Author:

Paul Meyer

Global cyber security norms: a proliferation problem?

Abstract:

At the invitation of the ICT4Peace Foundation, Paul Meyer, Senior Advisor of the Foundation, prepared his analysis of the most recent developments at the United Nations and elsewhere regarding the development and promotion of norms of responsible state behaviour in Cyberspace. He analyses the recent process at the UN (UN GGE, Open-ended Working Group), new instruments such as the Paris Call, Digital Peace Initiative, Digital Geneva Convention, and the recent norms proposal by the The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace.

He concludes that the international community’s effort to develop norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace is currently facing a crisis that may also be an opportunity. The crisis is the breakdown of what had been a consensus at the United Nations as to how work on such norms should proceed. The failure of a UN expert group to agree on a report last year and the adoption of parallel and competing processes at this year’s General Assembly has cast a shadow on and much uncertainty as to the future direction of inter-governmental discussions.

This situation has however also presented an opportunity for other cyber security stakeholders in the private sector and civil society to highlight their own proposals for norms to govern state conduct. While there may be a risk of norms proliferation down the road, the near-term challenge will be for these stakeholders to find a way to engage states in a process to adopt and implement such norms of responsible state behaviour which they alone can realize.

Continue reading on the ICT4Peace Foundation website: Global Cyber Security Norms.

Should We Subsidize Nuclear Power to Fight Climate Change?

Scientific American | online content (blog) | 3 December 2018

Last month, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) put out a report entitled The Nuclear Power Dilemma: Declining Profits, Plant Closures, and the Threat of Rising Carbon Emissions that calls for offering subsidies to unprofitable nuclear power plants. Not surprisingly, it has been widely welcomed by nuclear advocates, who interpret the report as essentially saying “yes to nuclear power” in order to reduce carbon emissions.

But that interpretation misses the many important but less prominent insights in the UCS report.

Nuclear power plants are associated with significantly less carbon dioxide emitted per unit of electricity produced when compared to fossil fuel plants, even when including the emissions associated with the fuel chain required to generate nuclear energy. Therefore, the report’s basis for argument—if utilities were to replace “existing nuclear plants with natural gas and coal rather than low-carbon sources,” then it would compromise “our ability to achieve the deep cuts in carbon emissions” (p. 1)—is obvious. Whether nuclear plants would be replaced by fossil fueled plants is questionable.

Read more on the Scientific American website

Canada and space security diplomacy: getting back into the game

Hill Times | 26 November 2018

Despite the rapid expansion in the use of outer space and a disturbing deterioration in relations among major space powers, the Canadian government lacks a clear foreign policy for space security.

There was a time when Canada was known for its activism on space security issues in the international arena. As an early adopter of satellite technology, Canada appreciated the importance of preserving a safe and secure operating environment in outer space. This acknowledged interest was reflected in Canada’s diplomacy. Among the measures that prime minister Pierre Trudeau advocated during his Peace Initiative of 1983- 84 was a ban on high-altitude anti-satellite weapons recognizing the risk that the debris created by such weapons would pose for all space operations (a risk that has only increased significantly in the interim as use of space has grown exponentially with some 1800 satellites currently active).

In tandem with its diplomatic initiative, the Canadian government invested in a major study of the feasibility of utilizing satellites to verify future outer space arms control agreements. This study, known as PAXSAT, concluded that it would be feasible to provide such verification via space-based technology.

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Good News Service #59: November 2018

  1. Norwegian People’s Aid launches the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, 2018
  2. U.S., China, others tentatively agree to multilateral air encounter code
  3. Ploughshares Staff take part in UN-related peace initiatives in Austria, Switzerland and Japan
  4. A Living Light on Climate
  5. Europeans fight deforestation and climate change
  6. Mexico creates largest marine park in North America
  7. Paths to Reconciliation: in Peterborough, Minnesota & Cape Cod
  8. Grandmothers for Everyone: from Maine to South Africa
  9. Clyde River Inuit win historic legal battle to stop seismic blasting in the Arctic
  10. Book Review: The Reconciliation Manifesto (reviewed by Randy)

Download the full issue here (docx)

Visions on the future of cyberspace clash at the UN

First published on OpenCanada, 15 Nov 2018 | A fragile consensus over norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace, as Paul Meyer observes, has fallen victim to East–West geopolitical tensions.

If finding common ground on the sensitive issue of state conduct in cyberspace was not already difficult enough, then the results of this fall’s United Nations General Assembly First Committee, which focuses on disarmament and international security, has made it all that more complicated.

After more than a decade of slow but steady progress on identifying norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace, the existing consensus has broken down and a bizarre, bifurcated path has been adopted for the future.

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Review: Thomas Piketty, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”

French economist Thomas Piketty’s bestseller presents a massive empirical analysis of the dynamics and structure of wealth and income in countries with capitalist economies since the late 18th century. His book relies primarily on the historical experience of the rich countries of France, Great Britain, the United States, Japan, and Germany. The result is a discovery of an empirical law that produces an ever-increasing growth in wealth relative to national income in these countries. Ever increasing wealth  leads to extreme concentrations of wealth in the hands of the wealthiest 10% and income earned by the highest 10% of income earners in the population. The concentration of wealth is so great that much of it is passed on to the next generation in inheritances so that eventually economies tend to be dominated by a high proportion of inherited wealth. This outcome violates the “meritoric” value of democracy — that the inequality of income and wealth are just only if they are the result of hard work and skill. Inherited wealth is not the result of hard work and skill of the recipients.

Piketty’s analysis begins with the relationship between wealth and income. Note that wealth and capital are terms that mean the same thing and that they are used interchangeably throughout the book. Capital represents the market value of assets of real estate, stocks and interest bearing assets such as bonds, GICs and savings accounts in banks. These capital assets generate annual incomes in the form of rents, profits, stock dividends, capital gains, royalties and interest  all of which are “income from capital”. Income from capital is then added to “income from labour” (in the form of wages, salaries and self employment income) to produce income. So when Piketty refers to income he means the sum of income from capital and income from labour. The distinction between these two types of income is significant because they are distributed in very different ways among the three broad classes in society: the rich, the middle class and the poor. Income from capital amounts to around 30% of national income in Britain and France and 20% in the United States and Canada.

Increasing inequality is most dramatic in the US where the share of total income earned by the top decile of income earners rose from 33% in 1970 to almost 50% in 2010. Approximately 70% of this increase reflects the share of income earned by the top 1% of income earners which rose from 8% in 1970 to 20% in 2010. The latter set of figures has led to the unrest in the US that was manifested in the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. Whether or not this unrest will be destabilizing depends on the future organization and strength of the Occupy movement relative to the effectiveness of other organizations that are engaged in justifying the inequality. Since the 1980s neoconservative groups in the US have aggressively asserted justifications for these inequalities. These include the arguments that inequalities are justified because the increase in wealth represents a reward for hard work, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship or because higher tax rates on high income earners to correct the inequality would reduce incentives to work hard or, alternatively, act as incentives for them to move production activities out of the country to the detriment of all citizens.

Continue reading (PDF download, 13pp): Review: Capital in the Twenty-First Century