Megan Roberts’ “The state of the world: report card on international cooperation” summarizes the main findings of the Council of Councils’ 2017 Report Card. It is depressing. The data come from asking the heads of 25 think tanks across the world to grade international cooperation efforts on global challenges. The 2016 overall grade is C minus, down from previous years in the aggregate as well as throughout specific issues from climate change to global health to global trade and conflict. The main driver behind this poor score is the global wave of nationalism coupled with the declining trust in institutions. The report card also ranks global risks and opportunities. Top 3 risks: conflict between states, transnational terrorism, and internal conflicts. Interestingly they are all security-related while the WEF Global Risks Report 2017 had three environmental risks topping its list this year. Top 3 opportunities: combating international terrorism, promoting global health, and advancing development. I cannot draw any comparison with the WEF report as it only looks at risks, contributing to the overall depressing feeling.
Andrew Mayeda’s “World Bank’s star economist is sidelined over war on words” recounts how the World Bank’s Development Economics Group staff mutinied against chief economist Romer and his rough demands to make research more straightforward. Romer requested that researchers connect their work to public debates, define clear purpose for each publication, and make emails shorter. He also had strong views on style, asking for less convoluted wording and more use of active voice while tracking frequency of “and” in reports (which he would not clear if above 2.6%). From this story it seems that requests were conveyed in a painful way. This aside, the rules seem pretty good to me. Especially as I recalled this World Bank research showing that while the Bank spent one quarter of its country service budget on reports, one third were never downloaded and only 13% were downloaded more than 250 times in their shelf-times.
A little extra this week as it is a long week-end for some of us and Bill Gates just shared his summer reading picks. I read two. Homo Deus which I recommended here as a good cerebral trip. It was no surprise to see it in the list as Gates had loved the prequel. What was surprising to me was to see Maylis de Kerangal’s The heart which is more of an emotional trip. de Kerangal is a great writer who can make a page turner out of the science of building a bridge. In The heart, which was entitled “mending the living” in French, you follow a heart being extracted from the body of a young man killed in a car accident to its transplantation in the body of a middle age woman dying of a heart malfunction. It is about grief and how every person around these two protagonists deal with it. It is powerful. I enjoyed it.
My map this week is from Fred Stolle’s “We discovered 1.8 million square miles of forest in the desert”. Stolle and colleagues counted trees on satellite images and found the equivalent of a whole Amazon worth of trees hiding in drylands and deserts. This is good news for the planet. But it also good news for the 2 billion people, most of whom very poor, who live in drylands and depend on these trees for their livelihoods.
My quote this week is from Dame Helen Mirren’s “Tulane commencement speech“: “We do need you to fix things, to make things right, to answer the big and troubling questions of this extraordinary modern world. How is it that we have figured out how to put everything from our resting pulse rate to every book or song we’d ever want to read or listen to on our iPhones – and yet for six years we haven’t found a way to stop little children in Syria from being murdered by poisonous gas?”