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The Arts & Culture Economy: Cultural Diplomacy

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The arts produce a unique combination of social, cultural, and economic benefits, which cities across the Country could increasingly recognizing and encouraging. The arts and culture industry attracts innovative, vibrant new businesses in fields such as publishing, advertising, music, dance, design, and architecture, and creates jobs for artists who anchor local cultural production.

Arts and culture can also play a key role in urban revitalization and community renewal, as well as the development of cultural tourism opportunities and the enhancement of a city or state’s public image.

The arts and culture sector also has a role to play in the development of innovation hubs, geographic clusters of capital and talent that can fuel economic growth and innovation in areas such as design, technology and manufacturing.

Art, in its many forms, exists in every community, culture and country. It has been around since the beginning of civilization itself, paintings etched on the walls of caves or sculptures carved out of stone. Humans have always felt the need for expression

In today’s world, we know that art can be a major economic force, yet we continue to question the worth of it. It has historically been seen as accessible only to the elite class. Today, it has transcended into everyone’s daily lives, stopping us in our fast-track lives to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us and at times, enhancing the way we think and behave. It adds that punch of colour, uplifting the space to compliment the surroundings. This need of Art is the day to day life has made it into a full blown business. Gone are the days when it was not considered a medium for business and only had an intellectual value. 

Here are seven quick ways to prove that art is genuinely a good business avenue these days.

Art Buying and Selling-  The traditional and the most comfortable way of investing in a piece of art, can be a painting or a sculpture. One goes to an art gallery and picks up from the stock of work that already exists and the cycle of buying and selling is maintained thereon.

Art Commissioning-  This is a more challenging because it is customized.A bespoke piece is a lot more personal and aesthetically pleasing. The artist creates something for you from scratch rather than buying off the shelf. This is dependent on the space, style, budget and a many other variables. Art Commissioners are very much in demand these days because of the increasing trend of commercial and residential artworks and installations.

Art Restoration-  Over the years the hues in paintings start to fade away due to humidity and pollution in the environment. Art professionals are appointed to study the style of the artist and touch up the pieces to keep it from looking dull. There are full time courses to study about it.

Art Valuation-  With every passing year a piece of art, just like real jewelry appreciates in value if created by the big artists. If an artwork is bought when an artist is new and budding, maybe 20 years down the line its value has tripled. A professional is then appointed to value the art in monetary terms and collectors usually have an entire portfolio of art to maintain. This is called portfolio management, a well-known term for anyone who deals in the Share market.

Art Insurance-  When an art investor or collector buys an expensive piece of art or a gallery is shipping a collectable item, an insurance needs to be purchased against the piece. The amount paid for insurance is directly dependent on the valuation of the artwork. There are banks and institutions that specialize in this field which is a limited and niche area within art. Art insurance works in the same way as travel or life insurance which is dependent on the package that you choose.

Art as a gifting option-  A painting, sculpture or a portrait makes a great gift for weddings, house warming parties and milestones. Getting a piece commissioned has an element of personalization. Buying something from a gallery art fair or online is also possible. There are so many ecommerce ventures in this space that one does not need any evidence to validate this point.

Art Camps and Workshops-  Children and adults today have all the resources to learn and grow so easily with several art camps and workshops happening all year around. This is an essential exercise for a child’s development and growth whereas it’s one of the best destressing outlets for adults.  So there are many companies and organizations who organize these exclusive art camps.

Art can inspire us, make us happy, or even motivate us. Living in a purely functional world would lack meaning for us as human beings. If we try to run our lives on the metrics, we may end up bored and empty. A steep rise in wealth has fueled art market.

As art buyers increase in numbers, along with their appetite for luxury, it’s touched off a race among service providers, trying to break into the market.

For the last century, financial and institutional capital have been the priority leverage points for addressing society’s challenges. I deeply believe that, in the future, human, social, and creative capital will have the greatest impact.

And this is where arts and culture are a necessity. 

There is no discipline that nurtures and sparks the cognitive ability to imagine, and unleashes creativity and innovation, more than arts and culture. There is no approach that breaks barriers, connects across cultural differences, and engages our shared values more than arts and culture. There is no investment that connects us to each other, moves us to action, and strengthens our ability to make collective choices more than arts and culture.

To unlock this lever for change, I believe we must do several things:

Focus on strategies that foster real collaboration—finding the best ways to leverage existing structures. 

Identify the stakeholders who must join, support, and advocate for solutions—we must reach beyond the “choir” to deeply understand the values, needs, and motivators of other partners including development organizations, business, neighborhood, and civic leaders. 

Identifying solutions (programs, structures, policies, practices, and financial models) that might be outside our comfort zone 

Learn from ourselves and others—a great deal of thinking and work has been done and has changed the positioning, importance, and funding in many other arenas.

Recognize that it will be hard and will take a long-term commitment—this is not a simple or obvious task. The political challenges, economic constraints, competing interests, priority gaps, and complexities are all real and significant challenges.

And ultimately we must:

Seize the moment—we are in a time of massive economic challenge, political, and generational change. Historically, the most significant reforms and investments in social capital and game-changing approaches have been accomplished during similar periods of challenge and transformation. We are in a time when policymakers will have to address significant structural changes and where the body politic is in play with pendulum swings left and right that demonstrate a willingness to risk the status quo.

Events of this magnitude can be explained and understood by making a brief but important introduction on what is Cultural Diplomacy and its enormous benefits for countries that adopt such diplomacy to emerge in the international context.

“Cultural Diplomacy may best be described as a course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation or promote national interests; Cultural diplomacy can be practiced by either the public sector, private sector or civil society.”

Whilst the term “cultural diplomacy” has only recently been established, evidence of its practice can be seen throughout history and has existed for centuries. Explorers, travelers, traders, teachers and artists can be all considered living examples of “informal ambassadors” or early “cultural diplomats” (for example, the establishment of regular trade routes enables a frequent exchange of information and cultural gifts between traders and government representatives). Such deliberate efforts of cultural exchange can be identified as early examples of cultural diplomacy. Indeed, any person who interacts with different cultures, (currently or in the past), facilitates a form of cultural exchange, which can take place in fields such as art, sports, literature, music, science, business & economy and beyond.Through the interaction of peoples, the exchange of language, religion, ideas, arts and societal structures have consistently improved relations between divergent groups.

Cultural Diplomacy in Practice Cultural diplomacy in practice (or applied cultural diplomacy) is the application and implementation of the theory of cultural diplomacy, including all models that have been practiced throughout history by individual, community, state or institutional actors in order to facilitate and improve relations and collaboration between disparate cultures. These models include for example diverse cultural exchange programs, international delegations (e.g., American jazz ambassadors) or sports competitions. The examples are uniquely able to affect intercultural and interfaith understanding and promote reconciliation.

The Importance of Cultural Diplomacy in an increasingly globalized, interdependent world, in which the proliferation of mass communication technology ensures we all have greater access to each other than ever before, cultural diplomacy is critical to fostering peace & stability throughout the world. Cultural diplomacy, when learned and applied at all levels, possesses the unique ability to influence the “Global Public Opinion” and ideology of individuals, communities, cultures or nations, which can accelerate the realization of the 5 principles below. By accomplishing the first principle, one enables the second, which in turn enables the third until the fifth ultimate principle of global peace and stability is achieved.

The principles are:

  • Respect & Recognition of Cultural Diversity & Heritage
  • Global Intercultural Dialogue
  • Justice, Equality & Interdependence
  • The Protection of International Human Rights
  • Global Peace & Stability

Cultural Diplomacy & the Public Sector, Two broad approaches to conducting regional and international relations can be distinguished; that of ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’, but this is another story.

Cultural Diplomacy & the Private Sector As the move towards more socially responsible business practices gains momentum, the ability to understand and embrace the different values and needs of diverse cultures and societies becomes ever more important. There are many reasons why corporations need to be aware of the differences between cultures in their strategic decision-making process and adopt cultural diplomacy models into their agenda:

  • In the era of growing social awareness, corporates with culturally sensitive marketing plans and campaigns will enjoy a positive public opinion and good image, thus financially perform better.
  • Companies seeking to expand abroad will encounter problems unless they conduct research into, and act according to the cultural differences with the host country.
  • Companies with a national focus face a related challenge in ensuring that they are aware of and sensitive to national cultural minorities.

Purpose:

Ultimately, the goal of cultural diplomacy is to influence a foreign audience and use that influence, which is built up over the long term, as a sort of good will reserve to win support for policies. It seeks to harness the elements of culture to induce foreigners to:

  • Have a positive view of the country’s people, culture and policies,
  • Induce greater cooperation between nations,
  • Aid in changing the policies or political environment of the target nation,
  • Prevent, manage and mitigate conflict with the target nation.

In turn, cultural diplomacy can help a nation better understand the foreign nation it is engaged with and foster mutual understanding. Cultural diplomacy is a way of conducting international relations without expecting anything in return in the way that traditional diplomacy typically expects. Cultural exchange programs work as a medium to relay a favourable impression of the foreign country in order to gain outsiders’ understanding and approval in their cultural practices and naturalize their social norms among other cultures.

Generally, cultural diplomacy is more focused on the longer term and less on specific policy matters. The intent is to build up influence over the long term for when it is needed by engaging people directly. This influence has implications ranging from national security to increasing tourism and commercial opportunities. It allows the government to create a “foundation of trust” and a mutual understanding that is neutral and built on people-to-people contact. Another unique and important element of cultural diplomacy is its ability to reach youth, non-elites and other audiences outside of the traditional embassy circuit. In short, cultural diplomacy plants the seeds of ideals, ideas, political arguments, spiritual perceptions and a general view point of the world that may or may not flourish in a foreign nation.

He was born in Sweden on May 21, 1976, and has majored in classical studies in the city of Rome where he obtained his degree in Law at the Sapienza University of Rome, after which he graduated with a Master of International Law degree in Spain. He works in Rome as a lawyer, specializing in International Trade Law and Human Rights. In recentyears, he has concentrated his work on the potential of trade between the European Union and the Euro-Asian Union. Two years ago he set up an advisory firm in Armenia and in Italy to promote and facilitate the entry of new investors into the country. His focus to strengthen the link between foreign countries and companies, is always the promotion of cultural diplomacy and economic geopolitical advice on the opportunity for a company to invest in a foreign country. National Director for Business Armenia, National Armenia Foundation to promote business and tourism in Armenia, until 2020.

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Diplomacy

International Relations Amid the Pandemic

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We could rest assured that COVID-19 will be defeated, sooner rather than later. The excessive angst and fear we currently feel will gradually subside, while our science will find effective antidotes so that people could look back on the pandemic years as a ghastly dream.

At the same time, it is also clear that a post-pandemic world will be quite different to the world we knew before. The argument that the world needs a massive shake-up to move to the next stage of its development has been quite popular ever since the end of the Cold War. Some prophesied that this would come as a result of a profound economic crisis, while others argued that a large-scale war may well be on the cards. As often happens, though, what turned the world on its head came as if out of nowhere. Within a short span of just a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on all the many contradictions and setbacks of our age. It went on to outline the trajectory for economic prosperity, scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements going forward, opening up new opportunities for self-realization and fulfilment. The question pertinent today is: Who will be able to best exploit the new reality and take advantage of the opportunities that are opening up? And how?

COVID-19 has also left its mark on the current architecture of international relations.

At the turn of the century, it was mired in crisis. The end of the Cold War towards the late 20th century effectively signaled the beginning of the transition from the bipolar world order established in the wake of the Second World War to a model that had yet to be created. A bitter struggle would unfold as to what the new world order had to be, with the issue still unsettled today. A number of states, as well as non-state actors, willing to take advantage of this uncertainty in global affairs and redistribute the spheres of influence in the world is what it ultimately boils down to. In a sense, such a scenario should have come as no surprise since the contradictions between the profound changes encompassing the public domain and the rigid model of international relations established in the mid-20th century by the powers victorious in the Second World War had continued to grow in recent decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a stern and unprecedented test of strength that has revealed the limits of the current architecture of international relations. Previous crises—be they financial turmoil, struggle against terrorism, regional conflicts or something else—were, in fact, temporary and rather limited in their implications, however severe they were. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected each and every country in the world, regardless of their political regimes and social conventions, economic prosperity and military might. The pandemic has exposed the fragility of the modern world as well as the growing risks and challenges; and if ignored, they could plunge the world into a descending spiral of self-destruction.

The pandemic continues, which means we are yet to draw a final conclusion on its consequences for the system of international relations. That being said, a number of tentative conclusions are already taking shape.

Point 1. Globalization, despite its obvious side effects, has already changed the face of our world, irreversibly making it truly interdependent. This has been said before; however, the opponents of globalization have tried—and continue to try—to downplay its consequences for modern society. As it happens, they would like to think of globalization as little more than an episode in international life. Although it has been going on for quite some time now, it is nevertheless incapable of changing the familiar landscape of the world. The pandemic has lifted the curtain on what the modern world truly looks like. Here, state borders are nothing more than an administrative and bureaucratic construct as they are powerless to prevent active communication among people, whether spiritual, scientific, informational or of any other kind. Likewise, official borders are not an obstacle to the modern security threats proliferating among states. The waves of COVID-19 have wreaked havoc on all countries. No nation has been able to escape this fate. The same will also happen time and again with other challenges unless we recognize this obvious reality to start thinking about how states should act amid the new circumstances.

Point 2. The international system withstood the initial onslaught in spite of the incessant fearmongers prophesying its impending collapse. Following a rather brief period of confusion and helplessness, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, G20 and other global and regional organizations got their act together (albeit some better than others), taking urgent action to contain the pandemic. This proves that the system of international relations that was constructed after the Second World War still functions, although it is far from perfect or devoid of shortcomings.

In a similar vein, the fight against the pandemic has demonstrated that many international structures are increasingly out of step with the modern reality, proving incapable of mobilizing quickly enough to make a difference in our ever-changing world. This, once again, pushes to the fore the issue of a reformed United Nations system (and other international institutions), while the issue is progressively getting even more urgent. Moving forward, the international community will likely have to face challenges no less dangerous than the current pandemic. We have to be prepared for this.

Point 3. As the role of international institutions in global affairs weakens, centrifugal tendencies gain momentum, with countries—for the most part, global leaders—starting to put their national interests first. The global information war surrounding various anti-COVID-19 vaccines is a prime example of this. Not only has it seriously upset successes in the fight against the pandemic, but it has also added a new dimension to mutual distrust and rivalry. The world has effectively fallen back to the “rules” of the Cold War era, when countries with different socio-political systems were desperate to prove their superiority, with little regard for common interests such as security and development.

Pursuing such a policy today is fraught with grave consequences for every nation, since new security threats care little for borders. The recent events in Afghanistan should serve as a lesson for us all, showing that any serious regional crisis, even in a most remote corner of the world, will inevitably have global implications. Therefore, we are all facing a stark choice: either unite against these new challenges or become hostage to the various extremists and adventurers.

Point 4. Some political leaders have been quick to use the challenges of the pandemic as a pretext to strengthen the role of the state at the expense of fundamental democratic principles and binding international obligations. This may be justified or even necessitated at a time of the most acute phases of a severe crisis, when all available resources need to be mobilized to repel the threat.

However, one gets the impression that some politicians are increasingly in the groove for these extended powers and would very much like to hold onto them, using the likelihood of new crises as a justification. This line of thinking could prove to be an insurmountable obstacle to a new model of international relations to be established in accordance with the modern reality, where states would be expected to pool their efforts in the interests of global security and development.

Point 5. As always happens in times of profound crises, the international community is looking to major powers and their leadership for guidance. The future course of history in all realms of life, naturally including international relations, will hinge on what these countries choose to do, deciding whether solidarity prevails over national egoism. President Putin’s initiative to hold a meeting of the heads of state of the permanent UN Security Council members could be a good starting point to foster understanding and seek new ways of moving forward. We cannot keep putting off a frank and thorough conversation about the future world order, as the costs of new delays could be too grave for everyone to handle.

From our partner RIAC

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Diplomacy

Relevance of the Soft Power in Modern World

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In modern days, the relevance of Soft Power has increased manifolds. At times, the COIVD-19 has hooked the whole human race; this concept has further come into the limelight. The term, Soft Power was coined by the American Scientist Joseph Nye. Soft Power is the ability of a country to get what it wants through attraction rather than coercion. By tapping the tool of Soft Power, a country can earn respect and elevate its global position. Hard Power cannot be exercised exceeding a territory, and if any country follows this suit, its image is tarnished globally. However, it is Soft Power that can boost the perception and create a niche of a nation. Soft Power is regarded as the essential factor of the overall strength of a country. It can increase the adhesion and the determination of the people in a realm to shape the foreign relations of any nation. Nye held that the Soft Power arsenal would include culture, political values, and foreign policy.

After the Cold War, many nations pumped billions of dollars into Soft Power initiatives, and the US mastered this concept. The US has sailed on the waters of Soft Power by harnessing the tool of media, politics, and economic aid. The US boasts globally recognized brands and companies, Hollywood, and its quest for democratic evangelization. Through movies, the US has disseminated its culture worldwide. American movies are viewed by a massive audience worldwide. The promotion of the US culture through films is a phenomenon (culture imperialism) where the US subtly wants to dominate the world by spreading its culture. Through Hollywood films, the US has an aspiration to influence the world by using Soft Power tools. Hollywood is considered as the pioneer of fashion, and people across the globe imitate and adopt things from Hollywood to their daily life. Such cultural export lure foreign nations to fantasize about the US as a pillar of Soft Power. Educational exchange programs, earthquake relief in Japan and Haiti, famine relief in Africa stand as the best example of the US initiatives of Soft Power. Now, the American political and cultural appeal is so extensive that the majority of international institutions reflect US interests. The US, however, witnessed a drop from 1st place to 6th on the Global Soft Power Index. This wane can be attributed to the attack on the US Capitol Hill sparked by former US President Donald Trump. In addition, his dubious decisions also hold responsibilities that curtailed the US soft power image, that is, particularly the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Beijing is leaving no stone unturned to ace this area. China, rich in culture and traditional philosophy, boasts abundant sources of Soft Power. China is contemplating and exploring an innovative strategy in its rise in international politics. There have been notable elements in the Chinese diplomatic practice, including softer rhetoric, promotion of its culture abroad, economic diplomacy, and image building. Beijing, amid an ongoing pandemic, has extended vaccine help to 80 countries. Such initiative taken by China has elevated its worth globally during difficult times of the pandemic. According to the Global Soft Power index 2021, China stands in the 8th slot. China is an old civilization with a rich culture. China has stressed culture as a crucial source of Soft Power. In a bid to enhance its cultural dominance, Beijing has built many Confucius Institutes overseas. However, this has not been whole-heartedly embraced by the Chinese neighbors due to territorial disputes on the South China Sea. Moreover, International Order, dominated by the West, is wary of Beijing. China’s authoritarian political system is not welcomed in Western democracies. Therefore, China finds it hard to generate Soft Power in democracies. In recent times, Beijing has witnessed tremendous extension in its economy; thus, it focuses on harnessing economic tools to advance its Soft Power. Consequently, Beijing has driven its focus on geoeconomics to accelerate its Soft Power.

Unfortunately, Pakistan, in this sphere, finds itself in a very infirm position -securing 63rd position in the Global Soft Power Index. In comparison with Pakistan, India boasts a lot of Soft Power by achieving the 36th position in the Global Soft Power Index. Its movies, yoga, and classical and popular dance and music have uplifted the Indian soft image. In the promotion of the Indian Soft Power Image, Bollywood plays a leading role and it stretches beyond India. Bollywood has been projected as a great Soft Power tool for India. Bollywood stars are admired globally. For instance, Shahrukh Khan, known as Baadshah of Bollywood, has a fan following across the world. Through its Cinema, India has attracted the attention of the world. Indian movies have recognition in the world and helped India earn billions of dollars. However, the Modi government has curtailed the freedom of Bollywood. Filmmakers claim that their movies are victim of censorship. Moreover, the anti-Muslim narrative has triggered in India, which has tarnished the Indian image of secular country and eventually splashing the Indian Soft image. Protests of farmers, revocation of article 370 in Kashmir, and the controversial Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) have degraded the Indian Soft Power.

Pakistan is not in the tier of the countries acing the Soft Power notion. In Pakistan, expressions of Soft Power, like spiritualism, tourism, cinema, literature, cricket, and handicrafts, are untapped. Pakistan is on the list of those countries having immense tourism potential and its culture is its strength. Unfortunately, no concrete steps are taken to promote the Pakistani culture and tourism. The Pakistani movies are stuck in advancing Pakistan’s narrative worldwide due to lack of the interest of successive governments in this sphere. In addition, these movies lack suitable content, that’s why people prefer watching Bollywood or Hollywood movies. It is the job of the government to harness the expressions of Soft Power. Through movies and soap operas, we can disseminate our culture, push our narrative, and promote our tourism. Government-sponsored campaigns on electronic media can help greatly in this sphere. Apart from the role of government, this necessitates the involvement of all stakeholders, including artists, entrepreneurs, academics, policymakers, and civil society.

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Diplomacy

Planetary Drought of Leadership

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The Tokyo Olympic Games, just concluded, were a spectacular success and grateful thanks are owed to our Japanese hosts to make this event so, at a time when we were in the middle of a global pandemic. There were many doubts expressed beforehand by many people over the Games going ahead during the pandemic, but the precautionary measures put in place were well handled and not obtrusive. 

For anyone who had the opportunity to watch the Games via TV they must have been struck by the wonderful sportsmanship and friendship shown by the competitors of all nations taking part, whatever race and ethnicity. It prompted me to think and ask why the countries of the world cannot exercise some of the same degree of friendship when dealing with one another rather than push forward with agendas that are antagonistic. The world holds a number of dysfunctional states as well as oppressive dictatorships where the resident population is subjected to mental as well as physical torture. Belarus is a typical example, where the leader of the country stole the election to give himself yet another term, and quashes any dissent, with some paying the ultimate price. He has the arrogance to divert a commercial flight so that he can arrest someone who opposes him and then beats him up, before parading him in front of the cameras to say an apology, which everyone can see was forced out of him. 

The Middle East is a complex problem and has been for centuries, the home of some of the oldest civilisations and the divergent monotheistic religions, which add a complicating factor. It surprisingly has been relatively quiet for the last period. Until the next flare up.

Myanmar has also been quiet, or so it seems. The military patrols across the country, particularly in states that offer some resistance and tough guerrilla opposition. The military behave badly, continuing the practice of killing, rape and pillage if not total destruction of small communities which cannot offer any resistance. Corruption is thriving. The military government have ‘promised’ fresh elections next February, 6 months hence, but it is most unlikely that these will be ‘fair and free’. The troubled conditions will continue. It will be an issue of continuing concern for ASEAN and more widely. A recent visit for a documentary had to be carried out illegally in case the military had discovered that the local people had been welcoming and helpful. The repercussions would have been appalling.

The latest situation that has arisen is the Afghanistan blitz takeover by the Taliban, a medieval group promoting the fundamental sharia doctrine, which is out of date and treats women as ‘non-persons’. They have also harboured terrorists, one group pulling off the infamous 2001, 9/11 strike on the NY Twin Towers, which awakened the US to take strong retaliatory action in Afghanistan, and forcing the Taliban out for 20 years. Their 5-year, 1996-2001, rule of Afghanistan was brought to a close after the NY happening, when the US with Allied forces took charge and ousted them. 

But now the Taliban are back following a direct meeting with the then president Trump in 2017, no Afghan government present, and they saw him coming! Shades of North Korea. He said he would withdraw completely without proper assurances, leaving the country’s development less than half finished. President Joseph Biden completed the task of withdrawal, somewhat hasty, upsetting nearly all Americans in the process. The British were caught flat-footed and there is considerable anger expressed by MPs, not least because they realise that they no longer have the ability to resolve such issues themselves. They feel embarrassed and rightly so.

As one of the Afghan luminaries and most quoted intellectuals, prof. Djawed Sangdel, reminds us: “Afghanistan is a graveyard of empires. Even Alexander the Macedonian realised – 2,300 years ago – ‘it is easy to enter the country, but lethal when exiting it’. This especially if you do not respect domestic realities.” Indeed, the situation on the ground is chaotic.

The leader, Ashraf Ghani, of the weak ‘legal’ government has fled, not without rumours about bags full of cash, and that is one reason that the country has not progressed as well as it should, endemic corruption. Women, quite rightly, are fearful, as to what lies in store, as the Taliban’s record on treatment of them is brutal. They have promised to give emancipation within sharia law – which in their case was the combination of twisted and oversimplified Islamic teachings with the tribal nomadic pre-Islamic culture of the central Asian hights.

Looking at the country as a whole, one worries about its future; the Taliban have no track record of governing a country, particularly not one as complex as Afghanistan. They would have to greatly modify their approach to life, separate religion from state (affairs). However, there are credible doubts; once more the Northern Alliance will get together and the country will lapse into civil war. Will the Chinese see an opportunity and risk what others have failed to do? My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan.

In reviewing the past few decades, it would seem that western led democracies, when they have engaged with a country, which is in trouble, have only entered it without full humanitarian understanding of the problems and not sought a proper sustainable solution. Inevitably it takes longer than one thinks, and there are not strong enough safeguards put in to avoid financial losses to development projects, sometimes major.

The UN has a major part to play, but one must ask if today’s remit is fit for purpose, or should they be reviewed, and the countries that make up the UN should look at and ask themselves if they are fair in what they give and expect, not just monetarily.

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