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After the West’s response to Covid, Africa cannot expect support on climate change

After the West’s response to Covid, Africa cannot expect support on climate change

Western nations have not acted in good faith when it comes to the supply of vaccines. Why should African nations think they will act differently when it comes to climate negotiations?

Aristotle is credited with the observation that human beings are by nature social and political animals. He observed an innate desire to form partnerships with others. Our cave-dwelling forebears must have found strength in numbers and evolved to prize a certain level of partnership. The rise of communities, cities and other polities are thus linked to this desire. Any such partnership, however, requires a level of trust to function – trust in other people’s responses. Without trust, transaction costs rise prohibitively since the individual is responsible for hedging against the uncertainty of each interaction.

Every partnership – including the global, multilateral system – survives on trust. Our current multilateral system was built on the ruins of a low-trust global system. It was designed to avoid uncertainty in international relations, thereby reducing transaction costs and obviating the need for states to take contingent actions. In diplomacy, in trade and commerce, the system sought to infuse predictability through rules and dispute resolution mechanisms (see my article “What does the ‘international rules-based order’ mean for Africa?”).

Our appreciation for the system, however, has diminished as the years put distance between us and the reasons behind the new system we built. In the last two decades, the world’s most powerful countries have consistently undermined the trust that glues the system together.

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