The Good Country Equation: Math for a Better World

Last week I had the real pleasure to read this beautiful book by Simon Anholt. it was hardly a surprise to me to find out that I was in agreement with virtually every statement. I have to admit that I knew it in advance: I have been following the work of Simon since he started publishing the Good Country Index and, later on, I happily joined the audience of voters of the Global Vote. One year ago I welcomed as well the Good Leader Index, so you definitely can categorize me as a Simon Anholt fan!

Yet, I knew nothing about his previous work experiences and about his advisory work for many governments in different continents of the world and how he came to the ideas behind these indexes and social experiments which answer to the simple question: Is that true that everybody (individuals and governments alike) want to be classified among the good ones? The answer is an enthusiastic YES.

Before you think I’m confusing international relations with an episode of The Good Place, let me explain….

The Good Place - Stagione 3: Eleanor & company nel poster della serie

Earth IS “the Good Place”, it might look like the Garden of Eden if we only accepted the simple idea that we are all connected and whatever we do as individuals and as citizens, as electors ad as elected politicians has an impact on the other individuals, the other governments, the other states.

And so this is one of the key ideas you will take from the Good Country Equation: every country has positive as well as negative externalities. These externalities may, as well, be measured and offer us a clear picture about who are the good and the bad ones. It is the well known “naming and shaming” we all learned on the school desks.

And it is not just about being good.

Being perceived as a positive country has a value that any government (and its citizens) could monetize in many ways. Depending on the reputation of the country, States can make better agreements with other countries, exporting companies can get better contracts, workers can be offered better jobs and salaries, citizens could be welcome or not. Each of us could offer plenty of examples of this conditioning by prejudice about countries. The good news is that prejudices can be reversed. By facts.

And it is funny and interesting to read about the author’s experiences with the governments he advised to help them going up in the ladder of international reputation because being good was good for the world as well as for them. It is, definitely, in the utmost self-interest.

Just imagine the transformation of our beautiful planet if governments would start wondering if their political choices are aligned with the highest and best good! A win-win-win: for People, Planet and Prosperity.

It is hard to eradicate – after millennia – the competitive model in international relations in order to establish an authentic collaborative approach, yet this book is a leap forward as it shows in a simple and pleasant language – with a lot of examples – how it is the best model we can imagine of, not just for the world, but for ourselves.

What struck me at the end of the book, is that I am what Simon defines a “natural cosmopolitan”. It is a character trait which doesn’t depend so much from the country you happen to be born in. I hold my vision of how the world could work better which may be different from the one that other fellow cosmopolitans have, yet we all are curious, open to cultural diversity and pluralism, concerned about social harmony, trustworthy, optimistic, ready to compromise our interest with others to benefit a larger audience.

We come from different experiences and have different cultural approaches and different recipes for the world. Yet there is so much we have in common. And if we can agree so easily on the principles and the goals as I agree with the ideas in Simon’s book, then this world has some real chance to work better.

This book makes the perfect gift for any politician friend 🙂

Join the On-line International School: The Mediterranean and climate change: Impacts, people, action.

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Photo by Simon Clayton on Pexels.com

As we all know, the relationship between we, humans, and the planet is at the core of the paradigm shift towards collaborative solutions which is so absolutely needed for our species to survive. To this aim, education is a pre-condition and multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary events are the best tools to get to know all the ideas, actors and tools which can be mobilized to manage global issues as oceans’ pollution and global warming. For all these reasons I am glad to pass word about this timely international on-line school. The only regret I have is that I cannot attend it myself as I will be busy in another not less topical on-line conference whose title is “How Democracy Survives: the Crises of the Nation State” (the subject for the next post!)

The International Oceans-Climate School, running on-line from October 28 to November 1 2020  will be an “exploratorium”: a participant-oriented forum for the hands-on, collaborative exploration of known issues through a new lens with the purpose of opening up pragmatic, action-oriented pathways to progress.

It is open to all stakeholders with an interest in the well-being of our oceans, especially the Mediterranean.  The School will be of interest to organizations that and people who have a stake in planning and acting for the future of the oceans, especially the future of the Mediterranean, as it will be shaped by accelerating global warming and climate change.

​​​Stakeholders may include:  Researchers, decision makers, citizens, scientists, students, activists, environmental organizations, NGOs, scientific institutions, local and central government agencies and their representatives, business and industry, local politicians, health, tourism, utilities, military and transport.

​The Oceans-Climate School is an official event of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

For all those who are interested, the link to know more and register is:   https://oceansclimate.wixsite.com/oceansclimate

The Overview Effect: How Traveling in Space Would Improve the State of the Planet

 

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The famous “Earthrise” picture. Credit to NASA

Since the first image of Planet Hearth seen by humans in the far 1968, taken by the Apollo 8 mission, much has happened.  

Now, race to space belongs to the past. Maybe. Nowadays, at least up there, missions are multinational and they are supposed to be in the interest of the whole humanity, expression of its longing to enlarge borders and knowledge. They are close to getting self-funded, as space tourism takes off, bringing to space a few billionaires at crazy prices.

What is nowadays more multinational than the International Space Station? And which flag a joint mission will plant on the next planet it will land on?

Definitely, we need to develop an earth consciousness and a planet flag, happy that artists and designers are already thinking about both.

 

 

And… here it is an interesting side effect of the walk in the space immensity.

You get to see the Earth.

Having a glance at the planet as a whole is an unforgettable experience not only because of its beauty as a blue marble ball on a black screen but really because of this “wholeness” which is easily missed when looking at it from the surface as we tiny humans are used to doing.

People having this experience experimented with the so-called overview effect. In the words of astronaut  Edgar D. Mitchell, as quoted by Raya Bidhshari, <<seeing Earth from space causes one to “develop an instant global consciousness…” >>.

Not only you realize how small you are, but also how trivial are many political issues, how shortsighted most of political ed economic choices, how silly the conflicts. You start thinking about how better we could all live on this beautiful planet as a brotherhood of men and women. Borders disappear, blue and green triumph in their beauty, cities glow like lights in the night, in the same way, no matter the continent they are in.

From space, the increasing phenomenon of nativist populism so well described by Eirikur Bergmann appears really as an “infantile disease” due to the lack of perspective. I quote Einstein, here, to be compassionate towards those who, for cultural heritage or traumatic experiences miss the big picture. I am sorry for them. I am less sorry for those speculating on the fears nourished by separation and conflict to gain a bunch of votes.  Not sure, yet, where to put the blurring line between the two fields. Anyway, I would send all of them to space (don’t take me wrong, with a return-ticket).

The overview effect has been described in the book by Frank White in 1987, in the movie Overview by the Planetary Collective and it is the subject at the core of the Overview Institute.

I will copy here part of the article by  Raya BidhShari, which expressed these concepts beautifully, a few years ago, on the SingularityHub:

A Cosmic Perspective

What the overview effect leads to is a cosmic perspective. It is recognizing our place in the universe, the fragility of our planet, and the unimaginable potential we have as a species. It involves expanding our perspective of both space and time.

Unfortunately, many world leaders today fail to take such a perspective. Most politicians have yet to develop a reputation for thinking beyond their term limits. Many have yet to prioritize long-term human progress over short-term gains from power or money.

What we need is for our world leaders to unite rather than divide us as human beings and to promote global, and even cosmic, citizenship.

What if every world leader and politician truly experienced the existential transformation of the overview effect? Would they still seek to become “momentary masters of fractions of dot”? Would they continue to build walls and divide us? Probably not. It is likely that their missions and priorities would change for the better.

Obviously, giving everyone a trip to space is impractical—that is, unless space tourism becomes cheap and effective. But there are other ways to promote the much-needed “big-picture thinking.” For instance, we must upgrade the kind of values our education system promotes and equip future generations with a cosmic mindset. We can continue to educate and engage the public on the state of our planet and the need to upgrade our morality in the grand scheme of things.

But there are even other ways. One exciting organization, called The Overview Institute, has developed a virtual reality program that will allow users to experience the overview effect. It is a scalable tool that will make the existential transformation of the overview effect accessible to many.

An Existential Awakening

In the words of Sagan, the image of Earth from space “underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.’

Experiencing the overview effect and developing a cosmic perspective is known to inspire more compassion for our fellow human beings. It stimulates a determination to successfully resolve all the problems we have here on Earth and focus on the issues that matter. It upgrades our consciousness, our values, and the kind of ambitions that we set forward for ourselves, both as individuals and as a species.

It is a powerful awakening of the mind and  a fundamental redefinition of what it means to be human.

 

So, virtual reality could make the trick.

But we can move a step forward. If this cognitive shift is so helpful, why not moving the experience and the comprehension of it back in time, making it part of our educational programs starting from elementary schools wherever on the planet? It seems to be strategic to prepare kids for such a big thing as taking care of the planet where they happened to be born.

 

 

Do We Need an International Organization for Risk Management?

I had the pleasure, a couple of weeks ago, to discuss this topic with two distinguished colleagues: prof. Fabio Bassan (University Roma Tre, Italy), prof. Larry CatĂ  Baker (Penn State University, US).

It was an occasion to reflect on a topic whose importance cannot be missed, as crises are more and more on the global agenda.

 

 

The unprecedented interconnectedness of states, populations, markets, is increasingly contributing to generate global crises. The risk of contagion of financial crises, of diseases, but also of social and political phenomena as terrorism – even the risk of spreading fake news threatening democracy – makes the world a global village. Issues which 50 years ago would have been national become now easily global. The International organizations were not created to manage the global village, but for the need to coordinate states i.e. compartmentalized national markets and national communities.  The current state of the world was unpredictable when most of the international organizations were created after World War II, so – not surprisingly – they are not equipped with proper competences and tools. They are built on rigid founding treaties which cannot be easily modified.

Some global issues, as rising temperatures, water scarcity, deforestation, generate more issues, as extreme weather events, migrations, conflicts, extreme poverty. Crises are often interrelated, multifactorial, cross-sectoral. The current pandemic crisis is also a major economic crisis and it is generating increasing inequality.

Yet, in international law, we see a fragmentation of roles and functions,  as most of the international organizations are sectoral, with a specific focus and field of interest (WFP, UNCCC, UNHCR etc…). Yet, there is a need to deal with the big picture as issues are often interconnected.

There are a few coordination fora, such as the G20 or the UN (and namely the Assembly and the Economic and Social Committee), yet the first lacks legitimacy being a group of self- selected states (just like all the Gs), the second lacks effectiveness, as it does not have legal tools for the enforcement of coordination.

Finally, there is an increasing demand for legitimacy and accountability. We assist in a multiplication of participation tools in the global public sphere – petitions, transnational political movements, structured dialogues of international organizations with civil society. Debates on the improvement of international organizations or the creation of a new international organization cannot avoid taking in these democratic expectations to some extent. The latter cannot be but multilateral as well as multi-stakeholders.

The solution proposed by prof. Fabio Bassan builds on a set of organizing premises. These include, first, that States consider systemic crises a challenge and an opportunity to be seized, in a ruthless competition not only between companies and markets but also between legal systems and between States, which in the dynamic of international relations now devoted to market power, have the effect of transforming the latter into political supremacy. Second, the fact that the marginal benefit thus acquired by one State entails a significant sacrifice for one or more other States and therefore entails a sub-optimal balance, constitutes a secondary but not irrelevant aspect. Given these premises, solutions ought to be guided by a principle of proportionality, among those that minimize the costs for the States in terms of transfer of sovereignty and reduction of competition between legal systems and between States in dealing with the crisis, but at the same time allow to coordinate the reaction to systemic crises.
In this context, IOs must be reconstituted to be able to perform coordination functions of
national actions in the immediacy of the crisis, in its management, and in overcoming the crisis.
In that reconstitution, IOs should be equipped with internal and operational rules suitable for managing and early warning functions and with a coherent power to direct and coordinate the actions of the States that are part of it. This organization should have legitimacy, at the highest level. The decisions would consist of coordinating the actions of national governments. The decisions should consist of identifying ways and forms of coordinated reaction to critical events.
These methods could integrate the use of existing economic institutions. And lastly, an
institutionalized form of connection and cooperation of this organization with the International Organizations responsible for economic, financial, health, climatic matters could also be envisaged, in order to acquire practices, protocols, information necessary for the adoption of decisions.

I entirely agree with the need to fill this gap in the current system of the international organization.

A valid alternative to a new organization is the revision of the existing system of IOs to increase legitimacy and accountability, to create (or upgrade) existing bodies equipping them with the necessary competences and tools, to provide them with data and practices already developed and spread in different organizations, to set transmission chains for information and coordination.

There is a long record of proposals to create a UN Economic Security Council. In this line, an interesting one has been put forward by J. Ocampo and J. Stiglitz:  the creation of the Global Economic Coordination Council (GECC). Even if this body, inside the UN institutional system would not be focused on crisis management, yet it would complement and complete the organization flanking the Security Council. It would meet at leaders’ level (Heads of States) and its representation would be based on the constituencies mechanism (a restricted yet elected body). The option for multilateralism is clear as well as for a more legitimate and representative system. The new body would be in charge of coordinating all branches of the UN that operate in the economic, social, and environmental fields, including the Bretton Woods institutions, so encompassing the ECOSOC competence. Even the WTO, would be brought into the UN system by appropriate agreements.

Another way to manage (economic) crises would be the upgrade of the  Ministerial Councils inside the Bretton Woods institutions– now just advisory bodies -to entrust them with a role of political guidance similar to the one currently played by the G20. The IMF has been created to deal with conjunctural crises and it could play a much bigger role in such occurrences, yet it can just manage national crises, not really systemic, transnational, and global ones. This is due, in our opinion, to its governance: a Board of Governors made up of 189 members representing governments of all member states (usually at ministerial level) and an Executive Board of  24, each representing a single country or groups of countries appointed for two years and full-time officials. So, the political body is just too big to make decisions (which are taken instead in G20, as previously in the G7), the body in charge for the administration lacks political legitimacy and the competence to take the most important decisions. The Ministerial Councils, instead, would represent not just themselves, but the whole membership of the organization through the constituencies’ mechanism. I have described this proposal in detail here.

In more general terms, the eminently technocratic management of many IOs has proved often inadequate, when it gets necessary to move to politically sensitive decision-making (hence the fortune of the Gs) so, the need for a political dimension in the global sphere appears evident. The two problems which need to be solved are the deficit of politics and the crisis of multilateralism (due also to its lack of effectiveness). Action can be taken on both fronts giving to a high-profile, adequately legitimized political body the competence to build strategies, inside a genuine, multilateral organization.

Multilateralism itself could be improved, as we see emerging actors such as the global civil society or companies having now a systemic impact on transnational public opinion and lifestyle, as the “Big Five” (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft). So, multilateralism could now evolve towards multi-stakeholders’ platforms, something we have already seen, for instance, in the internet governance, in some environmental bodies (as UNEA) or in the Committee on World Food Security. Nothing would prevent to give, right now, a small but significant role to civil society. For instance, it could play an advisory role, by commenting and contributing to the first drafts of policy and strategy documents of IOs posted online. No reforms are needed to spread such best practices already tested.

Coming back to the proposal by the colleague Fabio Bassan, it seems to respond to these needs as well as to fill a real gap, nowadays increasingly important, as the management of cross-sectoral crises. Of course, it fits in the European Solution as described in the video by professor Catà Baker – i.e. grounded on common institutions and shared values- and I suppose my comments and additions fit in the same box. It is maybe more than a cultural tribute, our European forma mentis.

I know both solutions are difficult to imagine in the current political agenda of many countries, and especially of some key actors, such as US, China, Russia, or Brasil. European Union, at the moment, is focused inward, on its own upgrade. Yet, as you know, it is not in the spirit of this blog to skip reasoning on something only because it looks unlikely at the moment. Let’s keep reasoning!

 

 

Summary and Concluding Remarks from the Supranational Democracy Dialogue 2020

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The Supranational Democracy Dialogues II (hereinafter “SDDII”) of 2020 is the second edition of a successful two-day event that took place in Lecce (Italy) in April 2018, at the end of which all the speakers and the majority among the organizers and the attendees decided to write and sign a “Manifesto for Supranational Democracy”.

The statements included in that act represented the summary and the shared conclusions of all the presentations and all the matters discussed in the SDD. It promotes, namely, the need for democratic institutions at all levels, from the local to the global, as well as the development of an inclusive dialogue about global democracy among all human beings, the raise of awareness among citizens, communities and populations and the support of democratic solutions to global challenges.

Unfortunately, after having completely organized the second edition event, originally scheduled for April 16th and 17th, 2020 in Brindisi (Italy), the Organizing Committee had to temporarily cancel it because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to then rethink and reprogram it as a series of webinars.

The first webinar, entitled “European Union: improving democracy and participation”, took place on May 9th, on Europe Day, in 2020 also celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Shuman Declaration. The other meetings followed, precisely, on May 15th (“Rethinking global rules and institutions”), on May 22th (“European Union: improving economic governance and solidarity”), on May 25th (“Shifting the paradigm: new cultural models, new awareness”) and finally on May 29th (“Shifting the paradigm II: new rules for the world order”). The full playlist of the event is on the YouTube Channel of Università del Salento, here.

Panelists came from different backgrounds and paths of life: academia, civil society, activism, business/corporate environment, international institutions. They met in 5 webinars under the label Supranational Democracy Dialogue, to present different visions and perspectives on the future with a constructive approach. They offer an example of how a global political sphere and global political discourse could look like. It is impossible to condense so many diverse contributions in a single vision.

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All the panelists agreed on that: the state of the world may be improved and mankind can be in the near future far better than it is now. The international community should avoid getting out of the pandemic and back to the previous state of the world. A number of issues need to be addressed without delay, among them, are:

– A non-sustainable relationship with nature, a current model based on exploitation;

– Inequalities, fostered by an unfair system of tax -avoidance made possible by competition among states as well as by fight  for control over natural resources in the interest of the few;

– lack or inadequacy of policies implementing shared values, as the fundamental human rights, at the global level and SDGs.

Yet, a double paradigm shift is required: a paradigm shift in cultural models and awareness and a second one concerning global rules and institutions. New technologies may help, but just as tools serving clear purpose-driven goals.

The human species could be able to live as part of an ecosystem where all other species equally thrive, in harmony with nature and as part of nature. Education may encourage the development of creative and critical thinking, contributing to prepare global citizens to take full responsibility for the planet and empowering them. The economy may serve the collective good while serving entrepreneurs and workers. Leaders should be in service of their communities and offer the example of compassionate and mindful leadership.

Ideas and Proposals for the Global Governance

The international community could take this incredible opportunity to move towards more sustainable standards in the relation between human species and the environment and towards more cooperative and supportive global governance. Panelists, in different ways, all supported a more democratic model for global governance, empowering individuals, also in the aggregate form of civil society, to have a meaningful say over issues affecting their existence. They could do so in participating in negotiations, having a dialogue (or being represented) within global institutions, ultimately be part of a new “omnilateral” vision of international relations. Such a model would better pursue the goal of reducing inequality and fostering inclusiveness and gender equality.

 UN or a new international organization could be in charge of the management of crises. The existing global institutions could be reformed – WHO for instance could raise a little tax and then provide for free patents and coordinated solutions – international agreements could oblige companies and states to internalize costs for environmental damage. Simultaneous national policies could provide a frameworks solution; a point for a global government instead of global governance was made as well. Whatever the chosen solutions, the need for global solutions to global issues was stressed as well as the need for legitimacy and representation, for instance through parliamentary bodies (as the suggested UNPA), or by online open consultations, or other tools yet to be invented. The global governance should be part of multilevel governance, where all levels – even the smaller as the local community – is empowered and responsible. 

All levels have to be accountable to citizens and this is especially important for the global one, now escaping any kind of accountability. Inclusiveness has to be cultivated through education, access to the internet, and easily usable tools for participation at all levels. National judges are on the frontline to make common rules enforced also at the national and local levels.

Many suggestions emerged during the five webinars. Some are ready to use:

– the two proposals from Petter Ollmunger (Democracy without borders): (i) establishing a UN parliamentary assembly and (ii) introducing a proposal initiative from the citizens of the United Nations. Both of them do not require a UN Charter review process.

– the proposal by Jerome Bellion-Jourdan of an International Negotiation Platform, which is on its way shortly after “Exploratory talks” convened by the Graduate Institute’s Global Governance Centre, in cooperation with Executive Education.

Most of the proposals require instead a medium or long-term approach as the convening of a global intergovernmental conference to reformulate – among the willing – some key points in global collaboration and governance. Such a process should involve as well civil society, local governments, indigenous communities, and all the other key stakeholders. Some more sectoral goals could be put right now on the agenda of specialized agencies, like UNESCO, WHO, UNEA.

Ideas and Proposals for European Governance

the speakers commented on the European Union response as well as the Member States’ reactions to the pandemic crisis and also the effects that all the measures adopted at all levels would engender to the democratic order and the economic governance.

Due to the emergency, all the democratic institutions at the national level dealt with an unprecedented global and health crisis. This crisis could have been a moment of solidarity and cohesion where a temporary deviation of democratic rules and an equally temporary limitation of human rights could have been justified. Some problems appeared regarding the reactions to these deviations coming from citizens, political parties, and the Member States.

In the European Union, in one hand, most of the economic resources that have been spent came from the Member States. The problem is that within the EU, there are still different spending capacities between the Member States and, in the long term, these differences could create distortions in the internal market. The COVID-19 is going to become an accelerator of the existent divergences, separations, and gaps between States. What the EU needs is a common approach, a common instrument to face this unprecedented crisis, which has hit all countries in a symmetric way.

On the other hand, the European Union contributions consisted, above all, in suspending the application of the stability and growth pact and in suspending the application of the State aid rules.

The S.U.R.E. (Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency) is a temporary measure, which includes some conditions concerning the destination of the resources. Furthermore, the Commission’s proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a European Union Recovery Instrument to support the recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic (COM(2020)441final of 28.05.2020) has been based on art. 122 TFEU, which suggests the temporary and exceptional nature of the measure.

Some speakers proposed to transform the European Stability Mechanism (E.S.M.) into a European development fund (inspired by the Italian “Cassa Depositi e Prestiti”) to be used in the next ten years to finance the long-term investments for local systems, in order to bring the EU citizens closer to the European institutions.

Despite some speakers showed concerns relating to radical institutional reforms in the EU legal order, all of them agreed that the European decision-makers should, at this moment, make important steps in order to avoid the EU going down or, worst, becoming dysfunctional. In particular, all the panelists considered as necessary to abolish unanimity because democracy could not be complete as long as veto powers are subsisting in the decision-making process.

Furthermore, other interventions have to be done in the EU legal system, such as the implementation of transparency in the decision-making process, for example by implementing the possibility for all citizens to access to relevant documents. It has been enlightened how, in this context, the efficiency of the decision-making process had been used as a justification for denying access to documents, above all to those related to the legislative procedure, and this practice cannot be accepted.

Different proposals came up in the discussion concerning the improvement of the participatory democracy in the EU. On one hand, it has been stressed out how important could be the contribution of the European Parliament in promoting the follow-up of a successful European citizens’ initiative: doing this the European Commission would face a twofold encouragement to consider the content of the initiative, but also it has been underlined how important could be in shaping inclusive participation to press the European Commission to motivate in an appropriate manner any rejection to follow a successful ECI up.

Furthermore, there have been some speakers who considered the idea of giving citizens the possibility not just to present “appropriate proposals” to the European Commission, but also to submit amendments to pending legislative measures and to guarantee a role for civil society in the informal negotiations of legislative acts. Others underlined the importance of the citizens’ participation in the sense of bringing constant points of view to the attention of the decision-makers, without complicating the decision making structures. Another important point of discussion has been the implementation of the democratic participation of citizens at all levels, also by promoting the use of new technologies in all the sectors that are relevant to democracy where technologies can actually improve information and participation.

*** *** ***

Some interesting considerations have been collected among the youngest participants to the webinars: high school students.

The most relevant and surprising fact came from their participation in the discussion, despite their young age, was their awareness of the connection between all people and between States as well as the importance of a shared response to all the global challenges.

They proposed the promotion and the improvement of the participation of local authorities and municipalities, which can better represent the local community into the global discussion.

They also underlined the strategic role of technologies in shaping the future of democracy and the importance of governmental intervention in order to prevent all the negative effects deriving from cyber attacks and from fake news, because, as they stressed, otherwise technologies will bring much more distances than closeness in the future.

 

Susanna Cafaro and Stefania Attolini

Shifting the Paradigm II: New Rules in the World Order

29maggio final

On May 29, at 4 PM CE, the final webinar in the Supranational Democracy Series:
Shifting the Paradigm II: New Rules in the World Order.

Does the Planet need new rules? Does the post-pandemic world need new legal or institutional tools for a more cooperative (and less competitive) system of sovereign states? or even beyond sovereign states?

Can we imagine a more democratic global governance? a more eco-friendly global governance? Can we imagine citizens and civil society have a meaningful say over global issues affecting them all?

This webinar series – which replaced in these pandemic times – a more traditional conference, has been -for me – an incredible journey. I had the amazing opportunity to discuss these huge topics, with many inspiring people: professors and journalists, experts, and activists, researchers in different fields but with equally strong dedication, approaching similar issues from very different angles.

And I could learn how a webinar works, along the way! Gosh, it wasn’t easy…

I had several aha moments. I saw a little preview of something which has still to be built: a frank,  open debate in a global transnational public sphere.

Whatever the world we are envisioning, I suppose that opening such space, encouraging a conversation and a narrative beyond the borders, is a precondition for our evolution as a species.

We are still learning how to communicate as global citizens, how to build a world public opinion of which the young people of the “Fridays for future” have been the vanguard.

There is still a long way to go, but, quoting Lao Tzu, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

And we have taken a few steps.

I want to thank all my wonderful fellow travelers.

Rethinking Global Rules and Institutions

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The current global health crisis shows an unprecedented interconnectedness of the human family. Moreover, it has fostered an unprecedented debate over the borders.

Networks and networks of networks are now debating about the “new normal” and are wondering if we really want to go back to the “old” normal.

It is strange. It seems that we needed such a traumatic event as a pandemic to really stop and think about our development model. We had already plenty of reasons to do so: the unsustainable inequalities, the unacceptable damages to our beautiful planet.

But it seems that we really needed to stop and think. To be forced to do so.

And here we are.

This series of debates was imagined well before the pandemic. A call for papers was put out in October 2020. And it looks like we are going timely to the point, to discuss a change which is necessary, to imagine new scenarios and new models for cooperation, sustainability, and resilience.

The next events in the series are going to focus even more on the needs, and on the awareness required to prioritize them.

Stay with us!

Susanna

The link to the recording is here

May 9, Europe Day

On May 9, 1950, 70 years ago, a brave man, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed a radically new solution to an old problem.

schuman eliseo

Schuman had the courage to think outside the box and above all to listen to a man with a good idea, Jean Monnet, who – without no institutional or political role – reached out to present his solution.

The problem was the control over disputed territories on the border between France and Germany, rich in mineral resources, coal and iron, strategic for the economy in times of peace and even more in times of war

The idea was to “de-nationalize” them: entrusting them to an independent authority under political shared control (ministerial and parliamentary) and under Judicial control. Ownership and national territories would have remained just the same, yet regulation and access would have been uniform and non-discriminatory. A simple, but a disruptive idea in comparison with the logic of borders and alliances than dominating international relations.

Schuman’s speech on 9 May was intended as addressed first of all to Germany, but it was open to other interested governments.

Schuman’s speech was about concrete achievements, step by step, intended to rise solidarity among the people, but it of done, but it drew, as well, a long-term vision of a united continent after centuries of war.

Pragmatism and idealism, hand in hand.

On Europe’s day, we discuss a short and long term vision for it

The full recording of the webinar is online on the YouTube Channel of UniversitĂ  del Salento at this address: https://youtu.be/x8KmXlAxy1g

Here are the links to the four next webinars in the series , feel free to share them
 
 
 
 
 
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Oneness III

Following from chapter I here and chapter II here

Chapter III

Definitions

Brindisi, April 6 2020

 

For an academic mind the first problem is about the definition.

For an academic mind, an even bigger problem is defining a spiritual object, giving yourself permission to dig so far outside your field, accepting judgment (even your own), and deciding to let it go, in advance.

Oneness: awareness of being one of One, a living cell in a huge living body called humanity. Or inside an even bigger body comprising all living beings on the planet. Or, even better, a spark of life in the body comprising – with all of her inhabitants – the very body of Mother Earth, our mothership in this travel called life.

This feeling that some of us have experimented in the contemplation of nature, in meditation or in some altered states of consciousness is the most sublime experience we can recall. Even if, sometimes, we realize we had it only after it has gone, vanished. Trying to explain this feeling may be difficult, even painful.

It feels like pure love. Not just feeling it, being it.

For me, a vivid moment of those was the first glance – eyes in the eyes – with my newborn Giuseppe, sixteen years ago. One of those perfectly quiet moments when the time stops and you feel you are in the right place and in the right moment and everything makes perfect sense.

I can recall other crumbs of infinity when, as a little child, I was contemplating the slow movements of snails on the grass until losing the sense of time. Now, I can somehow hack my system into feeling this state of temporary happiness when I see in my minds’ eyes all of us connected in the same luminescent energy field. Yet, I envy my cat when I see him lost in happiness, just being. Easily.

I suppose all humans, deep down, consciously or unconsciously perceive at times this being all one. Yet many do not know that this feeling may be cultivated with love, compassion, and gratitude and that it may grow like a muscle with exercise.

I feel called to write on this topic by the current pandemic, as we are now, as One, big sick body. Or maybe just now our illness surfaced after so many symptoms here and there. The illness dates back, I suppose, to the origin of what we call the Anthropocene.

How terrible to lose a dear one because of an invisible enemy and how exhausting to fight every day an unequal struggle in hospitals and labs. I have no direct experience, I can only imagine. Yet this could be a good moment to slow down and reflect on ourselves, on this big body we all are. We are sharing a deep common experience, we are more open, more caring to the world, more conscious of our interconnectedness.

Internet is now the circulatory system of this big body: our words and thoughts circulate like blood, bringing life and nourishment or more diseases. Waves of compassion, as well as waves of hatred, spread quickly and we are all responsible for the fragile health we have as a collective.

We don’t speak the same language, we don’t share the same beliefs and rituals, yet we have the same needs of safety and peace, of family and community, of food and fresh air and nourishment for the body, the mind and the heart. We suffer the same climate threatens. We all aspire to the same freedom and sovereignty in making choices for ourselves. We all depend on others, near and far.

Where does a population, a territory end, another start? People living on the borders know this well: it’s not black on one side and white on the other, there are shadows of grey and connections beyond the lines traced by politics and history. And we live in our state as in a big condominium, discussing common elements and big and small injustices, perhaps imagining the condo beyond the street as more comfortable and less quarrelsome. As Italian, I know I was lucky to be born in a good neighborhood.

Yet, the texture of my life is made up of thin threads connecting me to the four corners of the world: I have no idea where my tea, my coffee, my chocolate comes from, or the wood of my furniture, or the apps on my phone. I don’t know the lives of those my comfort relies on. Maybe I should. I could know more and care more about how all these little particles of my reality are produced and dispatched to me.

We are all rings in a chain. My work too is intended to benefit others near and far, or at least, I hope so.

I want to enlarge my glance now and allow myself to dream out loud: one day this big One living body could show a collective intelligence and dance to the same rhythm of life like a flock of birds or a swarm of bees. Just think of the potential of AI, if not misused. Just think of our huge combined creativity.

Maybe it is time for humans to step back, leave the hearth breath and the sun shine and use their terrific brain and its fruits to imagine and realize a more equal and less aggressive society for themselves, for the other living beings, for Mother Earth.

Oneness. II

Following from Chapter I

Chapter II

Brindisi, March 21, 2020

Existential Doubts

The coronavirus pandemic had, as a consequence, an entire nation’s lockdown and many other nations around were following on the same road. Two weeks had already passed.

In Italy, I was watching the developments from some sort of vantage point. We were 10 or even more days ahead of many other countries, already used (resigned?) to the contagion and the “extraordinary measures” going with it. We experimented as the second (after the Chinese people) the effect of this strange “staying at home”.

In those first two weeks, I had seen the good and the bad surfacing in my compatriot captive fellows.

The good was the raise in collective identity.

Italians are great individuals, but I wouldn’t define them as great as people. Yes, for us the family is important, but not so much the community: the town, the country, the others. The sense of the state, the perception of common goods, the respect for what is public are quite scarce.

Pictures and videos of the Italian “balcony flashmobs”, with people singing and clapping together, traveled around the world. People kept each other cheerful, raising the spirit to make up for the lack of social contact.

Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp conversations were more lively than ever and zoom meetings for work, but also for a chat, a toast, a love conversation, was the new normal. The social dimension never disappeared, not a little bit.

Well, without touch. Missing hugs and kisses was a way to realize how important they previously were in our daily lives.

Doctors and nurses were doing miracles, working relentlessly, with poor safety measures, arousing our admiration. All the people working in the food supply chain couldn’t stop as well. Volunteers provided shopping for the old people at home and tissue facial masks were sewed and gifted in several towns and neighborhoods.

But let’s talk about the bad.

First of all, it was surprising how fast we all accepted that social distancing was the only solution. I wonder if there was some alternative way to protect the weaker with exceptional measures, even at the same high price. As for most of the others, I suppose for me the risk was a viral infection with mild symptoms. Maybe we could cope with it, without putting at risk an entire economic system made of local shops and little enterprises.

As in a revolution, there was no time or desire to discuss alternatives. The only “political” debate was if the government was doing enough, had intervened soon enough or could restrict freedoms even more.

The big doctors on TV appeared to be the only legitimate authorities to discuss measures despite the fact that they had – at least – to be balanced with fundamental rights and freedoms.  I couldn’t help but think that freedom of worship or the right to mourn the dead could be saved somehow – maybe moving them open-air, with due distances. But that wasn’t debatable.

What was much worse, people locked in the houses started judging the few ones moving freely outside: a few runners, people driving cars and riding bikes. For sure, some had good reasons to move (with the special permission we all had in the pocket, when outside) some others were just less obedient. Regrettable of course, but not at the point to be hated. Pointing the finger was easy and lightheartedly done.

And such hatred was real, a sort of decompression for the sense of frustration for being prisoners of the invisible enemy. Overreacting, looking for the responsible for bringing the contagion in town, blaming the authorities for not protecting enough, that was the shadow surfacing in many good citizens at home.  

All in plain sight: the light and the shadow, and the boat we were all in.

I felt I couldn’t go on with business as usual.

In my cozy house – luckily prisoner with my two sons – I was doing my best to stay positive, shielding my boys from the wave of fear and anxiety I could perceive from the outside.

After years and years of frantic activity, staying at home wasn’t too bad.

Yet, from time to time I couldn’t help but think of the sick ones, the seriously sick: those condemned to stay in the hospital without the presence and the comforting touch of the dear ones. Dying alone, this was the curse of this virus.  

My work didn’t stop, even if I was confined at home.
I could teach online, correct theses, advise students, write…
Well, most of my work had always been at home: reading, studying, writing. Especially – and on purpose – in the quiet hours when the boys were at school.
I was used to struggling with the blank page on my personal computer and now I had plenty of time to do so. I couldn’t even complain about all the other chores.

Yet, motivation was totally missing. All of a sudden I was wondering if all my work made sense at all.

I had always seen my life as a continuous upgrading and now – I felt – it was time to upgrade again.
Unfortunately, I was clueless. Waiting for a hint about the next step, out of my old patterns and towards some new, more significant ones…

I had the impression this virus was a sort of wake-up call, not just for me, but for everybody. I felt, deep inside, the responsibility to get the hidden message inside the call.

Sleeping, reading novels, cooking was all I wanted to do in those lazy days of quarantine. All I had never had time to do. I was overwhelmed, at times, with a sense of guilt for this sudden laziness, something I was unprepared to face.

A sudden thought: – maybe this is how searching for the meaning of life looks like: waiting and contemplation. Maybe the white page is where it all starts and where I had to start. Seeing what could flow out of my mind. No plans, no goals, no attachments. Just the free flow of thoughts. Inspiration? Intuition? It was time to see if these were real, if they worked.

And there it was: my “Oneness” posts 🙂

Compassion. A sense of commonality with all the people living the same life and the same fears in so many towns and countries around the world.

Contribute. Could I contribute? How? 

The challenge to me was clear: the virus showing once more how this world is small, how humanity is nothing but a family whose destiny lays in interconnectedness.

We had already seen plenty of images of catastrophes around the world in this strange leap year: desperation, bombs, locusts, floods, and fires. Powerful images calling for our empathy and compassion for our fellow humans, the close and the far away.

Yet this lockdown because of an infinitely small virus – apparently not so terrible –  was something different: a shared experience.

 It was connecting for the first time people around the world, sharing the same fear. Could this become a sharing of love instead? I was wondering. Could we pray for each other, meditate for each other, feel eventually a real, family-like, connection?

Hope.

The light at the end of the tunnel could be brighter than the one we left behind, at least because we learned to enjoy it with new eyes.

Follows in chapter three