Those magnificent presidents in their flying bathrooms

There was mild amusement yesterday when newly-minted President Hollande had to delay his arrival in Germany after lightning struck his government jet.  The jet in question (seen back on the tarmac above) looks quite modest from the outside.  Let’s hope that there was at least some Sarkozy-era bling on the inside.  After all, other world leaders have some pretty luxurious plane interiors.  Check out a fun series of photos here.  Dilma Rousseff of Brazil can enjoy an in-flight shower:

But the Brazilian shower looks positively suburban compared to the one on the Russian presidential jet, which Vladimir Putin is presumably glad to have back:

That said, the real surprise is that some countries are still able to maintain presidential jets at all. Cash-strapped Greece has one.  Italy has one for the president and a couple of extra for officials.  Spain has a whole air group devoted to bearing the King and senior politicians about… check out a helpful list here.  Sadly, the quality of the bathrooms involved in call cases is not clear, but in an age of austerity shouldn’t some of these planes be grounded?

Occupational hazards

Quote 1:

We do not make demands from governments … or parliament members, which some of us see as illegitimate, unaccountable or corrupt.

Quote 2:

We demand … free and universal access to health, education from primary school through higher education and housing for all human beings. We reject outright the privatisation of public services management.

From Occupy’s “manifesto”.

Open Letter to the Co-Chairs of the UN High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Agenda

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced on Wednesday that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and British Prime Minister David Cameron will head a high-level panel to advise on the post-2015 way forward. Here’s a memo from Alex and I on how the chairs can help ensure the Panel succeeds (pdf version here).

——————————————————-

To:           Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, David Cameron

From:      Alex Evans and David Steven

Date:       10 May 2012

Subject:  The UN High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Agenda

Congratulations on your appointment as co-chairs of the UN’s new High Level Panel of Eminent Persons to advise on the design of a framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015. The Panel has a major opportunity to build a vision for global development over the next generation, at a time when most governments are primarily focused on much shorter term fire-fighting and crisis management.

Your task, however, will not be easy. The Panel will start work after the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) – an event that is likely to be a disappointment at best, and could yet prove an abject failure.

You will have to demonstrate that the Panel can avoid the many mistakes made in the run up to Rio. On the one hand, this means working patiently to rebuild consensus, at a point when the development agenda is showing signs of becoming dangerously polarised. On the other hand, you will also need to inject a sense of urgency into the process, if a new framework is to be in place in time for 2015.

In this memo, we set out eight steps that will help ensure the Panel asks the right questions in the right order, in a way that encourages your fellow leaders to move towards a clear and coherent strategy over the next couple of years.

  1. Beware the curse of the sequel. Most targets are quickly forgotten, but the MDGs have become a ‘universal language’ for international development. They will not be improved without creative thinking, a hard-headed approach, careful political management – and recognition of how much the world has changed since they were agreed. Many have badly underestimated how much work needs to be done. Your first job will be to jolt them out of this complacency.
  2. Focus on the poor first and foremost. Rio +20 will put Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the international agenda – but the obstacles to such ambitious goals are substantial. Developing countries are right to worry that the poor would be the first casualties of a bitter, and possibly fruitless, fight to agree SDGs. You will need to reassure them by making it clear that you will make recommendations on poverty first – in an interim report – before moving on to consider broader goals.
  3. We have halved poverty. Now let’s end it. Poverty rates are falling at unprecedented rates – a success that you should celebrate – with fewer than 900 million people likely to be living on less than $1.25 a day in 2015, comfortably exceeding the MDGs’ headline target. This provides the world with an historic opportunity to set goals for ‘getting to zero’ on absolute poverty – achievement of which would be a truly epochal shift.
  4. ‘Getting to zero’ will radically change the development mission. Every success in the fight to end poverty makes the remaining task a little harder: the ‘last poor’ will be the hardest to reach. The Panel must challenge development organisations to explain how they will react as the ‘geography of poverty’ shifts to fragile states, or unstable regions of otherwise prosperous countries, where results will not come easily. It should also provide a platform to the g7+, a group which represents some of the world’s most fragile countries, to tell the international community what help they need to build societies able to deliver better lives to their citizens.
  5. But emphasise the opportunities too. Many African countries are beginning to surf a demographic wave, as growing numbers of young people enter the workforce and dependency ratios fall. During the global economic crisis, many of them maintained high growth even as the rest of the world slowed down. Their future looks hopeful – as long as they are connected to global markets, and as long as national institutions are strong enough to generate jobs, and support inclusive and sustainable growth.
  6. Rather than a grand design, aim for a loose family of SDGs. The Sustainable Energy for All initiative has shown the potential for sustainability goals to be developed by a disparate alliance of actors who have the will and the capacity to implement them. Instead of attempting to build a rigid SDG framework, you should explore the potential for building on this foundation, with different partnerships all bringing their own approach to achieving significant improvements in one or more aspects of sustainability.
  7. Provide space for innovation. The world is changing rapidly, but the international system moves at glacial pace. Provocative questions are needed to open up space for new thinking and approaches. What will a post-2015 framework do for the half of the world’s people who will be under 30 in 2015, for instance? What can be done to help the world’s towns and cities provide decent lives for a billion additional residents between 2015 and 2030? How will poverty reduction evolve in a world where we have the name, address and mobile phone number of growing numbers of poor families? And what types of partnership can deliver impact in a world where governments often hold only few of the cards?
  8. Get people arguing about concrete options as soon as possible. The international system is capable of debating vague generalities for the next two years, without ever bringing to the surface important areas of disagreement. Even if, as a Panel, you don’t find the definitive answer for what a post-2015 framework should look like, you will have made a huge contribution if you move quickly to define the choices the world faces, set out the benefits, costs, and risks of each option, and catalyse a genuine global debate.

The goal of ending absolute poverty is within reach for the first time. With skill and luck, you can prise open the space to begin building a new consensus on development that lasts for the long term. You will be at the forefront of helping the world seize these opportunities. We cannot imagine a more significant political legacy. We wish you luck in your endeavour.

City Development States: Why Lagos Works Better than Nigeria

city development stateNigeria is not known for strong governance. On the contrary, it is arguably one of worse governed countries in the world, losing hundreds of billions of dollars to corruption and waste over the past four decades. Yet, it has two important governance achievements worth emulating.

First, it has devised a system of decentralization that has sharply reduced ethnic conflict. And second it has a major metropolis that increasingly is acting like one of a handful of city development states–large urban areas in developing countries that are driving progress forward in a way typically associated with well-managed central governments.

In Nigeria’s case, the central government has worked so badly for so long and is so poisoned by its access to and dependence on oil money that state and city led development may be the only way to achieve progress. Continue reading

Ouch

Armed with their billions, these NGOs have waded into the world, turning potential revolutionaries into salaried activists, funding artists, intellectuals and filmmakers, gently luring them away from radical confrontation, ushering them in the direction of multi-culturalism, gender, community development-the discourse couched in the language of identity politics and human rights…

Arundhati Roy, via Casper TK. Read the whole thing.

Chairs of UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on post-MDGs announced

 

We’ve known for a while that David Cameron will be one of the co-chairs of the UN Secretary-General’s panel on what comes after the MDGs, when they expire in 2015.  Today the SG announced the other two co-chairs: President Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, and President Yudhoyono of Indonesia.  So that’s one each from a high, middle and low-income country, one woman – you can see the work that went into putting that together, and it’s a good job.  The UN secretariat will now start hitting the phones to assemble the rest of the panel, and they will be announced after the Rio+20 conference in June.

And in case you were wondering, the three are ‘delighted’ to have been asked, and are hoping for an ‘ambitious’ agenda….the full text of their statement is here.

Sustainability: a game you can lose, but can’t win

It is useful to think of sustainability in the metaphor of an athletic game: It is possible to “lose”–that is, to become unsustainable, as happened to the Western Roman Empire. But the converse does not hold. Because we continually confront challenges, there is no point at which a society has “won”–become sustainable in perpetuity, or at least for a very long time. Success, rather, consists of staying in the game.

- Jospeh Tainter, author of The Collapse of Complex Societies, in a 2009 talk you can read here.

Page 50 of 491« First...102030...495051...607080...Last »