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Wed. July 24, 2024
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IA-Forum Interview: Sir Richard Jolly
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International Affairs Forum: In your book UN Ideas That Changed the World, you exclude the media from the Third UN, despite their great impact on the promotion and lobbying of ideas. Why? Sir Richard Jolly: We excluded both the media and the private sector after a lot of debate. The private sector’s exclusion is easier to justify on the grounds that its primary concern is not with international relations, or with a more effective United Nations, but with profit making and the extension of their business. The media is a slightly different matter. At times it has extensively campaigned on a national basis, at others it has often been very important in relation to key issues of concern to the UN. For this particular reason, we have actually put on hold the decision of whether or not we should count the media as a Fourth United Nations and have yet to reach a decision. There have always been difficulties in drawing the boundaries around the Third UN and in deciding who should be included and who should not. For the moment it has been defined as NGOs, but also as experts and commission members, for example. We have defined it as those bodies that are committed to the values of the UN and committed to the purposes of the UN in particular areas. This is where the issue of where the media fits in comes in. The media is, on the one hand, as we would like to see it: neutral. On the other hand, it has campaigned both against and for the UN. So if it were to be included it would have a different rationale from the way we have defined those NGOs that are part of the third UN. IA-Forum: One of the main criticisms of the UN, as stated in William Easterly's book (The White Man’s Burden), is that the UN has failed to assign responsibility for meeting the goals that it has set. Would you consider the fact that we have not fully realized goals, such as primary education or provision of clean drinking water, to be a failure, or simply a work in progress? Sir Richard Jolly: Firstly, and with regards to William Easterly, I believe that some of his analysis has brought to light some good points, but that he has also gone over the top; especially in ‘White Man’s Burden’ and some of his most recent writings. When the UN first adopted the education goals in 1960, regionally, for Asia, Africa and Latin America, and within these countries, the UN made it clear that the countries were the ones who had the primary responsibility for the implementations of these goals. This was never in doubt. Secondly, the question arises about the goals supported by donors in developing countries. It is true that it took longer for the UN to come up with the goal of 0.7% of GDP, which was adopted at the end of the first development decade 1970-1. It has always been clear that donor countries have obligations to deliver in support of aid. It is also significant that only five countries, the Nordics, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, have met the 0.7% GDP goal. Yet, many of the others, with the exception of the United States, have said that they are committed to this goal in the long term. So, once again I am not sure how William Easterly can state that the UN has never said who is responsible: this seems to me to be a rather confusing and misleading attack on the UN. IA-Forum: You draw many parallels between American involvement in the genesis of the “second wave” of international institutions after World War II and the need for similar action now. With the recent financial crisis leading to a decline in worth of the dollar, increased American deficits, and greater cooperation and collective resolve among regional groups in Asia and Europe, can America still take on the forceful leadership role that you advocate? Sir Richard Jolly: We don’t believe that the United States alone must take on leadership. For the last 20 years, or since the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has been a super power without challenge. However, when looking ahead we believe that there is going to be a multi-polar world. We call on the USA and on China, and on other leading powers, to recognize this multi-polar world in which the United Nations must operate. We also call on them to use their own power and influence, either as super powers, China or India, or as important powers, such as Brazil, to make multi-polarity work within efficient global governance. Unfortunately, and for whatever reason, many countries with power currently don’t see the essential need for global governance to work. And, as we are seeing this very day, and as we will be seeing in the next months, the vital necessity to take action on climate change is postponed. This is a perfect example of the need for American and British power: but also an example of the need for strong leadership from other powers, those who have power to act or that have been adding to pollution. IA-Forum: World leaders at Rome Food Summit (November 2009), rallied around a new strategy to fight global hunger and help poor countries feed themselves, but failed to pledge funds sought by the U.N. ($44 billion a year for agriculture aid) In addition, instead of the proposed date of 2025 to eradicate world hunger (FAO recommendation), they have only reiterated the goal of halving it by 2015, originally outlined in the MDGs. Is this the result of a lack of power and influence of the UN over sovereign state action, or is it rather the reality of setting high and difficult goals? Sir Richard Jolly: I think it’s both of those, not one or the other. In fact, I’d say that, with respect to eradicating world hunger, there are three major groups involved. There are first countries themselves. Every country has to take a certain number of actions to encourage food production, or a balance of food imports and exports and so forth, and in particular to influence income opportunities for the poorest of their citizens to ensure that they meet their essential food needs. Ultimately, it has to be a national strategy. Secondly, there is obviously an international set of actions that must be taken. These have been long emphasized, by FAO and the World Food Summit in 1996. However, and as I remember, it was during the 1974 first World Food Conference that the American Henry Kissinger said that “no child should go to bed hungry within ten years”. So although there has been recognition of international support at times it has certainly been excessively weak. It should not be thought that international support comes just in the form of food aid. There needs to be a reorganization of the so-called ‘food system’ and that was perhaps clearer at the World Food Conference in 1974 than now. Subsequently there needs to be a buildup of food stock, greater actions to support food production in all parts of the world, and action in key food markets. Thirdly, I think we need a change of mindset globally and country by country. Children and adults in every country need to be built up and need to grow up with a greater sense of global community and global concern that no child should be starving or hungry. It is a scandal that we can still see on the television screens children so malnourished, because of draught, or sometimes floods, or war. The global system needs to move forward so that these things become unacceptable globally just as they are unacceptable in many poor and rich countries. It is not true, of course, that every country that is poor has done that. But in most developed countries you cannot have the visible signs of malnutrition without a strong public reaction. You can have hidden signs of malnutrition, but not visible ones. Some countries like India, particularly, have brought in wonderful schemes to cope with problems of famine or disaster and so forth. These are not perfect plans but, nonetheless, a start. So these efforts need to be carried forward globally and it could be that by 2025 these ideas will have grown: the steady encroachment of human values on a global basis. IA-Forum: The issue of human rights is the first of the nine ideas listed in the book and scores highest on the book’s balance sheet of the impact these nine ideas have had on global policy. Is this intentional or coincidental? Sir Richard Jolly: It was intentional partly because it was ‘Human Rights For All’ which was incorporated in the Charter and in the Universal Declaration. There is a chronological priority for human rights for all. The concept of human rights is also very fundamental to all thinking about international and national relationships and it is fundamental for setting the values for international cooperation. It is possible to imagine an international system that is entirely concerned with economic efficiency, or concerned with free trade, for example. But that is not the international system that was born in the UN. This was instead an international system built on human concern, human rights for all. Which is, let me stress, a marked difference from the principals, which now govern the Bretton Woods institutions, the WTO, and so forth. I believe that those institutions ought themselves to incorporate human rights concerns into their operations along with economic efficiency and along with democracy. IA-Forum: A recent report requested by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and drafted by Joseph Stiglitz attempts to find a middle ground for development indices based, not on GDP, but on a broader measure of both economic and personal development. Could this be a viable alternative to the GDP index? Sir Richard Jolly: I am very excited at the Sarkozy-Stigletz proposal. Obviously, as someone closely involved with human development, I think that it is very exciting when the political power of a country such as France and the economic wisdom and eminence of someone like Stigletz come together and say we need new indicators. Is this a feasible alternative to the GDP measure? Easily, because it’s not actually an alternative measure and I don’t think that many countries would want to completely abandon the GDP index. However, as a measurement of economic and social performance of human development, human indicators are much better measures of performance. As a measure of economic power or economic performance, to contribute to human development or human welfare, GDP has considerable importance, but even GDP is not sufficient. One needs a diversity of indicators, such as food production, efficiency of markets, sustainability, and etcetera. Therefore, it is neither or with indicators: it is a combination. But ultimately the question is: which ones of these indicators are the important ones by which you judge real performance? Personally I am of the opinion that real performance should be judged by how a people are being affected, and subsequently human development indicators, or Stigletz- Sarkozy indicators for welfare are an appropriate measuring stick. IA-Forum: UN environmental influence, particularly in terms of publicizing and framing the debate on climate change mitigation and prevention, is lauded in your book as one of the greatest successes of global governance in the last 50 years… Sir Richard Jolly: We did not state that action on the environment was one of the greatest success of the last fifty or sixty years. However, we did say that the impact of UN ideas, with regards to the environment, have been perhaps most noticeable and most changing. Fifty years ago, the way people, whether they were scientists or ordinary members of the public, thought about the environment, if they did at all, was in a very different and limited way. And in UN Ideas That Changed the World we trace this changing perception with regards to the environment. We trace how it went from a sovereign’s right to manage its national resources, just when colonialism was ending, to the combining of environment and development concerns in 1972. This then lead to ‘our common future’, the time of the Brundtland Report in 1987, which was set up by the UN, to the earth Summit in 1992 in Rio where concerns with biodiversity and deforestation were made conventions for action. And on to today when the issues of climate change and sustainability of the planet are now widely accepted as key issues, and widely dominating in newspapers and in all parts of the world. It is a dramatic change of perception and the UN must be enormously and widely praised for that. IA-Forum: At the same time, the UNEP is a facilitative body that rarely generates its own policy or programs. Institutionally, what challenges do you see for the UN's role in environmental governance, and what solutions do you favor most? Sir Richard Jolly: However, and as you ask, how much action is taking place, and is there need for institutional change to achieve that action? Yes, I believe that there is a need for institutional change. UNEP is in an environmental program, based in Nairobi, which is very much weaker and very much more limited in staff and resources than many of the other parts of the UN (such as FAO, UNESCO or even UNICEF). So yes, I believe that the UNEP should be turned into a major agency in its own rights, with greater financial ability and the capacity to stimulate national action, to monitor national action (which it does already somewhat) and finally to support national action. There is obviously a great need for increased action. At the moment a lot is done through GEF, the Global Environmental Fund, matched by the WB and UNDP. But the GEF is still small and lacking the general goals that could be framed by the UNEP if the latter was more emphasized. IA-Forum: Would a stronger World Trade Organization be an alternative? Sir Richard Jolly: To me the WTO should not be put in the lead in these matters, for it is concerned with trade and not with environmental protection or environmental sustainability. But, there is a need to make sure that WTO’s rules, regulations and approaches are consistent with what is need for planetary survival, economic sustainability and environmental protection. And at the moment because those concerns, let us call them ‘sustainability issues’, are not part of the terms of reference or framework in a broad sense with the WTO they are largely neglected. Sir Richard Jolly is Honorary Professor and Research Associate of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. As co-director of the UN Intellectual History Project, he is currently overseeing and working on a 14 volume history of the UN’s contributions to economic and social development since its beginning in 1945, of which five volumes have been completed and the first recognized as one of the outstanding academic books of 2002.

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