Foreign Policy
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Against the backdrop of Ukraine's counteroffensive and the Kremlin's efforts to illegally annex additional territory, a delegation of members from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly arrived at Stanford to meet with experts and weigh considerations about the ongoing conflict. First on their circuit was a panel hosted by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) chaired by FSI Director Michael McFaul, with Marshall Burke, Francis Fukuyama, Anna Grzymala-Busse, Scott Sagan, and Kathryn Stoner participating.

The delegates represented thirteen of NATO's thirty member nations, including Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Top of mind were questions about the possibility of nuclear escalation from the Kremlin, and appropriate repsonses from the alliance, as well as questions about the longevity of Putin's regime, the nature of international authoritarian alliances, and the future of Ukraine as a European nation.

Drawing from their expertise on state-building, democracy, security issues, nuclear enterprise, and political transitions, the FSI scholars offered a broad analysis of the many factors currently playing out on the geopolitical stage. Abbreviated versions of their responses are given below.

Kathryn Stoner, Francis Fukuyama, Marshall Burke, Scott Sagan, Anna Grzymala-Busse, and Michael McFaul present at a panel given to memebers of the NATO Parlimentary Assembly.
Kathryn Stoner, Francis Fukuyama, Marshall Burke, Scott Sagan, Anna Grzymala-Busse, and Michael McFaul present at a panel given to memebers of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on September 26, 2022. Melissa Morgan

The following commentary has been edited for clarity and length, and does not represent the full extent of the panel’s discussion.

Rethinking Assumptions about Russia and Putin

Kathryn Stoner

Right now, Putin is the most vulnerable he's ever been in 22 years in power. But I don’t believe he's under so much pressure at this point that he is about to leave office anytime soon. Autocracies do not usually die by popular mobilization, unfortunately. More often they end through an elite coup or turnover. And since the end of WWII, the research has shown that about 75% of the time autocracies are typically replaced by another autocracy, or the perpetuation of the same autocracy, just with a different leader. So, if Putin were replaced, you might get a milder form of autocracy in Russia, but I don't think you are suddenly going to create a liberal democracy.

This means that we in the West, and particularly in the U.S., need to think very hard about our strategies and how we are going to manage our relationships with Putin and his allies. This time last year, the U.S. broadcast that we basically wanted Russia to calm down so we could pivot to China. That’s an invitation to not calm down, and I think it was a mistake to transmit that as policy.

We need to pay attention to what Russia has been doing. They are the second biggest purveyor of weapons globally after the United States. They will sell to anyone. They’ve been forgiving loans throughout Sub Saharan Africa from the Soviet period and using that as a way of bargaining for access to natural resources. They’re marketing oil, selling infrastructure, and building railroads. Wherever there is a vacuum, someone will fill it, and that includes Russia every bit as much as China. We need to realize that we are in competition with both Russia and China, and develop our policies and outreach accordingly.


Kathryn Stoner

Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
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Confronting Autocracy at Home and Abroad

Anna Grzymala-Busse

Why is Putin in Ukraine? Because the fact that there is a democratic country right next door to Russia is an affront to him. Putin doesn’t care that much about NATO. The fact that nothing happened when Sweden joined is some evidence of this. That’s something to keep in mind as people are debating NATO and Ukraine and Ukraine’s possible future as a member.

NATO membership and EU membership are both wonderful things. But more fundamental that that, this war has to be won first. That’s why I think it’s necessary in the next six months to speed up the support for Ukraine by ensuring there’s a steady stream of armaments, training personnel, and providing other military support.

There’s been incredible unity on Ukraine over the last seven months across the EU, NATO, and amongst our allies. But our recent history with President Trump reminds us how fragile these international commitments can be. In foreign policy, it used to be understood that America stands for liberal democracy. But we had a president of the United States who was more than happy to sidle up to some of the worst autocrats in the world. That’s why we can’t afford to leave rising populism around the world unaddressed and fail to engage with voters. When we do that, we allow far right parties to grab those votes and go unopposed. Whatever happens domestically impacts what happens internationally.

Anna Grzymała-Busse

Anna Grzymala-Busse

Director of The Europe Center
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The Consequences of Nuclear Sabre-Rattling

Scott Sagan

We have to very clear-eyed when we’re talking about the threat, however improbable, of the use of a nuclear weapon. When it comes to the deployment of a tactical nuclear weapon, its kinetic effects depend on both the size of the weapon, the yield, and the target. Tactical weapons range in yield from very low — 5-10% of what was in the Hiroshima bomb — to as large as what was used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If that kind of weapon was used on an urban target, it would produce widescale effects. In a battlefield or rural area, it would have a relatively small impact.

But in the bigger picture, what any use of a weapon like this does is break a 70+ year tradition of non-use. Those seventy years have been dicey and fragile, but they have held so far. A tradition that is broken creates a precedent, and once there’s a precedent, it makes it much easier for someone to transgress the tradition again. So even if a decision was made to use a tactical weapon with little kinetic importance for strategic effect, I think we still need to be worried about it.

Personalistic dictators surround themselves with yes men. They make lonely decisions by themselves, often filled with vengeance and delusion because no one can tell them otherwise. They don't have the checks and balances. But I want to make one point about a potential coup or overthrow. Putin has done a lot to protect himself against that. But improbable events happen all the time, especially when leaders make really, really bad decisions. That’s not something we should be calling for as official U.S. policy, but it should be our hope.

Headshot of Scott Sagan

Scott Sagan

FSI Senior Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation
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Cycles of Conflict, Climate Change, and Food Insecurity

Marshall Burke

The estimates right now project that there are 350 million people around the world facing acute food insecurity. That means 350 million people who literally don’t have enough to eat. That’s roughly double what it was pre-COVID. The factors driving that are things like supply chain disruptions from the pandemic and climate shocks, but also because of ongoing conflict happening around the world, Ukraine included.

There was an early concern that the war in Ukraine would be a huge threat to global food security. That largely has not been the case so far, at least directly. Opening the grain corridors through the Black Sea has been crucial to this, and it’s critical that we keep those open and keep the wheat flowing out. Research shows that unrest increases when food prices spike, so it’s important for security everywhere to keep wheat prices down.

What I’m worried about now is natural gas prices. With high global natural gas prices, that means making fertilizer is also very expensive and prices have increased up to 300% relative to a few years ago. If they stay that high, this is going to be a long-term problem we will have to find a way of reckoning with on top of the other effects from climate change already impacting global crop production and the global economy.

Marshall Burke

Marshall Burke

Deputy Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment
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Ukraine After the War

Francis Fukuyama

I've been more optimistic about the prospects for Ukraine taking back territory for more of this war, just because of the vast difference in motivation between the two sides and the supply of modern weapons that Ukraine has been getting. But I don’t know what the conditions on the ground will look like when the decision to negotiate comes. Will Russia still be sitting on occupied territory? Are they kicked out entirely? Or are the frontlines close to where they are now?

As I’ve observed, Ukraine's demands have shifted depending on how they perceive the war going on. There was a point earlier this summer where they hinted that a return to the February 23 borderlines would be acceptable. But now with their recent successes, they're saying they want everything back to the 2014 lines. What actually happens will depend on what the military situation looks like next spring, by my guess.

However the war does end, I think Ukraine actually has a big opportunity ahead of them. Putin has unwittingly become the father of a new Ukrainian nation. The stresses of the war have created a very strong sense of national identity in Ukraine that didn’t exist previously. It’s accurate that Ukraine had significant problems with corruption and defective institutions before, but I think there’s going to be a great push to rout that out. Even things like the Azov steel factory being bombed out of existence is probably a good thing in the long run, because Ukraine was far too dependent on 20th-century coal, steel, and heavy industry. Now they have an opportunity to make a break from all of that.

There are going to be challenges, obviously. We’ll have to watch very carefully what Zelenskyy chooses to do with the commanding position he has at the moment, and whether the government will be able to release power back to the people and restore its institutions. But Europe and the West and our allies are going to have a really big role in the reconstruction of Ukraine, and that should be regarded by everyone as a tremendous opportunity.


Francis Fukuyama

Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at FSI
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Victory in Ukraine, Victory for Democracy

Michael McFaul

Nobody likes a loser, and right now, Putin is losing strategically, tactically, and morally. Now, he doesn’t really care about what Biden or NATO or the West think about him. But he does care about what the autocrats think about him, especially Xi Jinping. And with reports coming out of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization that Xi has “concerns” about what’s happening in Ukraine, Putin is feeling that pressure. I think that's why he has decided he needs to double down, not to negotiate, but to try and “win” in some way as defined by him.

In my view, that’s what’s behind the seizure of these four regions. If he feels like he can unequivocally claim them as part of Russia, then maybe he will sue for peace. And that’s exactly what President Zelenskyy fears. Why? Because that’s exactly what happened in 2014. Putin took Crimea, then turned around to the countries of the world and said, “Aren’t we all tired of war? Can’t we just have peace? I’m ready to end the war, as long as you recognize the new borders.” And, let’s be honest, we did.

We keep hearing politicians say we should put pressure for peace negotiations. I challenge any of them to explain their strategy for getting Putin to talk about peace. There is no doubt in my mind that President Zelenskyy would sit down tomorrow to negotiate if there was a real prospect for peace negotiations. But there's also no doubt in my mind right now that Putin has zero interest in peace talks.

Like Dr. Fukuyama, I don’t know how this war will end. But there's nobody inside or outside of Russia that thinks it’s going well. I personally know a lot of people that believe in democracy in Russia. They believe in democracy just as much as you or I. I’ve no doubt of their convictions. But they’re in jail, or in exile today.

If we want to help Russia in the post-Putin world, we have to think about democracy. There’s not a lot we can do to directly help democracy in Russia right now. But we should be doing everything to help democracy in Ukraine.  It didn’t happen in 1991. It didn’t happen in 2004. It didn’t happen in 2014. They had those breakthroughs and those revolutionary moments, but we as the democratic world collectively didn’t get it right. This is our moment to get it right, both as a way of helping Ukraine secure its future, and to give inspiration to “small-d” democrats fighting for rights across the world.

Michael McFaul, FSI Director

Michael McFaul

Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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FSI Director Michael McFaul, Kathryn Stoner, Francis Fukuyama, Scott Sagan, Anna Grzymala-Busse, and Marshall Burke answered questions from the parliamentarians on the conflict and its implications for the future of Ukraine, Russia, and the global community.


Ertharin Cousin is a Visiting Scholar at the Center on Food Security and the Environment. She is also a distinguished fellow of global agriculture at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  

She previously served as executive director of the World Food Programme from 2012 until 2017. In this role, Cousin led the world’s largest humanitarian organization with 14,000 staff serving 80 million vulnerable people across 75 countries. Cousin possesses more than 30 years of national and international nonprofit, government, and corporate leadership experience.  She maintains relationships with global government, business, and community leaders. She has published numerous articles regarding agriculture, food security, and nutrition. 

In 2009, Cousin was nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate as the US ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. In this role Cousin served as the US representative for all food, agriculture, and nutrition related issues. Cousin regularly represented US interest in global leader discussions, including prime ministers, foreign and agriculture ministers, academics and business executives, regarding humanitarian and development activities.  Cousin helped identify and catalyze US government investment in food security and nutrition activities supported by the USAID Feed the Future program.  Cousin convened foreign media tours resulting in millions of conventional as well social media impressions.

Prior to her global hunger work, Cousin helped lead the US domestic fight to end hunger while serving as executive vice president and chief operating officer of America’s Second Harvest (now Feeding America). In this role Cousin led the operations, budgeting, and expenditures as well as the human resources, IT, and training activities of this national confederation of 200 foodbanks across America serving over 50,000,000 meals per year. Previously, Cousin served as senior vice president for Albertson’s Foods. As a corporate reporting officer, Cousin served as the Albertson lead for community relations, customer relations, legislative and regulatory affairs, industry and external relations, including communications serving as the company’s chief spokesperson. While serving at Albertson she was appointed by the US president to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development where she helped oversee US government agriculture research investments worldwide.  Before Albertsons, Cousin also served in government as the White House Liaison to the State Department. She received the department’s Meritorious Service award for her work expeditiously and successfully addressing foreign policy issues which arose when the US hosted the Atlanta Olympics.

A Chicago native, Cousin is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago; the University of Georgia Law School, and the University of Chicago Executive Management Finance for Non-Financial Executives program. Cousin has received honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the globe.  She has been listed numerous times on the Forbes “100 Most Powerful Women” list, as the Fortune “Most Powerful Woman in Food and Drink,” on TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” list, and as one of the “500 Most Powerful People on the Planet” by Foreign Policy magazine.

Visiting Scholar at the Center on Food Security and the Environment
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Stanford welcomes Cousin, a global hunger expert, to the Center on Food Security and the Environment.

The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford University is pleased to announce that former U.S. Ambassador and World Food Programme (WFP) Director Ertharin Cousin will serve as this year’s Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer and Visiting Fellow at the Center on Food Security and the Environment (FSE).  

Cousin brings over 25 years of experience addressing hunger and food security strategies on both a national and international scale. As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, she focused on advocating for longer-term solutions to food insecurity and hunger, and at WFP she addressed the challenges of food insecurity in conflict situations.

“Dr. Cousin’s outstanding leadership at the WFP and extensive experience in public service exemplifies the attributes we seek for Payne Lecturers,” says FSI Director Michael McFaul. The Payne Distinguished Lectureship is awarded to scholars with international reputations as leaders, with an emphasis on visionary thinking, practical problem solving, and the capacity to clearly articulate an important perspective on the global political and social situation. Past Payne Lecturers include Bill Gates, Nobel Laureate Mohamed El Baradei, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, and novelist Ian McEwan.

As a visiting fellow with FSE, Cousin will be working to further her research focus on global food security and humanitarian efforts. In November 2015, FSE welcomed Cousin as the featured speaker in their Food and Nutrition Symposium series, where she presented her paper “Achieving food security and nutrition for the furthest behind in an era of conflict and climate change.” FSE Director, Roz Naylor, sees Cousin’s appointment as a pivotal opportunity for FSE and FSI to advance a global agenda on food security and human rights. “Ertharin Cousin is one of the most inspirational leaders we could ever hope to attract to Stanford as a year-long visitor,” Naylor says.

“This is a truly humbling, yet exciting prospect,” says Cousin. “This position provides an opportunity for scholarly work and dialogue with distinguished academics across Stanford's schools and policy institutes.  I also look forward to the opportunity to convene thought leaders from a broad variety of backgrounds, who can help us explore some of the intractable issues plaguing humanitarian and development practitioners today.”

Following the completion of her term with the WFP, Cousin accepted an appointment as a Distinguished Fellow with The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which conducts research on food and agriculture, global cities, economics, energy, immigration, security, public opinion, and water. Cousin hopes her appointments can provide a unique collaborative opportunity to expand her work on food security and nutrition issues.

“In my career I have never before been given the opportunity of pursuing intellectual inspiration. Just thinking about the ‘what’s possible’ gives me genuine pleasure,” Cousin said.

About FSE

The Center on Food Security and the Environment (FSE) is a research center at Stanford University, jointly funded by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

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Growing evidence demonstrates that climatic conditions can have a profound impact on the functioning of modern human societies, but effects on economic activity appear inconsistent. Fundamental productive elements of modern economies, such as workers and crops, exhibit highly non-linear responses to local temperature even in wealthy countries. In contrast, aggregate macroeconomic productivity of entire wealthy countries is reported not to respond to temperature= while poor countries respond only linearly. Resolving this conflict between micro and macro observations is critical to understanding the role of wealth in coupled human–natural systems and to anticipating the global impact of climate change. Here we unify these seemingly contradictory results by accounting for non-linearity at the macro scale. We show that overall economic productivity is non-linear in temperature for all countries, with productivity peaking at an annual average temperature of 13 °C and declining strongly at higher temperatures. The relationship is globally generalizable, unchanged since 1960, and apparent for agricultural and non-agricultural activity in both rich and poor countries. These results provide the first evidence that economic activity in all regions is coupled to the global climate and establish a new empirical foundation for modelling economic loss in response to climate change, with important implications. If future adaptation mimics past adaptation, unmitigated warming is expected to reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality, relative to scenarios without climate change. In contrast to prior estimates, expected global losses are approximately linear in global mean temperature, with median losses many times larger than leading models indicate.

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Marshall Burke
Marshall Burke
Solomon Hsiang
Edward Miguel
Laura Seaman
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New research finds that without climate change mitigation, even wealthy countries will see an economic downturn by 2100.

When thousands of scientists, economists and policymakers meet in Paris this December to negotiate an international climate treaty, one question will dominate conversations: what is the climate worth?

A new study published in the journal Nature shows that the global economy will take a harder hit from rising temperatures than previously thought, with incomes falling in most countries by the year 2100 if climate change continues unchecked. Rich countries may experience a brief economic uptick, but growth will drop off sharply after temperatures pass a critical heat threshold.

The study, co-led by Marshall Burke, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, provides a clear picture of how climate change will shape the global economy, which has been a critical missing piece for the international climate community leading up to the Paris talks. Understanding how much future climate change will cost in terms of global economic losses will help policymakers at the meetings decide how much to invest in emissions reductions today.

The work was co-authored by two researchers from the University of California, Berkeley: co-lead author Solomon Hsiang, the Chancellor's Associate Professor of Public Policy, and Edward Miguel, Oxfam Professor in Environmental and Resource Economics.

Heat threshold

"The data tell us that there are particular temperatures where we humans are really good at producing stuff," said Burke, who is also Center Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and fellow, by courtesy, at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "In countries that are normally quite cold - mostly wealthy northern countries - higher temperatures are associated with faster economic growth, but only to a point. After that point, growth declines rapidly.

That point, it turns out, is an annual average temperature of about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

As average temperatures move past that mark, wealthy countries will start to see a drop-off in economic output. Poorer countries, mostly in the tropics, will suffer even steeper losses because they are already past the temperature threshold. This has the potential to widen the global inequality gap, said Burke.

A new approach

Looking at existing research, the team found a puzzling mismatch between micro-level studies, which show negative impacts of hot temperatures on output in specific sectors such as agriculture, and macro-level studies, which at least in rich countries show limited impacts on economic output.

"Many very careful studies show clearly that high temperatures are bad for things like agriculture and labor productivity, even in rich countries," Burke said. "While these relationships showed up again and again in the micro data – for example when looking at agricultural fields or manufacturing plants – they were not showing up in the existing macro-level studies, and we wanted to understand why."

The researchers suspected the problem was with the analysis, not the data, so they took a new approach.

Analyzing records from 166 countries over a 50-year period from 1960 to 2010, they compared each country's economic output in years of normal temperatures to that of unusually warm or unusually cool years. The data revealed a hill-shaped relationship between economic output and temperature, with output rising until the 55 F threshold and then falling faster and faster at higher temperatures. “Our macro-level results lined up nicely with the micro-level studies,” Hsiang said.

burkehsiangmiguel hr asia
Two possible future. Colors are 2100 temperatures under “business as usual” climate change (left) and aggressive climate policy (right). This image shows a simulation of future nightlights, as seen from space, since richer economies tend to glow brighter. A hotter world is a more unequal world, with the north benefitting and tropical economies declining. A cooler world leads to more equitable global growth, offering regions like Africa the chance to “catch up”. Courtesy of Marshall Burke.

Two possible future. Colors are 2100 temperatures under “business as usual” climate change (left) and aggressive climate policy (right). This image shows a simulation of future nightlights, as seen from space, since richer economies tend to glow brighter. A hotter world is a more unequal world, with the north benefitting and tropical economies declining. A cooler world leads to more equitable global growth, offering regions like Africa the chance to “catch up”. Source: Burke, Hsiang and Miguel.

Higher temperatures, lower growth

The team then sought to understand what this historical pattern might mean for the future global economy as temperatures continue to warm. 

“Many other researchers have projected economic impacts under future climate change,” Hsiang said. “But we feel our results improve our ability to anticipate how societies in coming decades might respond to warming temperatures.”

Projecting future changes in economic output under climate change was challenging.

“Even without climate change, there are a lot of possible ways in which the future economy might evolve,” Burke said. “We start with a few different baseline scenarios and then we bring in our historical understanding of the relationship between temperature and economic output to better understand how these economic trajectories might change with warming temperatures."

The researchers’ findings were stark. 

In a scenario of unmitigated climate change, the team’s model shows that by 2100 the per-capita incomes of 77 percent of countries in the world would fall relative to current levels. By the team’s main estimate, global incomes could decline 23 percent by 2100, relative to a world without climate change. Other estimates are twice as high. The likelihood of global economic losses larger than 20 percent of current income is at least 40 percent, and much higher in some scenarios. 

These estimates are substantially larger than existing models indicate, a difference the research team attributes to their updated and data-driven understanding of how countries have historically responded to temperature increases.


Rich countries not immune

A common assumption among researchers has been that wealth and technology protect rich countries from the economic impacts of climate change, because they use these resources to adapt to higher temperatures.

"Under this hypothesis, the impacts of future warming should lessen over time as more countries become richer," Burke said. "But we find limited evidence that this is the case."

Burke's team found that, historically, rich countries did not appear to respond any differently to temperature change than poor countries. 

“The data definitely don’t provide strong evidence that rich countries are immune from the effects of hot temperatures,” said Hsiang.  “Many rich countries just happen to have cooler average temperatures to start with, meaning that future warming will overall be less harmful than in poorer, hotter countries.”


Paris climate talks

From Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, France will host the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11).

More than 40,000 delegates from national governments, private companies and civil society will meet in Paris to hash out an international agreement aimed at keeping global emissions low enough to prevent warming of more than two degrees Celsius.

On the table are three key issues: climate adaptation, mitigation and financing.

"We don't want to rule out that we could see unprecedented adaptation to hotter temperatures in the future, and we certainly hope we do see it," Burke said. "The historical evidence, though, suggests that this is not something we should count on."

The team says that mitigation, and how to pay for it, should be at the forefront of discussions in Paris.

"Our research is important for COP21 because it suggest that these economic damages could be much larger than current estimates indicate," said Burke. "What that means for policy is that we should be willing to spend a lot more on mitigation than we would otherwise. The benefits of action on mitigation are much greater than we thought, because the costs of inaction are much greater than we thought."

Note for reporters: The research team has created a website about their research results and methodology, including an interactive map showing country-by-country GDP projections through 2100 under a scenario of unmitigated climate change.


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For 14 years, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar has been a tireless Stanford professor who has strengthened the fabric of university’s interdisciplinary nature. Joining the faculty at Stanford Law School in 2001, Cuéllar soon found a second home for himself at the Freeman Spogli for International Studies. He held various leadership roles throughout the institute for several years – including serving as co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation. He took the helm of FSI as the institute’s director in 2013, and oversaw a tremendous expansion of faculty, research activity and student engagement. 

An expert in administrative law, criminal law, international law, and executive power and legislation, Cuéllar is now taking on a new role. He leaves Stanford this month to serve as justice of the California Supreme Court and will be succeeded at FSI by Michael McFaul on Jan. 5.

 As the academic quarter comes to a close, Cuéllar took some time to discuss his achievements at FSI and the institute’s role on campus. And his 2014 Annual Letter and Report can be read here.


You’ve had an active 20 months as FSI’s director. But what do you feel are your major accomplishments? 

We started with a superb faculty and made it even stronger. We hired six new faculty members in areas ranging from health and drug policy to nuclear security to governance. We also strengthened our capacity to generate rigorous research on key global issues, including nuclear security, global poverty, cybersecurity, and health policy. Second, we developed our focus on teaching and education. Our new International Policy Implementation Lab brings faculty and students together to work on applied projects, like reducing air pollution in Bangladesh, and improving opportunities for rural schoolchildren in China.  We renewed FSI's focus on the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies, adding faculty and fellowships, and launched a new Stanford Global Student Fellows program to give Stanford students global experiences through research opportunities.   Third, we bolstered FSI's core infrastructure to support research and education, by improving the Institute's financial position and moving forward with plans to enhance the Encina complex that houses FSI.

Finally, we forged strong partnerships with critical allies across campus. The Graduate School of Business is our partner on a campus-wide Global Development and Poverty Initiative supporting new research to mitigate global poverty.  We've also worked with the Law School and the School of Engineering to help launch the new Stanford Cyber Initiative with $15 million in funding from the Hewlett Foundation. We are engaging more faculty with new health policy working groups launched with the School of Medicine and an international and comparative education venture with the Graduate School of Education. 


Those partnerships speak very strongly to the interdisciplinary nature of Stanford and FSI. How do these relationships reflect FSI's goals?

The genius of Stanford has been its investment in interdisciplinary institutions. FSI is one of the largest. We should be judged not only by what we do within our four walls, but by what activity we catalyze and support across campus. With the business school, we've launched the initiative to support research on global poverty across the university. This is a part of the SEED initiative of the business school and it is very complementary to our priorities on researching and understanding global poverty and how to alleviate. It's brought together researchers from the business school, from FSI, from the medical school, and from the economics department.  

Another example would be our health policy working groups with the School of Medicine. Here, we're leveraging FSI’s Center for Health Policy, which is a great joint venture and allows us to convene people who are interested in the implementation of healthcare reforms and compare the perspective and on why lifesaving interventions are not implemented in developing countries and how we can better manage biosecurity risks. These working groups are a forum for people to understand each other's research agendas, to collaborate on seeking funding and to engage students. 

I could tell a similar story about our Mexico Initiative.  We organize these groups so that they cut across generations of scholars so that they engage people who are experienced researchers but also new fellows, who are developing their own agenda for their careers. Sometimes it takes resources, sometimes it takes the engagement of people, but often what we've found at FSI is that by working together with some of our partners across the university, we have a more lasting impact.


Looking at a growing spectrum of global challenges, where would you like to see FSI increase its attention? 

FSI's faculty, students, staff, and space represent a unique resource to engage Stanford in taking on challenges like global hunger, infectious disease, forced migration, and weak institutions.  The  key breakthrough for FSI has been growing from its roots in international relations, geopolitics, and security to focusing on shared global challenges, of which four are at the core of our work: security, governance, international development, and  health. 

These issues cross borders. They are not the concern of any one country. 

Geopolitics remain important to the institute, and some critical and important work is going on at the Center for International Security and Cooperation to help us manage the threat of nuclear proliferation, for example. But even nuclear proliferation is an example of how the transnational issues cut across the international divide. Norms about law, the capacity of transnational criminal networks, smuggling rings, the use of information technology, cybersecurity threats – all of these factors can affect even a traditional geopolitical issue like nuclear proliferation. 

So I can see a research and education agenda focused on evolving transnational pressures that will affect humanity in years to come. How a child fares when she is growing up in Africa will depend at least as much on these shared global challenges involving hunger and poverty, health, security, the role of information technology and humanity as they will on traditional relations between governments, for instance. 


What are some concrete achievements that demonstrate how FSI has helped create an environment for policy decisions to be better understood and implemented?

We forged a productive collaboration with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees through a project on refugee settlements that convened architects, Stanford researchers, students and experienced humanitarian responders to improve the design of settlements that house refugees and are supposed to meet their human needs. That is now an ongoing effort at the UN Refugee Agency, which has also benefited from collaboration with us on data visualization and internship for Stanford students. 

Our faculty and fellows continue the Institute's longstanding research to improve security and educate policymakers. We sometimes play a role in Track II diplomacy on sensitive issues involving global security – including in South Asia and Northeast Asia.  Together with Hoover, We convened a first-ever cyber bootcamp to help legislative staff understand the Internet and its vulnerabilities. We have researchers who are in regular contact with policymakers working on understanding how governance failures can affect the world's ability to meet pressing health challenges, including infectious diseases, such as Ebola.

On issues of economic policy and development, our faculty convened a summit of Japanese prefectural officials work with the private sector to understand strategies to develop the Japanese economy.  

And we continued educating the next generation of leaders on global issues through the Draper Hills summer fellows program and our honors programs in security and in democracy and the rule of law. 


How do you see FSI’s role as one of Stanford’s independent laboratories?

It's important to recognize that FSI's growth comes at particularly interesting time in the history of higher education – where universities are under pressure, where the question of how best to advance human knowledge is a very hotly debated question, where universities are diverging from each other in some ways and where we all have to ask ourselves how best to be faithful to our mission but to innovate. And in that respect, FSI is a laboratory. It is an experimental venture that can help us to understand how a university like Stanford can organize itself to advance the mission of many units, that's the partnership point, but to do so in a somewhat different way with a deep engagement to practicality and to the current challenges facing the world without abandoning a similarly deep commitment to theory, empirical investigation, and rigorous scholarship.


What have you learned from your time at Stanford and as director of FSI that will inform and influence how you approach your role on the state’s highest court?

Universities play an essential role in human wellbeing because they help us advance knowledge and prepare leaders for a difficult world. To do this, universities need to be islands of integrity, they need to be engaged enough with the outside world to understand it but removed enough from it to keep to the special rules that are necessary to advance the university's mission. 

Some of these challenges are also reflected in the role of courts. They also need to be islands of integrity in a tumultuous world, and they require fidelity to high standards to protect the rights of the public and to implement laws fairly and equally.  

This takes constant vigilance, commitment to principle, and a practical understanding of how the world works. It takes a combination of humility and determination. It requires listening carefully, it requires being decisive and it requires understanding that when it's part of a journey that allows for discovery but also requires deep understanding of the past.

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“Do we have to accept deforestation to feed the world?”

That was one of the provocative questions that Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow and land use expert Eric Lambin posed during a recent presentation of research with far-reaching implications for policymakers, businesses and consumers. Among the findings Lambin discussed with Stanford students and faculty during a Stanford Department of Environmental Earth System Science seminar: There is much less potentially available cropland (PAC) globally than previous estimates have suggested. Perhaps surprisingly, however, we don’t need to clear more land, including forests, to plant hunger-alleviating crops, Lambin said.

Previous PAC estimates by international organizations such as the World Bank have been consistently too high, according to Lambin giving decision-makers “carte blanche” to approve a variety of uses for large tracts of land.

By 2030, the additional land worldwide that will be needed for urban expansion, tree plantations and biofuel crops will equal the additional land that will likely be devoted to food crops, according to Lambin. This rapid transformation of the face of the planet makes it essential to get a handle on realistic PAC estimates. To do so, Lambin took a “bottom-up approach” that incorporated factors such as soil quality, land use restrictions, labor availability and occupation by smallholders. Lambin also considered trade-offs such as the carbon stocks lost and natural habitat destroyed by land conversion.

Lambin’s resulting PAC estimates in regions ranging from Argentina to Russia are, on average, only a third of other generally accepted estimates. Along the way, Lambin discovered some surprises. For example, what initially looked like good news – the fact that some countries have gone from net deforestation to net reforestation in recent years – turned out to be less hopeful. Lambin found that most countries in the developed and developing worlds that have stopped cutting down their forests have increased their imports of timber and wood products, often from tropical countries. This “outsourcing of deforestation” is one of several troubling global land trends.

On the other hand, Lambin pointed out that production of crops essential to alleviating hunger have increased in recent years, but their overall land use has not, due to more efficient and intensive agricultural methods. This net gain contradicts assertions that more land, including forests, needs to be cleared for farming in order to alleviate hunger, he said.

The real culprit for such land conversion, according to Lambin, is growing adoption of a Western diet heavy with meat, sugar and vegetable oils. Deforestation for agriculture is often driven by multinational companies that cultivate in tropical regions to export fatty and oily food products to urban markets in rich countries and emerging economies. These companies control a majority of global food supply chains and, in turn, local land use decisions. “Globalization has reshaped land governance,” Lambin said.

Globalization is not a bogeyman, though. In fact, Lambin said, it can be an engine for progress on these issues by allowing for new forms of market-based governance that effectively promote sustainable land use. Market mechanisms such as eco-certification labels and nongovernmental campaigns can promote and incentivize responsible land use, he noted, pointing to coffee farmers he studied with School of Earth Sciences Research Associate Ximena Rueda. The farmers increased tree cover on their plantations with the extra profit they reaped from eco-certified beans.

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Q&A with FSE visiting scholar and food aid expert Barry Riley.

President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget proposal promises significant food aid reform that will enable the United States to feed about 4 million more people without a significant increase of the current $1.8 billion spent on feeding the world's most hungry. Since the food aid program's inception in 1954, the U.S. has helped feed more than 1 billion people in more than 150 countries, and remains the largest provider of international food aid.

The intention of the reform is to make food aid more efficient, cost effective, and flexible. It aims to use local and regional markets to lower the cost of food and speed its delivery, and calls for the use of cash transfers and electronic food vouchers.

The proposed reforms would also end monetization—the sale of U.S. food abroad to be sold by local NGOs for cash. This practice has been criticized for hurting vulnerable communities by depriving local farmers of the incentives and opportunities to develop their own livelihoods. Several studies, including one by the Government Accountability Office, found monetization to be costly and inefficient—an average of 25 cents per taxpayer dollar spent on food aid is lost.

Barry Riley, a food aid expert and visiting fellow at the Center on Food Security and the Environment, discusses his perspective on the importance of these new reforms, their chances of passage, and the country's current role in international food aid.

Why is local procurement such an important addition to food aid reform?

An increase of funding for local and regional procurement is the most important programmatic element of the proposed reforms. It would help managers working in food security-related development programs to determine for each emergency what commodities are most appropriate and where they can be procured most quickly and inexpensively. Some studies have shown local and regional procurement of food and other cash-based programs can get food to people in critical need 11 to 15 weeks faster at a savings of 25-50 percent. Equally important, local procurement is less likely to disrupt local economic conditions, but rather promote self-sufficiency by increasing demand (often for preferred local staples) and incomes of local producers. The move to 45 percent local (and 55 percent tied) procurement is a BIG step, and one to face strong opposition from American commodity interests and U.S.-flag shippers. 

How difficult is it to ensure vouchers and electronic cash transfers are getting into the hands of people that really need the aid?

Vouchers (and similar urban coupon shops) have been used many times over the past decades as a food transfer mechanism (also sometimes used in food for work programs) enabling the recipient to trade the voucher(s) for foodstuffs when it is most convenient or when they are most needed. Electronic vouchers are new, and how well they work depends on local situations. In places like urban Latin America, Africa and India, it probably could be made to work quite well; the technology is evolving quickly that would enable this sort of transfer mechanism.  

Rural Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Malawi – probably not so well. I’m admittedly skeptical that electronic transfers of purchasing power to remote areas would be sufficient in most cases to motivate traders to move food to these hungry areas. Their risks are extremely high and, in my experience in Africa, traders will only deliver food to remote rural areas (inevitably over very bad roads) if they can command prices considerably higher than costs plus a high risk premium.

Why aren’t international food aid organizations more in favor of direct dollar support for local operating costs?

There is (and has long been) opposition among many of the NGOs to the President’s proposal to replace “monetization” with a promise of on-going direct dollar support for the local operating costs of NGO food security-related projects. They believe it will continue to be easier to get Congress to approve money to buy American food commodities to ship overseas than to get approval for dollars to ship overseas, particularly in light of tightening budgets. These NGOs have tended, over the years, to receive a sympathetic ear from Congress.

The proposal shifts oversight of the food aid program from the Agriculture Committees within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Foreign Affairs/Relations Committees of the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). What is the likelihood of Congress approving this transfer?

The chance of that happening, in this of all Congresses, is about the same as winning the Power Ball Lottery. Crusty committee chair-people are extremely sensitive to reductions in their empires and the agriculture committees – especially in the Senate – are powerful committees. On top of that, there are so many elements in the overall 2014 federal budget creating heartburn on the Hill that food aid considerations are far, far, far down the line. The best the President is likely to get in the present divided Congress are hearings and a continuing resolution of some sort.

What did you wish to see in the food aid reform proposal that was not addressed in this budget?

Change, if it ever comes, will likely be incremental and halting. I’ll be happy to see any step, however small, in the right direction. The total end of tied procurement would be at the top of my wish list. Even more important, perhaps, iron-clad, multi-year commitments of funding to food security programs intended to overcome long-term institutional impediments to achieving enduring food security in low income food deficit situations…and sticking with such commitments for 15 years.

What role does food aid play in advancing American foreign policy goals?

Most importantly, by being the single largest source of food commodities to the World Food Program in confronting disaster and emergency situations. Food support to American NGOs has been under-evaluated over the past 40 years. I’ll be talking about this later in the book I am writing, but these small projects were all that kept agricultural development (and early food security efforts) going in many small countries during the “dark decades” when international finance institutions and bilateral donors were not financing agricultural development. There are valuable on-the-ground lessons in that NGO food-assisted experience still waiting to be assessed.

Let me add, given what we know about the onset of serious climate change in the decades to come, the need to supply large amounts of food to populations suffering severe food deprivation will probably grow in the future. Where will the food come from and who will pay for those future transfers?

While the U.S. remains the largest provider of food aid, what can the EU and Canada teach the U.S. about food aid policy?

Donors hate to think that other donors have something to teach them. But, of course, they always do. The Canadian and European experience with food aid is best summed up in the way their objective has come to be restated over the past 15 or so years: not “food aid” but “aid for food.” The purpose of assistance intended to improve food security is to improve either, or both, availability and access over the long term (leave nutrition aside for a moment).

European and Canadian assistance can be much more flexible in choosing the instruments – food, cash, technical assistance, training, institutional strengthening, public policy, public-private cooperation, etc. – required to achieve a realistic food security goal which I would describe as pretty good assurance that most people can get their hands on the food they need most of the time. Commodity food aid, in some form – or the promise of its ready availability when needed – will probably need to be part of the total array of inputs required for the several years needed in particular food insecure countries to achieve that “pretty good assurance.” Europe and Canada are closer to understanding this and have become appropriately flexible in concerting resources to get it done. That’s the lesson.

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China’s commitment to agricultural development over the last thirty years has dramatically transformed the country’s economy. Rural income per capita has risen an astounding 20 times after 30 prior years of stagnation. Its poverty rate (US$1.25/day) has dropped from 40 percent to less than five, and 350 million rural people between the ages of 18-65 are now working in the industrial or service sector, enjoying rising wages and new economic opportunities.

This rapid transformation is largely the result of three key agricultural policy decisions: putting land in the hands of farmers, market deregulation, and major public investment in the agricultural sector. Although China must now contend with extreme inequality, high levels of pollution, and an aging farming sector there are still lessons to draw from China’s experience that could hasten the transformation of other developing countries.

China expert and agricultural economist Scott Rozelle broke these lessons down at FSE’s fourteenth Global Food Policy and Food Security Symposium Series last week, opening with an underlying theme of the series.

“Growth and development starts with agriculture,” said Rozelle. “Agriculture provides the basis for sound, sustained economic growth needed to build housing, invest in education for kids, start self-employed enterprises, and finance moves off the farm.”

To prove this point he referenced China’s ‘lost decades’ (1950s-1970s) when 80 percent of the population lived in the rural sector and relied on communal, subsistence agriculture. Poor land rights, weak incentives, incomplete markets and inappropriate investments left the average rural farmer poorer at the end of 70s than they were in the 50s with almost no off-farm employment growth.

So what changed? Incentives, market deregulation and strategic investments by the state were key.

Creating the right incentives

In 1978 the Chinese government broke the communes down into small “family farms” such that every rural resident was allocated a small parcel of land. A family of five farmed an area the size of a football field. While they did not own nor could sell the land, they had the right to choose what crops and inputs they used and the right to the income generated from their land.

“Incentives are important, and can be enough in the short run,” said Rozelle. “Hard work led to money in the pockets of farmers and China was off.”

“Every two and half years China added another California in term of agriculture,” said Rozelle.

Between 1979 and 1985 productivity for wheat, maize, and rice went up 50 percent using the same amount of labor, land and inputs. Agriculture across the spectrum has grown at an astounding rate of 5 percent since 1988 (about four times the population growth rate). Livestock and fisheries have grown even faster – accounting for most of the output of the agricultural sector by 2005.

Income growth from farming enabled family members to begin to seek work off the farm. Between 1980 and 2011, off-farm work increased 71 percent with more than 90 percent of households reporting that at least one family member worked off the farm.

Increasing efficiency through liberalization and investment

Another key policy decision was China’s commitment to market liberalization and investment in public goods.

“Markets can be an effective, pro-poor tool of development,” said Rozelle. “A remarkable partnership is formed when you let farmers do production and government do infrastructure…let markets guide decisions.”

The government dismantled state-owned grain trading companies and deregulated trading rules. Prices were set once a week the same day across China to better integrate markets, and eventually prices for major crops closely mirrored those of world prices. Villages began specializing in crops and livestock and incomes of the poor increased. By not providing government input subsidies (e.g, pesticides, fertilizers), traders were incentivized to participate in the market.

“Giving land to farmers and letting the private sector emerge is an easy thing for governments, even without a lot of money, to do,” said Rozelle.

The government provided more indirect market support by publicly investing in better roads, communications, and surface water irrigation. Groundwater was left to the private sector. There were no water or pumping fees nor subsidies for electricity, keeping it completely deregulated. As a result, 50 percent of cultivated land in China is irrigated, compared to 10 percent in the US and only four percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Finally, China has invested heavily in agricultural research and development (R&D). One percent of China’s agricultural GDP is now invested in agricultural R&D while US investment has fallen over time. US$2 billion alone goes to investments in Chinese biotechnology.

Despite major investment, China only has one major success story to show for so far. The introduction of Bt cotton led to a significant drop in pesticide use (with important health benefits for farmers), and drop in labor and seed price; resulting in a huge 30 percent increase in net income.

“GM technology benefits exist but big policy decisions still need to be made in the face of much resistance both in China and elsewhere in the world on its application,” said Rozelle.

Status of China’s economy

China has largely solved the country’s macro-nutrient food security problem at the household level (>3000 Kcal/day/person) and millions have been lifted out of poverty. Practically all 16-25 years old are now working off the farm.

“This is a real transformation, and one that could not have happened without a major investment in agriculture,” said Rozelle.

While China’s agricultural accomplishments have been major, Rozelle recognizes the system is far from perfect. For starters, there are serious food safety concerns due to lack of traceability. An astounding 98 percent of Beijing consumers think their food is tainted, said Rozelle.

Water is being pumped like crazy and farmers are aging. The younger generation is neither willing nor interested in following in their parents’ farming footsteps. To make up for a labor deficit farmers are applying huge amounts of fertilizer on their land with serious environmental consequences. As a result of changing demographics and an increasing demand for meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, China is likely to be a net importer of food in the long run.

China also faces major urban and rural inequality issues. Even though wages have risen, inequality has not fallen, largely a result of China’s decision not to privatize rural land.

“Rural people have no assets on which to build wealth while urban people were given assets in the form of housing,” said Rozelle. “Housing prices in major cities in China now rival those in the Bay Area!”

The Chinese government fears losing control of the land, but this comes at a price of less individual incentive to invest and inability to build larger farmers. As agricultural growth slows, Rozelle worries high levels of inequality could lead to instability.

Adding fuel to the fire, investment in rural health, nutrition, and education remains far from sufficient. Only 40 percent of the rural poor go to high school resulting in 200 million people who can barely read or write.

“What’s going to happen in 20 years when low skill manufacturing jobs move to other countries?” asked Rozelle. “The rural, uneducated poor are going to become unemployable.”

China’s record leaves room for improvement, but presents a strong case for supporting smallholder agriculture. For those countries emerging out of their own lost decades, smallholder agriculture should remain a primary focus of investment and development.

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