by Madi Ro
Staff Writer

One of the international community’s persistent concerns regards the protection of citizens’ social and economic rights. Since the adoption of the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, there has been global commitment to fulfill the rights that each individual is recognized to be born with. While these rights originally pertained to basic freedoms such as life, liberty, and equality, they have now also expanded to include social and economic rights.

But what are social and economic rights, exactly? And how do we measure society’s performance in its protection of those rights? How do we compare different countries’ performances?

Dr. Terra Lawson-Remer provides answers to these questions in her new book, Fulfilling Social and Economic Rights. She is a founding member and managing partner for the Catalyst Project and a faculty fellow at UCSD’s School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS). In her special talk at UCSD, she outlined her and her team’s major solutions and findings regarding these questions.

The Social and Economic Rights Fulfillment Index (SERF) is an index that her team created to measure a country’s provision and protection of social and economic rights, which include the right to food, health care, education, work, and social security. The index measures how well a country is doing given the resources that they have, making it easier to compare a country like the United States with a country like Ghana, for instance.

The distinguishing aspect of Dr. Lawson-Remer and her team’s work is the inclusion of national resources in the calculations, and they do not solely use a country’s nominal wealth to measure its ability and performance. This adds a whole new dimension to keeping countries accountable. Other rankings that do not include a country’s given resources rank Jordan and Turkey similarly as “medium performers”. However, in the SERF Index, Jordan ranks 6th overall, while Turkey comes in 87th.

Her book further details how each resource is measured and why it was selected as a part of the index. She explains that some basic rights can actually be achieved during a country’s development process, requiring fewer resources than other countries. However, many countries–both rich and poor–are not meeting their expected levels of rights fulfillment. The worst-performing country is Equatorial Guinea, meeting only 16% of its overall obligations.

Through further analysis of the SERF index results and ratings for each country, her book also explores performance comparisons between democracies and autocracies. While it is possible for an autocratic state to achieve a high score on the index, there is far more fluctuation in scores among autocracies than among democracies.

Dr. Lawson-Remer described her work as “policy agnostic,” stating that her work is not meant to provide a list of one-size-fits-all policy packages for all countries. Although she also explores the limitations of the impact of international human rights treaties on social and economic rights fulfillment, she hopes that her work serves as an impetus for improvement in the areas of food accessibility, health care, education, work conditions, and social security. She urges states to fully employ all their means and resources ─ legal, administrative, judicial, economic, social, and educational ─ in order to further protect and provide these rights for their citizens.

Her work is not so much about evaluating how well countries are doing as it is about providing a more equitable system of evaluation. It has the potential to better guide countries in fulfilling these rights, encouraging those with fewer resources to not compare themselves to the same standards as rich countries, and alerting those with more resources to use them wisely.

Dr. Lawson-Remer ultimately hopes that the SERF index will push countries to keep one another accountable by paving a way for them to do so. Despite obvious drawbacks to encouraging international action and treaties, the index serves as a vital research tool to better understand the relationship between governments and their citizens, and how our leaders can better serve their people.

Image by UCSD School of Global Policy & Strategy


by Pankhuri Prasad
Staff Writer

There is no denying that technology has transformed every aspect of our lives; the government sector has been no exception. In 2018, we saw tech-giant Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, face a series of congressional hearings where he had to answer for Facebook’s problematic data policies and entanglement with Cambridge Analytica. According to U.S. intelligence leaders, ‘social media disinformation’ practiced by Russia still remains a major threat to future elections in the United States. Beyond just social media, other technologies pose a challenge to governing practices across the world. Cryptocurrency and new financial technology (“fintech”) applications threaten to uproot traditional central financial units such as banks. Artificial Intelligence (AI) could displace thousands of workers.

Given the disruptive nature of technology, where does Techplomacy fit in?

“Techplomacy”—a “portmanteau” word—refers to the combination of technology and diplomacy, as foreign and security policies embraced the digital age. This concept acknowledges the key role that data-driven innovation and giant tech companies play in today’s society, reshaping the way we think about diplomacy in the 21st century. Techplomacy was initiated by Denmark in 2017 when it appointed the world’s first-ever “Tech Ambassador”, who enjoys a global mandate and splits his time between Silicon Valley, Beijing and Copenhagen.

Techplomacy initiative in Denmark

The first Tech Ambassador of Denmark, Casper Klynge, holds a Masters degree in Political Science (International Relations) from Copenhagen University. He has held many positions in his years at Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including serving as the Ambassador of Denmark to Cyprus, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, and ASEAN. In interviews, Klynge notes that his job requires a lot of traveling to cities across the world and meeting members of tech companies, civil societies, and governments. He urges other nations to also explore techplomacy and hopes to see more counterparts in his branch of diplomacy. He argues that techplomacy is not a disruption of traditional diplomacy but is actually complementary to it. In an interview with the World Economic Forum (WEF), he mentions, “We are bringing back diplomacy to its roots. This is about having a forward operating post in areas where things are happening.” After the appointment of the Tech Ambassador in 2017, the Danish Government launched their new ‘Foreign and Security Policy Strategy 2019–2020’. In this strategy, they have highlighted plans to strengthen Denmark’s cyber and information security through international engagement, promoting EU leadership in a new digital world order. Denmark wants to continue building alliances with the global tech industry and wishes to engage the United Nations to bridge the digital divide between the developed and developing worlds..

What is different about Techplomacy?

Techplomacy differs from simply creating regulatory policies about usage of technology or operations of tech companies. Instead, techplomacy aims at creating new avenues for dialogue

and collaboration between the tech industry and government. It recognizes tech companies as active stakeholders in forming policies. This concept is challenging the traditional notions of what constitutes a foreign policy. Foreign policy can be considered the patterns of interaction between governments and external entities; techplomacy challenges this by adding tech companies, their research, their products, and the consumers into the fray of policy-making interests.

Data Diplomacy

An article in The Economist calls data “the oil of the digital era” and discusses how tech giants have paved the way for a ‘data economy’. Private sectors have been quick to adopt and integrate big data into their mechanisms. However, governments and public sectors have yet to catch up. This can be particularly surprising when considering that diplomacy and crafting foreign policy are functions of careful historical analysis of patterns of human interaction. Using big data will not only accelerate this analysis but also make it more applicable. Commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the DiploFoundation recently presented groundbreaking research on ‘data diplomacy.’ The report stated that data diplomacy can be looked at as an interplay of three dimensions—data as a tool for diplomacy, data as a topic for diplomacy, and data as something that changes the very environment in which diplomacy operates.
Data diplomacy differs from techplomacy, as it focuses on the application of technology to diplomacy rather than the introduction of new participants in the diplomatic process. Although this difference may make the two new branches of diplomacy seem mutually exclusive, failing to integrate technology into diplomacy means the relationship between the tech industry and foreign policy will not evolve. One can only talk so much about technology without understanding its impact on his or her own field. In this case, without recognizing the role of data, tech-plomats would not be successful in acting as a liaison to industry actors who own much of the world’s proprietary data. Therefore, in today’s digital era, diplomacy must continue to evolve, integrating technology while simultaneously recognizing the changing role of non-traditional stakeholders.  

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by Rebeca Camacho
Staff Writer

On Nov. 19, 2018, UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) hosted the one-day conference titled From NAFTA to USMCA: The New Deal and What’s Missing on the newest iteration of the long-controversial trade deal between Mexico, Canada and the United States. The conference was one of the last events in a series celebrating the thirty-year anniversary of GPS during the Fall 2018 quarter. From October 2018 through August 2019, there will be events in honor of the accomplishments of GPS, orchestrated to incite educational debates over multifaceted issues present in the international arena. A critical theme of the series is the future direction of U.S. foreign policy and the nature of international trade agreements in the 21st century, which was explored extensively at the “New Deal” event.

The event included several talks centered around the divergent interests of state and non-state actors affected by the new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) deal, with the keynote address given by Jesús Seade—Mexican President López Obrador’s chief trade negotiator.

While the USMCA will account for more than $1.2 trillion in trade, the most important elements of the new deal can be summarized in five main points: country of origin rules and labor rule provisions in the automotive sector, regulatory changes in the Canadian dairy industry, intellectual property pertaining to digital trade, uplifting of section 232 “national security” tariff protections, and the establishment of a sunset clause. All three national leaders have signed the agreement, leaving only subsequent ratification by each nation’s respective legislature obstructing the passage of the first multilateral agreement since Trump and Obrador came into office.   

The most negotiated clauses in the deal were those pertaining to the country of origin rules, and the effect that such rules pose on the automobile industry.  The primary component of the rules of origin is that at least 75% of an automobile’s components (up from 62.5% under NAFTA) must be manufactured in Mexico, the United States, or Canada if they are to qualify for a zero tariff designation. In addition to this, 45% of all production must be conducted at a minimum hourly wage of $16 by 2023.

Representing the Mexican perspective on the agreement, Beatrice Leycegui Cardoqui— former Undersecretary of Foreign Trade for Mexico’s Ministry of Economy who now works for the International Consulting firm SAI Derecho & Economía in Mexico City—called attention to the deal’s “poison pills.” Though the agreement may be “far from ideal,” she pushed Mexico to be pragmatic in accepting the new deal. She explained how with 80% of Mexico’s exports in the auto sector going to the United States and about 90% of U.S. imports in the industry coming from just south of the border, Mexico was left with little leverage to negotiate any modification of the rules of origin.

The overwhelming concern shared by Cardoqui and Seade revolved around how the new requirements will influence the reallocation of certain stages of production in car manufacturing, the distribution of labor income between borders and the eventual higher prices to compensate for increased production costs.

Through the question and answer portion of the first panel of speakers: remarks divided between Beatriz Cardoqui, Paola Avila (official representative of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce) and Dr. Michael Hawes (political science professor and Executive Director of Fulbright Canada), the three representatives emphasized how the nature of U.S. negotiations is now more heavily shifting towards favoritism of bilateral accords.

With the primary trade negotiation meetings between the United States and its fellow deal members occurring separately, Avila warned that the “divide and conquer” approach taken by the United States is one the government may begin to employ more frequently and potentially as their primary negotiation model within the new paradigm of American foreign policy.

While President Trump has strongly advocated in favor of the USMCA, it remains to be seen whether or not the new deal will pass through the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. With the Democrats objecting to parts of the deal–which must be passed in its entirety–the Trump administration is at risk of facing much of the same lack of compromise from Congress that they exerted earlier on upon their North American trading partners.

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UCSD School of Global Policy and Strategy