Last week-end, back-to-back with the G20 meeting of foreign ministers, the 2017 Munich Security Conference gathered diplomats, politicians, and military/security experts to talk about the future of transatlantic relations, of NATO, and of the EU, and about the security situation of the Middle East and the Pacific under the banner “Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order?“. Every February, I follow this meeting to monitor the growing securitization of development. As usual, the curtain raiser for the conference does a good job at pulling together great infographics in one place. Four points that I did not see in headline news but caught my attention. One, I heard Angela Merkel, Bono and SG Guterres say that investments in girls’ education and empowerment were key for peace and security. Two, in his closing remarks the Chairman of the Conference proposed “to complement the 2% goal [ie NATO’s recommendation to spend 2% of GDP on defense] with a larger 3% goal [focusing on] defense, foreign policy, development assistance”. This proposal is in line with the growing focus of politicians on the development/security nexus. While this not new, it is now put forward in blunt terms. See for instance EU Foreign Affairs Mogherini’s quote: “Investing in development, investing in the Sustainable Development Goals, investing in humanitarian [aid], is not charity. It is an investment, a selfish investment, in our security”. This rhetoric might help rallying taxpayers, but it can also negatively affect financial flows to those in need. Just last week, I flagged how aid was moving away from far-away conflicts towards humanitarian contexts with direct ties to EU migration. Three, last year, the Munich conference held its first ever panel on global health security…at 10 pm. This year the “small bugs, big bombs” panel was programmed mid-day and pulled out the big guns: Bill Gates, Paul Kagame, David Miliband, Stefan Oschmann, Peter Salama, and Erna Solberg. Setting the stage, Bill Gates pointed to the connections between health and international security saying that we were ignoring them at our peril. He called for an “arsenal of new weapons—vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics” and argued that we needed to “prepare for epidemics the way the military prepares for war”. And this year for the first time, climate change, previously systematically addressed together with energy security, got its own “climate security” panel. Fourth, an energized 13-min speech by SG Guterres is worth watching as it gives a good sense of where the house is going. If you don’t have time, watch the 2-min “deep” UN reforms part [8’45’’-11’] covering: (i) peace and security strategy, operational set up, and architecture; (ii) the development system coordination, accountability, and evaluation; and (iii) management. He wrapped up his statement on the need to look into new issues which are changing the nature of relations in our world, and possibly defining the crises of tomorrow. He named AI, genetic engineering, and cyberspace. And he called “absolutely crucial” the development of a “capacity of analysis and discussion to be able to think about models of governance for these new areas that will be essential in our lives in 10 years.” Hear! Hear!
Even though I canceled my account 7 years ago, Facebook was in my face all week. First, Mark Zuckerberg came out with a manifesto: Building a global community. Wow: Is this where the new international order is going to come from? This week, Facebook also made it possible to wire money internationally via its platform, walking in the footsteps of Tencent whose messenger + payment combo revolutionized the banking sector in China. This is one of the peripheral trends reshaping financial transfers to developing countries, and to refugees, in a context where remittance flows are three times bigger than ODA.
My graph this week is from Data Selfie, a Chrome extension that allows you to analyze what you do on Facebook, the way Facebook does it. Data Selfie allows you to peak behind the curtain and see what natural language processing and machine learning algorithms do with the digital crumbs you leave while browsing through your old high school friends’ vacation photos. Pretty cool.
My quote this week is from Cari Romm’s “The key to productivity is a good desk neighbor”: “Replacing an average performer with one who is twice as productive results in his or her neighboring workers increasing their own productivity by about 10 percent, on average. The effect also only worked one way: Lesser performers could improve by sitting next to more competent colleagues, but those colleagues wouldn’t find themselves dragged down by their seatmates.”