Stewart M. Patrick

The Internationalist

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

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Showing posts for "Sustainable Development"

Assessing Rio: Silver Linings to Cloudy Forecast

by Stewart M. Patrick
New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg (L) speaks as Rio de Janeiro's Mayor Eduardo Paes (C) and Eduardo Macri of Buenos Aires look on during the Rio+C40 Megacity Mayors Taking Action on Climate Change event in Rio de Janeiro June 19, 2012 (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters). New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg (L) speaks as Rio de Janeiro's Mayor Eduardo Paes (C) and Eduardo Macri of Buenos Aires look on during the Rio+C40 Megacity Mayors Taking Action on Climate Change event in Rio de Janeiro June 19, 2012 (Sergio Moraes/Courtesy Reuters).

Ultimately, the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, seemed to fly by with a flurry of coverage but no clear conclusions. Many observers dismissed the final communiqué as “283 paragraphs of fluff” while others found reason for optimism.  What is, however, undeniable is that the world is in no mood for ambitious new multilateral conventions on the global environment. Read more »

How Transnational Crime Hinders Development—and What to Do About It

by Stewart M. Patrick
A worker carries charcoal through a slashed and burned area in eastern Sierra Leone, April 20, 2012. Logging is illegal in Sierra Leone, but remains the leading cause of environmental degradation, according to the European Union. Population pressure, common slash and burn methods and illegal logging mean the country's bountiful forests could disappear by 2018, according to the Forestry Ministry (Finbarr O'Reilly/Courtesy Reuters). A worker carries charcoal through a slashed and burned area in eastern Sierra Leone, April 20, 2012. Logging is illegal in Sierra Leone, but remains the leading cause of environmental degradation, according to the European Union. Population pressure, common slash and burn methods and illegal logging mean the country's bountiful forests could disappear by 2018, according to the Forestry Ministry (Finbarr O'Reilly/Courtesy Reuters).

Today, the Internationalist is writing from the floor of the United Nations in New York, where Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov, among others, have gathered for the hundredth anniversary of the landmark 1912 Opium Convention and the 2012 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. To mark the occasion and attempt to progress in the world’s fight against transnational crime, today’s thematic debate focuses on drugs and crime as a threat to development. Below is a summary of my prepared remarks to the panel. Read more »

Governing and Protecting the World’s Oceans: Still At Sea in Rio

by Stewart M. Patrick
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reacts as he talks to journalists during a news conference after the opening of the Rio+20 United Nations sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro June 20, 2012 (Nacho Doce/Courtesy Reuters). UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reacts as he talks to journalists during a news conference after the opening of the Rio+20 United Nations sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro June 20, 2012 (Nacho Doce/Courtesy Reuters).

As the UN Conference on Sustainable Development—more popularly known by its moniker, “Rio+20”—wraps up today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, initial reports from the summit are bleak. The final outcome document, painstakingly hashed out in down-to-the-wire negotiations, contains few concrete and time-specific commitments. The World Wildlife Federation dubbed the text a “colossal failure,” a sentiment echoed by the European Union, which lamented the document’s “lack of ambition.” Read more »

Not a Drop to Drink: The Global Water Crisis

by Stewart M. Patrick
Geovani Santos collects water from a weir which has nearly dried up as a consequence of the drought in Maracas at Bahia state, northeast Brazil May 4, 2012. (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters) Geovani Santos collects water from a weir which has nearly dried up as a consequence of the drought in Maracas at Bahia state, northeast Brazil May 4, 2012. (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters)

The recent UN alert that drought in the Sahel threatens 15 million lives is a harbinger of things to come.

In the next twenty years, global demand for fresh water will vastly outstrip reliable supply in many parts of the world. Thanks to population growth and agricultural intensification, humanity is drawing more heavily than ever on shared river basins and underground aquifers. Meanwhile, global warming is projected to exacerbate shortages in already water-stressed regions, even as it accelerates the rapid melting of glaciers and snow cover upon which a billion people depend for their ultimate source of water. Read more »

Don’t Worry Be Happy: The UN Happiness Summit

by Stewart M. Patrick
Women, their teeth red from chewing betel nuts, laugh at a vegetable market in Bhutanese capital Thimpu, October 23, 2006 (Gopal Chitrakar/Courtesy Reuters). Women, their teeth red from chewing betel nuts, laugh at a vegetable market in Bhutanese capital Thimpu, October 23, 2006 (Gopal Chitrakar/Courtesy Reuters).

At first glance, this Monday’s high-level event in the UN General Assembly would appear to confirm the worst suspicions of UN skeptics. Given all the crises engulfing the globe, what geniuses in New York decided to have the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan host a daylong special session on “Happiness.” What the heck is going on in Turtle Bay? Read more »

Rio Plus 20: What Prospects for the Next UN Mega-Conference?

by Stewart M. Patrick
A boat is seen near Copacabana Beach at sunrise in Rio de Janeiro March 14, 2012. (Sergio Moraes /Courtesy Reuters) A boat is seen near Copacabana Beach at sunrise in Rio de Janeiro March 14, 2012. (Sergio Moraes /Courtesy Reuters)

On June 20-21, the world will descend on Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Twenty years after the last Earth Summit in Rio—heralded as an epochal event—expectations are underwhelming. No major treaties are on the table, unlike in 1992, when the event produced major conventions on climate change, biodiversity, and desertification. The world seems exhausted by UN mega-meetings, so full of sound and fury but delivering little. And at a time of continued economic difficulties, governments around the world are looking inward, despite looming environmental crises. The United States, which tried to steer the Brazilians away from a leaders-level summit, has not even decided who will head its delegation. Read more »

Eating Our Seed Corn: Warnings from the Global Sustainability Report

by Stewart M. Patrick
An illegal logger cuts down a tree to be turned into planks for construction in a forest south of Sampit, in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province November 14, 2010.  Indonesia has one of the planet's fastest rates of deforestation (Yusuf Ahmad/Courtesy Reuters). An illegal logger cuts down a tree to be turned into planks for construction in a forest south of Sampit, in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province November 14, 2010. Indonesia has one of the planet's fastest rates of deforestation (Yusuf Ahmad/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week, as the world’s media focused on the deepening crisis over Syria, it missed a less pressing story with profound long-term implications. The High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, released a sobering assessment for the world’s seven billion inhabitants. The document—Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing­­—offers humanity a stark choice: modify our patterns of production and consumption, or risk crashing through the “planetary boundaries” of growth and social progress. Read more »