Katja Bego’s “The end of the web” predicts a balkanization of the internet as a result of co-existing forces: the rise of cyber-attacks targeting critical infrastructure such as air traffic control towers or nuclear plants; the increasing vulnerability of the web’s under-sea system of cables; the failure to design an internet governance system; the non-neutrality of big techs; and the growing number of countries building alternative island internets. She also sees an opportunity in this chaos to create a new decentralized internet and tells Europe to go for it. No matter how probable the prediction, envisioning our business model with no internet or a fragmented one is a useful scenario to consider when stress-testing the delivery of our strategies.
I’ve flagged the growing impact of the refugee crisis on in-donor expenditures before but in “Making waves: Implications of the irregular migration and refugee situation on official development assistance spending and practices in Europe” Knoll and Sheriff systematically review what’s happening in Denmark, the EU, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. They show a significant increase of in-donor spending (fourfold in Sweden!) affecting long-term Official Development Assistance (ODA); and a reallocation of ODA to humanitarian contexts with direct ties to EU migration, affecting the funding of far-away crises. They also document a shift in the discourse away from maximizing-the-positive-impacts-of-migration towards dealing-with-the-many-challenges-associated-with-migration (eg, smuggling, border governance, return and reintegration). They show how refugee-related data are all over the place and call on better harmonization of reporting via the OECD-DAC. Three other things caught my attention. One, policy papers increasingly make reference to “root causes” by which they mean youth unemployment, access to basic services for refugees and host communities, peace and security, human rights, governance and resilience. But, this growing focus has not led to any changes in funding practices. Two, when ODA is used to support voluntary return and reintegration, higher development impacts are “expected for projects supporting migrants faced with specific socio-economic vulnerabilities”. But programmes are typically not accompanied by vulnerability assessments nor sustainability evaluations. Three, the crisis has accelerated efforts to link humanitarian and development approaches. Most donors are discussing joint strategies and some have started to combine funding (eg Germany tying refugee cash-for-work programmes with funding for permanent waste management structures in Lebanon).
My graph this week is from the World Wealth and Income Database (WID.world) which just updated their profile of inequalities in China combining unpublished fiscal and wealth data with national accounts and surveys. It shows higher level of inequalities than previously estimated: “the share of the poorest 50% in the national income in China fell from 28% to 15% between 1978 and 2015, while the income of the 10% richest rose from 26% to 41%.” Launched in January, WID.world is a Piketty-driven open-access database with income and wealth time series from an increasingly large number of countries. It is a space to watch as the expanding network of associated economists looks into disaggregating datasets.
Two quotes reflecting different (generational? geographical?) perspectives of the vibe at the World Government Summit. Take your pick! Geopolitical Futures’ George Friedman: “Nations are going to be much more important than multinational organizations. [The] complex commitments by all countries to each other haven’t been working well for most countries so I think we are going to see the nation-state far more important than it was.” And Impact Squared Noa Gafni: “Many of the conversations that took place during the Summit revealed the days of multilateralism are not over. Although traditional players such as the United Kingdom and United States appear to be taking a step back, many frontier markets see this as an opportunity to play a more prominent role.”
And in case you need a boost, read the Bill and Melinda Gates’ 2017 Annual Letter.