Friday, 24 February 2017

WORLD: Understanding ''Globalization''

Movements of people, goods, and capital may be substitutes for each other. The first backlash to emerge clearly in the earlier wave of globalization was directed against population mobility, with the major recipients of nineteenth century migration flows adopting increasingly restrictive policies. 

But the major legislation controlling migration in the United States came only in and after the First World War, as did analogous measures in Canada and Australia. With population flows restricted, the countries of outward migration suffered from increased labor market pressure, pushing wages down. 

For them, one alternative strategy to adjustment through migration flows would have been higher rates of economic growth as a result of increased trade, with the trade link acting as a substitute for movements of people. Mediterranean and eastern Europe, for instance, might have exported more products to the richer industrial countries, and thus have employed the workers who were no longer allowed to migrate. 

Such development required both trade openness on the part of the recipient countries, and capital flows to make up for savings deficits in the emerging markets of the time. But with increased popular and political sensitivity to trade in the richer countries, and a rush to trade protection, this avenue to growth closed down. The capital markets responded to the new dynamic. 

As the repayment of the credits that had flowed into the emerging markets in the mid-1920s became problematical, capital markets froze. In the last stage of reaction against globalization, a wave of contagious financial crisis swept the world in the early 1930s. In the aftermath of these financial catastrophes, a fully developed doctrine of anti-globalization swept the world. There was a backlash against every form of international mobility.
The threat of a radical deglobalization appears much greater now than it did thirteen years ago. After 2008, a new consensus emerged – analogous to that which developed in response to the 1930s Great Depression – that there was too much capital moving in the world with consequences that were too destabilizing. 

Finance capital was now not a stabilizer but a metastasizing cancer at the core of capitalism. Two alternative tracks for dealing with the problem: one lies in limiting the global risks built up in the financial sector. But that is a complex issue, and pressure to increase the safety of the banking system by increasing capital ratios in the short run risks contracting bank lending and forcing the world into deflationary adjustment. 

In addition, pressure on big financial institutions to reduce risk and increase capitalization is also often linked with pressure on banks to provide more facilities to their home economies. As a result, the Great Recession after 2008 has produced a resurgence of the debate about the future of finance capital and initiatives tending toward the renationalization of banking.
But the broader worries about globalization were already well developed before the outbreak of the financial crisis. Economists revised their initially rosy assessments of the impact of globalization on labor markets in industrial countries. 

In the 1990s, most studies painted a relatively benign picture, but over the past five years much higher estimates of the job losses from trade have emerged. Many of the former advocates of globalization in the business and political world of the advanced industrial countries were deeply worried well before 2007, because in their countries globalization seemed to be responsible both for job losses and pay reductions, as well as for apparently illegitimate rewards for the owners of scarce resources, in particular superstars with a reputation, such as sports or entertainment stars, and CEOs who market themselves like superstars.
Until recently, the most dramatic effects of globalization were seen in the market for unskilled labor, and consequently most policy thinkers simply saw better training as an answer. But now, it has also become clear that skilled service jobs (most conspicuously in computer software but also in medical and legal analysis) can also be “outsourced”. 

Consequently, the gigantic western middle class – the great winner of the twentieth century – is now extremely alarmed by the prospect that it might be overtaken by an even larger (and harder working) middle class in emerging market countries. The result is not only a political backlash, but also an intense populist concern in the rich industrial countries with corporate governance, corporate abuses, and the excesses of executive pay: in short with a new inequality that seems to follow from globalization.

The causes of the relatively recent rise in inequalities in almost every industrial society despite tax systems that aim at redistribution are complex: but they include inadequate innovation (which as Thomas Piketty points out tends to privilege inherited wealth positions) as well as policies which accidentally or inadvertently increase inequality (as both monetary and fiscal policies followed after the Great Recession have done: cheap money in particular has led to asset and property booms which favor the very rich). 

An important driver of the new inequality is also the disintegration of traditional families and the erosion of marriage in poorer households, giving rise to a cycle of underachievement and deprivation. That social disintegration is harder to deal with through conventional policy mechanisms. Inequality, surprisingly, has not been well addressed by attempts to counteract it through fiscal policy.
Globalization is now on the run. The new backlash naturally terrifies business leaders, who want to devise some appropriate response that will not hurt them too much. Events such as the World Economic Forum, formerly parodied as the fiesta of pro-globalization fanatics, are now packed with presentations by globalization critics and choruses about corporate social responsibility. Even before the most severe phase of the financial crisis, at the opening of the 2008 WEF, its founder and guru Klaus Schwab, began by saying that it was now time “to pay for our sins.” 

It is hard to find defenders of classical rule-bound liberalism at events such as Davos: the readiness with which global captains of business embrace their opponents reminds me rather of the way in which the Florentine ruling and banking house of Medici sponsored the most vociferous and radical critic of commercial culture, the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola. 

Offering simplistic generalizations to any socio-economic phenomenon is, to put it mildly, problematic, but none are more questionable than those that relate to globalization. Globalization is not a single process. There is globalization for virtually everything, including the economy, politics, culture, religion, science, health and medicine, education, and sports. Further, there are profound differences within and between them in how, and the degree to which, they globalize.
In spite of globalization’s wide range, most academic and popular attention is focused on the economic component. However, even this defies generalization since it, in itself, is highly diverse. One example of a simplistic, even erroneous, generalization is Thomas Friedman’s contention that the world is both growing flatter and rising economically. Clearly, great barriers continue to make the world “hilly”, if not “mountainous”, and billions are falling further behind economically.
How do we account for the near-universal tendency to equate economic globalization with globalization as a whole or, less extremely, to privilege the economy in discussions of globalization? Obviously, the economy is of enormous importance both macroscopically (e.g., for countries) and microscopically (e.g., to individuals virtually everywhere). 

In addition, it is implicated, at least to some degree, in all other aspects of globalization. But it is far from being alone in having great significance and in having wide-ranging implications. Among the many other aspects of globalization that have these characteristics are borderless diseases (think of the next viral pandemic), climate change, immigration, the brain drain, the internet (especially social networking), as well as the spread of political and religious ideologies, illegal goods (especially drugs) and terrorism.
However, those who analyze the economy, especially the economists, are hegemonic in the social sciences. They are also deeply involved in the political world, especially in the U.S., as, for example, Chair of the Federal Reserve. Their thoughts and ideas are also of great interest to the media and economists are often featured in newspaper articles and as “talking heads” on television.  

Ultimately, it is the capitalist economy, and its impact on all aspects of globalization and of the social world, that gives the economists their great visibility and influence. Given this reality, it is not surprising that most discussions of, and thoughts about, globalization focus on its economic aspects.
However, it is wrong-headed to reduce globalization to economics, to focus so much attention on economic globalization and, of course, to over-generalize it. No generalization about globalization is more troublesome than the idea that it, especially economic globalization, is somehow ending (a similar argument was made, erroneously, in the wake of the autarchy associated with WW 1). 

One often hears this today in discussions, especially in the U.S. and Europe, of the efforts to better control, even resurrect, national borders in order to stem the flow of various unwanted products and immigrants. Muslim extremists are currently seeking to create a new caliphate that would presumably put in place barriers to the entry of all sorts of heretical ideas, to say nothing of the heretics who bear them (but not to the oil they- largely Sunnis- want and need to export including, at the moment, even to the hated Alawites [Shiites] in Syria). 

However, even if these barriers are put in place, we will continue to see the global flow of extremist ideas, of extremists themselves, and of oil (and the huge profits associated with it) into and out of the new caliphate. Also likely to flow freely are arms and other material support for the opponents of this development. All of this points to the continuing reality and importance of globalization even in the face of efforts to create new obstacles to it.
However, that is not to say, as Thomas Friedman has argued (again erroneously), that globalization is inexorable. There are developments such as a nuclear winter or a pandemic worse than the Spanish flu that could slow or alter the nature of globalization, although it is worth noting that both of those developments would, themselves, be global in scope.
Contemporary globalization is defined by the great liquidity of its many elements (money, social networks, people) as well as the barriers (tariffs; national borders; China’s “Great Firewall”; visas; terrorist watch-lists) that are often erected to stem the flows that at least some see as undesirable. The idea of barriers would seem to suggest that globalization could be ended if only there were enough of them and that they were made impermeable. 

However, there are never enough barriers and those that exist have proven to be porous (e.g., firewalls on computers housing government secrets or valuable corporate information). Therefore, it is best to think of globalization as involving a continuing dialectic between global flows and the barriers erected to impede them. 

Flows of, for example, capital, immigrants, ideas, and pollution will tend to continue, even accelerate, until they reach a point where they engender strong enough opposition to begin to erect barriers to them. These efforts might be successful for a time, but it is likely that whatever barriers are created will eventually be swamped by global flows and/or dismantled by those with vested interests opposed to the barriers.
Because of the dialectic between global flows and barriers, globalization varies in terms of a number of dimensions. Globalization can vary in its extensiveness; its elements need not cover the entire globe (indeed nothing does) to be considered an aspect of globalization. McDonald’s is a global phenomenon even though its restaurants are now found in “only” about half the world. Some areas of the world will escape the ravages of climate change and perhaps even benefit from it. 

Intensiveness of globalization can vary everywhere from the currently “hot” spread of radical Islam to the “cool” movement of a global fashion change. In terms of velocity, some global changes occur seemingly overnight (the flow of radical new ideas and social movements) while others (the movement toward greater global economic equality) are glacial. 

Finally, there is the variation in the impact of global processes from high (the 9/11 attacks) to low (the latest fad in emoticons on the internet).
Nothing is inevitable in the socio-economic world, and that is true for both globalization and the barriers erected to stem its many different flows. Both globalization and those barriers are social constructions, and they are constantly open to change, reconstruction, or deconstruction. 

It is safe to say that the future will bring with it a continuation of this dialectic, although the way it plays out will vary greatly from one locale to another and over time. That’s not much of a generalization, but it’s the best we can do in the case of globalization.

By Jennifer Birich
Political Commentator


Thursday, 23 February 2017

SOMALIA: The New President's Challenges

The inauguration of a new president in Somalia  has given rise to greater optimism about the country's prospects than at any other time in the past two decades. Somalia's new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed inaugural ceremony took place yesterday in the highly secured airport, in the presence of several regional leaders.

The election of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a former prime minister (2010-2011), sparked elation in a country desperate for an end to decades of conflict and anarchy. But he warned the country that there would be no quick fixes.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's biggest challenge, would be reconciling Somali different clans, improving law and order, justice system, and rebuilding the army, capable of replacing the African Union, AMISOM peacekeeping force, which plans to withdraw in 2018.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre's military regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fuelled by clan conflicts. The terrorist group ''Shabab'' was forced out the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but the jihadists still control parts of the countryside and carry out attacks against government, military and civilian targets in Mogadishu.

Somalia is never free from violent attacks. The country has been devastated by more than two decades of civil war and foreign interventions. One million people have been internally displaced and more than a million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

According to UN report, more than 300,000 people died in the famine of 2011-12, half of them children under five. This was even more than the number that perished in the famine of 1992. More than 6 million are in need of life-saving assistance. While the region suffered one of the worst droughts in over 50 years in the whole of Africa, Oxfam attributed the deaths to “catastrophic political failure.”

Britain, as the former colonial power in Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and breakaway Somaliland, has played a major role in Somalia due to its desire to secure its share of the region’s natural resources. London has been pushing Somalia to accept autonomy for about half a dozen of Somalia’s fiefdoms, each with different regional backing. This would be in addition to the breakaway states of Somaliland and Puntland that are not internationally recognized, and would cantonize the country.

The US has recognised the new government. The IMF is expected to follow suit but since Somalia owes the Fund more than $352 million this will not bring new funding. The UN is also expected to lift its arms embargo, its oldest international arms blockade, sanctioning the supply of small arms to the new government. Britain has just reopened its embassy in Mogadishu, the first EU country to do so.

The turn by the major and regional powers to Somalia is made in an effort to counter the influence of their rivals, most notably China. Somalia has a more than 1,000-mile long coastline opposite Yemen on the Bab al-Mandab Strait, through which 23,000 ships transit every year carrying nearly $1 trillion worth of trade, most crucially oil, to and from Europe.

In addition to its own potential oil resources, Somalia’s strategic position places it at the heart of a projected pipeline network to bring oil from South Sudan to the soon-to-be expanded Kenyan port of Lamu, south of the border with Somalia. Another pipeline would link it to an oil refinery in Kampala, Uganda, which has recently started producing oil. A further pipeline will link the Kenyan capital Nairobi with Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, providing Ethiopia with another export route for oil from the Ogaden region bordering Somalia.

For the foreseeable future, the state will be wholly dependent on military support and intervention provided by external parties- for some whom the paramount concern is their own national security interest. While this should not preclude ambition, and may hope that Somalia can assume responsibility for maintaining internal peace sooner than is commonly envisaged; It also a reminder of prevailing realities.

Immensely patient, even-handed negotiation and a consensual approach will be required if a new Somali State is to emerge and meld. Tactless diplomacy and interventions by foreign governments and UN agencies, of which there have been a number, need to be kept to minimum. The new Mogadishu government is in no position to consolidate power; It will be facing a battle for survival.

The new president has little concrete to say about how it was going to alleviate the dreadful poverty and social problems the country faces. Any progress in improving the lot of an embattled populace, it is self-evidently welcome and encouraging, but believing in ''quick fix'' would be a wishful thinking.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
African Affairs Expert

Photo Credit: AFP photo of Somali President: Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

HOLLAND: Geert Wilders' Surge

Netherlands' general election, on March 15, is widely seen as a test of whether the anti-elite sentiment that underpinned Brexit and Donald Trump's victory will now dislodge centrist parties in continental Europe. 

Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Islam politician launched his campaign to lead Netherlands, last week. His party for Freedom has slim lead in the polls, just ahead of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal Party. Geert Wilders has been campaigning on anti-immigration platform for more than a decade but his support has surged in the wake of the refugees crisis. 

Gert Wilders plans to close all mosques, shut down the asylum system and ban headscarves at public functions have proved popular white working class. He also called for a referendum on the Netherlands membership in the European Union after Britain voted to leave the 28 member bloc.

There is little realistic prospect that Mr Wilders will become prime minister. Although polls put his party in the lead, it is only expected to win up to 27 seats in the parliament, far short of the 76 seats needed to form a government. Others parties have emphatically refused to form a coalition with Mr Wilders, raising the prospect that the leader of the largest party in parliament could be prevented from running the country for the first time since 1977. 

Immigration has long been a political issue in Netherlands. Far-Right politicians have exploited concerns about the families of ''guest workers'' from Turkey and Morocco who settled in the country from the 1960s. And, political engagement has tempered racism and anti-migration sentiments. But it has done so at a cost.

In 2006, at the height of European “Islamophobia”, rhetoric and the aftershock of Theo van Gogh’s assassination by a radical Muslim still rung through Dutch politics. Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) was elected into parliament with 9 out of 150 seats. Eight years later, after making the anti-Islam movie “Fitna”, proposing a tax on hijabs and being party to a right-wing “mainstream” government that passed a law banning burqas, the Freedom Party is larger than ever.

The rise of Dutch populism and political racism has two roots. The first is the botched integration of migrant workers: facing a shortage in the labor needed to rebuild the country after the Second World War, the Dutch government tried to attract temporary workers. The government pursued a policy of implicit segregation. A large group of migrants were able to stay, but did not speak sufficient Dutch, were often housed poorly and had little access to education, resulting in expansive social and integration problems.

The second root lies in the Dutch political response to political movements expressing their concern about issues of integration. In the late 1980s, the extreme-right Center Party received a seat in Parliament. Its leader, Hans Janmaat, coined the phrase “full is full” and called for the assimilation of non-Western migrants. This created a political climate in which discussing problematic aspects of migration became a cultural taboo and was conflated with racism. As a result, there was no room for “moderate” debate on these problems: racist rhetoric was met with silence and denial of the issue from the center left.

Those two developments led to the election of Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and Geert Wilders in 2006, both of whom mixed an ideology of anti-migration and Islamophobia with anti-establishment sentiments. People who felt disenfranchised by the “political elite” flocked to extreme-right politics. Every call for a “cordon sanitaire” of Wilders caused a surge in the polls as he dominated media headlines with tirades against Islam and survived a hate speech trial.

It seemed a winning strategy until he took it one step too far and got an audience of followers to shout “we want less Moroccans”. This incited a mass movement of protests and thousands of reports of hate speech to the police. As a result, he suddenly plunged in the polls and witnessed various elected Freedom Party officials leaving his party.

Constant engagement of other parties with the PVV has defeated Islamophobia. The liberal D66 constantly challenged racism and defended equal treatment. Labour (PvdA) promoted migrant MPs through its ranks to offer their communities a platform, and MP Ahmed Marcouch dispelled the myth that Moroccans are more likely to be criminal due to the Moroccan “princeling” culture.

This engagement, however, has also had drawbacks. It has, to some extent, made racist concessions part of the accepted political discourse and government policies: the PVV-backed Rutte government has imposed tougher sanctions on crime, it has created less room for labor migration and asylum seekers. As a result, what was considered racist and politically extreme in 2002 has now also become part of the political mainstream.

The second drawback is even larger. Due to the overblown nature of the racism debate in the Netherlands, the Dutch have lost their capacity to notice and rally against the more subliminal power structures allow everyday racism to happen. While the entire country condemned a company for not hiring an intern in 2013 because of his race, three million people signed an online petition that embraced the racist blackface symbol of Zwarte Piet, because they had grown “tired” of discussions on racism.

Overt, overblown racism and Islamophobia have been defeated and are no longer influential forms of thought in the Netherlands. But as a consequence, an acceptance of racist attitudes is codified into large parts of society. 

This is the trade-off that people need to keep in mind if they want to take something away from the recent successes that anti-racist campaigning has had in the Netherlands.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo-Credit: AFP-photo of Dutch Politician Geert Wilders

Monday, 20 February 2017

WORLD: The Concept of : ''Fake News''

Authoritarian and democratic regimes create a facade of democracy to maintain a veneer of legitimacy: By constructing fake political parties and phony social movements, as well as pseudo news media as outlet of ''Fake News'', they simulate democratic institutions to prevent authentic democracy from ever taking root.

Over time, these regimes have taken their imitation to a new level. With the principal goal of keeping their grip on power or manipulate the masses, modern authoritarian and democratic governments have built a sophisticated alternate universe of institutions: faux news outlets with state-of-the-art production values.

''Fake news'' are fabricated content or fictitious articles designed to deceive readers with the goal of profiting through clickbait. Fake News deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news--often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. 

Prior to the 2016 US election, ''Fake News'' maintained a presence on the Internet and tabloid journalism and had not impacted the election. Subsequent to the 2016 election, the issue of fake news turned into a political weapon, with Hillary Clinton's supporters accusing Trump's administration statements to be ''Fake News'' and Donald Trump's supporters claiming that Hillary Clinton's supporters spread false news.  Due to these back and forth complaints, the definition of fake news as used for such polemics became vague.

Trump, who has taken heat for making demonstrably false statements as president, has become an enthusiastic user of the term, bestowing the designation ''fake''or ''fake news'' on targets that include CNN, the media as a whole and the entire nation of Russia.

The best-known enterprise of ''Fake News'' is Russia’s RT (formerly Russia Today). During the referendum in Crimea, a hodgepodge of radical political figures, uncredentialed for authentic election monitoring, appeared on Russian government media outlets to present findings that went lock step with those of the Kremlin. In this brave new world, ''Fake News' are spread to the world from a simulated news outlet.

Not long ago, many observers were dismissive of RT’s influence. Today, however, thoughtful analysts are not as cavalier. While it is admittedly difficult to offer a precise metric of influence, RT and other Russian government media have become intertwined with the world of normal news, especially online. Key narratives pushed by such Russian media are picked up and propagated by Western news outlets. 

Popular aggregators of information on Russia, such as Johnson’s Russia List, seamlessly include RT and other Kremlin-backed media alongside sources such as the Associated Press and the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Slick Web sites with phony, misleading news reports appear increasingly in the new democracies of Central Europe to offer a Kremlin spin on events. As China, Iran and other ambitious, undemocratic regimes scale up their global media activities, the challenge of distinguishing between authentic and phony information will become only more complicated.

Why are the authoritarians going global with their simulation of democracy?
First, in today’s helter-skelter, fragmented world of media, these regimes appreciate that it is much easier to cloud the understanding of important issues. Masters of deception at home, they are investing heavily abroad and exploiting the opportunities offered by the new media environment to sow confusion and distrust.

More ominously, they seek to undermine democracy and human rights institutions from within. As the authoritarian alternate universe crashes into the democratic space, the imitation affects the real thing. At the Cold War’s end, this unpleasant reality did not factor into assumptions about how the world would operate. We must rethink these assumptions quickly, however, if the post-Cold War order is to be salvaged.

''Fake News'' concept is also well played by the so called ''democratic states''. In this battle of heart and minds to win the popular support of its citizens, democratic states governments use corporate media and spin doctors. The West/American corporate media and governments spin doctors have done their utmost to propagate and sustain an image of West/America as guarantor of freedom, and in turn the majority of Europeans and Americans have embraced this comfortable, mythic view as their own.

Democratic states governments and corporate media have encouraged the masses to engage in faulty thinking, in an effort to gain public support for self serving agendas that typically cannot be justified rationally; the only way to get them through is by sophistical means.

It is important to note that the primary motivation of gigantic media conglomerates is amassing profit, not truth. As a general rule, only if truth pays, will they report it. Likewise, a government seeking power and control over its citizens (which is all governments do to one extent or another) is likely to censor and whitewash the information it provides to its citizens, and even worse, to propagate disinformation, especially when the facts get in the way of implementing its own agenda.

So it would be naive to expect a government in ''democratic states'' that seeks power and control over its citizens not to use its influence over the corporate media in order to spread self-serving propaganda. As much as the corporate media need democratic states government to maximize their bottom line--through tax breaks, military contracts, relaxed media ownership rules, access to its officials and spokespersons, as well as other incentives and kickbacks--governments in democratic states have incredible power and leverage over the corporate media. For example, the latter was the case in the lead-up to Iraq War when the George W Bush's administration attempted to make the facts fit the policy, in order to justify the war.

Democracy depends on an informed populace. Regrettably, the practice of ''Fake News'' has made the people victims of the politico-corporate establishment in democratic and authoritarian states. And the people allow themselves to be duped and manipulated.

As W. K. Clifford remarked in his famous essay of 1877: ''The Ethics of Belief: ''it is wrong in all cases to believe on insufficient evidence; and where its presumption to doubt and to investigate, there is worse than presumption to believe. 

In fact, Clifford maintained that each and every one of us (and not just politicians, lawyers, religious leaders, journalists, and others who bears a fiduciary relationship to us) has a duty to question, think before we commit them to belief. '' it is not the leader of men, statesmen, philosopher, or poet that owes the bounden duty to mankind'' states Clifford. ''No simplicity of mind, no obscurity of station, can escape the universal duty of questioning all that we believe''.

However, this assumes that the people must be able, in the first place, to distinguish fact from fiction, and sufficient evidence from pseudo evidence. They must have a sense of what constitutes rational criteria for belief before they can even begin to determine if they have a good reason to commit something to belief. But this is possible only if they are privy to the sophistical mechanisms that democratic and authoritarian states/governments, through politico-corporate media establishment, use to manipulate and garner their support.

For example, the Downing Street memos document that, prior to the invasion of Iraq did not truly believe that Saddam Hussein posed a serious threat to national security. Nevertheless, the Bush's administration sought public support for invading Iraq and rightly believed that, the people were feeling insecure enough after the September 11, 2001, to support the invasion if they were told it was necessary to prevent another terror attack. So the Bush's administration used their vulnerability to manipulate their support. Unfortunately, the people based their commitment to Bush's war on faulty thinking. This same destructive pattern has repeated itself ad nauseam.

A single article cannot cover all the rational thought processes that can help to promote true democracy and protect ourselves against '' Fake News'' practices. Nevertheless, there are six steps that are crucial to thinking for ourselves in order to defend the true democratic values against ''Fake News'' tactics (human gullibility and unreasoning): 

1. Ask for explanations, 2. Look for consistency, 3. Question the status quo, 4. Believe only credible authorities, 5. Watch out for fear mongering and demagoguery, 6. Beware of media supported stereotypes. Taken together, these instructions provide a useful heuristic for determining whether you are justified in accepting any politico-corporate claims.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analys

Photo-Credit: AFP-photo: 

Friday, 17 February 2017

U.S.: America's Inertia

In the seat of American power, power spends most of its time on its seat. That's because, as Henry Kissinger once observed, the greatest force at work in America's capital is inertia. It handily trumps partisanship and also leaves the more positive drivers of action that one might hope for in a government -- such as leadership, creativity, or moral courage.

America spends more money on military then China, Britain, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, India, Italy, Brazil,South Korea, Australia, Canada, and Turkey combined. This is a total of almost $650 billion with all these countries combined while America spends over $700 billion.

Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 2007 to September 2011, claims that the greatest threat to America's security is its debt. That the time has come for America to rest its foreign policy and military spending. He believes that America could save up $100 million by slashing programs and budgets for unnecessary programs, cut military spending.

You might disagree with Admiral Mike Mullen's conclusions about what a right-sized, technologically up-to-date, doctrinally sound military, conceived and prepared to ensure America's safety and worldwide interests, might look like. That's perfectly reasonable. But it is impossible not to conclude that Admiral Mike Mullen's conclusions call to debate what the military should look like and then implement the agreed-upon changes makes sense.

It makes economic sense because the United States spends more on defense than all other major powers combined -- even though very nearly all of them are our allies. It makes national security sense because the threats the country faces are changing and because emerging powers are not the slaves to legacy systems that the United States is. It makes political sense because such a reform process is the very essence of good governance and would free up resources for endeavors that could help broader cross-sections of the American population. Yet the one thing that we know about this idea is that it's never going to happen.

That is because it would require the kind of far-reaching change that the government is terrible at achieving. It would involve confronting moneyed, entrenched interests in the private sector as well as the Pentagon, which kills ideas that threaten its core programs more efficiently than it does any foreign enemy. This is the military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned us about as he prepared to leave office -- except today it is bigger and more powerful than it has ever been.

This does not mean, of course, that there are no hugely creative military leaders who have contemplated just the kind of changes that are needed. In Washington, however, strength lies with the opponents rather than the proponents of change. And the opponents possess the ultimate political weapon of mass destruction: They can accuse leaders who want to challenge the status quo of making America weak. So we're left with all the systems the country has accumulated to counter every post-World War II defense challenge: multiple air forces, multiple expeditionary forces, multiple cyber commands.

We can't afford what we have. We don't need much of what we have. The country is misallocating resources in precisely the same way as other nations that have historically made themselves vulnerable, both militarily and economically. Yet any positive, proactive change will exist only on the margins until some crisis demands otherwise, while other supposed "innovations" will in fact just maintain things as they are and have always been.

Washington's debilitating strain of sleeping sickness affects some parts of the government, too. Indeed, the political system hates action more than nature abhors a vacuum. Both political parties would no doubt agree that the country cannot afford the retirement health-care system it has, even if they have different answers for how to fix the problem.

Both parties also have to agree that it is in America's interest to invest in highways and bridges in a meaningful way, which hasn't been done since the Eisenhower era. And both must acknowledge that having half the minority students in inner cities not graduating from high school is a formula for social catastrophe. Yet all these issues remain largely unaddressed.

Even outside government, we have built massive apparatuses designed to assert that some issues are not issues at all, in order to protect the interests of a few. Climate change is one such issue: enormous and indisputable, yet disregarded thanks to political pressure from a well-funded alliance with an affinity for profit and an allergy to science.

Inequality rivaling that of the Gilded Age is another issue, as is the country's inability to create jobs for the middle class, because the rich use their influence to prioritize their interests above those of the rest. The U.S. financial system, meanwhile, is corrupt to its core, but its leaders act with impunity -- sometimes with the assistance of members of the government.

With each of these issues, the common sense that keeps a child from touching an open flame or playing in traffic would suggest that actions are urgently needed. But they are not and will not be forthcoming. In no small part, this is because we have given a handful of people disproportionate influence over elections.  Money becomes speech -- therefore those with more money now have more say in the country's national affairs. We have also institutionalized the right-left, no-compromise polarization of the political system via gerrymandering and Capitol Hill customs. This has undercut reasoned debate and votes that could produce progress.

But America's inertia is caused by something else too. Call it superpower smugness. Or just call it complacency. We don't create, or even really demand, genuine change in America because things seem to be working well enough. America is the world's richest and most powerful nation. When we have crises, we recover from them. The country can make catastrophic errors of judgment in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and absorb the costs and collateral damage to its national image.

Furthermore, the private sector, for all its self-interested political behavior, is infused with genius and a stunning capacity to reinvent itself. It has compensated time and again for Washington's sloth and willful ignorance.

So we have been numbed into believing that black is white, that a failing system is functioning, that we, alone among nations, are invulnerable to our own stupidity. If there were ever a flaw in a strategy for national security, this is surely the most pernicious. The only antidote is a healthy dose of courage to act first with good sense and second with a spirit for reform.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Writer


Thursday, 16 February 2017

U.S.: Trump & Peace Process in Middle East

The Palestinian President fully supports Donald Trump's call on Israel to pull back on settlement expansion, but is yet to comment on a trending idea that a peace deal might not necessarily include an independent Palestinian state. 

Trump, on Wednesday, asked the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to temporarily hold off on building new Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestinians for their future state.  ''I would like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit'' said Trump, instead promising to strike a deal that would bring an end to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While the official White House position has changed, Israel, prior to Netanyahu'sa visit to the US, went on to approve some 6,000 new settlement homes since Trump's inauguration. The Israeli parliament has also approved the legalization of nearly 4,000 settler homes in the Area C of the West Bank as it passed a controversial retroactive bill.

The issue of settlements has been widely publicized in recent months after the Obama's administration abstained from voting on what Tel Aviv called an ''anti-Israel'' UNSC settlement resolution. Trump and his team voiced concern over the adoption of the UNSC resolution and sent out messages which indicated that the new administration would not oppose Israeli settlement expansion once in office.

The peace process has been at a standstill for years. Israelis and Palestinians are stuck on the issue of settlements — there are now more than 300,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, and the Palestinians have refused to reopen negotiations unless Israel agrees to a settlement freeze. But The settlement issue is an easy one compared with the difficult problems down the road, such as how to draw the borders of the two proposed states, what to do about Palestinian refugees who have been living in camps outside the country for more than 60 years, and how to share water resources.

Trump's statement that the United States would no longer insist on an independent Palestinian state as part of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is a shift from the long-standing US policy which envisages a two-state solution, and it will destroy the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility in the region.

Trump's shift comes at a moment when Palestinians are disillusioned and Palestinian leaders who support a two-state solution are weak, and Israel is not in a mood for cutting deals. And Trump's ''doing nothing foreign policy'' suits Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister is also pleased by the fact that the talks with Trump focused on the one state solution with two systems.

Under Trump, it will be difficult for professional diplomats to make the case for engagement and diplomacy on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The larger problem is that the administration views disengagement from the Middle East and a minimalist foreign policy as a good foreign policy. 

Trump's ''doing nothing'' foreign policy approach is associated with America's current foreign policy of doing less, winding down wars and not starting new ones. If you are not doing anything, you have fewer headaches and fewer failures as well. But in reality, that does not speak to America's global leadership, nor does it really protect America's vital interests down the road.

Under Trump. hope of two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians fades away because Trump is the epitome of the status quo. Trump believes that the time for a two-state solution has gone.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo-Credit: AFP-photo:

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

U.S-D.R.C.: Trump & Blood Minerals

US President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order suspending Section 1502 of the Dodd-Franck financial reforms. The rule requires companies to disclose whether their products contain the so called 3TG conflict minerals: gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin, as seen critical drivers in the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2010, the U.S. Congress passed a landmark legislation: '' The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act''. Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires companies using cassiterite, coltan, wolframite and gold to find out whether the metals originated in the DRC or neighbouring countries.

Firms are required to carry out checks on their supply chain – known as due diligence – to determine whether their minerals purchases have benefited abusive armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Companies must report publicly to the SEC on the measures they've taken, and commission an independent third party audit of their report. Some companies claim that it is too complicated or too difficult for them to do.

Advocates of the rule, which went into effect in 2014, contend that conflict minerals, which the UN has called the ''engine of the conflict'' in DRC, provide hundreds of millions of dollars to armed groups, which continue to wreak havoc in the east of the country. When it was introduced in 2010, business and corporate lobbyists decried the measure, arguing that it would require companies to implement costly monitoring tools that were difficult to enforce. Major companies from Intel to Tiffany's have undertaken efforts to comply.

Investigations carried out by International Community reveal that armed groups, in particular former rebels now integrated into the national army, have made tens of millions of dollars per year by illegally taxing the trade in cassiterite (tin ore), coltan, wolframite and gold in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. According to recent reports from NGOs and journalists in DRC, illegal taxation by armed groups may have increased as elements within the military tightened their grip on the minerals trade and smuggling intensified.

Since the Act was passed, SEC failed to ensure that the final rules include a clear due diligence standard based on the five-step supply chain due diligence framework developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Democratic Republic of Congo ‘conflict minerals’ are laundered into the global supply chain by exporters in the east of the country before being transformed into refined metals by large international smelting firms.

The minerals involved in this trade – cassiterite (tin ore), coltan (tantalum ore), wolframite (tungsten ore) and gold – are traded into international supply chains and used in the production of consumer goods such as laptops, cell phones and jewellery. Requiring companies to find out where the metals they use come from and whether their purchases are fuelling human rights violations can help to reduce financing to warring parties in eastern DRC.

The electronics industry is one of the main destinations for these metals, which end up in mobile phones, laptops, and other consumer products. Tin is used as a solder in circuit boards; tantalum goes into capacitors, small components used to store electricity; tungsten is used in the vibrating function of mobile phones; gold is also used by the electronics industry – as a coating for wires. World prices for each of these metals have been rising over the past years, giving armed groups in the eastern Congo all the more incentive to target or keep hold of the mines.

If companies buying these minerals don’t put in place credible measures to find out who is benefiting from the trade, minerals bagged and tagged in compliance with industry schemes will continue to fund armed groups, with harmful consequences, and will not meet international standards.

Rigorous due diligence on minerals from DRC would help stop the conflict minerals trade in its tracks. Trump's upcoming executive order suspending Section 1502 of the Dodd-Franck financial reforms is an open invitation to more severe armed conflict to come in Democratic Republic of Congo. Trump's shady conflict minerals policy would create a mining sector in eastern DRC that will benefit multinationals.

Democratic Republic of Congo is rich in oil, gas and other minerals, but is nonetheless mired in poverty and beset by poor government because the public revenues earned from selling these resources have been squandered through corruption, lack of government accountability and foreign hands.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo Credit: AFP-photo

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

DRC: Glencore's deal

Mining giant ''Glencore'', widely regarded as a maverick in the global commodities sector, struck a deal worth nearly $1 billion to purchase shares of two mines in Democratic Republic of Congo, from a controversial Israeli magnate: Dan Gertler.

According to the terms of the deal, ''Glencore'' will pay Dan Gertler's ''Fleurette group'' $960 million for ''Fleurette's 31 percent share in the Mutanda mine an 10.25 percent stake in the Katanga mine, resulting in Glencore assuming full control of the Mutanda mine and 86 percent of Katanga.

The partnership between ''Glencore'' and Dan Gertler, a close friend to DRC President Joseph Kabila, has been closely watched, following allegations that the ''Fleurette'' chief paid bribes during his dealings in the country. This deal raises yet more serious questions for Glencore over its decade-long business partnership with Dan Gertler.

DRC  NGO's  have raised a number of concerns related to Mr Gertler’s involvement in the secret sales of prize mining assets in DRC and his business relations with FTSE-100 mining companies Glencore and ENRC. They allege that Mr Gertler has benefited from his friendship with President Joseph Kabila to obtain the mining assets.

Mr Gertler and Glencore have challenged these allegations. A spokesman for Mr Gertler has questioned the commercial valuations for some of the mines concerned, while both Glencore and Mr Gertler’s representatives categorically deny any involvement in corruption in DRC. Glencore's refusal to release the full list of its shareholders, fuel the allegations that there is a risk that the shareholders could include corrupt DRC government officials or their proxies.

Mr Gertler has been a key intermediary through whom Glencore has acquired stakes in Congolese mining assets. He is also a partner in all three mining ventures in DRC in which Glencore acquired stakes that have been collectively valued at an estimated $4.6 billion. Two of those ventures, the Kansuki and Mutanda mines, together are expected to add at least 40% to the world’s cobalt output and increase DRC’s copper production by about 40% (compared to 2011 production figures) once they are fully developed.

Since 2010 a number of offshore companies associated with Dan Gertler have secretly bought stakes in several mines from the state, paying only a small fraction of their commercially estimated values. The mines were sold without public tenders and limited details were only released long after the assets were sold off. After buying the assets, those offshore companies made huge profits by selling on shares in them soon afterwards. Others are positioned to profit by collecting the mining revenues.

For example, some of the proceeds of mining sales in 2011 were used by the DRC government to cover costs related to the 2011 election, which returned incumbent president Joseph Kabila to power. The polls were condemned as flawed by international diplomats and election observers and were marred by killings committed by government security forces.

With this new deal, Glencore may have been anxious to end its partnership with Dan Gertler to protect itself from the political uncertainty shaking the Kabila's regime. The DRC President is facing unprecedented pressure to stand down after his second final term expired in December. As political tensions soared, he struck a power-sharing deal with the opposition on New Year's Eve that provides for elections late this year.

DRC’s natural resource wealth should benefit the country as a whole. Yet hugely profitable deals are being struck by secretive offshore companies and multinationals; the Congolese state is getting peanuts and the Congolese people are being deprived of billions of dollars.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo Credit: AFP photo

Monday, 13 February 2017

WORLD: How to deal with North Korea ?

A defiant North Korea launched a ballistic missile test, prompting a wave of international criticism from governments and other organizations. A new type of strategic medium to long-range ballistic missile, called ''Pukguksong-2'' was tested fired on Sunday.

The missile flew over 500 kilometers, landing in the sea and stirring up world leaders, with the US rushing to reassure its allies: South Korea and Japan. The new missile was also successfully tested for its ability to dodge interceptors with evasive maneuvers. The Sunday launch gave rise to speculations whether it was a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) being tested, as Kim promised that the allegedly developed long-range ICBM would be tested fired in 2017.

The US, Japan and South Korea have requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to consider a response to the North Korean ballistic missile launch. North Korea has been gradually advancing its nuclear program despite facing increasingly tough international sanctions. Last year, North Korea performed two nuclear tests, on September 9 and January 6, which became its fifth, in addition to several missile launches, that triggered new wave of punitive measures from the International Community.

In March, last year, the UNSC adopted a resolution, imposing harsh restriction on the country's imports. All cargos, leaving and entering the country, were subjected to mandatory inspection. In addition to that, all imports and transfers of small arms were prohibited. The latest resolution passed by the UNSC, on November 30, targeted the country's main source of export, coal, as well as that of copper, nickel, silver and zinc. it was estimated that as a result of the latest round of sanctions, North Korea lose about $800 million a year in revenues.

Responding to North Korea defiance involves a deep strategic dilemma: Because of the regime's paranoia and insecurity, any response on the part of the US and its allies, even a measured one, risks sparking dangerous, even disastrous escalation.              

Failing to respond to provocation seems to encourage the North Koreans to push even harder and more violently, using their sordid talent for using threats to extort concessions and aid to compensate for the state’s economic failure. Unlike other aggressively insecure states -- Iran, for instance -- there is little indication that the North Korean regime can be placated by realistic diplomatic measures. Pyongyang's paranoia is not simply a reflection of its strategic predicament, but an ingrained element of its identity.

Over the past few decades, North Korea has developed a penchant for aggression just below the threshold that would cause the United States, South Korea and other states to respond in kind. As its economy rots and one member of the Kim dynasty gives way to another, the provocations expand. They reached new peaks in March 2010 when a North Korean submarine sank a South Korean navy ship, and in November 2010 when the North Korean military shelled a South Korean island, killing two soldiers. Even more ominously, North Korea has worked strenuously to develop more powerful ballistic missiles that may, at some time in the future, be armed with nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s neighbors face the enduring possibility that desperation or miscalculation may lead the regime to strike out even more violently, either concluding that it will face wholesale economic collapse or political upheaval if does not, or through the belief that it has so cowed the United States, South Korea, Japan and China that it can commit aggression with impunity. Given this, the United States needs a careful plan for how to respond.

The appropriate response, of course, depends on the nature of the provocation, for which Pyongyang’s options include relatively low-level aggression, such as regime involvement in organized crime, the sale of missile and nuclear technology and limited attacks on South Korea; potentially more dangerous missile strikes against other nations; a large-scale conventional invasion of South Korea; and, worst of all, the use of nuclear weapons.

Continued North Korean missile launches are likely. So far the North’s ballistic missile program has been plagued with large doses of ineptness sometimes bordering on the comic. But the program is getting better, thus making it harder to distinguish a test aimed at the open sea from a strike at Japan, the United States or elsewhere. Given this, the United States should consider a policy of shooting down North Korean missiles that have left that nation's airspace.

A large-scale North Korean conventional assault against South Korea is less likely but not impossible. After all, Pyongyang has been preparing for an attack since the 1950s, stationing huge numbers of troops on the border, building extensive special operations capabilities and developing the methods to infiltrate troops into the South through tunnels, amphibious landings and other means. Given the vast military superiority of South Korea and support from the United States, a North Korean invasion would fail, but it could still do massive damage in the process. Most worrisome of all, North Korea could use nuclear weapons either through some sort of demonstration explosion or, once its capability advanced, an actual strike, possibly on Japan or a U.S. target.

What, then, should the United States and its allies do? Certainly efforts to increase missile defense are justified and necessary. Pressure to encourage China to diminish or end military support to North Korea would also be worthwhile. China has long attempted to walk a fine line on North Korea, criticizing Pyongyang’s provocations while seeking to keep the regime in place lest there be a united Korea dominated by Seoul on the Chinese border.

The contradictions of Chinese policy are shown by its provision of launch trucks for North Korean mobile missiles, in violation of international sanctions, followed by Beijing’s acceptance of a U.N. Security Council resolution tightening sanctions on Pyongyang and indications that China would cut assistance if North Korea undertook further nuclear tests.

Most importantly, the United States should issue an explicit policy statement on North Korean provocation to diminish the chances of miscalculation by Kim Jong Un. The statement should indicate that the United States will shoot down any North Korean rocket or missile aimed at or crossing over the United States or an allied state. Washington should state that a nuclear demonstration will result in a sustained U.S. campaign against North Korea military targets. And, importantly, the United States should clearly state that any major attack by North Korea against American targets or allies will result in the removal of the Kim regime and the building of a democracy in North Korea.

Regime replacement would be immensely expensive in both blood and money, especially at a time when the American military and defense budget is being highly politicized. But North Korea is the only nation on earth where internal conflicts or regime psychosis, rather than any external actions, might prompt the regime to unleash a nuclear or conventional Armageddon. For this reason, it is vital that Kim and his cronies clearly understand the costs of future violations of UNSC resolutions.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP-photo

Friday, 10 February 2017

E.U.: EU's Cyber-Security Preparedness

US Intelligence agencies are working with European governments to prevent the kind of Russian cyber attacks that were allegedly carried out to influence the 2016 US Presidential election. Several European countries, including France, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands, are scheduled to hold elections in 2017.

The US Intelligence has shared with European countries the classified version of their report on what they believe was a Russian plot to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. Key American lawmakers say such an intelligence exchange is vital because Russia reportedly plans to carry out similar cyber-attacks in Europe to influence elections in a way that serves Moscow's interests. 

European countries strongly believe that Moscow wants to expand Russian political influence in Europe, by propping up populists, to break the competence in democracies around Europe and to undermine the perceived validity of the democratic model, in order to suggest that an authoritarian model is equally valid. 

However, Europe needs to do more than sharing information with US on Russian alleged hacking. When it comes to cyber protections, Europe is a patchwork: Passing only national laws and lacking in cooperation with the corporate sector, the Europe Union members undermine their cyber-security.

The Europe is currently on the cusp of renewing its Internal Security Strategy (ISS) for 2015-2019. Over the last five years, it has succeeded in tackling a number of issues in this field. These include addressing several challenges, such as the adoption of the EU Cyber-security Strategy; the creation of the European Cyber-crime Centre (EC3); the expansion of the Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse online; the funding of the national Cyber-crime Centres of Excellence and child pornography. 

In addition, there has been a commitment to increasing cooperation with third countries, in order to increase capacity building and adopt shared legal framework for cyber-crime legislation, based on the Budapest Convention. 

However, even with these accomplishments, one of the biggest concerns for the future for all stakeholders involved is the rapid pace with cyber-crime and new cyber threats are developing, making it hard for policy-makers to even attempt to keep up. Within this scenario, establishing veritable cyber-security in Europe and tackling the plethora of emerging threats in this will require the European Union to look inwardly.

Bolstering cyber-security is a challenge facing boardrooms and government officials around the world. While technology is enabling us to be smarter about how we communicate, create, and solve problems, it has also introduced new risks which must be managed.

While the German Parliament voted on a new IT security law, debates continue in Brussels to achieve consensus on a Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive aimed at harmonising cyber-security laws across Europe. That is no small feat when negotiating among 28 countries. A recent report released by BSA charts just how big a task they have before them.

The ''BSA EU Cyber-security Dashboard“ is a first-ever analysis of national cyber-security laws and policies in the EU. It finds that an unhelpful patchwork exists in Europe when it comes to cyber protections. While some countries have strong cyber-security legal frameworks – the United Kingdom, Germany and Estonia, for example – others still have much work to do. The report makes clear that considerable discrepancies exist between Member States’ laws and operational capabilities, resulting in gaps and fragmentation that could put the entire Single Market at risk.

Encouragingly, the report finds that most European Union Member States recognise that cyber-security should be a national priority, with a particular focus on ensuring the cyber resilience of critical infrastructure. Critical networks and infrastructure – transport, energy, banking – are where disruption would do the most harm.

Germany is a good example of a country that has done many things right, with a comprehensive cyber-security strategy in place and a clear commitment to cyber-security protections at the highest levels of government. However, purely national cyber-security standards in Germany as outlined in the IT security law could also pose a hindrance to the coherence of cyber-security rules across Europe. Cyber-security does not stop at national borders; thus, industry-led, internationally-recognized technical standards play a vital role in delivering newer and more secure products to market, and enhancing the cyber resilience of governments, businesses, and citizens.

The report also highlights some key gaps in protections across Europe, such as a lack of cooperation between governments and the private sector on cyber-security. In Europe, most infrastructure is owned by the private sector, making public-private cooperation essential – yet only five European Union member States have an established framework for public-private partnerships on cyber-security.

The more communication and coordination is taking place between European Union governments and the private sector, the more resilient Europe will be in the face of evolving cyber-security threats. An important improvement that could be achieved by the Network and Information Security Directive would be the creation of platforms for dialogue between the public and private sector on cyber threat trends and developments and to promote European Union-wide exchanges on industry and government cyber-security best practices.

The European Union Cyber-security Dashboard outlines the fundamental elements of a strong legal cyber-security framework – from establishing strong legal foundations, to engendering trust and working in partnership, to promoting cyber-security education. These building blocks provide valuable insight for national governments who will ultimately implement cyber-security rules and policies.

The report also provides guidance on what not to do, as some governments around the world are unfortunately using cyber-security as justification for protectionist rules that reduce choice and undermine cyber protections. That includes avoiding country-specific cyber-security standards, obligations to disclose sensitive information such as source code or encryption keys, data localisation requirements, or preferences for indigenous providers among other unhelpful policies.

Cyber-security cannot happen in domestic silos and it is important to consider the European and global implications of any decisions made in Germany. The IT security law should not, deliberately or inadvertently, prevent international companies from participating in the German market.

The severe Russian hacking attack on the Democratic Party, in United States, proved the importance of strong and resilient IT systems around the globe. No European country is going to achieve this goal on its own. Only if the state and the private sector join forces to stop criminal hackers from becoming 21st century highwaymen, we will be able to strengthen public trust in the digital highways of our time which is a crucial prerequisite for realizing the growth potential of the digital economy.

Even if the Europe manages to create a flawless culture of cyber-security within its borders, an extremely lofty goal, it will by no means be immune to threat of cyber attack. When discussing Europe's preparedness in relation with cyber-security issues, it is vital to keep in mind that the internet, as borderless environment, provides no protection for solely inward-looking entities. 

Today,a cyber attack on an European target is more likely to originate from outside of the Europe union, than from within it.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: Interpol Photo