Exploring ‘Constructive Engagement’: MIKTA and Global DevelopmentDownload this article in PDF format
Both diplomats and analysts have repeatedly pointed to the area of global development as a promising field for the Mexico-Indonesia-Korea-Turkey-Australia (MIKTA) partnership. As MIKTA countries sit on different sides of traditional divides between ‘Northern donors’ and ‘Southern recipients’, the diversity of its members makes the grouping a potentially unique platform for contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that promote a universal approach to addressing development challenges. So far, MIKTA engagement with development-related issues has been mainly ‘inward-looking’, i.e. focusing on consultation and exchange among the five MIKTA countries themselves. MIKTA’s ‘outward-bound’ engagement with global development – including cooperation with third countries and multilateral organisations – has only started to be discussed in more detail. Against this backdrop, I suggest that a MIKTA Support Scheme for SDG implementation; a MIKTA Trust Fund for development; and a MIKTA Facility for supporting triangular cooperation are concrete examples for how the grouping can build on ongoing processes to provide a potentially ‘constructive’ contribution to the constantly evolving and still highly divided field of global development.
The Mexico-Indonesia-Korea-Turkey-Australia (MIKTA) grouping was established in 2013 as a “new innovative partnership” (MIKTA 2017b) which, according to the Foreign Ministers of the five member countries, would play a “constructive” (MIKTA 2015a) role in addressing issues of global concern. While the partnership has had a relatively low profile, and the appraisal of MIKTA action to date has been mixed,1 both diplomats and analysts have repeatedly pointed to the area of development as a particularly promising field for joint MIKTA activities,2 arguing that engagement with global development processes would provide “a significant policy opportunity” (Cooper 2015, p. 43) for the partnership.3
In this paper, I take these general statements as a starting point to discuss the different positionalities of MIKTA countries in the sphere of global development and provide an overview of MIKTA action on development to date. I then share reflections on inward-looking and outward-bound MIKTA engagement and outline three concrete MIKTA schemes for supporting sustainable development. I suggest that if MIKTA countries were to expand and systematize their activities, global development would offer a complex but potentially fruitful sphere of engagement. By providing insights into the contours of concrete initiatives, this paper aims to provide input for discussions on MIKTA’s ‘constructive’ contributions to global development under the guidance of Indonesia as 2018 MIKTA Chair.
MIKTA Countries and the Field of Global Development
Development cooperation dynamics have changed considerably over the last few years. For decades, international development was premised upon the – relatively clear – distinction between ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ countries (i.e. those who received and those who provided development assistance) and dominated by ‘Northern’ agents from member countries of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).4 Recently, however, this clear divide has been weakened, particularly through the growing clout of non-state actors and so-called ‘Southern’ provider countries.5 The evolving field of what scholars now refer to as ‘global’ development is characterized by “multiple domestic and international sources of public and private development finance” (Horner & Hulme 2017, p. 40) and a far more complex layering of development patterns and challenges.
The dominant frames of the field have come to centre around the concept of ‘sustainable development’. The United Nation’s (UN) Agenda 2030 – with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its core – promotes an approach to development that aspires to synergise economic, social and environmental growth and wellbeing.6 While the sustainable development approach is not without its critics7 it has, to a certain extent, redirected the focus of development discourse and practices towards more holistic ways of analysing and supporting development processes – and it has become the mainstream framework for engaging with development and development cooperation in bilateral and multilateral bodies as well as across a wide range of non-state institutions.8
While the Group of 20 (G20) provided the backdrop – and initially also the rationale – for MIKTA’s emergence, diplomats from MIKTA countries have suggested that the UN is likely to provide a more relevant framework for future MIKTA action.9 This is particularly relevant for action on sustainable development, as Agenda 2030 and the SDGs have been firmly rooted in UN processes and structures.10 One of the main challenges for development-related UN initiatives has been the continuing divide between ‘North’ and ‘South’; and even though the North-South binary as a simple description of the geographies of power and wealth is certainly outdated, it has remained a powerful imaginary in the field of global development.11 While the SDGs are premised on abolishing the distinction between ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ countries, discussions over the last couple of years – for example, on how to finance sustainable development efforts – have followed traditional lines of contention between ‘Northern donor’ and ‘Southern recipient’ countries.12
The “anachronistic” (Weiss 2009, p. 278) North-South fault lines at the UN General Assembly – at the Second Committee, for instance, where most development-related issues are negotiated – have been particularly difficult to overcome. MIKTA countries are traditionally on opposite sides of this divide. Indonesia has been an important player in the Group of 77 (G77) that represents voices from the ‘global South’; while Australia is part of the Canada-Australia-New Zealand (CANZ) grouping and, on most issues, closely aligned with the US.13 Mexico often sides with Indonesia and other G77 member states; whereas both Turkey and Korea tend to abstain from controversial votes.14 What is more, all MIKTA countries except for Indonesia are members of the OECD; only Australia and Korea, however, are members of the OECD-DAC – the club of so-called traditional donors – while the other three MIKTA members are listed as DAC recipient countries.
This heterogeneity is a challenge for cohesion within the MIKTA group (e.g. on identifying a strong foundation for joint action on contentious issues), but it also carries an arguably unique potential. MIKTA’s diverse membership in terms of development trajectories and positionalities – comprising a lower-middle income economy (Indonesia), two upper-middle-income economies (Mexico and Turkey) and two high-income economies (Australia and Korea)15 – reflects some of the diversity of current development realities around the globe. Depending on their focus and concrete terms of engagement, MIKTA initiatives might help to channel tensions among country blocs into more “constructive” (MIKTA 2015a) forms of collaboration. In generic terms, ‘constructive’ engagement is defined as behaviour that has or is “intended to have a useful or beneficial purpose.”16 In MIKTA’s case – according to official accounts – this refers to engagement geared towards “protecting public goods and strengthening global governance” (MIKTA 2015a) in a range of different issue areas, including sustainable development (MIKTA 2017e). By creating and promoting spaces where players from both sides of traditional divides collaborate on concrete development-related processes MIKTA might make a – maybe minor but potentially meaningful – contribution to (re)shaping the constantly evolving sphere of global development.
At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that, over the last decade, individual MIKTA countries have already tried to position themselves as brokers and facilitators in the sphere of global development, so far with mixed results. The development effectiveness agenda is a prominent case in point. Korea hosted the 2011 Busan meeting where OECD-led discussions about ‘aid effectiveness’ gave way to a more inclusive arrangement to address ‘development effectiveness’ across the board.17 Indonesia then took over as one of the first Co-Chairs of the newly established Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC), representing those countries that were both recipients and providers of development cooperation; and Mexico hosted the first major GPEDC meeting in 2014 and then replaced Indonesia as Co-Chair. The main challenge for the GPEDC has been to include the major ‘Southern’ players in discussions around development effectiveness. However, neither China nor India (or Brazil, for that matter) have been interested in joining the debate, arguing that the GPEDC is still an OECD-dominated process. In this regard, individual MIKTA members have not been particularly successful as bridge builders or facilitators;18 and discussions on as well as expectations about the ‘constructive’ potential of MIKTA engagement with global development should take this experience into account.
MIKTA’s First Steps of Engaging with Sustainable Development
Global development issues have played a relatively prominent role in MIKTA’s statements and general rhetoric. Sustainable development was identified as one key issue area in MIKTA’s 2015 Vision Statement and, then, as one of the seven priority areas MIKTA officials decided to focus on.19 Out of MIKTA’s 32 joint statements to date, roughly two thirds have addressed issues directly related to sustainable development, including gender equality, climate change and disaster risk reduction. More specifically, two MIKTA joint statements have addressed the issue of Financing for Development, one has focused on measures to end poverty and one on infrastructure development. If peace and security issues are included – that are also part of the SDGs’ holistic and all-encompassing approach to development – all joint MIKTA statements are somewhat connected to sustainable development concerns.20
Over the last four years, MIKTA Chairs have also organized meetings and events that focused on sustainable development or related issues.21 The MIKTA development seminars or workshops stand out as particularly relevant in this regard. They were held in Australia (2014), Korea (2015), again Australia (2016), and Turkey (2017).22 The first workshop identified trade, development finance and accountability as areas of particular interest for joint MIKTA action; and the MIKTA Foreign Ministers underlined that “development cooperation is the area where MIKTA can immediately work together to promote global efforts to support prosperity and stability in developing countries” (MIKTA 2014).
The views of diplomats and experts who have participated in these MIKTA meetings diverge significantly: some outright question the utility of MIKTA action on development because of the heterogeneity of its members while others highlight and reiterate the platform’s great – but still untapped – potential to make ‘constructive’ contributions.23 In order to go beyond statements on MIKTA’s generic potential and explore concrete options of MIKTA engagement with global development processes, in the following section I suggest distinguishing between two general dimensions of engagement: inward-looking and outward-bound. It might be helpful for both policy makers and analysts to keep the distinct logics of and the potential links between these two basic dimensions in mind when thinking about or designing MIKTA’s future engagement with global development.24
Two Dimensions of MIKTA Engagement: Inward-looking and Outward-bound
According to MIKTA’s Vision Statement, “MIKTA will serve as a bridgehead for fostering various forms of cooperation”, something it is supposed to do under two dimensions of engagement. On the one hand, MIKTA countries see the partnership as a “consultative platform to increase mutual understanding, deepen bilateral ties, and find common grounds for cooperation.” This more inward-looking dimension focuses on intra-MIKTA engagement and highlights the importance of “information-sharing and exchanges” among its members (MIKTA 2015a). So far, MIKTA encounters related to sustainable development – particularly the MIKTA development seminars and workshops – have followed this logic of a consultative platform for the five MIKTA countries to share experiences, standpoints and ideas about potential future collaboration.25 At the 2017 MIKTA development seminar, for instance, participants discussed SDG implementation, the humanitarian/development nexus and the role of the private sector in sustainable development processes.26
One way of expanding these intra-MIKTA spaces and mechanisms for general discussions would be to explore the option of staff placements or exchanges between MIKTA bureaucrats. Building on existing MIKTA exchange and training schemes,27 staff from Mexico’s AMEXCID, Indonesia’s ISSTC, Korea’s KOICA, Turkey’s TIKA or Australia’s DFAT28 would be able to spend a set amount of time at a ‘sister’ institution in another MIKTA country. Staff on exchange could contribute to the design of a joint MIKTA project or learn about specific organizational processes, such as monitoring and evaluation, depending on interests and needs of their home institutions. These exchange schemes would need to be carefully planned – including a clear timeframe and an explicit focus on expected outputs and outcomes – as previous support or learning schemes between entities in charge of development cooperation have not always been successful and/or have faced serious challenges.29
On the other hand, MIKTA countries have promoted the partnership’s outward-bound character by highlighting that they have “both the will and the capability to contribute to protecting public goods and strengthening global governance” and are ready to “play a bridging role between developed and developing countries”. MIKTA sets out to do so by acting as a “catalyst or facilitator in launching initiatives” and developing guidelines for engagement (MIKTA 2015a). While rhetoric on MIKTA’s outward-bound engagement aims high, the partnership’s track record so far suggests that MIKTA as a group might rather want to focus on collaborating on concrete issue-specific processes to showcase the rhetorical commitment to promoting “pragmatic and creative” solutions to global challenges (MIKTA 2015a).30
Fikry Cassidy, an Indonesian senior diplomat, has suggested that “each MIKTA country could initiate a flagship project based on its strengths” that would be “continuously carried out, even when the [overall MIKTA] coordinator has changed from one country to another” (Cassidy 2017). According to this logic, individual MIKTA countries might want to consider leading MIKTA’s outward-bound engagement on one specific process or issue connected to sustainable development, alone or maybe in pairs. This leadership would not need to be embedded in a formal arrangement; but countries could use synergies by adding a MIKTA component – endorsed by other members of the partnership – to their ongoing efforts in multilateral fora.
Turkey, for instance, has been an active supporter of the cause of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) at the UN – for example, through hosting the fourth LDC conference in Istanbul 2011 and by chairing the group of friends of LDCs in New York.31 The latest development in that regard is the establishment – by the UN General Assembly – of the UN Technology Bank for LDCs that will be hosted in cooperation with the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and be based close to Istanbul. Turkey is thus likely to continue its support for LDC issues for the foreseeable future; and MIKTA – if other member countries expressed interest – could support one strand of LDC support under Turkish leadership. The Technology Bank is set to focus on processes related to intellectual property rights and the broader field of Science, Technology and Innovation, and MIKTA countries might want to think about linking this engagement with Australia’s work on promoting the MIKTA Innovation Group.32
Mexico, in turn, has been very much engaged with the Financing for Development process. As guardian of the “legacy of the Monterrey conference” (AMEXCID 2017) – referring to the first Financing for Development meeting that took place in the Mexican city of Monterrey in 2002 – the Mexican government has been actively engaged in facilitating exchanges on how to finance Agenda 2030. MIKTA has already issued two joint statements on the Financing for Development process. This is relevant as discussions about financing sustainable development processes have been particularly contentious and, by and large, have followed North-South fault lines where ‘Southern’ players insist on the necessity and importance of fairer global terms of engagement and continued financial support from the dominant and wealthy parts of the world whereas ‘Northern’ partners are reluctant to change established frameworks and provide more resources.33 Based on the identified common ground among MIKTA countries on the issue, Mexico would be in a good position to lead further MIKTA engagement on the changing development finance architecture, in close collaboration with both Australia and Korea as OECD-DAC member countries as well as Indonesia as a key voice from the G77.34
Exploring Concrete MIKTA Initiatives for Sustainable Development
In addition to issue-specific engagement led by individual MIKTA members, both analysts and representatives from MIKTA countries have been concerned with the potential for more substantial initiatives under the MIKTA label, such as the setup of joint programmes and mechanisms.35 Since MIKTA’s inception the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping has been both an implicit and explicit reference point for evaluating MIKTA’s performance and usefulness.36 The establishment of the New Development Bank has arguably been the most tangible outcome of BRICS cooperation on global development so far, spurring questions about similar MIKTA projects.37
At this stage, the setup of a major MIKTA institution for sustainable development – such as a MIKTA development bank – seems rather unlikely. However, there are other options to explore in case MIKTA countries decide to go beyond exchanges among themselves and set up outward-bound initiatives. In what follows I point to three potential schemes that MIKTA countries might want to consider when deciding about the next steps for supporting sustainable development initiatives: a MIKTA Support Scheme for SDG implementation and monitoring; a MIKTA Trust Fund in cooperation with an entity of the UN Development System; and a MIKTA Facility for triangular cooperation in cooperation with the UN Office for South-South Cooperation. These potential initiatives would build on or collaborate with existing institutions; they are thus not aimed at radical transformation but are embedded in the current status quo of global development.
MIKTA Support Scheme for SDG Implementation and Monitoring
UN member states have decided to follow the logic of the SDGs – from eradicating hunger to improving gender equality and changing consumption patterns – in their support for development processes at home and abroad until 2030. This UN development agenda is the first one that is explicitly directed at both ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ countries and thus attempts to overcome the North-South binary that has dominated both rhetoric and practice of development cooperation for decades. Any major MIKTA engagement with global development over the next decade is likely to be connected to the SDGs. As the setup of implementation and monitoring structures are still under way in most countries, MIKTA support in this area would probably meet demand and contribute to shaping the realities of global development over the next decade.
Mexico, Korea and Turkey were part of the first cohort of countries that presented their voluntary national reviews on SDG implementation in 2016; Indonesia presented its voluntary review in 2017 and Australia is set to present one in 2018.38 By mid-2018 all MIKTA countries are thus set to have concluded their first round of voluntary reporting. Based on their national experiences in reporting progress and setting up national implementation and monitoring structures, MIKTA countries might want to carry out an intra-MIKTA exercise of compiling recommendations and design a MIKTA SDG implementation and monitoring kit. This MIKTA kit could contain modules and recommendations on how to set up SDG implementation structures – such as national SDG councils and strategies, or information-sharing channels between ministries, government agencies and non-state actors – and how to organize SDG monitoring processes, including, for instance, a review of potentials and pitfalls of different participatory mechanisms for data compilation and report drafting.
The MIKTA kit could provide the basis for exchanges with and capacity building measures for third countries; and the variety of domestic development and institutional realities in the five MIKTA countries would ensure that a considerable number of other countries might find systematized MIKTA input quite helpful. The concrete design of such a support scheme can draw on experiences – both best practices and lessons learned – from previous projects aimed at supporting the implementation and monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Mexico, for instance, supported Central American countries during the last phase of the MDGs with the monitoring of MDG implementation processes, drawing on experiences from Mexico’s national context.39
MIKTA Trust Fund with the UN Development System
As MIKTA interest in UN processes has been growing, member countries might want to explore the possibility of setting up a MIKTA Trust Fund with an entity of the UN Development System. Trust funds are mechanisms through which multilateral development agencies receive financial resources from third parties; they allow contributing states to exercise some general guidance in terms of geographical and/or thematic reach but also provide leeway to the multilateral entity in question to use funds according to its corporate strategies and mandate.40 One potential partner for this MIKTA Trust Fund would be the UN Development Programme (UNDP). All MIKTA member countries individually have long-lasting relationships with UNDP. Both Australia and Korea have been important partners for UNDP with, in 2016, a contribution of around 40 million USD each;41 and Korea has also been hosting UNDP’s Seoul Policy Centre for Global Development Partnerships.42 Turkey, Indonesia and Mexico have signed strategic partnership agreements with UNDP43 and, as both programme countries and major regional players, have occupied a key role for redefining the structure and position of multilateral development agencies more broadly.
UNDP has set up different kinds of trust funds, attempting to strike a balance between corporate interests and donors’ priorities and preferences. Thematic trust funds allow different donors to contribute resources to programmes and processes in specific issue areas, such as democratic governance or the environment. In addition, there are trust funds specifically set up with individual countries, including Korea. The Republic of Korea-UNDP MDG Trust Fund44 was established in 2009 to support MDG implementation processes and the preparation of the new development agenda across geographies and issue areas; and both parties established a follow-up scheme – the Republic of Korea-UNDP SDG Trust Fund – in October 2016.45
MIKTA countries might want to explore the possibility of signing a Memorandum of Understanding to contribute to or collaborate with the Korea-UNDP Trust Fund on specific initiatives. MIKTA could also set up a separate – probably relatively small – fund to support UNDP with particularly challenging issues, or in particularly challenging contexts, related to its support for SDG implementation, or in areas that are of particular relevance for MIKTA countries. One option would be for Korea to lead the exploration of MIKTA cooperation with the Korea-UNDP Trust Fund or the setup of a similar MIKTA Trust Fund, in line with Cassidy’s (2017) suggestion that certain MIKTA initiatives should be taken forward by member states independent of the rotating chair.
MIKTA Facility for Supporting Triangular Cooperation
Finally, MIKTA could build on the experience of another minilateral grouping – the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) forum – cooperating with the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).46 In 2004, IBSA states set up a Facility with the now UNOSSC, promoted as “a remarkable example of cooperation among three developing countries but also a pioneering initiative to implement South-South cooperation for the benefit of other Southern countries” (UNOSSC 2017a).47 MIKTA would arguably be well suited to champion triangular cooperation – defined by the UN as a “collaboration in which traditional donor countries and multilateral organizations facilitate South-South initiatives through the provision of funding, training, management and technological systems” (UNOSSC 2017b). Building on the positions of Turkey, Mexico and Indonesia as both UN Development System programme countries and providers of development cooperation, MIKTA might be in a good – and arguably unique – position to champion support for triangular cooperation that goes beyond the still tangible divides between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries.
Mexico and Indonesia, for instance, could build on their joint work on the topic in the framework of GPEDC-related processes on development effectiveness48 and explore the possibility of engaging more thoroughly with the global promotion of South-South and triangular cooperation. Turkey, in turn, hosted the UN South-South Expo in December 2017; and together with Korea and Australia as members of the OECD-DAC MIKTA would thus offer a combination of a wide range of relevant experiences and positionalities: countries that have been receiving ODA and providing different forms of development cooperation to other countries (Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey), a country that transitioned from ODA recipient to DAC member status (Korea) as well as a long-standing member of the DAC (Australia).
All MIKTA countries have, in different ways and to different degrees, already engaged with triangular cooperation initiatives. Mexico has started designing and implementing triangular projects in Central America (e.g. with Germany);49 Korea has implemented triangular projects with Latin American partners (e.g. with Chile in Bolivia and Paraguay);50 Turkey has trilateral cooperation experiences with partners in a range of different regions (e.g. with Japan in Yemen, Sudan and Afghanistan);51 Indonesia has not only implemented trilateral schemes (e.g. with Norway and Myanmar)52 but also developed standard operating procedures for triangular cooperation;53 and also the Australian government has experience with triangular projects (e.g. with Germany and Chile in Paraguay).54
The UNOSSC would offer an established and arguably legitimate framework for building on these individual experiences and setting up the MIKTA Facility. While member countries would need to agree on investing some financial resources, initiatives implemented under the facility could focus on capacity development and the sharing of technical expertise and might not require investments that lie outside the current availability of financial resources of MIKTA governments. As an initial step, MIKTA countries might also want to explore the option of designing schemes where two or three MIKTA members collaborate on trilateral pilot projects together with partner countries in their respective regions; and these pilot projects might then inform the scope and structure of the MIKTA Facility.
MIKTA and Global Development: Towards ‘Constructive Engagement’ Under the 2018 Indonesia Chair?
Playing a “constructive” (MIKTA 2015a) role in global affairs can mean many different things,55 and obstacles to joint MIKTA action on development should not be underestimated. The heterogeneity of development trajectories and current positionalities of the five MIKTA countries in the broader sphere of global development is considerable. So far, MIKTA-led exchanges on sustainable development have been broad and mostly unrelated to concrete initiatives that require the investment of time, energy, financial capital as well as political or reputational resources.
MIKTA has been, by and large, a forum for consultation. It is up to those representing the five member countries to decide about the depth, breadth and modalities of this partnership, taking into account the various factors and purposes of multilateral engagement and the domestic, regional and global contexts they are operating in. In case MIKTA member countries decide to expand and systematize their joint action, however, global development might be a potentially fruitful sphere to consider. Intra-MIKTA exchanges for staff in charge of development cooperation portfolios as well as the MIKTA SDG Support Scheme, the MIKTA Trust Fund and the MIKTA Facility for triangular cooperation might provide some concrete input for discussing engagement that goes beyond workshop exchanges and one-off side events at international meetings.
Indonesia – while often referred to as less enthusiastic MIKTA member56 – might play a crucial role in expanding MIKTA’s engagement with the sphere of global development. As host of the 1955 Bandung conference, a strong voice from the G77 and, more recently, a convenor trying to bring together ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ countries in processes on development effectiveness, Indonesia looks back on a substantive trajectory in terms of accompanying and shaping global development debates. Inspired by aspirations of gaining “more voice in the [international] system” (Santikajaya 2016, p. 574) and “gradually amend[ing] the global order” (Cassidy 2017), Indonesia might not only be able to convince fellow MIKTA members to invest in concrete schemes57 to support sustainable development processes but also show a face of MIKTA to the world that is likely to be more appealing to countries beyond the G20, particularly those from the so-called ‘global South’. While MIKTA initiatives – including those outlined in this paper – are unlikely to lead to any meaningful transformation of highly divided spaces, the kind of ‘constructive’ role MIKTA can play might be a humbler one: providing limited but concrete insights into what cooperation across traditional divides might look like.
While conducting research related to this paper I benefitted from financial and in-kind support provided by the following institutions: the UK Economic and Social Research Council; Christ’s College, University of Cambridge; the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies, University of Cambridge; the Center of Policy Analysis and Development on Multilateral Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia; the German Academic Exchange Service; the College of Mexico; the Mora Institute; the Istanbul Policy Center; Koç University; and the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.
Another version of this article is published under the same title as part of MIKTA: The Current Condition and Way Forward, a 2018 publication compiled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia. I would like to thank Awidya Santikajaya for accompanying the drafting process as well as Emma Mawdsley, Sung-Mi Kim and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this article. All errors and interpretations remain my own.
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