Live From COP 27, Part 2

Maybe

Another on the spot report from COP 27. Again, the opinions expressed here are solely my own.

The Saudi Green Initiative is housed under two large geodesic domes near COP 27, but is not one of the official conference venues. Its purpose? Elaborately showcasing the environmentally-friendly innovations of companies like Saudi Aramco and SABIC — some of the world’s largest petrochemical firms headquartered in and capitalized by one of the world’s largest fossil fuel exporters. The people explaining the products being brought to market were all men. Same for the staff at the Saudi Arabia pavilion in the Blue Zone.

Green innovation projects are also on display in the Green Zone space dedicated to Egyptian universities. They are much smaller and obviously receive far less government financial support than their Saudi counterparts. But they are explained to conference attendees, if not headed, by women. Thinking like a comparativist:

The columns could also be labeled as regime type, with monarchy for Saudi Arabia and bureaucratic authoritarianism for Egypt. You get the idea. I’m just wondering if data indicates a relationship between a state’s commitment to green technology and gender parity. One might assume the two are positively correlated (e.g., Germany and Sweden), but maybe in the Middle East it’s an inverse relationship.

While Egypt seems to be doing better than some of its neighbors in how women are treated, I wonder who at the U.N. thought it was a good idea to have COP 27 hosted by a military dictatorship. Egyptian civil society organizations have largely been excluded, and it is simply too dangerous for Egyptian human rights activists to participate. To give a very minor example:

No chickens burger for you

The photo shows an eating establishment that has appeared in the Blue Zone, which is in theory a U.N.-governed space. Note the group seated on the roof deck, consisting of a 60s-ish man surrounded by women half his age. The staircase to seating on top of the shipping container is to the rear. When I tried to ascend these stairs to take in the view from above, I was stopped by a man in skinny jeans and a black t-shirt who said the area was “blocked.” I noticed the attention of a few Mukhabarat (the not-so-secret police) wearing suits and earpieces seated at a nearby ground-level table. I backed off to observe, and saw a few other Mukhabarat milling about. Over the next few minutes, five other people, some of whom were ordinary Egyptians, were prevented from climbing the stairs. My guess is that the man at the table was a government bigwig, and the women he was speaking with were representatives of some kind of business venture.

Last, here is the obligatory Egyptian cat photo:

Live From COP 27

As usual, the opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

I’m attending the COP 27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh as an observer, courtesy of my university. For the general vibe, read this cheeky article (plus a follow-up!) from The Guardian. In its design and operation, the event models some major international relations and comparative politics concepts.

The Blue Zone, the main conference site, is sprawling and chaotic, yet has only one entrance and one exit where attendees badges are scanned. You’re either in or out. The Blue Zone is dominated by meeting rooms and exhibition spaces for state actors and a few U.N. organizations. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, petroleum exporting rentier states, have the largest and most glitzy exhibits. Egypt, military dictatorship and conference host, ranks third in this respect. The U.S. pavilion is good-sized and neatly organized, but extremely loud, as is typical for Americans. Canada? Friendly and free coffee for passersby. The pavilions of African states are quite welcoming, despite their organizers’ histories of exploitation by foreign powers.

Potemkin coffee kiosk

Power hierarchy is apparent in other ways. One Blue Zone area is the preserve of high-ranking officials who meet behind closed doors after arriving in limousines. Occasionally dignitaries stroll through the mass chaos elsewhere in the Blue Zone, flanked by plainclothes protective teams. My compliments to the bodyguard who expertly guided me into a non-threatening position by gently touching my upper arm with only three fingers.

The Green Zone is a smaller space for Egypt’s government ministries and universities, along with international civil society groups, to showcase their environmental sustainability efforts. It is located directly across a road from the Blue Zone, ostensibly allowing attendees to conveniently pass back and forth. But the Blue Zone’s gate that faces this road is closed for the duration of COP 27 because of “security,” and the promised shuttle bus running between the Blue and Green Zones did not materialize until a few days after the conference had started. The conference venue includes a third building, dedicated to public-private partnerships, that also requires a shuttle or taxi to access because of surrounding walls, despite being only a short distance away as the crow flies. My prior international travel experience in authoritarian states leads me to believe that these impediments to movement and communication are a feature, not a bug.

My final comment, more directly pertinent to the subject of this blog: so far, COP 27 has resembled the typical academic conference at which information is dumped onto a passive audience via speeches and panel presentations. I have not yet encountered any Blue Zone events designed with active learning in mind. This is probably not the most effective strategy for teaching about an existential threat.

The More Things Change . . .

The 2022 TLC @ APSA is in the can, to use an early 20th century metaphor about a now-obsolete analog technology. Because of the pandemic, I had not attended an in-person conference since the Albuquerque TLC in February 2020. I was hoping for something new and perhaps revitalizing after the hiatus.

I got something new, but not in a good way.

Welcome,
conference attendee

No one wants to sit through a 15 minute recitation of comments from student evaluations, especially when those comments are simultaneously displayed on a projector screen as part of a 45 minute presentation that was actually supposed to run for only 20 minutes. In our work as teachers, we hold students to certain standards and demonstrate how they can meet those standards. This was a numbing example of “do as I say not as I do” that ran completely counter to effective pedagogical practice. It was also disrespectful to the audience and other panelists.

The problem was compounded by a moderator who failed to properly execute the duties of the role, and not just by letting one presenter consume half of the session’s allotted time. The moderator incorrectly assumed that most of the presenters scheduled for the subsequent panel were absent. He unilaterally decided that people who no longer had time to present in the panel that was in session could do so in next one. He announced this decision more than an hour into the session, which prompted exclamations from the audience of “But I’m here and part of the next panel!” and “What’s going on?”

I contrast the above events with what I witnessed in Montreal’s Time Out Market while eating lunch earlier in the day: a clown making balloon animals for a cavernous room full of rapt children. He’s the one to learn from.

APSA Montreal Travel Requirements

Non-Canadians planning to attend the APSA annual meeting in Montreal next month are subject to some additional entry requirements related to the coronavirus pandemic. First and foremost, you have to meet the criteria for “fully vaccinated.” Visitors must provide evidence of vaccination status at their point of entry using the Canadian government’s ArriveCAN app. Full instructions on this process are here.

For people in the USA who plan on driving to Montreal: in the past, cellular reception has been spotty near the border, so I plan on having paper copies of the ArriveCAN information as a back-up.

TLC @ APSA

This year’s Teaching and Learning Conference will be held on Saturday, September 17, as part of the APSA’s annual meeting in Montreal. Full details on the program and registration process are here. The early bird rate for conference registration ends on July 11.

TLC@ APSA 2022 – and a request

A one-day Teaching and Learning Conference will be held at the 2022 APSA meeting in Montreal. The call for proposals is here.

Young-Im Lee, assistant professor of political science at Cal State University-Sacramento, would like to organize two workshops for the TLC@APSA. Here is her request:

  1. I am curious what other political scientists/their departments do to practice antiracist pedagogy and create antiracist institutions.
  2. I wonder how other political science programs offer career advising for undergraduates, in terms of both graduate school application support and non-academic jobs. I am particularly interested in programs mainly teaching underserved and minoritized students.   

I am not yet in the position to present on these two topics, but I am interested in learning about what others do. I am happy to do the organizing work. Please let me know if you want to share your experience and expertise on either one of the two topics above.

Dr. Lee can be contacted at young-im [dot] lee [at] csus [dot] edu.

Op-Ed Writing Workshop

The Virginia USA chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network is sponsoring a free online op-ed writing workshop on Wednesday, October 20, 3:30 – 5:00 pm. This workshop is a hands-on training for scholars who want to learn how to write and pitch compelling, research-based op-eds. Participants will learn how to craft a good lead, identify and incorporate timely news hooks, signal the author’s unique and relevant expertise, increase the likelihood of publication, and structure an op-ed for maximum impact. Participants are asked to come prepared with an idea for an op-ed in mind; they will be guided through shaping their idea into a first draft.

Registration form and additional details are here.

Personal note: as the author of occasional op-eds for local and national publications, I know first hand the benefits of being able to write for a non-academic audience.

Online Global Negotiation Conference 2021

Applications are now open for the online Global Negotiation Conference, which will take place from 6 to 9 July, and will be co-hosted by the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich.

The Global Negotiation Conference was founded in 2014 to encourage the practical and theoretical study of negotiation among students of all disciplines. Each year teams of graduate students from across the world take part in a series of workshops led by practitioners and academics culminating in a multiparty simulation on a current global issue. This year the topic of the conference is negotiating an international treaty on the role of business in upholding human rights.

More information on the program and how to apply can be found on the conference webpage: https://www.global-negotiation.org/gnc-2021.

NASFA: Association for International Educators Call for Proposals

The Call for Proposals is now open for the Fall 2020 NAFSA Research Symposium*, which will be held virtually in partnership with George Mason University’s Center for International Education and the Office of Fellowships on Friday, November 20, 2020 at the end of International Education Week. For the first time, in addition to the standard research panels, we will also offer a virtual poster fair.

Please review the Call for Proposals guidelines before submitting either a 1-page paper proposal (due September 7) or a 250-300 word research summary for a poster (due October 5).

Paper proposals should present original, unpublished research in international education; poster submissions may focus on ongoing or completed research relevant to the broad field of international education.


*If you are interested in becoming a Peer Reviewer for this & future events, please email research@nafsa.org stating your research interests (topics/methods/etc).

Registration Deadline TLC 2020

A reminder that the early bird registration for the 2020 APSA Teaching and Learning Conference is December 14.

As I have said before, this conference is not the standard sequence of tedious, badly-attended panel sessions. Attendees join a working group on a particular topic for the length of the conference. There are also hands-on workshops between sessions. And this TLC will convene in glorious Albuquerque, New Mexico, where in 2011 a conversation led to the creation this blog. Full conference details are at the APSA’s TLC webpage.