Whistleblowers offer us small glimpses into the politics and bribery that surround international environmental agreements. Both The Times and the BBC have discovered that Japan has bought developing countries' votes on the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
A two-week-long meeting, starting today, will decide whether the 24-year moratorium on commercial whaling will remain in place. Japan is keen to revive commercial whaling – despite a lack of consumer demand and a declining whaling industry. The governments of Grenada, Guinea and Ivory Coast, amongst others, seemed ready to sell their vote to Japan, when approached by undercover journalists. And for what? A “minimum” of $1,000 a day spending money during the IWC meetings, according to Guinean officials; “good girls” that were made available at hotels for Tanzanian Ministers; or, in the case of Kiribati, foreign aid. Naturally, anti-whaling nations and conservationists are outraged.
However, they don’t apply the same standards of democracy and transparency when it comes to other international agreements, where governments’ votes are regularly bought. In exchange for Russia joining the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the EU supported its accession bid to the WTO. And developing countries stand to gain hundreds of millions – potentially billions – in adaptation and technology transfer funds, and straightforward aid, if they sign up to the prospective climate change agreement.
The reality is that international politics often amount to a “$1,000 a day” games of buyoffs- far removed from the people or causes they seek to represent.