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Why is Turkey About to Invade Syria?

UN Dispatch - 1. Dezember 2022 - 4:00

On November 13, six people were killed in a bombing in Istanbul, which the government of Turkey blamed on a Kurdish militant group based in Northern Syria. Shortly thereafter, Turkey began targeting Kurdish positions in Syria and Iraq, with President Erdogan threatening an imminent ground invasion of Northern Syria.

In this episode, we speak with Lisel Hintz, assistant professor of international relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, to discuss this bombing and this escalating conflict, which comes amid a profound shift in Turkey’s relationships with other countries in the region.

We begin by talking about what we know about the November 13th attack and the Turkish government’s attempt to control the narrative before having a broader conversation about how this crisis informs, and is informed by, recent changes in Turkey’s foreign policy. This including a warming of relations with former regional adversaries like Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Lisel Hintz also explains the domestic political considerations that may be driving Erdogan’s decisions on the use of force in Syria ahead of elections next year.

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Transcript lightly edited for clarity 

Why was there a bombing in Istanbul on November 13?

Lisel Hintz [00:00:00] And if the government calls a state of emergency, it has a much sort of larger tool kit with which to shape the conditions for its potential reelection in the elections in June.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:02:15] This is an evolving situation at time of recording. Turkey had not yet invaded, though my guest, Liesl Hintz, believes it’s only a matter of time, as she explains in this episode. And of course, whatever happens, this conversation will give you the context you need to understand events as they unfold in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Lisel Hintz [00:05:01] So we know that a bomb went off on November 13th in a crowded section of Istanbul in Istiklal, which is a main shopping thoroughfare. We know that six people were killed. We know that many, many were injured. We know that relatively soon after that, the Turkish government claimed that it was the action of the YPG, which is the people’s protection units or the Syrian Kurdish militia that the Turkish government views as a terrorist group, as linked with the PKK, which is the Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey. So basically, the Turkish government is claiming that this is a Kurdish terrorist group that is carrying out an attack on Turkish soil. And very soon after that, they released a photo of a woman that they claimed who had planted the bomb. They said that it was very clear that she had YPG ties. And so, one of the things that I think has been frustrating for observers is that there doesn’t seem to be trustworthy evidence or very clear evidence that this is of the YPG. Both the YPG and the PKK have denied responsibility for this attack. For those who study those organizations, it doesn’t seem like the kind of attack that they would carry out. It doesn’t seem like they have the motivations to do so right now. And so, there’s a lot of suspicion, there’s a lot of uncertainty and compounding that suspicion and uncertainty was the broadcasting ban that the Turkish government put in place, which did not allow news media organizations to cover the incident. It was an attempt for the government to try to control the messaging on this. This is a pretty common tactic that the government uses when there’s some kind of disaster or some kind of violent episode. The government kind of goes into spin mode and tries to control the flow of information. There was also a noticeable slowing of social media. Some social media sites were blocked, and so there was a very concerted attempt by the government to try to ensure that people were not perhaps speculating on who could be the source of this or were not sharing information that the government did not want them to share. So the fact that the government immediately claimed that this was the YPG, PKK, the fact that they immediately detained someone whose YPG links have been found to be quite questionable, and the fact that they put a broadcast ban and some social media blocks in place have led many to question who actually is behind this attack and whether the government is sort of trying to benefit from this for its own domestic political purposes.

What are the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:41] Generally speaking, over the years has the PKK, which is an internationally recognized terrorist group that’s distinct from the YPG, which is a U.S. backed militia in Kurdistan section of Syria, in the past have those groups claimed responsibility for attacks when they happen?

Lisel Hintz [00:08:04] In the past, the PKK has claimed responsibility for attacks. I would note that the PKK also has several offshoot organizations that have claimed responsibility for the attacks, so perhaps it was like a youth militia wing of the PKK rather than the PKK itself. I would note that there are reasons, legitimate reasons for linking the YPG and the PKK. They have organizational ties; they have social ties, networks among them, so it’s not a completely off the wall suggestion for the Turkish government to make that these organizations are linked. But in terms of the kinds of attacks that they carry out, this doesn’t seem to resonate as having the mark of a YPG or PKK attack.

How has the Turkish government responded to the bombing on November 13?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:08:48] So yet, you know, this attack happened. The government very quickly seemed to claim the narrative, blaming the YPG for the attack and then began mounting airstrikes in northern Syria on YPG targets. Can you describe what those airstrikes have been like and what the government’s narrative has been thus far?

Lisel Hintz [00:09:14] So the Turkish military has been carrying out airstrikes against Kurdish targets in northern Iraq and northern Syria. The Turkish government has been claiming that there’s going to be a new ground incursion since late spring, early summer, in order to try to push the YPG back from the Turkish border. So, the Turkish government has been claiming that there is a legitimate security threat, that the YPG, which again they claim is this sort of brother organization of the PKK — and they have reason to do — but they claim that there is a legitimate security threat that needs to be addressed and so they’re using airstrikes to do so. There have been a number of civilian casualties for this, and there’s a concern that a ground incursion could have a much, much larger human cost to it. One of the things that we’ve seen in terms of the way that Turkey has been trying to convince the international community of this security threat has been even the objection of the Turkish government to Sweden and Finland’s NATO’s accession. The Turkish government has repeatedly been saying that the international community needs to take the fact that the YPG poses a legitimate security threat to Turkey seriously. So, it’s been carrying out airstrikes, it’s been threatening a ground incursion, and it’s been trying rhetorically to set up an international context in which those kinds of further campaigns are possible.

Why does the United States financially support the YPG (People’s Protection Units)?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:10:41] And how has the United States responded thus far? The United States has backed the YPG in its fight against ISIS in northern Syria and Iraq, and apparently YPG has been rather effective against ISIS. What have we heard then from the U.S. in terms of how it’s trying to manage this apparent crisis?

Lisel Hintz [00:11:06] The US is in a difficult position, and it’s put itself in a really difficult position. The decision to arm the YPG as part of a broader Syrian Democratic forces fighting unit that could fight ISIS in order to avoid U.S. boots on the ground to do so was a decision that the U.S. government hoped was not going to anger Turkey to the point that it did. And so, you have a number of issues that are causing tensions between the U.S. and Turkey. But from the Turks perspective, the YPG is absolutely number one. They say, how can our NATO ally, how can a country that claims to be our partner and take our security concerns seriously, arm a terrorist group that we see as having a very threatening presence directly on our border? So that’s the Turkish perspective. Why on earth would the U.S. choose to arm a Syrian Kurdish organization in its fight against ISIS? Now, from the U.S. perspective, Turkey was not willing to step up to the plate in terms of fighting ISIS. The U.S. was trying to avoid another major American military presence in the Middle East, and they knew that the Syrian Kurdish forces could be very effective in their fight against ISIS, and they proved to be. So, the U.S. made that choice. But now they have Turkey saying, you know, this is a stab in the back. How can you do that to us? You’re exacerbating our security concerns. And again, the point was to create these larger Syrian democratic forces but from the Turks perspective, that was a fig leaf. This was largely populated by Syrian Kurdish forces. So, the U.S. recognizing that the YPG has played a significant role in combating ISIS and, by the way, in maintaining the prisons in which ISIS fighters are currently housed, do not want to see them moved out of those border regions of Syria, do not want to see a further military incursion by Turkey. They’ve been very adamant that they have been concerned about a future incursion, although I will note that under the Trump administration there were some mixed signals that were being given to Turkey. And a lot of people would say that the Trump administration kind of greenlighted Turkish military incursions in Syria. We saw Defense Secretary Mattis and Brett McGurk resign over that green lighting. So there have been some mixed signals from the U.S. but under the Biden administration, the message has been very firm. You know, Turkey should not carry out military incursions in Syria. They certainly should not engage in a ground incursion. And what we’ve seen is that the Turkish government has been hinting that this has been coming since June, but they’ve been unable to get the green light from the U.S. and from Russia. It looks as though they’re negotiating with Russia right now as to whether they can get the permission to be able to carry out that particular campaign or will Russia allow Syrian government forces to come back in? But from the Turks perspective, there needs to be a clearing out of the YPG from its borders whether it does it, Russia does it, or the Syrian government does it.

How is Turkish president Erdogan responding to the November 13 bombing?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:14:10] So we’re speaking on Tuesday, November 29th. This ground invasion is much anticipated but hasn’t happened yet. However, as you said, there have been stepped up airstrikes. How do you perceive that Erdogan perceives the situation in terms of managing his foreign relations? What are some of the politics that are driving his decisions right now in terms of whether or not to go ahead with this ground invasion?

Lisel Hintz [00:14:46] So I think there are a lot more domestic political motivating factors, but they are intimately intertwined with the international foreign policy considerations so it’s a good question to ask. So, Turkey or Erdogan, specifically in terms of being the one calling the shots, is on one hand trying to extract some concessions from the United States. It very much wants to purchase F-16s from the United States. It has been given signals from the Biden administration that it may be able to purchase F-16s from a domestic or military capacity standpoint. It very much needs those F-16s and upgrade kits that would come with them. And of course, part of that is because Turkey lost out on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program because of its purchase of an S-400 missile defense system from Russia. So, the sanction coming from the United States was we’re going to kick you out of the F-35 program. So, of course, it now finds itself in a situation to upgrade its military capacity. It needs these F-16s. The Biden administration, again, has indicated that may be possible, but Congress has strongly objected. So that’s something that Turkey is considering. Does it go ahead with this campaign knowing that that may harm its chances to get the F-16s? Or does it think probably we’re not going to get those anyway so let’s not let that be a constraining factor for us. So, again, thinking about the S-400 and the Russian side, Turkey has a number of ways in which its government and its economy and its energy sources are intimately connected with Russia. There, of course, is the aspect of Russia controlling Syrian airspace, of controlling a lot of the politics of what goes on in Syria and of supporting the Assad regime. So, one of the things that you’ve seen in recent months is Erdogan’s government, who called Bashar al-Assad the president of Syria enemy number one for a long time, has now said, well, you know, perhaps we can reestablish relations, just as he’s been able to attempt to reestablish relations with President Sisi in Egypt. So, you’re seeing kind of an about face on a number of the relationships that had hardened quite a bit following the Arab Spring.

Why might President Erdogan be trying to improve relations with Syria?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:17:03] Can I ask you about the two about faces? We saw this very warm embrace of Erdogan to Sisi at the World Cup in Qatar the other day, which was a very public demonstration of Erdogan’s shifting priorities. Previously, Erdogan supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi, which are enemies of Sisi in Egypt, but now you saw Erdogan and Sisi embrace each other at the World Cup. Similarly, you just noted that Erdogan has been signaling a warmth towards Assad in Syria. What accounts in particular for this about face towards Turkish Syrian relations?

Lisel Hintz [00:17:50] Yeah, and it’s funny because in some cases it’s an about face after an about face so Erdogan and Assad had been quite close friends, you know, they vacationed together, their wives shopped together, and then, of course, in the wake of the Arab Spring, when Erdogan was not able to convince Bashar al-Assad to stop cracking down on his people and was trying to say, hey, international community, I’ll be able to negotiate this; let me use my political capital. But then he wasn’t able to pull that off. Then they become, you know, these arch enemies, and Turkey is, of course, supporting Syrian opposition forces that are trying to oust Assad. So, you go from very good friends to arch enemies to now, okay, let’s try to sort of pragmatically negotiate how we can manage this relationship. And, you know, Sisi and Erdogan never had that close relationship and, you know, politically and ideologically, they were never going to. But the factors that are driving these sorts of attempted rapprochement, which I don’t like that term, because I think it sort of assumes that things are going to be normalized when it’s more of a really tense, pragmatic relationship that I think we’re seeing, it’s very much due to what I mentioned earlier, which is kind of Erdogan’s domestic political calculations. And part of that has to do with the immense economic crisis that Turkey is undergoing with the free fall of the lira, with skyrocketing unemployment, with massive foreign debt. The fact that you also have Turkey, which of course doesn’t have a whole lot of its own energy resources and therefore would like to be able to partner on gas exploration, on oil pipeline — I mentioned earlier its energy ties with Russia — so economic and energy concerns, I think, are the ones that we can think of as really driving the need to establish these relationships. We’ve seen a bit of an about face with a bunch of Arab countries as well, in addition to Syria and Egypt, that Turkey has undergone. Part of that is sort of in the wake of the Abraham Accords but again, there is this identified need to try to find export markets, to try to find energy sources, to try to find some way of getting swap deals. You know, it has had a similar softening of relations with the UAE, which had been another state in which it had very, very tense relations and even with Israel. So, I think it’s difficult to understand this kind of charm offensive that Erdogan has been trying to undertake without looking at the economic and energy issues that are underlining that. And of course, all of that culminates in Erdogan’s need to remain as president in the 2023 elections.

Why would Turkey launch a ground invasion into Syria?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:20:32] So if economic malaise at home, which is deep and profound —I did an episode on this podcast not long ago about the tanking lira and the unconventional economic responses by Erdogan, which seems to have made things even worse if those considerations are driving this about face in Turkish foreign policy. Is there similar sort of domestic political motivations for wanting to invade Northern Syria, for wanting to mount a major ground invasion across the border?

Lisel Hintz [00:21:12] There are absolutely domestic political considerations for Turkey wanting to undertake a military campaign in Syria, and there’s a number of them. Again, I think that Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies are so intimately intertwined, and I think this is one of these cases in which we can see that. My colleague has just written an excellent book on this topic, the intertwining of domestic and foreign policy, specifically when it comes to Turkey’s campaigns against Syria. If we’re thinking about what Erdogan may be able to gain from this kind of an incursion, I think we have to remember that he is extremely adept at turning crises into opportunities. In turning the 2016 coup attempt into a way to not only sort of rally around the flag and bolster national sentiment and create a lot of national unity, if relatively temporarily, but also to purge opponents from the military, from the civil service, from institutions that could serve as positions for challenging him. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned into an opportunity for Turkey to position itself on the world stage as being able to broker a green deal, as being a mediator, which of course is a very convenient position for Turkey to be in because as a mediator you cannot choose sides between Ukraine and Russia, and that’s exactly where Erdogan wanted to position Turkey. So, when it comes to Syria, the Kurdish issue, of course, is one of the main issues that comes to the fore. When we’re looking at elections in 2023, we see that his party and he as the presidential candidate are facing major challenges from the opposition and that Kurds have previously played a very pivotal role. I would say not even just important, but pivotal role in the Opposition’s ability to carry out victories at the polls. We saw that in the 2019 local elections where Kurds were integral to the opposition’s ability to not only win Istanbul but win Istanbul twice in a rerun election that was forced because the government had the Supreme Electoral Board annul the previous election in an attempt to hold that seat. So, Kurds are a key political player in Turkey. Now, the challenge for the Turkish opposition parties, and we have a group of six of them that have united to try to unseat Erdogan, is that not all of those parties can agree on the Kurdish issue, essentially. And among those parties, those six parties, there are nationalist parties that do not want to see Kurds as part of their cohort, as part of their alliance, that have campaigned on anti-Kurdish policies previously, that have voted to remove parliamentary immunity from Kurds. And so, this is a really sort of tense and contentious issue in terms of how the opposition parties can reach out to Kurds. So, what does that have to do with the potential for a military incursion in Syria? So, by carrying out a military campaign, the issue of Kurds as an enemy, the issue of Kurds as a security threat becomes one that the government can inflate, becomes one in which the government can continuously reference Kurds, and not just Kurds who are members of these militant organizations, but Kurds more broadly. There’s this terrorist paintbrush that the government is able to use and does use in order to marginalize Kurdish political actors and also those opposition parties that are willing to partner with those actors. And as you can see that can then create a wedge between opposition parties. Do we partner with the Kurds or do we not? If we do, are we painted as collaborating with terrorists? How do we negotiate that space? How do we negotiate that space legally when we may be targeted by the government with a court case? How do we negotiate that space with voters and how are we trying to communicate to them and make sure that we’re garnering as many votes as we can? So that becomes a much more contentious issue. It’s already a balancing act that the parties have been trying to negotiate, but with a future incursion, that becomes even more difficult.

Why is Turkey’s 2023 election important?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:25:31] So by invading northern Syria, by fomenting nationalism, you potentially divide the political opposition and make his own position stronger ahead of elections next year. So, it all could be viewed through that domestic political lens.

Lisel Hintz [00:25:52] I think a lot of it can be viewed through the domestic political lens, but there’s even more so he can rally nationalism, although I think it’s worth noting that when Erdogan makes a fiery speech about Greece, right, or threatens another military incursion, he can get a nationalist bump in the polls, but it’s relatively little and it doesn’t last a long time. This kind of a military incursion in which a lot of the population has harbored anti Kurdish sentiments that can be stirred up, so that can have an effect. It can also have an effect in dividing the opposition parties, again, as we said. But it can have a further additional effect, which is alienating Kurdish voters from voting at all. So, you know, maybe they were thinking about voting for the opposition parties, but no, they’re just going to stay away from the polls completely. So, you can alienate Turkish voters who are uncomfortable with how the opposition parties are negotiating the Kurdish issue and then you can also alienate Kurdish voters. I would say that there’s even an additional factor to consider when it comes to this, and this is perhaps looking too far down the road and is perhaps too pessimistic. One of the things that I worry about is if there is another military incursion, if there is unrest that follows from that in Turkey or that spills over the borders, if there’s cross-border violence, that can give the government the pretext to call a state of emergency. And if the government calls a state of emergency, it has a much sort of larger toolkit with which to shape the conditions for its potential reelection in the elections in June. So, we know that the previous presidential election in 2018 was held under a state of emergency, and it was lifted relatively soon after. So, the state of emergency had been put in place following the 2016 coup. It’s lifted soon after the 2018 presidential elections, which Erdogan wins. So, there is a track record of being able to carry out election victories under a state of emergency. The potential for unrest or for violence in the Syrian situation means that there’s the potential for that kind of state of emergency that could lead the government to postpone elections, to cancel elections in the Kurdish region, to have more impetus for closing the HDP, the People’s Democratic Party, which is the pro-Kurdish party in Turkey. It just basically gives the government more tools to use in terms of configuring the domestic playing field in its favor. And that’s something that I worry about quite a bit.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:28:24] In the near term, are there any indicators or inflection points that you’ll be looking towards that will suggest to you whether or not that pessimistic scenario, as you call it, will indeed play out?

Lisel Hintz [00:28:36] I mean, the most obvious one is, is there a military incursion? And I think that there will be. I had thought that before there was a bombing on November 13th, so perhaps that’s why I’ve had kind of a cynical view of the way in which the government has tried to benefit politically from that attack. So, we’ll be looking for whether there’s an incursion, even though we currently see Turkey sort of negotiating with Russia as to whether Russia can clear the YPG from the borders. That doesn’t necessarily seem like something that the YPG is willing to agree to, so we’ll have to see how that plays out. I would also note that one of the extra additional factors that a military incursion in Syria might be able to contribute to when it comes to Erdogan’s domestic popularity is that he has claimed that he can use those spaces as a way to repatriate Syrians. And we know that the Syrian refugee issue or the 4 million Syrians who are living in Turkey, not technically under refugee status, but temporary protection status, has been a major source of criticism of his government and an issue that the opposition has been pushing very, very hard on. So again, lots and lots of different domestic political considerations for this. But in terms of the inflection point, so, A, is there an incursion? And even if Russia is able to clear the YPG from one of the towns in northern Syria, say Tal Rifaat, which they have been trying to convince the YPG to withdraw from, Turkey has also cited a number of other northern Syrian towns that the YPG currently holds, including Manbij and Kobani. So, it seems as though the potential for an incursion is high again, given all of those domestic political motivations for carrying out such a campaign. So, we’ll be looking for that. I think we’ll be looking to see whether there is any kind of violence that spills over. Are there rocket attacks that are coming landing on Turkish soil? Are there protests in Turkey, largely Kurd organized protests or other protests? If there are protests, are the police forces cracking down on them violently? All of this is, I think, for a lot of Turkey observers recalling 2015, which was the summer in which you saw the reignition of the war between the PKK and the Turkish government. There’d been a ceasefire that they’d been working on for several years, but that fell apart once the AKP had lost its parliamentary majority in the June 2015 elections.

What is Turkey’s AKP political party?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:31:06] And the AKP is Erdogan’s party?

Lisel Hintz [00:31:09] Yes. So, the AKP, Erdogan’s party, loses its parliamentary majority for the first time, and the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party actually is able to get quite a lot of members into parliament. So, there’s sort of political reasons for why that cease fire breaks down but what happens in the meantime over that summer is that there are a number of ISIS attacks, there are a number of Kurdish protests that are cracked down violently. There’s a lot of unrest and there’s a very hard nationalist turn by the AKP, Erdogan’s party, so that by the time you have new elections in November, you have this high, high amount of nationalist rhetoric that’s being used, and Erdogan is both able to draw more votes for his party and is able to partner with another nationalist party. So, all of that is to say a lot of people are looking at the current situation with concern because of the amount of violence and the hard nationalist turn that occurred in Turkey, in Turkish politics in 2015. There’s a concern that we might be seeing a rerun of that now with the AKP having learned the lesson that they can gain more votes in that kind of a situation of tumult.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:32:19] Well, thank you so much for your time.

Lisel Hintz [00:32:20] You’re most welcome.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:32:29] Thank you for listening to Global Dispatches. Our show is produced by me, Mark Leon Goldberg, and edited and mixed by Levi Scharff. Before you go, do take a moment to show your support for the show by becoming a premium subscriber. If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, you can do so with a couple taps of your thumb. If you’re listening elsewhere, you can go to We rely on support from listeners to continue to do what we do far into the future and by becoming a premium subscriber, you will unlock access to our entire archive of hundreds and hundreds of episodes. Please rate or review the show on Apple Podcasts.

The post Why is Turkey About to Invade Syria? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The EU in Sharm-El-Sheikh: good cop at a bad COP?

GDI Briefing - 30. November 2022 - 17:31

When the cover decision of the UN climate change conference (COP27) in Sharm-El-Sheikh was finally accepted by all parties, it was clear that the EU had only been moderately successful. So the question remains if the EU could have done more. Or could it have engaged differently to achieve a more ambitious result of COP27, in particular with regards to reducing emissions or international climate finance? This blog post discusses key lessons for the EU as it prepares for the next rounds of global climate negotiations, including COP28 in Dubai. It suggests for the EU to act decisively in the months ahead, to enter the negotiations in good time and to demonstrate resolve on key issues, now including Loss and Damage. This requires the EU to dedicate more time and energy into its climate diplomacy and to live up to its announcements and pledges with commensurate resources politically, technically and, indeed, financially.

Kategorien: english

The global biodiversity framework needs a robust action agenda

GDI Briefing - 30. November 2022 - 17:11

It is anticipated that the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022, will agree on an ambitious, specific and measurable global biodiversity framework. However, governments alone are unlikely to reverse negative trends in biodiversity. This correspondence suggests that a biodiversity action agenda that mobilizes nature recovery actions from across society — including businesses, investors, civil society groups and local communities — should be included as a complement to governmental efforts. If governments can agree on a strong framework, an action agenda can create productive links between multilateral and transnational actions. However, if governments fail to agree on an ambitious framework the action agenda can help to sustain action and build momentum. The article argues that the action agenda should be complementary, catalytic, collaborative, comprehensive and credible to generate enthusiasm for a diverse array of actors to take biodiversity action.

Kategorien: english

Protected: Welcome to the 16th issue of our newsletter!!

SNRD Africa - 30. November 2022 - 16:01

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

The post Protected: Welcome to the 16th issue of our newsletter!! appeared first on SNRD Africa.

Kategorien: english

G20 leaders are “not in a state of denial”

D+C - 30. November 2022 - 14:39
Indonesian economist assesses results of Bali summit in November 2022

We are living in multiple crises, and inflation is compounding all other problems. In a way, inflation is also a response to those crises because it is redistributing purchasing power and thus resources, though in an unplanned and uncoordinated way. The G20 declaration shows awareness of the problems and encourages central banks to manage the situation. To me, this message is confusing because central banks are now in a kind of race to raise interest rates, trying to keep their respective currencies competitive and make other countries bear a greater burden (see André de Mello e Souza on The G20 was launched in 2008 to coordinate macroeconomic policy. Is the group shying away from that task?
No, I do not think so. My impression is that all policymakers involved understand that the current polycrisis is more complex than they used to assume. Covid-19, the war in Ukraine, the economic slump, food shortages, global warming, the dwindling of ­biodiversity and inflation reinforce one another in ways that make them almost intractable. After the summit, I am actually a bit more optimistic than I was before. I find it encouraging that the world’s most important governments are not in a state of denial and have done a lot to find common ground.

But that does not add up to a strategy to control inflation.
Well, there is only so much a group of 20 governments can do. Two things are driving up prices:

  • One is the return to normal monetary policy after years of super-cheap money. Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, central banks of high-income countries had kept interest rates extremely low. The policy was called quantitative easing and it served to stimulate sluggish economies. Loose monetary policy, of course, makes asset prices rise, with eventually inflation increasing. It was obvious that it would take off sooner or later, and now it has.
  • This development was triggered – and exacerbated – by real-economy shocks. One was the coronavirus pandemic which severely disrupted supply chains. Another one was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which drove up food and energy prices. You can also count increasingly devastating extreme-weather events as real-economy shocks too. On the demand side, consumption, which was subdued in the pandemic, has resumed, especially among high income groups.

So we are now living in a perfect storm. In this setting, it makes sense for the summit declaration to reiterate the role of independent central banks and call for vigilance.

But don’t we need more?
You cannot expect a two-day summit of heads of state and government to sort out everything, especially as they really are not close allies, but competitors and even adversaries. A big contradiction is that they all know that international cooperation is necessary, but they also feel the pressures of decoupling and de-globalisation. The sense of rivalry among them has grown, and there is an international trend towards more regional and national decision-making. It is therefore promising that Joe Biden and Xi Jinping had a long bilateral meeting in Bali. It shows an interest in cooperation in spite of many disagreements. It is equally encouraging that the declaration mentions all of the big problems that must be solved. Even though Russia is a G20 member, for example, the declaration spells out that the war in Ukraine is compounding macroeconomic problems. It also states that threats to use nuclear weapons are unacceptable in the eyes of most participants. The language of the statement is surprisingly clear.

Acknowledging that the war adds to macroeconomic problems does not end the war – and it does not reduce the problems.
No, it does not, but that is the most the G20 was able to do. It is ultimately an informal setting with a macroeconomic mandate. It really can only express intentions and, if things go well, coordinate policies to make them come true. In terms of intentions, important global goals were reconfirmed, including food security, the mitigation of climate change, the protection of ecosystems, the stability of the financial architecture, the rule-based trade order, inclusive growth and so on. The document includes a commitment to speed up action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It also points out that women, smallholders, youth and vulnerable groups deserve particular attention, so no one gets left behind.

The declaration also calls for new investments to promote related causes – from eco-friendly infrastructure and clean energy to better pandemic preparedness through to education and waste management. But it does not say where the money will come from, apart from hints that the private sector must play a role and multilateral institutions should be involved. Isn’t the greatest problem we face today that all nations lack the fiscal space they need? I think the declaration says too little about related topics, from taxes to climate finance to sovereign debt.
I empathise with your wish to see a grand global plan. However, the lack of it does not amount to an unwillingness or an inability to respond to problems. The G20 are doing so in incremental steps. The declaration endorses OECD efforts to improve international cooperation on raising taxes and stemming tax avoidance, and it refers to the UN summit on development finance in Addis Ababa in 2015, which emphasised that developing countries must improve their tax system to mobilise  domestic resources.

It may look piecemeal, but don’t forget, the G20 are a club of 20 powerful but competing governments. They really cannot do much more than to support – and perhaps strengthen – existing international and multilateral initiatives. In regard to the fiscal space of least developed countries (LDCs), moreover, the G20 actually did take important steps. G20 members are increasingly allowing LDCs to use for developmental purposes special drawing rights (SDRs) which belong to the G20 members. SDRs are an internal IMF monetary reserve asset. They are distributed according to each member’s quota proportion at the IMF. The Fund issued new SDRs in 2021 to ease fiscal constraints in the pandemic and distributed them according to countries’ quota of IMF shares, so the high-income countries got much more than the LDCs. It is promising that G20 members are becoming less hesitant to letting LDCs use those assets (also see Kathrin Berensmann on

What about climate finance?
Well, the declaration does reiterate that all existing promises must be fulfilled. It also indicates that more is needed. From the Indonesian perspective, the deal to phase out the country’s coal-fired power stations in the next 10 years was most important. It was concluded in the context of the summit but does not feature in the declaration. The deal is worth $ 20 billion and includes support from the EU, other G20 partners and the private sector. A similar deal was concluded with South Africa last year, and another one is planned with Vietnam. These are all sensible steps in the right direction.

My hunch is that sovereign debt issues, which are getting worse in many places, deserved more attention.
But the declaration does take account of them. It explicitly mentions the cases of Zambia, Chad and Ethiopia, where it appreciates the stance taken by the IMF. It also expresses concern for debt problems increasing in middle-income countries – and all of this reveals a willingness to act eventually. Without the suspension of least developed countries’ debt servicing during the pandemic, the situation would be much worse today. The G20 made the suspension happen.

Isn’t the real problem that the G20 do not agree on what to do regarding debt restructuring. China has a pattern of extending, but not forgiving loans. Some policymakers of high-income countries accuse Beijing of ensnaring LDCs in debt traps. In many ways, Chinese lending has resembled development lending by established donors in the 1970s or 80s, focusing on infrastructure in the hope of triggering growth, but ultimately leading to over-indebtedness. Obviously, the governments of high-income countries are not fond of debt relief either, but, unlike China, they have the experience of how useful multilateral debt relief was around the turn of the millennium.
Yes, those are interesting issues, but I think the strong point of the G20 summit was that it did not relitigate the past. So if western governments had started admonishing China for its lending, China could have responded by complaining about quantitative easing. It was wise to stay away from blame games and look forward instead.

Iwan J. Azis is a professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and visiting professor at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. He served as a research advisor to the Indonesian central bank, participating in several pre-G20 seminars.

Kategorien: english

Climate impacts compound Pakistan’s pre-existing problems

D+C - 30. November 2022 - 14:09
Why this summer’s floods will reduce food security in Pakistan in the long run

This summer’s devastating floods have caused massive damage in Pakistan. By mid-October, the losses amounted to more than $ 30 billion, and at least 1700 people had died. According to the national government’s assessment, 2.3 million houses and more than 13,000 kilometres of road were washed away or damaged. At least 7.9 million people have been displaced, according to the UN.

Agriculture was painfully hit. The water destroyed standing crops throughout the country, so the supply of food items has decreased. This applies to vegetables, fruit and cereals. Soaring food prices mean that many people can no longer afford to buy what they need.

The disaster affected about 2.6 million hectares of cultivated land, according to a report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That was a bit more than one third of the country’s agricultural land. Cotton production suffered too. This is an important export commodity, on which masses of livelihoods depend (see my previous article on

Parts of the territory were still inundated in early October. Farmers in those areas were not able to sow wheat and other crops for the next season.

The floods have also destroyed irrigation infrastructure, machinery, seed stocks and fertiliser stores in many places. Because of the shortfalls, farms will become less productive. The FAO states that production forecasts for rice, maize, sorghum and millets need downward revisions.

Livestock depletion

Farmers lost 1.2 million livestock animals moreover. Accordingly, milk and meat have become scarcer – compounding nutrition problems. Protein-rich food has become more costly after all, with reduced supply exacerbating the inflation problem the nation was facing even before extraordinarily heavy monsoon rains inundated the country from mid-June on.

It was not the first extreme weather calamity this year. Abid Qaiyum Suleri of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), an independent Islamabad-based think tank, says that heat waves earlier in the year had already caused a 30 % decline in the expected wheat yield.

In his eyes, the floods broke the back of the economy however. Food security in particular has deteriorated. As Suleri points out, it depends on three things:

  • supply must be sufficient,
  • people must have adequate purchasing power, and
  • their bodies must be able to absorb food.

The climate crisis, he argues, is affecting all three. As poorer harvests reduce supply, rising food prices overwhelm ever more people’s spending ability. Moreover, clean drinking water is not available in many flood affected areas, causing people to disturb their digestive systems and thus affecting their ability to absorb food. Suleri reckons it will take five months to restore access to clean drinking water in the populous southern province of Sindh.

Public-health crisis

Waterborne diseases have spread fast. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in October that around 8 million people needed essential health assistance. Stagnant water and inadequate sanitation provided breeding opportunities for mosquitos. From July to October, according to Richard Brennan of the WHO, over 540,000 malaria cases were reported. Diarrhoea is another serious health threat. There have been outbreaks of dengue fever, measles and diphtheria. Brennan also expresses concern about the high rates of acute malnutrition. Especially women and girls are ex posed to disaster impacts (see Sundus Saleemi on

For 2021, the US Department of Agriculture estimated that not quite 40 % of the people suffered food insecurity. According to government data, some 55 million Pakistanis lived below the poverty line at the start of this year. The World Bank reckons that the flood disaster may ultimately push the number up by another 9 million.

Poor governance is a long standing issue in Pakistan. Too little was done to prepare the country for the climate crisis (see my contribution on Pakistan did little to cause global heating, but its impacts are now compounding each and every pre-existing problem (see Sundus Saleemi on

A host of huge challenges

The multiple crisis is indeed daunting. Pakistan’s multi-party government is weak, and the populist leader Imran Khan, whom it deposed democratically earlier this year, was recently wounded in an attack when he was campaigning against it. The political situation is tense. The debt scenario is difficult and the climate crisis, which Pakistan did little to cause, is compounding the problems.

Macro-economic stability is fragile. Inflation is in double digits. International trends such as the strong dollar, high oil prices and rising food prices are important drivers. Government debt is an issue too. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) resumed a loan programme in August, but that money will eventually have to be paid back too.

In early October, Moody’s, the globally respected ratings agency, downgraded Pakistan’s sovereign credit rating by one notch. It mentioned increased risks regarding government liquidity, extern vulnerability and debt sustainability. Pakistan’s government contested the decision – and its initial estimates put the economic losses of the floods at $ 30 billion.

In October, the United Nations raised its aid appeal for Pakistan from $ 160 million to $ 816 million, as fear of growing hunger rises. The country clearly needs support.

Imran Mukhtar is an Islamabad-based Journalist.
Twitter: @imranmukhtar

Kategorien: english

Rising inflation, falling wages threaten increased poverty and unrest: ILO

UN #SDG News - 30. November 2022 - 13:00
Rising inflation has caused a striking decline in real monthly wages in many countries, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said in a report published on Wednesday, highlighting the urgent need for policies to prevent further poverty, inequality and social unrest. 
Kategorien: english

Who’s Who

DEVELOPMENT - 30. November 2022 - 0:00

Remunicipalisation in Catalonia: Strategies and Responses

DEVELOPMENT - 30. November 2022 - 0:00

In Catalonia, 81% of the population receives their water from private operators; this has a direct impact on water governance, which has been hijacked by the main private operator, Agbar, with the connivance of the public administration. Since 2010, there has been a slow but steady process of remunicipalisation, with 32 Catalan municipalities having regained public water management, 28 more in the process of doing so and 150 further concessions that have expired or will expire by 2030. At the same time, 20 citizens’ groups have been set up in municipalities and are struggling to regain public, democratic water management. This article describes the growing remunicipalisation process in Catalonia and the response of the transnational company that manages water.

Tracking emissions by country and sector

Brookings - 29. November 2022 - 22:59

By Homi Kharas, Wolfgang Fengler, Reshma Sheoraj, Lukas Vashold, Teodor Yankov

Global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) for 2022 will be 58 gigatons (GT), the largest annual level ever recorded. If current economic growth, demography, and emissions intensity trends continue, the level of emissions will continue to rise, reaching 62 GT by 2030. The gap between actual emissions and what is needed to keep the Paris Agreement targets at or below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels will be more than 30 GT. At a global level, we know what needs to be done. Emissions have to come down by about 3 GT each year for the next three decades. We missed the targets in 2021 and 2022, so now the rate of emissions reduction has to be even faster.

The World Data Lab’s World Emissions Clock (a new tool launched at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh), provides a snapshot of the global challenge. It presents two concepts to make climate action more quantitative and actionable: First, there is an implementation gap of 2.6 GT, reflecting the shortfall of actual emission reduction relative to annualized commitments made in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Second, there is an ambition gap of 5.3 GT reflecting the shortfall of NDCs relative to the annualized reduction needed to stay on course for a 1.5 degree trajectory. These estimates are based on a novel statistical model developed by researchers at Vienna University of Economics and Business and World Data Lab (WDL), aimed at creating realistic projections of GHG emissions under different assumptions.

In Figure 1 below, the top line shows an estimate of emissions based on an econometric Vector Autoregressive Model of five sectors (energy, industry, transport, buildings, and agriculture and forestry), and 24 sub-sectors, across 180 economies. There are no policy changes or other adjustments, just a continuation of past trends. It shows that aggregate global emissions are still rising. This can be compared with an estimate of what emissions will be if all the policy changes promised in countries’ NDC were to be realized.

Figure 1. With no change, the implementation and ambition gaps will keep growing

Source: World Data Lab, World Emissions Clock

According to World Emissions Clock projections, implementing NDCs would start to reduce emissions but only by about 0.4 GT per year, far too slowly to reach the Paris Agreement target. The third line shows numbers from Integrated Assessment Models, developed by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna and their collaborators, for a scenario that would keep 1.5 degrees within reach.

This framing also helps to better understand the positions of developed and developing countries at COP27. Developed countries want developing countries to be more ambitious with their NDCs, while developing countries seek more financial resources to address loss and damages and to ensure a just transition.

Looking more closely at the data, however, suggests that categorizing countries as developed or developing is not very useful. Their individual differences are too large. Instead, much can be learned by comparing countries to their peers.

Figure 2 below shows the per capita emissions of selected countries broken down by major sector. Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have emissions far above global averages, but France and Italy have below-average emissions. Among developing countries, China is the largest emitter in aggregate, but not on a per capita basis (less than half of Canada, for example). India’s emissions are less than half the global average.

Figure 2. Among G20 economies, Saudi Arabia emits more than six times per capita than India

Source: World Data Lab, World Emissions Clock)

The three largest fossil-fuel producers in the world are the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia, and the sector decompositions show that these countries have among the highest levels of emissions per capita from this sector. Saudi Arabia and Russia are large exporters, whereas the U.S. consumes its energy domestically. The United States’ per capita emissions in the energy sector are about 4 times those in the U.K. and 8 times those in France which relies heavily on nuclear power.

Many developing countries also have large emissions in energy. South Africa, where power outages are common and access to electricity is far from universal, emits more per person than Japan. India and Indonesia still consume very little power per person, but demands are increasing rapidly as their population grows more urbanized and richer. If they follow the path of South Africa, with a heavy reliance on coal, it will make global targets impossible to meet.

Agriculture, forestry, and land-use (AFOLU) is the other major sector where net emissions can be rapidly reduced. In Figure 2, large per capita emissions specific to this sector are seen in Brazil and Indonesia due to deforestation. The graph also highlights, however, that South Korea is already a net carbon sink in terms of AFOLU thanks to reforestation programs since the 1960s and climate-smart agricultural practices.

Other cross-country comparisons show what is feasible using current technologies. Sweden is a leader in technologies for reducing carbon emissions in buildings. On a per capita basis, it emits less than one-tenth the level of GHGs as the United States. The Netherlands is a leader in transport, with high utilization of mass transit and over 30 percent of personal trips taken by bicycle. The United States fares particularly poorly in transport because it relies on planes and road transport, with very limited use of rail. If high-income countries were to simply achieve the emissions intensity of the best-performer in each sector, they would cut their GHG emissions by almost two-thirds.

These kinds of comparisons have important implications for the way forward. A low-carbon prosperous future is possible without forgoing economic growth. Yes, there is considerable promise in new technologies, including solar and offshore wind. But existing technologies already offer a path that can yield high levels of prosperity with low levels of carbon emissions. The decoupling of economic growth and GHG emissions is perfectly feasible. The level of emissions from high-income countries has more to do with policy choices and lifestyles. They should emulate low-emitting peers, as well as take advantage of technological advances.

The World Emissions Clock is also a critical resource for governments and stakeholders working to align policymaking with their national climate action plans. Empowering global citizens with an easily accessible tool will enable them to make more informed decisions and push for required change. It can help inform the debate on how to reduce emissions and identify likely areas where rapid progress can be made. By seeing what other countries have done, useful lessons about practical solutions can emerge. That’s the power of granular, comparative data.

Kategorien: english

AFD boss Remy Rioux on climate progress

Devex - 29. November 2022 - 18:09
Kategorien: english

PSLifestyle Living Labs Engage Europeans in 8 Pilot Countries Toward Sustainable Lifestyles

SCP-Centre - 29. November 2022 - 14:13

Establishing more sustainable habits that both fit one’s context and have a high positive impact is not always a simple process. It becomes even more complex when trying to turn such habits into lasting ones. Our PSLifestyle project is working with citizens in 8 European pilot countries to gather insights on what actions fit into the local context and how they can best be integrated into current lifestyles to achieve greater sustainability.

In the second round of PSLifestyle Living Lab workshops, lab participants came together to identify and jointly develop almost 100 actions for sustainable and good living in key areas such as housing, food, mobility, and consumption.

In Finland, participants noted that actions such as “start generating your own energy” should be combined with more information on how quickly such investments would pay off. This, they felt, would encourage more people to plan solar installations for their homes, for example.

Portuguese participants strongly supported the idea of second-hand markets and refurbishing of products, but were aware that there is currently a culture of mistrust towards such markets and that more awareness-raising initiatives are needed to promote them.

The suggestions for measures and actions will be included in the PSL tool, alongside participants’ impressions and suggestions on how to improve the features of the PSL tool after testing it as part of this Living Lab round of workshops.

The inclusion of best practice information, such as APPs to help find cycling routes and/or live information on public transport discounts, would help to encourage more sustainable mobility behaviour, according to the Italian Living Lab participants.

Adding some more gamification elements such as sharing your plans with others, achievement rewards and/or personalised reminders could be some entertaining user engagement additions according to Turkish, Slovenian and German participants.

The PSL tool will support European citizens to calculate their carbon footprint, receive personalised actions to reduce it, select and commit to specific actions, and create their plans for a more sustainable life. The PSL tool will be rolled out in 2023 in the 8 pilot countries of the project: Portugal, Finland, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Greece and Turkey.

Are you based in one of these countries and would you like to be involved in the development of the PSL tool? The last two lab meetings in each of these countries will take place in March 2023. At these meetings, you will have the opportunity to share barriers and opportunities to living more sustainably, and work together to develop recommendations for key system actors to make the good life within planetary boundaries a reality. Sign up and register here!

The PSLifestyle Living Labs are part of the EU funded project PSLifestyle – “Co-creating a positive and sustainable lifestyle tool with and for European citizens”.  The CSCP is responsible for coordinating the labs throughout the 8 countries, while running one in Wuppertal, Germany. There are 16 European partners in total delivering the project.

For further questions, please contact Arlind Xhelili.

The post PSLifestyle Living Labs Engage Europeans in 8 Pilot Countries Toward Sustainable Lifestyles appeared first on CSCP gGmbH.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

African Union-European Union cooperation on climate and energy: discussing perspectives on hydrogen and just transitions

GDI Briefing - 29. November 2022 - 13:16

Africa and the European Union (EU) have a shared interest in providing reliable and clean energy to their citizens, despite this being a rather heated moment of Africa-Europe relations in the area of climate and energy cooperation. Tensions concern the perceived protectionist slant of the European Green Deal, the EU’s “dash for gas” in Africa as part of its strategy to become more independent of Russian imports, and multilateral climate issues, such as at COP27 the balance between climate finance, loss and damage, and climate ambition. Hydrogen technologies have been prominent in discussions between the EU and African countries since the 2020 political push for hydrogen in Europe. In theory, cooperation on hydrogen may benefit both continents. Yet, techno-economic issues remain unsettled, and a framework for cooperation needs to be set up that includes both environmental and social criteria, economic benefits, as well as investments in industrialisation for producer regions. Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) have so far been targeted mainly at countries with rapidly growing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as South Africa and Indonesia. While this is a legitimate focus, it risks leaving out most African countries, in particular the least developed ones. JETPs in Africa could focus on access to clean energy and bring important innovations in terms of country ownership and donor coordination.

Kategorien: english

Numbers forced to flee passes 100 million; many displaced for decades: UNDP

UN #SDG News - 29. November 2022 - 13:00
Humanitarian aid alone cannot overcome record levels of internal displacement globally, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said in a report published on Tuesday, calling for urgent action to support people uprooted by climate, conflict and crisis. 
Kategorien: english

Ports, shipping need to go green to resist future global crises: UNCTAD

UN #SDG News - 29. November 2022 - 13:00
The entire shipping industry must invest urgently in sustainability if it is to withstand future shocks and help prevent another global cost-of-living crisis linked to supply chain disruption, UN trade and development experts UNCTAD said on Tuesday.
Kategorien: english

UN Forum tackles ‘digital poverty’ facing 2.7 billion people  

UN #SDG News - 29. November 2022 - 13:00
The annual UN forum on Internet governance is under way this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, aiming to deliver bold solutions for an open, free, inclusive and secure digital future for all, in particular for the 2.7 billion people with no Internet access. 
Kategorien: english

Protected: How to Easily Produce Video Testimonials — Part 1

SNRD Africa - 29. November 2022 - 12:27

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

The post Protected: How to Easily Produce Video Testimonials — Part 1 appeared first on SNRD Africa.

Kategorien: english


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