Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Troika

For those of my readers who may be too young to remember ancient Soviet history, in the fifties, after Stalin died, the country was ruled by what was known in Russian as the Troika, the equivalent of the Latin word Triumvirate. The apparatchiks Vyachesclav Molotiv, Lavrenty Beria and Georgy Malenkov ruled until NIkita Khruschev won the power struggle.

There isn’t a personal power struggle going on right now at a world level, but I think there is a Troika in the making.  It would be composed of Barack Obama, Hu Jintao and a man who is much less known in the Western world, but is very well known among those who make up almost half of the world’s population. His name is Lumumba Stanislas Di-Aping.  He’s a Sudanese diplomat who is described as a “McKinsey and Oxford-trained economist”, and was the chief negotiator for the Group of 77 at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.  If you followed the conference you can’t have missed Di Aping’s emphatic, slow speech, as if he wanted to make sure even reporters writing in long hand wouldn’t miss a word - or the implications of his words.

Most talk of future influences on the issue of climate change center on the U.S. and the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China.  These are the crucial polluters.  Di-Aping’s message is that they should not plan on solving the climate crisis on the backs of Africans and other under-developed nations.

Together, India and China comprise almost half the world’s population, but of the two, only China is a major interlocutor of the United States.  Yet India and Brazil are also major players.  They belong to the Group of 77, which now includes about 130 countries representing almost the entire other half of the world’s population.

At time of the founding of the Group of 77, in 1964, the only important players in the world were the “Big Two”, The US and the Soviet Union.  The Group of 77 was almost irrelevant on the world stage. Fifty years later, that is not likely to be the case:  Notwithstanding the desire to maintain or improve their people’s lifestyle, Jintao and Obama will have to deal with Di Aping - or whoever in future will be in his shoes, on the matter of avoiding a global meltdown that would cause massive starvation in Africa and the submersion of low-lying island states.

It has taken almost fifty years for the poorest half of humanity to be represent-ed by a spokesman of the power of Di Aping. I don’t know whether Di-Aping will be their official voice beyond Copenhagen, but I think it’s safe to say that Patrice Lumumba’s namesake promises to be someone Obama and Jintao will have to reckon with.

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