Ali Ettefagh at PostGlobal

Ali Ettefagh

Tehran, Iran

Dr. Ali Ettefagh serves as a director of Highmore Global Corporation, an investment company in emerging markets of Eastern Europe, CIS, and the Middle East. He is the co-author of several books on trade conflict, resolution of international trade disputes, conflicts in letters of credit, trade-related banking transactions, sovereign debt, arbitration and dispute resolutions and publications specific to the oil and gas, communication, aviation and finance sectors. Dr. Ettefagh is a member of the executive committee and the board of directors of The Development Foundation, an advisor to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and an advisor to a number of European companies. Dr. Ettefagh speaks Persian (Farsi), English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Turkish. Close.

Ali Ettefagh

Tehran, Iran

Dr. Ali Ettefagh serves as a director of Highmore Global Corporation, an investment company in emerging markets of Eastern Europe, CIS, and the Middle East. more »

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Enough of Our Tribal World View

**Editor's Note: This piece was written in response to a question asking panelists to choose the best of six proposals on how to move forward on climate change. Read More Panelist Views**

Oh, sure! A meeting in Bali, about a 16-year-old festering document, is going to change the rigid mindset of the whole world! The hollow words like roadmaps, consensus and “leadership” really ought to do it this time!

More seriously, I think these challenges must first compel us into a paradigm shift and a modernization of principles--security, competition, fairness and development. Without rewired logic, none of the proposed methods will happen. All will heap on the last pile of broken promises.

Our world suffers from an antiquated approach to problems. The basic mindset has not changed since World War II, when the victors, occupiers and dominant powers skewed the UN with a veto and some sort of a perceived upper hand. Where the old combatants are now partners in a union, the victors are still stuck in the past and their interpretation of security is still focused on the past. The Bretton Woods Agreement and its simplified “us and them” mindset… the IMF’s cropped definition of efficiency in narrow monetary terms, and the World Bank’s “development models” and benchmark, top-down approach still stuck in 1950s. Few might notice that in the G8 group of industrial nations, there is a five-way split in their approach to the climate (U.S. and Canada, Russia, the Continental Three and Britain somewhere in flux among them). The old tribal view has not ended the Cold War and the vision of Yalta. Its presumptions of “group blocks” continue to churn out old ideas. A vocabulary of confrontation and threats poison the debate, fly in the face of WTO and relapse to yesterday’s dreams.

This unbending 60-year-old system is not the right recipe for modern negotiations. Thirty years ago, obstructive politics tried to stop Western Europe from building the Trans-European Gas Pipeline from the USSR (the world’s largest gas reserves). Imagine the grime and pollution today if Europe listened to that “security advice” to continue burning coal and fuel oil for another 30 years! Today, the same thought process is trying to block a pipeline from the second largest gas reserves in the world (Iran) to a quarter of world’s population (Pakistan, India and beyond)—where about half of rural areas do not have electricity. Is the world more secure if rural India does not have electricity?

To change antiquated views, people in every country must take drastic steps and take back control from politicians. The first realistic step ought mandate education about the environment in every country and at every level—from elementary schools to universities. It is as important as math and literature. A knowledgeable population will mobilize a fresh approach. American children, for example, can compel their parents to change their consumption habits, just as they succeed in forcing them to queue up in cold weather at 5 a.m. at a store and buy a video game.

Another initiative can be achieved without a complex treaty. All governments and communities should support planting of trees everywhere, especially around power plants. We must reverse the erosion of rain forests, often called the lungs of the world, as trees absorb carbon dioxide better than any filter. We must speed up the process as we are consuming the second trillion barrels of oil at a rate three times faster than the first trillion barrels!

Finally, and the hardest step, is to engage the people in the negotiation process. The role of politicians must be sharply limited and politicians must provide frequent updates about the status of negotiations with other countries. National negotiation teams should be reformulated to large groups of non-professionals and ordinary citizens, alongside with professional negotiators. These special ambassadors of laymen ought to frequently interact with their foreign counterparts in informal, non-governmental meetings to exchange views and ideas. The German model of supervisory boards in large companies, where the management and labour have equal representation and decision making about the future of large companies, could serve as a rough model draft for such negotiation teams. Admittedly, this will be the biggest challenge ahead. The (failed) Doha Rounds of WTO trade negotiations show that old ways and rigid definition of security, competition and fairness are highly subjective and selfish roadmaps. That is how we inherited this poisoned planet. It is might be the right time for a regime change of minds and manners in negotiation before we all choke to death.

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