This is the second installment of What I Read focusing on trends on the social, economic, environmental, technology, humanitarian, and political fronts, I will be watching this year.
The power of global tech leaders could not have been more visible than when Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube muted and de-platformed Donald Trump. This, for Kevin Roose, “provides a clarifying lesson in where power resides in our digital society — not just in the precedent of law or the checks and balances of government, but in the ability to deny access to the platforms that shape our public discourse.” While some denounced “made-as-you-go” management, I wondered where Facebook’s Oversight Board was in that decision making process. The situation is, yet again, symptomatic of major governance flaws. In 2021, I’ll watch for progress on global tech platform antitrust inquiries predicting that the January 2020 events will push regulators to investigate more than anti-competitive behaviors.
WFP David Beasley warns that 2021 could be “the worst humanitarian crisis year since the beginning of the United Nations”. Humanitarian crises will come from conflicts and violence exacerbated by the COVID-induced economic volatility. Countries featuring in the 2021 watchlists of both the International Crisis Group and the International Rescue Committee are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Venezuela, and Yemen. And for the first time this year, the ICG’s list includes climate change “as climate-related violence stretches from the Sahel to Nigeria and Central America”.
Multilateralism took a blow in 2020. While the UN self-reflects, the Eurasia Group predicts more competition than collaboration in 2021. This year, as I follow global events (list below), I will pay attention to what is happening outside of inter-governmental set-ups : citizens movements (mentioned last week), city diplomacy, and businesses’ cross-border efforts to address global issues. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer surveying 33,000 people in 28 countries tells me that I am not the only one. Businesses are now the most trusted institutions They also provide the most reliable information and are expected to take the lead on societal issues (sustainability, systematic racism, upskilling).
I will also be watching the soon-to-be USAID head Samantha Powers who said this week [1:24’]: “When I was UN Ambassador I travelled to Buffalo, NY having heard that this was one of these towns revitalized by the flow of refugees and it was amazing to hear people, whom I am pretty sure would otherwise be Trump voters, saying please keep fighting for this pipeline of people […] with ingenuity, hutzpah, and desire to make money and to work long hours to be able to send remittances back home. This is a very very agile and able workforce.”