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NATO ???

Yesterday in Brussels, NATO kicked off a yearlong process to draft a new strategic concept. The last strategic concept was adopted a decade ago at the Washington Summit marking the alliance’s 50th anniversary, when NATO was at war in what turned out to be a 78-day bombing campaign to stop Serbia and its autocratic leader Slobodan Milosevic’s ruthless campaign of slaughter in Kosovo labeled mildly as ethnic cleansing. But, in many ways, the challenges today are greater than at any time in NATO’s 60-year history.

For one thing, NATO’s success led to a complete dissolution of the enemy it was created to deter, contain and defeat when the Soviet Union imploded two decades ago. Yet, NATO still remains a military alliance directed against very diaphanous and different threats. Thus, NATO has been struggling for a raison d’etre that recognizes traditional defense does not fit the broader security challenges and dangers that are in evidence, all the while expanding from 19 to 28 member nations.

The centerpiece of the alliance rests in Article V of the Washington Treaty: an attack on one in Europe or North America constitutes an attack against all. In conducting its business, consensus, meaning unanimity in agreement, has been the modus operandi. However, the definition of threat is not universally shared as many NATO members are more comfortable with traditional and proximate notions of territorial defense than with the newer expeditionary missions that have taken the alliance to its first ground war ever in Afghanistan, and with new threats from cyberattack and protection of critical infrastructure to responding to huge disasters whether of man or nature. And make no mistake. The future credibility and cohesion of the alliance rests on how well or how badly Afghanistan turns out — in any event likely to prove a “close run thing.”

Beyond these profound changes in the security environment, NATO must come to grips with other tough issues. In virtually all member states, defense spending is declining in difficult economic times. NATO’s bureaucratic organization is sclerotic and needs major overhaul. And in dealing with this array of daunting issues, as outgoing Supreme Allied Commander Army Gen. John Craddock has outspokenly observed, “NATO’s political leadership is often AWOL.”

The Leninist question of “what is to be done?” now confronts the alliance in developing a new strategic concept. But not everything is negative. NATO has proven to be the most successful military alliance in history. It has the best armed forces in the world, many of whom have seen active combat in Afghanistan and some in Iraq. And France, under the leadership of President Nicolas Sarkozy, has rejoined the military command structure.

A new leadership is taking over in the key leadership positions. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen will become the new secretary-general later this fall. U.S. Adm. James Stavridis is the new Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the first time a navy admiral has held that position. And in September, French Air Force Gen. Stephane Abrial will assume the duties of Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk, Va., becoming the first non-American ever to hold that post.

Furthermore, NATO has just completed a major study on “Joint Futures” means to sketch out the range of threats facing the alliance from conventional to the more exotic, a very good first step in helping the alliance think through the nature of the dangers it is prepared to counter. Clearly, the shift from a defense-based to a broader security-based alliance is essential. However, given domestic politics in the 28 member states, while intellectually straightforward, if not done carefully, this transformation could be the political equivalent of leaping across the Grand Canyon in two single bounds.

In negotiating this transformation from defense to security as the basis for the alliance, history offers a tempting way forward. In the mid-1960s, the alliance was divided over conventional defense versus nuclear deterrence. With growing Soviet capabilities in both conventional and nuclear forces, the United States argued for stressing the former. The European allies, not wanting either a conventional war in their back yards or having to spend more on conventional forces, favored nuclear deterrence. The solution was “flexible response.”

Originally meant to defend across the entire conflict spectrum, the political brilliance of flexible response was that it allowed both sides of the Atlantic to emphasize their strategic preferences, relieving this political tension. What is needed is a new version of flexible response that enables member states to focus on the threats each view as most critical so the alliance is not forced into strategic platitudes or fundamental deadlock over the rationale underpinning the alliance. If this balance can be achieved, NATO could have at least another 60 years left. If not, we could end up reinventing an unsatisfactory replacement structure.

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June 9, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Myth of Africa’s Economic Miracle

Africa is doing better than ever economically, but many regular people remain desperately poor. Kofi Annan on how Africans are being excluded from their continent’s economic miracle—and how to end the crisis.

BS Top - Annan Africa Poverty

People wait outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees office to seek permission to move to a different camp on August 21, 2009 in Dadaab, Kenya

This is an important year for Africa. The World Cup is putting the continent at the center of global attention. With Africa’s strengths and frailties under greater international scrutiny than ever before, what will the story be?

After major difficulties in the wake of the global financial crisis, African economies are recovering and proving their resilience, in contrast to gloominess elsewhere in the world. The African Development Bank and IMF foresee GDP growth rates of around 5 percent by the end of the year.

Africa’s progress should be measured not just in GDP but by the benefits that economic growth brings to all of Africa’s people.

Trade is growing too, both within Africa and with partners, including the global South. Africa-China trade has multiplied more than tenfold in the last decade. Barely a week goes by without reports of the discovery of more oil, gas, precious minerals, and other resources on the continent.

Climate change is drawing attention to the vast potential of its renewable energy supplies, including hydro, thermal, wind, and solar power. Business activity is increasing.

In short, Africa’s stock is rising, as highlighted by the Africa Progress Report 2010 released today, Africa Day. But the report also asks some difficult questions.

Given our continent’s wealth, why are so many people still trapped in poverty?

Why is progress on the Millennium Development Goals so slow and uneven? Why are so many women marginalized and disenfranchised? Why is inequality increasing? And why so much violence and insecurity?

The good news is that access to basic services such as energy, clean water, healthcare, and education has improved in many parts of the continent. But these basics are still denied to hundreds of millions of women, men, and children. Why?

In trying to provide the answers to these difficult questions, one must be wary of generalizations. Africa is not homogenous; it is raucously diverse. But its nations are linked by common challenges hampering human development and equitable growth: weak governance and insufficient investment in public goods and services, including infrastructure, affordable energy, health, education, and agricultural productivity.

Over the last decade, we have learned a great deal about what is needed. Ingredients include determined political leadership to set and drive plans for equitable growth and poverty reduction. Technical, management, and institutional capacity are vital if policies are to be implemented. Good governance, the rule of law, and systems of accountability are essential to ensure that resources are subject to public scrutiny and used effectively and efficiently.

So what is holding back progress? Lack of knowledge and a shortage of plans are not the problem. Good, even visionary agendas have been formulated by African leaders and policy makers in every field, from regional integration to women’s empowerment. Moreover, we have myriad examples of programs and projects that are making a tangible positive difference in peoples’ lives, across every field.

Given the continent’s vast natural and human resources and the ongoing, often illicit, outflow of wealth, lack of funds is not the barrier either, even though more are needed.

It is political will that is the issue, both internationally and in Africa itself.

Internationally, there are concerns that the consensus around development has been eroded by the financial crisis. Many rich countries are keeping their promises on development assistance, but others are falling badly behind. These shortfalls do not result from any decrease in human solidarity and sympathy. Nor, given the relatively modest sums involved, can they be blamed on budgetary constraints alone.

They stem more from the failure to communicate the importance of putting the needs of the least-developed countries at the heart of global policies.

Efforts must be stepped up to explain why fairer trade policies and stemming corruption are not just ethical or altruistic, but practical and in the self-interest of richer countries.

Africa’s leaders have prime responsibility for driving equitable growth and for making the investment needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. They can help by making the case more strongly for development policies and necessary resources.

The continent now has leaders who stand out as champions of development. We need more of them. Sadly, though, their efforts are overshadowed in the international media by the authoritarian and self-enriching behaviour of other leaders. Africa’s progress should be measured not just in GDP but by the benefits that economic growth brings to all of Africa’s people.

Africa is a new economic frontier. The approach and actions of the private sector, and of Africa’s traditional and new international partners, are crucial in helping overcome the continent’s challenges. There is a real opportunity to strengthen the new partnerships to help achieve development goals, with countries such as China and those in the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America

African leaders need to have more confidence in their bargaining position, and greater legal and negotiating capacities to ensure that they secure deals that bring benefits to their people. Their partners, including those in the private sector and from the global South, should be held to high standards of transparency and integrity.

Political leadership, practical capacities and strong accountability will be the winning elements for Africa. The international community can play a decisive role in ensuring that the continent is playing on a level field. But Africa’s destiny is, first and foremost, in its own hands.

by Kofi Annan

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Africa | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Courier Delivery Services For International Shipping

First there were the pigeons, followed by the runners and then came the postman and now we have the courier delivery. All of them are different forms of transportation of documents as also articles from one place to another, from one person to another. While the pigeons and the runners were restricted to delivery within short distances, this was broken with the postal system and the courier which resorts to International Shipping for delivery of documents and articles.

Trade and business flourished with times, necessitating means for movement of business documents and articles across countries. Technology too advanced with time and this led to better means of transportation, not only of human beings but also of allied services like that of the postal related services. The postal service served the purpose of transporting documents and articles across nations using modern methods of shipping like the airway and the shipping lines. However, there were a few intrinsic drawbacks noticed in this system.

While postal departments were good enough for sending and receiving documents and items in one’s own country, when it came to cross border cases they faced the problem of differing rules and regulations. No two nations ever follow the same or uniform set of rules and regulations and the same is applicable to the government postal services.

A document or article reaching a destination port of another country faced procedural problems on clearance of the document or article. While a simple envelope with applicable stamp affixed may pass easily on to its correct recipient, the same may not hold true when the package contains articles. For business class, especially, such sorts of packages are common place.

Not only is it difficult for the individual parties, both sender and recipient, to settle out these procedural issues for clearing the package, on many an occasion there have been complete loss of the package all together. Not only delay in time but also financial loss was, therefore, accrued by individuals of both parties.

This gave rise to private entrepreneurs entering into this line of business. Courier delivery services, as they are called, sprouted up across nations filling in this gap which existed in the postal services.

Speed, accountability and ability to be tracked were the primary agenda of each courier delivery service providers. Along with that they added security of the package by adding an optional insurance factor of the articles contained within the package.

Being private operators these courier companies set up branches that are linked to each other across the sea and nations. International Shipping of documents and packages took a new turn with their entry into this business. The main office situated in one country had overall control of operations of its branches established in other countries.

Linking of packages sent by one of its branch in a particular country was easy to trace and clear by the agents of the same courier company in the destination country. The trend slowly changed to door to door collection and delivery. The courier company sends agents to the prospective client’s doorstep to collect the package and then ensures delivery at the doorstep of the intended recipient as indicated by the sender.

Courier companies can be seen to perform International Shipping of packages as a service of premium value. Their charges are, therefore accordingly, higher than normal postal delivery charges. For the advantages that are accrued from resorting to courier service for International Shipment of packages, this higher charge can be considered worth commensurate.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Business | , , , , , , | Leave a comment