The people who brought us the banking crashes of 2007-2008 that became the credit crunch 2008-2009 and the economic wreckage we’ve lived in since are having another go. The very credit arrangements that brought us so much grief are fashionable again. Continue reading
As I remarked already, and it’s the starting point for the new edition of my State of the World Atlas (published this week), the human population is seven times greater than it was 200 years ago but our use of resources is disproportionately greater still: we produce 50 times as much, using 60 times as much water and 75 times as much energy. Where is that all going – and perhaps more to the point, how long can it keep on going? A new report offers insights. Continue reading
The Nobel Lecture when the EU received the 2012 Peace Prize was a speech in two chapters, the first delivered by Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the Council, and the second by Jose Barroso, President of the Commission. It was van Rompuy who addressed the issues I raised in yesterday’s post and he did it pretty well. Continue reading
EU government leaders have put no headline energy into trying to end the warfare torturing eastern Congo for the past month. And you can’t blame that on being distracted by Israel retaliating against random rocket attacks from Gaza with an 8-day bombardment until Egypt brokered the ceasefire on 21 November. Heads of EU governments weren’t headline visible on Gaza either. They’re distracted by other things. Continue reading
This blog has been silent for several months. The main reason was simply that, alongside my day job, I had taken on another research and writing task – preparing the next edition of my atlas of world affairs, The State of the World – and that took priority. But that’s done (publication date January 2013 but if you really want to use it as a Christmas present, get in touch – pre-publication copies have to be available) and so the blog is back.
At this point, I just want to give an idea of what I intend to be tackling over the coming months. There are five big issues that we – the world – need to get right if more people are to be able live in peace and with a reasonable degree of dignity. They are
- Wealth and poverty;
- War and peace;
- Rights and respect;
- Health of people;
- Health of the planet – the natural environment.
Despite the pessimism in Europe and America in this extended “moment” of prolonged economic downturn, reasonable progress has been made on three of those issues – war and peace, rights and respect, and health. Even though progress is limited and at risk from powerful countervailing trends, there has been real improvement. It’s on the economy and the environment that we are continuing to screw up.
The background to this lies in some very big issues:
- The unprecedented scale of demographic shifts, including both population growth and staggeringly fast urbanisation;
- The scale of resource use and economic activity, which has increased much more quickly than population has grown;
- The deep, global environmental predicament we are in – and getting deeper in: it is still poorly understood – among the missing ingredients of our knowledge are the consequences of different environmental issues interacting with each other.
Against this background, questions for my blogging include
- How to keep building peace and expanding the scope of freedom;
- Finding ways to ensure that economic and social development is about improving the conditions of ordinary people, not about strengthening the hold of an increasingly transnational-ised elite;
- Working out which of our national and international institutions are not delivering the way they should be, why, and what can be done to, with and about them;
- What kinds of knowledge we need in order to do better.
In 2001 – a different time and a different world – the EU Gothenburg summit agreed to make the prevention of violent conflict a priority for the EU. Measured by money, it’s now the world’s biggest player in peacebuilding. But look around Europe now and we can ask, should peacebuilding also start to be a priority inside the EU? Continue reading
What does the advent of the new government mean for UK policy on international development? Continue reading
Tobin or not to bin? Gordon Brown’s apparently sudden conversion to supporting a tax on financial transactions – initially proposed by James Tobin – has, if nothing else, put new energy into the related debates about the banking sector, paying off the costs of the economic crunch, and financing basic social needs. But will it fly? And should it? There are several strong reasons why but there is a negative side that we also need to attend to. Continue reading
DFID’s impressive White Paper came out in July; it marks a major step forward in thinking and policy-making on international development (see my post on 21 August). But there are at least a couple of points that deserve a second, sceptical look. Without detracting from the achievement registered with the White Paper, but just to have it on record in a quiet way, DFID takes an unguardedly if necessarily optimistic view about recovery from the recession and over-states the success of peace agreements quite dramatically. Continue reading
Two of the big issues the world faces today are how to recover from the economic crunch and how to reverse global warming and deal with climate change. On Wednesday 15 July the UK government addressed both with a major policy statement reshaping its energy policy to reduce carbon emissions. It signals a bold effort to green the economy and create several hundred thousand new jobs. The biggest risk it faces is getting politically entangled – and in this regard, the media reaction was a worry.