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The Roosevelt Institution

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The Roosevelt Review

Volume 3 • Issue 1 • August 2007
Copyright 2007

Executive Director
Kai Stinchcombe, Stanford University

Editor in Chief of the Review

Kyle Atwell, University of California at Davis

Chair of the Editorial Board

Caitlin Howarth, University of Virginia

National Editorial Board

Paul Burow, University of California at Davis
Chandni Challa, University of Virginia
Kirti Datla, Rice University
Eva DuGoff, George Washington University
James Elias, George Washington University
Emily Hallet, Yale University
Robert Nelb, Yale University
Ernesto Rodriguez, George Washington University

Editorial Assistants
Patrick Burbine, Alicia Dennis,Eric Freeman, Stefanie Garcia,
Kevin Hilke,Oliver Schulze, Peter Squeri, Oliver Traldi

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The opinions expressed within the Roosevelt Review are exclusively those of the individual
authors and do not represent the views of the editorial board, the Roosevelt Institution,
or any of the organization’s chapters, centers, advisors, or affiliates.
The Roosevelt Review
In this Issue
Plastic Bag Externalities and Policy in Rhode Island
Adam Akullian, Kemen Austin, and Drew Durbin
Brown University
Winner of the Roosevelt Review Outstanding Policy Award

The Case for Decoupling: A Policy to Promote
Energy Efficiency
Jonas Ketterle, Daniel Bachmann, Tyson Cook, Jonhyok Heo, and Jordan Shackelford
Stanford University

Toward Inclusion: Realizing the Civic Potential of
The Earned Income Tax Credit
Niko Karvounis, Oxford University

Reducing Juvenile Recidivism in the United States
Jane Wilson, Stanford University

Finding an Alternative Solution:
A Comparative Analysis of Drug Policies of the
United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia
Benjamin Aronson, Brown University

A New Mandate for UN Reform: The Charter
Andrew Baker, Oxford University

Bringing Dawn to Darfur
Zachary Hindin, George Washington University
R. Benjamin Nelson, Georgetown University
Note from the Editor’s Desk

Welcome to the third volume of the Roosevelt Review, the Roosevelt Institu-
tion’s policy research journal. The release of this volume arrives as we approach the
Institution’s third anniversary, and we cannot help but reflect that both the Institu-
tion and the Review have matured significantly over these past three years.
Roosevelt Institution is not the same organization it was when two loosely af-
filiated chapters, calling themselves a student think tank, began meeting in dorm
rooms at Stanford and Yale in the fall of 2004. Armed with a vision, impressive
energy, and passion, the founding generation of leaders was driven by the belief
that students should do more than talk about better policy – they should create it
As members of the successor generation, your editors can assure you that the
next generation of Roosevelt students has been inspired by and shares the passion
and vision of our predecessors. We believe in the power of student ideas; we believe
in the need for progressive solutions that anticipate and address tomorrow’s prob-
lems; and we are committed to taking responsibility for the state of our world today.
It is not the energy and passion of the new generation that makes our Roosevelt
Institution different from three years ago, but rather the resources that the founding
generation has bestowed upon us. We are more connected, produce more policy,
and engage more policymakers than ever before. The Roosevelt Institution of today
is focused, prolific, and effective. We have matured.
The new generation should be proud of what it is inheriting, and not forget
who created this incredible opportunity. The list of individuals who have given
innumerable sacrifices is too long to include; as Roosevelt Institution continues to
age, too many names will be forgotten as new leaders emerge. Yet we stand on the
shoulders of giants, and in particular there is one individual who will be missed.
Kai Stinchcombe has overseen the growth of the Roosevelt Institution since before
it had a name. With the release of this journal, Kai will transfer his leadership as
Executive Director to a new generation of leaders. The Roosevelt Institution will
always give thanks for his vision and stamina, which made the Roosevelt Institution
what it is today.
We hope that you find this issue of the Roosevelt Review on par with its prede-
cessors. We have been amazed by the innovation and dedication of the contributing
authors as we have worked with them to develop the following proposals over the
past year. Many of these papers have been presented at multiple Roosevelt confer-
ences and published in other formats in other Roosevelt publications. Each of these
papers goes beyond the realm of theory: all provide specific policy recommenda-
tions, and most have been presented to policy makers at both the state and federal
level, in person.
We are proud to present the finest work of the Roosevelt Institution. Working
with the authors has been a humbling and rewarding experience, and we certainly
hope you enjoy these proposals as much as we have.

Kyle Atwell, Editor in Chief
Plastic Bag Externalities and
Policy in Rhode Island
Adam Akullian, Kemen Austin, and Drew Durbin, Brown University
Winner of the Roosevelt Review Outstanding Policy Award

I. Introduction certainly an ideological step in the right

direction. Unfortunately, the incentive
The environmental externalities as- structure of the proposed amendment is
sociated with plastic bag production and poorly designed and does not match the
disposal, which include CO2 emissions, range of litter and landfill capacity is-
water pollution, and solid waste, exem- sues caused by plastic bag use in Rhode
plify the classic tragedy of freedom in a Island. In fact, extensive cost/benefit
commons. Individual consumers benefit analysis suggests that the social cost of a
from the use of plastic bags because they single one-cent bag sold in Rhode Island
can easily carry purchased goods without is more than 11 cents. While it will be
the burden of carrying around reusable more difficult to pass politically, Rhode
bags, while society as a whole is harmed Island legislators should consider an 11
by the production and disposal costs as- cent consumer tax on the sale of plastic
sociated with plastic bags. bags so as to balance the externalities of
Rhode Island, in particular, has had plastic bag consumption.
problems disposing of and properly con-
taining litter at the rapidly filling Central
Landfill, causing concern from the solid II. Solid Waste Management
waste management sector. While original In Rhode Island
policy efforts focused on encouraging the
use of more biodegradable paper bags and As owners and managers of the cen-
the recycling of plastic bags, it has become tral landfill, Rhode Island Resource Re-
clear in recent years that these measures covery Corporation (RIRRC) has an eco-
do not match the scope of the problem. nomic incentive to reduce the plastic bag
In fact, paper bags are not biodegradable waste stream in Rhode Island. RIRRC
in landfills and are more environmentally is responsible for any trash blown off the
damaging than their plastic counterparts. landfill to neighboring land and has re-
To address this problem, legislation ceived fines from the Rhode Island De-
in the form of an amendment to Chap- partment of Environmental Management
ter 23-18.11, “Promotion of Paper Bag (RIDEM) for trash found on the perim-
Usage,” of the Rhode Island Health and eter of the landfill; RIRRC has paid one
Safety Act has been proposed. The ob- million dollars for trash pickup and lit-
jective is to control litter from both paper ter fines (Bailey, 2006). As plastic grocery
and plastic bags by encouraging the use bags account for a large quantity of this
of reusable options. This bill seeks to en- litter (192 million bags are consumed an-
courage costumers to utilize reusable bags nually in Rhode Island), it is in the best
through a three cent retailer funded cos- interest of RIRRC to reduce the number
tumer rebate for each bag an individual of plastic bags that it takes into the land-
brings to the store. fill (Bailey, 2006).
Shifting the focus of the original bill RIRRC has been proactive in the
from promoting the choice of paper bags past at attempting to reduce the number
to encouraging the use of reusable bags is of plastic bags that come into its landfill.
On September 1, 2005, RIRRC along Chapter 23-18.11, “Promotion of Paper
with the Rhode Island Food Distributors Bag Usage,” of the Rhode Island Health
Administration (RIFDA) initiated a pro- and Safety Act, which sought to decrease
gram called “ReStore.” ReStore has po- plastic bag waste and litter in the state.
sitioned plastic bag receptacles at super- This act utilizes two methods for prompt-
markets across Rhode Island and recycles ing positive change. First, the bill stipu-
them into a versatile, nontoxic, composite lates that retailers must provide paper bags
product used as a wood substitute. The at equal cost to plastic bags in spite of the
ReStore project has led to the recycling higher cost of paper bags (three cents per
of 18 million plastic bags over the course bag for paper as opposed to one cent per
of the past year, a 9.2 percent plastic bag bag for plastic). Additionally, it requires
recycling rate (Bailey, 2006). However, plastic bag recycling at retail stores selling
this means that Rhode Island residents greater than eight million dollars worth of
are still sending over 170 million bags goods per year.
to the Central Landfill annually. RIRRC Contrary to the rationale behind the
and the Rhode Island legislature have re- original bill, paper bags do not easily bio-
alized that to address this issue, they must degrade in landfills. Therefore, encourag-
reduce the overall consumption of plastic ing a shift to paper bag consumption did
bags, not simply encourage recycling, to not address Rhode Island’s landfill capac-
truly internalize the disposal externalities ity problem. Furthermore, externalities at
of plastic bags. all stages of a bag’s life cycle (including air
pollution, water contamination, and solid
waste production) are less for plastic bags
III. The Evolution of Rhode Island than paper bags (See Table 1.1).
Plastic Bag Legislation
B. The Current Amendment and the
A. Analyzing the Original Legislation Future of Plastic Bag Regulation
In response to the original concerns Recognition of the externalities asso-
regarding the rapidly filling Central Land- ciated with both paper and plastic bag use
fill, the Rhode Island legislature passed prompted members of the Rhode Island

Table 1.1: Environmental Externalities of Plastic and Paper Bags Compared

Plastic Bags* Paper Bags*
Energy Consumption 594 BTUs / bag 2511 BTUs /bag
Airborne Chemical Pollution 1.1 grams / bag 2.7 grams / bag
Waterborne Chemical Pollution 0.025 grams / bag 1.25 grams / bag
Materials 0.0048 gallons of oil 0.0014 trees
Number of Trucks to Transport 1 truck 7 trucks
One Shipment of Bags
Rate 0.6% of plastic bags 19.4% of paper bags
Energy Consumption 17 BTUs / bag 1444 BTUs / bag
Landfill Non-biodegradable in landfill environment Non-biodegradable in landfill environment

Often blow off landfill property Eight times more massive than plastic bags
Litter 1000 years to biodegrade Readily biodegradable
Capable of absorbing one million times the Leaches toxic chemicals stemming from the heating
concentration of toxic compounds, including PCBs of wood chips to make the original bag
and DDE, as seawater
46,000 pieces of plastic/square mile persist in ocean

Plastic bags are linked to 100,000 marine deaths/yr

*All data from Franklin Associates LTD, 2004

Table 1.2: Environmental Externalities of Plastic and Paper Bags Compared
Stage in Bag’s Life Cycle External Cost Borne by Society (¢ / bag)*
CO2 Emissions: 0.20¢ / bag
CO2 Emissions: unknown
Litter: 5.20¢ / bag
Landfill: 2.92¢ / bag
Improper Recycling: 2.20¢ / bag
Total Social Cost per Bag: 10.52¢ / bag
*See Appendix B for Calculations

Litter Task Force, including Barry Schil- 2669) in early 2006. Both the House and
ler (a representative from Sierra Club), to Senate versions of the amendment were
propose an amendment to Chapter 23- sent to committees, which have since rec-
18.11 “Promotion of Paper Bag Usage” of ommended that the measure be held for
the Rhode Island Health and Safety Act further study.
(Schiller, 2006). The primary objective
of the proposed amendment is to control IV. A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Plastic
litter from retail bags by encouraging the Bag Consumption
use of reusable bags as opposed to paper
or plastic bags. In addition to modify- While the goal of the proposed
ing the title of the statute to read “The amendment (to address the problem of
Promotion of Paper and Reusable Bag a socially inefficient over-allocation of
Usage,” the amendment seeks to reduce plastic bags stemming from their non-
retail packaging entirely by offering eco- internalized environmental costs, es-
nomic incentives to consumers to bring pecially litter) and the authors’ chosen
their own bags to stores (rather than rely- policy mechanism for promoting behav-
ing on the retailer to provide either paper ioral change (mandating stores to offer a
or plastic bags). The amendment obliges three cent rebate to consumer’s who bring
retailers to provide a three cent credit their own bag) are clear, the question of
rebate to consumers for each bag they whether or not this policy measure is bet-
bring to a retail establishment for reuse in ter than the alternatives ought to be care-
the packaging of their purchased goods. fully examined.
Rather than placing a Pigovian tax on In order to determine the socially
packaging consumption to internalize the optimal policy solution to the plastic bag
externalities of plastic and paper bag pro- problem, one must first identify the scope
duction and disposal (namely, a Pigovian and nature of the problem. While the
tax corrects negative externalities of mar- overflowing state landfill and one million
ket activity by disincentivizing the un- dollars in annual fines and cleanup costs
desired action), the amendment seeks to paid by RIRRC are the primary motiva-
provide a carrot, incentivizing consumers tion for the legislature’s desire to reduce
to provide their own bags. This thereby plastic bag consumption, the external
promotes recycling and creates an indirect costs of plastic bag use extend far beyond
economic disincentive for the continued these notable local problems. After sort-
use of wasteful single-use packaging. ing through scientific articles on the envi-
The amendment to the Litter Act was ronmental damage created by plastic bags
introduced to the Rhode Island House and waste management data from cities
(House Bill 7001) and Senate (Senate bill across the country, we were able to con-

struct a table of the environmental exter- reusable bag that a consumer brings, then
nalities of plastic bags and then carefully it is clearly in each retailer’s self-interest
quantify the external cost of these produc- to do everything possible to discourage
tion, transportation, and consumption consumers from bringing their own bags
externalities. (See Table 1.2 for estimates so that they just have to spend one or zero
of the social cost per bag and Appendix B cents on plastic bags instead. Since the
for the underlying calculations.) ability of the policy to affect behavioral
Conservative calculations of the so- change is dependent on retailers publiciz-
cial cost of litter, CO2 emissions from bag ing the rebate option and the incentive
production, land filling, and improper structure of the statute is such that they
recycling of plastic bags reveal that each will be motivated to do the opposite, the
one cent plastic bag used at a retail out- bill will have little effect on reducing plas-
fit in Rhode Island imposes a cost of over tic bag consumption.
10.52 cents on society as a whole. Us-
ing this number as a baseline indicator of
the magnitude of the market failure to be VI. Considering the Alternative
addressed, the Rhode Island Litter Task Policy Options
Force should reconsider and ultimately
A. Knowledge
advocate for the most efficient policy
The most simple and publicly accept-
mechanism for aligning personal incen-
able option for the Rhode Island legisla-
tives with the social goal of reducing plas-
ture to address the plastic bag problem
tic bag consumption.
would be an information campaign to ex-
plain the externalities of bag consumption
and encourage the use of reusable shop-
V. Analyzing the Current Policy
ping bags. In essence, this program would
While politically feasible, the cur- be an expansion of RIRRC and RIFDA’s
rent policy proposal is inherently flawed ReStore program to facilitate and encour-
for three reasons that will prevent the age the recycling of plastic shopping bags.
amendment from effecting much be- While ReStore clearly caused behavioral
havioral change and, thus creating any changes, the change came at an initial
significant decrease in the 192 million investment cost of $400,000 to RIRRC.
plastic bags consumed annually in Rhode Additionally, the program had the advan-
Island (Bailey, 2006). First, the subsidy tage of simply encouraging consumers to
is simply too small; the small amount of recycle their bags, rather than prompting
the rebate (three cents) will not be suffi- a more dramatic behavioral change that
cient to change consumer behavior. Sec- would be required in shifting consumers
ond, the subsidy is not a true subsidy, away from one-time bag usage.
but a de facto three cent tax on retailers Thus, while a legislature-initiated
for every consumer that brings their own campaign to implore the public to switch
bag. Third, in its current form, the policy to reusable bags might effect some change,
is dependent on the retailers publicizing it would likely fail to adequately address
the rebate. Plastic bags only cost one the socially inefficient over-consumption
cent for retailers to buy, and they often of plastic bags. Although RIRRC might
pass this cost onto the consumer in the agree to fund a portion of the program,
form of higher product prices anyhow. If an information campaign would still cost
retailers have to pay three cents for each the government thousands of dollars in

funds that simply are not available to the There are a few reasons that an all-out
RIDEM (which has experienced recent plastic bag ban may not be the optimal
budget cuts). Even though voluntary im- policy, however. Like the law in Bangla-
ploring strategies are publicly acceptable, desh, San Francisco’s policy has helped to
an information campaign would be poor address its litter problem, but it ignores
(even unfeasible) public policy from a fis- the larger external costs of wasteful dis-
cal and cost-internalizing perspective. posable paper bags that it misguidedly
seeks to promote. Despite the 11 cent ex-
B. Command and Control ternal cost of a plastic bag, a ban on them
A much cheaper and more effective might lead to a socially inefficient under-
measure for reducing plastic bag con- allocation of plastic bags. Although most
sumption would be to simply ban plastic consumers would likely stop using bags if
bags altogether, as Bangladesh did in 2002 forced to pay their true twelve cent cost,
(Reusable Bags, 2006). After discover- there are certain applications for which
ing that improperly disposed plastic bags the benefit of plastic bag usage might ex-
clogged drains and led to increased flood- ceed this tax. For example, plastic bags
ing during the monsoon season, Bangla- are useful in the packaging of meat for
desh banned polyurethane bags entirely. health and safety reasons as well as for the
This command and control policy made bagging of unpackaged produce. Addi-
sense for Bangladesh because plastic bag tionally, a ban might push in-state plastic
externalities were particularly acute in bag producers out of business and cause
the nation as a result of its weather (two- undue economic harm as well as create
thirds of the nation flooded in both 1988 concentrated stakeholder opposition to a
and 1998) and high litter rate (85 percent bill with diffuse societal benefits, thereby
for plastic bags) (Reusable Bags, 2006). making it difficult to pass.
Considering the presence of jute bags as a Finally, while a more general ban on
biodegradable and locally available alter- both paper and plastic disposable bags (ex-
native to plastic bags, a mandated reduc- panding on San Francisco’s policy) would
tion in the country’s non-biodegradable eliminate the environmental externali-
waste stream was an economical and effi- ties of these bags, it would impose a high
cient policy from both an environmental
cost on consumers if they forget to bring
and social perspective.
reusable bags to the store and are forced
Closer to home, San Francisco’s City
Council banned disposable plastic bags in to purchase additional reusable bags or
March of 2007. For years, San Francisco’s carry their purchases in a less convenient
municipal officials had debated policies manner. In fact, due to the contrasting
to curb the city’s litter problem, which external circumstances in Rhode Island
council members believed were harming and Bangladesh, this command and con-
the city’s tourism industry and bay ecol- trol policy that makes sense in one nation
ogy (Goodyear, 2007). With plastic bags would not make sense for Rhode Island as
comprising a disproportionately large frac- it would push plastic bag consumption to
tion of the city’s litter, a seventeen cent tax an opposite socially damaging extreme.
on the bags was proposed to encourage a
shift to more readily biodegradable paper C. Tradable Permits
bags. Ultimately, policymakers decided As a laboratory of experimentation
on a ban on all non-biodegradable plastic in the U.S. federal system, Rhode Island
bags instead (Goodyear, 2007). could consider a marketable permit solu-
tion to the plastic bag problem. Rather government to fund. If the government
than banning plastic bag consumption wanted to shift demand for plastic bags
entirely, Rhode Island could assign each to the socially efficient level, they would
supermarket and retail outlet a specific have to offer an 11 cent rebate to each
number of plastic bag credits. The total consumer that brings their own bags to
number of bag credits could be set to the a store. Even a more moderate three cent
amount that the state estimates to be the rebate would be politically unfeasible as it
socially optimal level. This system would would cost millions of dollars while creat-
then allow supermarkets that consume a ing insufficient change in consumer bag
large amount of plastic bags to trade for purchasing patterns.
credits from companies that could more
easily reduce their plastic bag consump- E. Transfer (Tax)
tion. Although this system would ide- The final policy option the Rhode Is-
ally lead to a socially efficient allocation land legislature could consider is a tax, ei-
of plastic bags, it would involve extensive ther on the retailer or consumer. Because
government oversight that would be both a tax can be set equal to the value of the
a drain on valuable government resources external costs of a plastic bag, the socially
and prohibitively expensive. Further- efficient number of plastic bags would
more, if the government decided to lower not need to be known to policy makers,
the amount of plastic bags below the ini- whereas it would if a bag subsidy were
tial ceiling, it would have to purchase a set to be instated. Unlike a subsidy, the tax
amount of plastic bag permits at additional would cost the state little to enforce while
cost to the taxpayers. Additionally, while generating revenue that could be used to
it is possible to estimate the externalities address Rhode Island’s litter problem.
associated with plastic bags, it is far more Through analyzing and contrast-
difficult to determine the number of plas- ing the plastic bag tax policies of Ireland
tic bags that should be consumed annu- (which taxes consumers) and Denmark
ally in Rhode Island without any knowl- (which taxes retailers), the socially optimal
edge of the demand curve for plastic bags. policy for Rhode Island’s plastic bag prob-
Thus, although a creative application of lem is revealed. In March of 2002, Ire-
tradable permits, this is probably not the land implemented a consumer “PlasTax”
best or most politically feasible approach of 0.15 euros on one-time use plastic bags
to solving the plastic bag problem. (with exceptions for bags used for packag-
ing meat and produce) (Convery, 2001).
D. Transfer (Subsidy) Within months, plastic bag consumption
While a store-funded rebate (as pro- dropped over 90 percent and litter visibly
posed in the current Rhode Island amend- decreased across the nation (the primary
ment) clearly creates a system of perverse objective in this bill as a result of the
incentives, a true subsidy would provide detrimental visual effect of windblown
a carrot to change behavior through posi- plastic bags in a nation highly dependent
tive reinforcement of positive actions and on tourism). In the next year, plastic bag
be popular with retailers at the same time consumption dropped from 1.2 billion
(since they would not have to bear the bags to 60 million bags, while 9.6 mil-
cost of measure). However, a true subsidy lion Euros in tax revenues were generated
for reusable bags in the form of a rebate to be used for environmental protection
to consumers that utilize reusable bags (BBC News, 2002). After initial opposi-
would be far too expensive for the state tion to the tax, retailers ended up strongly
supporting the bill as the average super- would be more politically feasible than a
market ended up increasing reusable bag tax, a true subsidy would be too expensive
sales while saving 50 million euros/year to fund and the proposed store-funded
from lower grocery bag stocking costs rebate would be ineffective in addressing
(Convery, 2001). Finally, enforcement the environmental problems as a result of
costs borne by the Irish government were its poor incentive structure.
minimal as the tax receipts were provided Following the success of the Irish
to the government, along with revenues case, a Pigovian tax on consumers would
from the national value-added tax. be the most effective policy to decrease lit-
On the other hand, Denmark taxes ter and address the state’s landfill crunch.
retailers a similar amount as part of a gen- For once, Rhode Island, a noted progres-
eral waste tax. While this tax has reduced sive state, could be the leader on an im-
plastic bag consumption 66 percent since portant environmental issue rather than
its implementation, the results are less following in the footsteps of neighboring
dramatic than Ireland’s because consum- Massachusetts. Instead of caving to the
ers are often unaware of the increased cost political pressures of anti-tax forces, the
of the bags they are “purchasing,” as many state should form policy around the en-
grocery stores simply incorporate the cost vironmental and quality of life issues at
of the tax into the price of their products stake by passing a Pigovian tax of over 11
(Reusable Bags, 2006). However, this tax cents on all disposable bags.
does provide incentives for retailers to find (See next page for appendices.)
innovative ways to reduce bag consump-
tion. Overall, a Pigovian tax on plastic About the Authors
bags is much more effective if placed on Drew Durbin is an environmental studies
consumers because the goal of the tax is and economics major at Brown Univer-
to affect consumer behavior, not raise rev- sity. He is the lead teaching assistant for
enue from retailers. Introduction to Environmental Studies
and Environmental Economics. Drew is
also spearheading a project to design and
VII. Policy Recommendation for build low cost biogas stoves for installa-
Rhode Island State Legislature tion in a refugee camp in Uganda this
winter. Outside of his environmental
While it would certainly draw the work, he leads the Photo Club at Brown
attention of anti-tax factions, the Rhode and is the founder of a semesterly photog-
Island legislature should push for a bag raphy publication, Paper&Pixel.
tax of at least 11 cents on plastic bags at
the checkout counter. A Pigovian tax on Drew and his business partner, Duffy Til-
consumers is clearly the optimal policy leman, placed second in Brown Entrepre-
to internalize the quantifiable external neurship Program’s Business Plan Com-
cost of these environmentally damaging petition this spring. They won $18,000
bags. In this case market-based policy in cash and in-kind services for their pro-
would operate more efficiently than its posal to create an innovative green waste
command and control counterpart, be- treatment operation. Currently, Drew is
cause the external costs of plastic bags interning for a global warming research
are known while the optimal number is analyst at Calvert, a socially responsible
unknown, due to the uncertain nature investment company based in Bethesda,
of the demand curve. While a subsidy MD.
VIII. Appendices B. Social Cost of Waterborne and
Chemical Wastes/Bag: It is virtu-
Appendix A: Plastic Bag Consumption in ally impossible to estimate the cost
Rhode Island and the United States of the 1.125 grams of atmospheric
I. Consumption and waterborne chemical waste be-
A. 192 million plastic bags/yr in cause there are so many different
Rhode Island (Bailey, 2006) types of chemicals in this mixture
B. 100 billion plastic bags/yr in the that cause vastly different amounts
US (EPA, 2004) of environmental damage (Halweil,
C. 10 billion paper bags/yr in the 2006). However, it is likely that
US (EPA, 2004) the cost of these byproducts of the
production process are less than
II. Cost that of the carbon dioxide emis-
A. Plastic Bags cost $0.01/bag sions because there is much more
(Reusable Bags, 2006) CO2 emitted by weight/bag than
B. Paper Bags cost $0.03/bag other chemical waste.
(Reusable Bags, 2006)
III. Disposal II. Estimation of the Cost of Transpor-
A. Plastics comprise 11.3 percent of tation Externalities/Bag:
waste stream and a disproportionate It is very difficult to estimate the so-
percentage of litter (EPA, 2004). cial cost associated with the trans-
B. RIRRC pays one million dollars port of the plastic bags from facto-
annually cleaning up plastic bags ries to retailers. First, it is difficult
that are blown off its property and to estimate the amount of exter-
paying litter fines for those bags that nalities associated with a gallon of
it is unable to collect (Bailey, 2006). gasoline to begin with. Second, the
average transport distance of plastic
Appendix B: Cost Calculations of Plastic bags is unknown.
Bag Externalities
III. Estimation of the Cost of Disposal
I. Estimation of the Cost of the Pro- Externalities/Bag
duction Externalities/Bag A. Social Cost of Litter:
A. Social Cost of CO2 Emissions An estimate for the social cost
from Production of a Bag: It takes of plastic bag litter was obtained
594 BTUs to produce a single through finding the amount of
plastic bag. The production pro- money San Francisco paid cleaning
cess produces 6.1 kg CO2/ 210MJ up plastic bags and dividing this by
(Halweil, 2006). the total number of bags consumed
6 . 1 kg CO 2 0 . 029 kg CO 2
210 MJ MJ Cost of Street Cleaning:* $26,000,000/yr
Plastic Bags Percentage of Litter:* 10 percent
594 BTUs MJ 0 . 029 kg 2 . 2 lb 0 . 04 lb of CO 2 Number of Plastic Bags Sold:* 5,000,000/yr
´ ´ ´ =
bag 947 . 817 BTU MJ kg bag

The estimated cost of CO2 is $0.05/lb. $ 26 , 000 , 000 /yr 0 . 1 plastic bags 1
Thus, the social cost of 0.04 lb of emis- ´ ´ = $ 0 . 052 /bag
sions is 0.05*0.04= $0.0020 /bag. litter 1 unit of litter 5, 000 , 000 plastic bags
B. Social Cost of Land-Filling *All San Francisco waste data comes from
Plastic Bags: Haley, 2004.
RIRRC bears two principal costs
from proper plastic bag disposal.
The first is the processing cost of Sources
the bags. This cost is $0.024/bag.*
The second is the cost of litter pick- Bailey, Beth. “From Bags to Riches.”
Resource Recycling Feb. 2006: 16-20.
up and fines stemming from plastic Bisson, Terri. Personal interview. 15 Mar.
bags that blow off of the Central 2006.
Landfill site. This cost is one mil- Convery, Frank and Simon McDonnell.
“Applying Environmental Product
lion dollars per year. Since Rhode Taxes and Levies-Lessons from the
Islanders consume 192 million bags Experience with the Irish Plastic
per year, these cleanup costs add an Bag Levy.” Environmental Studies
Research Series: University College
additional 1/192= $0.0052/bag.* Dublin. 3 Mar. 2001.
Environmental Protection Agency.
C. Social Cost of Improper Recycling “Plastic Trash Bags.” United States
Government. 2004. < http://www.
and Composting of Plastic Bags: epa.gov/cpg/products/trashbag.
Once again, data from San Francis- htm>.
co facilities will be used to calculate Franklin Associates Ltd. “Paper Vs. Plastic
Bags.” Institute for Environmental
the social cost from plastic bags in Life Cycle Assessment. 2004. 27
the recycling stream. Apr. 2006 <http://www.ilea.org/lcas/
Cost of Removing Bags from Recycling Stream:* Goodyear, Charlie. “San Francisco Supes
Vote to End Plastic Bags in Stores.”
The San Francisco Chronicle. 27
Cost of Clearing Machinery Jams Cause by Plastic
Mar. 2007. <http://sfgate.com/cgi-
Bags*: 100,000/yr bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/27/
Reduced Revenue on the Sale of Recyclables Due to BAG1ROSLSG4.DTL>
Bag Contamination*: 100,000/yr Haley, Robert. California Department
Cost of Removing Bags from Compost*: of the Environment. 17 Nov.
400,000/yr 2004. < http://www.mindfully.org/
Total: Plastic/Bans/Costs-Paper-Plastic-
$1,094,000/yr Bags17nov04.htm>.
Halweil, Brian. “Plastic Bags.” Worldwatch
$1,094,000/yr *1/5,000,000 bags = $0.022/bag Institute. 27 Apr. 2006 <http://www.
IV. Total Social Cost of a Single Plastic Bag “Irish Bag Tax Hailed Success.” BBC News.
CO2 Emissions: 20 Aug. 2002. < http://news.bbc.
$0.0020/bag co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2205419.
Litter: Reusable Bags. “Facts and Figures
$0.0520/bag Regarding the True Cost of Plastic
Landfill: Bags.” 2006. < http://www.
$0/0292/bag RI Litter Task Force Meeting. Personal
Improper Recycling: observations. 12 Mar. 2006.
$0.0220/bag RI Senate Committee on Agriculture
and the Environment. Personal
Total: observations. 5 Apr. 2006.
$0.1052/bag Schiller, Barry. Telephone interview. 12
Apr. 2006.
Watson, Traci. “S.F. Consider 17-cent Tax
Thus, a low estimate of the social cost of on Grocery Bags.” USA Today. 22
a single plastic bag is 10.52 cents. Nov 2004.

The Case for Decoupling:
A Policy to Promote Energy Efficiency
Jonas Ketterle, Daniel Bachmann, Tyson Cook, Jonhyok Heo, and Jordan Shackelford
Stanford University

Executive Summary I. Introduction

Improving energy efficiency is the most In 2006, the California (CA) State
cost-effective method to reduce green- Assembly passed and Governor Arnold
house gas emissions. If the entire US Schwarzenegger signed into law the most
had a similar per capita energy use as significant carbon policy established
California did in 2005, it would be the to that date in the United States. Un-
equivalent of taking 25 million cars, or der Assembly Bill 32 (AB32) California
all the cars in California, off the road. In continued its role as the frontrunner on
California, utility revenues are indepen- environmental legislation in the country,
dent, or decoupled, from electricity sales, setting an ambitious target to reduce car-
which removes the economic disincentive bon emissions in the state to 1990 levels
for utilities to promote energy efficiency.
by 2020, and 80 percent of 1990 levels by
California also has the most effective en-
2050.2 While evaluating what these tar-
ergy efficiency programs nationwide. State
gets mean and how they will be achieved
policies supporting decoupled electric
is still an open question, it is clear that
markets would address global warming
AB32 will result in a renewed focus on
by allowing utility companies to invest
in energy efficiency without sacrificing energy saving policy in California’s energy
profit. This paper analyzes the case for sector, the results of which will be under
decoupling. After examining the history close scrutiny worldwide.
of decoupling, it explains the mechanics, California’s leadership in energy effi-
policy approaches, effects, and criticisms ciency has been a result of a suite of effec-
of decoupling. tive policy and regulatory measures along
Decoupling utility revenues from with investments from energy utilities
sales is an essential first step toward de- themselves. Together, these activities have
creasing US greenhouse gas emissions. allowed California to maintain a relative-
Enacting effective decoupling policies will ly constant rate of energy use per capita
require concentrated efforts at the state since 1975, even as the gross state product
level that take into account the unique doubled over the past two decades.3 In
circumstances of each electricity market. the 1980s, California’s successful control
Federal support for the adoption of de- of per capita energy use placed it 30 per-
coupling in all states would benefit the cent below the national average, a mar-
entire nation tremendously in terms of gin which increased to almost 50 percent
energy and carbon emissions saved. over the past two decades (see Figure 1).
Indeed, California’s achievements in pro-
“Decoupling [has been] the single most im-
portant efficiency measure in the state of Cali- moting efficient energy use place the state
fornia.” lowest in per-capita energy consumption
– Jonathan Livingston, Pacific Gas and in the U.S.4
Electric Company1
Figure 1: Electricity Use Per Capita, Comparison of US and CA5

A look at California’s recent past removing disincentives for utilities to pro-

demonstrates that decoupling has been a mote efficient energy use. After an abrupt
critical strategy, and may be an important halt following deregulation in the 1990s,
element of meeting the goals of AB32. it was reinstated in 2001. This instrumen-
The record from the late 1970s forward tal policy has set the stage for cooperation
shows that California has already made in California between utilities and regula-
tremendous progress in controlling en- tory bodies such as the Energy Commis-
ergy usage and carbon dioxide emissions sion and the Public Utilities Commission
through effective state-wide promotion of in planning and investing in energy effi-
energy efficiency. In order to understand ciency in the electricity sector.
why energy efficiency will be important The concept behind decoupling is
for future reductions in carbon dioxide relatively simple. When electric utilities’
emissions in California, it is necessary to revenues are dependent upon volume of
examine the circumstances which have sales, there is no economic incentive for
fostered the State’s success in increasing utilities to promote efficiency in energy
energy efficiency to date. use by their customers. In other words,
These energy savings correspond to if revenue is coupled to kilowatt-hours
several efficiency developments in the sold, companies that are focused on profit
state, from technological breakthroughs have no reason to decrease the amount of
to legislative solutions, such as adoption kilowatt-hours sold by increasing energy
of appliance efficiency standards in 1977 efficiency. Indeed, this structure has led to
and the most aggressive energy efficiency promotion of outright wasteful energy us-
building codes in the nation. Among the age practices in order to boost profits. The
various developments is the significant consequences for carbon dioxide emis-
decision to decouple revenue from sales in sions are great because emissions from the
the electricity industry in 1982,6 thereby energy industry account for roughly 20

percent of total greenhouse gas pollution ficiency measures that reduce their sales,
in California.7 even if it is more economically efficient to
An effective decoupling policy, on invest in efficiency rather than new gener-
the other hand, removes disincentives for ating capacity.
efficiency, and utilities can be encouraged Decoupling is a solution to this prob-
to undertake demand side management lematic ratemaking practice. A decoupling
aimed at reducing electricity consump- policy disconnects, or “decouples,” utility
tion while still meeting their bottom line. revenue from energy sales. The basic way
This paper will take an in-depth look at in which this is achieved is as follows:
how decoupling works and has been insti- Every few years, state regulators deter-
tutionalized as energy policy in the state mine how much revenue utilities need to
of California, and the ways in which it cover certain authorized costs. They then set
has affected energy use and carbon emis- electricity rates at a level that allows utilities to
sions over the past 30-plus years. This recover these costs, based on a forecast of sales.
If actual sales are above or below this forecast,
discussion begins with an historic look then revenues are ‘trued up.’ Over-collections
at California’s energy market in order to are given back to consumers in the form of
provide a context in which to evaluate reduced rates, and under-collections are elimi-
the effectiveness of decoupling. Possible nated with modest rate increases (typically
problems and alternatives will also be pre- pennies a month for the average household).9
sented. Finally, this paper will discuss rec- Since revenue becomes independent
ommendations for the implementation of of energy sales, decoupling “removes both
decoupling policies in other states and at the incentive to increase electricity sales
a national level. and the disincentive to run effective en-
ergy efficiency programs or invest in other
II. Background: What Is Decoupling? activities that may reduce load.”10 In this
way, both utilities and the customer can
The standard procedure for electric- benefit from the fact that electricity is a
ity ratemaking in the US “is economically regulated market. In a decoupled system,
inefficient because the utility does not “the utility will distribute less commodity
have the incentive to choose the least- with no corresponding loss of distribu-
cost option to provide energy service to tion revenue, while customers will benefit
its customers.”8 Prime examples of this from avoiding the economic and envi-
inefficiency can be found in utility poli- ronmental costs of unnecessary electricity
cies of the 1960s and 1970s, such as the generation.”11
notorious utility programs that gave away Decoupling policies were first enact-
energy guzzling light bulbs and promoted
ed in California in 1982, with other states
electric stoves, water heaters, and appli-
following later to varying degrees. When
ances to replace cleaner and more efficient
models using natural gas. properly implemented, these policies have
These wasteful utility policies are the been very effective in driving efficiency
result of standard US ratemaking regula- gains in both the electricity and natural
tion that gives utilities more profit if they gas sectors. Recognizing the importance
sell more electricity. This focus only on of decoupling, the United States Congress
the supply side leads utilities solely to modified the Public Utilities Regulatory
consider additional power plants to meet Act of 1978 through the National Energy
increased electric demand. It also drives Policy Act of 1992 to state that:
utilities vehemently to oppose energy ef-
The rates allowed to be charged by a State III. Electricity Markets History
regulated electric utility shall be such that the
utility’s investment in and expenditures for en-
The U.S. electricity market was born
ergy conservation, energy efficiency resources,
and other demand side management measures in 1878, when Charles Brush perfected
are at least as profitable, giving appropriate arc lamps to light his Cleveland offices,
consideration to income lost from reduced and shortly thereafter began providing
sales due to investments in and expenditures electricity to the city for a charge of one
for conservation and efficiency, as its invest-
dollar an hour. By the late 1880s, nearly
ments in and expenditures for the construc-
tion of new generation, transmission, and dis- every city in the country had granted gen-
tribution equipment. eral electric light franchises to competing
. . . electric companies. In the late 1880s, J.
This objective requires that (A) regulators Pierpont Morgan, the nation’s premier
link the utility’s net revenues, at least in part,
banker, shifted the structure of utility de-
to the utility’s performance in implementing
cost-effective programs promoted by this sec- velopment from competition to consoli-
tion; and (B) regulators ensure that, for pur- dation and corporate control. His vision
poses of recovering fixed costs, including its was simple: there would be only one util-
authorized return, the utility’s performance ity, under his control. Through aggressive
is not affected by reductions in its retail sales
investments as well as influence in state
legislatures, industrialists such as Morgan,
Although the section regarding elec- Westinghouse and Samuel Insull began to
tric utilities left open the possibilities of monopolize urban lighting, power, and
using policies such as lost revenue adjust- trolley systems.
ments (discussed in Decoupling Alter- At the same time, grassroots action
started to demand public ownership of
natives section) as well, regulators were
power supply, and by 1888 some 53 cities
clearly instructed to implement decou-
and towns established their own munici-
pling policies for gas utilities. Despite the pal systems. Over the next hundred years,
language of the act, however, these chang- these public systems would deliver power
es were not mandatory. Instead, regula- more cheaply and reliably than private or
tory authorities are allowed to determine investor owned utilities (IOUs).15 Public
whether to adopt the Federal standards.13 power advocates agreed with Morgan that
As of October 2006, only seven states the utility business was a natural monop-
had decoupling mechanisms in place for at oly, but it should be the property of the
least one regulated natural gas or electric people. Nationwide from 1897 through
utility. These states are California, Mary- 1907, between 60 and 120 new munici-
land, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, pal utilities were formed every year. By
1912 there were 3,659 private utilities,
Oregon, and Utah.14 Of these states, only
and 1737 public ones.16
California had decoupling policies in
Utility magnate Samual Insull first
place for electric utilities. Although these introduced the idea of regulation by util-
are the only states with current decou- ity commissions to the National Electric
pling policies, a number of other states Light Association (NELA), of which he
have also had decoupling policies in the was president, in 1898. He presented the
past and a number are currently consider- NELA with what would become the un-
ing new policies. derlying structure of the modern utility
business: “The best service at the lowest
possible price can only be obtained,” he
said, “by exclusive control of a given ter- IV. Deregulation And Decoupling
ritory being placed in the hands of one
undertaking.” In exchange for this exclu- In 1982 California became the first
sive control, he proposed establishment state to adopt decoupling and, in so do-
of utility commissions to oversee these re- ing, to remove the disincentives for utili-
gional monopolies. Similar panels prolif- ties to promote energy efficiency and
erated throughout U.S. industries such as demand side management. The policies
railroads, food production, telecommuni- implemented were relatively successful
cation, and finance. By 1921 every state in managing energy demand, but came
but Delaware had established a utility reg- to a halt during the deregulation of the
ulatory commission. As the commissions late 1990s. Deregulation was proposed in
obliged the interests of the large private 1996 by the three biggest IOUs in Cali-
electricity providers, the spread of public fornia as a way to separate the business
utilities was crippled and many munici- of generating power from the business of
pal utilities were forced to buy electricity distributing it to the public. The prem-
from IOUs. ise was that utilities would spin off much
Through the maturation of the U.S. of their generating capacity and would
electricity market, investor-owned utili- compete for customers as pure distribu-
ties have become the main suppliers of tion companies, resulting in decreased
electricity. In 2005 IOUs’ generation prices.20
capacity comprised 42.6 percent of total With deregulation, utilities became
generation while publicly owned utilities distributors who bought electricity on
(POUs) only accounted for 9.7 percent the wholesale spot market and resold it to
of generation.17 IOUs currently domi- their customers. As a result, “[t]hey no
nate in terms of size and capacity despite longer had the responsibility to plan for
meeting their customers’ future electricity
the fact that the number of IOUs is only
needs by combining supply-side invest-
219 while there are currently over 2000
ments and demand-side investments in a
diversified portfolio of resources.”21 Then,
In California, gas and electric inter-
in 2001, a sequence of events led by an
ests merged from the San Francisco Gas unusually hot summer being followed by
Light Company and the Edison Light and a cold winter caused a major energy cri-
Power Company into the San Francisco sis in California. However, buying power
Gas and Electric Company (SFG&E) in at fixed costs, customers had little incen-
1896. In 1905, SFG&E spearheaded tive to conserve. As demand outstripped
the creation of Pacific Gas & Electric cheap wholesale supply, natural-gas prices
from what were once over five hundred soared and blackouts, brownouts, and
independent companies. Today, PG&E high electricity rates followed.
is the largest private utility in the United It was soon decided by the state as-
States.19 In 2001, three big IOUs, Pacific sembly that energy efficiency should
Gas and Electric Company, Southern once again become a policy priority for
California Edison Company and San Di- California in order to control electricity
ego Gas and Electric Company comprise markets. California’s legislature mandat-
74 percent of California electricity mar- ed reinstatement of decoupling in April
ket by retail delivery. 2001.22 Since that time, utility and
state investment in efficiency has grown
tremendously and energy savings have
followed. In September 2005, the utili- how a particular utility would fare under
ties commission adopted an aggressive a decoupled system.
energy-efficiency campaign under which Implementation of decoupling is
$2 billion would be invested in efficiency generally done on a case by case basis. In
between 2006 and 2008. This campaign California, two common techniques are
will see efficiency funding beyond the used: “(1) Using a mechanism that esca-
historic levels reached under decoupling lates revenue requirements by inflation
in the early 1980s and again in the early minus a productivity offset every year –
1990s,23 and will ensure that energy effi- and adding a factor to account for cus-
ciency will remain a priority in California tomer growth; or (2) Using an inflation
in the coming years. adjustment (consumer price index) to es-
calate the revenue requirement each year
V. Mechanics Of Decoupling with boundaries set for a minimum and
maximum allowable escalation.”25
Under decoupling, utilities use stan-
dard rate making procedures to predict VI. Variations On Decoupling
energy sales and required revenue, from
which electricity rates are determined. Although all decoupling policies fol-
However, rather than generating revenue low the same basic mechanism, there have
from actual energy sales multiplied by the been many different variations adopted.
rate, the utilities are guaranteed an “au- The policies can differ slightly in any of
thorized revenue” that includes operating the steps involved. In initially setting the
costs and a predetermined return on in- authorized revenue, figures such as prior
vestment. If the income from electricity or projected revenues, number of custom-
sales is above the authorized revenue, the ers, or some combination thereof can be
utilities place excess income in a balanc- used to help determine non-fuel costs.
ing account. Similarly, if the income from Having determined authorized revenue,
electricity sales is below the authorized prices can be corrected using a balancing
revenue, the utilities draw from the bal- account over varying amounts of time (see
ancing account to meet their authorized ratemaking example above). This account
revenue. Doing so insulates the utilities’ can be adjusted to the full difference re-
profits from the price shocks that occur gardless of the amount, adjusted up to a
under normal market regulation. A case certain percentage, or adjusted according
study is run below in Table I to examine to an average in the balancing account

Expe cted Expe cted Autho rized Actu al Col lected Actu al Repo rted Balan ce
Price Sal es Reven ue Price Sal es Reven ue Reven ue +/- ($) Account
($/kWh) (kW h) ($) ($/kWh) (kW h) ($) ($) ($)

Yr.1Yr 0.100 1000 100.00 0.100 1100 110.00 100.00 10.00 10.00

Yr.2Yr 0.100 1000 100.00 0.090 990 89.10 100.00 (10.90) (0.90)

Table 1. Decoupling Ratemaking Example24

over an extended time. The frequency of Oregon: Oregon first adopted a de-
general rate cases as well as price adjust- coupling policy, known as the Alternative
ments can also vary. Decoupling policies Form of Regulation (AFOR), for Pacifi-
often also involve fuel, weather, eco- corp in 1998. In AFOR, authorized rev-
nomic, or other adjustment clauses. All enue is set according to a forecasted test
of these variations are necessary because year and adjusted according to economic
no one specific policy is most appropriate indices. Rate adjustments are capped at a
for all different scenarios. Differences in percentage of current rates, and a clause
local economic or weather patterns, prior is included for “major events outside
regulatory policies, and the utilities them- the company’s control.”31 AFOR has
selves are only a few of the factors that can had only very small rate impacts while
affect the policy considerations. A repre- significantly increasing Pacificorp’s com-
sentative few of the different policies are mitment to energy efficiency.32 More
those of California, New York, Oregon, recently, in 2002, Oregon also approved
and Washington. a partial decoupling mechanism for the
California: California’s decoupling Northwest Natural Gas Company. This
policy, known as the ‘Electric Rate Ad- policy, known as Distribution Margin
justment Mechanism,’ or ERAM, was first Normalization, decouples 90 percent of
implemented for Pacific Gas and Electric non-weather variation from revenues, and
in 1982, then later for all other regulated accompanies an existing weather adjust-
gas and electric utilities.26 ERAM relies ment policy.33 Oregon now has the high-
on general rate cases every three years, and est percentage of high efficiency furnace
a future test year to determine authorized sales in the nation, which has been at-
revenues. ERAM also includes a large set tributed directly to the Northwest Natu-
of adjustments including factors for op- ral Gas Company’s promotion programs,
erations and maintenance, weather, fuel, incentivized by decoupling. Despite this
cost-of-capital, and number of customers. success, an independent study of the de-
These adjustments are revisited annually. coupling policy recommended that the
The results of ERAM have been positive. Oregon Public Utilities Commission,
Utility profits were effectively decoupled
from sales with no significant effect on “Consider adopting full decoupling. Be-
rates or the allocation of risk.27 The most cause of its simplicity, full decoupling would
be easier for customers to understand than the
common criticism of ERAM is its com- combination of DMN and WARM [weather
plexity, which is not seen to provide any adjustment rate mechanism]. In addition, full
benefit over the simpler mechanisms.28 decoupling does not have some of the gaming
New York: In 1992, New York adopt- incentives present in DMN (which could also
ed the Revenue Decoupling Mechanism be eliminated by removing the 90% factor ap-
plied to deferral calculations).”34
policy for Consolidated Edison. Like Cal-
ifornia’s ERAM, RDM used a three year
Washington: In 1991, Washington
general rate case cycle and a future test
applied a revenue cap along with a Pe-
year for authorized revenues, as well as de-
riodic Rate Adjustment Mechanism to
tailed attrition adjustments. In contrast to
decouple Puget Sound Energy’s revenues
ERAM however, RDM held adjustments
from sales. PRAM was Revenue per Cus-
constant throughout each general rate
tomer mechanism, which coupled Puget
cycle.29 This policy had minimal effects
Sound Energy’s authorized revenues to
on rates while encouraging considerable
the size of their customer base, rather than
investment in energy efficiency.30
sales volume.35 This has the advantages VII. Efficiency And Carbon Control
of being simple and easy to understand,36 Under Decoupling
removing efficiency disincentives while
reducing incentive to distort relative California’s decoupling policies have
prices, and preventing the uncertain price played a significant role in avoiding en-
response that can be caused by a pure rev- ergy usage and consequent emissions of
enue cap.37 Shortly after the implementa- greenhouse gases. This will be especially
tion of PRAM, Puget Sound Energy’s en- important in the future, due to the state’s
aggressive plan to cut emissions as laid
ergy savings increased drastically; the NW
out in AB 32. Here, we attempt to show
Energy Coalition notes that, “[w]hile this
the relation between decoupling policies
transformation in performance was not and reductions in energy use and CO2
entirely the result of decoupling, break- emissions in California from energy effi-
ing the link between Puget’s revenues and ciency programs, as quantified in a num-
sales was a critical part of the change.”38 ber of studies. Estimates of the carbon
As previously noted, specific region- impacts to date in California related to
al, economic, political, or other situa- decoupling, as well as potential impacts at
tions can affect the appropriateness of any a national level are determined based on
policy. However, as shown here, many generation and emissions data for Cali-
different decoupling measures have been fornia and the United States.
implemented with positive effects. As a Several studies show that policy and
investments in support of energy efficien-
result, although policies must be carefully
cy have had a significant and quantifiable
formulated to meet specific local require-
impact on energy usage in the state of
ments, decoupling revenues from sales is California. While decoupling has clearly
uniformly recommended. played a role in these reductions, distin-
guishing the sole effects of decoupling
compared with other important measures Though some of these savings are a
is virtually impossible. There are simply result of mandatory utility spending in
too many factors affecting efficiency and efficiency, a large part is also a result of
energy use to isolate benefits due to de- voluntary investments, which are directly
coupling policies alone. Furthermore, related to decoupling. This is because un-
decoupling itself does not provide direct der decoupling, avoided kilowatt hours
incentives and investments for energy are often more valuable to utilities than
savings. Rather it allows for successful ef- sold kilowatt hours. This is the case in
ficiency programming and action to take California, where efficiency projects cur-
place by removing disincentives with re- rently cost around 3¢ per kWh; far less
spect to demand side management on the than the cost to the utility of a long term
part of utilities. This is why decoupling contract for power or the cost of investing
has often been referred to as a necessary in new generation capacity.40
but not sufficient condition for success- While explicit links cannot be drawn
ful energy efficiency measures in Califor- between these savings and decoupling
nia.39 policies, evidence suggests that decou-
By accounting for the effects of utili- pling has created the conditions necessary
ty efficiency programs, and energy savings for efficiency programs to be as success-
from appliance and building standards, ful as they have been. For example, of the
several studies have estimated how much more than $700 million per year invested
energy consumption has been avoided in in energy efficiency in California, around
California since the mid 1970’s. These $400 million comes from utilities’ own
studies illustrate a record of effectiveness investments in demand side management
that is related in part to a successful de- to cut costs, which is encouraged by poli-
coupling regime. Figure 2, showing cu- cies that decouple electricity revenue and
mulative energy savings, illustrates how sales. The remaining $300 million result
efficiency measures have impacted energy from mechanisms such as the public
use through the past 30 years. By 2003, goods surcharge. This charge, required
an amount roughly equal to 40,000 GWh by the California Public Utilities Com-
of electricity was avoided due to energy mission for efficiency programs, is placed
efficiency, and importantly, roughly one by investor owned utilities on customers’
half of that amount is attributed to utili- electricity bills.42
ties’ energy efficiency programs. The year by year results of Califor-
nia’s significant efficiency investments are
shown in Figure 3. An interesting feature
of this figure underscores the importance
of decoupling in the state’s energy sav-
ings: in the era since decoupling was first
established in California, the years with
the lowest total savings from energy ef-
ficiency were 1999 and 2000.43 These
correspond to the restructuring period
during which decoupling was temporar-
ily abandoned. During this time, utilities’
voluntary investments in efficiency prac-
tically disappeared, leaving only funds
Figure 2: Cumulative Energy Savings from California’s
Efficiency Programs / Standards41 from the mandated public goods charge
Figure 3: Past and Projected Yearly Energy Savings from Efficiency in California45

to promote efficiency programs. This ob- California was responsible for over 50
servation is consistent with the assertion million metric tons of carbon dioxide
that decoupling is an important part of emissions into the atmosphere in 2005.46
the equation in terms of how much in- Dividing this quantity by the total elec-
volvement energy utilities have in en- tric energy generated in the state in 2005
ergy efficiency promotion in California. yields an average rate of 0.2 kg of carbon
Figure 2 also shows another dip in total dioxide emissions per kWh. Due to Cali-
reported energy efficiency savings that oc- fornia’s clean energy mix relative to the
curs in 1987-1990. This dip is the result rest of the U.S., this is roughly one third
of two changes in measurement metrics the national average.47 Using this same
that improved reporting of net program method for each year from 1995 through
savings. These changes disallowed utilities 2005, a period which was chosen due to
to include energy efficiency investments availability of data, an approximation of
made by consumers outside of the util- emissions reductions due to energy sav-
ity program, and it included improved ings in California can be made. As a re-
and more methodological energy savings sult, we estimate that investments during
analysis that resulted in lower estimates of 1995-2005 resulted in three million met-
program savings.44 Therefore, this first ric tons of avoided carbon dioxide emis-
dip does not reflect on the effectiveness of sions in 2005 in CA alone.48 Scaling this
decoupling as a policy. analysis to a national level, it is estimated
Moving from energy savings to car- that if the entire United States saved as
bon dioxide emissions reductions is done much energy as California did for the pe-
by estimating average emissions per unit riod from 1995 to 2005, carbon dioxide
energy from greenhouse gas emitting emissions in the amount of 121 million
sources in California, and relating these metric tons might have been avoided in
to total electricity consumption per year. 2005 alone. This is the equivalent of
According to the Energy Information removing 25 million cars from the na-
Administration, electricity generation in tion’s roads that year, equivalent to get-

ting rid of all cars in California.49 Decoupling faces the same obstacle
A large fraction of these reductions as other policies and technologies that
are related to decoupling policies. This is are favorable to a stronger, more coherent
because these policies fostered the invest- energy policy: entrenched utilities. Util-
ments in energy efficiency that occurred ity opposition can be characterized by an
during this time period. This study active resistance specifically to decoupling
of the energy and emissions reduction and a general unwillingness to change. In
impacts of efficiency in California iden- a survey conducted by the National Regu-
tifies no single responsible factor. Rather, latory Research Institute (NRRI), of sixty-
it highlights the savings that have been five public utility commissioners, the only
made in conjunction with the adoption ones in favor of decoupling as an approach
and implementation of decoupling poli- to improving demand side management
cies. One cannot discount other efficiency (DSM) were those who had already en-
developments during this same time pe- acted or been previously involved with
riod, but it is clearly possible to attribute decoupling; the rest were concerned or
much of the effectiveness of California’s uncertain about how it would affect their
energy management strategies to the de- profits.52 The industry operates on twen-
coupling policies that have allowed them ty-plus year time frames with extremely
to succeed. expensive capital costs — it doesn’t adopt
new policies readily. As was mentioned at
VIII. Market Resistance a recent Energy Crossroads conference at
Stanford University, utilities are notorious
With such enormous benefits, one for their resistance to change and decou-
may question why decoupling in the elec- pling is just one more change that creates
tricity industry has not been widely ad- uncertainty in the minds of CEOs.53
opted by more states or even adopted at Many in the industry question the
the Federal level. Despite the decoupling efficacy of decoupling by asserting that
clause of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, the costs and benefits of decoupling have
there has been no Federal push for such a not been established because they have
policy because the Federal Energy Regu- not been thoroughly tested or widely ad-
latory Commission (FERC) has no juris- opted. While the volume of literature on
diction over such matters, which are left decoupling is perhaps smaller than other
to each individual state’s Public Utility public policies, there is still overwhelming
Commission.50 At the state level, where evidence that decoupling is almost always
decoupling is a salient issue, the reasons effective at improving DSM and inte-
for a lack of adoption are more compli- grated resource planning (IRP) in states
cated. It has been found that where it has been enacted. Companies are
profit-seeking entities. The very idea of
“… despite the surging interest in regu-
latory decoupling, there are thus far relatively revenue adjustments capping profits can
few cases where such an approach has been be anathema to businessmen and share-
enacted and effectively implemented for a suf- holders who would prefer to have unlim-
ficient period of time to begin to assess results. ited earnings potential. But what many
The states of Oregon and California are the
opponents fail to see is that decoupling
leading examples.”51
shields utilities, and by extension share-
To understand why this is the case, some holders, from the significant price fluc-
of the motives for decoupling opposition tuations that damage revenue streams and
must be examined. make investment in the utility unattract-
ive. Consumers are protected by price put forth by opposition is the idea that re-
fluctuations, for instance during unusual moving utility risk usually means that the
weather, while utilities’ revenue is protect- cost to the consumer will increase. This
ed from things such as aggressive DSM or reasoning simply does not make sense. In
high fuel prices. While it might be ad- cost estimation, companies charge more
vantageous to shield both the consumer when their risks are higher because they
and utility from weather fluctuations and need to be able to recover their costs in
economic cycles, opponents are worried the event that they do not sell as much as
that utilities are also shielded from non- planned. When risks are lower, compa-
productive DSM and poor internal cost nies can charge much less because they do
controls.54 As the NRRI puts it, “[de- not have to build as much protection into
coupling] obliterates lost revenue that their projections.
is attributable to any cause whatsoever.” Opponents also argue that the loss of
This assertion is only partially true; de- customers brought on by an indifference
coupling without proper rate adjustments to competition can lead to increased rates
might behave in this manner, but the way as utilities need to charge more per cus-
in which the electronic rate adjustments tomer to pay for existing infrastructure or
mechanism (ERAM) works in California capital. In other words, they get a lower
accounts for such things as productivity, utilization rate from their previous invest-
and internal cost controls. ments. For this reason it is important
Critics also argue that decoupling that regulators set the rates properly from
causes increased rate volatility. This ar- the outset and include in their adjustment
gument is correct only in the narrowest mechanisms things that will compensate
sense. At the end of each year, when for this possibility. Opponents also ar-
revenue adjustments are made, rates will gue that when DSM is more expensive
change as a result. The yearly stepwise than the cost of extra supply, decoupling
change in rates is actually quite small and raises prices. This is true, but the entire
occurs at predetermined times—hardly a premise of decoupling is that there are a
case for volatility, especially compared to whole host of DSM actions that are both
pre-decoupling, where rates change con- cheaper and provide better service to the
tinuously due to things like varying fuel customer than additional supply, which
costs.55 has been proven in California (as shown
The most successful argument against in the previous section). As long as the
decoupling, but not necessarily the most cost of conserved energy is less than the
persuasive, is the insistence that rates in- additional supply required to generate
variably increase when decoupling is en- such savings, the ratepayer should see re-
acted. Some even state that, “…the adop- duced rates while the utility earns profit.
tion of a decoupling mechanism may Decoupling turns utilities from sellers of
signal to investors and ratepayers alike a least-cost commodity to a provider of
that the utility’s regulators are prepared to least-cost energy services.
authorize price increases for the purpose
of protecting the environment.”56 For IX. Implementation
those who think that rate determination
should include environmental and social Poor program implementation can
costs, a small rate increase would be ac- also make decoupling politically difficult,
ceptable. To many utilities and ratepay- but this should not be considered a fail-
ers, it would not. An abstract reasoning ure of decoupling policy itself. This was
the case with Maine, which previously at- circumstances that characterize each elec-
tempted decoupling, but the results were tricity market. However, federal support
less than encouraging and they reverted for the adoption of decoupling in all
back to old programs because of ratepayer states will greatly facilitate efforts at state
backlash. Regulators failed to revisit the levels to educate and create demand for
rate case even though utilities were accu- decoupling through citizens, utilities, and
mulating revenue year after year during energy regulators.
a prolonged economic recession. As the
general economic conditions declined, X. Alternatives To Decoupling
ratepayers expected that their rates should
go down as well, but they did not because Opponents of decoupling often point
of the revenues the utility had to achieve. to alternatives as being more desirable.
Regulators should have revisited the rate The most dominant alternative histori-
case more frequently during the econom- cally has been lost revenue adjustments
ic recession to adjust rates properly and (LRA). LRAs are revenue adjustments for
make sure revenue streams for the utilities revenue lost to DSM policies. LRAs are
balanced properly. However, failure to do favorable to utilities because they do not
so in the early years of the recession made cap revenue and they are easier to game.
it impossible for regulators to deliver the It is exceptionally difficult to disentangle
expected lower rates during the recession, the exact effect any given DSM policy has
resulting in consumer backlash.57 There- on a utility, and it is made even more dif-
fore, this case is seen more as an account- ficult by the fact that utilities often pro-
ing failure on the part of the rate makers mote DSM that looks good but is actu-
than a failure of decoupling policy itself. ally intended to increase energy use. For
The perceived disadvantages of de- example, installing compact fluorescent
coupling and utility resistance with regard light bulbs is effective provided they are
to changes in policy only partially explain replacing existing light bulbs, not when
why it has not been more widely adopted. they are being added as part of a security
The reason is quite simple. With the ex- system that a utility may be pushing to in-
ception of a few states like California and crease electricity demand. These types of
Oregon, there has been little progress be- ambiguities mean that the process is high-
cause there is no core group of constitu- ly litigious, and most utilities are quite
ents or private entities that are responsible successful at making sure LRAs work in
and in the position to demand such ac- their favor.58 LRAs are a bad alterna-
tion. The utilities by no means lose under tive; they do not remove the disincentive
decoupling, but they are not convinced to sell more electricity.
enough of its benefits to lobby for it them- Very recently, performance based
selves. Even though it benefits ratepayers, ratemaking (PBR) has been suggested as
citizens are not clamoring for it because it a viable alternative to decoupling. This
is a complex issue few have heard of. It method uses a systems benefit charge on
customers’ bills to fund efficiency and
makes extraordinary sense from an energy
renewable programs.59 Programs have
efficiency or societal viewpoint, but is not
been recently enacted by Massachusetts,
part of most policy discussions. Enacting
Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont,
effective decoupling policy will require
Minnesota, and Nevada, and pilot pro-
substantial individual efforts at state lev- grams are slated by Maryland, New Jer-
els with consideration towards the unique sey, North Carolina, and Ohio.6/ PBR is
great because it encourages efficiency and improvements energy efficiency.
renewables, but PBR also does not reduce Improving energy efficiency and re-
the utility’s incentive to sell more electric- ducing energy use are the cheapest and
ity. They should be seen, then, not as an easiest ways in which we can reduce our
alternative to decoupling, but as comple- national greenhouse gas emissions. If the
mentary regulation — PBR and renew- whole of the United States were to achieve
able portfolio standards (RPS) can ensure proportionally the same energy efficien-
that when new supply is created under cies as California in 2005, it could remove
decoupling, it will come from cleaner en- the equivalent of 25 million cars from the
ergy sources. nation’s roads, equivalent to getting rid of
all cars in California. It is our view that
XI.Recommendations And Conclusion decoupling utility revenues from sales is
an essential first step toward mitigating
Current regulatory regimes and mar- the U.S.’s role in global climate change.
ket practice in many states strongly tie Enacting effective decoupling policy will
utility profits to electricity sales levels. require substantial individual efforts at
As a result, there exists a strong incentive state levels with consideration towards
for utilities to increase sales and a corre- the unique circumstances that character-
sponding disincentive for utilities to sup- ize each electricity market. With federal
port energy efficiency programs. On the support for the adoption of decoupling
other hand, by allowing energy efficiency in all states, in keeping with the commit-
programs to succeed, decoupling policies ments of the National Energy Policy Act
are a critical element for reducing energy of 1992, the entire nation would benefit
demand and, consequently, dangerous from decreased energy consumption and
greenhouse gas emissions. reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
Decoupling policies are preferable to
the related alternatives, such as lost rev- Sources
enue adjustments or performance based
ratemaking alone. This is because decou- 1. Livingston, Jonathan. Panel:
Making Renewables and Efficiency
pling policies do a better job of addressing Competitive. Energy Crossroads
all potential barriers to energy efficiency, Conference. Stanford University.
reduce gaming incentives, and reduce vol- March 2, 2007
2. Union of Concerned Scientists
atility in both consumer prices and utility Fact Sheet. AB32: Global Warming
revenue. Despite some skepticism, recent Solutions Act; 2007 http://www.law.
examples show that utility revenues can stanford.edu/program/centers/enrlp/
be decoupled from sales without undue 3. Bachrach, Devra, Ardema, Max,
stress on either customers or utilities. and Alex Leupp Energy Efficiency
However, decoupling provides only Leadership in California: Preventing
the Next Crisis. Natural Resources
an indirect incentive for utilities to im- Defense Council. Silicon Valley
prove performance. It serves principally Manufacturing Group. April 2003
only to remove existing barriers, and so 4. Rufo, Michael and Fred Coito.
California’s Secret Energy Surplus:
should be viewed is a necessary but not The Potential for Energy Efficiency.
sufficient requirement for successful en- Hewlett Foundation Energy Series.
ergy efficiency promotion. Accordingly, 2002
5. Rosenfeld, Art.
decoupling policies should be enacted 6. Canine, Craig. California Illuminates
along with other programs or incentives the World. On Earth Magazine.
to promote reductions in energy use and Spring 2006 http://www.nrdc.org/

onEarth/06spr/ca.pdf 31. NW Energy Coalition. Testimony
7. See Appendix A for 2005 emissions on PGE and NW Natural proposals.
from electricity production Before the Public Utility Commission
8. Carter, Sheryl. NRDC Follow Up of Oregon, October 2001.
Memo to August 2001 Oregon Public 32. Public Utility Commission of
Utilities Commission Workshop. Oregon. Order No. 98-191, Entered
9. http://policy.rutgers.edu/ceeep/ May 05, 1998.
images/SCarter.decoupling%20 33. Carter Memo, 2001.
memo-1.doc 34. D Hansen and S Braithwait. “A
10. Canine, 2006 Review of Distribution Margin
11. Carter, 2001 Normalization.” Christensen
12. Carter Memo, 2001 Associates Energy Consulting, Mar
13. United States Energy Policy Act of 31, 2005.
1992 35. Hansen, 2005.
14. See, for example, Carroll Electric 36. Kushler, 2006.
Membership Corporation. “PURPA 37. Questar Gas, 2004
Frequently Asked Questions.” 38. G Comnes et al. “Performance-Based
Available at http://www.cemc.com/ Ratemaking for Electric Utilities.”
purpa_faqs.asp Vol. 1. Lawrence Berkeley National
15. Kushler, Martin; York, Dan, and Patti Laboratory, Nov 1995.
Witte. “Aligning Utility Interests 39. NW Energy Coalition. Testimony
With Energy Efficiency Objectives: on PGE and NW Natural proposals.
A Review of Recent Efforts at Before the Public Utility Commission
Decoupling and Performance of Oregon, Oct 2001.
Incentives.” American Council for 40. Carter, Sheryl. “Breaking the
and Energy Efficient Economy. Consumption Habit: Ratemaking
Washington, DC October 2006. for Efficient Resource Decisions,”
16. Wasserman, Harvey. The Last National Resource Defense Council.
Energy War: The Battle over Utility Electricity Journal, 2001. http://www.
Deregulation. Seven Stories Press. nrdc.org/air/energy/abreaking.asp
1999 41. Implementing California’s Loading
17. Wasserman, 1999 Order for Electricity Resources,
18. Wasserman, Harvey. “California’s California Energy Commission.
Deregulation Disaster.” The Nation. Doc.-400-2005-043, July 2005
January 25, 2001 http://www. 42. Chang, Audrey B., Rosenfeld,
thenation.com/doc/20010212/ Arthur H., and Patrick K. McAuliffe;
wasserman Energy Efficiency in California and
19. Wasserman, 2001 the United States: Reducing Energy
20. Berman, Dan and John O’Connor. Costs and Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
Who Owns the Sun: People, Politics, Draft Chapter for Climate Change
and the Struggle for a Solar Economy. Science and Policy. 2007
Chelsea Green Publishing. 1996. 43. Bachrach, 2003
21. Wasserman, 2001 44. Chang, 2007
22. Canine, 2006 45. Messenger, Mike: Discussion of
23. Carter Memo, 2001 Proposed Energy Saving Goals For
24. Canine, 2006 Energy Efficiency Programs in CA.
25. Eto, Joseph; Stoft, Steven, and CA Energy Commission, 2003.
Timothy Beldin. “The Theory and 46. Chang, 2007
Practice of Decoupling. Energy and 47. See Appendix A for Energy
Environment Division.” Lawrence Information Administration statistics
Berkeley Laboratory. University of on emissions and generation
California. 1994 48. Calculations based on Environmental
26. Kushler, 2006 Protection Agency vehicle emissions
27. Kushler, 2006. data: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/
28. Eto et al., 2004. consumer/f00013.htm
29. See, for example, Questar Gas 49. See Appendix A for statistics and
Company. “White Paper on calculations
Alternative Regulatory Options.” No. 50. Based on Bureau of Transportation
05-057-T01. 2004. http://www.psc. Statistics information for 2004.
utah.gov/gas/05docs/05057T01/ http://www.bts.gov/publications/
Tariff-G%2012-19.doc national_transportation_statistics/
30. Eto et al., 2004. html/table_01_11.html

51. “About FERC.” Federal Energy Regrettably, only one appendix could be
Regulatory Commission. 11 Aug. shown, due to limited space. Please contact
2005. 2 March 2007. http://www.
ferc.gov/about/ferc-does.asp caitlin.howarth@rooseveltinstitution.org to
52. Kushler, 2006. obtain the original.
53. Eto, 1994
54. Byron, Jeff. CEC Commissioner.
Panel: Making Renewables and
Efficiency Competitive. Energy About the Authors
Crossroads Conference. Stanford
University. March 2, 2007
55. Graniere Robert and Anthony The case for decoupling was writ-
Cooley, Decoupling and Public ten in winter 2007 as a group project for
Utility Regulation. The National climatologist Stephen Schneider’s class
Regulatory Research Institute. called “Controlling Climate Change in
Columbus, OH. August 1994
56. Carter Memo, 2001 the 21st Century”. Danny Bachmann,
57. Graniere, 1994 Tyson Cook, Jinhyok Heo, and Jordan
58. Decoupling White Paper #1 Edward Shackelford are all recent graduates from
Bloustein Center for Energy, Stanford’s Atmosphere and Energy pro-
Environmental, and Economic gram. Jonas Ketterle is a senior in me-
Policy Presented for discussion at the
Strategic Issues Forum meeting on chanical engineering at Stanford, and a
Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2005 senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institution.
59. Prusnek, Brian C., Advisor to
Commissioner Susan P. Kennedy;
California Public Utilities
Commission. Promoting Energy
Efficiency in California. State EE/
RE Technical Forum: Decoupling
Energy Sales from Revenues and
Other Approaches to Encourage
Utility Investment in Efficiency. May
18, 2005
60. Decoupling White Paper #1.
Edward Bloustein Center for Energy,
Environmental, and Economic
Policy Presented for discussion at the
Strategic Issues Forum meeting on
Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2005
61. Kushler, 2006.
62. Based on Bureau of Transportation
Statistics information for 2004.
http://www.bts.gov/publications/ Appendix A
html/table_01_11.html 1. Calculation of Cars Taken Off the

distanc e traveled (miles/year) 12,000

average passen ger car emissions (lbs/ mile) 0.916 http:/ /www. epa.gov/otaq/c onsumer/f00 013.htm
conversion from lbs to kg 0.4536
average passen ger car emissions (kg/year) 4985.9712
average passen ger car emissions (metric
tons/ year) 4.9859712
emission savings from decoupling in 2005 if
nationwide 124,302,525
Cars ta ken off road in 2005 alone 24,930,454
Total Cars in US 243,023,485 http:/ /www. bts.go v/publications/na tional_trans portation_statis tics/ht ml/table_01_11.html

Toward Inclusion: Realizing the Civic
Potential of the Earned Income Tax Credit
Niko Karvounis, Oxford University

Executive Summary ment Accounts and saving accounts

for low-income Americans.
The Earned Income Tax Credit • Speed up turn-around time for refunds.
(EITC) is a highly effective poverty re- • Simplify the tax code and EITC pro-
lief resource that is designed to allow for cess to allow for volunteers to focus a
administrative innovation on the part of greater proportion of time and atten-
third-party stakeholders and has an un- tion to social interactions.
tapped potential to benefit recipients in • Assist VITA sites in maximizing the
non-economic ways. Volunteer Income roles of non-technical volunteers and
Tax Assistance (VITA) sites—free tax instructive, educational presentations
preparation centers staffed by volunteers and materials regarding the history
and located in low-income communi- and political context of the EITC.
ties—represent the administrative mecha- • Encourage VITA coalitions to re-
nisms most suited for maximizing the frame the EITC as an opportunity to
non-economic benefits of the EITC and engage with policy and government
more specifically, build a foundation for rather than as solely ‘free money’ in
low-income civic engagement. Civic en- order to stimulate a greater political
gagement is the cornerstone of a healthy consciousness in recipients.
democracy and is much less widespread in • Create new community positions
low-income demographics. such as ‘community ambassador’
VITA services (1) maximize lump-
to maximize the social networking
sum claims for EITC claimants, helping
around VITA sites.
to provide a material basis for socioeco-
• Continue to link VITA services to
nomic mobility and potential civic en-
work support, asset-building, and oth-
gagement; (2) offer an atmosphere of
er capacity-building opportunities.
cooperation, identification, and social
• Formally construct a collaborative
connectedness that hone important civic
framework for Workforce Investment
skills; and (3) can serve as gatekeepers to
Boards, Community Action Agencies,
a wider network of developmental oppor-
VITA coalitions, and other local non-
tunities. In order to cultivate the benefits
profits to develop a mutually reinforc-
of VITA sites, and help foster the EITC
ing network of opportunity.
into a comprehensive tool for empower-
• Increase the presence of existing non-
ing low-income citizens, the following
reforms should be implemented: profit and community organizations
at VITA sites, in order to pool their
• Ban Refund Anticipation Loans existing resources and connections
(RAL), cap RAL fees, or strictly regu- into a ‘continuum of service’ made
late RAL interest rates. up of ‘prosperity centers,’ rather than
• Strictly regulate or ban the market- holding VITA services in locations
ing of RALs on IRS e-filing sites. not already dedicated to empowering
• Pass the Savings for Working Fami- low-income residents.
lies Act of 2007 to strengthen the • Protect VITA coalitions from budget
foundation of Individual Develop- cuts and political obstructionism.
• Increase Congressional funding for for certain segments of the population—
VITA services, and provide funding the EITC lacks the administrative stan-
for community entrepreneurship at dardization that characterizes traditional
the local level. welfare bureaucracies. Indeed, as a benefit
• Revise Community Services Block paid through the tax system, the EITC
Grant (CSBG) purposes to be con- is primarily a product of the dissolution
toured to the continuum of services of traditional welfarism. It is not situated
idea, in order to encourage a networked within an interlocking safety net of social
approach to low-income development. service programs through which clients
• Develop a community CARE Act in can engage in ongoing interactions with
order to establish tax incentives for governmental actors. Understandably, at
a greater contribution on the part of first glance there is little to expect from
coalition members and volunteers. the EITC as a framework for affecting
claimants’ lives as citizens rather than eco-
nomic beneficiaries. The policy design of
I. Introduction: The Earned Income the EITC—its structured arrangements
Tax Credit And Civic Engagement for implementing intended provisions
through certain mechanisms—appears
The Earned Income Tax Credit to be a truly minimalist one, suggesting
(EITC) stands out as both the most ef- that its capacity for structuring the non-
fective and the most broadly supported economic circumstances of EITC recipi-
poverty relief measure in the long history ents is low.
of United States social policy. The EITC But the flexibility of the EITC’s
is a refundable tax credit that offsets in- policy design in fact provides novel op-
come taxes owed by low-income workers. portunities for structuring the experience
If the credit exceeds the amount of taxes of claimants in non-traditional ways—
owed, qualifying EITC claimants file ad- opportunities that deserve attention. The
ditional tax forms to acquire a lump-sum experience of engaging with policy affects
payment.1 The EITC boasts an impres- the political consciousness and civic po-
sive economic résumé: every year it lifts tential of clients by shaping their per-
4.9 million people above the poverty ceptions of government and influencing
line;2 studies have shown the EITC to their personal senses of political efficacy.5
be the most significant contributor to the Engaging with a policy is a learning ex-
recent decreases in welfare use and recent perience—clients learn where they stand
increase in employment, labor supply, in relation to the government, glean in-
and female-headed households earnings; 3 tentions and priorities from the nature of
and the EITC has also been shown to off- the policy, and form a view of how gov-
set some of the recent increases in income ernment and politics affect their personal
inequality.4 lives. In the absence of an administrative
It is little wonder then that the major- mandate or a codified method for imple-
ity of scholarship and analysis surround- menting the EITC, third party stakehold-
ing the EITC is economic in nature, ers have intervened to implement the
with little attention paid to operational credit, resulting in varied experiences for
features that structure client experience. claimants. But rather than hindering our
Classified as a tax expenditure—an ob- ability to assess policy experiences, com-
scure provision of the tax code that allows peting administrative frameworks provide
special exclusions, deductions, and credits case-studies for gauging the experiential
dimension of the EITC and identifying from national think tanks, grant-making
potentialities for maximizing its non-eco- institutions, and activist groups. Despite
nomic benefits. their growing prominence—the percent-
The vast majority of EITC claims age of EITC claimants who utilized VITA
come in the form of lump-sum credit services doubled from 2000 to 2004—
claiming through paid or free tax prepara- free tax preparation services only account
tion services.6 Two-thirds of EITC house- for about two percent of EITC filers. In
holds pay a fee to process their tax forms contrast, paid tax preparation services
in order to receive the credit.7 While the processed between 65 and 70 percent of
paid tax preparation industry is highly EITC claims across that same period. The
fragmented—industry leaders H&R remaining claims were self-prepared.9
Block and Jackson Hewitt together ac- For-profit preparation services and
count for only one-third of the market— VITA sites represent two distinct lenses
major corporate tax preparers are poised through which to analyze the policy ex-
to rise in influence.8 The IRS has begun perience of EITC claiming. In doing so,
working closely with major tax prepara- we should pay special attention to the
tion companies to increase the number of potential of these mechanisms to utilize
online filings to 80 percent of all filings by the EITC as more than merely a financial
this year (2007). This e-filing program is provision and address some of the broader
assessed annually before Congress by the socio-political inequalities that marginal-
Electronic Tax Administration Advisory ize low-income citizens. There exists a
Committee, which includes the franchise great participatory political divide across
owner and president of H&R Block, the income levels: an individual who makes
senior vice president of Jackson-Hewitt, $75,000 or more a year is twice as likely
and other paid tax preparer representa- to vote or be contacted by campaigns as
tives. Thus despite the diffuse market of someone who makes $15,000 or less. This
tax preparation, there do exist a few major same affluent individual is three times as
players who exert a significant influence likely to engage in informal community
over the direction of the industry. activity, six times as likely to serve on local
Another innovative delivery mecha- boards, and two and a half times as likely
nism has emerged as well—one that to be affiliated with a political organiza-
provides an intriguing opportunity for tion as a $15,000 earner.10
analyzing the politics of EITC adminis- Such disparities are troubling. Com-
tration. Free tax preparation services for munity activity and civic engagement are
EITC claimants provided through Volun- keys to a healthy democracy—they edu-
teer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites cate citizens about their societal context,
have emerged as influential entities for
form a strong associational foundation
promoting and administering the EITC.
that allows for joint activity in the name
VITA sites are free tax preparation centers
stationed within low-income commu- of the public good, and give citizens the
nities, in local hubs such as community capacity to mobilize around their inter-
centers, churches, or public health cen- ests and articulate political preferences.11
ters. These sites are staffed by IRS-trained The sphere of civic engagement, broadly
volunteers and managed by a coalition of understood as participation in public life,
IRS agents, community leaders, and lo- is the most salient sector for which the
cal bureaucrats—whose efforts are usually EITC can be relevant as a tool of non-
supplemented by funding and advocacy economic empowerment.
II. Central Propositions portunity and cultivate the capacities and
The administrative ‘wiggle room’ pro- skills relevant to meaningful activity in
vided by the EITC’s policy design allows the public sphere.
us to contrast and compare two methods Throughout this article, multiple in-
of implementation that make for decid- depth interviews with organizers, coor-
edly different policy experiences. The cen- dinators, and participants in the Boston
tral question of this paper is: how can we EITC coalition are used to reinforce con-
maximize the non-economic benefits of ceptual commonalities between civic en-
the EITC, particularly civic engagement, gagement theories in political science and
through innovations in the administrative EITC administration through VITA ser-
framework of EITC claiming? I argue that vices. Due to limited time and resources,
VITA sites represent the most promising the interviews are drawn from individuals
opportunity for this maximization, be- involved in EITC administration only in
cause they (1) maximize lump-sum claims Boston, Massachusetts for 2005. Inter-
for EITC claimants, helping to provide a viewed subjects include the Massachu-
material basis for socioeconomic mobility setts IRS territory manager, the Director
and potential civic engagement; (2) of- of the Boston EITC Campaign, the head
fer an atmosphere of cooperation, iden- of the campaign’s Volunteer Recruit-
tification, and social connectedness that ment & Corporate Partnership division,
hones important civic skills; and (3) can the EITC director for Action for Boston
serve as gatekeepers to a wider network Community Development, Inc., and var-
of developmental opportunities. Each ious VITA site directors. This is an admit-
subsequent section addresses one of these tedly small sample, but the Boston VITA
assertions—maximized sums, civic skills, infrastructure is indicative of the nation-
and opportunity networks—in both illus- wide composition. These interviews were
trative and normative terms, delineating informally structured, but all focused on
(a) how VITA services provide these non- a few key issues: the respondents’ involve-
economic benefits and (b) what concrete ment in EITC campaigns, the logistics of
reforms—be they in terms of policy, orga- VITA site administration, the political
nization, or advocacy—can help cultivate developments underscoring advocacy ef-
these potentialities. forts, and assessments of the interaction
It is important to keep in mind that between VITA volunteers and clients.
civic engagement is used here to imply Access to EITC recipients is diffi-
more than direct engagement in political cult because their tax status is confiden-
processes. Ostensibly apolitical activities tial. However, eight openly consenting
such as organizing and participating in EITC claimants were contacted through
local meetings, joining clubs, and engag- community networks and interviewed
ing in informal community actions (such directly. Interviews with these individu-
as neighborhood watch organizations or als were similarly unstructured, but re-
park clean-ups) are all civically salient ac- volved around their experiences with tax
tions because they deal with public issues preparation, their views on government
and hone politically relevant skills such and politics, and their personal feelings
as writing, organizing, and articulating of political efficacy. The interviews, com-
preferences.12 The central non-economic bined with existing scholarship, highlight
benefits that we are concerned with are intriguing alignments between the build-
those that build community, develop ing blocks of effective citizenship and the
robust social connections, promote op- basic features of the VITA experience.
It is always dangerous to point to a In the most basic sense, the EITC is
sample as small as the one utilized here— an empowerment tool that enhances the
or a program as relatively under-re- material resources of low-income indi-
searched and politically un-established as viduals. Factors affecting the size of the
VITA services—as being indicative of an credit are thus important in that they ei-
ther maximize or undercut the potential
emerging national trend. Few indisput-
of the EITC as a material contribution to
able, systematic conclusions regarding the the resources necessary for civic engage-
guaranteed success of VITA sites as civic ment. The two primary methods of credit
gateways can be brought to bear, given claiming (paid and free tax preparation)
the practical limitations; rather, I hope to have important implications for both the
highlight how the character of VITA sites size and socioeconomic impact of the
align with the logic of civic engagement. credit.15
I mean to call attention to intriguing op- In 2000, Smeeding, Phillips, and
portunities and potentialities represented O’Connor looked at the application of
by VITA coalitions and suggest a course EITC credits from 5,000 low–income
of action in order to maximize the poten- taxpayers living in the Chicago area. They
tial for VITA sites as community institu- divided the use of funds into two catego-
tions. ries: consumption use (paying utility bills,
buying clothes, appliances, or furniture,
III. The Diverse Potential of VITA Sites and personal expenses) and improving so-
cioeconomic mobility (debt repayment,
As noted above, VITA sites provide
savings, tuition, and health costs). The
non-economic benefits in that they help
authors found that a once-a-year lump
clients maximize their credit claims, al-
benefit has greater potential for improv-
lowing for an increased foundation for
ing the investments associated with socio-
civic activity, expose clients to friendly,
economic mobility than does incremental
cooperative atmospheres that help to de-
credit claiming. This is because lump-sum
velop civic skills, and link clients into net-
claiming can help families to overcome a
works of opportunities. In this section I
short–term liquidity crisis and move be-
address each of these benefits and reforms
yond current consumption to meet more
that can amplify their positive impact.
strategic long-term goals.16 That same
year, Barrow and McGranahan, using data
3.1 Maximizing Claims from the Consumer Expenditure Survey,
Money is not only an important also concluded that households use lump-
definer of needs and interests, but also sums as a savings mechanism.17
a resource for political action. Material This is because expectation of a rela-
resources have profound implications for tively large lump-sum credit allows for
political participation. Income inequali- more efficient planning and allocation of
ties hew to other fault lines of political resources than an incremental credit flow.
division.13 Higher income is correlated Indeed, 56 percent of Boston VITA cli-
with more social mobility in that it re- ents in 2005—all of whom claimed the
duces the costs and increases the benefits credit lump-sum—reported that they
of participation. Further, higher income would put ten percent or more of their
individuals have the discretionary income refund in a savings account. Further, a full
to purchase education and are more likely 78.9 percent of clients reported that they
than poorer citizens to occupy high status planned to apply their refund in ways
positions in social networks.14 that Smeeding, Phillips, and O’Connor
categorize as socioeconomically beneficial There are many options for protect-
(paying debts, saving for a house, paying ing EITC claimants from RALs and en-
tuition, and medical costs).18 Therefore, suring that free tax preparation becomes
the lump-payment method—achieved a more common option for recipients.
through paid-tax preparation and VITA Though some states have passed laws de-
sites—is a good first step in equipping manding fuller disclosure from prepara-
claimants with an initial base for modest tion services, advocates have noted that
upward mobility. this is ultimately an ineffective ‘band-aid’
Thus administrative mechanisms af- strategy.20 Instead, policymakers and
fecting the amount of EITC credit de- legislators should follow the example of
serve attention from those interested in Connecticut, which became the first state
new strategies for low-income socioeco- to regulate RAL interest rates by prohib-
nomic development. Paid tax preparation iting tax preparers from brokering RALs
centers are increasingly marketing Re- beyond 60 percent annualized interest.
fund Anticipation Loans (RALs), which Simply banning RALs or capping RAL
are short-term cash advances against a fees are also options to protect claimants
customer’s anticipated income tax refund. from usurious loans.
The loans are offered at remarkably high Other options should also be pur-
interest rates, ranging from 40 to over sued to turn opposition to RALs into an
700 percent annualized. RALs particu- opportunity for low-income citizens. The
larly target low-income working families Savings for Working Families Act of 2007,
claiming the EITC. According to IRS introduced into the House in February
data, over 56 percent of all RAL borrowers 2007 and the Senate in March, seeks to
are EITC recipients, although this group strengthen the foundation of Individual
makes up only 17 percent of taxpayers. Development Accounts (IDAs). IDAs are
One out of every three EITC recipients tax-exempt individual savings accounts
gets a RAL.19 Given the implications of aimed at low-income asset building. Con-
lump-sum claiming—a positive correla- gress should pass the Savings for Work-
tion with investments that foster upward ing Families Act in order to help equip
social mobility, which in turn results in an low-income citizens with the means to
increased eventual likelihood of political self-sufficiency. Simultaneously, local
efficacy—it is reasonable to hypothesize advocacy groups and VITA coalitions
that unnecessary reductions of the credit, should make efforts to help low-income
such as RALs, undercut the EITC’s role as people open more bank accounts. Sav-
a material contribution toward socioeco- ings accounts allow recipients to apply for
nomic mobility. direct deposit of their refund—an option
The most important impact that free that gets them their refund faster, making
tax preparation can have on the material RALs less appealing—and prevents them
basis for civic potential is the maximiza- from needing to cash checks at establish-
tion of lump-sum credit claims through ments like grocery stores, which can take
VITA services that incur no cost for the a further fee from the refund. Luckily,
client. Since the form of the credit has so- VITA sites are often part of national coali-
cioeconomic implications, it is inherently tions that are supported by private finan-
tied to participatory factors. In an indirect cial institutions as well as non-profit and
but potentially significant way, free tax public groups (as will be shown in section
preparation has positive implications for 3.3). These partnerships could serve as the
the social mobility of EITC recipients. foundation for initiatives aimed at giving
more low-income people their own bank shape public decisions—by linking its
accounts and IDAs. Additionally, given members together through such shared
the appeal of RALs—a faster refund—any experiences and collaborative opportuni-
effort to speed up turn-around time on ties to develop civic skills.24
the part of the IRS would also be helpful. Similar opportunities for developing
Finally, the IRS should strictly regulate, civic skills and bridging social divisions
if not outright ban, the online marketing are less common today, particularly for
of RALs through websites endorsed by its low-income groups that tend to be less
e-filing system. engaged in civic life.25 This is troubling,
as feelings of political efficacy—the sense
3.2 Civic Skills and Social Networking of personal influence on politics or an ex-
Civic skills are the basic communica- pectation of governmental responsiveness
vis-à-vis individual actions—increase as
tive and organizational abilities that allow citizens get face-to-face experiences that
citizens to effectively participate in po- expand their political knowledge.26 But
litical life and convey political positions. VITA sites raise some interesting poten-
Important civic skills include possessing a tialities for recapturing the ‘civic class-
good vocabulary, being able to articulate rooms’ of the past in that they provide
preferences clearly, and ability to organize a fraternal setting where neighbors and
peers effectively. Individuals are most like- strangers engage in civically meaningful
ly to learn civic skills within the context interactions. Additionally, VITA sites rely
of an institution such as church, school, heavily on social networks for recruitment
or the workplace. Civic skills are critical and cultivation of a client-base.
to effective participation and are powerful Similar to the old procedures of dues
determinants of engagement.21 paying and membership processing, to-
The voluntary federations of 19th- day’s VITA services provide a means to
and early 20th-century America—guilds, increase the financial literacy and admin-
federations, and religious groups—taught istrative knowledge of EITC claimants.
people how to run meetings, handle Every EITC recipient interviewed stated
money, keep records, and participate in that the VITA volunteers informed them
group discussions.22 These personal en- of what was happening step by step and
gagements often cut across traditional provided a much more thorough ex-
socioeconomic lines, albeit within a planation of the claiming process than
limited scope.23 The fact that privileged commercial tax preparation employees at
elites along with low-income Americans H&R Block:
were active participants in voluntary fed-
erations such as fraternal and service or- “The lady at the community center took good
ganizations was important for a sense of care of me, explained things to me step by
shared citizenship. Furthermore, because step; at H&R Block [they] just show you “this
parallels to U.S. rules of taxpaying, such is what you got” and you sign, no explanations
about what is going on, about what you could
as dues collection, accounting, and mem-
do [to better your situation].”
bership criteria, were so central to the
sustainability of organizations, members Another claimant stated:
gained knowledge relevant to becoming
“The preparer [at H&R Block] was not knowl-
informed civic agents. Associations en-
edgeable; he took my information, punched
couraged transpartisan mobilization— into computer, I signed papers, and he said this
overt associational efforts that sought to is what you’re getting back, and that was it.”

Familiarity with the EITC process, Another recipient echoed this feeling:
learned through a friendly interaction,
is precisely the sort of ‘learning engage- “I knew her [the VITA volunteer] from my
ment’ that made old voluntary organiza- community already. She was friendly and per-
sonable—very patient, all smiley and nice.”
tions such a powerful force for honing
civic skills. Indeed, experiences at VITA It certainly remains to be seen wheth-
sites suggest an atmosphere of shared citi- er these personal connections can be
zenship resembling the vibrant bonds of translated into civic bonds capable of en-
old associations. VITA sites are staffed couraging collective action. But civic skills
entirely by volunteers—70,000 across the are born of seemingly banal contexts, and
nation for the 2004 tax season according are basic abilities that many educated in-
to the IRS—who represent a wide spec- dividuals take for granted. Thus a struc-
trum of income and education levels. Ac- tured environment of cooperation and
cording to the Boston Coalition directors, friendliness built around a social policy
VITA volunteer staff include “patient and represents a promising learning context.
understanding,” “high-level folks working The role of social connection also fac-
because they want to” such as professional tors into the methods of VITA client out-
lawyers and accountants. Indeed, the ba- reach. Like old associations, VITA sites
sic premise of VITA services—communi- see an outpouring of participants—both
ty-centered tax preparation executed by clients and volunteers—drawn from so-
volunteers from across various socioeco- cial networks. Of the 5,836 respondents
nomic strata—provides a built-in mecha- to the 2005 Boston EITC Campaign Sur-
nism for bridging together people from vey, 43.6 percent of the EITC claimants
different communities and demograph- heard about the free tax preparation sites
ics through shared experience.27 For ex- through social networks—friends, family,
ample, in 2005, 75 percent of a group of church, or school. Thirty percent of cli-
106 members of the American Taxation ents had come the previous year, and the
Association that was surveyed for a partic- rest had heard of the VITA site in their
ular study did pro-bono tax work. Ninety neighborhood through various community
percent of this work was for VITA sites, outlets such as local radio stations, newspa-
where they processed more than 30,000 pers, or outdoor advertisements. Commu-
federal and state tax returns.28 nity outreach is not unique to VITA sites;
Volunteers appear to be invested in but their situation in accessible and recog-
their role. EITC claimants and VITA vol- nized community institutions integrates
unteers cultivate a sense of identification them into their local infrastructure.
and connection similar to old voluntary There are three key points to address
organizations. All EITC recipients in- in constructing solutions aimed at sup-
terviewed responded that the VITA sites porting the potential noted in this section:
they attended were more comfortable and the maximization of positive learning
engaging than H&R Block: interactions, the possibility of bridging
“[The VITA site] was more personal than social capital, and the extension of the
H&R Block—it was more of a home set- social networks. With regards to positive
ting. At H&R Block it was more of a service- learning interactions, the VITA training
customer relation. Here [VITA site] you can program currently acknowledges that
have a conversation. We both know the same volunteers should “treat all taxpayers pro-
people. It’s more personal.” fessionally, with courtesy and respect.”29
Still, the bulk of VITA volunteer training
focuses on mastering the arcane intrica- viewed claimants said that they would use
cies of the tax code. The tax code, and the the free tax preparation services again—
mechanics of EITC requirements in par- this position could be particularly fruit-
ticular, should be simplified in order to al- ful in ‘snowballing’ community involve-
low for a less complex set of requirements ment. Similar positions could be created
for processing. This would allow for vol- for middle- or high-income volunteers.
unteer training to focus on the interactive Volunteer recruiters from diverse socio-
elements of the experience, such as what economic standings could be tasked with
information to communicate to clients or recruiting volunteers from their peer
how to ensure that VITA clients’ experi- groups in more affluent communities—a
ences are as informative as possible. job significantly easier if there exist fewer
In the absence of comprehensive tax technical requirements for volunteering.
reform to lessen the technical burdens Finally, in order to translate the VITA
on volunteers, VITA sites should rethink experience into increased political aware-
their administrative schema in order to ness on the part of claimants, advocates
build a larger role for volunteers who should reframe the EITC in order to clar-
might not be directly involved in form ify VITA services as a policy experience
processing. Positions such as filers, client rather than a transaction. A considerable
intake overseers, or ‘tablers’ who could hurdle to tapping into the civic poten-
man voter registration tables or informa- tial of VITA sites is the relative obscurity
tion booths could provide non-expert vol- of the EITC. Unlike welfare programs
unteers with a greater role to play in the which have a persistent engagement with
process. Already, non-technical positions the activities and needs of clients, most
such as greeters exist; VITA coalitions claimants view the EITC is a ‘flash in the
should think creatively about expanding pan’—a singular transaction with little
the realm of primarily interactive (as op- connection to established institutions.
posed to technical) volunteer opportuni- One interviewee commented that,
The creation of more non-technical “If the EITC were from government it would
volunteer opportunities could also pro- change the way I look at government—they’re
actually thinking about the little people.
vide community residents an opportunity
They’re looking at it from our point of view.
to participate in ways that may not cur- They’re trying to help us. But that money
rently be possible, given the difficulty of comes from me!”
learning the ins and outs of the tax code
and the commitment to volunteer train- Community organizers confirm that
ing. New positions such as ‘community most claimants look at the EITC as a yearly
ambassador’—a designated individual or opportunity for free money as opposed to
group tasked with spreading the word a governmental program. The messaging of
about local VITA services during tax VITA campaigns reflects this fact: the credit
season—could help ensure that the so- is marketed as an opportunity to “put mon-
cial network surrounding VITA grows ey back in your pocket” and encourages re-
through the activity of community resi- cipients to “earn it, keep it, save it.”
dents. Given the high level of continuity Marketing of the EITC—and the
amongst VITA clients—73.6 percent of scripts and interactions employed at VITA
EITC recipients who used Boston VITA sites—needs to make efforts at highlight-
services in 2005 used free tax preparation ing the fact that the EITC is a policy, tied
services the previous year and all inter- to political arrangements and institutions.
Simple revisions like citing the EITC as community residents because the EITC
“the government giving back,” building is universally appealing—after all, it’s free
a political awareness campaign around money. Emerging practices of incorporat-
EITC outreach, or creating informational ing health insurance, food stamps, Head
materials that integrate digestible bits of Start opportunities, and one-stop facili-
history surrounding the EITC can serve ties into VITA centers should continue.
to help claimants realize that when they VITA can expand their partnerships with
claim their credit, they are engaging with one-stop centers by working closely with
politics. Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs),
which are regional public-private enti-
3.3 A Continuum of Opportunity ties tasked with directing local workforce
development programs, and Community
VITA sites can be portals to oppor-
Action Agencies (CAAs), local public-pri-
tunity networks that help secure socio-
economic security for low-income clients. vate organizations devoted to combating
According to respondents, at VITA sites poverty.
claimants are “told…about a lot of stuff In Miami-Dade and Broward Coun-
they were doing there; a lot of interesting ty, Florida, VITA advocates have incor-
projects.” All recipients said that, upon porated together nine ‘prosperity cen-
going to a VITA site, they were made ters’—existing non-profit organizations
aware of other opportunities such as fuel that focus on linking youth and family
assistance, employment opportunities, in- programs, loans, civil rights, housing and
terview coaching, and language training. more—into a chain of VITA sites. The
One respondent noted: example of Florida suggests the potential
“While I was waiting outside, I saw a bunch of
of integrating VITA services with exist-
papers and someone came to talk to me about ing non-profit organizations that have
English classes, computer classes, and lots of specific established missions (similar to
stuff for the community.” integrating VITA services and one-stop
centers) rather than placing VITA sites in
An immersion in the opportunities libraries or gymnasiums which don’t have
and programs of community centers can that built-in capacity to offer additional
lead to education on public issues or at- services. This sort of partnership should
tainment of important skills and contacts, continue and grow because it couples
especially with regards to community VITA services with existing service infra-
projects.30 In the spirit of consolidating structures dedicated to empowering low-
self-sufficiency programs, five states have income citizens.
begun to link VITA services to work sup- VITA sites also have the benefit of
port benefits such as food stamps, Head being part of a national coalition tied to-
Start, and health insurance.31 Addition- gether by common funding and manage-
ally, community one-stop centers formed ment from non-profit organizations such
through the Workforce Investment Act as the National Community Tax Coali-
(WIA) of 1998—community sites that tion. Taking a typical year of the Boston
house integrated workforce development EITC initiative, 2003, Figure 1 gives a
resources—often double as VITA sites good picture of the diverse public and
during tax season. private interests that participate in VITA
These are heartening developments. programs.
VITA services are uniquely positioned The complex web of interests drawn
to serve as an initial point of access for together by VITA services is striking.
Equally striking is the strong connection
Figu re 1: Par tial L ist of B oston EI T C Co alition M embers, 2003
between local VITA coalitions and in-
Go vernmental, Sta te and Fe deral level:
fluential national political organizations. City of Bost on
Using LexisNexis, I found that for the Internal Revenue Service
Federal Rese rve Bank of Bo ston
period of January 2000-January 2005, 72
Ac tion for Bo ston Com mu nity Developme nt
percent of newspaper articles in the U.S. Bos ton Hou sing Au thority
that assessed the EITC as a program cited Federal Depos it Ins urance Co rporation
think tanks directly involved in EITC and
Inte rest Or ganiz ations:
VITA advocacy. Of the 206 testimonies Gr eater Bo ston Chamber of Comm erce
and committee hearings that discussed American Asso ciation of Retired Persons (AAR P)
the merits and failings of the EITC over Bos ton International Bar Ass ociation

this period, 115 were exclusively gov- C ommun ity D evelopment & Advocac y:
ernmental affairs, without the involve- Co dm an Square Health Center
ment of non-governmental groups. Of His panic Of fice of Planning and Evaluation
Jewish Vocational Services
the remaining testimonies, 53.8 percent Gr eater Bo ston Legal Services
involved organizations directly involved Legal Ad vocacy Resource C enter
in providing materials to VITA sites, or-
Non -P rofits:
ganizing VITA sites, or advocating theE- Bos ton Cares
ITC as a low-income poverty relief tool. Mass achusetts Ass ociation of Com munity De velopm ent
The fact that the EITC is an ostensibly Cor porations (MAC DC): a lliance of non-profit agencies
Ann ie E. Casey Fou ndation’s
apolitical policy allows a broad coalition Ma king Co nnections
of influential actors to mobilize around
it. This means that there are some key al- Pr ivate Co mpanies:
Ern st & You ng
lies whom can help foster VITA initiatives Sov ereign Bank
to a position of political prominence and Bos ton Private B ank & Trust
can initiate cross-pollination in terms of
Ac ademic:
the EITC’s role in community develop-
Bos ton College
ment. Given the miniscule market share, Nor theastern University
yet consistent growth and innovation, of
VITA services, a federal push could prove
a powerful catalyst for tapping the poten- community experiments that originate at
tial noted in this article. the local level, such as Florida’s prosperity
Thus Congress should pass a ‘con- centers; (4) revise the purpose of the Com-
tinuum of service’ act that politically munity Services Block Grant (CSBG) to
legitimates the ongoing collaborative focus primarily on inter-organizational
innovations of one-stop centers local collaboration between poverty-relief enti-
non-profits, and VITA sites. Such an act ties; and (5) pass the Savings for Working
would: (1) in crease both state and federal Families Act of 2007 and develop a new
funding for VITA programs; (2) outline a CARE Act to provide special tax incen-
framework for local collaborative boards tives for those who contribute to commu-
such as WIBs and CAAs to undertake a nity VITA programs. The original CARE
purposeful reconfiguration of their agen- Act of 2003 was passed to provide new
das in the order to develop a multi-faced incentives for deductible charitable con-
continuum of service consisting of multi- tributions. In 2006, another CARE Act,
ple complementary initiatives; (3) allocate introduced but never passed, provided
state funds to help fund entrepreneurial new incentives for caregiver support and
long-term assistance. The principle of

these CARE Acts—that charitable con- at addressing these potentialities in order
tribution and long-term participation in to maximize the civic potential of the
compassionate endeavors warrant special EITC to ensure that it is more than just
support—should be applied to commu- ‘free money.’ With a little focus and work,
nity development programs. A new com- the EITC can provide claimants, through
munity CARE Act could include specific VITA sites, an important entry point to
provisions for contributing laptops, facili- a constellation of services, networks, and
ties, or resources to VITA programs or of- opportunities that can help them become
fer tax incentives for extended volunteer more engaged, informed, and self-suffi-
work on the part of citizens. cient. Recommendations for policy and
Congress and national supporters of organizational reforms that can best de-
VITA services--think tanks like the Cen- velop this potential are as follows:
ter for Budget and Policy Priorities, the
Urban Institute, the Brookings Institu- • Ban RALs, cap RAL fees, or strictly
tion, the Annie E. Casey foundation, the regulate RAL interest rates.
Association of Community Organizers for • Strictly regulate or ban the market-
Reform Now (ACORN), and others— ing of RALs on IRS e-filing sites.
also have a critical role to play in defend- • Pass the Savings for Working Fami-
ing free tax preparation from fiscal and lies Act of 2007 to strengthen the
operational threats. Budget cuts continu- foundation of IDAs and saving ac-
ously threaten the EITC and the IRS has counts for low-income Americans.
been auditing claimants and investigating • Speed up turn-around time for refunds.
VITA procedures as part of its running— • Simplify the tax code and EITC pro-
and burdensome—investigation into cess to allow for volunteers to focus a
misreporting of EITC claims. As recently greater proportion of time and atten-
as February 2006, the IRS was found to tion to social interactions.
be targeting EITC claimants for audits • Assist VITA sites in maximizing the
despite Congressional action to halt such roles of non-technical volunteers and
efforts. A vulnerable community initia- instructive, educational presentations
tive like VITA services cannot thrive in an and materials regarding the history
atmosphere of overbearing suspicion. Any and political context of the EITC.
success that VITA coalitions might have • Encourage VITA coalitions to re-
in strengthening low-income communi- frame the EITC as an opportunity to
ties depends on the sustainability of the engage with policy and government
free tax preparation enterprise. rather than as solely ‘free money’ in
order to stimulate a greater political
consciousness in recipients.
IV. Summary of Recommendations
• Create new community positions
VITA sites represent a compelling such as ‘community ambassador’
opportunity to develop civic capaci- to maximize the social networking
ties by using the EITC as a foundation around VITA sites.
for asset-building and upward socioeco- • Continue to link VITA services to
nomic mobility, increasing awareness of work support, asset-building, and oth-
opportunities, cultivating social ties, and er capacity-building opportunities.
mobilizing strong national interests to • Formally construct a collaborative
fight for low-income issues. In this article framework for Workforce Investment
I have recommended many steps aimed Boards, Community Action Agencies,
VITA coalitions, and other local non- Citizens, (Princeton, New Jersey:
Princeton University Press, 2003).
profits to develop a mutually reinforc- 6. While Advance EITC - claimed
ing network of opportunity. incrementally through paychecks - is
• Increase the presence of existing non- available, only about half a percent of
EITC claimants use this method.
profit and community organizations 7. As many as two-thirds. ACORN Financial
at VITA sites, in order to pool their Justice Center, Increasing Incomes &
existing resources and connections Reducing the Rapid Refund Rip-Off,
September 2004, 10. Originally from IRS
into a ‘continuum of service’ made calculations.
up of ‘prosperity centers,’ rather than 8. Alan Berube, Anne Kim, Benjamin
holding VITA services in locations Forman, and Megan Burns, “The Price
of Paying Taxes: How Tax Preparation
not already dedicated to empowering and Refund Loan Fees Erode the Benefits
low-income residents. of the EITC,” The Brookings Institution
• Protect VITA coalitions from budget and the Progressive Policy Institute Survey
Series, May 2002.
cuts and political obstructionism. 9. Elizabeth Kneebone, “A Local Ladder
• Increase Congressional funding for for Low-Income Workers: Recent Trends
VITA services, and provide funding in the Earned Income Tax Credit.” The
Brookings Institution Earned Income Tax
for community entrepreneurship at Credit Series, April 2007. http://www3.
the local level. brookings.edu/metro/pubs/200704eitc.
• Revise Community Services Block pdf
10. Sidney Verba, Kay Schlozman, Henry
Grant (CSBG) purposes to be con- Brady, Voice and Equality: Civic
toured to the continuum of services Voluntarism in American Politics,
idea, in order to encourage a net- (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1995), 190.
worked approach to low-income de- 11. Kay Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Henry
velopment. Brady, “Civic Participation and the
• Develop a community CARE Act in Equality Problem,” Civic Engagement in
American Democracy, ed. Theda Skocpol
order to establish tax incentives for and Morris Fiorina, (Washington, D.C.:
a greater contribution on the part of Brookings Institution Press, 1999), 428-
coalition members and volunteers. 429.
12. Ibid. 37-48, and Joe Soss, Unwanted
Claims: The Politics of Participation in
Endnotes the U.S. Welfare System, (Ann Arbor,
Michigan: The University of Michigan
1. Almanac of Policy Issues, July 2006. Press, 2000), 8.
http://www.policyalmanac.org/social_ 13. Ibid. 290-291.
welfare/eitc.shtml. 14. Andrea Campbell, How Policies Make
2. Alan Berube, The Brookings Institution Citizens, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
Metropolitan Policy Program: Background University Press, 2003), 41.
on EITC Campaign, EITC Funders 15. Large lump-sum refunds are more likely to
Meeting, June 21, 2004. be saved than incremental credits through
3. David. T. Ellwood,”The Impact of the paycheck income. Jennifer Romich and
Earned Income Tax Credit and Social Thomas Weisner, “How Families View
Policy Reforms on Work, Marriage, and and Use the EITC: Advance Payments
Living Arrangements.” Mimeo, Kennedy Over Lump-sum Delivery,” Joint Center
School of Government, 2000 and Jeffrey for Poverty Research, January 2000.
Grogger, “The Effects of Time Limits, http://www.jcpr.org/wp/wpdownload.
the EITC, and Other Policy Changes on cfm?pdflink=wpfiles/romich_EITC_
Welfare Use, Work, and Income Among update.PDF
Female-Headed Families,” UCLA and 16. Timothy Smeeding, Katherine
NBER, Feb. 2002. Phillips, Michael O’Connor, “ The
4. Jeffrey B. Liebman, “The Impact of the EITC: Expectation, Knowledge, Use,
Earned Income Tax Credit on Incentives and Economic and Social Mobility,”
and Income Distribution,” Tax Policy and National Tax Journal Vol. 53 no. 4 Part 2
the Economy, 1998 Vol. 12, 83-119. (December 2000) pp. 1187-1210.
5. Andrea Campbell. How Policies Make 17. Lisa Barrow and Leslie McGranahan, “The
Effect of the Earned Income Credit on the Democracy, (Washington, D.C.: Brookings
Seasonality of Household Expenditures”, Institution Press, 2003), 280.
National Tax Journal, Vol. 53 no. 4 Part 2 27. Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The
(December 2000) pp. 1241-1242. Collapse and Revival of American
18. According to the 2005 Boston EITC Community. (New York: Simon and
Campaign Taxpayer Data Report Survey Schuster, 2000) and Sjoerd Beugelsdijk
Data. http://www.cityofboston.gov/ and Sjak Smulders, “Bridging and
bra/eitc/PDF/2005%20Boston%20 Bonding Social Capital: Which One is
EITC%20Data%20Report.pdf Good for Economic Growth?”. Tillburg
19. Chi Chi Wu and Jean Ann Fox, “Refund University working paper. http://www.eea-
Anticipation Loans: Updated Facts esem.com/papers/eea-esem/2003/119/
and Figures,” Consumer Federation of EEA2003.PDF
America & National Consumer Law 28. Pro-Bono Tax Services Taskforce,
Center, Inc. January 17, 2006. http:// “Executive Summary of Survey Results.”
www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/RAL_2006_ March 5, 2005. http://www.aaahq.org/
Early_info.pdf ata/public-interest/reports/ATA-Pro-
20. Chi Chi Wu, Jean Ann Fox, and Patrick Bono-SurveyReport-March2005.pdf
Woodall, “Another Year of Loseses: 29. IRS, “2006 VITA/TCE Volunteer Student
High-Priced Refund Anticipation Guide,” Publication 678. http://www.irs.
Loans Continue To Take a Chunk out gov/pub/irs-pdf/p678.pdf
of Americans’ Tax Returns,” National 30. This closely parallels Skocpol’s
Consumer Law Center & Consumer illustration of old voluntary federations
Federation of America. January 2006. in “Government Activism and the
http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/2006_ Reorganization of American Civic
RAL_report.pdf Democracy.” Unpublished paper prepared
21. See Sidney Verba, Kay Schlozman, for the Transformation of the American
Henry Brady, Voice and Equality: Polity conference, Harvard University,
Civic Voluntarism in American Politics, Cambridge, MA, December 3-4, 2004.
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University 31. Center for Economic Progress, “Linking
Press, 1995), 352 where the exercise of to Benefits,” 2007. http://www.tax-
civic skills was calculated to lead to an coalition.org/ResourceLibraryCFM/
increase in political activity of roughly benefits.cfm
a third of a political act independent of
other engagement factors.
22. Theda Skocpol, “Presidential Address About the Author
to the Annual Meeting of the American
Political Science Association.”August 28,
2003, Philadelphia, PA. Niko Karvounis is a Senior Fellow
23. Limited in the sense that some with the Roosevelt Institution. He
organizations defined group membership graduated from Harvard University in
through cultural or ethnic criteria which
resulted in discriminatory practices. 2005 with a B.A. in Government and
24. Theda Skocpol, “How Americans Became from University of Oxford in June
Civic”, in Civic Engagement in American 2007 with an MSc in Criminology.
Democracy, ed. Theda Skocpol and Morris
Fiorina, (Washington, D.C. : Brookings While an undergraduate he founded
Institution Press, 1999) 67-69. the first intercollegiate progressive
25. See Steven F. Schier, By Invitation publication in the nation and a non-
Only: The Rise of Exclusive Politics in
the United States. (Pittsburgh, PA: profit organization dedicated to
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000); campus advocacy. After graduating
Sidney Verba, Kay Schlozman, Henry from Harvard, he worked at National
Brady, “Civic Participation and the
Equality Problem,” Civic Engagement in Journal and served on the Board of
American Democracy, ed. Theda Skocpol Directors for the Arlington-Alexandria
and Morris Fiorina, (Washington, D.C. Coalition for the Homeless where
:Brookings Institution Press, 1999); and
Theda Skocpol, “How Americans Became he received an award for his service.
Civic,” in Civic Engagement in American He now works with The Century
Democracy, ed. Theda Skocpol and Morris Foundation in New York City.
Fiorina, (Washington, D.C. :Brookings
Institution Press, 1999) 67-69.
26. Jeffrey Berry, The Rebirth of Urban
Reducing Juvenile Recidivism in the
United States
Jane Wilson, Stanford University

Executive Summary • Eliminate unnecessary detention of

juveniles. Studies show that youths
The American juvenile justice system placed in detention facilities are 4.5
desperately needs reform. Some 2.4 mil- times more likely to recidivate than
lion juveniles are charged with offenses those placed in alternate programs—
annually.1 An appalling 55 percent of even after controlling for offense.6
juveniles released from incarceration na- To reduce unnecessary detention, re-
tionwide are rearrested within one year.2 quire all detention centers to inform
In urban centers, that percentage— arrested juveniles of their roles dur-
referred to as the rate of recidivism— ing detention hearings and establish
reaches up to 76 percent.3 High recidi- stricter guidelines for determining
vism is associated with increases in crime, which juveniles should be held in de-
victimization, homelessness, family de- tention centers.
stabilization, and public health risks.4
Government-sponsored correctional pro- • Restrict the practice of transferring
grams cost sixty billion dollars annually.5 juveniles to adult criminal courts.
Most tragically, high recidivism indicates Research shows that juveniles con-
a failure to provide meaningful rehabili- victed in adult courts are 50 percent
tation for offenders. Reducing recidivism more likely to recidivate than those
specifically among juveniles should be of convicted in juvenile courts.7 The
primary importance to the U.S. Depart- transfer of juveniles to the adult sys-
ment of Justice and the Office of Juvenile tem should be an option for only the
Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Our
most serious offenders. To restrict
government’s current approach to lower- the number of juveniles waived on to
ing recidivism emphasizes the creation adult court, develop a specific list of
and funding of rehabilitative programs. offenses and circumstances warrant-
While these initiatives have made mar- ing transfer.
ginal gains, efforts have been insufficient.
Substantial progress will only come by • Ensure the continuation of delinquents’
eliminating recidivism-fostering features Medicaid benefits upon release. A de-
of the juvenile justice system itself. lay in receiving healthcare benefits
is linked to a significant increase in
Proposed Solution recidivism. To avoid such a delay,
I propose three policy reforms to re- forbid Medicaid from terminating
duce juvenile recidivism. First, eliminate contracts with delinquents entering
unnecessary detention of juveniles. Sec- jail. Temporarily suspend all con-
ond, restrict the practice of transferring tracts while delinquents are in jail
juveniles to adult criminal courts. Third, and immediately reinstate Medicaid
ensure the continuation of delinquents’ benefits to juveniles upon release.
Medicaid benefits upon release.

I. The Problem public safety costs on American com-
munities; high recidivism rates indicate
Recidivism additional victimizations (assuming that
In the United States, roughly 60 to the crime for which the juvenile was ar-
70 percent of all adult inmates reenter- rested was in fact committed). Second,
ing the community are rearrested within increased recidivism results in extremely
one year of release.9 Precise recidivism destructive social costs; increases in vio-
rates for juveniles, however, are difficult lence, crime, homelessness, family desta-
to obtain at the national level; recidivism bilization, and public health risks are all
is typically measured at the county and associated with high recidivism rates.14
state levels, and few states measure re- Third, recidivism imposes a consider-
cidivism by the same metric. Estimates able financial burden on the U.S. De-
indicate that approximately 50 to 65 partment of Justice and, more generally,
percent of juvenile offenders (hereafter on American society; our government
delinquents) are re-arrested within one spends an annual sixty billion dollars on
year of release.10 In the state of Califor- correctional programs.15 Fourth, high
nia, 74 percent of all delinquents are re- recidivism indicates a failure to provide
arrested within one year of release.11 Re- meaningful rehabilitation for inmates re-
cidivism rates in urban centers tend to be entering the community; recidivist juve-
even higher. In Manhattan, 80 percent niles lose out on crucial educational, so-
of delinquents are rearrested within four cial, and personal developments that can
years of release.12 rarely be regained. Additionally, studies
These numbers should be treated show that recurrent offenses during teen-
with some degree of caution. Recidivism age years can provide a dangerous incul-
itself results in part from actions taken by cation leading to adult criminality.16 The
the juvenile justice system, such as arrest, tragedy of this cycle of criminality can-
incarceration, and release; without these, not be understated.
recidivism figures would be much lower.
Furthermore, a high reincarceration rate Benefits of Reducing Recidivism
may merely demonstrate that police are Lowering the rate of recidivism
aware of released offenders and are more will generate several positive outcomes.
likely to incarcerate juveniles they have First, the aforementioned public safety,
seen before. While these considerations social, economic, and personal costs will
are valid, they do not entirely negate the decrease. Second, young people who
usefulness of recidivism as an indica- otherwise would have been recidivists
tor of the degree to which ex-offenders will become economic assets. Instead
commit additional crime. Research con- of draining resources, individuals who
ducted using self reported incidence of would have been recidivists could im-
crime (as opposed to officially reported prove their communities. Third, a lower
crime) confirms that juveniles released recidivism rate will allow our govern-
from incarceration still tend to commit ment to reallocate saved dollars from
further crime.13 correctional programs to other financial-
ly depressed sectors, such as education.
Effects of Recidivism Finally, reducing juvenile recidivism will
The effects of recidivism in the Unit- send an important message that our gov-
ed States fall into four general categories. ernment deeply cares about the welfare
First, recidivism imposes tremendous of its adolescents and prisoners.
II. Current Solutions vism is ambiguous: while some studies
show a clear link between residential pro-
Government-Sponsored Programs grams and lower recidivism, others reject
The government’s current attempts the correlations entirely.19
at reducing juvenile recidivism include Community supervision provides
a variety of strategies, including general intense professional and governmental
programs, multisystemic therapy (MST), supervision of delinquents reentering the
residential programs, and community community. Probation is one of the ma-
supervision. Taken together, these efforts jor types of community supervision used.
have produced mixed success. Studies have found no statistically signifi-
Examples of programs include Scared cant relationship between community su-
Straight (a deterrence-based program), pervision and decreased recidivism.20
Life Skills classes, interpersonal skills
courses, counseling, the Family Home Nonprofit Programs
Program, targeted interventions for seri- In addition to these government-
ous offenders, and therapeutic wilderness sponsored efforts, several nongovernmen-
and challenge programs. Programs found tal organizations address the issue of juve-
to be most effective at reducing recidivism nile recidivism. Dozens of nonprofits have
include individualized counseling, person- implemented various successful preven-
al skills training, and behavior programs. tive programs (such as the Children’s De-
Other programs, such as deterrence-based fense Fund’s “Cradle to Prison Pipeline”
challenge and vocational programs, have initiative). Others provide useful reentry
been shown to be ineffective at reducing resources, courses, and support groups for
recidivism.17 released delinquents (like the Street Law
Multisystemic therapy (MST) is a Reentry Program). Several nonprofit or-
rigorous treatment program designed to ganizations run their own incarceration
provide a family-based approach to pre- alternatives (such as the Andrew Glover
venting crime and recidivism. It encour- Youth Foundation). Many of these non-
ages youth to change in their natural profit alternatives to incarceration have
environment, strengthen their peer rela- been successful at reducing recidivism.21
tionships and improve their school perfor- Research also supports the effectiveness
mance, and it also empowers parents with of nonprofit preventive and reentry pro-
the skills necessary to raise a delinquent grams in lowering recidivism rates.22
adolescent. Though MST has successfully
reduced crime, there is little evidence that Failures of the Current Model
it has reduced recidivism. (Although pre- Effective governmental and non-prof-
ventive policies may succeed in keeping it programs are invaluable instruments
juveniles out of custody, they do little needed to reduce recidivism. Though
about the way in which delinquents are this paper does not intend to provide
treated once incarcerated and once re- guidelines for creating better programs, it
leased from incarceration.)18 should be noted that the programs most
Residential programs are overnight effective at reducing recidivism have been
programs in which juveniles frequently those respectful of youth; family-like in
engage in structured rehabilitation-ori- size and setting; connected to the com-
ented activities (including outdoor wil- munity during and following treatment;
derness programs). The effectiveness of empathy-developing; accountability-
residential programs at reducing recidi- oriented; and marked by efforts to teach
juveniles cognitive skills (such as anger It should be noted that these three
management, decision-making, etc.).23 policies would be implemented most
Effective programs are certainly worth- logically and most feasibly at the state
while and should be continued. level. They could also be recommended
Yet programs alone are insufficient. to state governors by the Office of Juve-
Although the aforementioned initiatives nile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
are effective in some cases and have made and, if appropriate, made into federal law
improvements, they have done little to af- (as an amendment to the Juvenile Justice
fect recidivism on a national level. Even and Delinquency Prevention Act, for ex-
with government-sponsored rehabilita- ample).
tion programs and the emergence of an
army of nonprofits, the national recidi- 1. Avoid Unnecessary Detention
vism rate has hardly changed over the past
The first proposed policy advises the
20 years.24
juvenile justice system to avoid holding
delinquents in detention unless absolute-
Suggestions for Improvement
ly necessary. Because individuals placed in
To make significant advances in
detention are significantly more likely to
reducing juvenile recidivism, our gov-
recidivate than their counterparts placed
ernment must reform its structural and
elsewhere, detention must be reserved for
procedural policies. Before external pro-
only those justifiably requiring it. Avoid-
grams can make a considerable difference,
ing unnecessary detention can be accom-
the juvenile justice system must undergo
plished by educating juveniles about their
rigorous internal reform. Substantial
role in detention hearings and establish-
progress will only come by eliminating
ing stricter guidelines detailing which de-
features of the system itself that foster
linquents should be detained.
recidivism. Currently, three specific ele-
ments of the justice system—detention
Detention Hearings
centers, juvenile waivers, and health insur-
After being accused of committing a
ance reapplication procedures—undercut
crime, delinquents can pass through up
efforts at reducing recidivism by actually
to nine stages of case processing. First,
increasing the likelihood that delinquents
they are arrested and make initial con-
will recidivate. Because of their negative
tact with law enforcement officers. After
effects, these three practices must be al-
taking the juveniles into custody, police
tered. Government officials should adopt
juvenile officers evaluate the delinquents
the following three policies: and decide whether or not they should
1. Avoid holding juvenile delinquents be sent to detention, probation intake,
in detention unless absolutely neces- home, or alternate educational and rec-
sary. reational programs. Roughly 20 to 33
2. Restrict the practice of transferring percent of all delinquents are sent into
juveniles to the adult justice system. detention, where their capacity to harm
3. Forbid Medicaid from requiring all themselves and others is supposedly de-
reentering delinquents to reapply for bilitated. Within 24 to 72 hours of being
services. held at the detention center, delinquents
participate in a detention hearing. Led by
Taking these steps will significantly re-
a juvenile probation officer, these deten-
duce recidivism without disregarding the
tion hearings determine whether or not
other goals of these three practices.
the juvenile should remain in detention tained juveniles are more likely than their
until adjudication. After briefly reviewing equivalents placed in alternate facilities
the case, a judge decides if the juvenile to commit future crimes, use violence,
requires additional detention. If so, the become involved with drugs, struggle in
delinquent will remain in detention un- school, and have difficulty adjusting to
til adjudicated, after which he or she may adulthood.33
be released, relocated to another facility, Yet detention centers do serve a valu-
or sentenced to additional time in deten- able purpose: they incapacitate juveniles
tion. On any given day, some 27,000
who otherwise would be a threat to them-
adolescents are held in detention facilities
selves and those around them. Because
across the United States. Annually, some
they serve this needed function, deten-
600,000 delinquents will spend time in
detention.26 tion centers should not be eradicated en-
tirely. Rather, detention must be reserved
Detention Centers and Recidivism for only those delinquents who, if not
Even though detention may be short detained, present a real threat to society.
and used for less than half of delinquents, To reduce recidivism, detention must be
its influence on juveniles can persist for reserved only for those truly deserving
months and even years into their future. detention.
Research shows that being held in deten-
tion is the number one predictor of recid- Inform Delinquents
ivism—beating out other likely predic- First, ensure that all delinquents are
tive variables such as gang membership, aware of their rights and role during the
gun ownership, and dysfunctional fam- detention hearing. As stated earlier, the
ily background.27, 28 This finding holds detention hearing is a preadjudication as-
true even after controlling for nature of sessment in which a judge decides where
offense (and other potentially confound- to place a delinquent between arrest and
ing variables). A study conducted in New trial. In making their decisions, judges
York City found that the rate of recidi- review the facts of the case and act based
vism for juveniles sent to alternate pro- on their own personal judgment. Near
grams ranged between 17 and 36 percent, the end of the hearing, judges ask delin-
while their counterparts held in detention quents if there is any additional informa-
facilities averaged 76 percent (again, even tion they would like to share. Unaware of
after controlling for offense).29 As Lubow what information would be appropriate
explains, “Detention is the gateway to the to mention, delinquents almost always
system’s deep end.”30. 31 decline to speak. Judges therefore base
Why is this so? Behavioral scientists their decisions solely on the facts of the
have found that grouping delinquent ju- case, which rarely speak highly of delin-
veniles together in a detention-like setting quents.
can result in deleterious outcomes because Delinquents will be more apt to pro-
detained juveniles receive informal “peer vide the judge with relevant information
deviancy training.”32 Detention often ex- if they are aware of what sort of informa-
poses first-time offenders to new criminal tion they can and should provide during
friends, gangs, tricks, and “games.” As a their hearing. In this case, relevant infor-
result of this exposure and learning, de- mation might include: Do you have a

job? Are you using your job to support their situation. Their chances of receiv-
your family? Are you going to school? ing alternate placement will increase, and
Are you planning to graduate from high ultimately the probability that they will
school? What is your family situation recidivate will decrease.
like? A judge understands that placing a
delinquent in detention will pull him or Establish Guidelines for Detaining
her out of school for a month. Delinquents
Answers to these questions could Second, establish stricter guidelines
have a marked effect on judges’ decisions. for determining which juveniles should
For example, if the judge hears a delin- be held in detention centers. Launch a
quent say that he is trying to graduate, committee with the mandate of creating
the judge will be more likely to place him a series of directives or rules delineating
in a non-residential program. Similarly, a which offenses require detainment and
judge will likely avoid placing someone which do not. A specific list of admis-
in detention if the judge hears that delin- sible exceptions should be developed.
quent’s job pays for 50 percent of his fam- Committee members must be fully aware
ily’s monthly rent. of the negative effects detention has on
In order to make delinquents aware delinquents, and should formulate these
of the types of information worth shar- standards with a rehabilitative approach
ing in their detention hearing, require in mind. Setting a clear standard of who
detention facilities to inform all juveniles should be detained will eliminate the in-
what information is relevant. This can be dividual variance and prejudices that of-
done in a simple way: distribute a single ten result in unnecessary detention.
sheet of paper to delinquents prior to
their detention hearing. This sheet should 2. Restrict the Use of Waivers
contain an explanation of the detention
The second policy proposal recom-
hearing; the order in which information
mends restricting the transfer of delin-
is presented during the hearing; possible
quents from the juvenile justice system to
placement options; and various types of
the adult one. Though initially intended
information delinquents can share with
only for the most serious offenders, the
the judge. Delinquents should read the
waiver system is currently being used to
information sheet carefully, and should be
divert ten percent of all delinquents. Be-
able to receive answers to any additional
cause delinquents held in adult facilities
questions they might have from facility
are 50 percent more likely to recidivate
officers. This information could also be
than those in juvenile facilities, only the
provided in video format.
most severe cases should receive waivers.
After reading through such an infor-
mation sheet, delinquents will have a bet-
The Waiver System
ter idea of the sorts of information that
One of the founding tenets of the
might help judges make preadjudication
juvenile justice system promises its occu-
placement decisions. As juveniles under-
pants a restraint from overly destructive
stand their rights and role in the deten-
punishments. Unlike the adult court, the
tion hearing process, they will be more
juvenile court was established based on
likely to speak up when asked for addi-
rehabilitation-oriented principles. In sen-
tional information. By sharing pertinent
tencing offenders, juvenile court judges
information with the judge, delinquents
leave “room for reform.” The juvenile
will provide a more complete picture of
system recognizes the biological and de- of delinquents receiving waivers, restrict
velopmental differences between adoles- the granting of waivers to only the most
cents and adults and, as a result, allegedly severe cases. According to the procedure’s
adjudicates much less punitively than the original design, only the most serious
adult system. Juvenile judges are limited offenses (such as intentional homicide)
in the extent to which they can incapaci- merit transfer. Significant effort must
tate defendants, with sentences rarely top- be spent to restrict unnecessary waivers.
ping 20 years. Clarifying amendments should be adopt-
With the crime surge of the 1980s ed to establish firmer guidelines describ-
and early 1990s, however, rehabilitation ing which crimes warrant transfer. Doing
became less of a priority for communi- so will vastly reduce the number of juve-
ties and policymakers. The focus instead niles sent to the adult criminal system.
shifted to keeping “dangerous” criminals Ultimately, the likelihood of recidivism
off the streets. In the name of public safe- will decrease significantly for delinquents
ty, legislators initiated the waiver system, who otherwise would have been unneces-
a method through which severe offenders sarily tried in adult courts.
could be transferred from the juvenile sys-
tem to the adult one. Once in the adult 3. Change Medicaid Reapplication
system, delinquents received longer and Requirements
harsher sentences—deserved punishment The third recommended policy pro-
according to victims. poses forbidding the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services from re-
Failures of the Waiver System quiring that all juveniles released from
Since its inception, the waiver sys- jail reapply for Medicaid. Because a delay
tem has been abused and has encouraged in receiving healthcare benefits is associ-
recidivism; the use of the waiver has not ated with a significant increase in recidi-
been restricted to the most severe cases. vism, all Medicaid services to delinquents
Once the conduit between these two sys- should be reinstated immediately upon
tems was opened, juvenile courts have ea- release.
gerly pushed disobedient, recidivist, and
older delinquents out of their own system Health Insurance & Recidivism
and into the adult one—regardless of the Upon entering jail, delinquents fre-
crime they committed. Roughly ten per- quently lose their health benefits. By
cent of all delinquents are now diverted federal law, the responsibility for an in-
out of the juvenile system into the adult carcerated delinquent’s health lies with
one.35 The consequences for delinquents the detention facility in which he or she
unnecessarily placed in the adult system is situated. Health insurance providers
have been tremendously unfortunate. therefore serve no purpose while their cli-
Due to their exposure with more sophisti- ent is in jail. Typically, health insurance
cated and experienced adult criminals, de- companies terminate their contracts with
linquents spending time in adult facilities individuals as soon their incarceration be-
are 50 percent more likely to recidivate gins (or as soon as their clients have been
than those held in juvenile centers—even in jail for a set period of time, such as
after controlling for nature of offense.36 12 months). Once released, delinquents
must reapply for healthcare. This practice
Restricting Waivers holds true for Medicaid, the government-
To minimize the superfluous number sponsored healthcare plan for low-income
individuals that serves a large portion of justice system has an extremely high re-
delinquents. The reapplication process cidivism rate. The rate of recidivism in
for Medicaid often takes several months, the adult justice system—an institution
leaving reentering delinquents without not founded on rehabilitation—is also
needed healthcare services. around 65 percent. Rehabilitation has not
Delinquents with mental health worked, the argument goes, and therefore
problems are especially hard-hit by the it should be abandoned in favor of a more
reapplication procedures, and often expe- punitive approach, under the assumption
rience illness flare-ups as a result of the that longer and harsher sentences would
delay.37 Because 70 percent of the juve- deter delinquents from recidivating.
nile delinquent population has a mental This argument suffers from two main
disorder, receiving timely health services flaws. First, it assumes that the U.S. ju-
is vital to their long-term health.38 Ad- venile justice system has been entirely
ditionally, orphaned delinquents some- rehabilitative. As shown earlier, our gov-
times wait up to a year before receiving ernment’s own internal procedures often
placement in a foster care home (a service counteract its rehabilitative principles.
provided by Medicaid). In the meantime, It is incorrect to assume that the juve-
they must single-handedly find housing. nile justice system has been an exercise
Confronted with these difficulties, delin- in rehabilitation. Second, this argument
quents often reoffend for the sole purpose ignores the mounting evidence indicating
of reentering jail and receiving the health- that punitive approaches increase recidi-
care services provided by incarceration vism while rehabilitative ones decrease it.
facilities. A delay in obtaining healthcare The waiver system, for example, is entirely
benefits is linked to a significant increase punitive in nature, and has only increased
in recidivism.39 recidivism. Other deterrence- and pun-
ishment-based programs, such as Scared
Recommendation Straight, have at best failed to affect re-
To avoid such a delay, immediately cidivism and at worst have increased re-
reinstate all Medicaid benefits to juveniles cidivism rates. Rehabilitative programs,
reentering the community. Medicaid on the other hand, have often proven ca-
should not terminate its contracts with pable of reducing recidivism.40
incarcerated juveniles. Rather, it should Others may argue that decreasing the
temporarily suspend benefits until the de- number of delinquents held in detention
linquent reenters the community. Abid- will fail to maximize full use of facilities,
ing by this policy will considerably lower thereby creating a gross economic ineffi-
the probability of recidivism for portions ciency. The United States spends billions
of the 70 percent of all delinquents with a of dollars erecting incarceration centers;
mental disorder. discouraging their filling would waste
valuable already-spent tax dollars. Reduc-
Obstacles ing the number of occupants in a deten-
Opponents of these three policy rec- tion facility certainly would be a failure
ommendations may argue that high re- to use the building to its full potential.
cidivism rates require longer and harsher However, unfilled detention facilities can
sentences, not rehabilitation-oriented re- easily be put to alternate use (for example,
form. This argument could be based on detention wings can be turned into class-
the fact that despite its being founded on rooms). In any event, the real economic
rehabilitative principles, the U.S. juvenile inefficiency in this case is recidivism, not
underutilized buildings. The purpose of National Juvenile Defender Center,
detention facilities is not to reach maxi- 2004).
4. Travis, J. and A. L. Solomon, From
mum capacity, but to provide a location Prison to Home: The Dimensions
for the juvenile justice system to carry out and Consequences of Prisoner
its mission. Reentry (Washington D.C.: The
Urban Institute, 2001).
A third counterargument points out 5. Schuetz, Pam, “Employment for
that restricting waivers will increase the Former Prisoners: Community,
caseload of an already overburdened ju- Family and Individual Salvation?”
CELCEE Digest, (2005): http://
venile justice system. Confronted with www.celcee.edu/publications/digest/
more cases than it can handle, the system Dig05-07.html.
risks making administrative mistakes as 6. Calvin, Sims, Barbara, and Pamela
Preston, eds., Handbook of Juvenile
a result of the overload. This concern is Justice Theory and Practice (Boca
valid: juvenile courts can expect to see Raton: Taylor & Francis Group,
an increase in the number of cases pro- 2006).
7. “Appropriations Approves Bill
cessed once transfers to the adult system to Reduce Juvenile Recidivism
are limited. In the long run, however, the and Homelessness,” News from
juvenile court caseload will decrease sig- the Twelfth Assembly District,
May 24, 2006, http://democrats.
nificantly as recidivism decreases. assembly.ca.gov/members/a12/press/
Conclusion 8. Various.
9. Various.
The statistics and policies presented 10. Bailey, Brandon, and Griff Palmer,
in this paper only narrowly describe the “High Rearrest Rate,” The Mercury
News, October 17, 2004.
issues facing America’s recidivist juveniles. 11. Gerwitz, Marian, “Recidivism
An unacceptable depth of heartache and Among Juvenile Offenders in New
suffering plagues our delinquents, and York City,” New York City Criminal
Justice Agency, Inc., (2007):
without significant effort these youth are http://www.cjareports.org/reports/
more likely to enter a pattern of criminal- jorecid0407.pdf.
ity that hurts society as a whole. Vigorous 12. Hewitt, John D. and Robert M.
Regoli, Delinquency in Society (New
reformative efforts—including the rec- York: McGraw Hill, 2006).
ommendations herein outlined—must be 13. Travis and Solomon.
taken immediately before another genera- 14. Schuetz.
15. Dunham, Warren, and Chaitin
tion of youth deteriorates beyond repair. Mildred, “The Juvenile Court in Its
The awful realities of juvenile recidivism Relationship to Adult Criminality,”
demand those efforts. Social Forces (1966): 114-119.
16. MacKenzie, Doris Layton, What
Works in Corrections: Reducing the
Endnotes Criminal Activities of Offenders and
Delinquents (New York: Cambridge
1. Synder, Howard, Juvenile Arrests University press, 2006).
2000 (Washington D.C.: Office of 17. Ibid.
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency 18. Ibid.
Programs, 2002). 19. Ibid.
2. Synder, Howard, and Melissa 20. Pozen, David, “The Private,
Sickmund, Juvenile Offenders and Nonprofit Prison,” Boston Globe,
Victims: 2006 National Report February 21, 2006.
(Washington D.C.: Office of Juvenile 21. See the websites of NGOs mentioned
Justice and Delinquency Programs, (such as AGYF and CDF).
2006). 22. Various. Special thanks to Professor
3. Calvin, Elizabeth, Legal Strategies to Richard Johnson for compiling this
Reduce the Unnecessary Detention list.
of Children (Washington D.C.: 23. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of

Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice About the Author
Statistics, Reentry Trends in the U.S.,
October 25, 2002, http://www.ojp.
usdoj.gov/bjs/reentry/recidivism. Jane Wilson is a senior at Stanford
htm. University and majors in Political Sci-
24. Roberts. ence. Over the past several years, Jane has
25. Lubow, Bart, “Reducing
Inappropriate Detention: A Focus worked with inmates as a GED tutor, lit-
on the Role of Defense Attorneys,” eracy coach, and Life Skills instructor. She
Juvenile Justice Update 11, no. 4 has also worked with underprivileged ju-
(2005): 1-2, 14-16.
26. Ibid. veniles as a truancy counselor, ESL tutor,
27. Hollman, Barry, and Jason mediator, and music teacher. As Stanford’s
Ziedenberg, “The Dangers Strauss Scholar, she is currently develop-
of Detention: The Impact of
Incarcerating Youth in Detention ing educational programs for inmates in
and Other Secure Facilities,” Justice New York City, Chicago, San Diego, Salt
Policy Institute (2006). Lake City, and St. Louis. Jane intends to
28. Calvin.
29. Lubow pursue a law degree and eventually work
30. Dominguez, David, Personal in correctional legislation.
Interview, October 23, 2006.
31. Hollman and Ziedenberg.
32. Dominguez.
33. Zimring, Franklin E, American
Juvenile Justice, (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2005).
34. Coalition for Juvenile Justice,
Trying and Sentencing Youth in
Adult Criminal Court, http://www.
35. Sims and Preston.
36. Cuellar, Alison, Kelly Kelleher,
Jennifer Rolls, and Kathleen Pajer,
“Medicaid Insurance Policy for
Youths Involved in the Criminal
Justice System,” Public Health
Consequences of Imprisonment 95,
no. 10 (2005): 1707-1711.
37. “News from the Twelfth Assembly
38. Ibid.
39. Calvin.

Finding an Alternative Solution:
A Comparative Analysis of Drug Policies
Benjamin Aronson, Brown University

“The essential nature of the US drug enforce- has generally dominated policy thinking.
ment has an alien tinge to it, more suited to The first half of this paper analyzes US
an intrusive totalitarian society than to the
domestic drug policy and policy outcomes
democratic…culture that evolved…here in
since the beginning of the Reagan admin-
the United States”
istration’s war on drugs. The second half

of the paper focuses on Swedish, Dutch,
-Arnold Trebach, 19931
and Australian approaches to drug con-
trol. Sweden’s drug policies are the most
restrictive of the three; the Netherlands’
I. Introduction
approach is more liberal; and Australia’s
For almost a century, the United is moderate. These examples will show
States has followed an increasingly strict that restrictive policies, regardless of their
drug control policy. While state and local orientation, do not necessarily work; even
governments have played major roles in the once highly praised Swedish model of
drug enforcement throughout US history, drug repression is now undercut by signs
the federal government has been the driv- of rising illicit drug use. They will also
ing force behind the nation’s drug policy highlight the benefits and reduced soci-
since 1914.2 Punishments for drug use etal costs of progressive, heath-oriented
and drug trafficking became extremely policies, as compared to enforcement-
harsh after World War II. In the 1950s, based policies.
the government implemented a series of Australia’s more moderate approach
laws including mandatory minimum sen- is a politically viable model for the Unit-
tences, life imprisonment, and even the ed States. Given the history of repressive
death penalty for certain drug crimes.3 drug policies and the political strength of
Although the more tolerant political mi- social conservatives, the Australian bal-
lieu of the 1960s forced some of the previ- ance between enforcement and harm re-
ous decade’s repressive policies to give way duction could be an effective and feasible
to more lenient ones, by the 1970s Presi- step toward a health-based drug policy.
dent Nixon’s declared “War on Drugs”
propelled the reintroduction of severe US Drug-Control Budget
drug laws and further US involvement in As mentioned above, Ronald Rea-
drug enforcement.4 In 1986 President gan’s presidency marked the beginning of
Reagan proposed a new “War on Drugs,” a renewed, strengthened, and sustained
one that would take an even harder line attack against drug use and drug traffick-
on drug offenders. Since then, the poli- ing. Drugs, especially cocaine, became
cies of the US government have changed the focus of government attention. The
only slightly. Abstinence has been the US drug-control budget illustrates the
primary goal; domestic law enforcement rising importance of drugs in federal
is the most heavily funded drug-related policymaking. Between 1981 and 1989,
initiative; and the need to reduce the drug federal expenditure on drug control grew
supply—rather than the drug demand— by roughly $5.1 billion.5 The new funds

were not distributed equally among the ing these relatively unbalanced budget
five major components of the drug-con- allocations. As David Boyum and Peter
trol effort: international activities and Reuter point out, the primary objective of
source country control, interdiction, do- federal drug strategy from the late 1980s
mestic law enforcement, prevention, and has been to reduce the number of drug
treatment. Instead, the lion’s share of the users. Former Office of National Drug
money was allocated to enforcement.6 Control Policy (ONDCP) director Wil-
By 1989 prevention and treatment ex- liam Bennett explained that “the highest
penditures combined made up less than priority of our drug policy… must be a
30 percent of the federal drug budget,7 stubborn determination further to reduce
continuing a downward trend that had
the overall level of drug use nationwide—
begun in 1973 under Nixon.8 In the
experimental first use, ‘casual’ use, regular
past two decades alone, federal spending
use, and addiction alike.” Such a concep-
on enforcement has risen tenfold.9
tion of the drug problem inevitably gives
Since the 1980s, the trends with
regard to enforcement, treatment, and precedence to enforcement. That is, if
prevention spending have remained es- the policy’s goal is to reduce drug use,
sentially the same. As the drug-control then treatment programs, which focus on
budget has soared to over $18 billion, helping a small group of chronic heavy
enforcement initiatives have taken prece- drug users reduce drug addiction rather
dence over all other areas of drug control. than encouraging a large group of casual
Combined with international programs, users to abstain from drug use, are going
enforcement spending has consistently to be ill-funded.13
accounted for more than two-thirds of the Likewise, government officials have
entire budget.10 Moreover, some experts found secondary and tertiary prevention
believe the reported federal budget over- efforts that help to lower the damage as-
estimates the proportion of money spent sociated with drug use (e.g. needle ex-
on treatment and prevention.11 Irrespec- changes, methadone clinics)—otherwise
tive of these discrepancies, what is clear known as harm reduction measures—
from even a cursory examination of the similarly unappealing as they too do not
budget is that enforcement, not treatment necessarily encourage abstinence. Thus,
or prevention, accounts for the majority harm reductionism policies are both min-
of federal funds. imally funded and considerably restricted.
State and local governments also Methadone maintenance, for example, is
spend a considerable amount of funding strictly limited to federally licensed pro-
on drug-control expenditures. And while
grams, even though some research shows
the data on state and local expenditures
that primary care clinics produce similar
are not as plentiful or up to date as data
patient success rates.14 Needle exchange
on federal drug expenses, the available
is also underdeveloped, with only 134
information that does exist demonstrates
a similar—if not greater—propensity to- needle exchange programs distributing a
ward law enforcement over prevention total of 17.5 million syringes per year.15
and treatment.12 According to a recent survey by the Jour-
nal of Acquired Immune Deficiency
US Drug-Control Strategy Syndromes and Human Retrovirology,
An understanding of the major goals it is estimated that between 920 million
in combating drugs is essential to explain- and 1.7 billion injections take place each
year in the country. There is a large gap basic rights can be seen in the forfeiture
between the need for and availability of laws of the 1980s allowing officers to seize
sterile syringes.16 The lack of syringe ac- the assets of suspected traffickers without
cess is partly attributable to state govern- criminal conviction.22
ments as well, as studies in the last decade Second, incarceration rates have rap-
have shown harsh legal restrictions on idly escalated, marking both a loss of hu-
these types of programs. man productivity and high costs to tax-
Nevertheless, the federal government payers, while leaving many families and
itself has made little effort to help the children helpless.23 Prison sentences have
cause of reducing the damage attributable been equally harsh, with a 1992 report by
to drug use (i.e. harm reduction). The the Bureau of Justice Statistics showing
claim of the current director of the OND- an average sentence of six years for drug-
CP, John Walters, that “the very name [of related criminals.24 Failure to provide
harm reduction] is a lie,”17 illustrates the clean needles throughout the last two
level of government support for harm decades has also led to unnecessary rates
reduction. Aiming instead to curb drug of HIV, with approximately 30 percent of
prevalence, Walters pushed the focus of HIV cases being related to injection drug
US policy from hard drugs to marijuana, use, according to the CDC.25 African
the illicit drug with the highest rate of use American and Latino communities have
in the country.18 Recent studies show that been hit the hardest by US policies, with
the government supports Walters’ call for higher rates of incarceration and HIV/
serious marijuana enforcement, with 44 AIDS among drug users.26
percent of all drug related arrests in 2004 In addition to the costs, these policies
resulting from marijuana violations, and have few tangible benefits. Drug use has
39 percent simply from marijuana pos- fluctuated irrespective of a consistently
session.19 Similarly, the National Youth harsh US drug policy since the first period
Anti-Drug Media Campaign sponsored of escalation in the 1980s,27 while drug
by the ONDCP overwhelmingly focuses prices are steadily decreasing.28 Crime
on marijuana use prevention for at-risk also appears to be unaffected by some of
non-users and occasional users.20 the policies, which is not surprising con-
The consequences of a severe enforce- sidering that chronic substance abusers
ment policy coupled with inadequate pro- who carry out most of the crime are not
vision of treatment and negligent support the focus of US drug policy.29
of harm reduction methods are staggering. The problems are clear. The costs at
First, individuals’ civil liberties have been which we pursue our policies are much
threatened. In 1985, the US Supreme too high to continue with a prohibition-
Court upheld the right of US customs of- ist approach based on severe enforcement
ficials to detain anyone who entered the and little help to the drug user. Should
US until they submitted a stool sample for we seek a different form of repression (i.e.
examination to prove they were not traf- the Swedish model), extreme liberaliza-
ficking drugs. This policy showed a suc- tion (i.e. the Netherlands), or the middle
cess rate of less than 20 percent.21 While road (i.e. Australia)? Which policies pro-
this policy may be effective in some cases, vide the best model for future drug law?
it is extremely demoralizing for those Which policies are politically viable? It
subjected to it. Similar trespasses against is with these questions that we move to
the next component of this discussion, in the nightlife setting. This set a harsh
an analysis of three forms of drug-control precedent paving the way for drug test-
policies currently employed within the in- ing practices that exceeded governmen-
ternational community. tal minimums; by 1997, one-third of all
large firms were habitually testing their
II. The Swedish Model: workers.32
From “Success” to Futility One of the essential components of
Swedish policy has been the idea that eu-
Before beginning a more lengthy phoria is the basis for consumption. Such
discussion of the progressive models of a notion, developed by Nils Bejerot, who
drug-control policies, it is important to helped found Swedish drug policy, partly
establish that the problems inherent in explains why consumption was chosen as
the repressive US drug-control policy are the center-point of Swedish drug policy.
not limited to the United States. Sweden, It also explains why Sweden has opted to
which for years championed a consump- put such little attention toward treatment
tion-oriented repressive drug policy as a mechanisms. That is, if euphoria is the
highly effective and superior model, has root of consumption, then making the life
similar problems. of the drug user as unbearable as possible
Like the US, Sweden has sought a will help drug users choose the abstinence
drug-free society. However, unlike the alternative.33 Not surprisingly, treatment
US, which has attempted to disrupt drug funds were cut in the 1990s, and these
markets and curb drug use by focusing on funds now only account for one quarter
supply (i.e. interdiction, local and trans- of drug-related spending today.34
state trafficking, source country produc- The Swedish government also
tion), Sweden has sought to crack down staunchly opposed harm reduction mea-
on demand. As the former Minister for sures, seeing them as both a contradiction
Health and Social Affairs, Bengt Wester- in the search for a drug free society and
berg, noted, “Consumption is the motor a threat to society in and of themselves.
of the whole drug carousel.”30 All of the methadone clinics in Sweden
While education and prevention ef- were geared toward getting drug users to
forts dominated the attack on consump- abstain from drugs rather than helping
tion in the 1970s, a sensationalized en- them live healthy, productive lives with-
forcement process became the primary out illicit substances.35 The few needle
drug-control strategy by the 1980s. With exchange programs that existed were also
policymakers guiding the public to believe not dubbed as harm reduction policies.
that drugs threatened the very nature, sta- Doing so would support drug use and
bility, and exceptionalism of Swedish so- thus pose a danger to the stability of soci-
ciety, the Swedish government led a new ety. As Arthur Gould explains, “whereas
offensive on drugs.31 In 1988, drug use, in countries like the Netherlands and
regardless of the drug, became a fineable Britain, it had been accepted that the
offence. By 1993 drug use became an spread of HIV and AIDS was greater
imprisonable transgression. One effort than the threat from drug use, in Sweden
operating under this new infrastructure it was argued that the threats were equally
was the Rave Commission developed in great.”36
the 1990s. This governmental initiative What has been the result of these
instituted the right to subject club-goers increasingly repressive, anti-harm reduc-
to urine testing and random arrest with- tion laws? First, as in the US, the pro-
hibitionist policies in Sweden have led to are putting more emphasis on treatment
gross violations of civil liberties, as seen and “caring” for patients instead of simply
for example in the power of the Rave “curing” them.44 Officials are also more
Commission mentioned above to de- supportive of harm reduction measures,
mand drug tests from anyone believed to as seen in 2004 when the government
be under the influence. Furthermore, like made two experimental needle exchange
the US, Sweden has had rapidly increas- programs permanent and the National
ing incarceration and conviction rates. Drug Policy Coordinator recommended
Between 1986 and 1997, the number that similar needle exchange programs
of people found guilty almost doubled be permitted throughout the country.45
(from 6,400 to 11,400), with 2,000 re- In general, there has been a growing re-
ceiving sentences of six months or less alization that former drug policies have
and 270 receiving sentences of more than been ineffective in curbing drug use, and
two years.37 Second, drug use has fluctu- benefits can be derived–without societal
ated without any clear relation to changes costs—from harm reduction.
in Swedish policy. While the Swedish In this way, the once highly-praised
model was praised as a success in the Swedish model, like the American para-
1980s for lowering recreational drug con- digm, shows that drug use can rise in spite
sumption, drug consumption at the time of repressive policies. In fact, studies have
of the restrictive policy formation was shown that drug-control policy is only a
already on the decline (at least since the minor component in drug abuse rates and
mid 1970s), thus putting into question thus not an effective deterrent of drug
the real effectiveness of Swedish policy.38 use. Therefore, given the futility of this
Moreover, from 1979 to 1992, there was policy and that abstinence-based, anti-
a substantial increase in the number of harm-reduction drug policies ignore the
heavy drug users from 12,000 to 17,000, great costs associated both with drug use
and between 1992 and 1998, an increase and the excessive drug-control policing,
in the number of heavy drug users by 37 it seems necessary to find an alternative
percent.39 Additionally, despite the con- solution that avoids the problems associ-
tinuation of a strict prohibitionist policy ated with repressive regimes. It also seems
to deter consumption throughout the necessary to shift the focus of policy from
1990s, recreational and teenage drug use prevalence—proven to fluctuate indepen-
grew considerably in that decade.40 The dently of drug policies—to something
number of documented overdoses also that is more controllable and generally
went up, rising from 99 in 1995 to over beneficial to society (i.e. harm reduction).
400 in 2002 and 2003.41 It is important It is with this alternative framework in
to note that regardless of these increases mind that I shift discussion to perhaps
in consumption, Swedish drug consump- the most progressive example of alternate
tion is lower than that of the rest of Eu- drug-control models: the Netherlands.
rope. But this is likely due to the fact that
Sweden is a successful welfare state with III. The Netherlands:
a low unemployment rate.42 Again, the The Liberal Experiment
focus of this analysis is on policy effective- In 1967 and 1968, after over a de-
ness, not simply use prevalence.43 cade of repressive Dutch drug policies,
Surprisingly, the repressive anti-harm two independent commissions—one pri-
reduction attributes of Swedish drug-con- vate and one state—began researching al-
trol are changing slightly. Policymakers ternative solutions to what was becoming
a clearly ineffective national drug policy. The recent Dutch experiment in
The privately-funded Hulsman Com- harm reduction is clearly the focal point
mission began investigations first and, to of efforts to liberalize international drug
a certain degree, spurred the creation of policy norms. Since its inception in
the second, state-funded working group 1976, the policy has taken four major ob-
known as the Baan Commission. Both jectives: 1) “prevention of drug use and
commissions came to similar conclusions treatment and rehabilitation of addicts,”
and advised the government to shift away 2) “reduction of harm to drug users,” 3)
from the prohibitionist approach, espe- “diminishing public nuisance caused by
cially regarding cannabis use. The devel- drug users,” and 4) “combating the pro-
opment of these commissions marked a duction and trafficking of drugs.”48 As
radical change in drug-control philoso- is illustrated above, the key concepts of
phy. The extent to which these two com- Dutch drug-control policy are based on
missions actually influenced policy mak- harm reduction, public heath, and toler-
ers is debated. Some have proposed that ance with regard to drug use. It is un-
the two commissions were in fact to the derstood that while drug use should be
political right of legislators and thus did discouraged, those who do use drugs
not have much of an impact on govern- should not be abandoned. In line with
mental thinking.46 Regardless of wheth- the concept of normalization that arose in
er change was inevitable, the propositions the 1980s, drug use is seen as a common
put forth by the Hulsman and the Baan social issue and thus should be treated
commissions were generally accepted, and similar to alcoholism.49 It is important to
in 1976, official policy changed with a re- note that the term normalization does not
vision to the 1928 Dutch Opium Act.47 by definition assume drug use to be nor-
The key change in Dutch policy was mal. Instead, it assumes that deviant be-
the legal distinction between List I and havior, such as drug and alcohol abuse, is
List II drugs. List II drugs were cannabis a normal part of society.50 Also assumed
products, while List I drugs were essen- in the Dutch policy is that policing drug
tially everything else (cocaine, heroine, use can often be more harmful than drug
amphetamines, LSD etc.). The reasoning use itself. Nevertheless, the objectives
behind the change was two-fold. First, show that while drug use is somewhat tol-
policy makers wanted to make a legal erated, drug production and trafficking is
distinction between what they considered certainly not. Surprisingly, like the U.S,
unacceptably dangerous “hard” drugs and two-thirds of federal drug spending goes
less dangerous “soft drugs” (i.e. cannabis
to enforcement, partly due to US and in-
products). Second, it was hoped that the
ternational pressure.51 Where the Dutch
legal separation between List I and List
model differs, however, is in its approach.
II drugs would prevent cannabis users
from interacting in an underground black Even though three government ministries
market. More specifically, if cannabis be- are active in drug-control decision-mak-
came legally accepted, it was envisioned ing (Health, Interior, Justice), the Health
that cannabis users would be less likely to Ministry acts as the coordinator between
move onto hard drugs (i.e. the gateway ef- the three and is of foremost importance
fect) or involve themselves in the dangers in the process.52 Thus, although most
of an underground black market. The of the money goes toward supply inter-
latter element of reasoning identifies diction, the drug control strategy is es-
most notably with the theory of harm sentially geared toward health principles
reduction. above all else.
Now that the policies have been pre- back door problem’. Coffee shops are also
sented, it is relevant to disclose the man- not allowed to advertise, sell to minors,
ner in which they have been carried out. or operate within 500 meters of a school.
Following the idea of normalization, it is Although in principle the idea of the cof-
essentially understood that small quanti- fee shop makes sense, the Netherlands has
ties of drugs—hard or soft—for personal faced international criticism for its ultra-
possession are decriminalized. The Chief liberal policies in allowing drugs to be
Prosecutor has set standards for the limits sold. Despite some cutbacks in the num-
of personal possession: five grams (previ- bers of coffee shops, approximately 900
ously 30 grams) of cannabis, .5 grams of still remain in the country. The reduction
heroin and cocaine, and one tablet for in coffee shops has been accompanied
pill drugs such as ecstasy.53 Moreover, with the rise of ‘smart shops’ in which
prosecutors can implement the Dutch usually legal, mostly plant-based, psy-
expediency rule, allowing prosecutors to choactive drugs are sold. As one reporter
throw away cases if they feel the prosecu- explains, “While the psychoactive com-
tion acts against the public interest (e.g. pounds in mushrooms are illegal, fresh
if possession of cannabis does not exceed mushrooms are not…[T]he designer drug
five grams, previously 30 grams). Thus, chemists [however] stay one step ahead of
in a sense, while experimental drug use is lawmakers by tweaking their products to
not formally allowed or encouraged, it is confound legal descriptions.”57
somewhat accepted and seen as a mini- As the purpose of this paper is to
mal problem. Such thinking is in accor- search for alternative solutions to the US
dance with the Libertarian thinking of drug policy, it is necessary to examine
John Stuart Mill. According to Mill, the both the costs and benefits of the Neth-
state should “refrain as much as possible erlands’ drug policy. First, let us consider
from behaviours that have consequences the benefits. The approach taken by the
for the individual alone.”54 Following Netherlands has avoided many of the
such a policy, it is only when drug users problems associated with US drug policy
cause trouble to bystanders (e.g. crime) without incurring high rates of drug use
that Dutch officers intervene.55 Even relative to Europe or the United States.
low-level street dealing sometimes goes The government, for example, has been
unpunished.56 able to pursue extensive treatment pro-
Discussion of the Dutch drug policy grams providing methadone maintenance
would not be complete without mention and needle exchanges, with services reach-
of the state-approved coffee shops. In ing approximately 70 percent of heroin
line with the Dutch distinction between users.58 Meanwhile, health services such
List I and List II drugs, and in accordance as the needle exchange programs have
with the administrative attempt to sepa- contributed to the relatively low HIV/
rate cannabis from the black market, cof- AIDS prevalence among intravenous
fee shops are locations that are allowed to drug users (IDUs) in the Netherlands.
sell small quantities of ‘soft drugs’ (e.g. 30 Only 10.5 percent of HIV/AIDS victims
grams or less of cannabis products). In are IDUs,59 significantly lower than the
accordance with the major component European average of 39.2 percent.60 Also
of Dutch strategy that seeks to stop large beneficial in the Dutch program is the
scale trafficking, however, coffee shops are health education system, with appropri-
theoretically not allowed to buy drugs, ate sex education and welfare support to
a discrepancy known as the ‘front door- drug users.61 Surprisingly, despite the
treatment of heroin users, crime among spite the increase, cannabis use in the
IDUs has not decreased; but there does Netherlands is relatively low. According
not seem to be any indication that it has to a 1999 study by Abraham et al., only
increased either.62 15.6 percent of the Dutch population re-
Perhaps the most important benefit ported ever using cannabis.67 It is inter-
of the Dutch system is the openness with esting to note as well that Dutch trends in
which policy makers approach the drug cannabis use between 1970 and 1990 are
problem. The Dutch system has helped remarkably similar to those of Germany,
IDUs come out of the shadows and despite Germany’s prohibition of cannabis
move away from the often harmful con- during the two decades.68 In comparison
sequences of displacement (e.g. increased to the US, lifetime use of cannabis is also
risk of overdose because bystanders are considerably lower in the Netherlands, as
not around to give assistance) and covert, US figures are more than double those of
rushed injection processes (often leading the Netherlands.69 Furthermore, in spite
to accidental needle sharing or non-sterile of relatively relaxed drug laws, Dutch rec-
forms of injection). In doing so, the sys- reational use of drugs such as cannabis,
tem has a greater societal benefit, as the cocaine, amphetamines, and ecstasy is
visibility of drug addicts has led to a de- moderate when compared to the rest of
glamorization of drug use and served as a Europe, while problematic drug use is ac-
useful prevention measure.63 Likewise, tually the lowest among EU countries.70
Dutch administrators can more accurately According to a 2001 report by the Euro-
trace the problem of drug addiction in the pean Monitoring Centre for Drugs and
country. Exemplary of the openness in Drug Addiction, in the Netherlands there
Dutch policy was the temporary effort to were only 2.6 problem users per 1000
screen more harmful illicit drugs among inhabitants aged 15-64.71 Drug-related
a user’s stash of illicit drugs. Although deaths are relatively low when compared
recently shut down partially in response to other European countries as well.72
to international criticism, clinics arose in Recent data also suggest that the average
light of increased ecstasy use to test for age of heroin users has been increasing
look-alike pills that could be potentially yearly, suggesting that fewer members of
more dangerous than the intended drug the young generation are resorting to use
of choice.64 Such progressive thinking is of heroin.73
at the heart of Dutch policy-making and Despite the profound benefits of
has allowed for fundamental changes with Dutch drug policy and general approval
successful results in the area of harm re- of most of its harm reduction methods
duction. throughout Europe, some conservative
The policy changes themselves have prohibitionists, especially American drug-
not seemed to increase substance abuse. control policy makers, have perceived the
As found by Korf (1995) with regard Netherlands’ experiment on drug-control
to cannabis, “the overall picture indi- as a failure. As argued by Collins in 1999,
cates that no significant changes in can- the policy of tolerance has indirectly led
nabis use have occurred since statutory to a “coffee shop mentality” that attracts
decriminalization.”65 Rather, it was only international drug traffickers.74 Like-
several years after the passage of this drug wise, former director of the ONDCP,
policy that cannabis use increased, an in- Barry McCaffrey, saw the Netherlands as
crease that was in conjunction with trends a poor model and a good example of why
in most European countries.66 Still, de- the prohibitionist model of American
drug policy is superior.75 Such criticisms role as a transit country.78 Home to the
are likely linked to two major factors. world’s biggest seaport at Rotterdam and
First, the Netherlands’ drug policy is seen acting as the main distributor to Europe,
as a great paradox, with conflicting poli- the Netherlands is an ideal location for
cies that allow the consumption, albeit any drug trafficking enterprise, regardless
limited, of illicit drugs that are expressly of its drug policies. As one study inter-
banned. Second, the Netherlands has be- viewing Columbian cocaine smugglers
come a major location for drug tourism, found, the Netherlands is used as a smug-
drug traffickers, and drug production. gling center because of “the huge volumes
With regard to the portrayal of transported through both airports and
Dutch policy as a paradox, I would argue seaports, the infrastructure, its central lo-
that the policy should be characterized cation in Europe, a good business climate
by sophistication rather than contradic- as well as financial and banking being well
tion. Although some individuals have represented, and finally the attractiveness
been able to circumvent and take ad- of Amsterdam as an international meeting
vantage of Dutch policy (e.g. in the case point.”79 Likewise, the large production
of smart shops), the drug policy of the of synthetic drugs is largely attributable
Netherlands has effectively minimized to the fact that the country has legitimate
the gateway effect. Moreover, while the major chemical industries (DSM, Akzo)
rise of drug tourism (i.e. visiting the that have inadvertently helped to supply
country to do illicit drugs) seems unques- the ingredients for synthetic drug produc-
tionably tied to the Netherlands’ liberal ers.80
drug policies, I refute the notion that this Realizing that substance abuse is in-
can be an argument against liberalizing evitable in society, the Dutch government
international drug-control norms. The has successfully reduced the harm caused
problem, it seems, is more a unilateral by drug abuse while attempting to stop
issue than anything else, as the Nether- the drug trade. And while the Dutch
lands was the first country to shift away model has its contradictions, these ap-
from the repressive drug-control model. parent discrepancies reveal a tremendous
If instead the Netherlands had moved to- amount of sophistication and pragmatism
ward liberalization in coordination with that is lacking in the US model. While
other countries, it seems highly unlikely both the US AIDS/HIV rate attribut-
that the effects of drug tourism would be able to intravenous drug use and the drug
significant at all. Given the US’s ability abuse prevalence in the total population
to strongly influence the drug policies of have remained above average, the Neth-
foreign nations,76 a multilateral initiative erlands has been able to better temper the
could likely take shape if the US sought effects of both of these problems through
one, especially with the new wave of drug liberal minded policies.
liberalization in the EU.77 There are, however, certain consider-
With regard to the rise of drug traf- ations one must make before applying the
ficking and drug production in the Dutch drug-control system to the United
Netherlands, the extent to which these States. First, the Netherlands is consider-
developments are a result of liberal and ably smaller than the US and thus easier
lenient drug policy is highly debatable. to manage. Second, the country lacked a
The high levels of drug trafficking, for conservative opposition party at the time
example, appear to be a consequence of when the more liberal drug policies were
the Netherlands’ geography and major put into place.81 Third, there exists a phi-
losophy of gedogen (the acceptance of il- of declaring its newest “War on Drugs”,
legal activities for practical considerations) Australian policy was moving in a dif-
and a culture of tolerance in the country ferent direction. Under the auspices of
that might not be easily replicated in the the newly conceived National Campaign
US.82 Fourth, “there has never been a against Drug Abuse, harm minimization
strong sense of the direction in which so- became the major tenant of Australian
ciety should move” nor an association of drug-control philosophy. As explained
drugs with certain marginalized groups in the 1998 Ministerial Council on Drug
“in contrast to countries like Sweden and Strategy,
the United States, where such nationalist
imagery has fostered negative feelings to- “[State] governments [in Australia] do not
ward so-called deviant groups, including support illegal or risky behaviours such as in-
jecting drug use, but they do acknowledge that
drug users.”83 Fifth, the US government these behaviours occur. They have a responsi-
has been unresponsive to academic com- bility to develop and implement public health
missions suggesting harm reduction.84 and law-enforcement measures designed to re-
Despite these disparities between the duce the harm that such behavoiurs can cause,
sizes, cultures, and political ideologies of both to individuals and the community.”85
the US and the Netherlands, the evident
societal costs that the liberal Dutch policy This general acceptance of harm re-
has avoided should suggest to US politi- duction philosophy legitimized new treat-
cians that alternative solutions are neces- ment initiatives other than abstinence.
sary to avoid the current problems the Needle and syringe programs became
country now faces. Whether such a shift more prevalent in a number of states,86
in policy thinking will happen in the near methadone was studied more seriously
future is unlikely, however, and perhaps and made more universally available,87
the country will have to follow a more and funding and activity in research and
gradual approach to drug control than education rose considerably.88 In general,
did the Dutch. while spending is just as lopsided toward
enforcement and interdiction as in the
IV. Australia: US, Sweden, and the Netherlands, policy
A More Viable Solution? has focused on heath above all else, with
the approach aimed primarily at “mini-
The case of Australia illustrates a more mizing or limiting the harms and hazards
moderate, yet still progressive attempt to of drug use for both the community and
liberalize drug-control policies. Like the the individual without necessarily elimi-
Netherlands, it too has pursued harm re- nating use.”89
duction measures. Moreover, Australia Like the case of the Netherlands,
has coupled its treatment programs with harm reduction in Australia has shown
significant efforts at enforcing drug-con- positive results. HIV/AIDS infection
trol policies. The government, however, prevalence among IDUs is only about
has taken considerable efforts to make two percent (compared to about .1 per-
these drug-control policies humane. In cent of the overall population)90 and only
doing so, Australia provides a more prac- eight percent of all HIV cases are related
tical model for US drug policy, as it is un- to intravenous drug use.91 Moreover,
likely that domestic law enforcement will rates of needle sharing for a one-month
be as lax as the Netherlands. interval fell from 31 percent in 1995 to
In 1985, while the US was on the eve 18 percent in 1998.92 Meanwhile, there
seems to be no significant evidence of ris- cannabis-enforcement public health costs
ing drug use as a result of the program.93 often exceeded the health costs of the drug
In coordination with these policies, itself. In opposition to the Netherlands,
the government has adopted a “tough where police officials ignore cannabis,
on drugs” stance, a policy that is gener- cannabis law liberalization in Australia
ally followed by all the states to varying has actually led to an increasing number
degrees. What is more pronounced in of people charged with the use of canna-
all the states is a clear attempt to not suc- bis.96 It is important to note that this
cumb to ‘soft on drugs’ policies. Despite was not the result of an increase in use,
this seemingly repressive rhetoric, drug rather a decrease in effort by drug users
policies have become increasingly more to conceal their behaviors.97 Also, while
humane in Australia. While the former Australia’s new laws may not necessarily
“saturation and specific drug blitz opera- have deterred drug use, they have done
tions still occur… there is a move toward as good a job of deterrence as prohibi-
policing that might better be described tion. Before touting the Australian model
as moderating or regulating the drug further, it is necessary to realize that the
marketplace.”94 “nature of required treatment regimes is
The clearest example of the new yet to be established and the longer-term
push toward a harm-reduction style of consequences of these programs, espe-
enforcement in the country is in the vari- cially the potential for net widening or
ous cannabis liberalization acts that have the introduction of people into the law
taken place in the majority of Australian enforcement system who would not oth-
jurisdictions. Acting somewhat indepen- erwise attract the active interest of police
dently of what has generally been a more are potential concerns.”98
conservative national government, most That being said, the Australian initia-
of the states and territories have favored tive has produced enormous social health
expiation of cannabis offenses with pay- benefits without incurring an increase in
ments of fines or infringement notices. drug abuse. Police officers in most states
Of the eight jurisdictions under the Aus- have implemented humane and mild en-
tralian Commonwealth, South Australia, forcement with substantial success but
the Australian Capital Territory, and the without the severe punishment, losses in
Northern Territory have all resorted to productivity, and threats to civil liberties
prohibition with civil penalties (e.g. in- that result from the prohibitionist Ameri-
fringement notice systems), while Victoria can model. The policy seems to have had
and Tasmania have opted for prohibition some effect on incarceration levels, as only
with cautioning. Only Western Austra- ten percent of the 2005 prison population
lia, New South Wales, and Queensland was indicted for illicit drug offenses.99
maintain that cannabis unquestionably Moreover, only 112 per 100,000 people
warrants a criminal offense charge, and in the population are in prison (compared
there have been signs that these states will to 702 per 100,000 in the US).100 More-
also soon change cannabis policy toward over, a wide range of harm reduction
diversion mechanisms that force cannabis measures such as needle sharing facilities
offenders to attend treatment centers.95 have helped keep the HIV/AIDS preva-
Like the Netherlands’ approach, the lence low without leading to an escalation
new revolution of cannabis liberalization of substance use.
policy that began with South Australia Such a balance between enforcement
in 1987 is based on the assumption that and treatment (with the inclusion of
harm reduction treatment) offers a more the civil liberties of numerous citizens are
neutral model for US policy makers to constantly being threatened.
agree upon. The Netherlands has taken
great strides in producing humane and V. Conclusion
sophisticated drug-control policies, but
The Netherlands and Australia, along
given the animosity that US drug poli-
with a host of other countries, have dem-
cymakers have toward the policy of the
onstrated that drug enforcement need not
Netherlands, it seems unlikely America
be so severe nor harm reduction so feared.
is prepared to base its drug system on lax
Moreover, it is not only the level of spend-
enforcement while condoning the sale of
ing on drug policies that matters, but the
cannabis, drug use, and minor drug traf-
general approach as well. The US should
base its policy on effectiveness rather than
Australia, however, provides a more
vague moralistic ideologies. The current
balanced proposition, as well as a similar
US approach of a “war on drugs” is too
historical and structural background to
narrow-minded, as it fails to account for
that of the United States. Like the US—
the serious problems associated with en-
but in contrast to the Netherlands—Aus-
forcement and drug abuse, and the com-
tralia has a conservative party. Like the
plexity of the drug problem. The benefits
US, the Australian government is built
of a more progressive approach have been
upon a variant of the states rights system.
ignored, while the costs of current failed
And while I have primarily discussed fed-
drug policies are too high. We must find
eral policy throughout the paper, I do not
an alternative solution.
by any means underestimate the power of
states to counter, as happened in Austra-
lia, a generally conservative government
and implement more progressive policies 1. Warren K. Bickel and Richard
unilaterally. Alaska was the first state to DeGrandpre. Drug Policy Human
do so in the United States, and ten other Nature: Psychological Perspectives on
the Prevention, Management, and
states have followed suit in moderate can- Treatment of Illicit Drug Abuse. (New
nabis liberalization. But the potentially York: Plenum Press, 1996), 259.
slow process that would be needed in the 2. David Boyum and Peter Reuter. An
Analytic Assessment of US Drug Policy.
US to liberalize drug-control laws through (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press,
state action, both in reducing the penal- 2005), 5.
ties of enforcement and helping the drug 3. Bickel and DeGrandpre, 260.
4. Ibid.
user live a healthy productive life, should 5. Boyum and Reuter, 7.
not be necessary. 6. Edward Shepard and Paul R.
The US history of failed drug-con- Blackley. 2004. “US Drug Control
Policies: Federal Spending on Law
trol policies and the case of Sweden have Enforcement Versus Treatment in
shown us that repressive policies, whether Public Health Outcomes.” Journal of
they focus on supply or demand, gener- Drug Issues. 34, 4:771-786.
7. Boyum and Reuter, 7.
ally do not have a major role in curbing 8. Ibid. 30.
drug use—and if they have been at all 9. Shepard and Blackely, 771-786.
successful, that success comes at too high 10. Ibid.
11. Boyum and Reuter, 41.
a cost. Incarceration levels are extraordi- 12. Ibid., 10, 14,; Shepard and Blackely,
narily high, HIV/AIDS rates attributable 771-786.
to intravenous drug use are high above 13. Boyum and Reuter, 10-11.
14. Ibid., 88-89
the rates in most western countries, and 15. Scott Burris et al. 2000. “Physician
Prescribing of Sterile Injection Swedish Social Policy: Resisting
Equipment To Prevent HIV Dionysus. (New York: Palgrave,
Infection: Time for Action” Annals of 2001), 165.
Internal Medicine, 133: 218-226. 31. Tim Boekhout van Solinge. Dealing
16. Lurie, Peter and Jones, TS and Foley, with Drugs in Europe: An Investigation
J. 1998. “A sterile syringe for every of European Drug Control Experiences:
drug user injection: how many France, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
injections take place annually, and (The Hague: BJu Legal Publishers,
how might pharmacists contribute 2004), 181.
to syringe distribution?” Journal 32. Gould, 167.
of Acquired Immune Deficiency 33. Ted Goldberg. “The Evolution of
Syndromes and Human Retrovirology, Swedish Drug Policy,” Journal of
18 Suppl 1:S45-51. Drug Issues, 34 (3): 551-576.
17. Fish, Jefferson M. Drugs and Society: 34. Mats Ramstedt. “What drug
US Public Policy. (Lanham: Rowman policies cost. Estimating drug policy
& Littlefield Publishers, 2006), 14. expenditures in Sweden, 2002: work
18. Ibid. in progress,” 101: 330-338.
19. “Marijuana.” 9 Feb 2006, http:// 35. Goldberg, 551-576.
www.drugwarfacts.org/marijuan.pdf, 36. Gould, 164.
(28 Apr 2006). 37. Ibid., 173.
20. 4 May 2006, http://www. 38. Ibid., 172.
mediacampaign.org/ (28 April 39. Ibid., 172; Goldberg, 551-576.
2006). 40. Gould, 172; Boekhout van Solinge,
21. Bickel and DeGrandpre, 260. 143.
22. Ibid. 41. Boekhout van Solinge, 184-185.
23. After the introduction of mandatory 42. Gould, 172.
minimum sentencing,, the Federal 43. Unfortunately, there seems to be
Bureau of Prisons budget increased relatively little available data on HIV
by more than 1,350 percent, from rates among IDUs.
$220 million in 1986 to about $3.19 44. Goldberg, 551-576.
billion in 1997. Bureau of Justice 45. Boekhout van Solinge, 148.
Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal 46. Justus Uitermark. 2004. “The Origins
Justice Statistics (Washington, DC: and Future of the Dutch Approach
US Government Printing Office, Towards Drugs.” Journal of Drug
1997), p. 20. Issues. 34(3): 511-532.
24. Bickel and DeGrandpre, 262. 47. It is interesting to note that a similar
25. “HIV/AIDS & Injection Drug commission at the time arose in
Use” 25 Jan. 2006. http://www. the U.S (Shafer Commission) also
drugwarfacts.org/hivaids.htm (April advocating harm reduction. As
28 2006). shown above, the commission had
26. “Race, HIV/AIDS, and the Drug minimal impact.
War” 25 Jan 2006. http://www. 48. Fish, 13.
drugwarfacts.org/racehiv.htm (April 49. Boekhout van Solinge, 108.
28 2006). 50. Ibid.
27. “Summary of Findings from the 51. Henk Rigter. 2005. “What drug
1998 National Household Survey policies cost. Drug policy spending
on Drug Abuse” http://www. in the Netherlands in 2003.” Society
drugabusestatistics.samhsa.gov/ for the Study of Addiction. 101: 323-
nhsda/98SummHtml/TOC.htm (2 329.
May 2006) 52. Boekhout van Solinge, 108.
28. “The Price and Purity of Illicit Drugs: 53. Ibid., 107.
1981 Through the Second Quarter 54. Ibid., 132.
of 2003.” Office of National Drug 55. Dirk J. Korf, and Heleen Riper and
Control Policy. Washington DC: Bruce Bullington. 1999. “Windmills
Executive Office of the President, in their Minds? Drug Policy and Drug
Nov 2004, Publication Number NCJ Research in the Netherlands.” Journal
207768, vii. of Drug Issues. 29(3): 451-472.
29. See, for example, “Mandatory 56. Boekhout van Solinge, 139
Minimums” 9 Jan 2006. http://www. 57. Swagel, Will. Legalize it — the Dutch
drugwarfacts.org/mandator.htm (2 example: Marijuana is ‘no problem’ as
May 2006). part of a pioneering social policy. The
30. Arthur Gould. Developments in Anchorage Press. 16-22 July 1998.

58. Boekhout van Solinge, 140. 81. Ibid., 124.
59. “The Netherlands” http:// 82. Uitermark, 2004.
www.unaids.org/en/ 83. Ibid.
Regions%5FCountries/Countries/ 84. See drugwarfacts.com for example
(28 April 2006) 85. Wellbourne-Wood. 1999
60. Fish, 168. 86. Loxley, W. 2000. “Doing the possible:
61. Fish, 13. harm reduction, injecting drug use
62. Cherry, Andrew. “The Netherlands.” and blood borne viral infections in
Eds. Cherry, Andrew and Dillon, Australia.” International Journal of
Mary E., and Rugh, Douglas. Drug Policy 11(6): 407-416.
Substance Abuse: A Global View. 87. Hamilton, Margaret. “Drug Policy
(Westport: Greenwood Press, in Australia—Our Own?” Eds.
2002),156. Gerber, Jurg and Jensen, Eric
63. Boekhout van Solinge, 140. L. Drug War, American Style: The
64. Justus Uitermark and Peter Cohen. Internationalization of Failed Policy
2005 “A Clash of Policy Approaches: and Its Alternatives. (New York:
The Rise (And Fall?) of Dutch Harm Garland Publishing, 2001), 111.
Reduction Policies Towards Ecstasy 88. Loxley, 2000.
Consumption.” International Journal 89. Ibid.
of Drug Policy. 16:65-72. 90. “Australia” http://www.unaids.
65. Dirk J. Korf, and Heleen Riper and org/en/Regions%5FCountries/
Bruce Bullington., 451-472. Countries/ (28 April 2006)
66. Marcel De Kort and Ton Cramer. 91. Loxley, 2000.
1999. “Pragmatism Versus Ideology: 92. Ibid.
Dutch Drug Policy Continued” 93. “Illicit Drug Use“ www.aihw.gov.
Journal of Drug Issues, 29(3), 473- au/publications/phe/sdua02/sdua02-
492. c04.pdf (28 April 2006).
67. Manja Abraham. 1999. “Illicit Drug 94. Hamilton, 106.
Use, Urbanization, and Lifestyle in 95. Lenton, Simon et al. 1999. “Laws
the Netherlands.” Journal of Drug Applying to Minor Cannabis
Issues 29(3), 565-586. Offences in Australia and Their
68. Boekhout van Solinge, 108. Evaluation” International Journal of
69. Abraham, 565-586. Drug Policy. 10:299-303.
70. Boekhout van Solinge, 107. 96. Ibid.; Hamilton, 108
71. Ibid. 97. Lenton, 1999; Hamilton, 108.
72. Ineke Haen Marshall and Henk 98. Hamilton, 110.
van de Bunt, “Exporting the Drug 99. “Australia Bureau of Statistics:
war to the Netherlands and Dutch Prisoners in Australia” www.ausstats.
Alternatives.” Eds. Gerber, Jurg and abs.gov.au/Ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0
Jensen, Eric L. Drug War, American /0D2231601F85888BCA2570D80
Style: The Internationalization of Failed 01B8DDB/$File/45170_2005.pdf
Policy and Its Alternatives. (New York: (28 April 2006)
Garland Publishing, 2001), 202. 100. Ibid.
73. Boekhout van Solinge, 140.
74. Collins, L. 1999. “Holland’s Half-
Baked Drug Experiment.” Foreign About the Author
Affairs 78(3): 82-98. Benjamin Aronson recently
75. Marshal and van de Bunt, 197. graduated magna cum laude and Phi
76. See Eds. Gerber, Jurg and Jensen, Beta Kappa from Brown University
Eric L. Drug War, American Style: in May, 2007, receiving an A.B. in
The Internationalization of Failed International Relations. As a student
Policy and Its Alternatives. (New York: at Brown, he worked to rebuild the
Garland Publishing, 2001). school’s Habitat for Humanity campus
77. Billington, Bruce and Bollinger,
Lorenz, and Shelley, Tara. 1999. chapter, leading efforts that raised over
“Trends in European Drug Policies: $24,000 to aid New Orleans in its
A New Beginning or More of the reconstruction efforts after Hurricane
Same?” Journal of Drug Issues 34(3): Katrina. He is now in Buenos Aires,
481-490. Argentina working for the Buenos Aires
78. Rigter, 2005. Herald, the city’s English newspaper.
79. Boekhout van Solinge, 135. He plans to apply to law school in the
80. Ibid. fall.
A New Mandate for UN Reform:
The Charter
Andrew Baker, Oxford University

Executive Summary ment with the UN (Article 43). This

would begin to provide the UN with
United Nations Reform is now stalled clear security commitments from
for a variety of reasons: members.
• The gap between the rhetoric and the • As the committee finalised security
reality of reform continues to widen. agreements, it would begin to for-
On the one hand, the aggressive pur- mulate joint plans and conduct joint
suit of reform by John Bolton and exercises (Article 46; Article 47, para-
others like him has alienated many graph 3). This would help to redress
states and statesmen. On the other two clear operational weaknesses of
hand, pronouncements about mas- the UN, namely, the scratch charac-
sive Security Council reform and the ter of many missions, and the ‘grab
end of sovereignty have created an bag’ character of many of the military
unrealistic climate of expectation. forces assigned to those missions.
• The UN’s failure to implement rela- • Finally, the committee would pro-
tively simple reforms led all sides vide a structure of integrated military
in the debate to raise the rhetorical command to UN missions, in line
stakes. Positions became entrenched with functional principles (Article
by mid-2006, and the UN budget 47, paragraph 2). The membership
was voted on over the opposition of of the committee would change to
the US, Japan, Canada and Australia. account for member-states partici-
By the end of the year, the reform pating in Security Council actions.
agenda was in shreds. While states retained control of their
own contingents, they would do so
Reform may be more feasible if efforts within a single institution.
turn toward the functional utilisation of
the existing UN Charter and away from Although the G77 is suspicious of reform,
any notion of a revolution within the in- a tiny minority of spoiler states can hold
ternational system or the UN. A key part the General Assembly hostage, and the
of the UN Charter, which has never been Secretariat sometimes seems paralytic, it
utilised as envisaged by its founders, is the may be possible to find a new mandate for
Military Staff Committee. This essay ex- reform within the UN Charter itself.
amines the history of this committee and
how it was intended to work in service of I. Introduction
global collective security. Reviving this The United Nations has weathered
committee may promote reform on sev- many crises in its history, but nothing
eral fronts: threatens the organization like the grow-
ing fissure between the rhetoric and re-
• A revived committee would be ality of reform. United Nations reform
charged with negotiating ‘security necessarily addresses the functional as-
agreements’ with any member state pects of the organization: developing
willing to enter into such a commit-
good practice and oversight; addressing these tensions. It must be an effective
the troubled relationship between the peacekeeper, to address the breakdown
Secretariat, the Security Council, and the of order and security; it must effectively
General Assembly; and improving the balance the interests of powerful states,
capacity of the organisation, particularly to help prevent against a major war; and
the Security Council, to back pronounce- it must consider the political needs and
ments on global affairs with action. The aspirations of weaker states and provide
rhetoric of reform, on the other hand, them with a voice.
has been heavy with announcements of If the UN fails to reform, the organi-
the redefinition of sovereignty, a revolu- sation may break under the combined
tion in collective security, or an overhaul pressure of the collapse of failed states,
of the Security Council. United Nations the divergence of the strongest states, and
reform must be about the art of the pos- the frustrated aspirations of those in be-
sible; grandiose pronouncements under- tween. This essay argues that one means
mine the effectiveness of the institution of accomplishing this objective is already
and dilute its legitimacy. written into the UN Charter: the Military
Reforming the United Nations is cru- Staff Committee (MSC). The MSC, as
cial to the future of world order, yet UN originally devised, was to be a fluid, func-
reform is illusive for precisely the same tional body capable of advising the Se-
reasons that it is necessary. The end of the curity Council, planning and sustaining
Cold War and the collapse of Soviet power UN operations worldwide, and changing
abruptly closed down the competing net- its membership and composition accord-
works of far-flung client states propped up ing to which states were involved in a giv-
by superpowers. The UN stepped into the en Security Council operation. In other
resulting vacuum. Its commitments have words, the MSC was to provide the link
expanded exponentially, making the UN between the high politics of the Security
one of the principal guarantors of world Council and events on the ground. It was
order and overstretching the organization meant to improve Security Council coop-
at a moment when great power relations eration, to make UN operations effective
are deteriorating. The United States and and efficient, and to balance the positive
Russia have scrapped important arms con- security contributions of every state with
trol agreements over the past seven years; a share in decision-making. This essay
Russia has explicitly linked the future of draws on the words of UN founders to
breakaway regions like Transdniestria and illustrate how the MSC might be made
Abkhazia to European and US actions in to work today. At a moment when the
Kosovo; Russian competition with the rhetoric of reform has overwhelmed the
US in Central Asia is manifest in its poli- reality and UN reform has stalled in the
cy toward Iran; and Chinese competition General Assembly, it may be time to shift
with the US across the Indian Ocean is the reform agenda to smaller, functional,
manifest in its policy toward the Sudan. and more achievable objectives.
Finally, the predominance of the US and
the global dominance of a handful of rich II. Rhetoric And Reform
‘northern’ states have substantially nar-
Kofi Annan’s reform agenda emerged,
rowed the range of policy options open
phoenix-like, from the flame of scandal.
to weaker, developing states. If the UN
The report of Annan’s High-level Panel,
is to continue to fulfil its role as a collec-
“A More Secure World: Our Shared Re-
tive security organisation, it must address
sponsibility,” and his own report, “In The Council more than lived up to
Larger Freedom,” were published be- pessimistic expectations: its strongest
tween December 2004 and March 2005 statement on Darfur was ‘deep concern,’
in the midst of widening allegations of and in nine months it criticised only one
sexual abuse, harassment, mismanage- state, Israel, nine times. On 26 March
ment, influence peddling, espionage, and 2007, the Council passed a resolution,
corruption. The High-level Panel report proposed by Pakistan, against the ‘defa-
trumpeted the need for a “new compre- mation of religion;’ it called for the ‘re-
hensive collective security system;”1 An- sponsible’ exercise of free speech, subject
nan’s report called for “a new security to the limits of security, health, order,
consensus.”2 The Dean of Princeton’s morals, and respect for religions.7 Unsur-
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and prisingly, Human Rights Watch and Free-
International Affairs, after reviewing these dom House expressed dismay and alarm.8
reports, proclaimed that they represented In less than a year, the Human Rights
a ‘sea change’ in sovereignty and the state Council managed to undermine the very
system.3 notion of ‘human’ rights in favor of ill-
At the very moment these reports defined communitarian prerogatives.
were due for debate in September 2005, By mid-2006, the UN was reeling
Paul Volcker published his own damn- from a string of disasters and the reform
ing indictment of UN corruption in the agenda had united a number of ‘spoiler’
Oil for Food Program.4 Annan blandly states. Some of these states sought to
asserted that he did not anticipate any defend their own socially regressive or
resignations over the Volcker Report. At fundamentalist policies (e.g. Pakistan),
the same time, the US’s colorful recess ap- to advance their own global agendas (e.g.
pointee to the UN, John Bolton, sought Cuba, Venezuela), or to protect them-
a wide range of revisions to the reform selves against potential intervention (e.g.
program. This initiative, sound in its Sudan, Iran). Whereas spoiler states were
own right, nevertheless opened the floor united in their object, reformers had nu-
to states such as Venezuela, Cuba, and merous objectives and platforms, which
Egypt, who had no interest at all in re- they pursued to the rhetorical extreme.
form.5 Annan’s reform agenda was shred- Tony Blair called for a massive overhaul
ded, and those scraps that survived, like of the Security Council and its expansion
the new Human Rights Council, were to include Japan, India and Germany.9
watered down. Mark Malloch Brown, the Deputy Sec-
Then, on April 28 2006, budgetary retary General, lashed out at the United
reforms in line with the Volcker Report States, telling an audience of Democrats
were defeated in the Budget Committee of in New York that “the UN’s role is in
the General Assembly. Bolton promised effect a secret in Middle America,” and
to block authorisation of the UN budget calling for “no more ‘take it or leave it,’
if more were not done. Little more than a red-line demands thrown in without de-
week later, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia bate and engagement.”10 Kofi Annan,
and Saudi Arabia were all elected to the supporting his deputy, argued that dis-
new Human Rights Council, to the dis- empowered states were wrecking reforms
may of organizations like Human Rights in response to US bullying; echoing Blair,
Watch and the Geneva-based UN Watch; Annan went on to call for total structural
the United States abstained from the new reform, saying that “even these current re-
Council.6 forms are only a small down-payment on
what must follow.”11 As in wonderland, and remarked, “no comment.”16
the UN had to run faster in order to stand Unfortunately, there is little to smile
still. about. The 2006-2007 UN budget, vot-
Over the second half of 2006, the ed on 30 June, was passed over the op-
rhetoric intensified: the United Nations position of the US, Australia, Canada and
adopted a siege mentality, and not with- Japan. The very occurance of such a di-
out reason, as Bolton’s tactics resembled lemma—between shutting the UN down
a siege. Having already withheld US on 1 July, or defying the US—testifies to
support for the admittedly flawed Hu- just how badly polarised the reform pro-
man Rights Council and threatened cess has become. The Administrative and
budget chaos over the failure of budget- Budget Committee followed its action on
ary reforms, Bolton threatened budget 30 June by passing a weak resolution on
cuts, unless there was a public apology reform, adopted by the General Assembly
for Malloch Brown’s slur against Middle on 7 July, which established the post of
America. “It is illegitimate,” he fumed, Chief Information Technology Officer
“for an international civil servant to criti- while also authorizing a very limited ex-
cise what he thinks are the inadequacies periment in mandate, oversight and bud-
of citizens of a member government.”12 get reform.17
From Bolton’s perspective, the battle for UN reform has since lost much of
reform was across not one, but two fronts: its prominence: Bolton, Annan and Mal-
against the intransigence of those states loch Brown have departed, and the diplo-
opposed, for one reason or another, to re- macy of the new Secretary General, Ban
form, and against the privileged, paternal- Ki-moon, is less public than that of his
istic elite of the UN Secretariat. For the predecessor. Nevertheless, the reform
former, there is much to suggest that the agenda remains important. In February,
reform process has unified and radicalised Ban proposed restructuring the Depart-
the G77, whose support, particularly in ment of Peacekeeping Operations, trans-
the Administrative and Budget Commit- ferring some of its responsibilities to a
tee, is important.13 Moreover, in an echo new Department of Field Support. He
of the Cold War, Russia and China have also proposed replacing the Department
been happy to utilise this discontent as a of Disarmament Affairs with an Office for
means of checking US and British foreign Disarmament Affairs. The General As-
policy; it is noticeable that, despite their sembly cautiously endorsed these propos-
own horrendous treatment of religious als, subject to further study and debate,
minorities, those two states were happy to on 15 March.18 The UN is more deeply
support Pakistan’s resolution in the Hu- committed to global stability than ever
man Rights Council. before, with 100,000 people (including
On the issue of elitism, it must be 75,000 soldiers) engaged in peacekeeping
admitted that Malloch Brown, well-con- operations, and every prospect that com-
nected, Cambridge-educated, a onetime mitments are going to expand. With that
socialist, embodies much that Middle level of engagement, the reform agenda
America finds suspicious about the UN.14 will not go away: it will either follow from
The irony is that Malloch Brown had al- prudent politics, or from a new catastro-
ready alienated many in the Secretariat
by his aggressive stance on reform.15 He
ought to have been Bolton’s natural ally; The next stage of UN reform must be
instead, when Bolton announced he was based on functional principles rather than
stepping down, Malloch Brown smiled revolutionary ones. The empty, grandiose
pronouncements for a total overhaul of to prevent New Zealand from losing her
the UN, for a redefinition of sovereignty, North Island? “I have often thought,” the
and for a revolution in international af- diplomat J.V. Wilson wrote dryly, “this
fairs of one kind or another have been could be represented as a statesmanlike
worse than useless. These competing pro- compromise.”21
nouncements became rhetoric, rhetoric There are essential conflicts within
became hard-line positions, and hard-line the Charter: between what states can do
positions became incomprehensible, until and what they will do; between the desire
the UN itself nearly foundered. to bind the great powers and the necessity
If the world has changed, the fact of securing their consent in order to do so;
remains that the UN Charter is still a between the sovereign equality of all states
powerful tool for meeting new chal- and the fact that state capabilities differ
lenges. However, the Charter can only radically. Yet these conflicts were tied, at
be effective if reform debate turns away San Francisco, to a functional question:
from the rhetorical cosmos and toward what sort of action will the UN be able
mundane reality. Imbuing the UN with to take, against whom, and with what
properties it does not and cannot possess materials? This question is as pertinent
creates a climate of false expectation and today as it was then, because it pertains
overblown idealism that is every bit as not to the global order we would like to
damaging as clumsy efforts to discredit have, but to managing the global order we
it. Effective use of the Charter demands actually have.
acknowledgement of a less-than-revolu- At San Francisco, a young British
tionary idea: states are still the centre of statesman answered that question. Glad-
the international system, and power still wyn Jebb (later Lord Gladwyn) applied
matters. With this in mind, there is an himself to what collective security would
institution, mandated by the Charter, look like after the war. He proposed the
whose time may have come: the Military creation of the Military Staff Commit-
Staff Committee. tee (MSC) so as to provide a functional,
continuous link between state militaries
III. San Francisco, The Military Staff and the Security Council. There were a
Committee And The Cold War number of important considerations: as
military advice had to be based upon real-
The debate between rhetoric and real- istic assessments of what would be done,
ity is nothing new to the United Nations. military representatives were supposed to
The San Francisco Conference was rife remain linked with their respective servic-
with conflict between different approach- es; in addition to the core representation
es to post-war security. The South Afri- of the permanent members of the Secu-
can statesman, Jan Smuts, concluded that rity Council, the MSC was also to include
the veto made the Charter “a complete representatives of those states contribut-
washout;”19 Canadians, led by Mackenzie ing forces to a given action; in peace-
King, consistently argued that the distinc- time, the MSC was meant to function as
tion between great and small powers arbi- a conventional chiefs of staff, preparing
trarily ignored the crucial role of “middle plans, supervising garrison or occupation
powers;”20 still others, like Peter Fraser, forces, and organizing joint training and
argued that the UN Charter failed in any exercises. The MSC was to supervise the
meaningful defence of territorial integrity bilateral agreements between the Security
and collective security. What was there Council and member states regarding the
precise nature of their military contribu- Britain over her commitments in Greece
tions to the UN, as well as to tender ad- and Indonesia and Britain attempting to
vice, prepare plans, and run operations. embarrass the Soviets over her high levels
In this way, the UN was to be provided of mobilisation in Eastern Europe.24 By
with a clear notion of global problems the end of 1946, as the US sought British
and of the military materials at its dispos- assistance in planning a ‘Dunkirk-style’
al, as well as the organizational capacity evacuation of Germany in the event of a
to maximise those materials through con- Soviet attack, the MSC was moribund.25
sidered planning and joint training. Jebb By mid-1947, the MSC accepted that it
thereby sought, was deadlocked.26
The MSC thus became a victim of
“An acceptable middle way between imprac- the Cold War. Strangely, it still exists and
ticable proposals for a completely interna-
meets in the twilight zone of UN bureau-
tionalised police force… and proposals which
would, in fact, amount to doing nothing at cracy. It is impossible to say what it does,
all beyond organising… what Mr. Lippmann exactly, as it lacks so much as a website.
calls ‘nuclear alliances.’” Certainly, it does not function as laid
down in the Charter. In its place, a range
In principle, the MSC helped balance of ad hoc arrangements was made through
the weight of the permanent members on the UN Secretariat, beginning with truce
the Security Council. Since the MSC supervision in 1948. The Secretariat, a
would extend a share of decision-making civilian bureaucracy, has become a mili-
power to those states willing to contrib- tary planning staff when designing UN
ute soldiers or resources to a mission, it missions, a diplomatic negotiator when
admitted equality among states willing attempting to secure commitments from
to make functional contributions to the member states, and a temporary Chiefs of
success of the UN, without diluting or Staff when distributing resources and in-
paralysing the Security Council with too structing UN forces on the ground (and
many members. As the MSC was to keep national contingents continue to answer
track of national assets earmarked for to their respective staff systems). As com-
potential deployment through the UN, mitments have multiplied over the last
as well as to plan joint exercises, it was sixteen years, it is unsurprising that the
meant to indicate what the UN could do Secretariat has been unable to cope ad-
with the forces and material that states equately with the existing load, let alone
would permit it, which in turn would in- anticipate future developments in world
form advance planning. politics. It was never meant to do either
The MSC was supposed to play a vital of those things.
role alongside the Security Council. Why
did it fail? In part, 1946 was a bad year:
the great powers were heavily engaged and IV. A Military Staff Committee For
jockeying for competitive positions all over The Twenty-First Century
the world. The MSC was not well-regard-
ed by any power, including Britain, whose As we search for solutions to the
Chiefs of Staff argued that the develop- global problems of instability, insecurity,
ment of nuclear alliances was inevitable.23 disease, crime, and terrorism, it may be
From the very first meeting of the MSC, tempting to argue that sovereignty is out-
on 1 February 1946, it was bogged down, moded. Yet sovereign states remain the
with the Soviets attempting to embarrass gold standard for effective organisation,

and the Charter was framed as a collective cally) offered more of the same.27
security system for states. It will be easier Far from arid debates in New York,
to utilise the Charter to strengthen co- the need for operational reform is very
operation among states than it will be to clear. With the exception of disturbing,
convince states to surrender more power systematic sexual abuse in the case of
and authority, particularly as the UN does the former, UN failings in the Demo-
not currently look like the best guardian of cratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2005
said power and authority. In this respect, bear an uncanny resemblance to those in
the MSC has an advantage: it is already Rwanda in 1994. At the most basic level,
in the Charter, states have already agreed problems include:
to it (in theory), and so there would be a
• Tremendously complex lines of com-
powerful mandate for making that part of
munication and responsibility be-
the Charter fully operational. Moreover,
tween national capitals, the Security
as the MSC is a Security Council organ,
Council, the Secretariat, and local
initial negotiations on its revival would
UN representatives;
bypass those states who have been consis-
• The poor training and lack of equip-
tently opposed to reform; such negotia-
ment which plagues some national
tion might also help the P-5 to define and
settle some of their security rivalries.
• A lack of structured military com-
The MSC could potentially solve sev-
eral of the major problems recently iden-
• The shady, informal provision of in-
tified in UN operations. Lakhdar Bra-
formation to peacekeepers by various
himi’s report of August 2000 suggested
intelligence organisations;
a number of important reforms: that the
• The inability or unwillingness of ci-
Secretariat develop reasonable (as opposed
vilian staff to follow essentially good
to ‘best-case scenario’) guidelines for UN
military advice.28
forces; that states help to provide UN
forces with up-to-date intelligence; that Even small catastrophes, such as the
the Secretariat provide realistic informa- recent deaths of four unarmed peace-
tion and refrain from telling the Security keepers in a UN observation post on the
Council “what it wants to hear;” that the Lebanese-Israeli border, call into question
UN develop new information-gathering the operational effectiveness of the UN.
and analysis capabilities. These were roles The so-called ceasefire that peacekeepers
originally mandated to the MSC, yet Bra- were observing had descended into war,
himi’s structure of implementation builds they had warned that Hezbollah was us-
upon the ad hoc warren constructed in ing their post as a shield, and they should
the Secretariat over the last sixty years: have been withdrawn.29 Reviving the
the use of Article 29 to create new ad hoc MSC could rectify some of these opera-
organs of the Security Council in form- tional failings.
ing peace missions; the development of First, the MSC could be charged
a ‘short list’ of potential special repre- with negotiating a round of definite
sentatives; and allowing states to retain agreements between member states and
the initiative in deciding what forces or the Security Council (Article 43), with
resources they will earmark for potential a view to providing an understanding of
UN deployment. The recommendations the nature of the forces at the Council’s
are all excellent, but for implementation, disposal. This approach, mandated by
the Brahimi Report simply (if pragmati- the Charter, would avoid the problems
associated with multilateral negotiations, sit on the MSC when the “efficient dis-
in which consensus is the hostage of the charge” of its responsibilities so require.
lowest common denominator. Definite This provision was made in 1944 at the
military commitments, moreover, would behest of Lester Pearson, the Canadian
put an end to ad hoc UN planning and statesman, in conjunction with Gladwyn
intervention. Another major advantage Jebb, Alexander Cadogan (UK) and Jack
of using the MSC in this fashion is that Hickerson (US).30 At the time, it was
it would move UN military operations, supposed to mean that MSC membership
a Security Council responsibility, out of and decision-making would be extended
the Secretariat, which is responsible to the to those states making military contribu-
General Assembly. This, in turn, would tions to a Chapter VI or Chapter VII ac-
undercut states that systematically oppose tion. The composition of the MSC was
global advances on human rights, terror- thus meant to be relatively fluid, changing
ism, or the responsibility to protect. in response to different threats, missions,
Second, the MSC could organise and initiatives. This was meant to provide
joint planning and exercises (Article 46; another incentive for the negotiation of
Article 47, paragraph 3). In the case robust security agreements between states
of planning, the MSC would be free to and the Security Council, as it would pro-
shape responses to agreed threats like vide a way for states to retain control over
crime or terror. Furthermore, the MSC their own forces within the context of a
could be charged with planning for the more unified command structure.
regulation of armaments, or of disarma- The MSC is supposed to provide a de-
ment (Article 47, paragraph 1). In the cision-making role to states making func-
case of exercises, the MSC would provide tional contributions to UN success. Here-
an important arena for states, particularly tofore, the debate about Security Council
those in the developing world (e.g. Ban- expansion has been predicated on regional
gladesh), to improve their peace-keeping distribution, economic power, and popu-
capabilities in conjunction with forces in lation. Yet the Security Council is about
the developed world (e.g. Canada). This military capability. It may be that Japan,
would alleviate the current scratch nature Brazil and Germany deserve permanent
of UN military planning, as well as miti- membership, but based on participation
gating the “grab bag” character of many in UN interventions over the last fifteen
UN forces. The question of adequate years, Canada, Ghana, or Jordan also have
force-readiness, mentioned in the Bra- strong claims to membership by virtue of
himi Report, could then be assessed (and a consistent commitment to internation-
improved) by military, rather than civil- alism. And of all the states enthusiasti-
ian, staff. At the same time, joint exercises cally endorsed as potential candidates for
would foster ground-level understanding permanent seats on the Security Council,
between different national armed forces only India possesses a solid track record
and would provide an incentive for states of participation in UN missions. Surely
to negotiate robust Security Agreements. such a track record should be as legitimate
Third, the MSC could extend par- a measure of the Security Council as the
ticipation in Security Council decision- size or geographical distribution of the
making on a functional basis (Article 47, states sitting on it. The MSC, by extend-
paragraph 2). According to the Charter, ing a decision-making role to those will-
states not permanently represented on ing to make definite contributions, could
the Security Council shall be “invited” to increase the legitimacy of Security Coun-
cil decisions while reserving pride of place to develop an effective MSC, but such
to those states willing to make a serious an initiative would be backed by a pow-
commitment to global order. erful existing mandate. Defending his
proposed reforms to the United Nations,
V. Conclusion Kofi Annan called for a “San Francisco
moment.” After examining the Charter
William Durch et al., in an exhaus- adopted at San Francisco, I could not
tive study of the Brahimi Report and the agree more.
future of UN peacekeeping operations, in
2003, noted that,
“The United Nations has no single, co-located
team dedicated to managing information,
tracking multiple crisis and conflict trends, 1. Report of the High-level Panel on
Threats, Challenges and Change:
recommending preventive action based on “A More Secure World: Our Shared
those trends or anticipating international Responsibility.” UN Document
UN requirements for either peacekeeping or A/59/565, 2.12.04. Page 21. available
peacebuilding. Repeated efforts to create such at: <http://www.un.org/secureworld/
a capacity have been resisted by UN member report.pdf>.
states.”31 2. Kofi Annan, “In Larger Freedom:
Towards Development, Security
and Human Rights for All,” UN
The Charter provided that capability. The Document A/59.2005, 21.3.05.
MSC failed in the Cold War, its role was Paragraph 81. available at: <http://
adopted piecemeal by the Department of w w w. u n . o r g / l a r g e r f r e e d o m /
Peacekeeping Operations, and ‘”n Larger 3. Anne-Marie Slaughter, ‘Security,
Freedom” classed it as an anachronism Solidarity and Sovereignty: The
(alongside trusteeship) to be erased from Grand Themes of UN Reform,’ The
American Journal of International
the Charter. Law, 99/3 (July 2005), page 623.
Yet the Charter, through the MSC, 4. Independent Inquiry Committee,
provided the UN with a military capa- ‘The Management of the United
Nations Oil for Food Program,’
bility in excess of anything it has ever 7.9.05, available at: <http://www.iic-
employed and in line with the sort of in- offp.org/documents.htm>.
ternal and external reforms currently on 5. James Traub, The Best Intentions:
Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era
the table. That capability was wasted in of American World Power (London:
the context of the ideological conflicts of Bloomsbury, 2006), pages 373-376.
the Cold War. While recent divergence 6. Steven Edwards, ‘New Rights Body
Same as Old,’ The National Post,
between the great powers is alarming, the 10.5.06, page A15.
conflict between them is nowhere near as 7. United Nations Human Rights
rigid as it was two decades ago. The door Council, Resolution A/HRC/4/L.12,
26.3.07, page 4, available at: <http://
has not shut on the reform agenda; within ap.ohchr.org/documents/gmainec.
the context of a limited, pragmatic pro- aspx>.
gramme of reform, it might be possible to 8. The Economist, vol. 383, ‘Bad
Counsel,’ 7.4.07 (no. 8,523), pages
revive the MSC. At a moment when UN 67-8.
reform is stalled in the Secretariat and in 9. Financial Times, ‘Blair’s UN
the General Assembly, it may be time to Proposals,’ 29.5.06, page 12.
10. Mark Malloch Brown, ‘UN needs
move the site of reform to the Security US, US needs UN to face challenges,’
Council, and to develop the organs en- 6.6.06 (published 7.6.06), available
visaged by the Charter as residing there. at: <http://www.un.org/News/Press/
Undoubtedly, it will require imagination 11. Kofi Annan, ‘A Moment of Truth
for the United Nations,’ Financial prepared to be put into the dock’
Times, 12.6.06, page 19. over British troop commitments.
12. James Bone & Richard Beeston, Commonwealth Delegate Meeting,
‘Apologise or We’ll Cut Your 25.11.46. Public Record Office: DO
Funding,’ The Times, 9.6.06, page 35/1892, file W.R. 208/5/29.
43. 25. General Ismay, London, to Clement
13. The Economist, vol. 381, ‘Bolton Attlee, 5.7.46. Public Record Office:
Resigns: His UN-doing,’ 9.12.06 (no. PREM 8/171.
8,507), page 52. The Administrative 26. Adam Roberts, ‘The United Nations:
and Budget Committee is the fifth Variants of Collective Security,’
committee of the UN General in Ngaire Woods, ed., Explaining
Assembly. International Relations Since 1945
14. Jasper Gerard, ‘To Save the World, (Oxford, 1996), pages 318-9.
First Save the UN,’ The Sunday Times, 27. Report of the Panel on United
11.6.06, page 8. Nations Peace Operations, United
15. Traub, op. cit. pages 331. Nations Document A55/305-
16. Warren Hoge, ‘At the UN, a Mixed S/2000/809, 21.8.00, available at:
View of Bolton’s Tenure,’ The New <http://www.un.org/peace/reports/
York Times, 5.12.06, page 17. peace_operations/>, pages viii-xv.
17. United Nations General Assembly, 28. For the DRC, see: Traub, op. cit.,
Resolution 60/283 (document A/ pages 339-358. For Rwanda, see:
Res/60/283), 17.8.06, available at: Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire, Shake
<http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/ Hands with the Devil: The Failure
resguide/r60.htm>. of Humanity in Rwanda (London,
18. United Nations General Assembly, 2004).
Resolution 61/256 (document A/ 29. Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, ‘Kofi
Res/61/256), 15.3.07. United Annan’s Hasty Rush to Judgment,’
Nations General Assembly, The Globe and Mail, 27.7.06, page
Resolution 61/257 (document A/ A15.
Res/61/257), 15.3.07. Both available 30. Lester Pearson, Washington, to
at: <http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/ Mackenzie King, 1.9.44; Lester
resguide/r61.htm>. Pearson, Washington, to Norman
19. J.C. Smuts, diary, 28.5.45. South Robertson, 2.9.44; and Lester
Africa National Archive: Smuts Pearson, Washington, to Mackenzie
Papers, vol. 316/1, folios 207-208. King, 6.9.44. National Archives
20. Mackenzie King, Ottawa, to Lord of Canada: accession RG25, vol.
Cranborne, 2.8.44. National 5708/7-V(s), part 3.
Archives of Canada: King Papers, 31. William J. Durch et al., ‘The Brahimi
vol. J4/H-1524/338, folios 232,871- Report and the Future of UN Peace
232,874. Operations,’ The Henry L. Stimson
21. J.V. Wilson, Liverpool, to C.A. Centre (2003), page xix.
Berendsen, 17.8.44. Archives New
Zealand: accession EA W2619, vol.
111/1/1, part 1. About the Author
22. Gladwyn Jebb, ‘The Military
Aspect of Any Post-War Security
Organisation,’ PHP (43) 24a (final), Andrew Baker is an American who is
3.2.44. Public Record Office: CAB finishing his doctorate in international
81/41, folios 238-40. relations at the University of Oxford.
23. Gladwyn Jebb, minute (to Richard He studies post-war order, particularly
Law & Alexander Cadogan), the United Nations. He lectures at
19.2.44. Public Record Office: FO the University of Buckingham.
371/40740, file U1751/748/70.
Also see: Julian Lewis, Changing
Directions: British Military Planning
for Post-war Strategic Defence, 1942-
1947, 2nd ed. (London, 2003), pages
39-40 & 72-73.
24. Ernest Bevin, London, to Clement
Attlee, 10.46. Public Record
Office: FO 800/508. Bevin told the
Commonwealth that ‘he was not

Bringing Dawn to Darfur
Zachary Hindin, George Washington University
R. Benjamin Nelson, Georgetown University

Executive Summary • A discussion of possible punitive

measures to be taken against the gov-
This paper addresses the systemic ernment of Sudan with a focus on
problems that have led to instability in Su- international sanctions.
dan for decades, most recently manifested • A review of the peace process that
in the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and ended Sudan’s most recent civil war.
works to clarify the misconceptions about • Policy recommendations using the
Sudan that have been propagated by the aforementioned peace process as a
mainstream international media. In ad- model for mediation in Darfur that
dition, both domestic and international would stipulate:
policy recommendations are provided to • A limit on executive power in Su-
address the stimuli of this conflict. dan’s governmental structure,
This paper includes: • The means for a robust civil soci-
• An historical and demographic over- ety to emerge,
view of the socio-political climate in • The just distribution of resources,
Sudan. • An African Union-monitored
• An analysis of the colonial legacy in campaign led by the Sudanese
Sudan and its polarizing effects to- government to end the Janja-
day. weed’s paramilitary operations.
• An examination of how Sudanese
ethnic, racial, religious, and social
identity contribute to violence in the I. Introduction
country. For nearly four years, the govern-
• A diagnosis of the problems with the ment of Sudan (Khartoum) has spon-
current African Union peacekeeping sored a genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The
operation in Sudan with recommen- largely incalculable death toll has been
dations for an effective peacekeeping estimated to be as high as 400,000 with
force in the future, including: 2.89 million displaced.1 Even the United
• An increase in the number of Nations (UN), notorious for conserva-
troops, tive casualty-estimates in conflicts with
• More sophisticated equipment with political repercussions, reports that Dar-
regards to communications-, intel- fur has been “the scene of hundreds of
ligence-, and aerial-technology thousands of civilian deaths, mass rape,
• A more comprehensive mandate massive forced displacement and other
for troops, and abuses during the past three years.”2 At
• Stringent multilateral, targeted the state level, responsibility for interven-
sanctions on Sudan, accompanied tion was passed from global superpowers
by a joint divestment campaign to the United Nations. Regrettably, po-
aimed at companies who do busi- litical roadblocks within the UN Secu-
ness with Sudan’s National Con- rity Council have stymied any concrete,
gress party effective security measures in Darfur.
The ill-equipped, under-funded African western Darfur region. In 2000, a dev-
Union (AU) has shouldered the task of astating drought besieged the Nile River
halting the killings. As millions of in- Basin, causing those affected to move into
nocent people continue to suffer the ef- Darfur, the area of Sudan with the most
fects of the 21st century’s first genocide, water. Upset that Khartoum endorsed
it is imperative that the conflict and all such inequitable competition over the al-
its elements be assessed. This assessment ready sparse resource, Darfuris petitioned
is necessary not only for the scholarly en- for recompense. For three years, Darfuris
deavor of developing a conceptual model waited for government action, but to no
of contemporary intrastate conflict and avail.
serving academia concerned with future The first incident of physical violence
conflict-prevention, -management, and occurred in February 2003 when a para-
-resolution strategies—but more press- military group calling itself the Darfur
ingly to prescribe actions that will build a Liberation Front attacked a government
lasting peace in Darfur. headquarters in the Jebel Marra district
of Darfur. Soon thereafter, the Darfur
II. Background: Country & Conflict Liberation Front bisected, forming what
are now the two main active opposi-
Sudan became an independent state tion groups: the Sudan Liberation Army
in 1956, is the largest country in Africa, (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Move-
and borders nine other countries. It is lo- ment (JEM).4 The two groups attacked
cated in northeastern Africa, just south of a number of government outposts, police
Egypt. Since gaining its independence, stations, and military convoys. With its
Sudan has only seen eleven years of peace. troops stretched thinly along the south-
The collisions of culture, race and religion ern and eastern borders, Khartoum could
have been the traditional scapegoats for not afford to relocate its forces to Dar-
Sudan’s civil unrest. About 70 percent of fur. In order to quell the SLA and JEM,
the Sudanese people are Muslim, while Khartoum armed unemployed, impover-
approximately 30 percent are Christians ished army irregulars, bandits and even
and animists. Fifty-two percent of Suda- released-prisoners to form the Janjaweed.5
nese are ‘black’ and 39 percent are ‘Arab.’ In 2004, the Janjaweed militias attacked
Decades of interethnic amalgamation, villagers in western Darfur, leaving hun-
however, have rendered such demograph- dreds of thousands of people dead and
ics less than precise. In Sudan, Arabic displacing millions.6
is the official language.3 Composed of On May 5, 2006, a faction of the
approximately six million people and SLA, led by Minni Arkou Minawi, signed
200,000 square miles of sandy plains, an accord with Khartoum. The agree-
Darfur is located in western Sudan. Its size ment was dismissed by the rest of the SLA
is comparable to that of Texas or France. and the whole of the JEM.7 Khartoum
Systemic structural inequality, cou- preyed upon the fractioned resistance
pled with political opportunism and en- movements in a campaign of internation-
vironmental disaster, has produced the al public diplomacy aimed at denouncing
conflict in Darfur today. In its time as the SLA and JEM as terrorist organiza-
a British colony, Sudan’s Nile Valley (lo- tions. It should be noted that this tactic
cated in eastern Sudan) enjoyed the lion’s (appeasing a small camp within govern-
share of foreign investment and political ment opposition groups in order to con-
favor, an inequity that marginalized the demn the bulk of its political adversaries
as wanton violence-mongers) was previ- The Justice and Equality Movement
ously employed by the government in its Led by Khalil Ibrahim, the JEM
handling of the Sudan People’s Libera- draws upon “The Black Book: Imbalance
tion Army, their main opposition in the of Power and Wealth in the Sudan” as a
Second Sudanese Civil War. Khartoum’s charter for its fundamental principles.
affinity for subversive disinformation is (Commonly abbreviated as “The Black
characteristic of manipulation by the elite Book,” this should not be confused with
in the world’s most fragile states. “The Black Book of Communism,” a
book of controversial acclaim published
The Sudan Liberation Army in France in 1997.) “The Black Book,”
One of two core rebel groups fight- published in 2000, discusses the various
ing against Khartoum and their proxy— forms of structural violence that victim-
the Janjaweed militia—is the SLA. The ize the people of Darfur, characterized
SLA has recently splintered into factions, mostly by inequity in resource distribu-
largely due to the agreement that Khar- tion and political representation. The
toum signed with Minawi, the leader of JEM champions Islamist ideology and
its largest faction and now considered finds favor with the fundamentalist wing
an ally of Khartoum. This has alienated of opposition parties in Sudan. Khartoum
the people of Darfur and even his own has linked the JEM to formerly jailed Su-
tribe, the Zaghawa. Moreover, the larg- danese religious and political leader, Dr.
est tribe in Sudan, the Fur, has rejected Hassan al-Turabi. Turabi has denied the
the agreement. These dissidents comprise alleged ties to the JEM. The JEM is also
the remainder of the SLA, whose aim is an acknowledged affiliate of the Eastern
to overthrow the national government in Front, a rebel group concentrated along
Khartoum and “create a united, demo- the Eritrean border (eastern Sudan), sub-
cratic Sudan.”8 The two most prominent stantiating Khartoum’s accusations that
leaders within the movement are Ahmed Eritrea has “instigated, financed…sup-
Abdulshafi Bassey and the immensely plied arms to, and set up training camps”
popular Abdul Wahid Mohamed Nur. for the JEM.11 In addition, captured JEM
The SLA boasts membership to the um- operatives have been found with Chadian
brella opposition organization in Sudan, identification.12 Chad, another accused
the National Democratic Alliance. supporter of opposition groups in Darfur,
According to German Sudan ana- denies its ties to the group and claims that
lyst, Uwe Friescecke, the government Khartoum is attempting to “export geno-
of Uganda is a major arms supplier for cide” from Darfur.13
the SLA. Uganda’s public support of the
The Government of Sudan
late Sudanese secessionist, John Garang,
Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-
and Khartoum’s support of the Lord’s
Bashir, has ruled over an authoritarian
Resistance Army, a paramilitary group republic since he led the military coup
that terrorizes northern Uganda, gives that placed him in power in June 1989.
plausible credence to Friesceke’s claim.9 Immediately assuming the positions of
In addition, credible third-party observ- Chief of State, Prime Minister, Chief of
ers, including the International Crisis the Armed Forces and Minister of De-
Group and the United Nations, have fense, al-Bashir suspended the Sudanese
documented arms deliveries from Chad, Parliament indefinitely, expelled the po-
Eritrea, and Libya to the SLA.10 litical party system, and stifled the na-
tional press. He was appointed president Operation Iraqi Freedom.16 Regardless
in what was considered a fixed election in of the different political quandaries the
1993. His regime is characterized by the authoritarian faces, President al-Bashir
markings of fanatical authoritarianism. seems to craft policy with only one prior-
In 1991 al-Bashir created a domestic se- ity: the preservation and expansion of his
curity apparatus, the “Public Order Po- own power.
lice,” to enforce the laws (predominantly
drawn from shari’a law) that his newly The Janjaweed
appointed judges (exclusively Muslim) The Janjaweed are often referred to as
handed down. While domestic political a ‘militia’, though they are far from an or-
opposition to al-Bashir’s regime is given ganized and trained unit of civilian mili-
quasi-freedom to associate, their capabil- tary servicemen. While the Janjaweed
ity to effect change in Sudan’s politics is most recently fell under the media’s spot-
insubstantial. light for its role in the ethnic cleansing of
Furthermore, al-Bashir has been ac- Darfur, its origins date back two decades.
cused of maintaining close ties with Is- Beginning in 1987, violent battles broke
lamic extremists, most notably Osama out in Darfur between the herders (pre-
Bin Laden. The President’s cabinet con- dominantly Arab) and the farmers (pre-
sists of senior members of the National dominantly non-Arab) over land claims.
Congress, Sudan’s official political party The Janjaweed draws its membership
(previously called the National Islamic from the ‘herder-class’; however, it should
Front). Among these individuals is be understood that the Janjaweed do
Ahmed Haroun, the recent recipient of not rally around any common ideology.
an indictment by the International Crim- What little public diplomacy they have
inal Court, which charges him with 51 engaged in is inundated by racist rhetoric
counts of war crimes and crimes against that finds no root in any sound political
humanity.14 Al-Bashir, the poster-child conviction.
and the single most powerful component While Janjaweed fighters supposedly
of the regime in Khartoum, rules Sudan share a “pure Arab origin,” they are more
in conjunction with his cabinet and a united by the charter, given to them by
shadowy inner-ring of advisors made up Khartoum, to rape, pillage, and plunder
of the likes of Mr. Haroun. Darfur with absolute impunity. Under
With regards to the conflict in Dar- international pressure, Khartoum has
fur, President al-Bashir has downplayed renounced any ties to the Janjaweed, al-
the violence, even directly accusing the though innumerable pieces of evidence
United States of “exaggerating” the situ- speak to the contrary. By early 2006,
ation in Darfur, and claiming that Darfur many of the Janjaweed militiamen were
is “quite calm.”15 This does not bode well assimilated into the Sudanese Armed
for the legitimacy of Sudanese channels of Forces, virtually guaranteeing their re-
conflict management or post-conflict rec- prieve from indictment in any court of
ompense. Al-Bashir has remained stead- law.
fast in his opposition to the proposed
UN peacekeeping force that would secure III. The Sudanese Identity:
Darfur. Al-Bashir defends his position A Frayed Patchwork
by likening a breach of Sudanese national
Just as an audience must be acquaint-
sovereignty by an international peace-
ed not only with the actors on a stage, but
keeping force to the situation ensuing
the setting in which their roles play out, colonial identities, effectively substantiat-
those seeking a thorough understanding ing the racial and ethnic barriers that mar-
of any intra-state conflict must assess the ginalized them for more than a century.
identities of the actors involved within The reverberations of this colonial legacy
the context of an overarching national were manifested throughout the decades
identity. With reference to the Sudanese that followed the inaugural raising of the
conflict, this task is not just a perfunc- Sudanese flag. The institutionalized ani-
tory chore of conflict analysis. Rather, mosity between the peoples of Sudaokn’s
understanding the identities of the dif- North and South, unfoundedly based in
ferent groups and subgroups involved in historical inter-ethnic grievance, is a pris-
any one of a number of antagonisms is, in tine example of this tragic inheritance.
itself, a most onerous one. The concept The ethnic identity of the Sudan’s
of identity in Sudan is convoluted beyond population, and specifically of the Dar-
belief for those of us who can describe fur region, is an extraordinarily complex
ourselves in terms of our national borders, mosaic. As in most African countries,
our religious beliefs, and our race. History one’s particular tribe constituted the most
has blurred these factors for the Sudanese. basic macro-societal unit in pre-colonial
Thus, a comprehensive understanding Sudan. The more prominent tribes in Su-
of the nature of the political conflict be- dan include the Dinka, Fur, Masalit, and
tween the rebel movement (comprised of Zaghawa.18 Today, these same people are
the SLA, JEM, and a number of splinter often portrayed in the media as ‘Blacks’
groups) and Khartoum (vis-à-vis the Jan- or ‘Arabs.’ The truth is that the popula-
jaweed) necessitates an exploration of the tion of Darfur, and Sudan in general, is
identity conflict that is part and parcel of an interwoven mesh of people who are
Sudan’s social landscape. simultaneously Black and Arab. This
As Amir Idris argues in Conflict confusion is exacerbated by the fact that
and Politics of Identity in Sudan: “…the some ‘Blacks’ (those descended from the
history of nationalism in the Sudan has ancient region of Nubia) have lost their
been the history of competing political language and adopted Arabic, while oth-
claims over the identity of the postcolo- ers with whom they share a common
nial state.”17 In colonial Sudan, concepts lineage practice forms of established hy-
of nationalism were born out of social brid-languages (referred to as ‘entrenched
movements that derived their legitimacy diglossia’), while still others have retained
from regional distribution of different so- their original tongue.19
cial strata. These notions of Sudanese na- Contrary to what most mainstream
tionalism were more legitimate since they media outlets report, race is politically
were, for the most part, representative of obsolete in Sudan. In terms of pigmen-
the groups that bolstered them. However, tation, all Sudanese are black. However,
these movements (the products of a colo- racist terminology has surfaced through
nial state in which one section of society intercultural animosities, distinguishing
systemically enslaved the other) consis- the “zurug” (a racial pejorative for Arabic)
tently excluded certain groups of people from the “Arab.” Differences are crudely
from the arena of identity formation. As distinguished by facial features includ-
a result, when Sudan was declared inde- ing the shape of one’s nose and/or the
pendent, those who were excluded from thickness of their lips.20 In his account
the token rite of determining a national of the ethnic make-up of Darfur, Gerard
identity inadvertently assimilated their Prunier, renowned ethnographer and Af-
rica analyst, notes, “…this perception is look to the case of Dr. Hassan al-Turabi
influenced by what the observer knows for contrary evidence. Despite the fact
of the ethnic background of the person s/ that al-Turabi was a pivotal figure in the
he is confronting. Thus a very Negroid movement to force shari’a (Islamic law)
Rizzeyqat will remain an “Arab” while a upon Sudan’s non-Muslims, Khartoum
pale and thin-featured Zaghawa will be has labeled him an enemy of the state. In-
an “African.”21 For the sake of political deed Khartoum’s campaign prioritizes the
correctness, any discussion of race in Su- extraction and inequitable distribution of
dan is presently carried out in the context resources in lieu of some theocratic cru-
of a country that is now homogenously sade (as implied by the depiction of the
pigmented as a result of intermarriage, conflict as an eruption between Christian
concubinage, and other gradual processes Blacks and Muslim Arabs). Utilizing eth-
of racial integration. nic identity markers in language to paint
In terms of religion, more than half ethnicity, itself, as the cause of conflict is
of Sudan’s total population is Muslim, tantamount to a dangerously flawed syllo-
most living in the north where Muslims gism. Mainstream news agencies’ overuse
constitute at least 75 percent of the popu- of such language represents their failure to
lation. The relatively few Christians tend accurately portray the situation in Darfur
to live in the south alongside a sizeable and, furthermore, impedes the reparative
minority of animists.22 This distribution process of establishing a self-sustained cli-
is often portrayed as having a demarcating mate of social justice in Sudan.
line of division between an antagonistic
‘Muslim North’ and a victimized ‘Chris- IV. Darfur in Context
tian South.’ The most fleeting glance at
Within Sudan, wealth is dispropor-
the demographic makeup of Darfur re-
tionately concentrated in Khartoum. The
veals that it is both Muslim and north-
razed shanty villages that once comprised
ern. “Yet,” as Idris points out, “like the
Darfur and the general paucity of South
people of the Southern Sudan, [Darfuris]
Sudan sharply contrast with the grandeur
have been oppressed, deprived, and are
of Khartoum. Speculators see Khartoum
the least developed economically due to
emerging as “a new Dubai.”24 With one
the century-old colonial subjugation and
of the fastest growing economies in Af-
relentless exploitation.”23
rica, Khartoum is in the process of build-
The current violence in Darfur proves
ing, among myriad development projects,
that the adoption of a majoritarian Islam
a multi-billion-dollar complex of “gleam-
could not counter the impact of a his-
ing offices, duplexes and golf courses that
torical colonial legacy that superficially
will turn Khartoum, it is hoped, into the
emphasized the importance of “an Arab
commercial and financial hub of Islamist
origin.” Therefore, it is evident in the case
East Africa.”25 With billions of dollars in
of Darfur that geographical, religious,
oil-revenues, President al-Bashir’s osten-
and ethnic differences work to exacerbate
tatious hyper-development of Khartoum
problems stemming from a colonial lega-
is emblematic of the structural inequity
cy that utilized irrational hatreds to divide
that keeps Darfuris shackled to poverty.
and conquer a people.
In the wake of its destruction, Darfur will
While Khartoum’s violent incursions
be hard-pressed to resuscitate its modest
into Darfur (via the Janjaweed) have been
economy, primarily based on subsistence
portrayed as a result of the government’s
farming. Khartoum is a drain to which
Islamist-leaning disposition, one could
the entirety of Sudan’s resources are being look at the diplomatic process that ended
siphoned, quite literally leaving periph- a half-century of civil war in Sudan will
eral Darfur out to dry. be interpreted to extrapolate the designs
Through an African lens of analysis, for what a sustainable and just Darfuri
Darfur is merely a pawn in regional power peace process ought to look like. Up to
politics. The grim conditions in Darfur now, this article has attempted to map the
provide Sudan’s neighbors with an excel- conflict in Darfur diagnostically. Here-
lent opportunity to proliferate anti-Khar- after, a more prescriptive lens of analysis
toum propaganda, all too often diverting will address the issues outlined thus far, in
attention away from their own corrup- addition to several new ones raised in the
tion. Chadian President Idriss Déby em- following pages.
bodies this regrettable trend: It is com-
mon knowledge that Déby presides over V. An AMIS Amiss:
one of the single most corrupt regimes in The Politics of Peacekeeping in Sudan
the world today. Déby has shown no hesi-
On August 31, 2006, the UN Secu-
tation in lining his pockets with World
rity Council approved Resolution 1706,
Bank loans intended for Chad’s poor.
which called for the linking of the current
Unfortunately, with international atten-
UN mission in southern Sudan (UNMIS)
tion skewed toward Darfur, Déby remains
with a major operational front in Darfur.
largely unthreatened. The government
Specifically, the resolution authorized the
elite in a relatively less unstable Chad
deployment of 22,500 UN troops and ci-
continue to prey upon national resourc-
vilian police to Darfur. The force was to
es while thousands of Chadians remain
be endowed with a robust mandate for
crippled by abject destitution. Moreover,
civilian protection and humanitarian re-
Darfur is a prime opportunity for Sudan’s
lief. Tragically, on account of the United
less amicable neighbors to settle old scores
Nation’s vulnerability to diplomatic chi-
with Khartoum without having to pledge
canery, UNSCR 1706 was never real-
troops. By continuing to supply cash,
ized beyond the chambers of its Security
arms, and training to rebel movements in
Council. Seven and a half months later,
Darfur, Sudan’s regional adversaries (most
on April 15th, 2007, the Sudanese gov-
notably Libya, Chad, the Central African
ernment accepted a UN deployment of
Republic, Uganda, and Eritrea) can attack
3,000 peacekeepers with a squadron of at-
Khartoum without the inconveniences of
tack helicopters, ending months of resis-
waging a conventional offensive.
tance to the United Nation’s contribution
Having identified both the underly-
to the largely impotent African Union’s
ing issues spurring genocide in Sudan and
peacekeeping mission in Sudan (AMIS).26
the major political players associated with
Though Khartoum’s most recent conces-
it, further analysis will take a more criti-
sion does represent an important transfor-
cal approach to assessing the situation in
mation in its relationship with the United
Darfur through three intellectual frame-
Nations, the international community
works. First, policy recommendations
would be wrong to celebrate it as a water-
will be drawn from an evaluative review
shed victory. While Khartoum baits its
of the peacekeeping mission in Sudan
courting diplomats with incremental (if
and the obstacles it faces. Subsequently,
not trivial) compromises, the situation in
different punitive measures that could be
Darfur still reflects the direst case of hu-
taken against the Sudanese government
man plight in the twenty-first century.
will be considered. Finally, an in-depth
Khartoum has decried proposed pansive conflict-zones in Darfur stretch-
schemes of international intervention in ing 256,000 square-kilometers, the cur-
Darfur, evoking its inviolable sovereignty. rent troop count leaves one peacekeeper
President Omar al-Bashir’s administra- for every 26 square kilometers. Thinly
tion is at best willfully negligent, and at stretched as it is, AMIS is forced to con-
worst overtly predatory. Insofar as one centrate in certain locations, ignoring ci-
can respect the sanctity of Khartoum’s vilian populations in others.31
perverse rule, it is telling to look at ulteri-
or motives that Khartoum would have for Inadequate Equipment
rejecting the magnitude of intervention From the beginning, AMIS has been
called for by UNSCR 1706. There is no hampered by sub-standard equipment.
debate about the operational tenability of Until 2005, their best maps came from
AMIS; due to its insufficient size, lack of 1942 Soviet intelligence. The maps were
modern technology, and feeble mandate, in Russian and at a scale of 1:200,000.32
it has been written off as clearly ineffec- Lacking an infrastructure-oriented global
tive.27 Thus far, the West has refrained positioning system, the troops are forced
from staging any kind of military inter- to rely on local guides to lead them to the
vention in Sudan, the president of which villages they are supposed to be protecting
has declared his country “a graveyard for from the Janjaweed. The group of guides
any foreign troops.”28 While implement- is comprised of indigenous peoples who
ing multilateral, targeted economic sanc- are extremely familiar with Sudan’s large-
tions may effectively strong-arm Khar- ly unnavigable terrain. The mission also
toum into accepting a substantial UN lacks communications equipment and an
force, more direct and immediate mea- intelligence-gathering apparatus. For the
sures should be taken to buttress AMIS most part, commanders have to archai-
and slow the rate of civilian death. Before cally relay information to units via radio
any diplomatically coercive measures are or written messages.33 A 2005 Brook-
discussed, a look at the structural prob- ings Institution report on AMIS bluntly
lems AMIS has been facing on the ground states:
in Darfur is in order.
“Lack of planning and establishing an in-
telligence infrastructure within AMIS meant
Insufficient Size that there was no routine way to gather and
Strategists use two determinant ratios analyze intelligence on either the government
to project the necessary size of a peace- forces and their militias or the various rebel
keeping force. A peacekeeping force groups...AMIS force headquarters is blind
when it comes to intelligence…”34
can be based on the proportion either of
“peacekeeping troops to population” or of In order to improve AMIS dispatch
“peacekeeping troops to hostile forces.” capabilities, troops need to be linked
Calculated either way, the AMIS force is through a satellite-based communications
less than a third of what is required.29 By network and supplied with more and fast-
that logic, AMIS should be comprised of er transport vehicles. A report released by
at least 20,000 troops, albeit even this es- the Center for Technology and National
timate would err on the conservative side. Security Policy describes this network
Currently, there are 6,171 AMIS troops as necessary to forming a ‘net-capable
serving with 1,560 civilian police who force’:
now operate alongside the 3,000-strong
“The principal building-blocks of net-capable
supplemental UN force.30 With the ex-
combat forces are: high-quality combat and fur allows troops to use force to protect
special operations forces; deployable sensors civilians but not to conduct an offensive.
and other intelligence sensors; high-speed data
The presence of AMIS forces has success-
links to fuse and disseminate intelligence prod-
ucts; command and control nodes; ground fully deterred attacks from the Janjaweed,
mobility; logistics support for small/light forc- who have proven unwilling to confront
es; rotary- and fixed-wing air[craft] for mobil- any armed personnel, and instead focus
ity and strike; and precision weapons.”35 solely on unarmed civilians.39 Pursuing
Essentially, what the above describes is an exclusively defensive strategy however,
tantamount to a highly advanced combat is not in AMIS’s best interest. As men-
unit with acute knowledge of the battle- tioned earlier, with such a small number
field in the style of the American or Brit- of troops only a few villages can be pro-
ish Special Forces. tected at any given time. In order to make
the best use of its forces, troops need to
Lack of Aerial Support be able to move from village to village,
Moreover, in order to hinder Khar- actively engaging the haphazard, inexpe-
toum’s firebombing of villages, the no-fly rienced Janjaweed militia.
zone called for by UNSCR 1591 urgently
needs to be implemented. The Janja- VI. Building Leverage with Punitive
weed’s capabilities on the ground will be Measures
severely checked without air cover. The By refusing to cooperate with the
UN Security Council, collectively, needs international community, Sudan has re-
to begin planning the logistics of imple- peatedly bought itself time to continue its
menting a no-fly zone or, at the very least, assault on Darfuris. In January 2006 and
introducing radar-jamming balloons that then again in September, a panel of ex-
would make Darfur’s skies un-flyable. perts commissioned by the UN Security
France currently maintains limited air Council identified sixty-eight individuals
capacity in Chad (including four Mirage deserving to be sanctioned as they were
F1 fighter planes, two Transall C160 lo- deemed a detriment to regional stability.40
gistics and in-flight refueling planes, and Because of diplomatic impasses within the
a non-permanent KC 135 supply plane) United Nations, the petition fell on deaf
and a military base in Djibouti.36 In ad- ears. UNSCR 1706 was the first instance
dition, Djbouti hosts the only American in which the international community
military base on the African continent.37 had established and passed a cogent strat-
Given their respective postures, France egy for dealing with Khartoum. And yet,
and the United States are primed to pro- upon its predictable rejection by Khar-
vide the foundation for the kind of un- toum, it too has floundered. Such timid
dertaking called for by UNSCR 1591.38 behavior on behalf of the United Nations
The closest that the United Nations has is all too reminiscent of the League of Na-
come to initiating this kind of mission tions’ failure to deliver on its promise of
is including attack helicopters in its sup- collective security.
port package to the African Union. These However, by enacting specific puni-
aircraft, however, will be subject to the tive measures against Sudan, the interna-
same toothless mandate that UN and AU tional community can build the leverage
troops serve under. necessary to pressure Khartoum into ac-
cepting an international presence. Such
Impotent Mandate measures should include:
The African Union’s mandate in Dar-
• Spotlighting individuals in the Su- operatives. Four years later, when the
danese leadership who are guilty of United States made several not-so-subtle
war-crimes/crimes against humanity diplomatic overtures to Khartoum, hint-
(the reports released by the Interna- ing at sanctions and even a possible at-
tional Crisis Group serve as exem- tack, Sudan cozied up to American rheto-
plary models of this). ric, bolstering its domestic anti-terrorism
• Targeted sanctions that would freeze campaign in an unprecedented partner-
the assets of high-ranking officials ship with the West.43 In these instances,
within the Sudanese government. the Sudanese government did not face
• Divestment campaigns targeting the empty threats of the international
companies and banking institutions community, but rather a choice in which
that do business with Sudan’s nation- defection would culminate in material
alized companies. penalties from an authoritative super-
• International embargoes on Suda- power. With this history in mind, the
nese oil. international community should pursue
• Capital market sanctions (i.e. de-list- more aggressive action against Sudan, lev-
ing companies that do business with eling targeted multilateral sanctions and
Sudan from the Stock Exchange). freezing the international bank accounts
• International Criminal Court in- of individuals like those identified in the
dictments (while the arrest warrants United Nations’ 2006 report.
issued in May 2007 against for- These punitive measures ought to be
mer state interior minister Ahmed targeted at companies who do business
Haroun and militia commander Ali with Sudan’s National Congress Party
Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (NCP). There are three different groups
are not likely to materialize anytime of companies involved with the National
soon, their diplomatic signals are Congress Party. The first is comprised of
undeniable).41 companies owned by party loyalists. These
companies, sharing interlocking boards
These methods have a history of strong of directors, are financial puppets used
influence on dealings with Khartoum. by NCP officials to cache their financial
For example, the reasonably successful holdings. The second tier of companies
divestment campaign allowed China to includes those run by Sudan’s National
buy up divested stock. However, this ex- Security Agency. The third group involves
posed the degree to which Chinese profi- companies that are tied to Islamic charities
teers are effectively bankrolling genocide, as a façade to hide organizations actually
pressuring China to persuade Khartoum answering to the political agenda of the
into a greater degree of compliance with Sudanese government.44 The appropriate
the international community.42 While a international response to these entities is
full discussion of all of the listed tactics is clear: they need to be indicted, subpoe-
beyond the scope of this work, a consid- naed for comprehensive audits conducted
eration of sanctions is important, as they by an international forensic accounting
have been shown to be particularly useful firm, and consequently prosecuted to the
in dealing with Sudan. fullest extent of the law.
When the United States enacted uni- Moreover, there are a number of
lateral sanctions in 1997 against Sudan, Western companies that support Sudan’s
the Sudanese government expelled Osa- petroleum sector (the economic life-
ma Bin Laden and his fellow al-Qaeda blood of the country’s governing elite).
Among the more prominent are Sweden’s an independent country, its history leaves
Lundin Oil, France’s Total, and Austria’s prospective peacemakers shorthanded for
OMV Aktiengesellschaft.45 The Europe- case-studies of what does and does not
an Union should deter these companies work in a Sudanese peace process. The
from continuing operations in Sudan by mediation that ended Sudan’s civil war is
encouraging member governments to en- the only historical model by which one
act strict prohibitive laws. As Sudanese oil can draw conclusions about what a peace
only accounts for about half of one per- process that would end the violence in
cent of the global supply, the internation- Darfur should look like.
al oil trade would easily absorb the shock
to Sudan’s oil market. Unfortunately, in VII. From Aboud to Abuja: The Peace
order to adequately impact Sudan’s oil Process that Ended Sudan’s Civil War
revenues, countries outside of a compli-
In his address before the 18th Gen-
ant Europe would have to agree to this
eral Assembly of the United Nations, for-
course of action.
mer President John F. Kennedy remarked
China is, by far, the largest importer
that, “Peace does not rest in the charters
of Sudanese oil with a 40 percent stake
and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts
in the Greater Nile Petroleum Com-
and minds of the people.”47 The forty-
pany (GNPOC), the country’s main
year peace process that put an end to two
consortium.46 However, even short of
periods of Sudanese civil war corroborates
a full-blown boycott, minor cuts in con-
Kennedy’s portentous words. From start
sumption on behalf of major stakeholder
to finish, the peace process included a
countries (e.g. China, India & Malaysia)
host of individual protocols, agreements,
would send a clear message to Khartoum
and ‘memoranda of understanding,’ most
that it has a choice to either acquiesce to
of which one signatory or the other later
the international community’s demands
backed out of. In the last twenty years
or face exclusion from its markets, some-
alone, eighteen separate accords have been
thing this predominantly landlocked
brokered between Khartoum and the Su-
country has reason to fear. Measures
dan People’s Liberation Army/Movement
like these would reflect a commanding
(SPLA/M).48 From the ideological fac-
and self-confident international body of
tors obstructing peace to the divisive rhet-
consensus that genocide will not be toler-
oric of the Sudanese government, paral-
lels between the civil war and the conflict
By working to strengthen AMIS and
in Darfur are striking. For the purpose of
by implementing targeted sanctions, the
discussing the efficacy of a peace process
international community could look for-
to end the violence in Darfur, this work
ward to improved conditions in Darfur.
will focus on what is deemed the most
Moreover, international pressure would
crucial agreements signed during the civil
make Khartoum more malleable, effec-
war, extrapolating their lessons to an ad-
tively coercing it to accept the installation
visable resolution.
of a UN force. In discussing the pros-
The first independent government
pects of a Sudanese peace, it is important
in Sudan was led by Prime Minister Is-
to look not only at what can be done in
mail al-Azhari, who enjoyed his office for
terms of third-party intervention, but also
two years before his Chief of Staff, Gen-
the capacity to which opposing groups
eral Ibrahim Aboud, led a coup d’état in
within Sudan can broker a lasting peace.
1958. Oddly, it is the “October Revolu-
Given Sudan’s relatively short lifespan as
tion” that removed Aboud’s pariah mili- M’s senior field commanders, signed the
tary regime on October 21, 1964 that is Khartoum Peace Agreement (KPA). This
viewed as the first of many steps toward a was a comprehensive framework agree-
peace agreement.49 One year later, Egypt, ment partisan to the government. The
Uganda, Kenya, Algiers, Nigeria, Ghana, contention that surrounded the KPA
Tanzania, the Sudanese political parties, corroborated the government’s deceitful
and various community leaders formed claims that the SPLA/M’s fragile solidar-
the “Commission of Twelve” at what ity made it not just an irrelevant party to
would become known as “The Round negotiations, but moreover a stumbling
Table Conferences.” The Commission block on the path to peace.51 The gov-
engaged in unprecedented cooperation, ernment preyed upon this fragility in an
formally submitting its recommendations unscrupulous propaganda campaign that
to the Sudanese government for a new denounced those factions of the SPLA/M
constitution that would address the griev- that refused to acquiesce to the slanted
ances of both the government and the agreement.
SPLA/M. Unfortunately, inter-party dis- Here, it is prudent to note that Khar-
putes between the Sudanese government toum has employed this same ‘divide-
and its opposition made the adoption of and-denounce’ tactic again with regards
a new constitution unworkable. Both the to the recent (and equally skewed) Darfur
government and the SPLA/M blinked on Peace Agreement. In an effort to publicly
May 3, 1972, when in coordination with de-legitimize the now-defunct Justice and
one another, they signed the Addis Abba Equality Movement when a faction of
Agreement.50 This bought the people of their counterpart, the Sudanese Libera-
Sudan a temporary peace until May 1983 tion Army agreed to peace-talks (ostensi-
when the SPLA/M emerged with new is- bly in hopes of ending the government-
sues denouncing the Addis Abba agree- sponsored violence in Darfur), Khartoum
ment. Again, the prospect of a Sudanese publicly named the remaining opposition
peace ebbed, and a new tide of violence to the Darfur Peace Agreement an ob-
swept through the country, signaling the struction to peace in Darfur, neglecting
beginning of the “Second Sudanese Civil the murderous Janjaweed altogether.
War.” The Machakos Agreement, taking
The Abuja Conference, held in Nige- place on July 20, 2002, signified the begin-
ria in March 1990, is credited as the first
ning of the end of the Sudanese civil war.
major breakthrough in the peace process.
The conference affirmed several major In essence, this agreement was a more eq-
areas of agreement that, four years later, uitable version of the KPA. According to
would be formally inscribed in the Dec- Hassan E. El-Talib, Deputy Head of the
laration of Principles at Nairobi, Kenya. Sudanese Embassy in South Africa, the
In addition to the agreed-upon criteria set significance of the Machakos agreement
down at the Abuja Conference, the Dec-
“emanates from the powerful parties from
laration of Principles hailed South Sudan’s
right to self-determination—this conten- outside the African continent who sup-
tion led the government to reject the Dec- ported and encouraged [negotiations].”52
laration’s legitimacy. The negotiations The Machakos Agreement paved the way
turned in favor of the government on for a final peace treaty to be signed on
April 21, 1997 when six splinter groups, January 9, 2005.
accounting for 70 percent of the SPLA/
Darfur’s Peace Process In Perspective: an agreement but not against the prin-
The Spoiler Problem ciple of agreement, itself. This typology
Stephen John Stedman, Professor of is substantiated by the case of the Darfur
African Studies and Comparative Politics Peace Agreement and the cleavages it in-
at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced cised across the two movements. Natu-
International Studies, outlines a helpful rally, the only way to deal with a limited
typology of ‘spoilers,’ whom he defines spoiler is to use specific inducements to
as: compromise. Unfortunately, this is com-
plicated by the fact that the other parties
“…[those] leaders and parties who believe in the peace process inherently limit the
that peace emerging from negotiations
threatens their power, worldview, and spectrum of bargaining inducements.
interests, and use violence to undermine The truth, as it is with any peace process,
attempts to achieve [peace].” is that while typologies like Stedman’s are
helpful in developing broad frameworks
For each kind of spoiler Stedman for political strategy, they are not one-
outlines specific methods of manage- size-fits-all. The approach to dealing with
ment. Under Stedman’s typology, the Sudan’s government and opposition par-
Al-Bashir regime is dynamic; it is a total ties will have to be more nuanced than
spoiler, or one that pursues total power, the pure strategies discussed here. In any
exclusive recognition of authority, and case, Stedman’s policy-recommendations
holds immutable preferences. Yet, it also provide, if nothing else, a sobering place
bears the traits of a greedy spoiler, one to start.
that holds goals that expand or contract
based on calculations of cost and risk. For The Darfur Peace Agreement
total spoilers, Stedman recommends two Signed on May 5, 2006 by Sudan’s
options. The first calls for an uncompro- government and the faction of the SLA
mising use of force to eliminate the total led by Minni Arkou Minawi, the Dar-
spoiler from the peace process altogether. fur Peace Agreement (DPA) has come
A more moderate proposal recommends under fire from parties directly involved
labeling the spoiler’s behavior as illegiti- in peace negotiations as well as sidelined
mate and subsequently asserting that the spectators. Two of the three rebel del-
peace process will go forward regardless of egations present in peace negotiations
whether the spoiler (in this case, the Su- refuse to sign the agreement. The SLA
danese government) joins or not. As for faction of Abdul Wahid Mohamed Nur
the ‘greedy’ element of the spoiler posed demands more direct SLA participation
by the government, Stedman advises a in the implementation of security ar-
long-term process of socialization, effec- rangements. Nur’s faction of the SLA and
tively changing the behavior of the spoiler the JEM share strong dissatisfaction with
to adhere to a set of established norms (in the DPA’s provisions for political wealth-
this case, international law and basic hu- and power sharing. This government-
man rights). endorsed structural inequality is remi-
In the interest of even-handed anal- niscent of the very kind that sparked the
ysis, one could fairly look at the other rebel campaigns in 2003. The real success
parties involved (the SLA and JEM) as of the DPA hinges on the willingness of
limited spoilers. These spoilers live up parties involved in the peace process to
to their name, espousing limited goals. bolster security provisions, augment de-
They are often against certain aspects of signs to return displaced peoples to their
homes and follow through on a credible change in its discourse resulted. Once
victim-compensation program. revolving around a potential “right to in-
tervene,” the language of interventional
The Risk in Negotiation peacemaking was thereafter defined by a
The history of peace building it- solemn “responsibility to protect.” Look-
self poses a central policy dilemma for ing to the obstinacy of Khartoum in mak-
peace-builders in Sudan. Between 1943 ing any valuable progressive developments
and 1995, 19 percent of identity-driven in Darfur, the intervention of third-party
civil wars worldwide that were ended by countries, especially global superpow-
military victory were followed by popular ers (preferably under a UN banner), will
genocides. No serious post-conflict vio- be necessary to build an environment in
lence occurred in those that ended with which a lasting peace may be objectively
negotiation. On the other hand, in ac- brokered. The international community
cordance with the Wagner hypothesis, a must transcend Prunier’s assertion that
peace accorded by negotiation is inher- “…the post-historical world no longer
ently much less likely to be upheld. The has any reasons beyond its media-driven
data gathered by Roy Licklider, Rutgers humanitarianism for seriously interven-
University Professor of Political Science, ing in obscure distant conflicts.” Such
supports the Wagner hypothesis, finding a sentiment underpins the cautionary
a 50 percent success-rate of negotiated words of the International Crisis Group’s
settlement to conflict. Indeed, Sudan’s Senior Adviser, John Prendergast, when
relapse into a second civil war in 1983 he states that “Sudan’s government and
echoes these findings. its militia proxies will not stop terrorizing
With Rwanda’s genocide fresh in the Darfur unless they fully understand that
minds of African peace-builders, such serious consequences will follow.”
considerations in the approach to ‘solv- Applying the lessons learned from
ing’ Darfur should be weighed heavily. the long and arduous peace process that
All parties involved in the peace process ended Sudan’s civil war to a hypothetical
will have to be resolute and decisive, while peace process in Darfur today is hardly
dually remaining flexible and amenable an exact science. For one thing, Khar-
to a greater peace in Darfur. Outside toum maintains that it is engaging in a
the realm of academic theory and policy- defensive “counter-insurgency” while
speculation, the real-life implications of a the rest of the international community
failed peace agreement in Darfur leave the has described the nature of its actions as
region open to a devastation the poten- genocidal. Furthermore, the current gov-
tial magnitude of which could dwarf the ernment in Sudan is much less willing
memory of the senseless bloodletting in to make concessions to the demands of
Rwanda. Bearing this in mind, political those whom they deem rebels than were
leaders ought to work cautiously, being previous administrations in dealing with
sure to move forward and, more impor- the SPLA/M. Taking the principles of the
tantly, together. peace agreement that ended the civil war
into account, the following criteria must
Peace in Darfur: be present in any accord for a successful
The Long Road Ahead transition to peace in Darfur:
When the International Commission
• It will be absolutely necessary for
on Intervention and State Sovereignty
Khartoum to permanently limit the
(ICISS) convened in 2001, a profound
executive power of the state and curb Endnotes
the political autonomy enjoyed by its
military. 1. Alex de Waal, “Counter-Insurgency
on the Cheap,” London Review of
• Potent civil society institutions will Books, Vol. 26, No. 15, 5 August
need to be implemented with the 2004; “Darfur’s Real Death Toll,”
charge of protecting freedom through Washington Post, Sunday April 24,
2005, p. B06.
an impartial rule of law. 2. UN News Center, “UN Human
• Resources must be fairly distributed Rights Council to send high-level
and utilized in order to promote de- mission to Darfur,”
3. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.
velopment and reduce the propensity asp?NewsID=20968&Cr=sudan&Cr1,
of conflict. (accessed December 19, 2006).
• Khartoum will need to vanquish 4. PBS, “Sudan: The Quick and The
Terrible,” Frontline World, http://
their purportedly estranged maraud- www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/
ing militias who continue to terror- sudan/facts.lhtml (accessed October
ize the people of Darfur. Without 5, 2006).
5. “African Paramilitary Groups:
any political convictions outside the Sudan.” GlobalSecurity. 28 Feb.
realm of personal gain, the Janja- 2007. <http://www.globalsecurity.
weed’s continued presence is a scar org/military/world/para/darfur.
upon the face of the Sudanese gov- 6. Justin Michael Zorn, personal
ernment. interview, Fall 2006.
7. Coalition For International Justice,
Any effort to restore one iota of legitima- “Chronology of Reporting on
cy to the government in Khartoum will Events Concerning The Conflict
in Darfur, Sudan,” http://www.cij.
be meaningless without a concerted effort org/publications/CIJ_Complete_
to meet these preconditions for peace and DarfurChronology.pdf (accessed
stability. November 14, 2006).
8. “Main parties sign Darfur accord”,
There is an African proverb that as- BBC News, 2006, May 5
sures us that “No matter how long the 9. African Paramilitary Groups.
night, the dawn will eventually break.” 10. Hennig, Rainer. “Eritrea, Chad
accused of aiding Sudan rebels.”
For years, the people of Darfur have suf- afrol News 7 Sept. 2006. 28 Feb.
fered a ruthless campaign of violence per- 2007 <http://www.afrol.com/
petrated by a group of mindless mercenar- articles/13898>.
11. United Nations. “UN experts urge
ies who know no limits to their cruelty. key governments to crack down
In a world where silence is consent, the on arms smuggling to Sudan.” UN
government of Sudan must be held ac- NewsCentre 8 Feb. 2006. 28 Feb.
2007 <http://www.un.org/apps/
countable for its blatant neglect and ma- news/story.asp?NewsID=17436&Cr
nipulative diplomatic tactics in eschewing =Darfur&Cr1>.
responsibility for reigning in these butch- 12. Hennig.
13. African Paramilitary Groups.
ers. Only when the international com- 14. “Contaminating the Neighbors.” The
munity fulfills its promise to never again Economist. 9 Nov. 2006: 54.
turn a blind eye to the extermination of 15. Marquand, Robert. “World court’s
big move on Darfur.” The Christian
a people can Darfuris hope to enjoy an Science Monitor 28 Feb. 2007. <http://
enduring and indomitable peace. www.csmonitor.com/2007/0228/
16. “Sudan’s President Accuses US of
Exaggerating Darfur Troubles.”
Sudanese Media Center 25 Feb.
2007. 28 Feb. 2007 <http://
w w w. s m c . s d / e n / a r t o p i c .
asp?artID=25174&aCK=EA>. February 25, 2005), 3.
17. Curry, Ann. “Sudan’s al-Bashir denies 34. International Crisis Group, “The
role in Darfur violence.” MSNBC 20 AU’s Mission in Darfur: Bridging
March 2007. <http://www.msnbc. the Gaps,” Africa Briefing No. 28,
msn.com/id/17691868/>. (Nairobi and Brussels: July 6, 2005),
18. Amir H. Idris, Conflict and Politics 7
of Identity in Sudan, (Hampshire: 35. Brookings Institution/Bern
Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 44. University, “The Protecting of Two
19. Library of Congress, “Society.” A Million Internally Displaced: The
Country Study: Sudan, June 1991, Successes and Shortcomings of the
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/ African Union in Darfur,” (November
r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+sd0006 2005, http://www.brookings.edu/
(accessed October 16, 2006). fp/projects/idp/200511_au_darfur.
20. Gerard Prunier, Darfur: The pdf ), 37.
Ambiguous Genocide, (London: C. 36. David C. Gompert, Courtney
Hurst & Co., 2005), 4. Richardson, Richard L. Kugler, and
21. Ibid. Clifford H. Bernath, “Learning From
22. Ibid., 5. Darfur: Building a Net-Capable
23. Library of Congress, “Society.” African Force to Stop Mass Killing,”
24. Amir H. Idris, Conflict and Politics of Center for Technology and National
Identity in Sudan, 1-2. Security Policy, (Washington: July
25. “Glittering Towers in a Warzone.” 2005), v. International Crisis Group,
The Economist 7 Dec. 2006 “Getting the UN into Darfur,”
26. Ibid. Africa Briefing No. 43, (Nairobi and
27. Lederer, Edith M. “Sudan Accepts Brussels: October 12, 2006) 11.
U.N. Force in Darfur.” Forbes 16 37. United States Agency for International
Apr. 2007. 5 May 2007 <http://www. Development, “USAID/Djibouti
forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/04/16/ Annual Report 2005” (Silver Spring,
ap3617579.html>. MD: June 16, 2005), 4.
28. Rupiya, Martin. “African Union 38. International Crisis Group, “Getting
Extends Darfur Troops Mandate the UN into Darfur,” 11.
to 31 Decmber 2006.” Institute 39. Gompert, et al, 15.
for Security Studies. 4 Oct. 2006. 40. International Crisis Group, “Getting
5 May 2007 <http://www.issafrica. the UN into Darfur,” 3-6.
org/index.php?link_id=5&slink_ 41. Reuters. “No evidence against ICC
id=3681&link_type=12&slink_ Darfur suspect - Sudan.” Sudan
type=12&tmpl_id=3>. Tribune 4 May 2007. 5 May 2007.
29. International Crisis Group, “Getting <http://www.sudantribune.com/
the UN into Darfur,” Africa Briefing spip.php?article21701>.
No. 43, (Nairobi and Brussels: 42. ChinaDaily. “China to continue
October 12, 2006), 3. efforts to bring peace to Darfur.” AP/
30. Reeves, Eric. “Ghosts of Rwanda: ChinaDaily 19 July 2007
The Failure of the African Union 43. h t t p : / / w w. c h i n a d a i l y. c o m /
in Darfur.” SudanReeves. 20 Nov. cn/china/2007-07/19/
2005. 5 May 2007 <http://www. content_5439172.htm
s u d a n re e ve s . o r g / Se c t i o n s - re q - 44. International Crisis Group, “Getting
viewarticle-artid-534-allpages-1- the UN into Darfur,” 6.
theme-Printer.html>. 45. Ibid., 5-8.
31. African Union Mission in Sudan. 46. European Commission on Oil in
Apr. 2007. African Union. 5 May Sudan, “List of Companies,”
2007 <http://www.amis-sudan.org/ http://www.ecosonline.org/index.cf
index.html>. m?event=showcompanies&page=co
32. Paul D. Williams, “Military mpanies, (accessed April 27, 2007).
Responses to Mass Killing: The 47. International Crisis Group, “Getting
African Union Mission in Sudan,” the UN into Darfur,” 8.
International Peacekeeping 13, no. 2 48. President John F. Kennedy, “Address
(2006): 177. Before the 18th General Assembly
33. Ken Bacon, Shannon Meehan, and of the United Nations,” United
Eileen Shields-West, “Sudan: African Nations, (New York: September 20,
Union Peace Monitors Creating 1963). John F. Kennedy Presidential
Pockets of Security in Darfur.” Library & Museum, “Historical
Refugees International, (Washington: Resources,” http://www.jfklibrary.

org/Historical+Resources/Archives/ About the Authors
963.htm, (accessed May 5, 2007). Zachary Hindin is a rising sophomore at
49. Korwa G. Adar, John G. Nyuot Yoh, the George Washington University’s El-
and Eddy Maloka, “Sudan Peace liot School of International Affairs, where
Process” (Pretoria: African Century
Publications, 2004), 191-284. he concentrates on the dynamics of Peace
50. Ibid, 191 and Conflict. He now serves on the Ex-
51. Ibid., 25. ecutive Board of Directors for Banaa: The
52. Ibid., 29.
53. Ibid., 21. Sudan Educational Empowerment Net-
54. Stedman, Stephen John. “Spoiler work, a grassroots movement initiated
Problems in Peace Processes.” at the George Washington University to
International Security 22.2 (Fall
1997): 5-53. offer students from the most oppressed
55. International Crisis Group. “Darfur’s populations of Sudan the chance to at-
Fragile Peace Agreement.” Policy tend American universities, coordinate
Briefing. June 2006.
56. 6 May 2007 <http://www.crisisgroup. with Sudanese exiles, and organize with
org/home/index.cfm?id=4179>. NGOs throughout the world. Zachary
57. Licklider, Roy. “The Consequences hails from Wellington, Florida.
of Negotiated Settlements in Civil
Wars, 1945-1993.” The American
Political Science Review 89.3 (Sept. R. Benjamin Nelson, from Chicago, Illi-
1995): 687. nois is a sophomore at Georgetown Uni-
58. Ibid, 685.
59. Williams, Paul D., Dr. “Intervention.” versity. In 2010, he will graduate with a
Introduction to Conflict Resolution, major in government and a minor in Ara-
Spring 2007. bic. Between high school and college, he
60. Elliot School of International Affairs.
27 Mar. 2007. worked in France, studied in Spain, and
61. Gerard Prunier, Darfur: The continues to maintain a strong interest in
Ambiguous Genocide, 159. international affairs. This past summer, he
62. “Will they be rescued?” The Economist,
September 23, 2006, 51-52. interned with Senator Barack Obama on
Capitol Hill.

The Dupont Summit
The New Administration Tackles Science and
Technology: Priorities for the Road Ahead

Washington, DC, December 4 - 6, 2008

- Call for Proposals and Workshops -

On the verge of a new U.S. Presidential Administration, the Policy Studies Organization is glad to
announce that the upcoming Dupont Summit will be held during the first week of December 2008,
in the aftermath of the U.S. presidential elections.

The purpose of the Dupont Summit is to bring scholars and policymakers into dialogue about
pressing policy issues on environment, technology and science, which will need to be addressed
by the new American Presidency.

The Dupont Summit will focus on the following themes:

· AIDS · Global Warming

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*Other suggestions are welcome

For more information please visit the Conference Section via our
website www.ipsonet.org, or you may contact Daniel Gutiérrez,
Conference Manager by email dgutierrezs@ipsonet.org

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