Archive for the 'Laetitia Sanchez Incera' Category

“Now for the Long Term”: The Report of the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations

By Lucy Phillips, on 6 April 2014

By Laetitia Sanchez Incera

"Now for the Long Term" speakers

“Now for the Long Term” speakers

On 26 February, the International Public Policy Review (IPPR) organised an event presenting the report “Now for the Long Term” by the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations. This event, which was chaired by Dr Colin Provost, gathered four sustainable development specialists: Professor Ian Goldin, Professor Paul Ekins, Michael Jacobs and Camilla Toulmin.

The talk began with Ian Goldin’s presentation of the report. He explained that the world today is at a crossroads: it has been experiencing the fastest growth ever over the last 25 years, but this growth is threatened by various accompanying and unintended consequences, such as climate change, soil erosion and increasing inequality. These issues remain a key source of frustration for many policy makers. With regards to the future, for them, the problem is not a lack of knowledge, but rather the gulf between knowledge and action; the difficulty in moving from policy to practice.

“Now for the Long Term” is composed of three sections. The first section comprises a summary of today’s biggest challenges, whilst the second considers the lessons of history. The report points to the role of crisis in generating change, and the existence of occasions when shared interests led to resolutions, such as in the creation of the European Union or agreements at Bretton Woods. The role of institutions are also emphasised, most particularly with regards their ability to foster international cooperation under common goals (e.g. the Millennium Development Goals). Despite the existence of several success stories, some trends continue to undermine the potential for international co-operation and policy making. Perhaps most importantly, democracy is increasingly “short-term,” limited by election cycles and distorted by powerful lobbies. The large number of institutions has led to disillusionment with their ability to bring about change, whilst the long-term characteristics of many issues means that it is increasingly difficult to identify cause and effect.

Having presented the major global issues and deliberated what we might learn from the past, the third section of the report looks to the future. It offers up a series of principles and practical recommendations that might just pave the way for the future we so covet. Suggestions include a focus on investment in younger generations, and a shaking up of existing institutions, making them more innovative and transparent. The importance of breaking the monopoly of governments seems particularly pertinent, with calls for the promotion of creative coalitions. A particularly forward-thinking example of such a coalition is the suggested ‘C-20 C-30 C-40’ which brings together countries, companies and cities over the issue of climate change. The final improvement, upon which the success of the above suggestions perhaps rests, is the creation of ‘shared’ global values – a common platform of understanding.

In response to Ian Goldin’s presentation, Michael Jacobs, Professor Ekins and Camilla Toulmin each made their comments. Michael Jacobs agreed with the assertion that efforts to deal with public goods require collective solutions, but he feared that the importance of public mobilisation had been underplayed.  The mobilisation of the public, he argued, is intrinsic to helping to restore governments’ lost authority, providing them with the leverage they need to act internationally. To support his argument, Jacobs contrasted the success of Gordon Brown’s popular ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign with the UN Copenhagen Summit on climate change, a disappointing Conference undermined by a notable lack of public mobilisation.

Whilst also a strong advocate of the creation of creative coalitions, Camilla Toulmin was particularly interested in understanding why people are reluctant to consider the “long-term”, and in identifying ways to reward those who do. She stressed that short-term or ‘myopic’ tendencies in banking and finance are particularly problematic. The banking sector remains highly sceptical of the long-term efficacy of carbon cutting policies, which unfortunately, translates into an aversion to change for the common good.

For Professor Ekins, the current state of politics makes it extremely difficult to promote the wellbeing of future generations. As regional powers have gained traction and influence, the conditions which led to cooperative success in past decades have been eroded. In spite of these difficulties, Ekins pointed to two areas which should be prioritised: the removal of subsidies that distort prices, and the protection of privacy, which is increasingly under threat.

Having deliberated over the various recommendations in the report, the speakers came round to discussing one of the most vexing global issues – climate change. Having taken a back-seat in recent years with the outbreak of the financial crisis, climate change is now back on the political agenda. As states meet to prepare for a Climate change conference in Paris in 2015, debates have arisen over the optimal extent of participation in climate policy.  Should participation be limited to the main polluters – China, the US, the EU and Japan? Or would this grouping erode global legitimacy, instead coming to be seen as a ‘conspiracy of polluters?’ Whilst the speakers might have disagreed over the issues embroiled in this upcoming conference, they were united in their belief that alongside the work of states and NGOs, public mobilization plays a vital role in giving momentum to these causes at such key points in time.

In all, the Oxford Martin Report marks an important first step in efforts to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. Though many are aware of such issues, be it climate change or the ongoing proliferation of HIV, this report is devoted to actionable change through innovative and practical solutions. Whilst the speakers pointed to the considerable breadth of the report as a point of weakness, arguably it is this all-encompassing nature which also lends it it’s strength. The report also, quite uniquely, provides a framework for new and innovative multi-scale collaborations, beyond the assumed mantra of government-led change. Whilst its ‘real’ impact remains to be seen, the report has been very well received, providing a much needed shake-up to debates over global governance.

Understanding Demonstrations in Brazil

By Lucy Phillips, on 3 March 2014

By Laetitia Sanchez Incera

Over the past eight months, a number of Brazilian cities have fallen victim to strikes and demonstrations. What started in June as a protest against the price hikes of public transport in Sao Paulo, has escalated in recent months, into a means for Brazilians to express their more general discontent. The open expression of frustration with the provision of public services – notably public transport, which affect millions of people who commute from the outskirts of cities every day – is indicative of deeper problems. Demands have encompassed a wide variety of issues related to structural problems such as poverty, corruption and insecurity, and social issues including inequality and lack of access to healthcare.

The glory of hosting mega events has fallen out of the spotlight. The 2014 Summer World Cup should not be considered as a trigger of demonstrations, but rather as an additional source of discontent. Topping the list of public grievances are matters including the building of overpriced stadiums, the security breaches on construction sites, and a shared feeling that money could be better invested addressing the problems in Brazilian society.

Competing views about the consequences of the World Cup and the Olympics in 2016 are easy to find. Ernst and Young’s paper on ‘Sustainable Brazil. Social and Economic Impacts of the 2014 World Cup’ stresses the benefits of the World Cup for Brazil, highlighting the tangible legacy of ‘stadiums, buildings, urban mobility, infrastructure, telecommunications, ports, airports’ that will directly benefit the people. Aspects of social legacy are also mentioned, particularly the ‘self-esteem of the people hosting the World Cup, the gains in education and training provided by the Cup’s experience and temporary jobs…  inclusion through sports, the improvements obtained with investments in health and safety, and income generated by increased economic activity’.

However, the broad nature of these benefits belies the limits of their scope. Brazilian Congressman Romario de Souza Faria declared in the video ‘Public Domain’ that ‘the legacy to be left to the Brazilian people… is very little for an event like this’. In fact, the contracting process of construction for the World Cup and Olympic sites have been channeled through big corporations, thereby exacerbating competition with local, smaller businesses.

As for those who are powerless and more isolated from society, they will remain in the dark.  Since 2008, programmes of pacification of favelas led by Pacifying Police Units – known as the UPP – have been ‘greatly publicised in the media, and occur in strategic points for major investors’. In fact, recent controversies have drawn attention to the displacement of residents of favelas near city centres. Residents are repeatedly encouraged to sell their house, and some end up being evicted on the basis that their house is ‘unfit for inhabitation’, sometimes without any kind of compensation and without being offered alternatives. Congressman Romario declared that these evictions are ‘inhumane, illegal, unconstitutional’.

Pressured by the extent of demonstrations, President Rousself declared in an address to the nation that she would invest in public services including education, transport, and health care, and that she would tackle corruption. Regarding the World Cup, President Roussef wanted to make clear that she ‘would never allow for these costs to come from the public federal budget, jeopardising priority sectors like health and education.’  Dilma Roussef was elected in 2010, becoming the first woman to hold office as president in Brazil.  As the head of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (the workers’ party in Brazil), Roussef positioned herself as the continuation of Lula’s government, committing herself to the ongoing support of welfare policies.

The hosting of the World Cup this summer will test Brazil’s capacity for hosting mega events, offering a glimpse into its potential to host a successful Olympic games in 2016. Next fall will be the time for evaluating the benefits and losses for Brazilian people. It is undeniable that corporations and the tourism industry will benefit from the incoming flows of tourists, yet it is the responsibility of the Brazilian government to draft and implement the appropriate policies to ensure benefit for all. The upcoming presidential elections in October will give the electorate an additional voice to express their opinion on the current government, especially regarding its ability to host mega events and to tackle urgent national issues.

Enrique Peña Nieto: A year of mixed results

By Claire McNear, on 19 December 2013

By Laetitia Sanchez Incera

As he first took office on 2 July 2012, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) committed himself to modernising the country. “We need to create a new free-market economy, with a more social understanding,” he declared at his inauguration address. “It will be an economy that will create jobs and better redistribute wealth, and it will fight the poverty and inequality that still prevail in the life of millions of Mexicans.”

Peña Nieto is the leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a party that ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000. At the time of his election, many voters decided to trust a party that had longstanding experience in dealing with the complexities of Mexican politics. Yet many are wary about the intentions of a party that has never ruled in a pluralist democratic regime.

So far, developments in Mexico have not reflected EPN’s promises. Economic analysts have established that Mexico would need to grow by 7% over several years in order to overcome its institutionalised flaws, meet the needs of the 11th most populous country in the world and effectively address issues of inequality, poverty and security. However, Mexico’s economy has not been meeting these targets. The country nearly fell into recession this year and the Bank of Mexico estimates that the economy will not grow more than 1.3% next year.

Mexico’s economic struggles are directly linked to social issues in the nation. The Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) recently published alarming numbers, as Mexico is the only country in Latin America where poverty has increased over 2012. Poverty increased from 36.3% of the population in 2010 to 37.1% today, while extreme poverty has grown to encompass 14.2% of Mexicans. That makes a million additional poor people in the country. In addition to chronic poverty, Peña Nieto has struggled in his efforts to resolve the conflict with the drug cartels. The drug war rages on and has left thousands of people dead. EPN’s first year in office, then, has been marked by a series of failures.

However, the persistence of these issues should not rest solely on the new president’s shoulders. EPN committed his six-year term to solving economic and social issues that have prevailed throughout Mexico’s recent history. His ambitious reform agenda aims at “recuperating the road of peace, security, economic growth.” This agenda has been put into practice and large bodies of reforms have been passed in Congress on issues ranging from education to fiscal laws. This is an indication that EPN has his eye on the future: while living standard improvements have faltered in Mexico this year, EPN will rely on these reforms as well as others still to come in finance and telecommunications matters to improve the country’s situation.

In the meantime, the failures of Enrique Peña Nieto’s first year in office have resulted in high levels of scepticism among the Mexican population. According to a survey conducted by Latinobarometro in 2013, large sections of population cast doubts on the efficacy of democracy as a political regime. In 1995, 49% of them believed in democracy, while today this number has plummeted to 37%. In the face of this lack of faith in democracy, Enrique Peña Nieto will have to work twice as hard to prove them wrong, and his reforms will have to be more than written commitments to change.