“As dangerous as it sounds.” These are the words that Bill Gates used to describe the blustering, thoughtless announcement by President Donald Trump to suspend US contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a growing global pandemic. In this commentary, I look at two key issues that are swirling in the unfolding debate about what the WHO did and did not do – on travel restrictions, for one, but on a freedom of information flow more generally, for another. Although the WHO is being criticized for its actions on these two issues, I believe that they call for more engagement with the WHO, not less. The commentary starts with a personal assessment of the WHO’s strengths and weaknesses and of the important revisions to the WHO’s International Health Regulations in 2005. It then focuses on why the sensitive areas of managing travel and information flows justify more rather than less involvement with the WHO. Thank you, Bill Gates! Continue reading “Working WITH the World Health Organization and the International Health Regulations”
In the Northern Hemisphere, March is a pivotal month for the onslaught of “spring fever”. And for those of us who have been known to embrace the herd mentality of the season-ending collegiate basketball tournament in the US, it is also known as the month of “March Madness”. In this year of 2020, it seems tragically appropriate that, in this turbulent month, we have experienced yet another kind of “March Madness”. And that is the fearsome disease that we have come to know as “Covid-19”. As we come to the end of this crazy month, here are some reflections on why the Covid-19 pandemic will forever be associated in my mind with the madness of this pivotal month of March. Continue reading “Early Reflections on Covid-19, the New March Madness”
Among the initiatives that were officially “launched” at the 2019 Paris Peace Forum was something called an “Observatory of Civic Space” at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It was illuminating to learn that the OECD had been selected by an unusual group of sponsors – or that the OECD had itself solicited this unusual group of sponsors – for such an observatory. Continue reading “Snippet on Civic Space from the 2019 Paris Peace Forum”
Borders are what you deal with when you have to show a passport to someone to go from one place to another. So what is it about having borders in a “borderless” world? I was attracted to this event at the 2019 Paris Peace Forum with the simplistic assumption that it would be about how to manage borders to facilitate human migration, trade and capital flows. Much to my surprise, the event had been organized to promote the role of borders to keep people apart, and not to manage borders to bring people together! Well, this proves to be a far more fundamental principle of what borders are about than I had put any thought into. So I learned something here. Continue reading “More Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum: Borders in a ‘Borderless’ World”
“COP 25” is wrapping up in Madrid as I sit at my desk in my “birds’ nest” of an office looking out at a wintry scene of an early dusk that brings a glow of the setting sun to the olive and cypress trees just outside my window. I am overdue to wrap up my series of reports on the 2019 Paris Peace Forum with some observations about what transpired there on the issue of climate change. And here it is long past the brief moment in the sunshine for that event (weeks ago in November!) as the whirlwind of climate change activists – and the media – have converged instead around COP 25 in Madrid. I am, however, quite mellow as I sit in my “birds’ nest” and mull over what I might write about this issue. Neither the Paris Peace Forum nor the Madrid COP 25 will be seen as pivotal events for climate change, even as the issue is clearly mounting in media attention and public policy concern. But the one big takeaway that I learned at the Paris Peace Forum is that significant incremental action is taking hold. Continue reading “Further Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum: Climate Change”
Although I may have had a strong negative impression overall of how the 2019 Paris Peace Forum was managed, I did pick up some interesting insights on a variety of topics. Let me reiterate: I was truly disappointed with the lack of inclusiveness, lack of clarity of programming and lack of follow-through or even wrapping-up messaging by the Forum’s organizers. Nonetheless, the Grande Halle de Villette apparently attracted some 7000 participants, many of whom were there to promote their fledgling projects (over 100 of them) but also to share their expertise, on advancing multilateralism. So there was a lot to choose from. Here are my snippets on the Eurocentric highlights of the opening ceremony, the dominance throughout the Forum of digital-related interests and the cross-cutting nature of the Forum’s gender-related initiatives. Future snippets are in the works on the Forum’s role in introducing new perspectives on climate change, a new civic observatory for the OECD and a rather interesting (for me, anyway) discussion of border management issues. Continue reading “Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum 2019: The Macron Message, Digital Anxieties and Gender”
The 2019 version of the Paris Peace Forum does not bode well for its future. The idea for this supposedly annual event started with a bang in 2018. On that occasion, it showed up rather suddenly (for an outsider) in conjunction with the Armistice Day centenary events that drew the likes of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau and other heads of state to the impressive Arc de Triomph ceremony hosted by President Emmanuel Macron on 11 November. Over 60 heads of state (but not Trump) then joined the Paris Peace Forum, a new Macron-inspired initiative to promote global governance in general and multilateralism in particular, that was held nearby at the Grande Halle de Villette. But the second supposedly annual Forum was a disappointment. Continue reading “Paris Peace Forum 2019 an Unrealized Dream”
Much to my surprise and delight, The Economist published a slightly edited version in their 21 September 2019 issue of a letter to the editor that I sent to them on 28 August 2019. The letter was included in a collection of letters to the editor with a focus on “corporate purpose”. This was triggered by report by the Economist of a recent new policy statement issued by The Business Roundtable (BRT), an American association of large businesses, including the likes of AT&T. My letter relates to the time I was a vice president for federal government affairs at AT&T. I was pleased, too, to learn that the BRT has not forgotten the nature of its role in the course of that experience. Here is the letter I sent to the Economist, followed by a response (dated 17 October 2019) from the BRT to my contact with them, and other communications that include more details about the issue at hand. Citations are provided for all of these sources. Continue reading “Snippets on Corporate Purpose – updated”
Since my transition into semi-retirement began some 18 months ago, I no longer publish the weekly newsletter promoting an inclusive perspective on global social and economic issues, but I have continued to write in-depth commentaries – albeit far less frequently. Although I still keep my eyes and ears open for information on a number of favored topics (diversity, employment, migration, climate change, health and nutrition), I am finding that my focus no longer includes a comparative analysis of how different institutions are addressing these issues. So here is a commentary on why I am transitioning to a new form that I am calling “Snippets”. Commentaries and musings are still on my horizon, but here is something a bit shorter but still substantive to keep me constructively occupied on this website.
The Future of Work as a policy framework has been a fairly recurrent preoccupation of both scholars and policy makers. Whenever major changes have come along to disrupt how work is organized, we have typically been drawn to the adjustment challenges. Jobs are lost, and other jobs come along. Pessimists worry about the whole phenomenon of lost employability, while optimists focus on the new opportunities. All assume that sustainable livelihoods are dependent on full, productive and freely chosen employment. Without dwelling on past transitions, however, I am impressed by the surprising mix of pessimism and optimism about the major changes affecting employability that we are all dealing with today. In that context, the recent momentum for adopting a so-called human-centered approach to the future of work, as articulated in the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work at the International Labour Conference is a significant development. In this commentary I reflect on that odd mixture of pessimism and optimism about the future of work and conclude that the ILO’s Centenary Declaration only “nibbles at the edges” of what needs to be done.