Biofuels were hailed in the first half of the last decade as a green solution to reliance on imported petroleum, and a savior to farmers seeking higher prices for commodities in surplus. But in the second half of the decade, biofuels emerged as real and imminent threats to both environmental quality and food security, while being a costly and ill-conceived response to energy concerns. Agriculture and energy ministers met at a high-level conference at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome in June 2008, and essentially glossed over these issues in endorsing continued government subsidies to the biofuels question. […]

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BRUSSELS — Since the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on Dec. 1, 2009, the European Union’s foreign policy has taken the first steps toward an institutional restructuring. Lisbon introduced a permanent president of the European Council as well as the post of high representative (HR) for foreign affairs, and established a European foreign service corps known as the European Action Service (EAS). The new positions were meant to establish more recognizable representatives of the EU in the international arena. But the relatively low profile of former Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy and Britain’s Catherine Ashton since their election […]

Last week in Cape Town, South Africa, I was a keynote speaker at the massive Mining Indaba conference, the premier annual gathering of global extractive companies involved in Africa’s dominant economic sector. And the difference between the many military and aid conferences I’ve attended on Africa and this international commodities convention in Africa was telling. If you think most Americans now obsess over a “rising” China, you should know that we take a backseat to the Africans on this score. But whereas we often see China’s rise as a potential threat, Africans see it as an opportunity, and China’s “positive […]

While considerable disagreement exists on precise steps for creating a more stable Afghanistan, most key international policymakers now agree that any successful strategy there, and in Pakistan, hinges on the ability to mainstream anti-government fighters and potential fighters into the political and economic systems in those countries. That was reflected in the communiqué that emerged from last week’s London summit on Afghanistan, which called for, among other things, reintegrating Taliban who cut ties with al-Qaida and other extremist networks. But more attention needs to be given to the difficulties involved with such an approach, which will likely prove extremely challenging […]

Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. — Karl Marx. The results — both positive and negative — of Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim’s tenure during the presidency of Luis Inácio Lula da Silva cannot be explained simply by his or his team’s political will. His initiatives have both been harmed by and benefited from present circumstances, as well as legacies of the past. These factors range from the increasing diffusion […]