BRUSSELS – Another year, another threat to the European Union’s survival. The good news is that the greatest disruption of 2016, Britain’s vote to exit the EU, appears manageable. The bad news is that both France and Italy face the prospect of a populist political takeover this year. Either outcome could well spell the end of the EU.
PARIS – Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan are remembered for the laissez-faire revolution they launched in the early 1980s. They campaigned and won on the promise that free-market capitalism would unleash growth and boost prosperity. In 2016, Nigel Farage, the then-leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) who masterminded Brexit, and US President-elect Donald Trump campaigned and won on a very different basis: nostalgia. Tellingly, their promises were to “take back control” and “make America great again” – in other words, to turn back the clock.
COPENHAGEN – The forces fighting global warming and battling to strengthen environmental protection must brace for heavy collateral damage as a result of Donald Trump’s victory in the United States’ presidential election. Judging by Trump’s campaign rhetoric, and by statements from his Republican allies, environmental protection in the US will be gutted in a frenzy of deregulation and inducements for domestic oil, coal, and gas producers.
CARACAS – In the last two decades, Latin America has achieved remarkable social and economic progress. The middle class has grown to historic levels; poverty has been cut almost in half; access to education and health care has been expanded; and prosperity is being shared more widely than ever. As a result, most countries in the region have now achieved “middle-income” status. But their work is far from done.
STORRS, CONNECTICUT – The prospect of artificial intelligence (AI) has long been a source of knotty ethical questions. But the focus has often been on how we, the creators, can and should use advanced robots. What is missing from the discussion is the need to develop a set of ethics for the machines themselves, together with a means for machines to resolve ethical dilemmas as they arise. Only then can intelligent machines function autonomously, making ethical choices as they fulfill their tasks, without human intervention.
SINGAPORE– Climate change is the single biggest challenge facing humankind. Yet the next president of the United States – the world’s second-largest greenhouse-gas emitter and a critical actor in climate policy – does not believe it is happening, or at least that humans have a role in driving it. If Donald Trump actually wants to “Make America Great Again,” as his campaign slogan declared, he will need to change his attitude and embrace the climate agenda.
ZURICH – Thanks to unprecedented international cooperation, the world is making impressive progress in the fight against malaria. According to the World Health Organization’s just-released 2016 World Malaria Report, malaria mortality rates among children under age five have fallen by 69% since 2000.
FEZ – The escalation of radicalism, violence, and civil wars in the Middle East since the so-called Arab Spring revolts began in 2010 has exacted a massive toll in human lives and welfare. The need to build effective states that support peace, provide greater opportunity and prosperity, and protect human rights could not be more urgent.
RIYADH – Saudi Arabia has drawn a lot of criticism lately for its leading role in the war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Some deride the Kingdom, the richest Arab state, for taking action against the poorest. Others have claimed that the fight against the Houthis – a Zaidi Shia-led religious-political movement – is just one element in a broader war on the Shia that Saudi Arabia has supposedly been waging. These are simplistic claims, reflecting a fundamental misunderstanding about the Kingdom’s role in Yemen – and, indeed, in the entire Arab world.
BRAZZAVILLE – Three years ago, a young boy in rural Guinea fell victim to the Ebola virus. An epidemic soon took hold of West Africa. By the time it was contained, it had killed more than 11,000 people and devastated the economies of the three hardest-hit countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. And it provided a sobering lesson about the need for countries to build resilient health systems capable of responding swiftly and effectively to emergencies.