December 5, 2022No Comments

COP27: Breakthroughs and Worries

Author: Arslan Sheikh.

The outcomes of Conference of the Parties (COP) 27 held in Egypt this year has been a subject of heated debate. Even though marketed as the ‘implementation of COP’ with a focus on Africa and the most vulnerable countries to climate change, several analyses have already been issued on the definitive results of COP27. This article tries to reflect on five important areas where advancement has been made on climate action in world’s most important climate-related event.

Increasing Political Will for Forests

According to the 2022 Forest Declaration Assessment, to be on a track to completely stop deforestation by 2030, a ten percent annual reduction in deforestation is needed. Even though the rates of deforestation globally reduced only moderately in 2021 by 6.3% compared to the 2018-2020 baseline, forests became more degraded in 2021. However, overall losses of forests exceeded gains in the same period, resulting in a net loss of 100 million hectares globally.

In this regard, the creation of Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP) has been introduced with the realisation that there is no time left to spare for halting and reversing forest loss by 2030, thus, reflecting a strong political will for forests. The leaders of the FCLP member countries are the key stakeholders in the partnership and are its essential ‘priority setters’. The FCLP will hold routine meetings at the start of climate COPs to inspire responsibility. It will also publish an annual Global Progress Report which would include independent assessments of global progress towards the 2030 goal and recapitulating progress made by the FCLP in its missions. The declarations by Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Indonesia ahead of the G20 signified their intents to work out jointly to safeguard their massive swathes of tropical forests gaining the nickname ‘’OPEC of rainforests’’. Also, the presence of Brazil’s president elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva brought Amazon forests in limelight where Brazil vowed to prioritize halting deforestation and offering to host COP30.

The Arrival of Food in Text

Unprecedently, food was made it onto the main agenda after being acknowledged in the final text and also with at least five event spaces devoted to food and agriculture. Important progress included the launch of Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) Initiative – a multi-stakeholder partnership to step up access to finance, develop capability, and promote policy development to guarantee food security in countries most vulnerable to climate change. As associated with food, 14 top global agricultural and processing companies shared their roadmap to 1.5 degrees Celsius – gaining hybrid reactions – with thorough strategies on summarizing how they will get rid of deforestation from their agricultural commodity supply chains by 2025.

Nature-based solutions were incorporated in the CO27 text for the first time with forests, oceans, and agriculture each having their own section. Even though the inclusion of Koronivia Dialogue – the track where food and agriculture is discussed at UNFCCC could be seen as a positive sign at COP27, it still would need time to wait till COP28 for the emphasis needed to genuinely transform the global food system. There are strong analyses that COP27 has been a ‘notable disappointment’ for sustainable food systems – largely representing a defence of food systems status-quo.

Image Source: unsplash.com

Progressively Bluer COP

Many analysts have expressed COP27 for being ‘’an increasingly blue COP’’, with the ocean ending up in the final declaration and the first ever ocean pavilion in the blue zone. Many other declarations bolstered the acknowledgement of the essential character of the oceans in the climate system. The Egyptian presidency, Germany, and IUCN launched the Enhancing Nature-Based Solutions for an Accelerated Climate Transformation (ENACT). The Mangrove Breakthrough was also launched to protect 15 million hectares of mangroves worldwide 2030.

Beside these, High Quality Blue Carbon Principles and Guidance were also announced which aims to safeguard nature; empower people; employ the best information, interventions, and carbon accounting practices; operate locally and contextually; and mobilise high integrity capital. The implementation of these guidance and principles are expected to release the full potential of blue carbon, reducing emissions while safeguarding some of the earth’s most exclusive and beneficial ecosystems.

African-led Initiatives

There were various announcements coming out of COP27 which highlighted Africa’s potential as a ‘natural capital powerhouse’. These involved the launch of the African Carbon Markets Initiative, Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative , $2 billion African restoration fund, a funding support for Africa’s Great Green Wall initiatives, among various others.

Structural Reforms of Finance for Climate

The biggest breakthrough coming out of COP27 was the agreement on creation of Loss and Damage Fund with the subject being put on the agenda and adopted for the first time at COP27. It seeks to set up new funding arrangements, as well as a committed fund, to support developing countries in acting in response to loss and damage. Governments at COP27 agreed to set up a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalise both new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year. The evolving Bridgetown agenda remained a central theme within the discussions on bringing structural reforms in the financial system and creating innovative mechanisms that would support nature and climate outcomes at national and ecosystem levels.

Major financial institutions which are signatories to the Financial Sector Commitment on Eliminating Commodity-driven Deforestation have been pushing forward with implementation through the Finance Sector Deforestation Action (FSDA) Initiative. FSDA members have published shared investor expectations that are anticipated to be supplemented as appropriate on a sector-specific basis. Largely, the 10 point plan for financing biodiversity was pushed forward at COP27 with a ministerial meeting among 16 countries to set a conduit for minimising the global biodiversity finance gap.

Conclusion

Despite reflecting some breakthroughs and progressive developments on climate, COP27 does little to avoid future climate change disasters. It is being heralded as progressive and breakthrough in tackling the threats already devastating the planet, but is considered to be having made very little progress on emission cutting measures that could avoid even worse future climate change disasters. Even though being admired for creation of Loss and Damage Fund, many showed reservations on countries’ hesitancy in adopting more ambitious climate plans, which could leave the planet on a dangerous warming path. 

December 5, 2022No Comments

Rule of Law and European Arrest Warrants

How persistent violations of the Rule of Law can influence the execution of European Arrest Warrants?

Author: Vittoria Brunazzo.

Recently, the European Union (EU) has been facing one of the biggest challenges of its system: the disrespect of the rule of law by Poland and Hungry. Those countries have advanced antidemocratic changes in their juridical system, going against the core principles of the EU. Due to the interconnection between European Member-States, actions taken by Hungary and Poland can be affecting all the European System of Justice, and if not fixed could even jeopardize the functioning of the area of freedom, security and justice of the European Union. The discussions surrounding the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) are one example on how the actions of Poland and Hungary are affecting the functioning of the European judiciary cooperation. 

What is the EAW and the principle of mutual recognition?

The EAW is a cross-border judicial surrender procedure for prosecution or execution of a custodial sentence or detention order in all the EU territory. It is one of many juridical mechanisms, introduced after the implementation of the area of freedom, security and justice by the EU, to further develop cooperation among States on criminal matters. In the absence of border control, the EAW aim to ensure a safe environment in all Union and prevent the use of the right of free movement to evade justice. The EAW is based on the principle of mutual recognition among member States, and it presumes that Members will trust each other’s juridical decisions and execute an arrest warrant without questioning the validity of it. 

The mutual recognition principle has its foundation on the respect of the rule of law, meaning that sovereign powers are bound by the States’ law and cannot act unlawfully. In this principle it is also included the respect of the separation of power and the right of an equal trial. Nevertheless, we can only speak about the rule of law if the law-making process is considered democratic, accountable, transparent and pluralistic. The rule of law is considered a fundamental principle of the European Union, as stated in Art.2 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, […] the rule of law and respect for human rights […]. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

Image Source: unsplash.com

The consequences of the disrespect of the rule of law 

In the EAW Framework Decision there is no direct mention to the rule of law, however, the text bounds the warrant to the rule of law indirectly. Recital n.10 of the Framework Decision indicates that the implementation of the EAW shall be “suspended only in the event of a serious and persistent breach by one of the Member States of the principles of the European Union”, which are found in art.2 TEU. Thus, for the suspension of the EAW mechanism, it is not sufficient the risk of violation of art.2, but a serious and persistent breach of those principles asserted unanimously by the European Council.

The issue relies exactly in this situation: a unanimous decision by the European Council, under the procedure of art.7 TEU to contrast actions of Member States from advancing policies that threaten their democratic system, rarely happens. Since its implementation, with the Treaty of Amsterdam, the procedure was invoked just twice, in 2017 against Poland and in 2018 against Hungary. Still, the Council never determined the existence of a serious and persistent breach of art.2 by those States.

In April 2021, two EAW issued by the Polish courts requesting the arrest of a Polish citizen were not executed by the authorities in the Netherlands. According to the Rechtbank Amsterdam Court (Dutch District Court) it was not possible to execute the warrant since there were serious doubts on the effectiveness of the Polish judiciary system which could affect the right of a fair trial of the individual. The case was taken to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to confirm if the denial was possible based on the allegations of the Dutch Court.

The judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union 

According to the ”Judgment in Joined Cases C-562/22 PPU and C-563/21 PPU Openbaar Ministerie” of the CJEU the evidence presented in the case by the Rechtbank Amsterdam Court was not sufficient to refuse the execution of the EAW. The Court analysis was made based on a two-step examination of the EAW. Firstly the CJEU declared that the ongoing procedure under art.7 against Poland in the European Council, the decision on the case of the Polish Supreme Court (Sąd Najwyższy) and other relevant documents against the reforms adopted by the Polish government cannot be considered sufficient material to deny the execution of an EAW. Secondly, the Court did not find reasonable evidence that the judges involved in the case could not be considered impartial, therefore there is no evidence that fundamental rights of the concerned individual could be violated.

Conclusions

The judgment of those two cases opened a precedent for future non-executions of EAWs. In cases where the concerned individual can provide information demonstrating a lack of impartiality by the judges involved in his case, or in cases where the procedure under art.7 succeeds in asserting the violation of the rule of law, the execution of EAW could be suspended by concerning authorities. Furthermore, the disrespect of the rule of law could challenge the EAW entire system. Hypothetically speaking cases of systematic discrimination of a specific group, persistent deficiencies regarding the right of defence and lack of judicial capacities, and corruption in the judiciary system, could justify the suspension of the States’ right to request the execution of EAWs.

In conclusion one could argue that the violation of the rule of law by Hungary and Poland could be influencing not only the judicial procedure within their territory, but influencing all the European system of security, by putting in discussion tools such as the EAW and other judiciary procedures which were created to improve European cooperation and integration and avoid a lack of justice within the European Union. 

November 28, 2022No Comments

Africa: the pursuit for growth and sustainability

Authors: Michele Mignogna and Miguel Jiménez.

Introduction

The current global energy crisis has proven how energy is the lifeblood of today's economies and highlighted the need for and advantages of an expedited scale-up of less expensive and cleaner sources of energy. To protect the planet, it is essential to make a global effort to transition to cleaner energy. As such, the most affected players by climate and history, African economies, are gaining momentum to address this issue and any comprehensive energy transition can only be achieved bearing in mind their situation

Africa’s energy outlook

In sub-Saharan Africa, less than half of the population has access to electricity and this number has dropped by 4% since 2019 due to many brownouts, blackouts, and load-shedding. Even in the industrial powerhouses of South Africa and Nigeria in sub-Saharan Africa, electrical networks regularly fail to sustain the region's current generation capacity, making it impossible to fulfill demand. The situation is similar in the north of the continent, where Egypt, one of the largest economies of the continent, suffers the same destiny. A study conducted under the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, shows a financial deficit of between $17 billion and $25 billion, with the abovementioned economies counting for around 33% of this gap.

Moreover, despite having the least culpability for the issue, Africa is already more severely affected by climate change than most other regions of the globe. Africa has the lowest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita of any continent, contributing less than 4% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, while having about one-fifth of the world's population. The adverse consequences of climate change, such as water stress, decreased food production and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, are already being felt disproportionately by African populations.

Africa's potential to leapfrog is not lacking and has already been discussed by the literature. However, dialogues on the actions to take to tackle the realities of climate change also center on how to manage energy use. Africa is at the center of a vital trade-off between using energy resources, which may significantly advance the continent's economic growth, and mitigating climate change. Although the world is experiencing an energy crisis of historic proportions,interest in its enormous gas resources is also growing north of the Mediterranean

Image Source

A matter of  economic justice

The Paris Agreement targets of keeping average temperature increases well below 2ºC and trying to not surpass 1.5ºC by 2050 with respect to pre-industrial levels set a roadmap to follow to fight climate change. This was to be achieved through National Determined Contributions (NDCs), that is, every signatory country would pledge to set a roadmap for cutting emissions, theoretically, following science-based targets. Despite being a move in the right direction, it does not come as a surprise that African economies yet to blossom are reluctant to curb their emissions at the same pace as developed countries.

By making a quick analysis of past and present events one can’t help but sympathize with the land that gave birth to mankind. On the one hand, going back a couple of centuries, the Scramble for Africa by European countries stands out as a watershed event in the continent’s history. The methods used for the continent’s partitioning and subsequent establishment of imperial powers have given rise to many maladies which have had long-lasting effects in inhibiting economic growth as has been proven over time and time again by academics. To name a few, depopulation through slavery has been found to account for 47% of the income disparity between African nations and the rest of the world. Moreover, the artificial nature of colonial boundaries has increased the likelihood of ethnic-driven conflict taking many lives and leaving many countries in a continuous “standby” situation. The previous two factors, coupled with the establishment of extractive institutions causing resource depletion to fund America and Europe’s industrialization, have contributed to the underdevelopment of the institutional framework in the aftermath of independence, which remains at a primitive stage to this day.

The outsized impacts of climate change make it a serious threat for the continent’s economics, which could be constrained by up to three percent by 2050 and further precipitate the fall into poverty of millions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, combining the deterring effects of colonial legacy and the increasing consequences of climate change on the continent, asking for the mistreated African people to decarbonize by giving up growth and letting their momentum pass is historically unfair and currently unrealistic. This resonates even more when some data is explored concerning the continent’s future energy demand. By 2040, Africa will acccount for 50% of the global workforce.

Growth as we know it

Nonetheless, considering the demographic prospects and the further increase in energy coverage, a boom in energy demand is expected, and this, in turn, forces any durable global solution to climate change to take into account the region’s interests and constraints. Even though it is clear that Africa’s will can’t be overlooked, growth as we have come to know it implies for the continent to follow China and India’s emission history, 1st and 3rd largest polluters respectively, and to become, in the near future, the biggest polluter. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that if we take into account how much ground is the renewable energy scenario gaining and Africa’s suitable renewable energy endowments. For instance, the continent receives 60 per cent more sunlight a year than the global average. Hence, solar energy has been coined the backbone of Africa’s new energy system, making it a solid challenge for the conventional fuel industry. Yet, for this to materialize the aforementioned investment gap should be dealt with. Healing previous wrongdoings and a solution to the investment deficit have been manifested, implicitly and explicitly, by US Climate Envoy John Kerry in the latest proposal at the COP 27. Under the name of “Energy Transition Accelerator” (ETA), its ultimate purpose is achieving the decarbonization of African countries by channelling a constant flow of private capital from big companies. Yet, what’s in it for the big polluters in the game? 

Carbon markets have been around for quite some time and are divided between mandatory and voluntary ones. The former ones are regulated by states, and represent a tool for them to decarbonize specific sectors. The European Emission Trading Scheme does this by capping the emissions allowed and making companies buy and trade carbon credits equivalent to one tonne of CO2 in order to justify excessive emissions. Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCM), on the other hand, represent the market for companies to further advance in their own voluntary pledges for decarbonization. In VCM, credits are earned  either through avoidance/reduction projects or through removal/sequestration projects. ETA’s proposal focuses on the former offsetting solution, that is, private companies would earn credits by helping African countries either by phasing out fossil fuel infrastructure already in place  or by fostering the use of renewables in places where fossil fuels are not in place yet. 

This proposal would expand VCM which has not yet exploded as a result of an untapped demand and a disorganized supply. However, these markets have been plagued with critics due to the lack of monitoring, and some of them apply to ETA’s proposal as well. The most notable issue is the lack of additionality that these projects may have. This means that the installation of renewables would occur given the plunging cost of wind and solar power, regardless of the credit's existence. Secondly, unless proper monitoring is enforced, companies may end up earning credits for building climate resilience, i.e. building walls for rising sea levels, a well-intended action which, however, deviates from the principle of one credit equivalent to one tonne of carbon sequestered. 

Conclusion

All in all, African investment needs are immense, particularly in the area of infrastructure, making it imperative to seek cooperation between the public and private sectors. Furthermore, attending these needs requires from developed countries to understand the African context. Years of failed aid should have taught us that much. In this sense, even though it has some flaws that should be corrected before its implementation, ETA may be determinant to guarantee the proper transition of the African continent towards renewables without compromising the continent’s growth. Successive COP rounds have failed to address this issue, and dealing with global climate change through the achievement of national decarbonization targets seems to be a battle that will be fought by governments on domestic ground. ETA’s proposal may make the giant non-state polluters step in, and in doing so,  unlock millions of private capital in the right direction. In the hypothetical case where environmental integrity is compromised as a result of some  credits being earned by fostering climate resilience, this still would allow the African population to combat climate change consequences which they are mainly not responsible for, and in turn, allowing some compensation for centuries of injustices.

November 21, 2022No Comments

Artificial Intelligence in the World of Art: A Human Rights Dilemma

Author: Maria Makurat.

Artificial Intelligence or “AI” is already being widely used for various purposes whether it be in analysing marketing trends, modern warfare or as of recently: reproducing artwork. Around 2021 and up till now, various articles have been released discussing the issue of AI being developed to reproduce an artist’s style and even recreate new artwork and therefore bringing up ethical issue of whether artists are in danger of losing their copyright claim on their own work. Whilst this issue is very new and one cannot say for sure where this development is going and whether one should be concerned in the first place. This article explains the recent debate and issues that are being addressed while drawing upon classical AI theory from warfare and highlighting possible suggestions.

Artificial intelligence not only in the military realm

“In April this year, the company announced DALL-E 2, which can generate photos, illustrations, and paintings that look like they were produced by human artists. This July OpenAI announced that DALL-E would be made available to anyone to use and said that images could be used for commercial purposes.”

An article by Wired “Algorithms Can Now Mimic Any Artist. Some Artists Hate It,” discusses how an AI called “DALL- E 2” can reproduce an artist’s style and make new photos, digital art and paintings. In theory anyone can use the programme to mimic another artist, or artists can sue it to make new art based on their old work. This of course brings many issues to light such as whether one can put a copyright on an art style (as is also discussed in the article), what exactly one wants to achieve with using AI to recreate more art and how this will be discussed in the future if indeed art work will be stolen. An earlier article by the Los Angeles Times from 2020 “Edison, Morse ... Watson? Artificial intelligence poses test of who’s an inventor,” already addressed this issue by discussing who is exactly the “inventor” when AI can develop for instance computer games and other inventions. It is true that a human being must develop the AI programme however, can that person also then be called the inventor if that said programme develops own ideas and perhaps own artwork? In relation to the general debate, one should consider “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” Article 27: “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”

Some recent debate centres not only around whether it is a question of the “ethics” in artificial intelligence but going one step back to understand the term “intelligence”. Joanna J Bryson writes: “Intelligence is the capacity to do the right thing at the right time. It is the ability to respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by context.”[i] Whilst the authors consider AI in relation to law, they do point out that: “Artificial intelligence only occurs by and with design. Thus, AI is only produced intentionally, for a purpose, by one or more member of the human society.”[ii]  Joanna further discusses that the word artificial means that something has been made by humans and therefore again brings up a key concept in AI of whether the human or the programme is responsible.[iii] When we consider this in relation to human rights issues and ethics, it may be true that AI in the world of art can be produced with a purpose by humans, but it remains the problematic issue of what the purpose is. We need the clear outline of why this AI programme has been made in the art world and for what purpose in order to then be able to answer further questions.

It has been pointed out that one should consider this development as nothing new since AI has been already used in the 1950s and 1960s to generate certain patterns and shapes. It is seen by many as a tool that helps the artists in these areas to work faster and be more precise however, it’s been debated that one should not be worried at all that the AI can replace humans since it lacks the human touch in the first place. This remains to be seen how far the AI can learn and adapt since it is programmed that way. If one should not be concerned by AI replacing human artists, then why is the debate happening in the first place? 

Credits: unsplash.com

The continues need for clearer definitions

It is not only a matter of the AI replicating art, but how we can define whether the system has crossed the line of copyright infringement: “(…) lawsuits claiming infringement are unlikely to succeed, because while a piece of art may be protected by copyright, an artistic style cannot.” This only shows again that one needs to quickly define more clearly what is an “artistic style”, “artwork” in relation to how AI would be even allowed to replicate the style.

One can draw a comparison to AI in warfare with debates concerning following themes: responsibility gap, moral offloading and taking humans out of the loop (discussed by scholars such as Horowitz, Asaro, Krischnan and Schwarz). Keith argues for example that psychological analyses show that we suffer from cognitive bias and that AI (in terms of military defence) will change our decision-making process.[iv]  If we use the example of drone warfare and the campaign “Stop Autonomous Weapons”, it depicts how drones can be used without directly sending humans into battle and shows the system getting out of hand and people distancing themselves from responsibility. Such type of warfare has an impact on the decision-making process, distancing the soldiers and strategists from the battle field. With of course taking into mind that using an AI in the art world does not involve possible casualties, one still can consider how we have a similar distancing from responsibility and moral offloading. It comes back to the recurring issues of who is responsible if an AI system decides by itself which choices to make, how to make them and determine the output. There are no humans involved during the process of making or “replicating” the art pieces however, there was an individual present during the development of the AI – I would like to call it a problematic ethical circle of debate in the art world.

Even though the idea of using AI to copy an art style or artworks altogether is quite new and perhaps even undeveloped, one should consider more strongly certain methods in order to bring a certain control and a managing system into the game. Nick Bostrom for instance discusses what a superintelligence in relation to AI would entail saying that one would need certain incentive methods in order for the AI to learn and adapt to the human society: “Capability control through social integration and balance of power relies upon diffuse social forces rewarding and penalizing the AI. (…) A better alternative might be to combine the incentive method with the use of motivation selection to give the AI a final goal that makes it easier to control.”[v]

Conclusion

It is not only problematic for the art world that an AI is able to copy any artist’s style -it is concerning how much further this development could go in terms of taking an artist’s style and creating an entire new series and diluting therefore the line between where the old and fictional artist lies. As has also already pointed out by others then need for better definitions however it needs to be stressed more strongly: one needs clearer definitions of who is an “artist”, “inventor”, “digital artist” when AI enters the discussion and is apparently here to stay. One needs to make a clear distinction between a human artist and a ‘programme artist (AI)’. Can an artist call himself artist when he or she uses AI to produce art?  All these questions should be discussed further in the near future since it seems to be the case that AI has entered the art realm and will continue to stay playing maybe a larger role in the future perhaps even with the development of the Meta verse.


[i] Markus Dirk Dubber, Frank Pasquale, Sunit Das, (2020) The Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI Oxford handbooks. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 4

[ii] Ibid, pp. 6.

[iii] Ibid, pp. 5

[iv] Keith, Dear, “Artificial intelligence and decision making,” pp. 18.

[v] Bostrom, Nick, “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies,” pp. 132.

November 21, 2022No Comments

Hypersonic Missiles: A sum zero game to Strategic Stability

Authors: Andre Carvalho and Marco Verrochio.

On March 19 for the first time, TV channels broadcasted that Russia successfully used two Kinzhal type hypersonic missiles in the war against Ukraine. It was the first time hypersonic missiles have been used in combat despite President Putin's presentation of the Kinzhal missile in March 2018. Non-specialized media started to be attracted by these new weapons, especially due to their high performance and their abilities to escape countermeasures. A Hypersonic missile, in some aspects, goes far beyond the capabilities of other conventional supersonic missiles. Supersonic missiles fly between 1.000 km/h and 5.000 km/h, while hypersonic missiles travel above 5.000 km/h, reaching about 25.000 km/h. Moreover, they fly at unusual altitudes and can change trajectory and target during the route.

Hypersonic missles can be devided in two categories. Hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles (HCMs). Usually, an HCM is launched by an aircraft and uses scramjets engines to sustain a speed above 5.000 Km/h. The Russian Kinzhal missile and the American Boeing X-51 are in this category. On the other hand, a rocket boosts the HGV to reach high speed and high altitude, usually above 100.000 feet. The HGV plays as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle using manoeuvres to maintain stability and to avoid detection by ground-based radars and sensors, maintaining the target unpredictable until a few seconds before the strike. Examples of HGVs include the Chinese Dong Feng-17, the Russian Avangard and the US PGS program. The primary concern regarding HGVs is their possibility of carrying a nuclear warhead. It increases the crisis instability in a confrontation, giving an advantage to the country striking first.

Nonetheless, the dyadic categorization between HCM and HGV ends up oversimplifying the hypersonic design possibilities, mainly because conventional ballistic missiles can also travel at hypersonic speed. According to a SIPRI report, HGVs and HCMs travel slower than ballistic missiles. In the same way, Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicles (MaRVs) – such as the Chinese DF- 21 Carrier Killer – can perform in-flight manoeuvres pulling high-G turns at hypersonic speed. Therefore, what differentiates HGVs and HCMs from other missile systems is the combination of speed with endoatmospheric maneuverability while maintaining hypersonic speed throughout the flight.

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal on a MiG-31KImage SourceWikimedia Commons

The mix of maneuverability, hypersonic speed, unpredictability of trajectory and the capability of conducting effective flights in low altitude can be considered both an advantage and a challenge for global security, especially strategic stability. The US, China and Russia are the nations on the forefront in this technology. Tod ay, d eveloping hypersonic missiles requires ad vanced technological development and massive investments. For this reason, they are prod uced in limited numbers. Nonetheless, other countries such as India, Brazil, the UK, Australia, and Japan are also interested in planning a series of investments and conducting tests of scramjet vehicles. As time goes on, the knowledge and the use of strategic foreign investments will increase the proliferation of these weapons. In a contingency scenario, hypersonic missiles will give a tremendous advantage to the aggressor since the combination of speed, maneuverability and their limited detectability by ground-based radars can result in target ambiguity, inaccurate warning times, and ineffective defence. The Rand Corporation had already warned about the proliferation of this technology proposing a non-proliferation agreement sponsored by major players (e.g. USA, China, and Russia) based on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). However, the geopolitical tension between US and China and the war in Ukraine demonstrated little interest in multilateral talks, especially on strategic weapons.

It is worth mentioning that, even though non-proliferation talks are relevant, there is a trend among analysts to magnify the potential destructive effects of emerging technologies before their actual introduction and use. This happened in the past with the introduction of strategic bombers and still happens nowadays with hypersonic technology. High-speed delivering missiles have been around for years. Now, new strides in precision, range and maneuverability make them the new trend that competing states seek to acquire to increase their relative power positions.

In the current situation, hypersonic missiles are still on a development stage and their use in conflict is limited to single actions. They are included in the arrays of solutions to strike strategic targets but the reason for their use is still more for deterrence purposes rather than an effective means for military service. Nonetheless, they still exert a significant impact on strategic stability. Regarding deterrence, the speed and precision of hypersonic weapons will leave the option for a decapitating first strike always open, which is inherently destabilizing. Crisis stability can also become unstable due to the hypersonic impact on deterrence since it compresses the decision- making time to just a few minutes, resulting in a first-mover advantage.

For Western analysts, the Kinzhal in Ukraine was a warning from Putin that Russia would not hesitate to resort to advanced technological weapons, destabilizing the global balance of power. Although the world is a dangerous place with or without hypersonic weapons, an arms control arrangement would be necessary. In the future will be essential to strengthen stability, putting a set of limitations on the ‘action-reaction’ cycle that keeps significant players involved in arms race dynamics. However, it is paramount to acknowledge that any agreement regarding hypersonic weapons that limits the speed and range of vehicles would hardly be ratified. There is more chance of success limiting range and speed would affect a large scale of existing ballistic missiles that have a considerable strategic effect and are significantly cheaper than hypersonic missiles. In addition, as mentioned before, several other countries are on the path of pursuit of hypersonic speed and have their indigenous R&D programmes, which makes the possibility of an agreement even more difficult to achieve.

Nowadays, the prospects for hypersonic defence are still low. However, some strides are being made identifying that a robust ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance), along with space-based systems, are key factors for tracking a hypersonic missile for the entirety of its trajectory, enabling multiple interception attempts. Therefore, until the international environment will be ready the only hopes to counter hypersonic missiles lies in developing effective countermeasures for the near future.

November 14, 2022No Comments

The future of European Defence: procurement issues and institutional challenges

Authors: Danilo delle Fave and Justine Le Man.

The current international crisis provoked by the invasion of Ukraine has led to a renewed thrust toward a major integration of European defence initiatives. On March, 21st of 2022, the Strategic Compass for security and defence was adopted by EU Member States. It provides a plan of action for strengthening the EU’s security and defence policy by 2030. Structured around four pillars: act, invest, partner and secure.

Act: Europe needs to be able to “act rapidly and robustly whenever a crisis erupts, with     partners if possible and alone when necessary”. To be able to do it, Europe needs to reinforce the interoperability and the cooperation of European civilian and military during CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) missions.

Invest: “We must resolutely invest more and better in defence capabilities and innovative technologies, both at the EU and national levels”. By agreeing to this condition Member States commit themselves to devoting a larger share of their budget to European defence but also to taking part in more collaborative European projects along the CARD (to devoting a larger share of their budget to European defence) recommendations to “develop a resilient, competitive and innovative European Defence Technological and Industrial Base throughout the Union".

      the Union”.

Partner “partnerships are an essential instrument to support the EU’s ambition to be global strategic player”. The EU needs to reinforce and take into consideration all its partners:international organisations such as NATO, UN… but also, bilateral partners who share the same values as the United-States, Canada, Norway, UK and Japan.

Secure “enhance its ability to anticipate threats, guarantee secure access to strategic domains and protect its citizens”. To be able to anticipate threats, the EU needs to focus on common intelligence capacities by developing common tools and a common policy to face new threats like cyberattacks.

Image Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/fighter-aircraft-flying-in-sky-during-air-show-5786112/

Over the last few years, the cooperation between European countries increased thanks to collaborative defence agreements. 

In 2017, the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) was adopted by the Council of the European Union to enable 25 EU Member States to develop their defence and security cooperation for better interoperability and to increase military capabilities. With the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), which provides the correct information flow, the European Defence Fund (EDF) devoting a larger share of their budget to European defence and the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), the aim of EU institutions is to make EU members leading projects together from training on the field to the research projects.

In order to strengthen those instruments, the European intervention initiative was launched: the French President Macron declared in a speech at the Sorbonne University in 2017, that Europe needed a shared strategic culture. In order to do so, in the next decades Europe should have a common intervention force, a common defence budget and a common doctrine for action. Today there are 13 countries in this initiative (11 EU Member States, Norway, and the United Kingdom). Despite major advances and progress to build European defence based on a better interoperability on the ground and a stronger solidarity and cooperation between army and political leaders, especially since the beginning of the Ukrainian war, Europe faces strong debates about the sovereignty and the place of a European defence with or without NATO.

The focus on a European defence and the adoption of the strategic compass reinforces the principle of the strategic autonomy of Europe which made some countries reluctant on the subject. In fact, for some of them, that means pushing away NATO and focusing only on Europe. For Josep Borell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security, “the more Europeans invest in their own defence capabilities, the more they will become as partners for the US” and the implementation of the Strategic Compass “could boost defence cooperation and strengthen Europe’s military clout, in complementarity with NATO”.

The difficulty of building a real entity in Europe is, in a big part, linked to the history of each country which makes Europe a multicultural whole. Some of the eastern countries for example see NATO as the only way to be protected and the invasion of Ukraine reinforces that perception, fearing further Russian expansion. The issue of sovereignty is another constraint factor for the construction of a strong Europe of defence. In fact, some countries are reluctant to cede sovereignty. For some countries this reluctance concerns the budgetary and fiscal fields.  It is mostly the case for Nordic countries: the “New Hanseatic League” created in 2018: Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Ireland, which do not want to be burdened by too costly solidarity with the rest of Europe. The deteriorating security in Europe has led those countries to increase their share of budget defence. This is the case of The Netherlands, which has declared that the country will reach the benchmark of at least 2% of their gross domestic products on defence by 2024, which represents an increase of 40 percent in its spending.

For the last few years, large progress has been made to build a strong European defence but there are still lots of blockages due to too many political differences between European countries. According to General Robert Brieger, Chairman of the EU Military Committee “We (Europeans) should give up some national sovereignty in developing key capabilities”. Now that EU Member States are aware that, to face the actual and future threats, they need to do more, one important point led us to the technical issues and the need a real industrial and economic consortium. One of the major obstacles for a common European defence is represented by procurement. The competition between consortia and firms has prevented the standardization of armaments, from bullets to tanks, and the lack of harmonization in procurement policies by member states has led to a duplication of programs and weapon systems

The main reason is based on economic considerations: military technology has a dual use nature now more than ever. The development of high-tech technologies provides a trickle-down effect on a national market: firms that work on the procurement of military technology acquire expertise and know-how capable of being used in civilian projects and technologies. An example is represented by the GPS: born as a military technology, it is now part of everyday life used by firms like Google, Tesla, and so on. 

The stakes are indeed high, and so the competition for the conquest of market niches. Each member state tries to favour its industries and national champions and at the same time does not want to renounce technoscientific diplomacy. The technological offsets, both hardware and software, constitute an important instrument to influence other countries. High-tech armaments or projects could be used to conclude international agreements. For instance the participation in the US F-35 program has been used by Washington to pressure the Turkish stance toward Russia. With this in mind, one possible solution for European defence procurement could be the “juste retour system”, as already working in the European Space Agency. Of course this division of labour comes not without shortfalls: the procurement policy will be focused not on the best provider of the requested service but on the distribution system of juste retour. The risk is the development of armaments and projects less efficient and the political pressure by member states, with the consequences that a defective or ineffective technology could have both on the economic and defence field. 

November 7, 2022No Comments

Critical Raw Materials and EU’s Open Strategic Autonomy

Authors: Riccardo Bosticco, Miguel Jimenez and Michele Mignogna.

Introduction

As the energy transition is one of our age's greatest challenges, developments in this direction are likely to exert notable impacts on broader international political and economic processes. In the European Union (EU) case, Russia’s war on Ukraine has taught the importance of avoiding dangerous dependencies and adapting to an increasingly conflictive world. The EU wants to achieve Open Strategic Autonomy (OSA) for this purpose. Moreover, this is of particular significance to understanding the EU’s policy on Critical Raw Materials (CRMs). Thus, this article explains the EU’s approach to CRMs and its connection to the concept of OSA.

The CRMs Landscape 

CRMs are crucial materials for the construction of wind turbines and solar panels, batteries for electric storage and cars and the development of technologies for digitalisation. The energy transition cannot be achieved without their availability. Among them, some of the most familiar are lithium, cobalt, platinum, and tungsten, yet the latest Act by the European Commission identifies around 30. A distinctive feature of CRMs is their limited and concentrated supply. According to the forecasts of the International Energy Agency, the net-zero equation will be solved with renewables such as wind and solar, predicted to account for 70% of power generation by 2050. Those countries where these materials are abundant would become green-commodity superpowers. Indeed, by 2040, those nations could pocket an estimated annual revenue of $1.2trn. CRMs share some features with fossil fuels. They are unevenly distributed. For instance, one-half of the world’s cobalt supply is located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone, South Africa possesses around 40% of the world’s manganese, while lithium is heavily concentrated in Chile, Argentina and Australia. Secondly, this endowment is mostly located in recognised autocracies, making them uncertain suppliers considering the instability of this type of governments. If there is one country which is way ahead in the race, not only in terms of being the major source to many of them but also by controlling 80% of the processing capacity, that is China. The current arm-wrestling with Russia has made EU countries aware of the vulnerabilities of relying on external sources for indispensable materials in the future. Thus, they have deployed measures to decrease dependency on China for these materials, which currently satisfies 98% of the demand for rare earth permanent magnets, a subcategory of rare earths

The EU’s Approach to CRMs

After the experience of the European Battery Alliance (EBA), in September 2020, European Commission Vice President Šefčovič and Commissioner Breton launched the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) as part of theAction Plan on Critical Raw Materials. The alliance aims to secure access to CRMs, advanced materials, and processing know-how for EU industrial ecosystems. Equally to the EBA, the ERMA involves relevant industries along the CRMs value chain, Member States and regions, trade unions, research and technology organisations, investors, and NGOs. To better understand the EU’s approach to CRMs, it is helpful to look at previous policy inputs by the EU in this field. In 2008, the European Parliament (EP) resolution on trade in raw materials and commodities made the point that access to raw materials is vital for the EU economy and highlighted the minor involvement of European industries in the exploration of such materials in third countries. The same year, the Raw Materials Initiative proposed an integrated strategy based on ensuring access, proper framework conditions to guarantee supplies, and resource efficiency to reduce consumption and dependencies. Later resolutions extended the actors involved, including the European External Action Service and other relevant stakeholders, to engage in resource diplomacy. In February 2012, a European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials proposal was published. It expressed the need to create a “critical mass towards the single objective of ensuring sustainable access to raw materials” by stimulating synergies between different policy instruments and Member States. Moreover, the Communication on CRMs Resilience stressed the strategic priority of securing CRMs and acknowledged their relevance to achieving open strategic autonomy. Hence, ERMA was given birth to create synergies among European CRMs stakeholders to address concentrated global markets, overcome technical barriers to investments and innovations, and ensure public awareness and policy acceptance, thus making the EU autonomous and strategic in this sector. While designing the ERMA’s role, the Commission Staff Working Document on Strategic Dependencies and Capacities indicated its purposes to create resilient value chains and investment pipelines, identify mining and investment projects and facilitate contacts with investors to compete on global markets. Yet, such developments have to be analysed in the cadre of overall EU policy directions, and for this purpose, the concept of OSA needs further discussion.  

Image Source: pixabay.com

Expanding Horizons: the EU Open Strategic Autonomy

The debate on the EU’s strategic autonomy has been central in the agenda of the EU’s institutions since the 2010s. As the 2016 Council defined it, strategic autonomy is “the capacity to act autonomously when and where necessary and with partners wherever possible”. In 2022, the EP has been more specific by stating that “the EU strategic autonomy refers to the capacity of the EU to act autonomously – that is, without being dependent on other countries – in strategically important policy areas [which] range from defence policy to the economy, and the capacity to uphold democratic values.” Notably, strategic autonomy expands well beyond the military and defence, with an increasing number of strategic sectors identified, and it has now evolved into the concept of Open Strategic Autonomy. As Josep Borrell has observed, after Covid-19, “strategic autonomy has been widened to new subjects of an economic and technological nature". In a recent study by the EP, OSA is defined as “the ability to act autonomously, to rely on one’s own resources in key strategic areas and to cooperate with partners whenever needed”. Specifically, the new concept deals with emerging challenges and future chances, encompassing five dimensions and looking at them holistically: geopolitics, technology, economy, environment, and society. OSA drives the EU to be economically and geopolitically stronger by reinforcing its economic assets and industries. It strengthens the international role of the Euro to sustain the economy, finance the recovery from the crisis, and stay competitive and connected to the rest of the world. It makes the EU sustainable and responsible by solidifying existing alliances, cooperating with like-minded partners, and increasing its internal political cohesion to lead the construction of a greener and more equitable society. It aspires to act assertively against unfair trade practices, keeping its liberal soul by favouring global cooperation and multilateralism to address complex issues. In this view, the trade dimension of OSA focuses on supply chain resilience and sustainability. For instance, it might encompass the repatriation of strategic industries back to the EU or reshoring. Yet, this should not mean that international trade or partnerships would be jeopardised. It gives the opportunity to act more assertively by choosing trade partners more selectively without losing normative ambitions to fight for a healthier society and environment. Moreover, it requires the EU to avoid past misunderstandings, for instance, by reducing its vulnerability to external sources of supply. As argued by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič at the Raw Materials Security of Europe Conference, this is exactly the case with CMRs.

Conclusion

Global economic developments challenge the ambitions of the EU. Indeed, the prior balance between interdependence and autonomy is being rearranged as a result of structural shifts in the global economy and world order. Some have identified such developments as a geoeconomic turn, namely a shift away from the liberal international order. With a particular focus on a crucial sector at the heart of the green transition, this article has outlined how the EU is trying to adapt to the challenge of a changing environment. As it has demonstrated, the EU looks like it cannot rely on market forces anymore. If this is the case, as the flourishing literature on geoeconomics suggests, then the next challenge for the EU will be to act cohesively and effectively on the global ground without losing its market competitiveness. 

October 31, 2022No Comments

The Right to Clean Water: Thoughts in sight of the Environmental Crisis

Analysis on the right to clean water and how climate change could be dangerous in securing enough resources.

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October 24, 2022No Comments

Woman, Life, Freedom

The article analyses the recent protests that erupted in Iran following Mahsa Amini's death and the broader debate on women rights in Iran.

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October 10, 2022No Comments

U.S.-China: The New Normal?

Author: Francesco Cirillo.

Tensions between China and the United States seem frozen at the moment, a consequence of domestic commitments of both Beijing and Washington. On the one hand, Xi Jinping will have to pass a Communist Party Congress to secure a third term as General Secretary of the Party, reappointment to the post of Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and reappointment as President of the People's Republic. Xi has several dossiers. The first is the issue of the anti-covid policy that has blocked production chains in recent months due to continuous lockdowns; the second is the delicate relationship with Moscow, which has seen in its Russian partner a greater weakening and consolidation of Beijing's political position in several areas of influence. For Xi, the October Congress is the turning point for the consolidation of his leadership within the Party. The main international dossier facing Beijing during the Congress session will be relations with Washington and the sensitive Taiwan issue. In the previous months several articles have been published by Chinese academics linked to the Party. CSIS, Center for Strategic of International Studies, translated an article by Liu Jieyi, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council from a seminar on the Taiwan issue held between August 17 and 18. The seminar was attended by several academics close to Communist Party and government positions. Liu Jieyi in the piece titled "Reunification Has Entered an Irreversible Historical Process [统一进入不可逆转历史进程]" described that the reunification process has now entered an irreversible historical process and that not even Taipei's so-called "anti-Chinese forces" and "independence vagueities" will oppose the unification of the Island with the People's Republic.

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/peking-forbidden-travel-china-1908167/

The Diplomatic clash between China and the United States on the Taiwan issue was raised after the visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but two other elements changed the approach of Sino-US relations. The first was the presentation of a new document(Taiwan Policy Act 2022) by the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that if approved could allocate some $6.5 billion in aid. If it is approved by both the House and Senate it could further deteriorate Washington-Beijing relations. Another bone of contention is the approval by the U.S. side to sell a $1.1 billion arms package. At the moment, relations between the People's Republic and the U.S. have returned to a certain "new" normalcy, a consequence of the domestic commitments of both Beijing (Party Congress" and Washington ( Mid-Term elections for the renewal of the U.S. Congress) .

On the international context, the war in Ukraine could, in the coming months and early 2023, lead China and the U.S. to engage in consultation given that at the SCO summit in Samarkand a certain Beijing discontent with the war being waged by the Kremlin was noted, a position that after the Party Congress could solidify further reducing Beijing's indirect support for Russia's junior partner.