Last week saw the launch of a new global#softpower report, ranking the UK at the top of a 30-country index. Compiled by Portland, Facebook and ComRes, thereport is described by Joseph Nye (who coined the term in 1990) as “the clearest picture to date of global soft power”, and has ranked countries in six categories (enterprise, culture, digital, government, engagement, education).
There are quite a few of these indices around now, with varying methodologies – nevertheless, this is the first to incorporate data on government’s online impact and international polling. Who’s at the top of the tables isn’t really surprising (the top 5 countries – UK, Germany, US, France, Canada – are identical to the top 5 in theAnholt-GFK Roper Nation Brand Index, but with a slight reordering of ranking). The US, Switzerland and France topped the specific categories, and although not first place in any of the categories, the UK ranked highest overall, reflecting its strength in culture, education, engagement & digital. More on the UK later.
What is really surprising is that China finishes last. Following a 2007 directive from Premier Hu Jintao, China has been investing heavily in soft power assets (such as the Xinhua news agency, aid/ development projects), at a time when others have been paring back their ambitions. Nevertheless, the impact of this investment isn’t borne out in the results, likely hindered by negative perceptions of China’s foreign policy, questionable domestic policies and a weakness in digital diplomacy. China came out strongest in the culture, likely reflective of the many Confucius Institutes dotted around the globe.
There are a few other interesting nuggets:
·Broader power trends are increasing the need for soft power – 3 factors driving global affairs away from bilateral diplomacy and hierarchies and toward a much more complex world of networks:
The post-2015 agenda has a clear vision for children: the protection, survival and development of all children to their full potential. Four resonant and ambitious ‘core promises’ to children can be drawn from the child-focused goals and targets.
The core promises are:
No child should die from a disease we can prevent.
Every child should have the food needed to grow normally.
Every child should be able to read and write, and should be numerate.
No child should live in fear.
These core promises represent minimum levels of wellbeing that children must enjoy if, as adults, they are to contribute to a sustainable future. This new paper by David Steven sets out an agenda for those working to deliver the most urgent priorities to children (June 2015)
Continuing with our work on the Time to Deliver theme, focusing on the core promises that should be made to children, this report explores the potential for the United Kingdom to play a leadership role at the heart of a proposed new global partnership to protect children; using new targets to end abuse, exploitation and all forms of violence against children as the focus for a drive to protect children both within the UK as well as globally, through the UK’s foreign and development policy.
This report was written in collaboration with UNICEF UK and will be used by them to develop the new partnership for children, both in the UK and globally.(May 2015)
In case you hadn’t noticed, these are extraordinary times for the global emergency relief system, which has never looked more overstretched. 5 facts lifted from a new paper by my CIC colleagues Sarah Hearn and Alison Burt:
1. 76 million people now depend on the humanitarian system. A decade ago, the figure was 26 million.
2. The number of forced displaced people has more than doubled over the MDG era – from 20 million in 1999 to more than 51 million at the end of last year.
3. The cost of global emergency assistance is now $18 billion – a more than threefold increase from the $5 billion it cost in 2000.
4. Internally displaced people now outnumber international refugees by a factor of 2 to 1 (24 million IDPs versus 12 million refugees – in 2000 it was 6 million IDPs and 12 million refugees).
5. The average displacement of a refugee now lasts for 17 years.
When we talk about ways of assisting the hardest to reach of the people living in poverty around the world, it’s often not governments or development actors but the humanitarian system that are delivering the basic services. So if the world is serious about the SDG aim of leaving no one behind, then this is where we have to start.
Back in 2005, UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland led a massive push to upgrade the humanitarian system. With next year’s World Humanitarian Summit coming up, it’s high time that the UN embarked on a similarly ambitious effort again.
This afternoon, in New York, the OECD is launching its States of Fragility 2015 report which explores how new sustainable development goals and targets (SDGs) can be implemented in countries and communities that lack the political stability and institutions to support inclusive growth, or that are affected by very high levels of violence.
The report was written with colleagues at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation and is part of a broader effort to switch the focus from what should be part of the post-2015 development agenda, towards how the new agenda can be delivered.
It argues that we have no hope of delivering the SDGs in large parts of the world, unless we get serious about tackling fragility.
Robust global growth, and more equitable patterns of distribution, have the potential to lead to rapid and continued further reductions in all forms of poverty, but this would mean that those left behind would increasingly live in fragile situations. Continue reading →
The chances of Britain making it through to May 7 without facing at least one unexpected international event with serious implications for our national interests are slim indeed. Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband should be planning to give over at least a day between now and polling to lay out how they intend to shape world events and not just react to them. Even if they remain unpersuaded that the electorate is hungry for answers now, it is difficult to see how they could claim a later mandate for tough decisions if they don’t hint at their direction of travel on ISIS, Russia, China, the Transatlantic relationship, Syria, reform of the European Union, and prospects for this year’s critical summits on sustainable development and climate change.
You can read the whole piece here and see all the other world election coverage they are gathering together here.
My book The Ringtone and the Drum turned two last Sunday. Conveniently, one of the countries it covers, Burkina Faso, promptly had a revolution. Yesterday a great crowd of protesters set fire to parliament, invaded the state television studios, and may have succeeded in dislodging long-serving president Blaise Compaoré. It is still unclear who is in control in the country, with the army announcing the formation of a transitional government and the president inflaming the ire of the protesters and opposition parties by saying he will hang around to oversee it.
I wrote quite a lot about Compaoré and his ill-fated predecessor Thomas Sankara in the book (by this stage of my journey around West Africa I was too busy having a nervous breakdown to do much actual travel writing). Here’s an excerpt analysing how and why Compaoré and dictators like him cling to power for so long: Continue reading →