Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Sunday, 20 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009 00:00

A Lost Decade?

The Lost Decade” writes Der Spiegel. “The Decade from Hell” asserts Time Magazine. The second title might sound correct from an American viewpoint - the years 2000 to 2009 have definitely been most difficult for America - but the title used by the German weekly better captures what happened at the world level: the decade that started with the proclamation of the Millennium Objectives and hopeful expectations seems to be ending up in confusion.

Indeed, precious little has been achieved when it comes to the objectives proclaimed by the world community in 2000: access to water for all, universal primary education and the struggle against widespread poverty. Instead, terrorism, wars, epidemics and natural disasters have consistently featured on our daily news. The new century has seen more conflicts and traumatism than progress towards solidarity and reconciliation.

And yet, some paradoxical progresses may have been achieved after all. Despite the year certainly not being as “spectacular” as 2008, just consider what has happened in 2009. In January, Obama had already been elected and was entering office, the Beijing Olympics were over, the start of the financial crisis was the dominant news and Sichuan and Myanmar were still mourning their dead after natural disasters of astounding scale. In many respects, 2009 has been a year of evaluation and reaction, a year when the global community has realized even more deeply the scale of the challenges it confronts and has tried to find collective answers to them. Reactions to the financial and environmental crises have been somehow coordinated, and some progress has been made towards solidarity and sustainability. At the same time, old habits do not die (yes, extravagant bankers’ bonuses are back) and we have not yet entered the age of structural reform - we are still correcting, not redesigning, our economic and international system. The achievements and failures of the Obama administration are a good example of the times we are living in - lots of good intentions, real efforts at planning and then utmost difficulties when it comes to implementation.

Still, let us show some optimism when it comes to the decade we are entering. Civil societies are much more aware than before of the role they can play when it comes to innovative behaviors, accrued exchange of information and coordinated pressure towards change. The next ten years may well be the time when a new model of governance takes shape, not from top to bottom but through systemic interactions among societies, educational or international institutions, corporations and governments. The challenges of new sources of energy, micro-credit and alternative banking, female education and peace building are some of the fields in which it has already been shown that things can change from below, and that pilot projects can have a snowball effect when planned effectively and communicated widely. Let us hope that the next ten years will not be “spectacular” ones, but rather part of a period in which in-depth changes - not always immediately visible - will testify further to the new maturity of the international society. And let us do whatever what we can do towards reaching such an end, relying on our combined strength rather than on unreachable dreams.

(Photo by Flavie Kersante)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Monday, 21 December 2009 00:00

Beyond Copenhagen

The result of the Copenhagen Summit is creating strong disappointment all around the world, and rightly so. However, one might wonder whether the hopes pinned on the event were justified in the first place. After all, there were no signs before the summit begun that nations were coming closer on the most basic issues – mode and amount of financing the efforts to be made, national targets, and verification mechanisms. Therefore, one might wonder how such incompatibilities would have been overcome just by meeting around a negotiation table. For sure, the Chiefs of State and Government were anxious to prove that they still could be the “saviors” of the world, people able to work out last-minute compromises through their negotiation skills and innate wisdom. This time, the magic just did not operate. Maybe it was because differences in substance and style were really too strong for being ignored.

The trick of forging a five nations “deal” did not truly help, and it might be better after all that the text worked out by five of the protagonists were finally not formally endorsed by the whole assembly. On the long term, the failure that Copenhagen was might be more helpful for working out a reform of world governance – and even substantial progresses on climate change – than a more ambiguous result would have been.

First, the Copenhagen failure clearly shows that an age of world governance is coming to an end. Big circuses are not the way to make real progresses any more. A more multilateral approach, regional agreements, and pilot efforts made by a country or a group of countries are the best way to go ahead. World governance must rely on the principle of “variable geometry.” When Summits like Copenhagen serve as pretexts for diluting one’s responsibility, the present style of world governance proves to be actually harmful to the causes it pretends to serve.

Second, the Copenhagen failure shows that “leaders’ are not “saviors’. Progresses in natural conservation, energy-saving measures and sustainable development will primarily come from the creativity and dedication of the private sector, civil society and national governments (when the latter are pushed in the right direction by the nation they govern). The proven inefficiency in world governance can be a boost for accrued self-organization of civil societies around the world.

Third, I do not think that the Copenhagen failure is so alarming when it comes to managing climate change. At the local and national level, the dynamic is clearly towards rapid improvement in terms of technical know-how, political will and administrative implementation. The issue does not disappear with Copenhagen. On the contrary it is appropriated anew by all parties concerned. Hopefully, the global struggle for tackling climate change is now starting on a new basis.


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