This week’s hot links include redefining eastern geo-economic policy and reviewing western geo-strategic interests, global terrorism, mental development and the EU Marshall Plan.

15 Jun

Writing in the Nation, Waqas Mahmood Ali discusses the redefinition of eastern geo-economic policy and reviews western geo-strategic interests with specific reference to Pakistan as he asks if the Pakistani government can take up the mantle to change the country’s subservient and subjugated role to a more defining and enhanced one. Mahmood Ali begins by contextualising the emerging scenario of an uncertain multi-polar world, ‘the contemporary situation depicts a post-modern society.’ He continues that ‘the emergence of East, new paths and creative ideas are being adopted to deal with the unprecedented situations and challenging tasks that nation-states have to overcome in the rapidly changing socio-economic and political environment of the world.’ Mahmood Ali moves on to current global developments such as ‘the importance of Syrian ceasefire plan at a time when America’s growing level of intervention in East Asia and elsewhere, have made nations of the East realize the importance of maintaining cordial relations with their territorial and regional neighbours.’ He also notes that ‘the shift of Iranian priorities from militarism to economic alliances can prove to be a game-changer in the region.’ His advice to the Pakistani government is that effectively ‘establishing parameters and contours requires a well thought out approach based on awareness and informed decision-making.’ He believes that proactive policy will be highly beneficial and that ‘it is imperative to build-up from within in order to extract and gain benefits from production, trade and development.’

This week, the Finnish Professor of International Relations and Director of Research at the University of Bath (UK), Timo Kivimäki, granted an interview with Pravda speaking of global terrorism: the causes, consequences and possible ways of combating it. Addressing his consultancy background, which includes 11 governments, Kivimäki believes that the universal truth is that ‘many governments are very eager to promote peace despite their public unwillingness to show any signs of willingness to make compromises. Governments tend to try to avoid signals that could be interpreted as weakness and this is why it is sometimes important for academics to take the initiative and help governments in something they cannot do without showing signs of weakness.’ When asked on the roots of terrorism, Professor Kivimäki expresses that ‘we should not think of terror as something that has roots that simply cause terror. Terror is an immoral tactic that people use, even though they should not, for their political goals. If we look at terror that abuses Islam as its platform, it seems clear that at the roots of this type of terror is the perception that there are no peaceful options to bring about chance.’ Professor Kivimäki states that we should try ‘to negotiate ways to limit these violent strategies rather than demonizing each other, since the logical conclusion from a view attributes violence to a demonizes “other” is the motive to destroy this “other”. Destruction and demonization of our enemies is not a way to peace.’ Concluding with specific reference to Syria, ‘we have wasted the peaceful diplomatic opportunities that existed in 2011… I do not see any positive opportunities for solutions in the supporting of the capacity to kill on either side of the conflict. I think the only way forward is inclusive negotiation between all conflicting parties, including the ISIS.’

Lin Taylor, writing for Reuters, relays that one third of young children living in developing nations are failing to meet basic mental development milestones, which could adversely affect their health, success in adulthood, and education levels according to Dana McCoy, lead author of the study which uses data from the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The study declares that ‘nearly 81 million children between three and four were not meeting basic developmental benchmarks with the highest numbers of affected children coming from sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, Sierra Leone and Central African Republic.’ ‘By virtue of the fact that these children are not meeting these milestones doesn’t mean they can’t go on to have a very healthy, happy and productive life,’ said McCoy, who conducted the study with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and funding body Grand Challenges Canada. ‘There are a number of programmes and interventions that can be implemented at any age group to really support children’s development, help them to thrive in their settings.’ This study is relevant to numerous Sustainable Development Goals in particular Goal 3, read more here.

The Working Women Windfall. Writing for Project Syndicate, Rakesh Mohan, a former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, now a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University and Distinguished Fellow at Brookings India and Anu Madgavkar, a McKinsey Global Institute partner, first begin by stating the economic argument for narrowing the global gender gap, ‘According to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), if every government helped its citizens catch up to the country in its region that has made the fastest strides toward gender parity, the total annual payoff in additional GDP could reach $12 trillion in 2025.’ The writers also argue that gender parity is a ‘moral imperative’ reinforced by recognition in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by 193 countries in 2015. ‘Together with the aggregate economic payoff, investing in women and girls would transform millions of lives for the better.’ In terms of achieving economic gender equality, Mohan and Madgavkar believe that is ‘is not possible without working toward social gender equality. The two need to be tackled together.’ ‘Policy changes will be insufficient if attitudes prevent people from making use of new rights and services.’ The writers cite ‘Sweden, where gender equality has advanced very far, studies suggest that roughly 33% of men take parental leave, compared to more than 75% of women.’ Mohan and Madgavkar believe that ‘there are grounds for optimism.’

Gonzalo Fanjul, Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) dissects why the EU’s ‘Marshall Plan’ against migration is a bad idea. ‘Three years into the most important human mobility crisis since World War II, Europe insists on kicking the ball away.’ The latest proposal by the European Commission (EC) to the Parliament recommends sizeable economic investments in nine countries from Africa and the Middle East. Fanjul argues that there are at least five reasons why ‘this so called ‘Marshall Plan against migration’ is a bad idea.’ It’s not much money. It’s not worth it. It misses the point. It will backfire. Alternatives are possible, but they take political savvy. Elaborating on a couple of his assertions, it’s not worth it – he concisely argues that ‘any aid is dwarfed by the economic benefits that migration brings to source countries. The remittances to African and Middle Eastern countries alone are expected to reach €88bn in 2016, six times what the EU is promising, and handed directly to families and communities.’ It misses the point –  Fanjul believes that ‘the idea that aid and development can reduce migration is as patronising as it is misguided.’ ‘If there’s one thing we have learned in a century and a half of massive human displacement, it’s that economic migration is the result of development progress rather than failure.’ ‘Put simply, the vast majority of Africans do not have the necessary financial and educational resources to migrate.’ For more on that topic, read Journeys to Europe: the role of policy in migrant decision-making.

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