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“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.

Launch iPlatform: The Interview

By Saskia Kok, on 4 November 2013

By Ahmed Al Araifi, Cody Portin and Alice Vincent

UCL School of Public Policy, 4th November 2013, 4pm

With Malik Dahlan, President at the iPlatform for Global Change (“the iPlatform”) and Chief Lawyer at a law firm based in the Middle East;

and Professor David Mednicoff, Director and Chairman of the iPlatform Committee of Academic Fellows and Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst

 As students in the UCL School of Public Policy and on behalf of UCL we thanked Mr. Dahlan and Professor Mednicoff for taking time to allow us to conduct an interview and for choosing UCL as the place to launch their exciting new initiative: the iPlatform.

Cody Portin, David Mednicoff, Alice Vincent, Malik Dahlan and Ahmed Al Araifi.

Cody Portin, David Mednicoff, Alice Vincent, Malik Dahlan and Ahmed Al Araifi.

iPlatform
The iPlatform is an independent, not for profit, innovation platform for law and policy, connecting diverse generations of leaders and scholars and providing opportunities for young people, academics, and other thinkers, across universities, organisations and institutions around the world, to develop global thought leadership and cutting edge research and practical solutions to law and policy challenges.

There is an abundant amount of organizations that are concerned with global governance, law and policy research worldwide. What makes the iPlatform different?
Malik Dahlan: We are really motivated by a generational dialogue that has been missed by most organizations you have described. Events that occurred in 2011 in the so-called Arab Spring or the English Riots or even the Occupy Wall Street Movement spoke about something much deeper and I think David (Prof. Mednicoff) and I and our friends in the organization, while connected to many academic institutions, think tanks and other international organizations, realized that the real problem is that we are not engaging with those who actually have ownership of the problem. We need youthful thinking to surface as it should and the iPlatform is open to all for that thinking to surface.

iPfGC_0044-001Professor Mednicoff: Malik and I have been thinking about the iPlatform for several years and we have a vision for not necessarily a large entity but a small flexible organization that really focuses on being highly transnational with the potential to connect institutions, academic powerhouses and other organizations. We aspire to be truly global. We are an open platform and we have several places where anyone can contribute an idea. We are launching a competition today that reflects our commitment to the empowerment of youth and encourages innovation in the field of policy research.

Can you elaborate on the membership and governance structure of the iPlatform?
Malik Dahlan: One point we’re focused on in terms of governance is to have representation from academia, policy-makers, business and government. The committee of fellows is the academic committee in charge of programming, and another level is the Global Advisors who want to be affiliated, associated or contribute to the iPlatform and mentoring of young persons.

Professor Mednicoff: We have an evolving academic fellows group. The priorities for people to be in this group are:

  1. that they are committed to diverse, open multidisciplinary, high quality research that brings together academia and policy experts;
  2. to be globally diverse; and
  3. to be genuinely interested in incubating projects by combining enthusiastic students and established policy experts and academic networks.

We aim to free up academic networking and are unified by globalism and real commitment to bringing projects that can hopefully inspire people like you to join up and collaborate with us.

How are policy projects chosen, submitted, and worked through?
iPfGC_0072-001Professor Mednicoff: It is best to use our new iLab which is a major part of the iPlatform or to work through the website. Students need not worry if a policy project is not precisely in the iPlatform’s area of expertise because through us they have access to many networks and we want to free up academic networking. As a very open, and transnational organization, there are many contacts and networks that the iPlatform can utilize to make connections and introductions, using networking and mentorship programmes for projects they feel have substance.

The iPlatform is very keen on the empowerment of youth and creating opportunities for them. Can you tell us how this will be done? Moreover, the iPlatform has strong relationships with a number of academic institutions of the highest caliber.  How will these relationships be utilized to pursue your objectives?
Malik Dahlan: The empowerment of youth is a very important aspect for the iPlatform. Their empowerment can be through various elements we strive to provide such as internships, scholarships and bursaries. Moreover, later today we will be launching, alongside the iPlatform, a competition that revolves around policy research and the engagement of youth with the policy world. We will provide prizes and will also publish the selected policy proposals. As to our relationship with the institutions you mentioned, we aim to facilitate, through them, a connection and link that will enable all members of our organization specifically and the global youth generally a chance to communicate effectively. We believe that a number of the problems that exist today exist because of miscommunication and through our relationships we aim to connect the good to the better and the inexperienced to the experienced and so on.

There is a lot of focus at the iPlatform on the Middle East, both in terms of content and members. What are the differences or similarities that you see with the rest of the world in terms of the rule of law?
Professor Mednicoff: We do not mean to be particularly or exclusively focused on the Middle East but Arab countries are currently so much in the western consciousness and so intertwined with our global challenges. We should not ignore the importance of current events in the Middle East and the connected aspects of global debate.  We are fortunate to have particular contacts and expertise with respect to that region and it is a matter of political obligation to try to do what we can.  If we could do something towards eventual Syrian reconstruction, then we would feel we were making a useful contribution.

For more information visit the iPlatform website: http://www.innovation-platform.org

About Malik Dahlan and Professor David Mednicoff
Malik DahlanMalik Dahlan is President of the iPlatform Board of Overseers. He is also the iPlatform Founder and Chief Lawyer at a Qatar based law firm. He has held numerous distinguished posts, including as a Regional Expert in Constitutional Affairs, Oil and Gas, selected by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. He was founding Director of the Qatar Law Forum of Global Leaders in Law, and advised on the establishment of the QFC Civil and Commercial Court and Regulatory Tribunal. He serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of the Middle East, and he is a fellow of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. He was the founding President of the Harvard Law School Association of Arabia, and is the Chairman of the Harvard Law School International Alumni. He was awarded an LLB from the University of Cairo, an MA in Government and Middle East Studies at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, and an LLM at Harvard University School of Law.

 

David MednicoffProfessor David Mednicoff is Chairman of the iPlatform Committee of Academic Fellows. He is also the iPlatform Director and Senior Academic Fellow, and Director of Middle Eastern Studies and a Professor of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. He is a scholar of the rule of law, politics and public policy in the Middle East and elsewhere. He has received various teaching honors including a university-wide Lilly Teaching Fellowship and a US national prize for innovative teaching related to the US after 9/11. He was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in law in Qatar in 2006-2007 and a Research Fellow in 2010-2011 in the Dubai Initiative at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He was awarded a BA from Princeton University and an MA, JD and PhD from Harvard University.