Month: November, 2020
USA/Global: On Climate, How Much Will Be New?
worker | November 30, 2020 | 8:35 pm | Africa | Comments closed

USA/Global: On Climate, How Much Will Be New?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
November 30, 2020 (2020-11-30)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“One of the most powerful pieces of climate change legislation the Biden administration will need has already been passed: the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. This legislation, known for creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other public safeguards against financial wrongdoing, also empowers key agencies including the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission to limit systemic risks to financial stability.” – Justin Guay, Sunrise Project

The future of policy on climate in the Biden administration is still to be determined, of course. It will be molded both by pressure from the status quo, particularly from the fossil fuel industry, and from climate justice activists. While much focus in on the potential leadership by former Secretary of State John Kerry as climate czar in the National Security Council, experienced climate analyst Justin Guay argues that even more important will be the financial institutions, in which Janet Yellen at the Treasury Department will be a key figure. With great uncertainty about the future of legislative action in the Senate, both analysts and activists will be focusing on what can be done by executive action.

Note: the Sunrise Project, primarily based in Australia, with additional staff in the United States and Europe, is different from the Sunrise Movement of young climate activists in the United States. But both are committed to accelerating urgent action on the climate crisis.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the article by Justin Guay cited above, as well as one by Brandon Wu of Action Aid focused on the priorities for international negotiations by the incoming Biden administration.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today (available on the web at, also examining the potential for new policy from the new Biden administration, includes an overview essay on U.S. Africa policy by Imani Countess and me, as well as an article by a former U.S. diplomat on U.S. policy towards Ethiopia.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate and the environment, visit


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You can register at

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The Most Important Climate Legislation Has Already Passed

The Dodd-Frank Act will give the Biden administration the power to supercharge the clean energy transition.

Justin Guay

Greentech Media, November 23, 2020

Justin Guay is director for global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project.

[The Sunrise Project, based in Australia, but also having networks in the United States and Europe, supports networks of organisations to work together to achieve outcomes that would not be possible by individual organisations acting alone. Their specific targets for pressure include Australia and global finance power structures having the greatest responsibility for climate-warming emissions. ]

On the heels of a historic election that saw Joe Biden use climate as the single biggest motivator to turn out the youth vote in record numbers, expectations for action are high. But with the fate of the Senate’s partisan makeup still up in the air, what can President-elect Biden do to advance his climate mandate if an obstructionist Senate stands in his way?

As it turns out, one of the most powerful pieces of climate change legislation the Biden administration will need has already been passed: the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. This legislation, known for creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other public safeguards against financial wrongdoing, also empowers key agencies including the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission to limit systemic risks to financial stability.

The largest systemic risk of them all, climate change, is driven by reckless investments in fossil fuels, exactly the kind of speculative activities Dodd-Frank was designed to bring to a halt in order to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis. That means Dodd-Frank gives the Biden administration the power to inhibit or prohibit investments in fossil fuels — a power that could be critical for achieving his pledge of delivering a carbon-free power sector by 2035.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the law could give the administration authority to increase capital requirements for banks loaning money to fossil fuel projects, or even to institute “credit guidance” policies such as those imposed during World War II to direct industrial policy. That could play a major role in redirecting climate-unfriendly investments such as the estimated $100 billion in new natural-gas plants being planned by utilities across the U.S., which if built could make Biden’s carbon-free goal impossible.

But the struggle to provide a Biden administration with the political space to wield this kind of power has only just begun. Industry is lining up on one side, with the climate community on the other. It’s a battle that few would have predicted even just several months ago, but it’s already rapidly heating up.

Climate change poses a grave risk to the financial system

To understand why a Biden administration can implement Dodd-Frank authority on ”day one,” it’s important to review how far the world has come in recognizing the systemic financial risk posed by climate change. It was just a few short years ago that Mark Carney, then head of the Bank of England, gave a now-famous speech on climate-induced Minsky moments — sudden and drastic market collapses brought on by speculative activity — as he advocated for greater action on climate change. His argument was clear: Unless we act on the threat climate change posed to the stability of the financial system, we are in serious trouble.

For investors, one of the greatest risks is losing money on coal, oil and gas infrastructure that is forced into early retirement due to the inevitable policy response to climate change and a resulting clean energy transition (referred to as “transition risk”). However, even absent a concerted climate policy, the U.S. has seen a wave of bankruptcies across the oil and gas industry, and the continued secular decline of the coal industry despite desperate attempts to reverse its fortunes.

ExxonMobil refinery in Baton, Rouge, Louisiana. The removal of ExxonMobil from the Dow Jones average this year is a signal of the systemic risk in energy stocks based on oil and natural-gas. Credit: Wikipedia.

Other systemic risks loom for insurance, mortgage and other key financial markets from the extreme weather events driven by climate change, according to a September analysis from the Trump-appointed financial regulators at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Graham Steele, the director of the Corporations and Society Initiative at Stanford, argued in a January report that a mounting body of evidence clearly establishes the authority for a Biden administration to use Dodd-Frank’s authority to act to mitigate climate risk.

“That climate is a systemic risk is no longer a question,” Steele said in an email. “We have mounting evidence, a growing consensus among financial regulators around the world already taking action, and the legislative authority to act.”

The kindling on which the next crisis will burn

Despite this evidence, important entities tasked with maintaining financial stability and managing these risks have largely abdicated this responsibility during the Trump administration.

A glaring example is the Federal Reserve’s decision to prop up financially vulnerable fossil fuel companies using the billions of dollars appropriated by Congress to backstop emergency bond-buying programs meant to avert a global economic recession amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Independent analysis from Influence Map showed that the bonds the Fed was buying were actually overweight on fossil fuel companies — the same generators of systemic risk that Carney was so concerned about.

“The Fed’s interventions in the bond market sent a problematic signal,” Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform, said in an email. Of the Fed’s portfolio of corporate bonds, nearly 20 percent, or about $25 billion, are from energy and utility companies, “including many dirty energy firms driving climate change and exacerbating environmental racism.”

Even now, with the impacts worst of the feared recession seemingly averted, Federal Reserve loans to oil and gas companies from certain programs continue to increase, including the Main Street Lending Program with total fossil fuel exposure now upward of half a billion dollars. Rather than dousing the sparks of the next financial crisis, the Fed has been fanning the flames.

The Biden administration’s finance policy will be climate policy

Biden’s electoral victory has driven a rapid shift in the Federal Reserve’s public profile on climate risk.  Just days after Joe Biden was declared president-elect, the Fed formally highlighted climate as a threat to financial stability and announced it will join the NGFS, a network of 75 central banks pledging to incorporate climate-change risk into their financial analysis.

That same week, a lead candidate for Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, told Bloomberg New Energy Finance that “we need public policy oriented to make a difference on climate change,” indicating that acknowledging climate risk is viewed as a prerequisite for those seeking key financial regulator positions in the Biden administration.

Whether it’s Janet Yellen or other leading climate-friendly candidates such as Sarah Bloom Raskin, the former Fed governor and deputy Treasury secretary early to criticize the Fed’s fossil fuels bond buying, the Biden administration’s choice for Treasury Secretary will have an arsenal of powerful tools courtesy of Dodd-Frank, David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program, said in an email.

“Dodd-Frank gives financial regulators awesome power to ensure financial stability — ‘awesome’ in the biblical sense,” he said. “The regulators are loath to use their power, and sometimes their hesitance is appropriate. But if the threats involved in the climate crisis aren’t enough to justify acting, then it’s hard to imagine what is.”

To self-regulate or not? That is the question

One major choice the Biden administration will face early on may be guided by its confidence in the prospect that enhanced climate risk disclosure, and the informed reaction of investors to those disclosures, will in itself be a sufficient step to combat the financial risks posed by climate change.

Leading financial institutions are supportive of that approach to regulation. Much as the Fed changed course at the news of Biden’s electoral victory, so too have leading CEOs like Blackrock’s Larry Fink, who now publicly backs mandatory disclosure rules.

The favored corporate approach is to embrace Task Force for Climate Disclosure standards, which nearly every public company on earth now supports, according to Bloomberg. This approach is predicated on the notion that more high-quality information created by the disclosure of climate risks will lead the market to make better investment decisions while avoiding burdensome regulations.

But whether disclosure alone will drive a decisive shift from fossil fuel investment is increasingly in doubt. According to a survey by HSBC, only 10 percent of investors view climate-risk disclosures as material information. The nearly $2 trillion channeled into speculative fossil fuel investments by leading banks just since the Paris Agreement was signed indicates they’re not using the information already widely available in the marketplace to shift their investments.

How far a Biden administration will go beyond basic steps like disclosure of risks is an open, and increasingly politically important, question. The climate community is already gearing up for a fight. Groups lunch as Evergreen Action, run by former Inslee and Warren campaign staffers, call Dodd-Frank one of the most important tools available for Biden to act on his climate pledges.

Climate advocates buoyed by a fight over Federal Reserve bond-buying programs have been joined by members of Congress demanding the Federal Reserve end its own fossil fuel purchases, not simply disclose them. Fights like these have raised the general understanding of the fact that, as Bill McKibben has put it, money is the oxygen on which the fire of global warming burns.

The first fight: Personnel is policy

Some of the first fights may well focus on appointments to key financial regulatory agencies including Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Stop the Money Pipeline, the national coalition of over 130 groups that McKibben helped create, has issued a set of climate principles any would-be financial regulator must comply with to gain its support.

While the pressure to act on climate is just now growing, broader pressure to regulate Wall Street is already working. The progressive wing of the Democratic party is praising Biden’s picks for his financial regulation transition team, while the financial industry is predicting a regulatory crackdown. Recent regulatory fights over climate-friendly investing rules in Europe indicate that climate advocates should expect fierce opposition from the financial sector, which means they’ll need strong regulators on the beat.

Biden has promised that he’ll name his Treasury Secretary before Thanksgiving, and that “all elements of the Democratic party” will support his choice. Speculation leans toward Yellen, pointing out that her calls on climate action stretch back to 1997. But this decision is just the first of many that could well shape the trajectory of the most consequential climate administrations in history and presage its willingness to use the “awesome powers” of Dodd-Frank to drive its agenda and the clean energy transition.


Old dog, new tricks? John Kerry needs to lead a total reform of U.S. climate diplomacy

Brandon Wu, Director of Policy and Programs

ActionAid USA

November 25, 2020

November 25, 2020

After four years of climate denial at the top of the U.S. government, the appointment of John Kerry as a climate envoy for the next administration is a bit of a breath of fresh air. Having an administration that believes that the climate crisis is real, and takes it seriously enough to create high-level White House positions to deal with it, is obviously far better than the alternative.

But let’s not forget the scale of action and transformation that addressing the climate crisis demands. If we are going to avert runaway climate breakdown, we need the Biden administration to be orders of magnitude more ambitious in transforming our energy, food, and economic systems, than any previous administration. We are going to need a new level of recognition of U.S. responsibility and capacity for action, with global solidarity at the core of our belief.

The Biden administration has to deal with the stark reality that after four more years of climate inaction – on top of 30-odd years of little to no action since the beginning of international climate negotiations – business-as-usual solutions to climate change are even more inadequate than they were before. While the continuity of John Kerry as Obama Secretary of State, to John Kerry as Biden climate envoy, may be welcome diplomatically for some, we cannot afford to just go back to old negotiating tactics and climate policies.

Out with the old…

Under previous administrations, U.S. negotiating strategies were more focused on maintaining U.S. economic and geopolitical dominance rather than on finding ways to work collectively and constructively with other countries to solve the climate crisis. Divide-and-conquer tactics – playing blocs of developing countries against each other using bullying tactics and power politics – were the norm. U.S. politicians also relied heavily on “national security” framing, emphasizing the importance of U.S. interests above the needs of shared human society.

To their credit, the Obama administration proactively re-engaged with international climate negotiations after a long U.S. absence. But the Obama State Department negotiating team – including while Mr. Kerry was at the helm – trumpeted “U.S. climate leadership” while undermining core principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The principles that especially came under fire from U.S. negotiators were those around equity and fairness – the idea that the U.S. and other historically industrialized countries should do more, faster, than poorer countries.

So what did U.S. climate leadership look like with Secretary Kerry’s negotiation team? The U.S. commitment for emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement was 5-6 times weaker than our fair share. The U.S. was a perpetual roadblock to progress on key negotiations around financial support for poorer countries. The U.S. tried to ensure that it could never be held liable for the damage caused by climate impacts in vulnerable countries and has no obligation to support them – a hard-line position that nearly torpedoed negotiations on multiple occasions.

John Kerry, as President-Elect Biden’s climate envoy, must break from Obama-era policies and negotiating practices.The U.S. has never been a climate leader – quite the opposite. For the U.S. to really lead, Kerry must pioneer an approach that has true international cooperation, global solidarity, and respect for human rights and justice at its center. First and foremost that means he must find a way to convince the world that the U.S. is genuinely ready to do its fair share – meaning deep emissions reductions at home and massively scaled up international support for poorer countries.

In his speech yesterday accepting the position of presidential climate envoy, Mr. Kerry fell back on outdated and misleading talking points. “No country alone can solve this challenge. Even the United States, for all its industrial strength, is responsible for only 13% of global emissions.” The first sentence is absolutely correct. The second is an incredibly dangerous underestimation of the U.S. responsibility for the climate crisis.

In 2017, the U.S. was indeed responsible for about 13% of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to China’s 24%. But climate change is not based on a single year of emissions. The climate changes due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, so historical emissions over time is what really matters. Over history (since the Industrial Revolution), the United States is responsible for closer to 25% of greenhouse gas emissions – vastly more than any other single country, including China at just over half of U.S. emissions.

Old-style U.S. climate diplomacy dictated that U.S. officials ignore this basic fact in favor of finger-pointing at other countries, particularly developing economies. There is no pathway to successful global cooperation with this kind of behavior. The only U.S. climate diplomacy that gives us a chance at solving the climate crisis is a completely new version – one in which the U.S. recognizes its true responsibility and commits to urgent action at a huge scale. The United States must pull our weight – not just throw our weight around to try to get other countries to act so that we don’t have to.

In with the new?

Donald Trump was a disaster for the climate, but a repeat of previous U.S. climate diplomacy and inaction will be a disaster as well. Simply being better is not going to be enough. We hope that Mr. Kerry and other climate leaders in the Biden administration recognize this fact and are planning a new, less exceptionalist, more equitable vision of U.S. climate leadership.

We look forward to working with Mr. Kerry and the Biden administration to ensure that they act with the urgency that the crisis demands, rather than simply going back to the failed pre- Trump status quo.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter. For an archive of previous Bulletins, see,

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USA/Africa: Build Back Better on Africa Policy
worker | November 30, 2020 | 8:33 pm | Africa | Comments closed

USA/Africa: Build Back Better on Africa Policy

AfricaFocus Bulletin
November 30, 2020 (2020-11-30)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“President Trump’s overt contempt for Africans is encapsulated in his famously crass remark about African countries. But the principal damage to Africa has stemmed from his administration’s broader policy choices, such as the disastrous rejection of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris climate accords; harsh curbs on legal immigration and asylum; and gutting of gender equality programs. … Nevertheless, the Biden administration should not merely go back to the pre-Trump status quo. … We argue that an even more fundamental questioning of U.S. Africa-related policy is needed.” – Imani Countess and William Minter

As in all areas of the incoming administration’s policy, there is much uncertainty about what it will be and what self-imposed and external restraints it will face. This AfricaFocus Bulletin does not answer those questions with any assured predictions. The outcomes will depend not only on the administration itself, Congress, grass roots pressure, and the diplomacy of African countries themselves as well as the impact of other global developments.

This article contains the article cited above, which appeared first in Responsible Statecraft, laying out not policy predictions but rather an alternative framework for policy. It also contains brief excerpts and links to other analyses of the potential Biden policies, and another article also published in Responsible Statecraft, by Elizabeth Shackelford, who was a U.S. diplomat until December 2017 when she resigned in protest of the administration. She served in Somalia, South Sudan, Poland, and Washington, DC. Shackelford’s article focuses on the failures of current U.S. policy on Ethiopia.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today, and available on the web at http:///, focuses on potential shifts in climate policy under the new administration.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on U.S. Africa policy, visit

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To build back better on Africa policy, the Biden administration needs new thinking on priorities

by William Minter and Imani Countess

First published in Responsible Statecraft on November 25, 2020

President Trump’s overt contempt for Africans is encapsulated in his famously crass remark about African countries. But the principal damage to Africa has stemmed from his administration’s broader policy choices, such as the disastrous rejection of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris climate accords; harsh curbs on legal immigration and asylum; and gutting of gender equality programs.

Most recently, Trump’s remarks supporting Egypt in its dispute with Ethiopia over the construction of a dam on the Nile River have inflamed tensions in a volatile region. And now his administration’s failure to call for deescalation and dialogue in the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is likely to have disastrous consequences in fueling expanded war.

Nevertheless, the Biden administration should not merely go back to the pre-Trump status quo. As noted by John Campbell of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trump administration has made fewer changes to Africa policy than expected. Campbell calls for a “reset.” We argue that an even more fundamental questioning of U.S. Africa-related policy is needed.

The record of both Republican and Democratic administrations, over more than six decades, has been mixed, ranging from destructive interventions to neglect to—far less often—productive collaboration with Africans on common goals. If the Biden mantra of Build Back Better is to be applied to Africa, we need to think about new frameworks to guide policy rather than retreading the shibboleths of the past.

The new administration should abandon the temptation to offer lessons to Africa. Instead, the United States should strive to understand African realities and address problems in a spirit of collaboration and mutual learning. This requires rebuilding the capacity for diplomacy and also taking account of how other U.S. government agencies and institutions outside the foreign policy arena directly affect Africa’s future.

The following guidelines are essential for not repeating the many mistakes of the past.

First, do no harm

1. Avoid counterproductive military engagements, a point also made by earlier commentators in Responsible Statecraft. Whether in the Sahel, Nigeria, or Somalia, counterinsurgency efforts and government repression have fueled rather than quelled Islamic insurgencies. Analysts are virtually unanimous that foreign intervention to counter the growing insurgency in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province would be a disaster.

There are no easy answers to such conflicts. But the U.S. priority must be to support multilateral initiatives in conflict resolution and peacekeeping, as well as humanitarian relief. Rather than assuming that Washington knows best, the incoming administration should heed advice from knowledgeable sources, such as the recent letter from over 80 African studies scholars on response to police brutality in Nigeria.

2. Do not subordinate Africa policy to a new cold war with China. For decades, U.S. Africa policy was harnessed to the Cold War with the Soviet Union. This led to disastrous interventions in the Congo and to the de facto alliance with apartheid South Africa. The competition with China in Africa is economic rather than military. but a blinkered vision ignoring Africa’s own interests is self-defeating. It also misses the opportunities for cooperation as well as competition with China.

U.S. policymakers should recognize that, despite the wide disparities in size and power, African countries, like the United States, must find their way in a multipolar world. This requires managing opportunities for cooperation, as well as threats, from a wide range of external powers, and is incompatible with simplistic binary choices.

3. Do not impose the false gospels of austerity and privatization on African countries. In developed and developing countries alike, market fundamentalism, denying the essential role of government in promoting development, has failed to deliver. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have begun to admit this failure, but old guidelines are still applied to countries too weak to determine their own policies.

U.S. policymakers should instead learn from African thinkers such as Thandika Mkandawire and the economists at the Addis Ababa–based UN Economic Commission for Africa. They share the growing global consensus that state investment in public goods and strategic state leadership in development strategy are prerequisites for sustainable and equitable development. This thinking is reflected in a new co-authored book, African Economic Development: Evidence, Theory, Policy, available for free download from Oxford University Press.

U.S. policymakers should learn from African thinkers such as Thandika Mkandawire and the economists at the Addis Ababa–based UN Economic Commission for Africa. Pictured above from left to right are Thandika Mkandawire and the most recent executive secretaries of the UNECA, Carlos Lopes and Vera Songwe.

Then, think globally and work collaboratively

The United States and African countries face many of the same global issues, and these must be addressed at multiple levels. Coordination is complex and always imperfect. But collaboration is essential, both with African countries and, to the extent possible, with multilateral agencies and other external actors.

The U.S. contribution can be significant in three areas:

1. Global health: Despite lack of resources, African countries have done better than the United States and many European countries in coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. While they have not matched the success of the Asia Pacific region, they have benefited from early action and from proactive coordination by the WHO regional office and the Africa CDC.

The United States, which lags the world in recognition of the universal right to health, needs to put its own house in order. But it also has a responsibility to pay its fair share in supporting public health in African and other developing countries. As Covid-19 makes clear, that is the prudent as well as moral thing to do.

2. Climate change: Africa is the continent most vulnerable to global climate change, though it has contributed the least to causing it. Many African countries depend on fossil fuel exports. Much of the rural population relies on charcoal for cooking, contributing to the loss of tree cover. Fiscal resources for both mitigation and adaptation fall far short of the need.

The U.S. return to the Paris climate agreement will be only a first step. Renewable energy is expanding rapidly in Africa and there is enormous potential for additional expansion, drawing private and public investment from the countries most responsible for the problem. There is room for both the United States and China if they are willing to work with African partners.

3. Tax justice: Tax evasion, tax avoidance, and illicit financial flows have eroded the fiscal capacity of African governments. African civil society as well as governments have called for international action. But success depends on action in the United States and other major financial centers, where global banks, accounting firms, and legal firms help secretive corporations and individuals hide financial assets.

Giant multinational corporations also avoid taxation by shifting assets to jurisdictions with lower tax rates. The internet giants Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, for example, avoided as much as $2.8 billion in taxes in 20 developing countries.

In the United States, legislative action is key to greater transparency, as advocated by the Financial Transparency and Corporate Accountability Coalition. But strong executive actions also have a role to play. Stemming illicit financial flows could have more impact on African countries’ fiscal capacity to meet their own needs than either aid or trade.

It is likely that the Biden administration’s Africa policy will largely reflect continuity with previous administrations. But Africa and the United States share common interests that are increasingly visible, and this gives some hope that, with creative diplomacy, greater humility, and attention to African concerns, policymakers can move closer to mutually beneficial engagement.

The bottom line is that U.S. Africa policy will be most productive if U.S. policymakers are willing to learn and collaborate rather than to preach or dictate.

Other Commentaries on Biden Africa Policy

Center for International Policy Policy Brief

Africa Program, November 20, 2020

Biden Administration’s US-Africa Foreign Policy Plan

This 2-page brief provides an overview of what is likely to happen. It also contains these specific suggestions under the title “What We Want to See.”

  • Abandon the over-militarized approach to counter-terrorism and close all U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) bases. Promote peaceful negotiated resolutions of conflicts in Somalia, Libya, the Sahel and Nigeria beginning with ceasefire agreements to protect civilians in the time of COVID19.
  • Resolve Africa’s last colonial question by working through the United Nations and with the A.U. to re-establish a ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front, and to implement the UN-backed referendum for the Western Sahara to achieve self-determination for the Sahrawi people.
  • Become a reliable partner in Africa’s fight against COVID-19 and join the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility to ensure that African countries get equal access to a potential vaccine.
  • Support Special Drawing Rights (SDRS) and debt cancellation efforts while supporting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).
  • Rejoin the Paris Agreement and help Africa mitigate the effects of climate change through financing.
  • Reverse the travel bans imposed by the Trump administration on citizens of Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania and Libya. Halt the deportations of Cameroonians and other Africans fleeing conflict. Provide protection for immigrants and refugees.
  • Help African countries invest in the youth through job creation.

The Biden-Harris Agenda for the African Diaspora

“How a Biden administration will change US-Africa relations, “ by Yinka Adegoke
Quartz Africa, November 6, 2020

“U.S. Africa Policy Needs a Reset: Trump Didn’t Tear Up the Playbook, but It Still Needs to Be Rewritten, “ By John Campbell
Foreign Affairs, October 12, 2020

“Obama didn’t deliver for Africa: Can Biden show black lives matter everywhere” by Vava Tampa
The Guardian, November 30, 2020


U.S. diplomacy is failing in Ethiopia, in new ways and old

by Elizabeth Shackelford

Responsible Statecraft, November 28, 2020

Elizabeth Shackelford was a U.S. diplomat until December 2017 when she resigned in protest of the administration. She served in Somalia, South Sudan, Poland, and Washington, DC.

The conflict in Ethiopia emerges from a long and complex political history and could easily spiral further out of control. U.S. diplomacy today is under-resourced and uncoordinated, with its leadership asleep at the wheel, leaving Washington poorly positioned to help avert the emerging disaster. America’s blunt diplomatic approach to Ethiopia historically, however, would struggle to play a constructive role, too.

On November 4, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed kicked off a war by sending troops into the Tigray region. Tigray is home to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a well-armed political party representing an ethnic minority that makes up about six percent of the Ethiopian population. Abiy asserts that the military offensive was in response to an attack by TPLF forces on a military base, but an ongoing communications blackout complicates efforts to confirm facts on the ground, including allegations of widespread human rights abuses.

The Ethiopian government has been quick to investigate ethnically motivated attacks allegedly committed by the TPLF, including the reported massacre of 600 civilians in the town Mai-Kadra, but its access restrictions have prevented investigations into reports of government forces targeting civilians. Meanwhile, Tigrayan civilians in the capital Addis Ababa and across the country are reportedly being harassed and detained, raising the alarming possibility of a broader campaign of ethnic targeting. These concerns are reinforced by the Ethiopian government’s forceful repatriation of Tigrayan officers serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions outside the country, and fears they may face torture or even execution upon their return.

The TPLF and central government have been at odds since Abiy’s election in 2018, following the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn that ended 27 years of repressive TPLF rule. Abiy is the country’s first prime minister from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo. Resolving the growing political tension between the central government and the TPLF was always going to be a challenge, but a deliberate and robust diplomatic effort to press for transparent accountability and inclusion from the start would have had far better chances of success than hasty efforts now to stop the violence. Unfortunately, that has not been the modus operandi of U.S. foreign policy, under this administration or prior ones.

With the U.S. election underway, Abiy likely saw his last opportunity to pursue a violent resolution to Tigrayan defiance with minimal international pressure. American leadership here would be meaningful, but under the Trump administration, Washington has demonstrated little concern for human rights, stability, or the welfare of civilians.

A Biden administration, on the other hand, would care about all three and coordinate expertise and resources to demonstrate it. It would understand the stakes and fear a turn towards mass atrocities, given the harsh rhetoric and the conflict’s ethnic nature. A Biden National Security Council would have elevated attention to the conflict rapidly, facilitated by an NSC staffer with expertise in the Horn and an appreciation for potential impact in the broader region, from security in Somalia, where Ethiopian peacekeeping forces play a major role, to Sudan, itself in a fragile transition that could be complicated by conflict on its border and the arrival of tens of thousands of refugees.

Well before the three-week mark, policy would be coordinated at the highest levels across the interagency, with the direct engagement of the secretary of state, the national security adviser, and possibly the president himself. Under the Trump administration, there has been no policy direction, and outreach has largely been left to U.S. Ambassador Michael Raynor, whose default position has unhelpfully been unquestioning support for Prime Minister Abiy. That a National Security Council tweet calling for mediation is now lauded as escalated engagement is a sad reflection of the state of U.S. diplomacy today.

I feel confident this is how a Biden administration would respond because I witnessed a similar mobilization with many of the same players under the Obama administration when conflict broke out in South Sudan in 2013, amidst harsh ethnic rhetoric and divisions. As a U.S. diplomat in Juba, South Sudan, I saw firsthand the rapid escalation, interagency coordination, and engagement.

I also watched this approach fail. Robust diplomatic engagement is essential but not sufficient. How we engage and our history of engagement matter too. Today’s crisis in Ethiopia has brought into stark relief my question for the incoming foreign policy team: based on the staffing decisions so far, we can rest assured this team will be staffed with experienced professionals who care deeply for our country and are committed to our diplomatic capacity — but have they learned from our past mistakes? Will our foreign policy be better, not just than Trump’s, but better than the foreign policy that prevailed before that too?

For decades, our Africa policy has taken a blunt approach, quickly designating the good guys and the bad and painting each with a broad brush that demands unquestioning loyalty or enmity. This offers little room for nuance in our relationships and leaves us unprepared to engage effectively in the continent’s complex political and historical realities. For example, U.S. foreign policy is still beholden to leaders like Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda based on the decision a generation ago to deem these rebel leaders Africa’s “new generation.” Today, the United States remains a loyal friend of both, turning a blind eye for years to their many authoritarian transgressions. Accountability, transparency, and our credibility are all casualties of this approach.

Abiy has demonstrated this point on a particularly compressed timeline. When he came to power in 2018, the United States was not alone in rapidly anointing him savior. In less than two years, he’d won a Nobel Peace Prize. We hung on Abiy all of the hopes for reform and openness that we had bottled up for 27 years while exhibiting enthusiastic support for Ethiopia’s prior repressive regime. Abiy’s early days were promising, as he released political prisoners, introduced political reforms, and made peace with neighboring Eritrea. In our enthusiasm, however, we refused to see the warning signs, as Abiy embraced many of the tools of repression his predecessors utilized, treating his political enemies as traitors, locking up critics, and obstructing transparency. These trends are easier to discourage early on, when their scale is small and the costs of a course correction much lower. The right incentives and deliberate diplomatic engagement could have gone a long way at that stage. By continuing to look away, however, we helped ensure that what began as a bad trend adapted from Abiy’s predecessor became the new government’s culture too.

America must start engaging Africa’s leaders for who they are and what they do, not who we hope them to be. We must stop being so afraid of risking access and relationships that we fail to put in the hard work to ensure those relationships work for us and help to elevate the values and conditions that promote long-term stability and prosperity. This does not mean Washington should expect to dictate the actions of our partners. Rather, it means we should be honest about the implications of their actions, even when we fail to shape them.

In the example of Ethiopia today, that doesn’t require that we abandon support for Abiy to push for a power-sharing arrangement; we can appreciate the need for a central government to defend its authority against armed actors. At the same time, however, we can remind Abiy’s government of the role its illiberal acts have played in reinforcing the political and ethnic strife that helped fuel this rebellion, and Abiy must understand there will be reputational and assistance consequences for a war conducted in violation of international humanitarian law. If Abiy is, as he claims, conducting law enforcement activity against criminals and not an ethnic group, we must press him to demonstrate that through transparency.

The Biden administration has an opportunity for a fresh start in Africa. It should set a new baseline in our relationships, grounded in honesty and transparency, treating complex friendships with the complexity they deserve, and investing heavily in the diplomatic long game to make that approach productive.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter. For an archive of previous Bulletins, see,

Current links to books on AfricaFocus go to the non-profit, which supports independent bookshores and also provides commissions to affiliates such as AfricaFocus.

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Scorn for the ‘Deplorables’
worker | November 30, 2020 | 8:32 pm | Action | Comments closed

Scorn for the ‘Deplorables’

Hillbilly Elegies premiered November 24 on NETFLIX. I won’t be watching it.

Just as I refused to buy JD Vance’s New York Times best-selling book that the film is based upon, I refuse to support the arrogant defamation of the way of life and values of people living outside of the mansions and gated communities of privilege. Vance, growing up in a mill town in Ohio, no doubt knew some hardships and witnessed dysfunctionality. Who among us that grew up in working class neighborhoods in the Middle West didn’t see, and sometimes suffer, some hardship.

Vance’s book came out at a convenient time– 2016– when East and West Coast elites sought explanations for Donald Trump’s success in the Midwest. The corporate Democrats had long taken these Midwesterners for granted, Obama calling them gun-toting religious zealots and Hillary Clinton famously describing them as “deplorables.” It was left to a “survivor”– JD Vance– to expose the pathologies and missteps of these flawed creatures. Vance had– himself– found the grit to escape the working class ghetto of Middletown, Ohio and parlay an elite law school degree into the riches of high finance.

While he acknowledges the hardships, he congratulates himself and some others for what he sees as their ‘by-the-bootstraps’ success. Rather than seeing a quagmire too deep for all but the tallest boots to negotiate, Vance perceives character flaws– a lack of self-discipline and ambition, as well as a propensity to make bad choices. Vance expects “people to hold themselves responsible for their own conduct and choices. ‘Those of us who weren’t given every advantage can make better choices, and those choices do have the power to affect our lives…’”

If this sounds eerily familiar, it’s probably because it echoes the smug, insensitive message often offered to Black people who are mired in poverty and neglect by the privileged.

I once wrote of Vance: “Feeding the stereotypes [of Midwestern workers], Vance exposes a dysfunctional childhood spared from ruin by an enlistment in the Marine Corps, a stint at Ohio State University, and a climb to the summit, Yale Law School. Looking down from the rarified air of Yale, he feels qualified to speak of ‘the anger and frustration of the white working class’ and the hunger to ‘have someone tell their story’.”

But the story he tells is one of blaming the victims for the violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, and suicide that followed in the wake of the historically unprecedented deindustrialization that swept the Midwest beginning in the late 1970s. Literally millions of decent industrial jobs were lost in this period as capital shifted from US production to expansion overseas. The fall of Eastern European socialism and the expanding Asian engagement with export production opened the spigots of low-wage labor, an attraction that capital could not and would not fail to exploit.

The effects of this shift devastated communities in the US, especially the Midwest.

Growing up in the Midwest before this demographic disaster, I lived on the edge of a small town bordering on corn and soybean fields. On my street and surrounding streets, every household depended on employment in a factory or mine. From the disabled miner on the corner that we called “Bootsaw” because of his unpronounceable Eastern European name, to the African American who lived on the street behind us who worked in the mines with my uncle who raised me, people knew each other by where they or their parents worked: the GM foundry, Hyster, Lauhoff, GE, and the mines. All of these could be and often were long term, if not lifelong, decent paying jobs with decent benefits. Children knew that if they were not struck with wanderlust, there would be a job available where their parent, relative, or friend worked.

All that changed.

Today, employment is limited to a penitentiary, a casino, retail chains, services, and a few small, specialty manufacturers. Where factories employing thousands dotted the landscape, tattoo parlors, massage parlors, and slot parlors are now ubiquitous. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, my hometown and its environs lost more population (percentage-wise) from 1990 to 2015 than any area in the US with over 50,000 population, except the Youngstown and Weirton/Steubenville areas (near where I live now).

Friends and relatives lament the rise in alcoholism, drug use, crime, and violence that were foreign to the area when we grew up. They search for explanations– television, sex, poor parenting, etc.– but seldom, if ever, blame the multi-national corporations that abandoned the Midwest for cheap labor elsewhere. Nor are there any local leaders making that connection.

Like the crack epidemic that struck Black neighborhoods in the same era and led to violence, criminalization, and mass incarceration, Midwestern towns and cities similarly suffered from the effects of what appear to be mysterious, insidious outside forces that destroyed whatever stability both groups formerly enjoyed. Politicians, pundits, and the powerful show no interest in probing those mysteries. They simply ignore them and continue to pay obeisance to their corporate supporters.

Rather than shedding light, JD Vance’s book (and the subsequent film) help to obfuscate and deflect from a catastrophe that shattered the lives of millions. Vance only serves to reinforce the class arrogance that forecloses solidarity with those suffering under the weight of capitalist oppression.

Likewise, Vance and his ilk are unhelpful in revealing the appeal of Trump in many of these former Democratic Party strongholds. They see no connection between the signs of desperation and hopelessness and the turn to an outlier, even an outlier as ridiculous as Donald Trump. Those harmed search in vain for a palliative within the empty two-party pantry. Even a snakeskin-oil salesman is appealing when no one else offers help.

Political operatives, the media, and think tanks absurdly assume that the casualties of deindustrialization, urban neglect, and austerity– both Black and white– have no other place to go, that they live with a vivid memory of and unshakeable loyalty to the Democratic Party of the New Deal and the Great Society. That’s not the Democratic Party of today. And that’s not a promising bet for the future.

If the celebration of Biden’s victory is founded upon a return to some mythical idea of normalcy, it will surely be short-lived. With nearly one in eight US citizens experiencing hunger over the Thanksgiving weekend, with jobless claims increasing and at levels unseen even in the 2007-2009 crisis, with 21% of small businesses closed, ‘normal’ is not in sight.

What is in sight is nearly six million people facing eviction in January and another 12 million renters in arrears (Census Bureau).

A pathetic, condescending rags-to-riches tale is of no solace to those betrayed by profit-obsessed capitalists.

Greg Godels

Mensagem de Abertura
worker | November 25, 2020 | 7:58 pm | Portuguese Communist Party | Comments closed

Los Hermanos/The Brothers
worker | November 25, 2020 | 7:10 pm | Action, Cuba | Comments closed


MP of KKE -Vice President of the Greek Parliament and Doctor volunteers to return to Public Hospital to fight the Pandemic
worker | November 24, 2020 | 3:58 am | Communist Party Greece (KKE), COVID-19 | Comments closed

George Lamproulis , MP of KKE (Communist Party of Greece) and sixth Vice President of the Parliament of Greece, in a letter to the Speaker calls to be temporarily relieved of his duties as Vice President of the Parliament, in order to facilitate help as a Doctor- pulmonologist at the Larissa  Public Hospital in which he served or to join any public health unit in Larissa deemed necessary. At the same time, G. Lambroulis appeals to the doctors, elected deputies in the Parliament to act accordingly.

The entire letter of G. Lambroulis is as follows:

To the Speaker of Parliament Mr. Konstantinos Tassoulas

Notification to the Commander of the General Hospital of Larissa

Mister President,

As you know the effects on the health of the people from the pandemic are painful. A large number of people are infected with the virus. In many of them there are complications of the disease and they are intubated, the admission to the ICU is required and unfortunately many of them are led to the loss of their lives, despite the enormous efforts of fellow doctors, nurses and all other health professionals.

As a Member of Parliament for the KKE, I am immediately aware of the huge deficiencies in infrastructure and staff of the public health system, both nationwide and in the area of Larissa, where I come from and worked as a doctor – Pulmonologist before my election.

I listen to the daily anguish of fellow doctors, who at the limits of their endurance try to cope with the need to care for patients, the anguish of families for their people, who are ill and face the huge shortages of doctors and nurses, in simple beds and ICU beds.

I listen to all the other patients, who are not related to the epidemic but are essentially excluded for the second time from the necessary medical examinations due to the restrictive measures in the public health units.

As you know, as a Parliamentary Group of the KKE, we have repeatedly and timely highlighted the tragic shortcomings in the infrastructure and staff of the public health system, as a result of the timeless anti-popular policies of all governments. It is certain that if the government had used the time gained by the people to shield the public health units by recruiting staff, by equipping all the public health units, by developing the public First Level Health Unions, with a real order of requisition of the private Health sector companies, the “battle” against the pandemic would be fought on other, much better terms. The government did not do that and that is why its responsibilities are huge and even criminal.

Mister President,

In these circumstances, the demands, in order to provide solutions to the huge and well-known problems of the public health units, are a matter of life for the people. I will continue to contribute to this with all my strength.

However, I feel that I have to do something more and contribute in my capacity as a doctor-pulmonologist, because at this stage I believe that, above all, the practical contribution to the defense of human life is paramount.

I consider that my position is with my fellow doctors and nurses who are fighting in adverse conditions for the treatment of the people in the public health units of Larissa.

I therefore ask you to temporarily relieve me of my duties as Sixth Vice President of Parliament and to facilitate me to contribute as a doctor-pulmonologist at the General Hospital of Larissa where I served or to join any public health unit in Larissa.

I also call on doctors, elected members of Parliament, to do the same.

Thank you in advance,

George Lamproulis

Member of the KKE

6th Vice President of the Parliament

Nothing Can Justify the Crimes of Nazism
worker | November 22, 2020 | 10:09 am | struggle against fascism | Comments closed

‘Nothing can justify the crimes of Nazism’: Russian parliamentary speaker accuses West of ‘redefining’ causes of WWII

‘Nothing can justify the crimes of Nazism’: Russian parliamentary speaker accuses West of ‘redefining’ causes of WWII
A leading Russian lawmaker has accused politicians in other countries of rewriting history over Hitler and the Holocaust on the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials for war crimes.

In a statement on Friday, the Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin criticized“attempts by a number of Western politicians to reconsider the causes of World War II,” as well as to “question the decisive role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of Nazism.”

According to Volodin, groups that have an “interest in the rehabilitation of Nazism and its ideologists are operating in the open.”

Nobody and nothing can justify the crimes of Nazism.

The comments came after the Russian parliament adopted a resolution earlier this week that marked the anniversary of the trials of Nazi leaders. The motion stated that it is unacceptable in Russia to “glorify Nazism in any way,” to desecrate monuments to Allied soldiers, or for countries to make those actions state policy. It also praised the wartime anti-Hitler coalition for “establishing an international security framework to save future generations from wars.”

ALSO ON RT.COMWestern attempts to rewrite history of WW2 & turn conflict into political football have incensed Russians, now Moscow strikes backConcerns have previously been raised over attempts of far-right political movements across a number of European countries to rewrite historic accounts of the era. Poland, for example, attempted to distance itself from Nazi crimes that took place on its soil during the 1940s. Global leaders, historians and academics criticized a law introduced by the country’s right-wing government in 2018, that they claimed would criminalize references to the involvement of Poland or Polish people in the Holocaust. Camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor and Treblinka were established in what is now modern-day Poland, and only around one in ten of the country’s Jewish community survived the genocide.

Earlier this week, at a virtual awards ceremony held by the Russian Jewish Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that relations between the two countries were “growing stronger” and praised efforts to ensure Holocaust remembrance in Russia.

ALSO ON RT.COMPutin announces support for ban on comparing USSR & Hitler’s Germany after book claims ‘Soviets were worse than Nazis’Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!