MIL-OSI UK: May snubs compromise as Labour moves to ‘third phase’ of Brexit policy

Source: Labour List UK

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Just days after the government suffered a historic defeat on its Brexit deal – the largest defeat of any government in modern history, let us not hesitate to repeat – Theresa May is expected to return to parliament with the same plan. In a conference call last night, the Prime Minister reportedly told her cabinet that she doesn’t intent to change course. Instead, she will aim to win enough Tory and DUP support to get her deal through by seeking assurances on the backstop. Sound familiar? Possibly because that’s exactly what she vowed to do over Christmas.

How will she do it? The EU hasn’t, as hoped, changed its mind on the backstop after watching MPs reject the deal – after all, Ireland is still a member, and the backstop was actually May’s demand in the first place, and it only survives as an idea due to her red lines. There are rumours that she’d like to amend the Good Friday Agreement, which is clearly not viable. Another scheme involves a bilateral treaty with Ireland, which the Irish government has already quashed.

Was Jeremy Corbyn right to turn down May’s invite to Brexit talks last week? According to our latest survey, which attracted 5,625 responses, 60% of LabourList readers think he made the right call. It’s clear that the cross-party discussions were indeed a “stunt” and the PM had no intention of changing course until having at least one more go at convincing her party and confidence-and-supply partner. She knows that opting for customs union membership would split the Conservative Party, and why risk being that Tory leader? But, in her statement to the Commons today, May will no doubt place the blame on Corbyn for the failure of cross-party talks. Labour can only hope the public realise she is prioritising party unity above the national interest.

Over the weekend, Labour’s Brexit position developed when Keir Starmer gave a speech at the Fabians conference (read the full text here – note that LL gets a mention – and our key takeaways here). The headlines are that Labour is at the ‘third phase’ of its policy set out at conference, i.e. the alternative Brexit plan or backing a public vote. Again, the leadership won’t be moving swiftly onto the latter now that May has rejected compromise, but will instead wait to see how long her stubborn approach holds.

What’s clear is that Labour considers Article 50 extension “inevitable”, to quote Starmer, and this is important in deciding whether to support Yvette Cooper’s latest amendment. Although the opposition wants to make clear that responsibility for delaying Brexit lies with the government, Labour also wants to block ‘no deal’. Cooper’s move would give MPs a vote on whether to extend Article 50 if no agreement has been reached by the end of February, i.e. stop May running the clock down any further.

In what could become crucial in any future cross-party agreement, Starmer conceded on Marr the next day that “at this stage, any deal probably does require a backstop”. But if May does succeed in getting her ‘Plan B’ through with Tory and DUP votes, it is the Shadow Brexit Secretary’s other admissions that matter. “It’s a commitment to you, our members and our movement. And it is one we will keep,” he said of the key pledge about all options remaining on the table. The idea of another referendum, which has “significant support” among Labour members and some MPs, “has to be an option for Labour”, he added.

While answering audience questions, Starmer described himself as “a fan” of the Brexit citizens’ assembly idea, saying: “We’ve got to bring people back into these discussions, whether it’s through citizens’ assemblies or other means”. These are all largely shifts in tone rather than substance, but many MPs like to point out that Starmer has succeeded in softening the Labour position at every crunch moment. Could his backing for a further “injection of democracy” in the Brexit process break the camel’s back, or ultimately – like the backstop and extending Article 50 – become inevitable?

Sienna @siennamarla

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MIL-OSI UK: Sunday shows round-up: Starmer, Benn, Lammy and Cooper on Brexit

Source: Labour List UK

The Andrew Marr Show

Keir Starmer expressed many of the same views set out in his Fabians conference speech on Saturday, including that delaying Brexit by extending Article 50 is now inevitable and that Labour’s policy is in its ‘third phase’. He also conceded that any Brexit deal at this stage would “probably” require a backstop.

  • On Theresa May’s deal: “I have said for two years we will faithfully look at any deal that is brought back, which is what we did on Tuesday.”
  • On compromise and cross-party talks: “If she… said, my red lines have gone, I’m not going to hold a gun to your heads about no deal, that would shift the position incredibly.”
  • On the backstop: “At this stage any deal probably does require a backstop, and we’ve got to recognise that… There are problems with this backstop and we have got to recognise that. But because we are in this stage of the exercise, nearly two years in, the chances now of a deal that doesn’t have a backstop are very, very slim.”
  • On extending Article 50: “It’s extremely difficult to see how the Prime Minister can achieve what needs to be achieved in 68 days and therefore I think it is inevitable Article 50 is going to be extended. And the blame with that lies with the Prime Minister.”

Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central and Brexit select committee chair:

  • On reports that in his office on Monday “backbench plotters” will meet to give control of the Brexit process to the Commons: “MPs doing their job are not plotters, they are trying to sort out the mess the Prime Minister has created. We are facing a national crisis and there are many MPs in the House of Commons whose first priority is to ensure that we do not leave without a deal. And therefore finding ways when we come to table amendments this week and debate on the 29th January how we stop that.”
  • On accusations that Commons officials have acted with bias: “To attack House of Commons clerks and suggest they’re part of a conspiracy is a disgrace. Our clerks are resolutely impartial.”
  • On breaking the deadlock: “I think we have to compromise because parliament is deadlocked and the Prime Minister can’t get around that.”
  • On indicative votes: “I’m in favour of parliament voting on a series of options to see if there’s one that can command majority support.”

Ridge on Sunday

David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham:

  • On securing a Brexit deal: “I would prefer a soft Brexit, somewhere like Norway, to Theresa May’s botched deal… I could only vote for it on the basis that there was a final say referendum.”
  • On Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit position: “He’s moving the goalposts and I’ve been very clear on that… It seems to me there is no point in continuing with votes of no confidence, throwing darts and missing the board… I think that Jeremy has been hedging.”
  • On a Labour split: “There is a small group in our party who are so frustrated, who have so much grievance, the fear is that they are going to go off and form another party.  I personally reject that but the danger is, just like 1983, a new party built around basically a relationship with Europe keeps the Labour Party out of power for a generation.”

Pienaar’s Politics

Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP for Denton and Reddish and Shadow Local Government Secretary:

  • On Labour talks with May: “In terms of opening the door to meaningful negotiations with us, all she’s got to do is give us a verbal commitment that she will do everything possible to prevent a no deal.”

Caroline Flint, Labour MP for Don Valley:

  • On the way forward for Brexit: “Get ‘no deal’ off the table, but get Remain off the table as well, so we can focus on what needs to be done. There’s too much shenanigans, too much process, not enough substance going on amongst politicians.”

Westminster Hour

Yvette Cooper, Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, who has a new bill and an amendment (with Nick Boles) to take ‘no deal’ off the table:

  • On her bill to allow parliament to demand an extension of Article 50: “If we’re still in this paralysis by the end of February, we just have to be sensible and recognise that we may need more time… The plan is to put forward a simple amendment to the Prime Minister’s Plan B motion that there was parliamentary time for [the bill].”
  • On the length of Article 50 extension: “It proposes an extension until the end of the year, but that’s amendable.”
  • On support for her bill: “I’ve talked to the [Labour] frontbench… My understanding is that there are government ministers who also want this bill to pull through.”

Jenny Chapman, Labour MP for Darlington and shadow Brexit minister:

  • On Labour supporting Cooper’s bill: “That’s a decision for Nick Brown and the shadow cabinet… I think there will be widespread for this in parliament.”

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MIL-OSI UK: What we learnt from Keir Starmer’s Brexit speech today

Source: Labour List UK

Keir Starmer delivered a 2,000-word speech and answered the questions of Labour activists at the Fabian conference this morning. The frontbencher covered the failures of the Tory government during the Brexit negotiations and the next steps for Labour policy. Here’s what we learned…

Labour will keep trying to force a general election.

“Wednesday’s no confidence vote was just the beginning of Labour’s efforts to secure a general election – not the end,” Starmer said in his speech. “Securing a general election is – and always will be – our priority as it’s the only way to deliver the radical change this country needs.”

After the government survived the no-confidence vote on Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesperson did not rule out tabling another such motion at a later date, possibly before the Prime Minister has returned to parliament with a substantive ‘Plan B’ for Brexit.

“Motions of confidence can happen more than once,” the spokesperson said earlier this week. This was confirmed again as the Labour leader’s line in his Hastings speech: “We will come back with [a motion of no-confidence] again if necessary.”

Labour will keep its conference motion commitment.

At Labour conference in September, the Brexit composite motion unanimously passed by delegates pledged: “If we cannot get a general election, Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”

Following phase one (voting down Theresa May’s deal) and phase two (seeking an election), Starmer confirmed that we are now “at the third phase of our policy”. He went on to describe the key pledge about “all options remaining on the table” as “a very important commitment”.

“It’s a commitment to you, our members and our movement. And it is one we will keep,” Starmer promised in his speech today.

Four options have been ruled out: May’s deal, no deal, Canada model, hard Irish border.

Starmer ruled out two options today. First, supporting the Prime Minister’s deal, “or any tweaked version of it that may materialise”. The Brexit spokesperson explained: “The deal is so flawed, it is so far from meeting our tests, and the parliamentary opposition to is so great that this can no longer be considered a credible option. A majority of 230 speaks for itself.”

It is of some interest that he said “this can no longer be considered a credible option” – as if it were a credible option at one point. There had been rumours towards the end of 2018 that Labour could countenance backing a version of May’s deal, particularly as many argue (and Barry Gardiner has acknowledged) that only the non-legally-binding political declaration part of the divorce deal would need changing.

Second, leaving without a deal. This one came as no surprise, as the entire parliamentary Labour Party agrees (apart from Kate Hoey). “No deal simply is not acceptable to us – it never has been. The damaging impact of no deal to people across the country is so profound that no one should be casual about it,” Starmer said.

Third, the Canada model favoured by some Brexiteers in the Conservative Party. “A free-trade deal along the lines of CETA – the so-called Canada model – is not acceptable,” Starmer said. “A CETA-style deal would weaken workers’ rights, consumer and environmental standards. It wouldn’t protect supply chains which are vital for our manufacturing industry. And it wouldn’t prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland.”

Finally, any Brexit deal that lead to a hard Irish border.

Two options remain: Labour’s alternative plan and a public vote.

Starmer clearly set out that after ruling out all of the above, there are only two options for Labour: “1) Instructing the Government to negotiate a close economic relationship with the EU” and “2) As our conference motion sets out, the option of a public vote”.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary conceded that Labour’s alternative plan is “far from perfect” and “involves trade-offs and compromises”. He also acknowledged that the other option, a fresh EU referendum, has “significant support” among Labour members and some Labour MPs. He emphasised that this “has to be an option for Labour”.

Responding to audience questions on a ‘people’s vote’, Starmer said: “We’re no longer in the position we were in two years ago. We’re asking a different question, which is how to crash out without a deal. In those circumstances, we have to consider the options laid out in my speech.”

Starmer thinks we probably won’t leave the EU on 29th March.

“We also need to recognise that – whichever of these options we pursue – the 29th March deadline looks increasingly unlikely to be met,” he said. Listing the pieces of legislation still needing MPs’ approval, Starmer concluded that Article 50 extension is “inevitable”.

Asked whether the EU elections taking place this year would affect that extension, Starmer replied: “It’s a pretty open secret that the EU have at least discussed extending until 1st July.” European Labour Party leader Richard Corbett has similarly advised in the past that extension until July would be feasible without the need to hold European parliamentary elections in the UK in May.

Starmer is interested in the idea of a Brexit citizens’ assembly.

Last month, Neil Lawson of Compass called for a Brexit citizens’ assembly, whereby a representative sample of the public would make a recommendation on the outcome. The idea has since been supported by MPs including Lisa Nandy and Stella Creasy. Starmer revealed today that he is “a fan”, saying: “We’ve got to bring people back into these discussions, whether it’s through citizens’ assemblies or other means”.

Keir Starmer reads LabourList.

We already knew that. But he has now also quoted a LabourList piece in a key Brexit speech. He said:

“But as Andrew Harrop pointed out in LabourList last weekend: “In this moment of national crisis, [Labour] has a responsibility not just to oppose but to offer a constructive path forward.” I agree. It’s now time for an open and frank debate about how we break the deadlock.”

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MIL-OSI UK: Lords examines Trade Bill

Source: British Parliament News

18 January 2019
The Trade Bill begins its committee stage, the first chance for line-by-line scrutiny, in the Lords on Monday 21 January.

Members are expected to discuss the prevention of customs arrangements at borders, international trade agreements and territories forming part of a customs union with the UK
Baroness Smith of Basildon (Labour) has proposed an amendment that the committee’s report is not received until the government has presented to both Houses proposals for a process for making international trade agreements once the UK is in a position to do so independently of the EU, including roles for Parliament and the devolved legislatures and administrations in relation to both a negotiating mandate and a final agreement.
If agreed to this amendment would mean that the bill would complete its committee stage in the Lords but not progress to report stage until the government’s proposals are received.
Lords second reading: Tuesday 11 September
Baroness Meyer (Conservative), made her maiden speech.
Members discussed a range of subjects covered by the bill including border arrangements in Northern Ireland, continued participation in the European medicines regulatory network and Free Trade Agreements.
Trade Bill summary
This bill aims to: 
Ensure the UK can implement any procurement obligations arising from the UK becoming a member of the Agreement of Government Procurement (GPA) in its own right.
Assist with the implementation of UK trade agreement with assisting partner countries.
Establish a new body, the Trade Remedies Authority.
Allow HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to collect information confirming the number of exporters of goods and services in the UK.
Establish a date sharing gateway between HMRC and other public and private bodies.
Further information
Image: iStockphoto


MIL-OSI UK: A new Brexit date, but no new Brexit plan

Source: Labour List UK

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We’ve got a new Brexit vote date: 29th January. But there’s no sign of a new Brexit plan from Theresa May, who engaged in cross-party talks yesterday that appeared to be purely performative. Jeremy Corbyn did his best to get some movement going. As discussed in yesterday’s email, the opposition leader has decided to snub substantive Brexit talks until ‘no deal’ is ruled out. In his Hastings speech, he told the Prime Minister to “ditch the red lines and get serious about proposals for the future”. He followed that up with a letter that clarified his position: “Labour is open to meaningful discussions. But… these cannot be on the basis of your existing red lines.” Her response said ruling out ‘no deal’ was an “impossible condition”.

Was Corbyn’s boycott decision the right one? (This question isn’t hypothetical – you can tell us your view in our new survey.) The Labour MPs I spoke to were divided on the issue: some thought it was too nuanced and came across badly to the public (“we’re in primary colours now”); some agreed that the talks were pointless without that no-no-deal assurance (including Corbynsceptics such as Wes Streeting); others undecided (“we’ll see if it pays off”). Quite a few were irritated by Corbyn’s message to Labour MPs in which he urged them to refrain from government talks for now. Most did follow his lead. A few ignored the advice – John Mann, Yvette Cooper, Hillary Benn, Stephen Kinnock and other non-loyalists took a trip to the Cabinet Office – but, like other opposition party leaders, they seemed to find the government unhelpful and uncompromising.

With neither May nor Corbyn yet changing their Brexit position, we’re still at square one: how do we break the deadlock? Another referendum seems logical in some ways – admit our political class has failed, throw it back to the people – but it does risk killing off any idea that our elected representatives are competent enough to run the country, as well as presenting a whole host of other problems. Crucially, neither main party leaders want to do it and there is currently no parliamentary majority for it.

The Guardian today leads with a story that Corbyn would face up to a dozen frontbench resignations if he backed a fresh public vote. Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott might be alright with it, but it’s easy to imagine that Ian Lavery, Barry Gardiner and Jon Trickett, as well as a host of Leave-seat junior shadow ministers including Gloria de Piero, wouldn’t be without protest. Of course, Corbynsceptics (such as Luke Akehurst) are not best pleased about how the story was written up – they say there will also be resignations if he refuses to support the move.

Like everything else with Brexit, there are no easy answers. Tricky, tricky. I’m very interested to hear what you make of it all. Was Corbyn’s call on Brexit talks this week the right one? What should be Labour’s top priority now? And who are your favourite shadow cabinet members? Tell us by completing our new survey. Have a great weekend.

Sienna @siennamarla

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MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: UN Secretary-General Outlines UN Priorities for 2019

Source: Small Island Developing States

16 January 2019: UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Member States to do their best to make September 2019 a defining moment for stopping runaway climate change, achieving the SDGs and building a fair globalization. Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in a briefing at the start of 2019, Guterres reflected on the UN’s achievements in 2018, and outlined priorities for the coming year.

The briefing was convened by UNGA President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés on 16 January 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. It followed a briefing, on 15 January, on her own priorities for the remainder of the 73rd UNGA session.

Guterres told delegations that the UN had made a difference in 2018 in the areas of: the search for peace diplomacy in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia and Armenia; the adoption of the Paris Agreement Work Programme during the Katowice Climate Change Conference; and the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and of the Global Compact on Refugees in December 2018.

He noted that work intensified to reach the SDGs, with 102 States having presented Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) so far to assess national-level implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On humanitarian aid, he reported that approximately US$15 billion coming from country contributions helped reach about 100 million people in need. He also noted that for the first time in the history of the UN, it reached gender parity within the senior management and among the candidates for the position of resident coordinator.

Guterres also highlighted initiatives launched in 2018, including the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative endorsed by 151 countries and four major organizations, and the launch of Youth 2030, the UN’s strategy for working with and for young people. On the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General, he said: the repositioned UN Development System is now in place, including a new Resident Coordinator system and a new generation of Country Teams; the UN peace and security architecture has been fortified to strengthen prevention, mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding; and new management capacities, structures and practices, including new levels of transparency, simplification and accountability will underpin these changes and “deeply transform” the UN.

Countries welcomed the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General, and stressed the need for the high-level events of September 2019 to renew commitments to the 2030 Agenda and combatting climate change.

On the work ahead, Guterres stressed the need to accelerate the “surge in diplomacy,” and to strengthen partnerships. He said “there can be never room for hate speech, intolerance or xenophobia,” and called for investing in social cohesion, education, new skills for people to adapt, and safety nets for those that risk to be left behind. He announced that the UN will continue to strengthen its partnership with the African Union (AU) in order to consolidate gains towards peace, adding that lasting peace must be based on a broad consensus of society, “with women as full participants in all peace processes.”

Guterres asked to dramatically accelerate efforts on key 21st-century challenges, namely: the fight against climate change; achieving the SDGs; and stepping up new technologies that can “turbocharge” this work. Further on climate change, he remarked that by 2020, under the Paris Agreement, Member States are meant to assess progress and submit new pledges to meet the goals to which they agreed. In addition, by 2050, net zero global emissions should be reached. On technologies, he indicated that “later in 2019” his High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation will report on proposals for reducing digital inequality, building digital capacity and ensuring that new technologies are on “our side and are a force for good.”

In an interactive discussion, countries highlighted the need to protect and strengthen multilateralism, and welcomed the UN reforms led by the Secretary-General on development, management and peace and security. Many UN Member States also referred to the high-level events that will take place in September 2019 during the UNGA’s annual General Debate, including the UN Climate Summit, the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development, and the ‘SDG Summit.’ They stressed the need to renew and reaffirm commitments towards the 2030 Agenda and combatting climate change.

Thailand for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said the theme of Thailand’s 2019 ASEAN chairmanship is ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability,’ and this reinforces the idea that multilateralism should be protected. The EU stressed the importance of universal values, respect for rule of law, promotion of human rights and human dignity, and for a UN that is tailored to new challenges, in line with the UN reforms.

Thanking other countries for their words of comfort and condolences following the terrorist attacks in Kenya on 15 January, Kenya stressed the importance of working closely together to tackle the “global phenomenon” of terrorism. South Africa reported that the relationship between the UN and Africa has strengthened, including through the Joint UN-AU Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security, and the AU-UN framework for the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Referring to challenges with the UN’s financial situation, the US suggested reforming its budget process and improve its ability to better manage resources to deliver on its mandates. Afghanistan stressed the need to find new ways to implement UNGA and UN Security Council resolutions, noting that their implementation “remains weak.”

On climate change, Fiji noted that climate action speaks to all areas of the UN reforms and, if not addressed could be an “extreme threat” to all the SDGs combined. Chile underscored the importance of addressing climate change, and noted that the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 25) will take place in Santiago.

On efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, Mexico said his president signed a decree through which all the country’s public and social policies will be inspired by and based on the 2030 Agenda. Colombia said the SDGs are a guide to “administrate globalization” and to ensure the effectiveness of multilateralism, adding that his country has incorporated the 17 SDGs into its domestic policy, and the Goals are considered permanent guidance for public policy in Colombia.

On migrants and refugees, Mexico said his country is the first or second largest corridor in the world for migration, and it will take the Global Compact on Migration as a basis for its legislation and policies. Jordan called on the UN to continue to support countries that host refugees. [UN Secretary-General Statement] [UNGA President Letter Announcing the Briefing] [UN Secretary-General Website] [UN News on Secretary-General’s Briefing] [UN Webcast] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

MIL OSI Asia Pacific

MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: UNGA President Sets out Plans, Coordination Efforts for 2019

Source: Small Island Developing States

15 January 2019: UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces briefed Member States on plans for the remaining eight months of the 73rd UNGA session. She outlined several upcoming events and initiatives related to the 2030 Agenda, financing for development, synergies among UN bodies, gender equality, climate change, plastic pollution and the role of cities.

Espinosa said the 2030 Agenda is “a cornerstone of the success of multilateralism,” and more public understanding and support for the SDGs is needed. She highlighted several events related to the 2030 Agenda that will convene in 2019 and that require coordinated planning.

First, she reminded delegations that the HLPF will convene twice in 2019, once under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July, and in September 2019 under the UNGA as the ‘HLPF Summit.’ She said the two must be closely coordinated, and she is working closely with the ECOSOC President and the co-facilitators to ensure synergies between the meetings. According to a document circulated at the briefing titled, ‘Preliminary List of High-level Events and Key Meetings’ a Leaders’ Roundtable on SDG Targets will convene alongside the HLPF in July 2019.

Espinosa also highlighted two meetings on financing for development (FfD) taking place in 2019: the ECOSOC Forum on FfD Follow-up, which she said will feed into the outcome of the HLPF Summit, and the UNGA’s High-level Dialogue on FfD. The President said she is working with the co-facilitators of those events to ensure synergies, as well.

She also stressed the need for all of the high-level UNGA meetings scheduled for the opening week of the 74th Session to be handled in a coherent, synergetic way. In addition to the HLPF summit, these meetings include: a high-level meeting on universal health coverage; a high-level meeting on the elimination of nuclear weapons; and the mid-term review of the Samoa Pathway on small island developing States (SIDS).

Espinosa noted that she will convene a joint briefing with the ECOSOC President on 31 January to discuss coherence among the bodies, including with regard to the 2019 HLPF meetings. The briefing will address the ongoing process to enhance synergies and coherence and reduce overlap among bodies in light of the 2030 Agenda. It will also include updates on: the HLPF, youth, decent work and FfD.

Rather than negotiating long documents and resolutions, this is a time for ensuring capital flows “at scale and urgently” for climate change and the 2030 Agenda.

In remarks following the President’s briefing, El Salvador highlighted the “double HLPF” taking place in 2019, cautioning that the HLPF Summit should not be “drowned” out during the high-level week but be utilized as a true opportunity to examine the implementation of the 2030 Agenda four years after its adoption.

Canada, noting his role as a co-facilitator for the High-level Dialogue on FfD, along with Ghana, said the meeting needs to be planned in coordination with the other processes underway, such as the FfD Forum and the HLPF Summit. He called on everyone to think outside of the box on “how we’re going to do this.” He stressed that given the need for action on the 2030 Agenda, this is not a time for long documents or negotiations on reoslutions, but making sure the right actors are engaged so that “capital flows way more, at scale and urgently,” for climate change and the 2030 Agenda.

Tanzania and the UK said that they will present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) during the HLPF in July, with the UK noting its intention to include a focus on financing the SDGs.

On gender equality and empowerment of women, Espinosa reported that she has established a Group of Gender Equality Leaders as an informal forum of eminent persons to accelerate gender equality. The Group’s first meeting will take place on 29 January, in collaboration with the UN Foundation. It is aimed at identifying barriers to women’s full participation and leadership in both the public and private sectors, and sharing best practices for accelerating women’s empowerment.

She also highlighted the Women in Power summit she is convening on 12 March 2019, on the margins of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The Summit will promote women’s leadership, including by engaging young women leaders and fostering an intergenerational environment for dialogue.

On protection of environment, Espinosa said she expects 2019 to be “a decisive year, as we near the first milestones of 2030 agenda.” She highlighted upcoming events including:

  • On 14 February, a joint briefing with UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Climate Summit, Luis Alfonso de Alba, to outline the roadmap for preparations for the event, which will take place on 23 September 2019; and
  • On 28 March, a high-level UNGA meeting to “build on the momentum from COP 24 and pave the way” for the Climate Summit.

On plastic pollution, the President highlighted efforts to reduce single-use plastics in UN Member States’ Permanent Missions and UN facilities. She will host a briefing on the action plan to integrate sustainable development practices into the Secretariat’s operations and facilities management, to ensure that these do not have a negative impact on the climate. The action plan was called for in UNGA resolution 71/228. In addition, she is organizing a festival with the governments of Norway and Antigua and Barbuda, on 27 April 2019 in Antigua and Barbuda, to encourage awareness and action on plastic pollution.

On the role of cities, Espinosa will hold a meeting with mayors and other stakeholders on 19 February in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to address the role of cities in sustainable development, food security, nutrition and climate change. Among other topics that Espinosa discussed, she said:

  • On the 75th anniversary of the UN, which takes place in 2020, she will appoint co-facilitators for discussions on the theme, date and modalities of the commemoration event;
  • On migration, co-facilitators have been appointed for consultations on the modalities of the International Migration Review Forum, which will be the intergovernmental platform for global discussions of progress on implementing the global compact on migration adopted in Marrakech in December 2018, and a high-level debate on international migration and development will take place on 27 February;
  • On decent work, Espinosa will convene a high-level event on 10 April. On 9 April, a town hall will focus on interlinkages between decent work and youth, peace and security, in the context of the ECOSOC Youth Forum, which convenes on 8-9 April. These events seek to build on the momentum created by the in-depth review of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) taking place during the July 2019 session of the HLPF, as well as the commemoration of the centenary of the International Labor Organisation (ILO);
  • On persons with disabilities, a Steering Committee on Accessibility at the UN was launched in late 2018, focusing on accessibility on UN premises, and on 10 June 2019 she will host a high-level event; and
  • On strengthening the multilateral rules-based system, the President will convene a meeting of former UNGA presidents, on 4 February, in order to craft a set of recommendations. In addition, a High-level Event will take place on the International Day of Multilateralism, on 24 April 2019.

The 73rd UNGA session will close on 16 September 2019, and Espinosa will be succeeded by the President of the 74th session on 17 September. The next President is to be selected from the Group of African States. The UNGA will hold interactive dialogues with the candidates in early May, and the election will take place in early June. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [Statement of UNGA president] [UN press release] [Meeting webcast]

MIL OSI Asia Pacific

MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: SAICM Launches Project on Best Practices for Chemical Policy Issues of Concern

Source: Small Island Developing States

16 January 2019: The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) Secretariat launched a project on global best practices on emerging chemical policy issues of concern. The project – which is the first such Global Environment Facility (GEF) full-size project – will be implemented in over 70 countries over a four-year period, with initial results presented to the International Conference on Chemicals Management in 2020.

Jacob Duer, Chief of Chemicals and Health Branch, UN Environment Programme, opened the two-day workshop launching the project. He suggested that while participants consider the project’s work plans, budgets and communications plans that will seek to advance the implementation of chemicals management at the national level, they should also reflect on how the project will contribute to the broader development agenda. He highlighted that the project will help to raise awareness of the chemicals and wastes agenda.

Brenda Koekkoek, SAICM Secretariat, explained that SAICM is a voluntary platform for stakeholders to work together and that it contributes in particular to achieving SDG target 12.4 (By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment). She noted that the “emerging policy issues” (EPIs) that SAICM focuses on are lead and paint, highly hazardous pesticides, chemicals in products, hazardous electronics, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, pharmaceutical pollutants, nanotechnology, and perfluorinated chemicals.

Koekkoek said the project’s initial results will be presented to the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5), convening in 2020. She highlighted that the project seeks to accelerate the adoption of national and value chain initiatives to control EPIs, as well as to contribute to SAICM’s 2020 goal and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The project will focus on three components: phasing out lead in paint; lifecycle management of chemicals in products; and knowledge management and stakeholder engagement. The implementing agency is the UN Environment Chemicals and Health GEF unit, and the SAICM Secretariat is the executing agency. IISD, through its SDG Knowledge Hub, is a partner in the delivery of the knowledge management component of the project.

The project was launched during a workshop for project partners at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, from 15-16 January 2019. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [SAICM website]

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MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: Report Examines Legal Foundations of a Global Pact for the Environment

Source: Small Island Developing States

15 January 2019: In the context of the first substantive session of the Ad Hoc Open Ended Working Group Towards a Global Pact for the Environment, experts have released a draft report on legal foundations for a Global Pact for the Environment. Through 26 chapters, the report discusses various principles and aspects of the Draft Global Pact for the Environment, which was developed in 2017 by the International Group of Experts for the Pact (IGEP). The report is a publication from the University of Cambridge.

The Draft Global Pact seeks to strengthen the coherence of global environmental governance, and to gather principles of environmental law in a concise text. It is presented as an indicative document to illustrate the concrete form a Global Pact for the Environment could take. The draft was introduced by France’s President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the 72nd UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2017, at a summit to launch consultations on the proposed instrument.

A Global Pact should be a binding treaty, providing an umbrella to a wider body of MEAs.

In May 2018, the UNGA adopted resolution 72/277 titled, ‘Towards a Global Pact for the Environment,’ by which Member States request the UN Secretary-General to submit a technical and evidence-based report that identifies and assesses possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments. This report was issued in December 2018. Also by resolution 72/277, the UNGA decides to establish an ad hoc open-ended working group to consider the Secretary-General’s report and discuss options to address possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments, with a view to making recommendations.

This Ad Hoc Open Ended Working Group held its organizational meeting in September 2018, and is convening for its first substantive session from 14-18 January 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. The co-chairs of the Working Group are Francisco António Duarte Lopes, Permanent Representative of Portugal, and Amal Mudallali, Permanent Representative of Lebanon.

Edited by Yann Aguila, President, Environment Commission of the Club des Juristes, France, and Jorge Viñuales, Professor, Cambridge University, UK, the report titled, ‘A Global Pact for the Environment: Legal Foundations,’ compiles studies from experts in international environmental law from around the world. In its first chapter, the report outlines the conceptual foundations of a Global Pact, including reasons why a Global Pact would constitute an important milestone in the evolution of international environmental law and of global environmental governance. It notes that a Global Pact should be a binding treaty, providing an umbrella to a wider body of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).

In its other chapters, the report also considers, inter alia: the right to a healthy and sustainable environment; sustainable development and integration; intergenerational equity; prevention; precaution; access to justice; the effective implementation of environmental law; the principle or resilience; and non-regression.

For updates from the substantive session in Nairobi, see the Earth Negotiations Bulletin’s coverage here. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]

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MIL-OSI Asia Pacific: Report Outlines How the Energy Transformation Will Reshape the World

Source: Small Island Developing States

11 January 2019: The report of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation analyzes how the rapid expansion of renewables will reshape relations between states and regions and between governments and citizens. It concludes that the global transition towards renewable energy will have far-reaching geopolitical implications comparable to those triggered by the rise of coal and other fossil fuels during the early industrial revolution.

The report titled, ‘A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation,’ was released at the ninth session of the IRENA Assembly. It investigates the key drivers of global energy transition, impacts of the transition on countries, potential shifts in power dynamics, and how the global energy transition, together with other factors, could cause geopolitical instability.

“Energy transition will ultimately move the world in the right direction by addressing climate change, combating pollution, and promoting prosperity and sustainable development.”

The authors find that energy transition will create a world “very different from the one that was built on a foundation of fossil fuels.” The influence of states that have heavily invested in renewables, such as China, will grow, whereas that of states relying on fossil fuels exports will diminish, if they fail to adapt to the energy transition.

Overall, the Commission concludes that energy transition will strengthen energy independence and energy security of most countries leading to a long-term decline in energy-related conflicts. While some states my face a challenging adaptation period, a global energy transition will “ultimately move the world in the right direction by addressing climate change, combating pollution, and promoting prosperity and sustainable development.”

Characteristics of the Energy Transition

The analysis begins by explaining that the global energy transition is characterized by three primary aspects: increases in energy efficiency; growth of renewables; and electrification of end-use sectors currently relying on fossil fuels, such as transport and heating. Change in these three dimensions is driven by six enabling trends:

  • Declining cost of renewables;
  • The need to address climate change and air pollution;
  • The adoption of renewable energy targets in most countries;
  • Technological innovation;
  • Corporate and investor action, including fossil fuel divestment; and
  • Shifts in public opinion.

The following section explains how key differences between renewable energy sources and fossil fuels will transform geopolitics, including: their widespread availability in almost all countries; the fact that renewables are flow resources that do not exhaust themselves as they are used; the ability to deploy renewables at almost any scale; and the fact that most renewable sources have almost no marginal cost.

Impacts on Countries

How these characteristics and drivers impact a country will be determined to a large extent by its dependence on fossil fuel imports and ability to innovate. The publication shows how different countries and regions stand to benefit from, or be challenged by, the energy transition and why. The US, for example, is well positioned to benefit because of its near self-sufficiency in fossil fuel supplies and its strength in new technology development. China can capitalize on its cost competitiveness in renewable energy equipment manufacturing and its ability to attract large investments in renewable energy. South Asia and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will benefit most from reduced costs of fossil fuel imports, while some countries of Sub-Saharan Africa may be able to leapfrog fossil fuel development entirely. Fossil fuel-exporting countries, such as Russia, the Middle East and North Africa, on the other hand, are expected to face challenges in adapting to reduced fossil fuel revenues.

The subsequent section discusses the vulnerability of fossil fuel exporting countries to a decline in global demand and a resulting decline in geopolitical influence, by comparing their relative dependence on fossil fuel imports and their degree of resilience to respond to a decline on these revenues. This analysis results in four groups:

  • Highly exposed, low resilience countries, including Libya, Angola, Republic of Congo, Timor-Leste and South Sudan;
  • Highly exposed, highly resilient countries, including many Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Brunei Darussalam;
  • Moderately exposed, moderately resilient countries that can manage the transition if they implement additional policies to diversify their economies, including Russia, Iran, Algeria and Azerbaijan; and
  • Relatively low exposure countries where fossil fuel exports are less than 10% of GDP, including Malaysia, Bahrain, Colombia and Norway.

The Commission also discusses how energy transition can create opportunities for new energy leaders. Chile’s solar resources or Brazil’s biofuels capacity for example, could position these countries as exporters of renewable energy. Bolivia, Mongolia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo control a high share of the minerals required to deploy renewable technologies, and China leads in innovation and manufacturing by a wide margin. Nonetheless, the authors do not expect these countries to dominate global energy supply in the way fossil fuel exporters do today because of the widespread availability and diversity of renewable energy resources.

How the Energy Transition will Shape International Relations

The report then outlines the geopolitical implications that can be expected:

  • International alliances have already begun shifting from fossil fuel-based collaboration, such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), to alliances focused on renewable energy, such as the International Solar Alliance, the Global Geothermal Alliance and Mission Innovation.
  • Similarly, the importance of maritime trade routes and strategic “chokepoints” in international trade, such as the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, can be expected to diminish as energy markets become more regional.
  • On the other hand, grid connectivity between neighboring states and within regions becomes a new strategic asset to ensure energy security and realize competitive advantages in renewable energy production.
  • The importance of “energy statecraft,” the use of the geostrategic importance of oil and gas as a foreign policy tool, is expected to diminish as energy production becomes more decentralized and diversified, thereby reducing the dependence of energy importing states. Instead, the Commission expects the emergence of complex networks of regional interdependence often driven by reciprocal energy flows.
  • In a similar vein, the authors also argue that the role of oil and gas as a driver of conflict is likely to diminish in the long run, as renewables alleviate pressure on energy resources. They note however, that energy is only one factor driving conflict that often aggravates existing political instability.
  • On the domestic level, the decentralization and diversification of energy supply will reduce the role of national governments as provider and distributor of energy. The authors find that citizens, cities and corporations will benefit from a shift of control over energy and energy assets from governments to a new type of businesses and “prosumers” enabled by the local production of solar and other forms of renewable energy.

The study also discusses some of the risks of energy transition to political stability, including stranded assets in fossil fuel production, cybersecurity for integrated grid management and the need to develop policies for a just transition for employees in sectors that are bound suffer, such as coal mining.

In the final section, the authors conclude that the global energy transition will lead to fundamental shifts in the geopolitics of energy, calling on decision makers to prepare for the changes ahead to ensure a smooth transition.

The Global Commission on the Geopolitics on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation was convened by IRENA’s former Director General, Adnan Z. Amin in January 2018. Chaired by former President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland, the Commission comprises a diverse group of distinguished leaders from the worlds of politics, energy, economics, trade, environment and development. [Publication: A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation] [IRENA Press Release][SDG Knowledge Hub on the first meeting of the Commission]

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