A very interesting observation to the recent Chatham House third London Conference June 16-17 (click the picture to open original article page). Following are take-away points from this article in terms of challenges;
Praising globalisation has passed, as we are overwhelmed with too many issues;
- Absence of strategy on human mobility
- World turning tribal
- Rise of religion & non-state actors
- Censorship imposed on the Internet and the increase of hate speech spreading online.
- Continued western interference in different as articulated by Bassem Youssef without much logical planning/strategy
All this pointing to a world increasingly growing global while resolution recipes are more local.
While it is difficult to come up with a silver bullet to solve many of these obvious issues we witness today as a precursor to globalisation one can only suggest a few pointers in terms of problem areas we need to consider and a suggested approach to help resolve them. However it is important to note these are complex issues that are a result of decades of failures in policy formulation whether we talk about Foreign Policy, Community Integration/Immigration or others. It is also due in part-at least in my view-to ancient political structures/processes that are no longer viable in this day and age where efficiency/effectiveness are key benchmarks in any organisation-so an overall review of how government operates and decisions adopted could be useful.
In brief when we can make an argument that the Reactionary/Fragmented Formulation/Execution of Strategic Policy is the root cause of many of the failures we witness today. Taking a concrete example of such failures is Foreign Policy as main subject matter here and quite relevant to the discussion. Here I list some of the issues we face and proposed solution, at least as a partial view of the whole picture;
- Treatment of Foreign Policy as an add-on not a core policy subject matter in most political parties. As such people taking charge in this area do not have the relevant expertise to drive policy/debate-at the very least not much space is given to this area of focus. This observation is based on personal experience with the party I subscribe to which claims to be an Internationalist party.
- (Solution): Political parties need to change the way they cover foreign policy and the methods used to develop/debate them. These policies need to be driven from the grass roots/regional level rather than by party leadership at the top which as we’ve seen causes alienation of many/providing opportunity to extreme right parties to fill the gap. There also needs to be a deliberate effort by taking action in support of official party policy as opposed to rhetoric, political positioning & empty statements. Only actions help develop maturity in the policy formulation/evolvement process.
- Strategic policy formulation needs data that has been validated/analysed away from any political bias/affiliations. As such the current political institutions do not have the capability necessary to achieve this kind of data mining/analysis. These institutions are more geared towards interactions with political players and data collation. An example of this is diplomatic missions abroad-though they provide a wealth of data & political analysis of regional issues, due to the nature of work in these posts there is always a limit to the depth/breadth of the analytical work that can be achieved.
- (Solution): Strategic policy analysis/validation needs to be proactive-sustainable and as such should be delegated to an independent political body that can take charge of this in complete coordination with both governmental & non-governmental institutions. This body can then help make recommendations and provide politicians with accurate data on which to base future policy. This helps achieve consistency, coherence in articulating pragmatic/strategic objectives based on accurate detailed data from multiple sources all merged to provide a 180 degree context of the matter in focus.
- The increasing role of powerful lobbyist/business interest groups in driving policy is one of the key factors of policy failures. We tend to discover that while policy is debated in parliament deals are done in back doors away from public scrutiny. In short wealth/influence not expertise takes precedence in driving strategic policy be it on the local or international level.
- (Solution) This role of lobbyist needs to be terminated or at the very least subdued/regulated so that it does not affect government policy. Driving towards that end it also necessary that there is increased level of transparency on how/why policies are being adopted.
We are witnessing an incredible revolution in information technology and the speed by which it allows information flow. Unfortunately as with any human invention/advancement it can be used in many destructive ways and we have yet to come up with a way to solve this riddle. Whether we talk about Media in general or the Internet and the associated social media we do have a major problem-“Freedom of Information” has been coerced to become “Freedom of Disinformation”. The level of sophistication of what I call (Info Hacking) is alarming particularly when governments actively engage in this activity whether to eliminate opportunities for descent or gain an advantage of sorts. The end result is that people begin to live in isolated virtual islands-unreceptive to any other source of information beyond what they have within the bubble they live in. This is an environment perfectly suited for all forms of radicalisation irrespective of the level of freedom your society provides. I have seen this in action at close range so I know what I am talking about.
- (Solution) We need to understand better how we can operate in this information age and come up with some form of standards to help regulate information or at the very least allows us to differentiate fact from fiction. This approach requires dedicated resources able to analyse, develop and coordinate strategy with allies abroad. We need to be very well versed in capturing all forms disinformation swiftly and aggressively refuting them. On the other hand if foreign governments are deliberately/consistently promoting such an approach for whatever reason (in any way shape or form) there must be an equally swift/aggressive response to these actions. The information battle is as fierce as the military battle and the stakes are pretty high because there is nowhere to hide from it.
- The growing importance of multinational political/economic blocks like the EU in coordinating policy in this area. Though there is room for much improvement, the Brexit referendum has taken away a major source of influence for the UK in this area-something I hope can be reversed or addressed.
- (Solution) We should continue to develop our strong relationship with the EU whether we end up in or out of the organisation. We also need to encourage the role/coordination with NGOs & civil society as crucial partners in helping us shape a world where globalisation is not seen as a threat but an opportunity/mechanism that allows piece and prosperity for all.
The above are some ideas (among the many out there) that can be developed further. The bottom line is that inaction in the face of the increasing national/international threats-be it security, economic or political-cannot be an option.