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The wonderful world of globo-wonkery: It's all in the acronyms

It's the money, dummy

And this guy's on our side

The wonderful world of globo-wonkery: It's all in the acronyms

Friday, June 21, 2002 – Page A23

It is a proven fact that global diplomacy is not conducted by normal people. If normal people used the language of global diplomacy, they would say things like this:

"Our unit of related individuals notes with satisfaction the agreement concluded recently with a major private lender on innovative strategies for subterranean accommodation development. A sizable additional revenue stream has been identified that will increase total capital inflows and provide significant technology transfer. Meanwhile, start-up complications in a capacity-building initiative on juvenile personal hygiene have been resolved and the project has begun to meet target benchmarks."

(Translation: We're so happy 'cause we got our line of credit to renovate the basement. Joan got some great software as part of a fat new contract, and it took forever but it looks like little Justin finally got toilet-trained.)

The pure essence of globo-wonkery is the acronyms. Next week's Group of Eight summit in Kananaskis, Alta., is, of course, the G8. But if you really want to follow it, you'll need to know about NEPAD, UNECA, AU, CBRN, HIPC and FATF. In fact, you'll probably sound like a loser around the picnic table this weekend if you can't explain the APRM. (Okay, okay, answers in a minute.)

So here's a tip. If you want to be just a tiny bit mysterious, try slipping in a reference to the G1. As in, "Well, yeah, I know everyone likes NEPAD, but when it comes right down to it, the only thing that matters is the G1."

In the rarefied atmosphere of summit planning, they know right away what you mean when you say G1. What else would the Group of One be but the United States? In effect, G1 is shorthand for unilateralism -- the recurring U.S. practice of charting its own course in world affairs with little regard for the effect on others. And one of the things to watch for as the leaders gather in Kananaskis is tension over unilateralism under George W. Bush.

It started with Mr. Bush's repudiation of international agreements such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court. It reached alarming proportions this month as he signalled a desire to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by fair means or foul -- against the wishes of most of his G8 counterparts.

Mr. Bush acknowledges the United States' dependence on others to counter terrorism, and he has recently promised to boost U.S. aid to Africa -- a key topic at Kananaskis. But he's unlikely to stray much further from the unilateralist path.

Oh yes, I promised, didn't I? Here goes:

CBRN: Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. Terrorists want them; that's a scary thought.

HIPC: Highly indebted poor countries -- the ones whose lines of credit got seriously out of hand.

FATF: Financial Action Task Force. Works to stop money-laundering and is being drafted to curb terrorist financing.

NEPAD: New Partnership for Africa's Development. A plan promoted by African leaders for economic recovery, which the G8 countries may or may not support with significant resources.

UNECA: The United Nations Economic Commission on Africa, which would have a role in implementing NEPAD.

AU: The African Union, successor to the Organization of African Unity. Ditto.

APRM: The African Peer Review Mechanism. A process for determining which African countries are eligible for the benefits of NEPAD, with criteria such as solid government institutions and transparent economic rules.

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