generally fully collateralized with either fiat currency deposits at a bank, or with short‐​term government bonds held at a custodian. They’re issued only by nonbanks, although FINMA in Switzerland does allow Swiss banks to issue Swiss franc–denominated stablecoins. Usually stablecoins do not pay interest, and they are designed to trade at par with the fiat currency. Because they are issued on a blockchain, they usually settle in minutes, with irreversibility, and — critically — they are “programmable,” which means users can build their own software applications to interact with them.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Banks, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Alex Gladstein
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: The future of currency is digital. The majority of transactions made every day are already electronic and controlled by banks or tech companies. These payments are easily surveillable, confiscatable, and censorable. Physical cash still functions as an essential savings mechanism and privacy tool for millions of people worldwide. With cash, individuals can buy goods and services or save without sharing their identity with a third‐​party merchant or custodian. But as banknotes fade from daily use, the future of financial freedom and privacy comes into serious jeopardy.
  • Topic: Finance, Privacy, Freedom, Digital Currency , Cash
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Eswar S. Prasad
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: New financial technologies — including those underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin — herald broader access to the financial system, quicker and more easily verifiable settlement of transactions and payments, and lower transaction costs. Domestic and cross‐​border payment systems are on the threshold of major transformation, with significant gains in speed and lowering of transaction costs on the horizon. The efficiency gains in normal times from having decentralized payment and settlement systems needs to be balanced against their potential technological vulnerabilities and the repercussions of loss of confidence during periods of financial stress.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Finance, Central Bank, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Lawrence H. White
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Private commercial banks have been providing trusted money to the public for hundreds of years, in the form of banknotes (where allowed) and transferable deposit balances, as an integral part of their business model. Economically, money balances are a private good: they are rival in consumption (you and I can’t both simultaneously spend a given banknote or deposit balance) and excludable in supply (you and your bank can stop me from spending the funds in your wallet or account) (White 1999: 89). Accordingly, the market does not inherently fail to provide money efficiently.
  • Topic: Markets, Monetary Policy, Economy, State, Banks, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Neha Narula
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: We often spend a lot of time talking about the regulatory aspects of what a digital currency might look like, or the economic aspects. But if we take a look at the largest companies, the most influential on our ways of life, they’re tech companies. Technology is incredibly important and influences what we can do with policy and what kinds of functionality we can even enable. So, what I hope to tell you today is a little bit about how I’m seeing the technology development of digital currency.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, Monetary Policy, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Tobias Adrian, Tommaso Mancini-Griffoli
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: a card, waving a phone, or clicking a mouse. Or we might hand over notes and coins, though in many countries increasingly less often. Today’s world is characterized by a dual monetary system, involving privately issued money — by banks of all types, telecom companies, or specialized payment providers — built upon a foundation of publicly issued money — by central banks. While not perfect, this system offers significant advantages, including innovation and product diversity, mostly provided by the private sector, and stability and efficiency, ensured by the public sector. These objectives — innovation and diversity on the one hand, and stability and efficiency on the other — are related. More of one usually means less of the other. A tradeoff exists that countries — central banks especially — have to navigate. How much of the private sector to rely upon, versus how much to innovate themselves? Much depends on preferences, available technology, and the efficiency of regulation. So it is natural, when a new technology emerges, to ask how today’s dual monetary system will evolve. If digitalized cash — called central bank digital currency — does emerge, will it displace privately issued money or allow it to flourish? The first is always possible, by way of more stringent regulation. We argue that the second remains possible, by extending the logic of today’s dual monetary system. Importantly, central banks should not face a choice between either offering central bank digital currency, or encouraging the private sector to provide its own digital variant. The two can coincide and complement each other — to the extent central banks make certain design choices and refresh their regulatory frameworks.
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Banks, Money, Digital Policy, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Hedvig Ördén, James Pamment
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Influence operations are increasingly seen as a threat to democratic societies because they can corrupt the integrity of political deliberation. As individuals engage in debate on social media, political deliberation becomes vulnerable to potentially destructive forms of interference. Many debates on what to do about influence operations emphasize that these operations constitute what is deemed to be a foreign threat. But does the notion of foreignness, viewed in isolation, constitute a helpful lens for distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate influence operations? Ultimately, the lens of foreignness is only helpful when applied to a narrow set of cases. One sensible way of reviewing when the concept of foreignness can be useful in distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate influence operations is to consider three separate conceptions of how to determine what counts as foreign: foreign states, foreign citizens, and foreign interests. In the first case, influence operations are seen as threatening acts directed at a targeted state by foreign states, using behaviors seen as analogous to acts of war. In the second instance, influence operations are considered threatening acts conducted by foreign citizens that undermine domestic democratic systems in a targeted state. In cases of the third sort, influence operations are viewed as acts aimed at advancing foreign interests through the illegitimate employment of soft power. Given these various models, the notion of foreignness constitutes a useful lens for discussions of influence operations in cases when there is overwhelming evidence of state-based, hybrid, and irregular warfare. An argument can also be made for employing the distinction in relation to the protection of democratic institutions, such as elections. However, when influence operations are regarded as a more generalized threat to political deliberation, foreignness is not a helpful category for determining the legitimacy or illegitimacy of such campaigns. In such cases, rather than focusing on the (domestic or foreign) identity of the malicious actors themselves, it is more fruitful to conceive of illegitimacy in terms of specific manipulative communication techniques. Suitable countermeasures could include, for instance, creating greater transparency surrounding, or even restricting, the use of artificial techniques to inflate the level of perceived engagement a piece of online content generates.
  • Topic: Democracy, Soft Power, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Rachel Kleinfeld, Thomas Carothers, Steven Feldstein, Richard Youngs
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Middle-power democracies—countries which regardless of their geopolitical weight have made democracy support a sustained component of their foreign policy—will be crucial to reimagining democracy support strategies and policies to better meet the moment. Some of these states have crafted new initiatives and wielded diplomatic tools to deepen their impact in recent years. However, these states have on the whole punched below their collective weight. This paper suggests that middle-power democracies can maximize their impact on global democracy in the following ways: Enhancing solidarity: when a country acts courageously in defense of democracy, it needs to know that others will stand alongside it. Sharpening their focus: middle-power democracies should target policy areas aligned with democratic values on issues both at the top of the geopolitical agenda and at the top-of-mind for citizens around the world—for example, economic recovery, injustice and discrimination, corruption, digital repression, and climate change. Improving diplomatic cooperation: pursuing flexible and focused multilateral partnerships allows for collaboration on key policy interests and amplifies middle-power actions.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Democracy, Solidarity, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • 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: Dennis Wesselbaum, Michael D. Smith, Shannon N. Minehan
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Global migration flows have increased over the last couple decades. Climate change is a key driver of these flows and will become more important in the future. Foreign aid programs, often intended to manage or even reduce these flows, are typically not large enough and lead to more rather than less migration.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Climate Change, Environment, Migration, Foreign Aid, Displacement, Multilateralism, Peace, Sustainability
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Lorenza Errighi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: If 2020 was the year of “mask diplomacy”, as countries raced to tackle the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and acquire the necessary protective gear and equipment, 2021 is likely to be remembered as the year of “vaccine diplomacy”. Growing competition between states to secure the necessary quantities of vaccines to inoculate their population has already become an established feature of the post-COVID international system and such trends are only likely to increase in the near future. It normally takes up to a decade to transition from the development and testing of a vaccine in a laboratory to its large-scale global distribution. Despite current challenges, the speed of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns is unprecedented. To put an end to the current pandemic – which in one year has led to the loss of 2.6 million lives and triggered the worst economic recession since the Second World War – the goal is to ensure the widest immunisation of the world population in a timeframe of 12 to 18 months. In this context, COVID vaccines emerge as instruments of soft power, as they symbolise, on the one hand, scientific and technological supremacy and, on the other, means to support existing and emerging foreign policy partnerships and alliances with relevant geopolitical implications. From their experimentation in laboratories, to their purchase and distribution, the vaccine has emerged as a significant tool for competition between powers, often associated with the promotion of competing developmental and governance models across third countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Health, Vaccine, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Valeria Branca
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The second Infrastructure Working Group workshop under the Italian G20 PPresidency, titled “Financing infrastructure investments for local communities”, was hosted on 4 February 2021 by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI). As the world gradually recovers from the pandemic crisis, most governments are designing strategies to revive long-term growth. A key factor in their success will be the capacity to restart and reorient infrastructure investments. In this context, investments in local infrastructures are particularly important because social needs, work habits and production patterns have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, whose impact has been most severe on urban areas, the informal sector and marginalised groups – especially in developing countries. Investments in local infrastructures will therefore be crucial in addressing the need to sustain recovery while tackling long-standing problems posed by climate change and social exclusion.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Sustainable Development Goals, Investment, Coronavirus, Sustainability, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Katarzyna Kubiak
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The global treaty-based nuclear order is running out of steam. The problems facing it are progressively building up, while problem-solving is losing momentum. The search for a “golden key” to address disarmament and non-proliferation in a way fit for the 21st century prompts decision-makers to look for novel approaches. NATO needs to actively shape this newly emerging space. Acting today from within a tight policy and institutional “corset”, the Alliance should strengthen its non-proliferation and disarmament portfolio, and harness its consultative and coordination strengths for agenda-setting, norm-shaping and awareness-raising within the international community.
  • Topic: NATO, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, 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: Marie Ladekjær Gravesen, Mikkel Funder
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to climate- and development-related challenges have recently gained attention in development cooperation. Among other, approaches that fall under the NbS umbrella include Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA), Ecosystem-based Mitigation (EbM) and Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR). This new DIIS Working Paper focuses on nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation, EbA. It provides an overview of selected lessons learnt from EbA in the context of development cooperation, with a particular emphasis on the opportunities and risks regarding poverty alleviation and rights. It generates learning for Danish development cooperation, including future programming under Denmark’s 2021 development strategy, in which NbS approaches are emphasised. However, the paper can also be read as a general discussion of experiences with EbA in the development context. The three-legged EbA approach focuses on human well-being, ecosystem management, and climate change adaptation. EbA has already been applied to a range of ecosystems, including the restoration of mangroves to shield them against storm and sea-level rises, the management of watersheds to protect against droughts and flooding, the management of rangelands to inhibit desertification and land degradation, and more sustainably managed fisheries and forestry to tackle food insecurity. EbA thus not only addresses the restoration of already degraded ecosystems, but also the sustainable use, management, and conservation of intact ecosystems. The paper provides a conceptual overview of EbA in relation to NbS, outlines the potential in using EbA approaches, and describes the landscape of the institutions and agencies that fund, promote and implement EbA. The paper then provides a synthesis of lessons learned from PES and REDD+ schemes that are of relevance to EbA. For instance, it is emphasised that many REDD+ measures have effectively existed as project islands that were not anchored in national or subnational planning and governance mechanisms. As a result, the conservation activities and socioeconomic benefits were often not effectively integrated or scaled up beyond small project sites. If comprehensively implemented, the EbA approach builds on these experiences by insuring full inclusion of stakeholders from all relevant sectors, as well as demanding full integration in existing policies, planning and governance practices from the ministry levels to sub-national governments. Among the final recommendations and possible entry points for Danish development cooperation, the paper highlights that the support must have a strong focus on ensuring that EbA is pro-poor (i.e. supports poverty alleviation) and rights-based (i.e. supports the rights of local resource users). Experience from EbA and related efforts show that EbA is not automatically pro-poor or supportive of local rights to natural resources and ecosystem services. In particular, there is insufficient attention to and knowledge of rights issues in EbA. Therefore, Danish development cooperation should help lead the way in ensuring that EbA takes a rights-based approach and supports poverty alleviation.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Climate Change, Development, Environment, Poverty, Natural Resources, Water, Food, Governance, Inequality, Investment, Land Rights
  • 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: Joseph E. Gagnon, Madi Sarsenbayev
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: A 2017 PIIE analysis found that fiscal balances and foreign exchange intervention—more broadly, government purchases of foreign assets to influence exchange rates—are the most important factors behind differences in current account balances across countries and over time. The current account is the broadest measure of a country's balance of trade. It records all income received from foreigners and payments made to foreigners. It is dominated by trade in goods and services but also includes income receipts on domestically owned factors of production (capital and labor) that are employed abroad and payments to foreign-owned factors of production at home. A country’s fiscal surplus and official purchases of foreign assets tend to increase its current account balance. Net official purchases by other countries tend to reduce current account balances in the home country, especially when it issues a reserve currency. This paper updates the earlier analysis with three more years (2016–18) and roughly 40 percent more observations. New analysis of net international investment positions (which largely reflect cumulated current account balances) finds even stronger evidence for the dominant role of official reserve positions in explaining differences in current account balances across countries. An increase in a country’s official reserve position causes essentially a dollar-for-dollar increase in its net international investment position.
  • Topic: Fiscal Policy, Currency, Trade Policy, Trade Deficit
  • 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: Eileen Donahoe
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The United States plans to host a Summit for Democracy to advance President Joseph Biden’s stated priority for national security of revitalizing democracy. Digital technology must be a focal point of the Summit. The future of democracy depends, in large part, on the ability of democracies to confront the digital transformation of society – to address the challenges and to capitalize on its opportunities. Over the past decade, democracies have struggled to meet this test, while authoritarians have used technology to deepen repression and extend global influence. To combat the digital authoritarian threat, democracies must be rallied around a shared values-based vision of digital society and a joint strategic technology agenda. The Summit tech agenda should revolve around five core themes: 1) Democracies must get their own tech policy “houses” in order; 2) To win the normative battle, democracies must compete and win the technology battle; 3) Technological transformation necessitates governance innovation; 4) To win the geopolitical battle for the soul of 21st century digital society, democracies must band together; 5) Technology must be reclaimed for citizens and humanity.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Democracy, Summit
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ignacio Saiz
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for Development and Peace
  • Abstract: Of the many dimensions of inequality that the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified, inequality between countries is one of the most glaring, yet one of the least effectively addressed. While the pandemic’s immediate health impacts have been felt in countries across all income levels, its eco- nomic consequences have been particularly dev- astating in countries of the Global South. Fuelling these inequalities is the disparity of resources that countries count on to respond to the crisis. International cooperation has never been more essential to address this disparity and enable all countries to draw on the resources they need to tackle the pandemic and its economic fallout. Besides the provision of emergency financial support, wealthier countries and international financial institutions (IFIs) need to cooperate by lifting the barriers their debt and tax policies and practices impose on the fiscal space of low- and middle-income countries. As this article explores, such cooperation is not only a global public health imperative. It is also a binding human rights obli- gation. Framing it as such could play an impor- tant role in generating the accountability and political will that has so far been sorely lacking.
  • Topic: Fiscal Policy, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Julia-Silvana Hofstetter
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institute for Development and Peace
  • Abstract: The wide availability of digital technologies is increasingly impacting the work of peacebuilders, altering both peacebuilding practices and conflict dynamics. The malicious use of technology – from the weaponization of social media to digital authoritarianism and cyberattacks – poses new threats to peaceful societies and urges peacebuilders to consider new fields of action in cyberspace. However, digitalization has also brought major innovations to the work of peacebuilders, establishing a new field of practice, ‘digital peacebuilding’. Many of the innovative uses of peace technologies – for conflict prevention, transformation and reconciliation – have been driven by civil society organizations, who are at the forefront of addressing the rising threat of digital conflict drivers, too. This report provides an overview of the opportunities and challenges digital technologies create for peacebuilders, discusses how they alter the role of civil society, and proposes future directions for the digital peacebuilding agenda.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Peace, Digitization
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: O. Shamanov
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs: A Russian Journal of World Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Institution: East View Information Services
  • Abstract: Issues concerning global climate change – by objective criteria, one of the most serious environmental threats of our time – have for many years been filling the top slots of the international agenda, and the political tem- perature of debates on this topic remains at the highest degree. Soon a new milestone will be reached on the thorny path of the inter- national climate process: on December 31, 2020, the Doha Amendment to the kyoto Protocol of the united nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (unFCCC) comes into force.1 this document extends the time frame of the kyoto Protocol from 2013 to 2020 (hence its unofficial title, kyoto-2) and contains a whole set of amendments to the kyoto guidelines, including updated quantitative criteria for greenhouse gas emission reductions for developed countries. Climate activists will probably schedule their next mass marches for this date, in order to mark this "historic" stage in the fight against global warming. Leaders from a number of states are expected to make bold new calls to “set the bar high” for the sake of averting a global climate col- lapse. But what remains hidden behind the scenes? What are the root caus- es of such a paradoxical situation, in which kyoto-2 is going into effect at the very end of its second commitment period?
  • Topic: Climate Change, Diplomacy, Environment, International Cooperation, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Sergey Boiko
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs: A Russian Journal of World Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Institution: East View Information Services
  • Abstract: INFORMATION and communication technologies (ICTs) provide humankind with unprecedented opportunities. Mass communication technologies, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, blockchain, big data, e-government, digital medicine, and cryptocurrencies have become part and parcel of our life. But at the same time, new ICT achievements bring new threats and challenges – primarily to international peace, security and stability, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. The first international warning about those threats came from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It was issued in the Agreement among the Governments of the SCO Member on Cooperation in the Field of Ensuring International Information Security of June 16, 2009.1 The main threats, the agreement says, are the “development and use of information weapons” and the “preparation and waging of information war.”
  • Topic: Science and Technology, International Security, Communications, Cybersecurity, Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, Digital Policy, Internet of Things, Information Technology
  • Political Geography: China, Global Focus
  • Author: Stephanie Savell, Rachel McMahon, Emily Rockwell, Yueshan Li
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University
  • Abstract: The map illustrates countries in which the U.S. government conducted operations it explicitly described as counterterrorism, in an outgrowth of President George W. Bush's “Global War on Terror.” These operations include air and drone strikes, on-the-ground combat, so-called “Section 127e” programs in which U.S. special operations forces plan and control partner force missions, military exercises in preparation for or as part of counterterrorism missions, and operations to train and assist foreign forces. (The map does not comprehensively cover the full scope of U.S. post-9/11 warfare, as it does not document, for instance, U.S. military bases used for counterterror operations, arms sales to foreign governments, or all deployments of U.S. special operations forces.) Despite the Pentagon’s assertion that the U.S. is shifting its strategic emphasis away from counterterrorism and towards great power competition with Russia and China, examining U.S. military activity on a country-by-country basis shows that there is yet to be a corresponding drawdown of the counterterror apparatus. If anything, the map demonstrates that counterterrorism operations have become more widespread in recent years.
  • Topic: Military Affairs, Counter-terrorism, Conflict
  • Political Geography: 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: Pierre Siklos
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: As digital forms of payment become increasingly popular, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, cash is no longer king. Central banks are turning their attention toward central bank digital currency (CBDC) to replace coins and bills and to provide other types of services through digital technology. CBDC can also facilitate cross-border transactions through the use of internationally accepted currencies such as the euro and the US dollar. This paper explores the many tailwinds and headwinds that will affect the implementation of a CBDC.
  • Topic: Governance, Digital Economy, Banks, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Dan Ciuriak, Maria Ptashkina
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: Trade secret theft is estimated to cost hundreds of billions of dollars annually. As a result, governments worldwide are developing legislation to mitigate these losses. This paper looks at the growing importance of trade secrets globally, corporations’ responsibilities to protect their trade secrets and how trade secret theft occurs (for example, through cybertheft or personnel movement between companies). The authors argue that protecting intellectual property rights must not come at the expense of the innovation-intensive economy.
  • Topic: Security, Intellectual Property/Copyright, Trade, Trade Policy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • 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