Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Turkmenistan’s energy policy

By Chris C B Rogers, on 5 December 2014

By Esmira Rzayeva


via Bilfinger


Turkmenistan is a country with the smallest population among Central Asian States. However, it has the world’s fifth largest estimated reserves of natural gas.[1] In 1998 the United Nations recognized the “permanent neutrality” status of Turkmenistan. The country will not engage in any military or political issues outside of the country. However, Turkmenistan wants diversify its energy policy in order not to be depended on Russia or China.


‘Challenges facing the International Court of Justice’

By Chris C B Rogers, on 23 November 2014


Thursday, 27 November 2014 from 17:30 to 19:00

‘Challenges facing the International Court of Justice: reflections of a Judge as he leaves office’

Sir Kenneth Keith – International Court of Justice

Judge Kenneth Keith will, next February, complete his 9 year term as one of the 15 judges of the World Court, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. A New Zealander he was earlier an academic, a lawyer in the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Secretariat, a constitutional  and law reformer and a judge of the New Zealand Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Organised in conjunction with the Institute of Global Governance. 

IGG is a a university-wide initiative focused on harnessing the unique strengths of UCL as a multi-faculty global university to address the challenge of global governance. The IGG serves as a receptor site to coordinate, facilitate and implement a cross-disciplinary approach towards research, education and policy impact on one of the major global public policy issues of our age.

There’s trouble down-under: UNESCO recommendations and the Great Barrier Reef

By Olivia Robinson, on 24 September 2014

By Harriet Bradley



Over the last 50 years pollution, over-fishing, tourism and climate change, among other factors, has caused coral reefs to decline by an estimated 80% in some parts of the world, and could reach 60% globally by 2050. Scientists at the Catlin Group – who have been documenting this decline since 2012 – note that the impact could extend to 500 million people in communities across the world relying on the reefs for food, tourism, and coastal protection. Whereas, if coral reefs were maintained in good condition, they could benefit the world by $30 billion a year.

In January 2014, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) approved plans to dump dredged sediment (a by-product of plans to create one of the world’s biggest coastal coal ports at Abbot Point) in some areas, which, some scientists warn, could poison the reef. This decision disregarded opposition from numerous environmental groups and a letter signed by 233 scientists calling the GBRMPA to reject the plan. In this case, short-term economic interests appear pitted against longer-term economic and environmental ones. And those with the authority to act are currently backing the former.

There does not have to be such an incompatibility between economic activities and environmental activity. Indeed, the fact that the Catlin Group – which has been funding a global survey of coral reefs since 2012 – is a specialty insurance firm suggests not only the increasing complexity of the relationship between the economy and the environment, but also the emerging realisation in some quarters of the long-term economic risks of environmental destruction.

A casualty of this saga has been ‘objective’ scientific assessment. It has been blurred by the ‘green-light’ assessment of the Ports Australia report and the mining industry, represented by the Queensland Resource Council, who endorse dredging as environmentally safe. This conflicts with the report of the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS). This represents a common trend where science is being vied for in politics, rather than being considered objectively.

The politics of the issue escalated to the international level in late April 2014, following UNESCO’s recommendation to consider the reef for its List of World Heritage in Danger at its 39th session in 2015. This could present an opportunity to change – or at least put the unwelcome international spotlight on – the current preferences of the Australian government. However, the Queensland Environment Minister, Andrew Powell, denied that the government would follow UNESCO’s recommendation. The implication is that such a move by UNESCO would involve significant reputational damage to the Queensland and Australian governments, especially given the increasingly important role that coral reefs may play in protecting coasts from sea-level rises associated with climate change. Whatever the outcome, the episode will provide evidence on whether international monitoring bodies like UNESCO have the power to impose reputational costs and whether these will lead to a change in regulatory policy from the Australian government.


A New Idea of War, And I Like It

By Saskia Kok, on 21 January 2014

By Francisca Stewart

Emile SimpsonEmile Simpson, a genuine war veteran with 3 tours in Southern Afghanistan under his belt, stands before us at University College London waiting for his introductions to conclude. He launches enthusiastically into a 40-minute talk on his conception of contemporary war. His parents are both Cambridge academics and he attended Oxford University before deciding to join the British Army. His choice to join the British Army was fueled by his interest in history and his fondness for adventure. During his time in the military, he first was a platoon commander, then a military intelligence officer, and finally worked in the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). From his experiences he authored a book, War From the Ground Up: 21st Century Combat as Politics, which offers a theory on war today, as well as a possible solution for the future of wars. Now retired from the army, Simpson is completing a PhD in International Law at King’s College.

His talk on military strategy and theory is laced with personal accounts. He comes across as as quite business like as well as serious when talking about what he saw first hand, getting quickly to the important matters at hand and the underlying issues. He also has moments where he breaks away from the script and recounts funny and light-hearted moments of his time in Afghanistan. Simpson discusses the traditional understanding of war as being binary, ending with a victor and a loser, and where political and military activities do not mix. According to Simpson, the problem with the Afghanistan war is that it does not fit into this traditional model, as we have formerly understood it to be. It is a war with no clear-cut goals and no obvious end in sight. There are many open-ended questions such as who the enemy is in any given situation and what winning the war would actually look like. To these questions, there appears to be no apparent answers. Adding to this, the United States’ perceived poor choice to coin the war in Afghanistan “the war on terror” has made it that much more ambiguous.

Simpson describes the ongoing conflict as kaleidoscopic and fragmented as opposed to polarized with a “them” and an “us”, since the war is not just about a straightforward two-sided battle. Every action taken has a political consequence attached to it. Plans are created with political considerations in mind, and because of this there are violent as well as non-violent acts of persuasion taking place. Simpson did point out that there was a marked improvement from his first tour in 2007 to his last tour in 2011 as far as better targeting the genuine enemy. But the drawn out war has shown that we must recondition our expectations of the traditional formulation of war, because at this point there will be no clear cut victory and defeat.

During the talk, one student asked him if he feels the British army’s presence in Afghanistan was at this point still beneficial. While he didn’t say 100% one way or the other, he did admit that the democracy that had been promised to the Afghans had not been delivered, indicating the British army was not benefitting the Afghan population. Simpson concludes his talk with his take on modern war, claiming that while he believes that the traditional paradigm of war still exists, there is now a trend toward armed politics and strategic narratives. These narratives give meaning to actions taken by connecting the actions to important policies, which in the Afghanistan war have focused mainly on women’s rights, democracy, and the eradication of drugs.

In all, Simpson argues that a clear policy aim must be provided from the start as well as identifying the perceived enemy. He also believes in the idea of persuasion through “winning the enemies’ hearts and minds,” as this will positively change the atmosphere when trying to negotiate and solve problems. Simpson’s conclusions are thoughtful and logical and could potentially save a lot of wasteful time and effort in the future if they are actually applied. Whether this will happen in our increasingly bureaucratic societies remains to be seen, but it would do a world of good for the excruciatingly long and drawn out Afghanistan war. In the meantime, I will not be holding my breath.


By Claire McNear, on 15 December 2013

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