Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guerrilla diplomacy in an increasingly complex international system

To start off, my apologies for the low blogging activity lately, I am absolutely swamped with work and with academic requirements.

Nonetheless, I would like to turn your attention to Daryl Copeland, a most interesting diplomat/scholar. I encourage you to get a hold of his new book 'Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations', or read some reviews.

I attended one of his talks today at the University of Ottawa. He was quite engaging and offered some fresh insights into the state of the diplomatic discipline.

Well, he essentially echoed what many of us 'non-diplomats' already suspected - diplomacy is hurting, and its hurting real bad. As he puts it, "diplomacy does not have a very good reputation today" because not only is the practice seen by many as ineffectual in an increasingly militarized international policy setting, but diplomats themselves no longer understand what diplomacy really is.

In his opinion, the only hope for saving this ailing profession is to radically overhaul the current diplomatic business model and more creatively using the diplomatic resources at our disposal. The Guerrilla Diplomat is his answer. Read here to find out what he's talking about.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The end of GDP? Not quite but lets reconsider

Joseph Stiglitz has an interesting piece regarding the effectiveness of our current GDP-heavy economic measurement approach to public policy. But Stiglitz is not implying the 'end of GDP' as a crucial measure for public policy - at least I hope he's not. As he says after all:

'The fact that GDP may be a poor measure of well-being, or even of market activity, has, of course, long been recognized.'

And we still use the measure because it does reveal crucial data about the state, structure and direction of an economy (when measured correctly.)

What he is getting at is that over-reliance on GDP-based public policy will cause more problems as the fundamental structures of the global economy continue to change, and as the ramifications of economic growth are increasingly felt on the environment and other areas of our lives.

As he puts it:

'If we have poor measures, what we strive to do (say, increase GDP) may actually contribute to a worsening of living standards. We may also be confronted with false choices, seeing trade-offs between output and environmental protection that don’t exist. '

which causes conflict when,

'political leaders are told to maximize it, but citizens also demand that attention be paid to enhancing security, reducing air, water, and noise pollution, and so forth – all of which might lower GDP growth.'

Well these tensions are only going to become more pronounced as capital, labour, technology and ideas increasingly escape the control of state sovereignty in a globalizing world.

In this respect, improving our measurement approaches to public policy is a great start to be sure, but I feel that the number-one priority should be for states and stakeholders to come together through formal and informal mechanisms to 'talk' and craft shared visions for public policy issues on a more global level.

The debate is a very complex one to be sure. But to me, if public policy in the 'hyperconnected' 21st century is going to meet the global challenges that confront us, it seems almost imperative that global governance mechanisms would be the most logical and effective means to bring about real and sustainable advances in socio-economic wellbeing.

But i'll stop here since I feel I am now pushing the debate beyond what Mr. Stiglitz intended.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Putin's indirect advice to Obama

Prime Minister Putin, of Russia, isn't happy with the competitiveness of Russia's industrial sector. So he simply opts to 'tell' engineers and business-leaders to be more productive. The man certainly has a right to demand that government payouts are used wisely to spur efficiency, innovation and quality products.

Putin is pulling the name-and-shame trick out of his magician's hat.

But while Mr. Putin is at it, he could also just 'tell' Russians to start having more babies, considering Russia's declining demographics and the threat this poses for the country's economic prospects.

Maybe Obama should do the same thing and just 'tell' the American automakers to improve their competitiveness, and scold the healthcare sector into becoming more efficient and freeing-up money for his reform agenda.

See how simple things are on the other side of the world, why do American's have to make everything so complicated?