Thu, Jan 10, 2019 - Page 9 News List

This is the year to stop the threats to humanity

By Robert Muggah and Ian Goldin

Can people muster the will to tackle common threats, or are things headed for further fragmentation? Much will depend on the steps taken this year. Now, more than ever, the world must grapple with the accelerating and interdependent drivers of change.

To that end, policymakers must take steps to protect the most vulnerable. Social safety nets are being slashed precisely when people need them most. After the financial crisis depleted government resources and produced crippling debts, governments such as that of the US have made matters worse by cutting taxes.

More broadly, everyone needs to roll up their sleeves and get a handle on globalization. That means abandoning the outdated 20th-century paradigm that divides all politics into left and right: socialism and capitalism.

The politics of this year is values-based, which is why traditional political parties are being outflanked by parties appealing to national sentiment and nostalgic fantasies.

Today’s political revolution has so far been defined by anger and frustration. However, those sentiments can and should be harnessed to serve the goal of constructive change. To achieve an inclusive globalization, the world must address rising inequality, embrace diversity and rescue international cooperation from the specter of unilateralism.

The stakes could not be higher. When extremism, algorithms, fake news and foreign manipulation drive politics, democracy itself is threatened.

Without more active engagement on the part of policymakers and political leaders, there can be little hope for the future. The accelerating pace of change, along with deepening international interdependence, makes it harder, not easier, to find common solutions.

It is tempting to try to stop the clock and retreat from hard choices. However, the changes under way will affect everyone, regardless of whether they participate in the conversation.

The only way forward then is to improve literacy and engage with complex ideas. To do otherwise and play the victim is to invite catastrophe. Only by shaping the future will it be feared less. Unless bold people act, the arc of history will not bend toward justice or improved outcomes.

Three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world is again at a crossroads and a battle of ideas rages. The new walls being built within and between societies pose a grave threat to humanity’s collective future. This is the year to start knocking them down.

Ian Goldin is a professor of globalization and development and the director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technological and Economic Change at the University of Oxford. Robert Muggah is cofounder of the Igarape Institute and the SecDev Group.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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