Trialogue21: Underscores the Importance of Stabilizing Afghanistan and Combating Global Climate Change

News | November 11, 2010

At EWI’s Fifth Trialogue21 meeting in Beijing, experts from China, Europe, and the United States appealed to the three parties to look for every opportunity to increase cooperation on two pressing global tasks—establishing a stable and secure Afghanistan and reaching consensus on ways to address climate change.

Participants agreed that success in both areas is of critical importance to all three parties and the international community as a whole. But participants also pointed to lingering distrust among their countries and differences in perceptions and expectations. They stressed  the need for these three parties to seek greater clarity and transparency in order to build up the mutual strategic trust necessary for collaborative success.

These discussions were part of a two-day meeting on November 1-2, 2010, co-hosted by the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) and EWI.  Nearly 40 experts attended, including representatives from the Chinese and U.S. governments, the Policy Planning Unit in the NATO General Secretary’s office, think tanks, universities, and the private sector.

Specific recommendations in the areas of Afghanistan security and climate change talks are summarized below.

Coordinating approaches in Afghanistan and the regional impact of the security situation

Discussion on Afghanistan focused on the basis of mistrust among the three parties and the variations in perceived intentions and expectations for action. Participants generally agreed that collaboration in Afghanistan between the United States and Europe was extensive through NATO. But expectations differed as to the extent of cooperation and contributions by China in rebuilding Afghanistan, and China also expressed concern that the planned military withdrawal by NATO in the next few years would destabilize the country and region.

Policy recommendations:

  • China, the United States, and Europe should look for more opportunities to collaborate in providing technical assistance for agriculture, irrigation, education, health, energy, and water resources. Specifically, China should increase its agricultural development assistance to Afghanistan. This would help  develop an labor-intensive agriculture system that would create much needed employment for Afghanistan’s rapidly increasing population. It would also  provide technical assistance to  Afghanistan’s nut crops and juice concentrates, bringing them up to world standards and to introducing them into world markets.
  • More in-depth conversations among the United States, NATO, and China should be held in order to clarify misunderstandings, particularly regarding the withdrawal intentions of the U.S. and NATO, and the extent of China’s collaboration with U.S. and NATO efforts.  So as to avoid any misunderstanding or misperceptions,  the United States should actively consult with and brief the countries bordering Afghanistan (China, India, Iran, and Pakistan) before and after publicly releasing reviews on the situation in Afghanistan.
  • China, the United States, and Europe should bring together senior level Track 1.5 figures to discuss detailed, action-oriented outcomes pertaining to one specific challenge in Afghanistan.
  • The United States should work to improve its public image in China and Pakistan in order to minimize possible barriers to government collaboration and contributions.

Bridging the trust deficit in multilateral climate change talks

In advance of the early December 2010 United Nations climate change negotiations to take place in Cancún, Mexico,  Trialogue21 meeting participants discussed ways to build trust among countries at different stages of development and with different perceptions regarding responsibility in addressing climate change. Discussion focused on issues that caused substantive disagreement during climate talks in Copenhagen and Tianjin, in January and October 2010 respectively. These discussion areas included establishment of a system for the measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of emissions commitments; the transfer of clean energy technology; intellectual property rights; and climate financing.

Policy recommendations:

  • The Cancún climate talks regarding the establishment of an MRV system should separate measuring and reporting from verification, and work to establish a system for measuring and reporting first.
  • The climate talks in Cancún should establish an MRV system that provides incentives, including financial assistance and capacity-building, for developing countries who agree to participate in an MRV system. Developed countries should emphasize that the purpose of the MRV system would be to identify gaps in order to better provide assistance, rather than to point out problems that developing countries would be expected to fix on their own.
  • Language and definitions established in the Bali Action Plan regarding MRV should be clarified and agreed upon by technical experts, and should be presented to policymakers in clear, comprehensible language.
  • The international community could establish a patent pool for new carbon capture and storage technology to encourage technology transfer, like the patent created in the early stages of civil aviation development.
  • To offset the media’s negative representation of negotiations, which results in poor public opinion, developed and developing countries should present the positive steps being taken to combat climate change publicly and collaboratively. For example, the United States and Europe could send fact-finding missions to China to learn from its domestic MRV system. Additionally, countries could initiate joint research, television shows, radio programs, and editorials to demonstrate cooperation in addressing climate change.
  • Countries should work together to create a compendium of clean energy technology hampered by  significant barriers to technology transfer, in order to understand why the barriers exist and develop solutions.

The Fifth Trialogue21 meeting built on past meetings on regional security and clean and renewable energy, as well as events convened by EWI and CIIS this year, such as the Fourth U.S.-China High Level Security Dialogue.