Stewart M. Patrick

The Internationalist

Patrick assesses the future of world order, state sovereignty, and multilateral cooperation.

Modern Life, Modern Ills: The NCD Summit

by Stewart M. Patrick Monday, September 26, 2011

A man smokes next to a "No Smoking" sign in downtown Shanghai April 27, 2011. (Carlos Barria/ Courtesy Reuters)

Beneath the UNGA din about Palestine last week, the United Nations also held its second-ever high level meeting on a health issue: noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Once considered to primarily plague developed countries, lifestyle illnesses like lung cancer, heart disease, and obesity now place a massive burden on poor and rich nations alike. Beyond the very poorest countries, NCDs now surpass infectious disease in contributing to morbidity and mortality. According to a new report by the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum, NCDs cost the African continent nearly $500 billion dollars a year—more than ten times the value of aid received from international donors.

Last week, IIGG updated the multimedia package, Global Governance Monitor: Public Health, to reflect the growing effort by international organizations and UN member states to cooperate in reducing the economic and societal burden of NCDs.  An interactive map tracks hotspots of health concerns, with tobacco and obesity earning attention alongside H1N1 and smallpox:

Read more »

Taking Conflict Prevention Seriously

by Stewart M. Patrick Friday, September 23, 2011

A member of the Spanish E.U. troops patrols in the capital Kinshasa November 7, 2006. International peacekeepers have bolstered their presence on the streets of the edgy Democratic Republic of Congo's capital to deter any violent challenge to results trickling in from a decisive presidential run-off. (David Lewis/ Courtesy Reuters)

Conflict prevention often seems like the weather. Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. Or so we believe.

In fact, over the past two decades the United Nations and a growing number of regional organizations have developed new capabilities to anticipate the outbreak of violence and stop it from bursting into conflagration. This growing attention to prevention is one of the most hopeful—and unsung—trends in world politics today.

As part of the opening of this year’s UN General Assembly, the Security Council met on Thursday in an extraordinary session  to take stock of the UN’s capacities for preventive diplomacy—that is, its tools for heading off imminent violence, from coups to interethnic attacks to mass atrocities. The question of course, is whether this session will amount to anything more than lip service.

To be sure, a healthy dose of skepticism is in order. World leaders are fond of shibboleths about the wisdom of acting early but action rarely matches rhetoric. Consumed by the tyranny of the inbox, working level bureaucrats are notoriously poor at alerting their superiors, and their political masters are then wary of assuming concrete burdens to head off violence that may never come to pass. The value of conflict prevention is also notoriously difficult to prove. Success seems banal—since “nothing happens”—and attributing a peaceful outcome to a specific intervention requires proving a counterfactual: that all hell would have broken loose. Therefore, political will to act decisively is scarce until the bodies stack up like cordwood. Read more »

As Ye Sow: Obama Harvests the Fruits of UN Engagement

by Stewart M. Patrick Wednesday, September 21, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York. (Eric Thayer/ Courtesy Reuters)

This piece was originally posted on here.

In his eloquent address to the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama outlined an optimistic vision for a world without war, though his treatment of important issues like Palestine fell short. For nearly seven decades, the UN has struggled with the overriding objective to pursue peace in an imperfect world.  Yet, President Obama argued that the world is closer than ever before to realizing that goal, thanks not to the balance of power but concrete steps to advance human dignity, security, and prosperity. Read more »

Trade Policy in the ICU

by Stewart M. Patrick Monday, September 19, 2011

A container ship operated by the China Ocean Shipping Company docked in the Port of Oakland in California. (Beck Diefenbach/ Courtesy Reuters)

After World War II, the United States spearheaded a historic era of global trade liberalization. Successive U.S. administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, rejected protectionism to forge multilateral agreement to improve market access for trade and investment. The results were impressive. By the end of the twentieth century, the world enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, poverty had declined dramatically, and international trade had dampened political tensions across the globe. Thanks to rising living standards, the U.S. public and Congress strongly supported globalization.

Those days, alas, are over. Read more »

The Unsung Success after 9/11: Multilateral Cooperation

by Stewart M. Patrick Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The landing page image of the Global Governance Monitor's Terrorism Component, located at

As the world reflects on the horrific attacks of 9/11, we have an opportunity to reassess the global community’s response to terrorism. CFR’s International Institutions and Global Governance program just released its latest interactive component on the global fight against terrorism, which traces the unprecedented global cooperation in the wake of the horrific 9/11 attacks. It also analyzes the complex and myriad transnational strategies to combat the threat, ranging from intelligence sharing to UN Security Council action against terrorist financing—and outlines remaining gaps in international prevention and response that continue to leave citizens exposed to terrorism. Read more »