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Uplifting Sustainable Development: The integrative improvement institutes project

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he word “sustainable” has acquired many meanings in recent years. However, in essence, the word means “able to keep going” and it is with this meaning which it is here applied to organisations and individuals as well as to their physical, social and cultural environments.

The challenges we face in our economies and societies in our divided unsustainable world are perhaps greater than at any other time. These challenges have arisen because of how we have been trained to think, plan and act as individuals and how we have applied this training to the way we organise and govern ourselves. We have thought, planned, organised, governed and acted as though our world is comprised of parts which can be separately exploited by humans and managed by us from one stable state to another. We have forgotten we are just one species in a complex natural world. We have tended to act without a sense of wholeness – without integrity. Meeting these challenges will require new approaches to how we are trained to think, plan and act as individuals and how we are trained to organise and govern. These new approaches will need to be based on our current scientific understanding of our world and the human mind.

How we think is not how we are trained to think!

Broadly, we tend to be trained in critical thinking. In educational institutions, at work and even at home we train what may be called our Critical Mind. We train people to reason in a disembodied way as though our minds were symbol manipulators like computers, unconnected with the remainder of our bodies and our physical, social and cultural environment. We train them to break problems down into parts, to put these parts into rigid categories with shared properties and to manipulate symbols representing these categories. We train them to hypothesise using these rigid categories ( thereby excluding all other possibilities) and look for a grain of the “truth” about these categories which is imagined to be “out there” in the “real” world and to justify that “truth” with propositions expressed in words or mathematical symbols joined together in accordance with the rules of logic. We train them to think in a straight line towards a conclusion. We train them as though the way we justify our thoughts – in logical statements – is the way we think. In short, we train people to think “inside the box”. We dehumanise reasoning.

The effects of this on our lives and work include:-

• People who are predisposed to be less comfortable with manipulating symbols tend to become alienated from the better justifiers.

• As justifications become more specialised the difficulty of communicating increases and trust decreases.

• We tend to become locked into our justifications.

• We make a habit of being critical first and thinking constructively second or not at all.

• We continue doing what has worked in the past even when circumstances change.

• Critical thinking based on different, crude and rigid categorisations often leads to unresolved conflict in groups and organisations. This unresolved conflict can surface later and undermine the group or organisation as may be seen in organisations in which management does not consult meaningfully with staff.

• Similarly, as individuals we can be left with unresolved internal conflict. This can damage the individual and others and lead to poor relationships and unhappiness.

• All this unresolved conflict leads to cruelty, unhappiness and inefficiency and hinders our creativity and performance as individuals, in groups and in organisations.

• Overall, this “parts” thinking is not compatible with the thinking necessary to achieve sustainable development, as explained by Paul Weaver in “The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century” (pp.246-253).

For instance, he states:- “In the process of breaking down real world systems into parts, most of the links and relationships that are the central concerns of sustainable development – the links between the natural and social systems or between levels in hierarchical structures or between time periods – are severed and are not studied by the specialized disciplines. Relatively new academic fields such as resilience and complex systems theory seek to address these issues by integrating the social and natural sciences.” (p.250).

Critical thinking has produced and will continue to produce much knowledge of parts of the world around us but it is inconsistent with the integrative way in which nature, our bodies, brains and minds function. There is mounting evidence in our increasingly interdependent world that in addition we need to be trained specifically in something like NEW Integrative Thinking (NEW IT) which is consistent with the integrative way nature, our bodies, brains and minds function. While continuing to train in and employ critical thinking we need also to train what may be called our Integrative Mind of which our Critical Mind is a part.

NEW Integrative Thinking (NEW IT)

NEW IT is based on extensive research in Mind Science in recent years. Mind Science draws on work from the brain sciences (which include neuroscience, immunology and endocrinology); biology; ethology; computer science; social, evolutionary and cognitive psychology; physics; anthropology; neurophilosophy (a new science established with a view to building a unified science of the mind and brain); linguistics; systems theory; complexity science including self-organisation, chaos, uncertainty, and emergence; the philosophy of mind; the philosophy of science and evolutionary epistemology (a branch of philosophy concerned with the origin, nature, methods and limits of human knowledge). Based on this work the human mind may be defined as the process of the living human brain interacting with the rest of the human body, which is interacting with its physical, social and cultural environment.

Among other things this research has shown:-

• Our mind and reasoning are inherently embodied, that is, shaped by our bodily interaction within itself and with its physical, social and cultural environment.

• Most thought is unconscious and much of our reasoning is done when we are not conscious of its being done.

• Over a lifetime of experiences we develop a number of prototypes in our minds which are reflected in patterns in our brains.

• It is difficult to change these prototypes so solving novel and complex problems in a creative way usually involves redeploying prototypes from another domain to the novel or complex domain.

• The more prototypes we have (the broader and deeper our knowledge) and the greater our ability to trigger those prototypes, the easier it is for us to creatively address novel and complex problems.

• We tend to be simplifiers because we can keep only about four items, plus or minus one, in our short-term memory while we are working on other information.

(For a concise introduction to the Mind Science which underpins my work please see the interview with leading cognitive scientist George Lakoff about his and philosopher Mark Johnson’s book “Philosophy in the Flesh” at http://www.edge.org/discourse/lakoff.html. For an annotated bibliography relating to Applied Mind Science in the field of Integrative Thinking please see NEW IT Module 1 at http:www.integrative-thinking.com.)

While encouraging and applying critical thinking when appropriate, NEW IT is a process of habitually and almost automatically making connections to create a whole new picture rather than habitually and almost automatically breaking down an old picture into its parts. NEW IT may be thought of as a more comprehensive successor to lateral thinking and using multiple intelligences but, not surprisingly, is fully integrated, not an add-on extra. It is a practical application of Mind Science so is a form of technology but it is human-based rather than machine-based technology. It is a NEW way of thinking which helps us think “outside and inside the box” and integrate the two as we plan and act.

The process of NEW IT may be thought of as our wondering (W) about a situation, creating a narrative (N) connecting our wonderings and managing our experiences (E) in acting out our narrative. It is distinctive in that it helps integrate intuition, reason and imagination. It involves understanding and learning what our basic human needs and aspects of our human will are, what guides us in balancing those needs and will, clarifying what we have and what we want to set our goal, exploring possible connections when relaxed, arriving at a strategy to negotiate the change from what we have to what we want, devising tactics to advance the strategy, taking bold, assertive and timely action to achieve our goal, reviewing and evaluating our performance.

Becoming an Effective NEW Integrative Thinker (NEW IT) Is Not Difficult

For example, the SOARA (Satisfying, Optimum, Achievable Results Ahead) Process of Integrative Thinking in NEW IT includes a comprehensive set of aids to memory to help trigger connections in our minds, help us see analogies in unrelated fields and provide a way of self monitoring our thinking and acting. All these aids to memory are joined together in a meaningful sentence so the Process as a whole can be learned in about the time it takes to learn to drive a car (about twelve hours) and is easily remembered. With practice its application can become almost automatic. At all stages of the Process provision is made for learners to record their reflections and possible actions based on those reflections. People can be introduced to the basic concepts of the Process at almost any age. The Process is culturally neutral because it accepts the uniqueness of each human being.

With practice, applying the SOARA Process of Integrative Thinking becomes a habit which empowers people and makes easier our struggle to achieve successful outcomes on a life-long journey among possibilities. It helps us refine our perceptions, expand our horizons, sense and respond successfully to emerging trends and events. By helping us to make analogies from other domains it brings out and enhances our creativity. By helping us to always consider a comprehensive range of variables it ensures we always take others into account including our “customers” and stakeholders. NEW IT helps us and our enterprises thrive.

By helping improve our creativity and performance NEW IT helps us gain a sense of meaning, a sense of belonging and a sense of personal power. This is because NEW IT helps us reconcile our needs and wants and balance and integrate our thoughts, feelings and actions in harmony with our physical, social and cultural environment. In this way NEW IT helps us to a self-reliant state of mind from which we can work towards uplifting sustainable development and the better linking of life and work.

In all contexts NEW IT provides an essential ingredient for sustainable successful connections, relationships and interactions – a common basis for communication between individuals.

Against this background, the Integrative Improvement Institutes Project directly addresses our challenges in a novel way. It is designed to improve the well-being of people and their physical, social and cultural environments through low-cost adaptive diffusion, refinement and implementation of a unique bottom-up Integrative Improvement (II) approach for uplifting sustainable development.

II emphasises dynamic connections, relationships and interactions in line with our current scientific understanding of the world as tending to be self-organising with human beings whose minds are naturally integrative. II improves in a balanced, integrative and sustainable way the lives people already have. II involves training individuals in NEW Integrative Thinking and encouraging and facilitating Integrative Governance enabled by technology in all government, business and civil society organisations. II progress is measured by a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI).

The project is at the stage of seeking people and institutions which would like to advance Integrative Improvement in the world. In line with the adaptive tendency inherent in the Integrative Improvement approach, the current draft plan is designed to adapt as other catalysts join as one of a maximum of seven founding members of the Federation Integrators Team of the first Integrative Federation (IF) or in other roles as the project evolves. Alternatively, start-up or existing business, government and civil society organisations may like to apply the Integrative Improvement approach in their own organisations now.

The current draft project plan is as follows:-

Aim:- Improve the well-being of people and their environments through low-cost diffusion, refinement and implementation of the Integrative Improvement (II) approach for uplifting sustainable development.

Strategy:- Establish an adaptive networked Integrative Federation (IF) of largely virtual Integrative Improvement Institutes (IIIs)) in a number of countries using the training modules and templates at http://www.integrative-thinking.com and complementary tools for uplifting sustainable development.

Outline plan:- Have one IF website for teaching, research and consulting in Integrative Improvement with a page for each Institute, for each tool and for research related to NEW Integrative Thinking, Integrative Governance, Integrative Improvement, Integrative Capitalism and Integrative Democracy. A catalyst in each of 7 countries would attract and train 7 people to be the IIIs Integrators Team (IIIsIT) in their country. Each Institute would attract, train and license 7 people with experience in 7 industries to provide personal contact in 7 local areas to further diffuse Integrative Improvement and, for a fee, train successive groups of 7 people from government, business and civil society organisations based on material on the IF website. These trained people would implement Integrative Improvement in start-up and existing organisations and help in the further diffusion, refinement and implementation of Integrative Improvement in line with the model outlined here.

Tactics:- Sense and respond adaptively to other catalysts and end-users/citizens as the Integrative Improvement Institutes “virus” spreads.

Other relevant project information is as follows:-

Catalysts:- A provisional list (this and the whole project is designed to adapt as catalysts join) of the sort of catalysts needed is: a) people from a range of countries and practical settings; b) people committed enough to obtain all the modules and learn about the processes; (Money raised goes to advance the Project.) c) people with institutional bases which would lift credibility and lower overheads; d) web builder and webmaster to provide and maintain the virtual presence of the Federation and its Institutes as per the outline plan; e) facilitator for meetings – mostly virtual; f) executive secretary; g) people to seek content for and coordinate the pages on the website under the headings “Institutes”, “Tools” and “Research”. Overall, fields, interests and skills will need to cover Planning; People; Market; Product; Money; Physical, Social and Cultural Environment.

Affordability:- The basic modules offered at www.integrative-thinking.com may be purchased and learned one at a time so they should be affordable by even the smallest and poorest organisation.

However, if even the existing low prices are not affordable one copy of each module and template can be provided at whatever price an organisation certifies it can afford. Special arrangements can be made if multiple copies are required so all involved in the organisation can learn the processes and thereby acquire a common basis for communication – essential for success in any relationship or organisation. Each organisation is invited to suggest the financial arrangement that would suit it best.

Time:- The material is in easily digested small “bites” with a page at the end of each group of “bites” on which the learner records reflections and possible actions. In this way busy people can keep track of their learning. Moreover they can retain what they have learned because there are aids to memory and revision sections built-in.

Practicality:- The material is designed to be learned by each learner applying it to a problem of their own so each needs a copy of all the material to retain and refer to in future. It is designed to be accessible to people whose frontal lobes are more or less developed (mid-teens onwards) but the concepts could be taught to young children too.

Applicability:- To meet the many challenges we all face as individuals and in groups we all need integrative problem solving skills. This is what learning NEW Integrative Thinking teaches quickly, economically and permanently. Moreover, every organisation needs good governance policies. Douglas Integrative Governance 247 templates help organisations produce them quickly, economically and permanently. The potential market for a licensee would be huge as the material is applicable outside formal education channels and to people in the existing economy.

Joint venture basis:- Joint venture agreements are used to record contractual arrangements between all parties.

Uplifting sustainable development

Implementing the Integrative Improvement Institutes Project would be uplifting and sustainable for individuals because it would provide them with integrative problem solving skills to enable them to be self-reliant, innovative and reach with more confidence their full potential in the face the realities of life in general and the labour market in particular. It would be uplifting and sustainable for organisations because it would help them be adaptive in rapidly changing market conditions and assist their employees to contribute most to the organisation. It would be uplifting and sustainable for economies because all people would have an understanding of the need for and means of achieving sustainable development and economic activity would be generated by more people. It would be uplifting and sustainable for the global community as all could have a common basis for communication and problem solving.

Do you want to be involved in this uplifting project? Please contact Graham Douglas at integrative[at]optusnet.com.au

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Economy

Agriculture Is Creating Higher Income Jobs in Half of EU Member States but Others Are Struggling

MD Staff

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Half of EU member states have leveraged the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to significantly reduce poverty and drive higher incomes in farming, while other countries are still lagging, according to the latest World Bank study.

The ‘Thinking CAP’ report details how new investments and services in farming, reinforced by the EU’s flagship agriculture policy, can drive down poverty and transform agriculture into a sector which can provide higher paying jobs for those who farm.

Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Denmark and the Netherlands are all examples of member states that have successfully modernized their agricultural sectors by providing advisory services, roads, secure property rights and access to education and health services in rural areas. Others, such as Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Greece, still have some way to go in reducing poverty and ensuring that agricultural work pays. They can do so by improving the basic conditions for a successful agricultural sector, which would improve the results of the financial investments available under the CAP. Other remaining member states fall in between these two categories – achieving a successful transformation or lagging behind.

“Agriculture and poverty in half of the member states of the EU no longer go hand-in-hand. It’s clear that the income gap between agriculture and other sectors is narrowing and in some countries, such as the Netherlands, agricultural work can pay more than jobs in other sectors,” says Arup Banerji, Regional Director for the European Union Countries at the World Bank. “Today, about half of EU member states recognize that farming can boost shared prosperity, while the other half still has some work to do to provide the basic conditions to bring about necessary structural changes.”

The World Bank report shows that the EU CAP is associated with improving employment conditions in farming. Decoupled payments – annual payments based on how much land a farmer uses – and the co-financing of on-farm investments do show clear links with improvements in agriculture. For instance, in the newer member states agricultural labor productivity growth increases from 3.1 percent to 4.7 percent per year with a 10 percent increase in this type of CAP spending. However, there are certain categories of subsidy – known as coupled payments, which reward farmers for producing a particular crop or livestock— for which the report could find no such association. In the past, these coupled payments also led to extreme overproduction and price distortion on global markets.

“Some countries are running before they can walk by issuing payments to farmers who don’t have the necessary infrastructure to effectively bring their products to market or to make the best use of their investment,” said Rogier van den Brink, Lead Economist at the World Bank. “However, the processes the CAP has put in place are impressive. The CAP casts a very wide net and reaches farmers in every far-flung corner of the EU. Because of this, improvements in the CAP along the lines of the recommendations outlined in our report will further strengthen its role as a powerful instrument of structural transformation.”

Going forward, the report says the monitoring of CAP funds should focus on delivering tangible results rather than confusing bureaucratic processes. This would also encourage the co-financing of private investment into CAP-supported projects which are in the public interest such as environmentally sound practices, organic farming and animal welfare.

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Economy

Economic Warfare and Cognitive Warfare

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Until not long ago, the Western world lived in the conviction that Liberalism was an end in itself, however, the new context of globalization suggests that political economics once again makes more sense, given that power relations in the economic sphere can no longer be ignored and  the idea that world trade is structured on supply and demand appears obsolete.

The world is changing. Situations change, and events and the ways of understanding politics change with them. Instruments change as well: if the aphorism of Clausewitz that war is politics conducted by other means once seemed valid, today we might say that politics (and economics) is war conducted by the means of information.

The threat is no longer limited to what we once thought and conceived in the geographical terms of one superpower attacking another. The threat today is asymmetrical, different, and changes continuously. It travels through the Internet, it is immediate, and above all, it threatens the entire system. It is not aimed at military or political targets but commercial, industrial, scientific, technological, and financial interests instead. This requires intelligence to structure itself around new duties: protect not only the entire system but also the weakest links in the chain of production.

All this requires changes in mentality and in operational processes, as well as continuous updating, especially at a business culture level. Most of all, it requires close interaction between intelligence and the private sector, despite the difficulties this entails.

The crisis we are currently undergoing, together with the industrial and commercial physiognomy characteristic of our era, requires us to consider the idea of “economic warfare” very closely.

It is essentially since the end of the Cold War that the balance of powers has been developed around economic issues: most governments today are no longer interested in occupying territory or dominating other peoples but rather building up technological, industrial and commercial power capable of bringing money and jobs to their own land.

Globalization has transformed competition from “gentle” and “limited” into authentic “economic warfare”.

Although this economic challenge reduces the areas available for military warfare, its ultimate goal of accumulating power and well-being is the same.

The national economic intelligence strategies recently adopted by numerous governments assign their private operatives central roles in maintaining security by providing them with information technology infrastructure and the primary asset in the digital age: data.

The step between protecting private economic activities and protecting national economic interests is a short one indeed.

Economic intelligence consists in coordinating a series of activities: collecting and processing information, monitoring competitors, keeping strategic information secret, and capitalizing knowledge for the purpose of controlling and influencing world economic environment. All this makes it a powerful weapon at the nation’s disposal.

The main players in economic warfare are:

First and foremost, the world’s nations, which remain the most influential regulators on the economic chessboard despite their relative decline in the life of nations and the various restrictions placed over them, such as those imposed by international organizations like the European Union. One important recent change is that now nations must take numerous stakeholders (NGO, international bodies, companies, mass media) into account. At any rate, they uphold the role of arbiter that all the other players only continue to emphasize by regularly imploring their intervention.

The world’s companies, which address the new hyper-competitive geo-economic scenario by using strategic information control as a weapon of competitiveness and economic security.

Civil society: the expansion of discussions on social issues regarding company activities (nutrition and well-being, technological progress and risks to public health industry, and the environment, transport and passenger safety, information technology and individual freedom), the mass use and democratization of Internet, and the growing involvement of the legal system in monitoring business operations, all increase the risks of hacking attacks against companies by hackers from civil society.  Including in the public discussion topics such as risks to the environment, sustainable development, socially responsible investment, and corporate social responsibility brings greater importance to the legitimacy of social questions.

The infosphere, which is not a category of physical persons or legal entities but instead a dynamic, that is the aggregate of interventions and messages spread through media and the worldwide web. The infosphere is a particularly insidious instrument similar to an amplifier that continuously jumbles and blends ideas, emotions, and impulses emitted by an infinite number of people without any real dominant subject and exerts a determinant influence – positive or negative as occurs – on individuals and organizations. When launched in the infosphere, a simple statement has the power to trigger ferocious argument, harsh political reaction, media crises, and damage to company reputations. The infosphere can become a particularly effective weapon of destabilization. We must never forget that a brand’s image and reputation are strategic components of the capital of a company that can affect its commercial and financial activities.

Which forms does economic warfare take?

Economic warfare is often confused with economic espionage, which despite being used as one of economic warfare’s weapons is hard to define both because the companies victimized are reluctant to publicize its incursion and because it is hard to circumscribe in juridical terms and therefore difficult to report.

A more commonly practiced form of economic warfare is the purchasing of companies. This may lead to authentic forms of surrounding the industries in any given territory through operations that reflect motivations of financial, economic and technological nature all at the same time.

Yet another form of economic warfare, which is both particularly widespread and insidious, is lobbying; in other words, an influencing strategy aimed directly at public decision-makers assigned to the drafting of regulations. Our nations are particularly plagued by the proliferation of regulations and one strategically important aspect of lobbying is attending and altering the process of creating, interpreting and/or applying regulations and legislative measures and directly or indirectly influencing public powers in every intervention or decision. International trade is largely based on influence, and therefore gaining closer access to decision-making centers has become an obligatory part of commercial competition.

All the practices above are included in influence strategy: influential communication is also the hardest to identify and oppose because it is perfectly legal. “Information war” is based on the following few simple principles that can wreck havoc when marshaled together:

  • moral argument, that is the possibility to induce a crisis on the basis of an ethical reasoning;
  • offending political correctness by disrupting the day’s cultural and psychological patterns;
  • choosing targets, in the sense that the weaker the legitimacy of the adversary’s capital, the more the information attack will provoke escalation in the media;
  • the degree of celebrity of the players;
  • the criterion of appropriateness or resonance of the environment.

The upheaval of the Western economies’ competitive system is not just a passing thing. A growing number of powers (China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Iran, Russia) is conditioning the rapid shift in international competition. More often than not, the choice of winning dominance in foreign markets prevails over restructuring the nation’s own domestic markets. This demonstrates the extent to which a power strategy can make a decisive difference in the context of economic competition. These new players in international competition hold a different view of the dialectic between power and market, the latter being seen as the primary means to the increment of power. This vision revives the basic principles of political economics, according to which the market is the only path to power and not the other way around that has been demonstrated in numerous cases (such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s use of energy resources for coercive bargaining and blackmail in 2009) and illustrates the limits  of the interpretative models of liberal economists whose analyses were focused on the effects of deregulation, mergers, or financial speculation involving gas prices, but fell short of the possible use of gas trade as a weapon.

The process of globalization is irreversible and fairly independent of what governments do.  Globalization is one thing, but the ideology of a global free market that may produce a higher growth rate than any other system but gives no importance to how such growth is distributed is another. The argument that the highest capitalistic growth distributes resources in the best possible way, in fact, was never very convincing. Even Adam Smith thought that there were certain things the market could not do and should not do.

Historically speaking, the balanced evolution of world industry was created not by liberalism but by its opposite. The United States and Germany both became industrial powers in the 19th century because they protected their industries until they were able to compete against the dominant economy of the day: Great Britain. Neo-classical economic theories are now in disfavor because the system has come to be disrupted by scarce control over international financial flows and investment procedures.

Now more than ever, we are witnessing a struggle between the forces of capitalism, which tend to overcome every obstacle, and political forces that operate through nation states and are obliged to regulate these procedures. The laws of capitalist development are simple: maximize expansion, profit, and increase in capital. Governments by nature have different priorities instead, and this generates conflict. Furthermore, the dynamic of the global economy is one that does not ensure the stability of its protagonists.

The nation-state system and the economy system coexist in constant tension and must adapt, but if there were no relative stability among states, the instability of a world organized along the lines of transnational economy would only increase. The real problem is not whether governments can control the international corporations operating inside their borders, but whether they are able to exert global control: when companies and governments clash, the latter must negotiate as if there were another nation seated before them.

Like religions and cultures, globalization is only a simplified answer to today’s conflicts and the challenges to security. Globalization has most certainly reduced the importance of military power since the end of the 20th century, whereas security – internal security in particular – has become a global public asset. In the age of information technology, interdependence, and ”smart goods over heavy goods”, the military force offers less and costs more. Economic, technological, and especially communicative competition is more important and determinant than military strength.

The globalization of information has contributed to changing the nature of warfare by making public opinion decisive. In the short term, geo-information has become more important than geo-economy because its effects are immediate and not always governable. This is also a post-Cold War phenomenon.

In this context, the economy is no longer the mechanism of security as it was during Cold War, but on the contrary, security now serves the economy in creating better conditions for the expansion and protection of globalization. The nature of security depends on the situation prevailing in each nation and varies from one region to another, according to the respective level of globalization.

Consequently, it is the process of globalization that has restored political economics to importance and re-sparked a discussion formerly considered closed, according to which the market is the path to power and not the other way around, as it becomes an instrument of power politics in the globalization of exchange. The accumulation of power through economic expansion is the driving force behind the new emerging nations.

Yet today’s economic context must come to terms with new offensive strategies that undermine the industrial basis of the market economy and draw attention to the predatory policies of what may be defined as authentic economic warfare.

It is in this context that all companies, regardless of size, can be said to suffer damage from the absence of an economic security culture that only the use of intelligence, as a tool in analyzing predatory completion, can provide.

Interpreting the notion of national security including also the safeguarding of national interests requires information and security services to be ready to protect big companies or those of strategic significance, which the French refer to as “companies of national strategic importance” or “national champions”. These companies often – but not always – have their own information or security organizations that help them survive fiercer and fiercer competition.

In any case, in the field of economic intelligence the rules between the services of the various nations are more flexible, and it is easier to refer to others merely as competitors, neither friend nor enemy. This field is currently in the process of development, and European economic intelligence is still in embryonic phase.

The evolution of the information society has profoundly modified the frame of conflict. In the opinion of American analysts like John Arquilla and David Runfeldt, experts in netwar at Rand Corporation, the nation that wins tomorrow’s conflicts will not be the one with the biggest bomb, but the one that tells the best story.

In this sense, Americans have been referring to the key concept of information dominance since 1997. Defined as the control of anything that may be deemed information, this doctrine aspires at the moulding of the world by standardizing international practices and regulations to the American model, with the objective of placing decision-making bodies under control.

These experts note that it is sufficient to observe how American public opinion was mobilized during the invasion of Kuwait by a disinformation process planned at military level, or more precisely, at the level of psychological warfare. Information manipulation processes allow certain facts to be marginalized, and for this reason the domination of information has become a top priority in defining American strategy.

We may consider how the war in Iraq demonstrated the importance that manipulating information has assumed in international relations. The accusations made by G. W. Bush against Saddam Hussein regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction represent a textbook case in the history of disinformation.

On the other hand, we must be careful of jumping to conclusions about how cognitive warfare is waged: disinformation, or even worse, the manipulation and authentic distortion of information for the purpose of deceiving your adversary or ally is often mistakenly confused with the production of knowledge conceived to orient the rules of conduct.

In this regard, Harbulot emphasized the profoundly innovative role of information war in terms of strategy and its implications for companies.

It was naturally Harbulot’s intention to use cognitive warfare to protect the economic interests of French companies against their American competitors. If, in fact, conflicts ranging from the Gulf War to the War in Kosovo have demonstrated the overwhelming superiority of American military intelligence overseas, what room for maneuver remains open today for the managers of the intelligence service in Western Europe, who are responsible for defending the geo-economic interests of their nations against American interests? Harbulot’s answer is clear: this room for maneuver is constantly eroding, and a situation of near total paralysis has been reached in certain cases.

Closing this gap means modernizing the thought of Sun-Tzu, the Comintern, and Mao Zedong, and especially that of Winston Churchill, the first Western statesman to have orchestrated a plan for information warfare against Nazi Germany (Plan Jaël). In terms of disinformation, he represents British genius in deceiving the enemy on the dates and locations of invasion landings.

Naturally, the lack of legal provisions regarding the manipulation of knowledge raises serious concern for the economic security of European companies, which must consequently arm themselves with techniques capable of strategically managing economic information.

It is precisely in light of American political-military choices that French strategy discerned the need to define just what information war really is in the strictest terms. The expression used in French strategic context is “cognitive warfare”, which is defined as the capacity to utilize knowledge in circumstances of conflict.

In particular, the French School of Economic Warfare acknowledges in cognitive warfare the conflict between different capacities of obtaining, producing, and/or obstructing determined types of knowledge implicit in power relations that can be defined “weak against weak” or inversely, “weak against strong”.

Numerous examples that come from the world of industry testify that innovation in this field is not always necessarily made by the strongest. Naturally, the United States is the primary artifice of “strong against weak” cognitive thinking, such as, for example, in defense of its position as superpower at both military and informational level. This nation’s way of orienting its own and the other nation’s conduct implies its complete acquisition of the importance of cognitive warfare as the ability to have the images of single powers perceived by the world public opinion, a strong argument in the search for legitimacy that every democracy must acquire in national and international context. The United States has always – but especially after September 11 – stoked the legitimacy of its policies by emphasizing the defense of democracy and the need for global security as reasons to combat anti-democratic forces.

In today’s context of intense competition, destabilization plays a fundamental role. Harbulot suggests considering the example, that has become common practice in economic warfare, of a multinational company that decides to stop a competitor from developing a project in an emerging nation.

A cognitive warfare operation might take the following form:

Identification of the competitor’s weak points in the area in question (weaknesses may vary in nature: bribes paid to authorities, environmental pollution, failures to respect human rights). All the information collected must be verifiable and not give rise to fallacious interpretation.

The choice of the information attack procedure: if the cognitive aspect is considered, the following scenario may be imagined. The director assigned orders funds to be paid into a private foundation supported by the company. A trusted person at such foundation then channels this money to a NGO that has posed itself the objective of protecting the environment. The maneuver consists in then making the NGO aware of this dossier by indirectly providing it with verifiable (and therefore non-manipulated) information on the misdeeds of the competitor multinational. Through its Internet site, the NGO then sends negative messages against the competitor’s project. This is how the chain of knowledge is created. The next step required is knowing how to consciously activate it for the purpose of destabilizing the target.

The chief strength of the information attack lies not in deceiving or misinforming but instead in fomenting a pertinent dispute that has been demonstrated by objective facts. The level of conspiracy is limited to setting up and activating the information chain. The more “grounded” the diatribe is, the harder it will be for the adversary to demonstrate conspiracy, even if only in theory.

It is clear that the spread of new information technologies has brought competition exasperated levels and facilitated cognitive warfare, in such way triggering an unprecedented conflict that, in the opinion of the French analysts, exceeds even that of the Cold War.

Information has become another weapon in the art of war capable of making the difference between winning and losing, regardless of whether the conflict is military or economic.

Changes of such degree impose cultural revolution.

Then there is psychological warfare, one of the principal forms of information war. It is the most sophisticated because it relies essentially on human intelligence, in its capacity to understand possible actions for success by controlling the means of communication.

Little known and scarcely practiced in France, psychological warfare has never received much attention from the military establishment, which has often succumbed to the pressure of events or adversaries, as happened in Indochina and Algeria.

Psychological warfare employs every means available, from disinformation to deceit, from propaganda to interdiction, in clashes of various nature (from the battle against terrorism to conventional warfare and the subsidization of peace) and is moreover directed to public opinion for the purpose of conditioning or manipulating it.

The use of psychological weapons cannot be improvised and is based on an organized operative structure and conducted by specialized personnel and organizations.

Civil communication systems have by now reached levels of performance previously attained only by armed forces and governments. This has led to the accumulation of a critical mass such to enable a lowering of costs. For this reason, even if the conservation of certain autonomous military capacities is foreseen, the development of information systems for defense and intervention depends more and more on civil systems. This creates a vulnerability that might be underestimated in times of crisis or conflict.

The infosphere’s framework has become highly conflictual; information war has become inevitable and is waged with the function of appropriation (intelligence), interdiction (limitation of access to information) and manipulation (intoxication).

Economic intelligence provides a necessary response to a world with no more borders of time or space, where information is immediate and reaction time is zero. A re-organization of structures around the new dimension assumed by the relationship between information and intelligence leads to changes in both the decision-making system and the management of human resources. First and foremost of all, the revolution must be cultural in nature: perceiving information as a weapon to be incorporated into national defense strategy.

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Economy

“Made-in-Russia”: Securing Russia’s economic interests

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Squeezed between the United States and European Union sanctions, Russia has been exploring effective ways to increase exports of its industrial products under “Made-in-Russia” program to traditional markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The primary strategic goal is to secure Russia’s economic interests abroad while at the same time support Russian industries in raising revenue to modernize Soviet-era industries. But increasing exports especially to African markets, Russia has to confront market competition from western players and Asian countries such as China, India and the Gulf states.

In a recent interview, Peter Fradkov, general director of the Russian Export Center (REC), has explained that Russia has been making every effort to avoid the “raw-materials” export model and focus on developing export-oriented industries and the launch of the Russian Export Center was a key step towards the development of a full-fledged national export support system.

The Soviet Union made a significant contribution to the social and economic development of African countries by building large industrial and infrastructure facilities and helping to establish national education and health care systems. However, in the 1990s the Russian-African relations came virtually to a standstill. At present, Russia’s foreign trade turnover with Africa is about 12 billion US dollars, which is a rather modest achievement. Nevertheless, the African continent remains a rather promising market for Russian industrial goods.

Admittedly, the Government authorities, and both Inter-Governmental Commissions and the REC, are primarily concerned with removing barriers for Russian exporters and opening up foreign markets for them in Africa. Reinforcement of positions of Russian exporters in Africa requires creation of certain conditions and the key task is penetration into the global market. For this purpose, the Russian Export Center has launched a program to promote Russian goods and services under a single country brand “Made in Russia” and in this context, Africa is a very important partner for us, though not an easy one.

He underscored the fact that “Russian manufacturers have a number of specific competitive advantages. Let’s take, for example, agricultural machinery. The main advantage of Russian products as compared to the counterparts by major foreign manufacturers is a lower price and almost the same level of capacity, quality and useful life.”

On the other hand, there are some difficulties still inherent in the Russia-African business partnership. According to Fradkov there are still insufficient awareness of the real economic opportunities, market conditions and specific counterparts in African markets by Russian businesses and poor awareness of capabilities of Russian partners for Africans.

“We are often faced with discriminatory barriers, which are there not because we are from Russia, but because we have just not thought about how to remove these barriers. Our primary task is to gradually change the thinking of Russian entrepreneurs, who are often skceptical about entering foreign markets, including Africa. Secondly, we strive to promote the image of Russia as a producer of diverse and high-quality products,” he underlined in the interview.

With new trends and directions in global business, African countries have to look to the Eurasian region as a huge market for exports as well as make efforts to consolidate and strengthen economic cooperation, says Tatiana Cheremnaya, the president of ANO “Center for Effective Development of Territories” and head of the working group on public-private partnership “Business Union of Eurasia” based in Moscow.

Cheremnaya discussed here three main points and are as follows: The problems of effective cooperation between Russia and Africa are political in nature. Thus, the strengthening of Russia’s position leads to the strengthening of its influence in the world, including in Africa and vice versa, sectional policy has significantly reduced Russian exports.

The second problem for the development of Russian-African business is the lack of competitiveness of Russia which allows working only in the low-budget segment. This is due to structural problems in the Russian economy, the need for modernization, the bulk of the products produced during the Soviet Union.

The third problem is competition from the United States, China and India as more developed countries with more advanced technological solutions, and from the European countries as the former “patrons” of African countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, taking part in a congress during the 11th Russian Business Week organized by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE) early February, discussed how innovative technology is reshaping the global business landscape. He, however, encouraged Russian industrialists and businesses participating in the forum to improve their business approaches in order have competitive advantages in the global market.

“This is the most important thing. And fundamentally fresh markets for goods and services will become available, and new leaders will appear as well. Naturally, competition will exacerbate. Clearly, in a situation like that, no one will be playing fair with their competitors, including in the global business environment,” Putin said.

Russia has trade centers established in Africa. But these Russian trade centers must necessarily embark on a “Doing Business in Africa” campaign to encourage Russian businesses to take advantage of growing trade and investment opportunities, to promote trade fairs and business-to-business matchmaking in key spheres in Africa.

Maxim Matusevich, an associate professor and director, Russian and East European Studies Program, at the Seton Hall University, told me in an interview that “in the past decade there was some revival of economic ties between Africa and Russia – mostly limited to arms trade and oil/gas exploration and extraction. Russia’s presence in Africa and within African markets continues to be marginal and I think that Russia has often failed to capitalize on the historical connection between Moscow and those African elites who had been educated in the Soviet Union.”

“It is possible that the ongoing crisis in the relations between Russia and the West will stimulate Russia’s leadership to look for new markets for new sources of agricultural produce. Many African nations possess abundant natural resources and have little interest in Russia’s gas and oil. As it was during the Soviet times, Russia can only offer few manufactured goods that would successfully compete with Western-made products. African nations will probably continue to acquire Russian-made arms, but otherwise, I see only few prospects for a diversification of cooperation in the near future,” added Maxim Matusevich.

Former Ethiopian ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Russian Federation, professor Teketel Forssido has also explained that Russian businessmen think that business can be done from government to government levels (at the state levels) but in many countries business at the state levels has been complimented by private participation. Using government as an umbrella could be alright, countries such as India, China and others run businesses without government in Africa. The government, of course, has to clear the way for smooth business transactions.

“Russians are counting on the authorities to do business, but if they always rely on the state, business can be ineffective. That’s why Russians businessmen are slow as we have seen it,” he said.

According to Forssido Russia has to open its market for Africa and there are various ways to this. One surest way is to use the existing rules and regulations. The preferential treatments for agricultural products exist but Africans don’t use them. Then, individual countries have to negotiate with Russian government for their products to enter the market.

Further, the African regional economic blocs can be useful instruments because these blocs are very important and can work with their counterparts to facilitate trade between Africa and Russia. For instance, in COMESA and SADC zones in Africa, goods and services move freely, and now I think these blocs should look into the line of working as regional economic blocs with Russia.

“At the moment, China has done a lot in Africa despite worldwide criticisms. China is not the only player on the continent, but also India, Turkey and other serious players. But, when we talk about Russia, I think it’s not comparable. China has largely involved in Africa, practically in all sectors as we can see. We expect that Russia can do more if they want to, looking at their huge potential capability. They still have their own priorities, anyway,” he pointed out assertively.

As already known, Moscow’s long term goals include developing investment cooperation with African countries, widening the presence of Russian companies in the African markets through increased deliveries of industrial and food products, and enhancing Russian participation in driving the economic development of Africa. At the same time, Russia needs to look at simplifying access to its market for African countries.

In one of his speeches posted to the official website, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov noted frankly in remarks: “it is evident that the significant potential of our economic cooperation is far from being exhausted and much remains to be done so that Russian and African partners know more about each other’s capacities and needs. The creation of a mechanism for the provision of public support to business interaction between Russian companies and the African continent is on the agenda.”

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