Monday, February 19, 2018

Archives for June 2010

Afghanistan Elected to Vice-Presidency of 65th General Assembly

This morning, the General Assembly met to elect the President and Vice Presidents for the upcoming 65th session of the General Assembly, scheduled to begin on 14 September, 2010, and to select the Chairs and Rapporteurs for the Main Committees. His Excellency Mr. Joseph Deiss, of Switzerland, was elected to serve as President of the General Assembly.

The Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations was also honored this year, with two positions of leadership in the upcoming Session. His Excellency Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations, will serve as one of the Vice Presidents of the 65th General Assembly. In addition, Afghanistan’s Fourth Committee Delegate was also selected by the General Assembly to serve as Rapporteur for the Fourth Committee and as a member of the Bureau of the Committee.

This is the second time in three years that Ambassador Zahir Tanin has served as Vice President to the General Assembly – Afghanistan was also elected Vice President during the 63rd Session. In addition, this is the second consecutive year that Ambassador Tanin has served as Chair of the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform, first appointed during the 63rd General Assembly, and then reappointed in the current session as a result of the trust the membership showed in his impartiality and leadership. That process is now moving into more concrete negotiations on the basis of a widely-acclaimed negotiation text, under Ambassador Tanin’s guidance.

Afghanistan was among the founding members of the United Nations, joining officially in 1946. In the 1960s, Abdul Rahman Pazhwak served as President of the 21st session of the General Assembly, the only Afghan to hold that post. Since then, and as a result of the decades of conflict and violence that rocked the country, Afghanistan’s presence at the UN has waned. However, recently, Afghanistan has begun to reclaim an important role in world affairs, a role that is certainly in evidence today at the United Nations.

Rethinking the “third world”

Seeing the world differently

The poor world has changed fundamentally. Others are barely coming to grips with the implications

EARLIER this year, Bob Zoellick, the president of the World Bank, grandly declared that “2009 saw the end of what was known as the third world”—that is, the end of a distinct, separate section of humanity that is poor, aid-dependent and does not matter very much. Is he right?

Suppress, for a moment, the thought that the term itself went out of fashion long ago. This still seems a plausible time to consider the idea. While the rich world stumbles out of recession, Asia, Africa and Latin America are accelerating and contributing more than ever to world output. Two fast-growing countries, Turkey and Brazil (“powers of the future”, says Iran’s president), struck a deal in May that was intended to break the deadlock over Iran’s nuclear programme. Though less than meets the eye, the agreement was still an intriguing case of emerging-nation diplomacy. And the football World Cup gets under way this week in South Africa, arguably the poorest country to host the event.

Yet at the same time, Mr Zoellick’s bank is not in any danger of going out of business. Aid still flows. Last month Western donors were debating whether an increase of nearly $14 billion in aid to Africa over the past five years was enough. Whatever you call it, the category still matters (“third world” later became “developing countries” or “less developed countries”). It matters for trade, to non-governmental organisations and in the United Nations. Poor countries are treated differently under the UN framework convention on climate change, for instance, with fewer commitments to cut emissions. The European Union has a special trade and aid agreement with 79 poor nations. The world is still split between haves and have-nots (though the group of seven richest haves is now a group of 20 of them). Not surprisingly, many NGOs dislike Mr Zoellick’s assertion because, they fear, it will encourage Westerners to ignore poverty abroad.

In one sense Mr Zoellick is right to say the third world is finished—if 20 years late. The poor world is usually thought of as coming “third” after the first, capitalist West, and the second, communist East. Since the second one imploded in 1989, it seems past time to put to rest the nebulous and sometimes toxic third-world concept.

But the term third world did not originally refer to geopolitics. The first to use it in its modern sense was Alfred Sauvy, a French demographer who drew a parallel with the “third estate” (the people) during the French revolution. In 1952 Sauvy wrote that “this ignored, exploited, scorned Third World, like the Third Estate, wants to become something, too.” He was paraphrasing a remark by Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, a delegate to the Estates-General of 1789, who said the third estate is everything, has nothing but wants to be something. The salient feature of the third world was that it wanted economic and political clout.

It is getting both. Cold-war terminology implied that third-world countries had limited room for independent manoeuvre. They aligned themselves with one side, or got ground between millstones. That is changing. Walter Russell Mead, an American foreign-policy analyst, argues that Brazil and Turkey are both countries once within America’s circle of influence where new leaders have challenged longstanding domestic elites and are trying to shake off their reliance upon America. In both cases their ambitions are global.

Developing countries are becoming something else, too: engines of the world economy. Since 2008, says the World Bank, they have contributed almost all of what economic growth there has been. In the 1980s they accounted for 33.7% of global income, at purchasing-power parities. This year, the share will be 43.4%. The map above shows how the world would look if country size were adjusted in line with the projected GDPs of countries by 2015.

For richer, for poorer

These trends have been going on a long time but the end of the great recession has speeded them up dramatically. Richer countries have not fully recovered: their income is still below what it was before the crisis. But in poorer ones—notably in Asia, the Middle East and Africa—income now exceeds pre-crisis levels by wide margins.

All this has—or should have—changed attitudes towards poor countries. The term “third world” used to mean poor and dependent. In the 1950s and 1960s a branch of economics even emerged called “dependency theory”; one of its most eloquent voices, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, became president of Brazil. Almost by definition, third-world countries were economic failures (successes, like the East Asian tigers, were seen as special cases). “Third world” countries often ran irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies and, even when growing fast, they still relied on the West for capital and markets.

One part of this picture is still true. The world remains binary. Over 1 billion people live on $1.25 or less a day, more than did when the term third world was coined. Many live in countries, like Brazil and India, that seem to have escaped from the third world. And 60 or so small poor countries retain third-world characteristics: aid dependency, corruption, violence. Alison Evans, the head of the Overseas Development Institute, a British think-tank, argues that it makes more sense to talk about the changing composition of the third world, rather than to make sweeping pronouncements about the whole thing.

Still, some generalisations are justified. Most developing countries have rejected populism. Now, it is rich countries that are running vast budget deficits. The IMF has said capital controls and industrial policy might work, after all. The economic mainstream has moved and it is no longer possible to distinguish between third and first worlds on the basis of economic policy.

Nor are emerging markets as dependent on aid from the West as they used to be. China recently agreed to finance oil refineries in Nigeria worth over $23 billion—nearly twice the total increase in aid to Africa over five years in one deal. Private flows to developing countries are worth three times official aid and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian former finance minister, thinks “it’s high time Africa saw and presented itself as the fifth BRIC, an attractive destination for investment, not just aid.”

The upshot is that it is no longer clear who depends on whom. Poorer economies still depend on Western markets: their slump at the end of 2008 showed that. But their recovery reveals that they are more resilient than they used to be, partly because their economic policies are better and partly because they trade more with each other and protect one another from the worst of rich-nation recession. Trade between developing countries, and between them and the BRICs, is rising twice as fast as world trade.

Even more strikingly, while growth has headed south, debt has headed north, the opposite of what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when poor countries ran up vast debts. Gross public debt in rich countries is rising, from about 75% of GDP at the start of the crisis in 2007 to a forecast 110% by 2015, says the IMF. Public debt in emerging markets is below 40% of GDP and flat.

As a result, the prudent members of the third world are becoming safer places to invest than the profligate ones of the first. South Africa has a higher credit rating than Greece. Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and Peru have all had their credit ratings upgraded this year. Those of the PIGS—Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain—have all been downgraded. Remarkably, the yield on ten-year government bonds is the same in Thailand as it is in America. Amar Bhattacharya, the head of the Group of 24 (a body of poorer countries), argues that the first world depends at least as much on the third as vice versa because the large and growing contribution to global demand and high returns in poorer countries are indispensable to rich ones in their attempts to return to growth and reduce debt.

In 1826 the British foreign secretary, George Canning, boasted that he had “called the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old.” Now the third world has come into its own to redress the imbalances of the old. Canning and others also helped to transform the diplomatic architecture of Europe after the end of Napoleon. Far less has been done—in international financial institutions, in patterns of aid-giving and in diplomatic habits—to reflect the reality of the third world’s end.


The Economist Newspaper | International

Britain Reaffirms Support for Afghanistan Effort

LONDON — As the Obama administration reaches out to head off any weakening of allied resolve, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain — America’s closest military ally — flew to Kabul on Thursday, saying this would be the “vital year” for the campaign against the Taliban.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan during a news conference in Kabul on Thursday.

His visit came after a three-day diplomatic offensive in London, with a trio of top Pentagon figures — Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates; Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in the region; and Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army — seeking assurances that Britain will remain steadfast in its Afghan commitment.

Britain has committed around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan — the second largest contingent in the 46-nation coalition after the 94,000 American soldiers there. On his surprise visit, which comes as British casualties are mounting and the country confronts huge financial strains, Mr. Cameron made clear that his government was not planning to increase its troop levels. Such an increase, Mr. Cameron said, was “not remotely on the U.K. agenda.”

Indeed, he made clear that Britain’s goal was to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces as soon as that was possible.

“We should all the time be asking ‘Can we go further, can we go faster,’ ” Britain’s Press Association news agency quoted him as saying.

At a news conference alongside President Hamid Karzai, Mr. Cameron declared: “No one wants British troops to stay in Afghanistan for a day longer than is necessary.”

But, he said, “What we want — and is our national security interest — is to hand over to an Afghanistan that is able to take control of its own security.”

The visit was Mr. Cameron’s first to Afghanistan as head of a coalition of his Conservative Party and the smaller Liberal Democrats. He said he had described this year “in terms of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, as the vital year.”

“This is the year when we have to make progress — progress for the sake of the Afghan people, but progress also on behalf of people back at home who want this to work,” he said.

His remarks echoed comments in London on Wednesday by Mr. Gates, who said that the United States and its allies were under pressure to show progress in the war by the end of the year, and that American voters would not accept an open-ended “stalemate.”

“All of us, for our publics, are going to have to show by the end of the year that our strategy is on the right track and making some headway,” he said.

As Mr. Gates headed for a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels, it seemed clear the Americans had achieved the reaffirmation they had sought after Mr. Gates and General Petraeus met separately with Mr. Cameron, and in talks both men had with the new British defense minister, Liam Fox.

After Mr. Gates met Mr. Cameron on Monday, the prime minister’s office issued a statement saying that he had “reiterated U.K. support for U.S. strategy,” but tellingly singled out as the strategy’s main element the $20 billion plan to build up Afghanistan’s own forces so they can take over security responsibilities and allow allied troops to leave.

The renewed British commitment was expected. Mr. Cameron and Mr. Fox are Conservatives, who strongly supported the British role in Afghanistan while in opposition, before they joined the left-of-center Liberal Democrats in a coalition after the inconclusive May 6 general election.

The Conservatives’ differences with the former Labour government centered less on whether the war should be fought than on whether the British troops had been adequately equipped.

In Kabul on Thursday, Press Association reported, Mr. Cameron said, “My biggest duty as prime minister of the United Kingdom is to our armed forces, to make sure that they have all the equipment and all the protection they need to do the absolutely vital job that they are doing here in Afghanistan.”

He also announced extra spending of around $100 million for a specialized unit to counter the threat of insurgents’ roadside bombs — one of the Taliban’s most effective weapons.

American officials regard a bolstering of Britain’s support as especially important at a time when many European countries with troops in Afghanistan, including Britain and Germany, are committed to sharp cuts in defense spending as part of their drive to reduce huge government deficits. With Britain reaffirming its backing for the Afghanistan effort, the American hope is that other European nations will be hesitant to back out.

Mr. Gates said in London that he hoped the European allies would follow the Pentagon’s example in seeking $100 billion in spending cuts by reducing overhead costs and spending on new weapons programs. “I would hope that our allies, before they consider force structure reductions, and reductions more broadly in capabilities, will look overall at how they spend their money,” he said.

In a concession to Britain, American officials said they had abandoned plans to move many of the 8,000 British troops who have been fighting in the southwestern province of Helmand to the city of Kandahar as part of a mission realignment. Many of the additional 30,000 American troops ordered into Afghanistan by President Obama will be sent to Helmand.

British officials had argued that many of the nearly 300 British soldiers who have been killed in the war died fighting in Helmand, and that giving way to the Marines would amount to surrendering territory that had been won with British lives.

Mr. Cameron said on Thursday: “In Helmand, there are now over 20,000 U.S. troops and 10,000 U.K. troops. I think it is important to let them get on with the very important work of delivering greater security in Helmand and making sure we have the right force density — the right number of troops — together with the Afghan national security forces throughout the province.”


John F. Burns reported from London and Alan Cowell from Paris.

Source: The New York Times

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan