Booklist | Scorecard Diplomacy

Can a top 20 list (or bottom 10?) be a tool to make countries behave? A new book by Judith G. Kelley of Duke University makes sense of the value that comes from doing rankings and grading in an effort to change state behavior.

Scorecard Diplomacy by Judith Kelley shows that public grades can evoke countries’ concerns about their reputations and motivate them to address thorny problems

If you aren’t familiar with Kelly’s work, take a look.

Kelley’s work focuses on how states, international organizations and NGOs can promote domestic political reforms in problem states, and how international norms, laws and other governance tools influence state behavior. Her work addresses human rights and democracy, international election observation, and human trafficking. Her Project on International Election Monitoring led to a book, Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works and Why It Often Fails (Princeton 2012), which was “One of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013” and also received the Chadwick F. Alger Prize, which recognizes the “best book published in the previous calendar year on the subject of international organization and multilateralism.” The work behind Scorecard Diplomacy: Grading States to Influence Their Reputation and Behavior was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and another from the Smith Richardson Foundation.


Source: Scorecard Diplomacy

Bill Gates, Ambassador?

According to Will Oremus at Slate, “the good news is that once Gates tackles a problem in earnest, he doesn’t just throw money at it.” Bill Gates has always focused his foundation work on global policy and problems, but now climate change appears to be a concern–perhaps because it could put the undo button on his other concerns, namely global health and economic development.

His new role to help with one of the thorniest of all negotiations? Global diplomat in the Paris Climate Change process:

His role in sealing the deal offers a peek into how the inner circles of governments and industry intersect. It also underscores how a handful of the world’s wealthiest people can stand with heads of state to spotlight a social, economic and policy issue on the global stage. For Mr. Gates, the world’s richest person and co-chairman of the biggest private foundation, it is another sign of how his vast foreign aid operation and status as a technology icon have turned him into a uniquely influential global diplomat.

Source: Bill Gates Takes On Climate Change With Nudges and a Powerful Rolodex – The New York Times

Several months ago, Brandon Keim asked “how much can one man…really accomplish in the fight against climate change?” Taking a systems approach, Gates wants to change the network that is “structured by government policy,” but it will happen in “complex, piecemeal, tricky ways.”

In other words, there isn’t an app for global diplomacy.

A New Take on UN Week in NYC

I have to admit, having been to my first UN General Assembly week in NYC for a few years–it was pretty exciting, for many of the reasons noted in this piece:

For years, there had been nothing to see at the General Assembly. It consisted almost solely of top diplomats meeting in back rooms while the press and the public stood behind security barriers. Now, there are numerous large events in which the public can participate.People could attend United Nations events by signing up for particular sessions or meetings. The Social Good Summit, founded six years ago, drew 1,800 participants, up from 1,600 last year. The Global Citizen Festival, which provided free tickets to the Central Park concert to those who had engaged in charitable efforts, attracted a crowd of 60,000.“It’s about turning U.N. week inside out,” said Pete Cashmore, founder and chief executive of Mashable, who helped start the Social Good Summit. “Rather than a few powerful people deciding the fate of the world, how do we get everyone involved and engaged in a dialogue?” For the first time, similar gatherings were held in Washington and London this year.

Source: Forget Coachella and Bonnaroo: The U.N. Is the Place to Be – The New York Times


Neuroscience and Mapping Empathy in the Brain

In Charles Kupchan’s important book, How Enemies Become Friends, he explores rapprochements involving Brazil and Argentina, Anglo-American negotiations in 2the 1800s as well as breakdowns in the creation of Singapore from Malaysia and crumbling of the Concert of Europe post-1848. Diplomacy is the solution, he concludes.

What if we could better understand the empathic responses necessary to negotiate–rather than flight–by tracking these instincts in the brain? Jeneen Interlandi explores this in an interesting article in the NYT Magazine, looking into the case of Roma in Hungary and how neural focus groups can unlock the key understanding bias and ancient hatreds.

But the picture remains incomplete. We still need to map a host of other empathy-related tasks — like judging the reasonableness of people’s arguments and sympathizing with their mental and emotional states — to specific brain regions. And then we need to figure out how these neural flashes translate into actual behavior: Why does understanding what someone else feels not always translate to being concerned with their welfare? Why is empathizing across groups so much more difficult? And what, if anything, can be done to change that calculus?

So far, Bruneau says, the link between f.M.R.I. data and behavior has been tenuous. Many f.M.R.I. studies on empathy involve scanning subjects’ brains while they look at images of hands slammed in doors or of faces poked with needles. Scientists have shown that the same brain regions light up when you watch such things happen to someone else as when you experience them or imagine them happening to you. “To me, that’s not empathy,” Bruneau says. “It’s what you do with that information that determines whether it’s empathy or not.” A psychopath might demonstrate the same neural flashes in response to the same painful images but experience glee instead of distress.

via The Brain’s Empathy Gap – The New York Times.

And now, a global forum for dissident voices…

Just when you thought Steve Pinker was gaining traction in the argument that things are getting better, a conference like this bring you down to the  level:

For a conference dedicated to human rights, there was a lot to talk about this year. The Freedom Forum, which showcases and celebrates the stories of dissidents, had an abundance of offerings at a time when the world’s problems seem to keep multiplying. This is a place you can come to and get depressed about a lot more than Ebola and the Islamic State, and then wash your worries away with wine and reindeer served several ways — it is Norway, after all.

The speakers kept prodding the audience to remember their corners of the world. But there are so many dark corners that it was easy to feel discouraged, even among such a display of courage.

via The World’s Dissidents Have Their Say –

Mormon Humanitarian Efforts at the UN

Mormon priorities “correspond with U.N. priorities” noted Ahmad Corbitt, senior manager of public affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last week at the United Nations. For starters these include violence against women, maternal mortality, environmental stewardship, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The series highlights UN partners among a wide range of non-governmental organizations to further the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), even as the goals are undergoing debate on a post-2015 framework. One of those NGOs–LDS Charities, sponsored by the Mormon Church–provided $84M in total assistance to individuals in 130 countries last year according to Sharon Eubank, director of this ECOSOC-accredited group at the UN.

“We work with lots and lots of partners,” said Eubank. She mentioned organizations such as Rotary International, Islamic Relief, Catholic Relief Services, World Health Organization, U.N. High Commission for Refugees and others.

Eubank reported that in 2013 LDS Charities provided $84 million in total assistance to individuals in 130 countries. “Faiths and religions are central to achieving common goals and transformational change,” said Eubank.

Initiatives of LDS Charities in 2013 include clean water (560,000 people in 37 countries), neonatal resuscitation (28,000 people in 37 countries), vision care (89,000 people in 34 countries), wheelchair distribution (66,000 people in 55 countries), family gardens (35,000 people in 20 countries), immunizations (18 projects in 12 countries) and emergency response (103 projects in 54 countries).

via Mormon Representatives Discuss Church Humanitarian Efforts at the United Nations.

Watch the full session on UNtv.

Most corrupt? Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia Lead in this Category

The annual list of is out and a two-thirds majority scored poorly:

So which countries are the most graft-ridden? According to Berlin-based Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2013, Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are tied for that dubious distinction.

The global corruption-fighting organization notes that more than two-thirds of the 177 countries surveyed scored below 50. That’s on a scale from zero, or perceived to be highly corrupt, to 100, or perceived to be very clean. (The three worst countries all got an 8, and Ukraine, now racked by protests, got a measly 25). “The abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world,” says Transparency’s Dec. 3 press release for the index.

via Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia Are the World’s Most Corrupt Countries, With China in the Middle – Businessweek.

See the real thing here–including past reports back to 2001–at the NGO website: Corruption Perceptions Index.