Stewart M. Patrick

The Internationalist

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

Obama’s UN Address: An Enlightened Man in an Unreasonable World

by Stewart M. Patrick Tuesday, September 20, 2016
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 20, 2016 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 20, 2016 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

President Barack Obama used his eighth and final address to the UN General Assembly to share his noble vision of a world order in which equality, liberty, and unity trump injustice, oppression, and division. Part sermon, part pep-talk, the speech exuded an unflinching faith in liberal ideals and a progressive optimism that humanity can surmount any economic, political, and ecological challenges it faces. All that is required, the president suggested, is that leaders and citizens listen to the better angels of their nature. The big-picture speech contained little guidance about how to resolve intractable problems, from mass migration to North Korea’s nukes. But it was an eloquent effort, delivered by a reasonable man living in unreasonable times. Its biggest flaw was in ignoring the practical difficulties and inherent trade-offs of applying such high-minded ideals to a fallen world. Read more »

Refugees Take UN Center Stage: But Is It All Sound and Fury?

by Stewart M. Patrick Friday, September 16, 2016
A rescue boat of the Spanish NGO Proactiva approaches an overcrowded wooden vessel with migrants from Eritrea, off the Libyan coast in Mediterranean Sea August 29, 2016 (Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters). A rescue boat of the Spanish NGO Proactiva approaches an overcrowded wooden vessel with migrants from Eritrea, off the Libyan coast in Mediterranean Sea August 29, 2016 (Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters).

The annual opening of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is a noisy affair and, like Churchill’s pudding, often lacks a coherent theme. This year is different. World leaders will convene two special sessions to address the flood of refugees and migrants from global conflict zones—and make promises to alleviate their suffering. Expectations for the first meeting, hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, are low. It will produce no more than a consensus declaration that is long on platitudes and short on action. The second, led by President Obama, is more promising. It should generate meaningful national pledges of aid. But to make a real dent, the assembled nations must get serious about ending chronic displacement, by focusing on cures rather than palliatives. And that, alas, is unlikely to happen. Read more »

America’s Stakes in the Oceans Go Well beyond the South China Sea

by Stewart M. Patrick Tuesday, September 13, 2016
U.S. President Barack Obama looks out at Turtle Beach on a visit to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on September 1, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama looks out at Turtle Beach on a visit to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on September 1, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

This week the Chinese and Russian navies launched eight days of war games in the South China Sea. For Beijing, it’s a chance to brush off the July ruling by an international tribunal dismissing the merit of its claim to jurisdiction over those waters. For Moscow, it’s an opportunity to flex Russia’s global muscles and tweak U.S. pretensions to be the arbiter of Asia-Pacific security. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is hosting a very different ocean reunion in Washington. On September 15-16, Secretary of State John Kerry will welcome representatives from some sixty countries, as well as hundreds more from business, science, and civil society to the third Our Ocean conference. According to the agenda, the conferees will focus on how to: protect oceans from global warming, expand marine protected areas, support sustainable fisheries, and stem oceanic pollution. Read more »

UN Peacekeeping: Challenges Loom Ahead of London Summit

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick Tuesday, September 6, 2016
UN peacekeepers stand guard during a visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to an internally displaced persons camp in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan  on May 6, 2014.  (Andreea Campeanu/Reuters) UN peacekeepers stand guard during a visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to an internally displaced persons camp in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan on May 6, 2014. (Andreea Campeanu/Reuters)

The following is a guest post by Megan Roberts, associate director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Later this week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and his counterparts from around the world will gather in London to assess the state of UN peace operations. The meeting is a follow-up on a summit hosted by President Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in 2015. At that event, nearly fifty world leaders committed to modernizing UN peacekeeping, pledging over 40,000 troops as well as critical enablers such as helicopters and hospital units to missions around the world. Coming on the heels of a seminal review of UN peacekeeping, the conference also generated a new optimism that after years of inaction, member states were finally prepared to close the gap between the expanding mandates of and the resources and capabilities devoted to peace operations. Read more »

The G20 Hangzhou Summit: Making Globalization Work

by Stewart M. Patrick Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Passengers ride a bus near the West Lake, before the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China on August 31, 2016. (Aly Song/Reuters) Passengers ride a bus near the West Lake, before the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China on August 31, 2016. (Aly Song/Reuters)

On September 4-5 President Barack Obama attends his final annual summit of the Group of 20 (G20) in Hangzhou, China. The event is a fitting bookend for his presidency. The very first G20 summit took place in Washington just days after Obama’s election, meaning that his administration and the G20 have grown up together. The location is also appropriate, symbolizing how rapidly the global economic landscape has shifted—and how the Sino-American relationship, however fraught, has emerged as the fulcrum for progress on the world’s most difficult problems. Read more »

Podcast: An Assessment of Former WHO Director-Generals and Previous Rounds of Director-General Elections

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick Tuesday, August 16, 2016
A delegate walks past portraits of former WHO Director-Generals Lee Jong-wook of South Korea (2003-2006), Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway (1998-2003) and Hiroshi Nakajima of Japan (1988-1998) (L-R) before the opening of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting on November 6, 2006. (Denis Balibouse /Reuters) A delegate walks past portraits of former WHO Director-Generals Lee Jong-wook of South Korea (2003-2006), Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway (1998-2003) and Hiroshi Nakajima of Japan (1988-1998) (L-R) before the opening of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting on November 6, 2006. (Denis Balibouse /Reuters)

The following is a guest post by my colleague Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Since 1948, seven individuals have served as the WHO director-general. Each was elected through a process that involved alliance formation and deal striking, and after election, each achieved varying degrees of success in terms of reforming the organization and fulfilling its mandate. If we agree that the DG’s leadership capabilities impact the performance of the WHO as an organization, and that what happened at an earlier point in time will affect the possible outcomes of a sequence of events occurring at a later point in time, it will be interesting to see what implications past experiences have for the upcoming DG election and the future of global health governance. Read more »

The International Energy Agency’s Hybrid Model

by Stewart M. Patrick Wednesday, August 10, 2016
International Energy Agency's Executive Director Fatih Birol looks on during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 at Le Bourget, France. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters) International Energy Agency's Executive Director Fatih Birol looks on during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 at Le Bourget, France. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

In an article just published by Foreign Affairs, Naomi Egel and I argue that the International Energy Agency’s approach to integrating rising powers holds lessons for the reform of other global institutions seeking to remain relevant.

International institutions are notoriously slow to adapt to change. Nowhere has this problem been more glaring than in the energy field. Since 2000, surging demand for energy in emerging economies and shifts in suppliers driven by a revolution in unconventional oil and gas extraction have transformed the global energy landscape. Yet the International Energy Agency (IEA), the most prominent energy-focused multilateral institution, has seemed stuck in the past, its membership restricted to states that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a rich man’s club of advanced market democracies. Read more »

An Ever Closer (African) Union

by Stewart M. Patrick and Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick Thursday, August 4, 2016
Women stand in front of some of the flags representing the 54 sovereign states that are members of the AU, at the end of the 25th African Union summit in Johannesburg, June 15, 2015.  (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters) Women stand in front of some of the flags representing the 54 sovereign states that are members of the AU, at the end of the 25th African Union summit in Johannesburg, June 15, 2015. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Coauthored with Drew D’Alelio, intern in the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The rise of populism has been widely interpreted as a global phenomenon, from Donald Trump’s surge in the United States to Brexit in Europe to the election of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. At last month’s African Union Summit in Rwanda, however, few gave integration a bad name. Heads of state lavished praise on the African Union’s (AU) efforts to develop a common passport, while subregional blocs made advances toward a single currency. Having seen the downside of decades of fragmentation and severe restrictions on the free movement of people and goods in Africa, leaders appear determined to buck the trend. Nevertheless, the anti-globalization wave across the West ought to give Africans pause as they speed ahead in their quest for a unified continent encompassing twice the population of the European Union. Read more »

Help Wanted: Staffing the Next Secretary-General’s United Nations

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Candidates vying to become the next United Nations secretary-general debate in the UN General Assembly in New York on July 12, 2016. From left to right are Natalia Gherman, Vuk Jeremic, Susana Malcorra, António Guterres, and Vesna Pusic. Candidates vying to become the next United Nations secretary-general debate in the UN General Assembly in New York on July 12, 2016. From left to right are Natalia Gherman, Vuk Jeremic, Susana Malcorra, António Guterres, and Vesna Pusic (Mike Segar/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by Megan Roberts, associate director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

This week the UN Security Council will conduct a second straw poll in the race to select the ninth secretary-general (SG) of the United Nations. António Guterres, who recently stepped down from a ten-year run as UN high commissioner for refugees, emerged as the surprise early frontrunner after the first poll. However, the Council’s final choice likely won’t be known until the fall, and those watching the race should expect many twists in between. More important than who is selected is whether the process paves the way for real reform in how the UN chooses its senior leaders. Read more »

Podcast: The Next Director-General of the World Health Organization

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick Thursday, July 14, 2016
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan leaves the podium after her speech at the sixty-ninth World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 23, 2016. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan leaves the podium after her speech at the sixty-ninth World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 23, 2016 (Denis Balibouse/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by my colleague Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The term of the current director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) ends around July 1, 2017. The leadership transition comes at a pivotal moment for global health and the WHO itself, given criticism over the agency’s handling of the West African Ebola epidemic, its years-long “reform” process, dwindling finances, and the growing threat of Zika virus. This election also marks a departure for the WHO: amid calls for a more democratic election process, the WHO executive board will narrow the field to three candidates, to be voted upon through secret ballots by the May 2017 World Health Assembly, the organization’s decision-making body consisting of all 194 member states. Read more »