There is a pressing need to clarify, institutionalize and increase the efficiency of the work of the UN climate negotiations. This task starts with a systematic search for possible solutions and the political will to begin a long battle to push them through. At the next stage of maturity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change should streamline its work programme, cut sessions, eliminate overlaps, and delete agenda items. These kinds of reforms will be politically fraught, and in practice need to be accomplished together with a package of substantive decisions.
Specialized bodies are a promising, yet untested, way to increase efficiency. Specialized bodies hold the promise of turning professional diplomats into professional problem-solvers. This addresses the over-politicization of technical work and calls for a limited mandate, a specific timeframe, a certain amount of dollars, and the need to produce results for the next meeting. It is not politically feasible to address the lack of majority voting in the decision-making of the Conference of the Parties.
Enhancing consensus-building via the leadership of the presidency and tested methods of diplomacy is possible to achieve and can bring remarkable benefits. A vote of confidence in procedural matters, electoral voting, and informal soundings could be introduced, if necessary, by strong and able presidencies.
A skilled president ensures efficiency. The most important skills of the presidency are deal brokering, where a clear vision of what is possible is needed, and gavelling, in other words signalling when the consensus has been reached. The presidency should also engage in “lowering the stakes”, by clearly communicating and repeating what is and what is not going to happen in the meeting at hand. A skilled presidency that continues the best practices in strategic oversight, as well as the timely and institutionalized use of ministers, are the keys to efficient consensus-building. An open yet strategic consultation process and assuming a neutral role can help the presidency to build sufficient understanding and political capital to overcome obstacles within the negotiations.
Kristi Raik, Niklas Helwig & Juha Jokela: “EU Sanctions Against Russia: Europe brings a hard edge to its economic power”
The EU has responded to the Ukraine crisis with a set of political and economic sanctions against Russia which constitute a qualitatively new step in the EU sanctions policy.
The EU sanctions against Russia are exceptional and have strategic importance due to a combination of three factors: big power rivalry, the context of a major European crisis with global ramifications, and the costs of the sanctions for the EU itself. The EU has managed to maintain its fragile unity and has applied its collective diplomatic and economic weight in very difficult circumstances.
The sanctions have not provided an alternative to diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis – on the contrary, hardening sanctions have been used as a way to put pressure on Russia to seriously engage in diplomacy.
The impact of the sanctions on daily developments in Ukraine has been limited and uncertain, but the sanctions have imposed a long-term cost on Russia for violating key international norms.
The policy process of Russia sanctions has exposed problems of leadership and coordination. The latest reform of the EU foreign policy machinery has streamlined the preparation of sanctions, but the current system still lacks the necessary resources to match the growing importance of the EU sanctions policy.
Elina Sinkkonen: “China’s Public Opinion Management: Tightening the Grip in the Digital Age”
The number of netizens in China is growing year on year and the increase in the use of mobile technologies to access the internet is the most notable trend of late. Around half of the Chinese population are now internet users.
The Chinese leadership has tightened internet control since August 2013. In February 2014, China established Central Internet Security and Information Leading Group, headed by President Xi Jinping, to monitor Chinese cyberspace. Defamatory social media posts were criminalized, and the first sentence was imposed in April 2014.
Despite stricter internet control, criticism of the state and politicians has often been tolerated in social media, whereas any content that promotes offline collective action is systematically censored. However, the idea that the development of the internet in China would lead to significant political change seems unwarranted in the current circumstances.
Poll data released on September 9 show that almost 90 per cent of the Chinese respondents harbour negative views about Japan. Internet forums and increasing commercialization of the traditional media are contributing to this public opinion trend, which complicates the handling of China’s turbulent relations with Japan.
Harri Mikkola & Juha Käpylä: “Russian Arctic sanctioned: Western measures against oil projects do not signify the geoeconomic importance of the region”
The West has imposed sanctions on Russian Arctic oil projects. The sanctions are a reminder to Russia that it will need international cooperation in order to fulfil its own economic ambitions. However, the fact that the sanctions have hit the Arctic projects does not necessarily imply that the region is geoeconomically important, or that it ever will be.