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Fall 2011 - Vol. 8 No. 1


Welcome to this year’s first issue of the Queen’s International Observer! The executive team has been working since March to put out a new and exciting incarnation of the Observer, and we are truly thrilled to finally release it. Our main goal is to provide an alternative view for you, the reader, of international affairs. Specifically, we aim to offer a student perspective of what is going on outside of the Queen’s bubble. It’s easy to get caught up in campus life and forget about some of the important issues going on around the world that do still affect us. For example, did you know that there is an ongoing drought and famine in the Horn of Africa? As Canadian university students, few of us experience hunger or malnutrition on a day-to-day basis. How can we contribute and remedy related problems from our positions of privilege? At QIO, we will maintain this mandate of facilitating discourse around such global issues that situate the student in the vast theatre of international affairs.

Editor-in-Chief Idrees Ali

Assistant Editor (Content)

Tristan DiFrancesco

Assistant Editor (Layout)

Alexandra Petre

Marketing Director

Malvika Dasani

That being said, we hope that this magazine will offer something for all students, whether it’s for those who have no knowledge of international affairs, or those with a deep-seated passion. We have provided a range of pieces, whether it’s a quick update on recent world news, to a more substantive analysis of case studies. As well, we hope to engage students from a variety of backgrounds in a conversation about international issues. Did you disagree with a particular opinion presented? Do you have an issue that you’re passionate about? Did you attend an event on campus that you found engaging and that you want to write about? Don’t hesitate to send us your pieces at You can also discuss this issue and others on our Facebok page or on Twitter (@queensobserver). We hope that you find our first issue of the year engaging and exciting! If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to send us an email at We’d love to hear from you!

Maria Rodriguez

Joanna Plucinska Editor-in-Chief, Queen’s International Observer


Joanna Plucinska

Inside this issue you will undoubtedly learn something new about the Global Food Crisis. If you feel compelled, please check out organizations such as the United Nations World Food Programme ( to find out more about what you can do to help fight hunger internationally.





Solicitor of Submissions

Wenhan Chen

Public Relations Director Sponsorship Director

Daniel Hershkop

Discussion Coordinator

Miriam Bart

Staff Reporter

Taylor Anderson

Staff Reporter

FEATURES 3 5 11 16


Surveying the causes, impact and future implications of shortage and sustainability

in the wake of environmental shocks to food supply and resulting rise in prices.


Discussion and campus events: Jean Kilbourne visits Queen’s, and Jonathan Rose

discusses social media and QFPC.


Controlling the distribution of aid in the DPRK can be a powerful political tool,

especially in the isolation of a closed command economy.

OUR GROWING, HUNGRY PLANET by Riley Craig Examining food and population sustainability, the costs of so-called developed


diets and a precription for change.


The city-state’s role in environmental policy-making, & the ideological conflict

between self-interest & institutionalism.




GLOBAL FOOD The current state of global politics indicates that new, challenging and severe cleavages contest what was once an established world order. Generation Y is currently growing in the richest environment the world has ever seen, despite the fact that increasing income gaps cause rampant inequality between North and South, East and West, and increasingly, between the 1% and the 99%. Where does food come into all of this? While we take for granted the wide array of choice in meal options, some argue that the most novel health obsession of Western states is a sign of previously unimaginable privilege. Meanwhile, former peripheries like China and India are rapidly rising in economic standing and simultaneously, developing new agricultural policies due to the rise in micro-finance and to the increased empowerment of women. At the other end of the spectrum, several rich countries are using their wealth to develop plant-based fuel that won’t harm the environment quite to the extent of fossil fuels. While some have the space to consider sustainability and environmental footprint, others are simply trying to provide adequate nutrition for all their citizens. Should there be a standard for food production? These advancements, when taken at face value, seem to bode well for our collective future — but there are very profound consequences to these changes. The disparity in agricultural practices, combined with the lack of supply and growing prices,


has been labeled to be a Global Food Crisis. For the past decade, we have been eating more food than we’ve been producing—and the problem is likely to persist. The fast growing economies of places like China and India and the global changing demographics mean that overall, we have more mouths to feed, and for the first time, more technological resources to feed them without subsistence farming. This means that quickly developing countries


ABOVE- Environmental externalities are a central factor of food crises; subsistence agriculture is the hardest hit. OPPOSITECPIs reflect higher costs of living associated with rising commodity prices and food shortages.

are also free to begin relying less on producing their own food, and more on imported goods. But the problem does not end here. In the United States and Europe, the demand for plant-based fuels is leading to a huge shift in the way we use grain. In 2009, the amount of grain given to ethanol distilleries in the United States could feed 350 million people for an entire year. In Europe, meeting the demand for plant-based diesel fuel

means rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia have to be cut down for palm oil plantations. Meanwhile, the average European Cow gets a subsidy of $2 a day – the World Bank measure of poverty – more than half of the people in the developing world live on less than that. Who dictates the priorities of food production? Do you consider this process to be fair? While the problems become increasingly structural, the solutions remain incomplete. To add to this context, National Geographic echoes the sentiment expressed by most academics regarding climate change. This phenomenon is projected to reduce future harvests in much of the world, raising the specter of what some scientists are now calling a perpetual food crisis. The attempt to analyze this problem forms the mandate of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research. The same people that brought the green revolution that extended from the 50’s to the 90’s, doubling the world’s average yield of corn, rice, and wheat are now attempting to mediate the effects of their previous successes. Given that further increasing food

This issue, the Queen’s International Observer presents a series of articles by students and alumni focusing on some of the causes, impacts, and implications of the Global Food Crisis. We encourage you to seek out sustainable paths for development aid, and donate what time and resources you can to alleviating this urgent pressing global crisis. QI Q


production is very unlikely, the group will likely need to achieve success in a completely innovative manner —in half the time. Realistically, the situation looks bleak. Across the world, violent protests on the costs of food are erupting. These are especially justified in poorer countries such as the West African nation of Burkino Faso, where impoverished families typically spend 50 to 70% of their income on food. The world cannot turn a blind eye to these effects. Many countries have donated to the World Bank’s Global Food Crisis Response program—among them Canada, who has donated 30 million. How can you help? And who should be helping the most? Whether you think the problem needs social activism or global governance, relief must be a priority. If you want to help, Feed the Children has a section on their site dedicated to sending donations. Currently, money is being focused on East Africa and the Horn of Africa, which are presently experiencing massive famines and droughts.

foodwaterenergy The share of US foreign aid as a percent of GDP dropped from 2.75% in 1949 to 0.1% in 2000. However, in absolute terms, the US is the largest international aid donor today. Americans privately donate over USD$32 billion annually, at least 50% more than state official development assistance (ODA). Only about 25% of US ODA has been directed to to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) with most aid going to constructing infrastructure over emergency food aid. Sources: Reuters, OECD. THE GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS


CAMPUSFORUM Thoughts on the Food Crisis “Abolish subsidies and tariffs to open up global markets.”

-Paul Smith

“It sucks!”

-Aislinn Shoveler

#PEACEFULREVOLUTION? Over the past couple of weeks, Zuccoti Park, along with thousands of other streets, public venues and shared spaces has been filled with a movement proclaming to identify itself with the 99%, “getting nothing while the 1% get everything”. This series of protests has already achieved two major changes, despite being only in its infancy. First, the debate about media coverage, or lack thereof, has become a pivotal point in public perceptions about the level of trust accorded to mainstream media and tabloids alike. It took the New York Times over 3 weeks to even begin to cover the movement, while major news broadcasters such as Fox News or The Daily Mail in the UK continue to refuse to acknowledge the existence

the shift in revolutionary tactics has rendered the political arena speechless

“There are too many mouths to feed.”

-David Cameron

@queensobserver 5

of the clear demands and grievances of the protesters. Perhaps more and more Americans and readers worldwide will begin to question the superficial, politically-charged analysis that continues to ask “What do they want?” and “What are they trying to accomplish”. Instead, they might start to synthesize thousands of speeches, signs, blog posts, podcasts, independent-media articles and thousands of other information sources for themselves. Occupy seems to force people to observe and think for themselves rather than relying on their usual news sources. Where should we look for better analysis? Second, the shift in revolutionary tactics has rendered the political arena, to a large degree, speechless. The gap between public demands and responses from Congress, Senate and Presidential candidates


/news /events /opinion alike have been less than insightful of ways to acknowledge, address and incorporate the demands of the 99% into electoral platforms. Seeking a peaceful revolution, the protesters have challenged the state to respond. However, only traditional tools used against civil unrest have been deployed to meet the activists. Does the state lack the appropriate methods to react? Is Occupy challenging more than we realize?

ENDING INSTITUTIONALISM The pragmatic impact of rational absolutism in the study of IR has been discussed by the constructivist element for decades. However, the utility of substantive theoretical approaches in practical politics is great. Today, the new world order collapses under the weight of US hegemony and those who embrace the brutish Hobbesian nature of humanity. Driven by the ongoing military-industrial complex and the fabricated economic growth imperative, contemporary diplomats fear not the immaterial costs of breaking with international conventions. As Alex Petre examines in great detail in this issue’s article on Singapore and ASEAN, realist assumptions of universal rational selfinterest cripple the capability and endurance of institutions. Reluctance to accept international norms and greater communal costs (and benefits), has seriously undermined the potential for any truly global order. The failure of the Kyoto Protocols, unrepented violations of international law, US circumvention of the security council, and the recent exodus from UNESCO following recognition of Palestine. After US funding withdrawals, Canada followed suit, despite the fact that UNESCO has long respected Quebec statehood. US procedural hegemony within institutions would be less of

an issue, but disrupting their function entirely by refusing to engage when things don’t go their way is not only juvenile, it perpetuates the demise of the US as a global “superpower”. For, as the success of regional integration attests, international cooperation without the US is not only feasible, it presents the only challenge to erratic US hegemonic behaviour. Can institutions uphold global order, or is realism the only pragmatic method for maintaining international security?

About the Forum CampusForum is an amalgamation of student voices heard at QIO events, through discussion @queensobserver and on facebook, and submissions to

THE FLOWERS OF ARAB SPRING Post-Ghadaffi Libya was the outcome most hoped for. But what does the death of the Libyan dictator mean for the re-definition of the responsibility to protect, for the region in general, and for the political, economic and psychological vacuum of the nation? Perhaps there are more opportunities in this state than in any other recently liberated Arab nation. The slate is clean. As a country that only produces oil, that lacks basic infrastructure or

the challenge to reconstruct is rather a challenge to construct

any type of just institutional memory, the challenge to reconstruct is rather, a challenge to construct. NATO involvement in the region, praised by many as a necessary and vital aid to the end of the civil war, and criticized by many as a mere guilt-induced intervention, is said to end this week. NATO officials declared that the international community is to withdraw its presence completely, and refuse to have any role in creating a new, free Libyan state. Has the intervention set a dangerous precedent? Do you believe the NATO mission to be justified? Should peacekeepers be deployed?



oncampus Jeankilbourne by alexandra petre

On Oct. 27th, Jean Kilbourne, the author of Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel, a renowned feminist author and academic, visited Queen’s campus to give a talk about the ways in which media shapes our images of masculinity and femininity. Her work, largely focused on the sexualization of products and the increasing influence of media on the way in which we act, has been highly popular, leading to a series of documentaries entitled “Killing Us Softly”. Awarded several high distinctions for her engaging, insightful and powerful public speaking engagements, Prof. Kilbourne has been a constant presence on university campuses for the past 30 years. Her presentation rests on the idea that advertisements sell much more than just products, but rather they promote and push specific concepts of love, relationships, intimacy and even normalcy. The speed and volume of advertisements with which we are bombarded has a constant, accumulated and powerful effect on us. Specifically for young men and women, Kilbourne notices the obsession with achieving standards of beauty that are biologically impossible, portraying power dynamics presented in print and online media that are highly unequal, and romanticizing a series of potentially dangerous concepts such as fear of gaining weight, fear of not being attracting, or fear of not having a partner. Kilbourne associates the violence towards women on campus and throughout society with the advertisements that create the culture in which femininity is


seen as weak, silenced and overpowered by masculine features. Kilbourne notes that throughout the years, she has seen a very interesting number of trends. The extents to which women’s bodies have been used as objects have increased tremendously, while the amount of editing and airbrushing has effectively transformed our image of the ideal female. Further, the process has started to be applied to ideas of masculinity – towards the opposite extreme. Men are always portrayed as bigger, more muscular and more powerful than they are in real life. The preset day media, far from being a witness to society’s norms and dynamics, has become the shaper of these very sexist, hetero-normative desires. By idolizing brands we are deemed incapable of discerning between the normalcy of daily life and that of print media. To address this growing gap between the attainable and the desirable, Kilbourne introduced the concept of media literacy. The goal of her work is to build the capacity of ad consumers to digest through the messages sent by marketing executives, to ask what their effect is and how this might be internalized subconsciously, even if initially rejected. Kilbourne noted progress in this area specifically in the UK, where a new Home Of-

Kilbourne’s recent presentation advocated media literacy as a remedy for corporate hegemony in the creation social norms. fice bill has been drafted enforcing that all images digitally modified have to bear a note identifying them as such. The feminist activist encouraged those in attendance to start small – get involved on campus, speak against the media hegemony on male and female concepts of beauty, and slowly build media literacy.

Alexandra is a fourth year History student and Marketing Director for QIO.

foodwaterenergy On average, industrial meat production requires twenty-thousand litres of water to every one kilogram of meat. The world uses sixty-seven billion animals annually for meat, milk and eggs. Comparatively speaking, meat production requires eight to ten times more water than standard grain production. Sources: FAO, Environment Canada.


Queen’s International Observer discusses social media & democracy in the digital age with the preeminent professor, as well as his role in the Queen’s Foreign Policy Conference (November 11-12).


Interview by miriam bart QIO: Jonathan Rose recently served as the Academic Director of Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, in addition to broad experience teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses on media and Canadian politics topics across the globe. Hello and welcome, Professor Rose. To begin: as a media “expert”, do you have your own Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube account? Jonathan Rose: I have a Facebook account that I use mostly for close friends, a Twitter account for both personal and academic related things, and a Youtube account that I use for family sort of stuff. QIO: What do you think the purpose of these social media sites is for millions and millions of users? JR: I think they serve a number of purposes. I think that on the most basic level they create community, and they allow for disparate people to be connected. What we are seeing now are networks of communi-

ties. Linked-in is a great example. I have a Linked-in account that I use to connect with organizations I have been involved with or people that I have worked with professionally, make my connection there. They establish a network of like-minded people in that community. My linked-in contacts may connect serendipitously with my Twitter followers and that creates a different sort of community. QIO: What do you think about social media in the information age? JR: Well, in some sense it’s no different than it has always been. Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message,” and what he meant by that was the medium becomes as important as the content. We’re seeing that with Twitter, for example, which confines messages to 140 characters. We’re seeing that with Facebook, which can create immediate real time conversations and interestingly is now the largest online repository of digital photos.

Social media changes the nature and content of communications: how we communicate to each other and what we say. QIO: Is social media the only source for spreading news internationally nowadays? JR: No, I would say traditional forms of media, the mass media, I think are still the most reliable and dominant forms of the media. What they have is legitimacy because they have been around for a long time. What the social media sites have is immediacy. Minutes after Steve Jobs died, the world knew. Minutes after Vancouver lost the Stanley Cup and there were riots, the world knew.


Mobile phone use worldwide as a percentage of the population. Rapid dissemination of mobile technology has heightened interconnectedness and the scope of the digital domain.

Source: CIA World Factbook. Courtesy Astrokey44.

JR: That’s right. Increasingly we are seeing a blurring between traditional media and social media. We are seeing traditional media such as newspapers, adopt the methods and form of social media. They do this in the form of blogs, twitter hashtags, and also through comments that accompany on-line news articles. QIO: Yes exactly! Even some of these credible newspapers have twitter accounts where they can constantly hashtag throughout the day. So would you say that social media is the best way for individuals to voice their opinions? JR: Well, the problem with social media is they reinforce conventional arguments. Some have argued that they form an echo chamber. In other words, you voice opinions of the community of like-minded individuals whether that community is republican, democratic, conservative, liberal. You follow people whose opinions you share and what happens is that you are preaching to the converted. So it creates this infinite loop of similar ideas. Rather than expanding the conversation it reinforces ideas already held. QIO: We have witnessed a great deal of political change in the Middle East and North Africa through the use of social media. How do you think that change could be made at the same degree without the use of it?


JR: One of the interesting things about many recent popular revolutions is the role technology has played. After President Estrada of the Philippines was exonerated on charges of corruption, 200,000 people gathered in the main square in Manilla and stayed there until he resigned. They were mobilized through text messages. The fax machine played a similar publicizing role in Tiananmen Square. And of course we witnessed the role of Twitter and Facebook in the Arab Spring. Even when the government of Egypt

Social media is dangerous because it is difficult to control. It’s radically decentralized and makes every individual a publisher of content

closed down the internet, we saw people using mobile phones to send audio files to Twitter accounts so the world could bear witness. So, social media is a larger part of the way that technology can be used to mobilize citizens. QIO: Like you are saying in Egypt, when they shut down the internet, they opened up telephone lines that would instantly convert what people called in to say into Twitter status updates. So that proves the influence social media has in that instance. JR: Yes, but they that was facilitated not just by social media, but rather technology. Social media is one


instance of it, but every instance is facilitated by technology of some sort. With cell phones becoming more common, the ability to create unmediated images has never been greater. When Gadafi was killed there wasn’t any state coverage; what we saw was the grainy camera phone of someone who was nearby. That is not really social media, but rather technology. I would say that the interesting things about the occupy movement is how technology is being used by citizens to create awareness of issues. QIO: Since social media was used as an outsource for people in the Arab uprising and it aided to their success, we know it is a very powerful tool. Do you think it will eventually have the power to be dangerous? JR: Well, I mean it is dangerous for regimes that want to repress it; it is instability. Any decentralized power is dangerous because it cannot be controlled. Social media is dangerous, because it is difficult to control. It’s radically decentralized and it makes every individual a publisher of content and that’s dangerous for states that want to maintain control. I wouldn’t say dangerous, I would say democratic but certainly it could create instability in regimes or nations that don’t have a democratic culture. QIO: Professor Rose, on behalf of the Queen’s International Observer, thank you for your time and responses. QI Q

QIO: Then again, that’s not just because of social media that’s because of the online newspapers right?











Famine and foreign assistance in the DPRK.

By Jenny Yoo


the democratic People’s Republic of

The North Korean famine presents a case study

Korea (DPRK) is an isolated country under a

in which food aid was, on one hand, used by

totalitarian leader, with agricultural policies of

the DPRK as a tool to control its population

self-sufficiency and a prevailing ‘military first’

and secure power in the central government,

policy in government. Contributing factors to

and on the other hand, used by donor coun-

the famine of 1995 include the break up of the

tries as a tool to force the totalitarian govern-

Soviet Union and a series of natural disasters

ment’s participation in international affairs and

throughout the 1990s. Initially, appeals were

discussions. My contention is that the decision

made to the international community by the

to both accept and distribute food aid, the

DPRK seeking humanitarian aid. However, food

method of its application, and its role in either

aid to North Korea faced strict restrictions on

developing or hindering the creation of self-

the extent and ability of donor agencies’ in-

sufficiency, are factors that are determined ul-

volvement in the distribution and monitoring

timately, not by the humanitarian needs of the

of food aid, which in turn opens questions of

population, but rather, by the political goals of

the success and effectiveness of food aid in al-

both recipient and donor regimes.

leviating hunger and impoverishment for the majority of the population.



/ continued

Aid is delivered in Haiti following the 2008 hurricane season. Aid in a time of crisis can be the difference between life and death, but as Jenny Yoo observes in the case of North Korea, elites can easily manipulate the distribution of resources for personal or political gains. THE GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS



Although signs of famine were present prior to the floods of the summer of 1995, it wasn’t until the natural disasters struck that the government responded. There were steps to increase the allowance of private gardens and frequency of farmer’s markets, which, however, focused mainly on finding technical fixes to the food shortage as opposed to policy changes (Haggard and Noland, 2007: 33). Continuous cropping was introduced to increase outputs, but this led to soil nutrient depletion, acidification from increased chemical fertilizers, and an eventual decrease in productivity. The government did not seek outside support until 1995, and it was not until 1996 that humanitarian assistance began to flow into the country. Part of the reason for this delayed appeal for international assistance may have been derived from the state’s need to uphold an image of strength and appearing to have a food shortage for the majority of its population would emit an admission of food vulnerability for its military and security apparatus as well (Haggard and Noland, 2007: 40). The internal political arena was already unstable with the death of the DPRK’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung. Another factor in the government’s slow response to the food crisis emerged from a lack of information about the extent of the shortage. Local officials had to meet quantitative criteria as outlined by the central authorities, and to question their methods or techniques and report their vulnerability was to question the top political leadership. Limitations on incoming food aid The DPRK regime has limited the ability of donor bodies to distribute, monitor, and effectively control the distribution of food assistance. The WFP has managed most of the humanitarian assistance that has flowed into North Korea. From the outset, the government of North Korea did not follow the traditional principles of receiving humanitarian aid including transparency, acceptance of aid workers, continuous monitoring, and non-discrimination in distribution. From 1995 to 2005, the global community provided over $2.3 billion of humanitarian aid into North Korea – approximately 62 percent was from multilateral institutions, 26 percent was through bilateral channels, and 12 percent was from NGOs (Haggard and Noland, 2007: 81-85). Despite this great influx of food aid, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was the only body that had an official presence inside the country, and even with this established presence, the delivery of food aid was not independent from the government. Jean Zeigler outlined that “most of the international food aid was being diverted by the army, the secret services, and the government” (UNESC, 2001: 11). Despite the operation in North Korea standing as the WFP’s largest single-country work, restrictions that this body faces include incomplete access to



areas of the country, inability to conduct random spot checks, limited access to consumers’ markets, and the inability to use external interpreters (Manyin, 2005: 1215). NGOs, including Médecins Sans Frontières, Action Against Hunger, and CARE, have pulled their operations from the country due to the inability to observe the movement of their aid contributions. Food aid was used by donor countries to engage the DPRK in discussion on security issues. An example includes the Clinton Administration’s use of food aid to secure the North Korean government’s participation in four-way security talks with the US, South Korea, and China between 1997 and 1999 (Manyin, 2005: 18). The patterns of food aid entering the country have also depended upon the DPRK’s status of political relations. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, China has emerged to become North Korea’s largest provider of food. Due to the large inflow of foodstuffs in forms other than aid (such as commercial trade and bartering), it is more difficult to differentiate between Chinese trade and aid. Japan’s food aid has largely fluctuated with the nature of its political relations with the North Korean regime, which has recently faced confrontation with the issue of the abduction of Japanese citizens. South Korean aid to its northern neighbour greatly increased with the establishment of improved relations following the “sunshine policy” of engagement under President Kim Dae Jung in 2000 (Manyin, 2005: 22). While the two countries are still divided by the longest-standing armistice line, South Korea has become one of North Korea’s most important and stable sources of food. The nuclear factor A nuclear standoff from 1992-1994 contributed to the famine through the dominance of security-driven motives and political manoeuvring over humanitarian needs. The North Korean regime viewed the entrance of foreign assistance as a complete divergence from its central juche ideology with threatening effects, and was slow to respond to the food crisis. Once humanitarian assistance began entering the country, contributors used their aid as a tool for penetrating the isolated country. Internally, the North Korean government worked to conceal the source of food to its recipient population. Externally, Aaltola suggests that the US and South Korea refrained from giving unconditional large-scale aid not only to encourage North Korea’s participation in peace talks, but also to bring down the “hostile Communist regime of North Korea, whose demise was seen as imminent” (1999, 380). The United States and its allies, including South Korea and Japan, were in an advantageous situation with regards to creating a North Korean dependency on its humanitarian aid: “if the aid was delayed, the possibility of an internal breakdown of the North Korean

foodwaterenergy According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 75 million people went hungry due to the increase of food prices in 2007 alone. The UNFAO predicts that the number of hungry people will rise to 1.2 billion by 2017. This year, the CPI predicts an 4% average rise in global food prices.

regime increased, and if the aid was delivered on Western terms, it would function as a powerful political message regarding the failure of the North Korean regime” (Aaltola, 1999, 378). From both internal and external players, the response to the famine was calculated and planned according to political manoeuvring as opposed to real human need. Assessment of food aid In 2002, the government of North Korea created a new policy plan which seeking to establish or modify four components of its economic policy: microeconomic policy, macroeconomic policy, special economic zones, and aid-seeking (Noland, 2004: 14). The first special economic zone established in N’ajin-Sonbong province had very limited success with its geographic isolation, poor infrastructure, and heavy government-interference. The DPRK regime introduced structural reforms in 2002 to shift its centrally planned economy towards a marketbased system modelled after China’s successes with government-controlled capitalism (Schwekendiek, 2008: 447). There was more room for entrepreneurship, private business, and a likeness to an open market with decreased government subsidies, official recognition of informal markets, and greater freedoms to farmers to engage in private sales (Manyin, 2005: 7). It seemed as though the opening up of North Korea’s borders to foreign aid, input, and discussions was slowly installing change in the government’s policies. While these reforms initialized policy changes, there has been a lack of sustainable growth and an abundance of vulnerable finances and inflation, which has, in turn, contributed to a continuous flow of food problems in the country. Polarization of so-

ciety has increased with a divide between the portion of the population with access to stable food sources and foreign exchange, and the portion of the population that still depends on an erratic PDS. The top strata of society has experienced benefits through changes in the country’s market, while the masses, most vulnerable in urban areas, have become victim to hyperinflation and high prices on important foodstuffs. The WFP estimated that up to 80% of individual incomes were spent on food in 2002, along with increased underemployment and unemployment (Manyin, 2005: 7). The dependence of the greater population – about 70% – on the PDS is exacerbated by a reduced ability to survive without this program, which, itself, faces shortages and occasional shutdowns (Manyin, 2005: 7). Government reforms have created general changes in the economy which have furthered the social divide between the elite and the greater population. The current situation In September of 2005, North Korea agreed to discontinue their nuclear program in exchange for economic, energy, and security benefits. Despite this step forward towards disarmament, tensions between the DPRK and the Bush administration led to an announcement that the North Korean government would return to nuclear testing in the fall of 2006. On October 9, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test and faced sanctions from the UN Security Council, discontinued financial transactions across the border with China, and continued suspension of South Korean aid – a “humanitarian crisis began to loom again in North Korea” (Cho and Woo, 2006: 7172). North Korea still faces a chronic food shortage today, and this humanitarian situation is set in the



foodwaterenergy Annual meat production has increased from 218 million tonnes in 1997 to 275 million tonnes in 2008, to a predicted 465 million tonnes by 2050. This has a heavy impact on the environment because the number of people fed per hectare annually ranges from 22 for potatoes and 19 for rice, to 1 and 2 for beef and lamb respectively. The low energy conversion from feed to meat is a concern, especially since the grains that could be used to feed people are used for livestock production. In the industrial world, approximately eighty kilograms of meat are eaten per person each year, comparatively to those in the developing world that only consume 30 kilograms.



ment’s unwillingness to identify flaws in the ability of the PDS to effectively and equitably collect and distribute food along with falsification of the extent of food emergencies in the country caused a late response to the food crisis. Furthermore, a delayed reaction in seeking help from the international community, insistence on heavy restrictions on incoming food aid, the use of foodstuffs to politically control the greater population and reward the small elite, and a recently renewed juche attitude, have left a highly vulnerable food system. Similarly, reasoning and motivations supporting the distribution of food aid must be examined. Timing, tied aid, the creation of dependency, and the motivations to administering humanitarian assistance are all factors that have determined the extent of a country’s involvement in supplying food aid. In the case of the North Korean famine, international actors were slow to respond to the DPRK’s appeals for assistance, and the North Korean government was expected to participate in and conform to international organizations, norms, values, and talks in return for the aid. Food aid stemming from the North Korean famine in the mid-1990s through to the continued food shortage today has been utilized as a tool for political engagement, control, and division both internally and externally. In this context, humanitarian assistance has been used to further political goals and manipulate both the regimes that receive aid and donate aid. A step forward in the humanitarian assistance realm would be to examine the primary goals of aid – that is, to respond to places in greatest need of this basic necessity of life, food. QI Q

context of nuclear tensions. Food aid entering the country continues to be diverted, with an estimated 30 percent or more reaching the military and political elite (Haggard and Noland, 2007: 2). The basis of North Korea’s economy is vulnerable and dependent upon its relations with foreign actors as one third of its revenues come from aid, one-third come from exports, and one third come from unconventional sources such as smuggling and counterfeiting (Haggard and Noland, 2007: 5-6). In 2004, North Korea collected its best harvest in a decade and still faced a deficit of 500,000 tons of cereal to feed its people (Schwekendiek, 2008: 447). The government significantly reduced the already limited ability of outside actors to operate in the country: several counties were closed off to UN humanitarian agencies, the WFP was told to reduce its personnel by one third, and monitoring requests were rejected (Manyin, 2005: 11). More recently, aid from China and South Korea has overcome the amount of aid from the WFP, the consequences of which lead to the DPRK’s reduced reliance on other foreign sources of food. The North Korean government announced its withdrawal from the UN and its decisions to halt appeals for humanitarian assistance (Manyin, 2005: 10). The once melted borders of the totalitarian regime under Kim Jong Il have begun to close up again. The case of North Korea presents an example of a country that was forced to open up to the international community, in order to seek and receive humanitarian assistance in the face of famine. While engaged in negotiations and talks regarding food aid, internal policies restricting traditional humanitarian assistance norms led to questionable practices of aid distribution. The North Korean govern-

Jenny is a Queen’s alumni, currently studying law at the University of Toronto.



by Riley Craig

Population growth has already strained the capacities of food suppliers, and in absolute terms, the world is only getting hungrier.

We’ve all experienced hunger. But how many of us have experienced malnutrition? Despite making the choice to eat junk food on occasion, most of us have the opportunity to have a healthy, balanced diet. But when one part of a nation’s population is unable to benefit from the nutrients they need to lead an active life. The true meaning of world hunger includes not only sustaining and developing new and existing food sources, but also addressing the fundamental problem of providing the world’s expanding population with a nutritious diet, in an efficient manner. When any portion of the population does not receive proper intake, we refer to this as malnutrition, which is a byproduct of the inability of several states to provide the tools and land needed to produce an appropriate amount of grain and vegetables (Feeding Minds, 2011). The problem we face is that there are one billion hungry people. It

seems imperative to work together to provide for and sustain their populations. We already know what the solution to hunger is, but most countries never made it their priority to implement the necessary changes. How can they be pressured to do so? And who is to act? One point of view believes that developing nations must address this issue internally through two policy goals: limiting population size and improving their food production strategies. Periphery nations are generally less developed than more powerful nations due to the lack of technology and poor government, health, and education systems (International Viewpoint, 2009). Their expanding demographics represent an ever-growing challenge to the world’s food supply. By limiting population growth through the adoption of population control and education in the developing countries, governments would cut short the speed with which the numbers of those malnourished are rising. Smith of the Toronto Star states, “The biggest challenge going forward will be how do we satisfy the growth in global demand for basic food. According to studies, food production will have to rise 70% by 2050 to keep up with population growth.” (Smith, 2011, p. 3). These programs will hopefully lead to smaller and more prosperous families in developing nations. Studies have shown that when countries have adopted population policies, like the

one-child-policy utilized in China; birth rates decreased dramatically. Although some countries have faced backlash due to enacting this type of policy, it does and can “limit” the population (World in the Balance, 2007). Agriculture is one of the most important aspects to food production as well as food demand (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAOUN], 2011). In fact, it is extremely important in peripheral nations, as the diet in these countries rests more on grains than on meat products. If they are to expand their food production systems in order to ensure a balanced diet for their citizens, these nations must develop a solid agricultural foundation, given that animal based protein products require agriculture as their basic food source (FAOUN, 2011). Developing nations, however struggle to maintain a good agricultural system not only because of a lack of financial resources but also weather and soil conditions make it difficult to grow crops (International Viewpoint, 2011). The International Fund for Food Development donated $200 million dollars to support farmers and boost food production in the face of the global food crisis (IAEA, 2008). A variety of high-income countries have provided food aid to over sixty developing countries that have been hit hard by rising food prices (IAEA, 2008). Regardless of relief efforts, it is essential that developing nations do not become dependent on core countries through donations; these struggling nations need to domestically develop new ways to improve food production. Nations who are not endowed with proper growing conditions could possibly utilize their own natural resources in order to trade for basic food, for example diamonds, coal, and copper (International Viewpoint, 2011). If the developing nations are not successful in limiting population growth, as well as developing their independent food supply, then there is potential for disastrous implications. These possible outcomes could cause famine, widespread disease, food riots, and even the possibility of food wars (International Viewpoint, 2011).



SINGAPORE & ASEAN CLIMATE CHANGE LEADERSHIP OR BALANCING THE POWER DYNAMIC? by Alexandra Petre Climate change has taken priority as an issue of national, regional and international concern. Within the push for climate change action, agreements to reduce GHG emissions have been hailed as symbols of environmental commitment. The failure to create such an agreement on a global scale in 2010 in Cancun effectively transferred the onus on to individual states and regional organizations to draft and implement appropriate legislation. As a small island-state nation in South East Asia, Singapore has only developed a cohesive policy towards climate change in the past decade. Singapore’s foreign policy is consistently based on national interests defined from a realist standpoint, while simultaneously encompassing liberal institutionalist tendencies whenever it draws benefit from adhering to global norms. Consequently, progressive initiatives regarding environmental sustainability do not align with the prevailing discourse of security and survival. As such, this essay argues that the possibility of an ASEAN agreement on GHG emission caps is not in Singapore’s interest and further, Singapore should not take a leadership role in pushing other ASEAN countries to agree to such a policy. Singapore’s focus is to ensure energy security for the purpose of economic growth, being only secondarily concerned to engage with climate change global norms. Financial growth and a self-interest framework are responsible for shaping the island’s priorities. This realist conviction has been the base of Singapore’s continued refusal to oblige to reduce absolute emissions, the relatively late official adoption of a stance against climate change, as well as the prevalence of voluntary-based energy efficiency laws. Additionally, as a founding member


of ASEAN, Singapore looks to maintain its clout and reputation within the organization. Cautious of possible conflict with Indonesia, Malaysia and other ASEAN states due to previous unresolved disputes, Singapore has managed a policy of power building while occasionally deferring to bigger countries considered natural hegemons. As a main beneficiary of using ASEAN as a portal to the global economy, it is in Singapore’s interest to avoid disrupting the established norms of non-interference and consensus-based policies. To begin, this essay will argue that a regional ASEAN agreement in itself would hurt Singapore’s internal security, regardless of whose leadership it is signed under. Given the realist context in which Singapore

progressive initiatives regarding environmental sustainability do not align with the prevailing discourse of security and survival.

operates, an agreement aimed at reducing GHG emissions would threaten the state’s energy security by significantly limiting the amount of fossil fuels, mostly oil and natural gas, the island can burn. The main pillar of Singapore’s economy, the techno-industrial sector which produces 54% of GHG emissions , is fully dependent on fossil fuels for its energy production. The active pursuit of outward oriented economic policies will only lead to continued expansion and “inevitably to growth in carbon dioxide emissions” (Hamilton-Hart, 369). Given that energy security determines economic development, a cap on emissions would effectively limit the ability of Singapore to ensure economic


development, thus threatening its core national functions. Moreover, Singapore’s lack of natural resources makes it fully reliant on external supply chains of fossil fuels. Singapore’s energy reserves situation is bleak, with no quantities of oil, natural gas, coal reserves, hydropower or wood fuels available. In order to sustain the high-energy demands of Singapore, the government has actively created a network of dependencies that ensure a constant supply. The island imports from Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and Thailand, remaining highly vulnerable to external markets. A possible regional agreement would affect the island’s supply chain by effectively diminishing the pool of natural resources from which Singapore routinely draws from. Singapore has fewer opportunities to use renewable sources of energy due to its geography. Apart form having no natural resources of its own, the state also lacks any energy hinterland which could be devoted to solar or wind power stations. In the words of Lee Yock Suan, then Minister of Environment, “there is little potential for us to develop alternative sources of energy that are non-fossil fuels based” (Hamilton-Hart, 369). If an agreement was set to limit energy consumption, Singapore would find itself not only having to reduce its current use, but would face difficulties in replacing this emerging gap with energy from alternative energy sources. The only identifiable renewable energy resources the island could tap into would be solar and biothermal energy, but official statements claim these are not cost-competitive. While Singapore’s installed capacity in terms of traditional energy production is higher than its peak demand to accommodate for growing needs , a regional agreement on GHG emissions would reduce

this advantage, creating an energy deficit Singapore could not cope with. Singapore’s techno-industrial base has been marketed as a centre for business and development. As the core business hub of South East Asia, Singapore’s reputation for a friendly investment environment is essential to the revenue-seeking national interest. GHG caps would affect Singapore’s attractiveness to foreign investment, altering an image the state has put incredible effort in building, now central to its national discourse. The expanding petro-chemical sector, involving top oil refining and trading centers, connects Singapore to the global market. As the emitter of 80% of GHG, this industry would suffer a severe shock in the case of an agreement. When resources are geared towards efforts to attract professionals, their capital and new assets, a GHG policy would run counter to the state’s priorities , regardless of which regional power is leading the effort. Second, leadership in reaching a regional agreement would not significantly improve Singapore’s reputation regarding climate change action, as such presenting no convincing benefit. The initiative would not lead to added benefits due to Singapore’s current involvement in a number of environmentally responsible projects

and organizations. Since the state’s change of heart regarding the validity of climate change arguments in 2005, Singapore has been involved in a number of both local and international initiative that tackle issues of GHG emissions and larger environmental debates. However, this participation is driven by highly realist considerations. Singapore abandoned climate change apathy after a cost-benefit analysis that dictated the need to uphold and bolster the country’s international image. Signing the Kyoto Protocol was primarily driven by the fear of loss of international credibility (Montes and Mango, 363). Singapore’s image as a global citizen, committed to heighten environmental awareness, has been constructed by a multitude of initiatives such as the Singapore Green Plan, the National Climate Change Committee and numerous others. As such, Singapore has built a strong foundation of soft power in terms of its engagement with climate change, promoting itself as an active and conscientious actor. After years of keeping a low profile in international meetings, Sin-

gapore has officially built an image of a serious commitment to GHG control. Shifts in policy have included signing the Copenhagen agreement as well as local initiatives such as green labeling for buildings as well as efforts to increase transportation efficiency. These changes have brought Singapore international recognition in the form of ASEAN awards and praise from the international community. . Considering the fact that South East Asian countries have not, by comparison, been any more proactive in developing alternatives to conventional sources of energy (Atchatavivan, 5), Singapore already appears to be an environmentally forward looking nation. To add, there are no expectations for Singapore to lead a regional agreement due to its lack of adequate capacity to do so. Just as the distribution and existence of natural and imported resources differs from country to country , the technical expertise to implement cuts in fossil fuel energy varies as well. For example, most ASEAN economies emit predominantly methane due to the preponderance of agriculture, whereas Singapore’s GHGs consist of mostly carbon dioxide gas produced by the manufacturing industry. Most of the literature highlights other ASEAN countries as being representative of South East Asian nations in terms of energy resources and consumption. The Philippines and Thailand, for example, whose natural resources have allowed a focus on



Regional disparity is great within the city-state, despite an agenda favouring economic growth over environmental concerns. Singapore’s role in international organizations such as ASEAN is limited greatly by a realist conception of global politics that focuses on relative gains in power.

vironmentalism. Whereas Singapore only identified four areas of possible concern: land loss, loss of water resources, flooding and disease as a result of climate change (Hamilton-Hart, 369), the other ASEAN members face more dangerous threats. The uneven attention, awareness and capability of all ten nations to address this issue severely impede the willingness to sign a regional agreement. Even initiatives such as ASEAN Vision 2020, the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation and the ASEAN Centre for Energy which have brought all ten countries together, have worked under the premise of common but differentiated responsibilities (Koh and Robinson, 4). Under this framework, members have the freedom to interpret and adapt agreed polices depending on internal capacities, environmental effects and levels of development. As summarized by Lidula, ASEAN is “not ready for full harmonization” regarding GHG emissions. Although energy cooperation is officially seen as a complement to regional economic integration, ASEAN has yet to reach a level whereby the minimization of environmental impacts will take precedence over industrial and financial growth (Nicolas, 18). Rather, efforts directed at ASEAN countries to produce an agreement protecting the environment by restraining or attempting to stop


economic growth are considered latent expressions of colonialism . The culture of ASEAN does not view unilateral actions positively, and would reprimand any country that attempts to impose its view on the regional forum. Whereas critics of this standpoint would argue that leading an agreement would benefit Singapore, the costs clearly outweigh the benefits. Global protocols cannot be interpreted as more than Singapore aligning itself to the standard of other global powers to avoid losing the credibility it has so long fought for. From a realist lens, the importance of survival and security at the domestic level precedes any liberal constructivist gain the island could draw from espousing to environmentalist activism. To conclude, a GHG reduction agreement would hurt Singapore’s national interests due to negative impacts on its energy sector and the severe lack of renewable resources potential. Further, Singaporean leadership in drafting such an agreement would not only give minimum returns to the island state, but would severely jeopardize ASEAN power dynamics. QI


sustainable development, have the capacity to understand the requirements and challenges of the region more than Singapore. Whereas the island, due to its unique geographical, financial and political situation within the region, has been quite selective in the quality and quantity of environmental policies adopted, it has also failed to build the necessary capability to relate to the energy needs of surrounding countries. Thirdly, Singapore’s leadership in such an agreement would constitute a threat to regionalism and ASEAN norms. Due to the fact that ASEAN is a forum for policy coordination, policy leadership is not easily welcome. With a variety of stances and strong commitment to consensus building, ASEAN is a forum for discussion, rather than a forum for policy entrepreneurs . The focus on preserving national sovereignty above all other ASEAN values indicates that an attempt to interfere with the use of domestic resources of fellow members would be seen as unbecoming of Singapore. The strong institutional history of non-interference dictates that countries are free to make use of their national resources and their imports whichever way they prefer. Singapore has no jurisdiction, even as the chair of ASEAN, to spearhead initiatives which directly interfere in the internal politics of any other ASEAN state. All ASEAN countries, with the exception of Singapore, are currently undergoing a rapid development process whereby resource exploitation has taken priority over environmental sustainability. The focus at this stage of economic infrastructure building on short and medium term benefits (Atchatavivan, 5) leads to high and ever increasing levels of emissions. Further, due to an added lack of trust, intra-regional rivalry and unresolved disputes within ASEAN countries, leadership from one specific state in any area leads to suspicion and questioning of motives. Singapore would risk to be viewed negatively as a result of a leadership initiative, endangering its regional position. While the region is vulnerable as a whole to climate change, the disparity between the ASEAN countries’ geographies and disaster relief mean infrastructures indicates very different needs and levels of commitment to en-

Alexandra is a fourth year History student and Marketing Director for QIO.

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All images courtesy of Alexandra Petre except: cover, courtesy Tim Keegan; page 10, courtesy Astrokey44; pages 8, 9, & 13 used under public domain or under free license; where otherwise noted. This publication is licensed & distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Printed thru Dunning Hall Printing services.





Queen's International Observer Global Food Crisis  

Queen's University magazine on The Global Food Crisis

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