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HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD? Reflections from Estoril Conferences 2017

 

 

 

When the year starts and there is a reflection on past accomplishments and future trends for 2018, I remembered how an event I attended:  Conferencias do Estoril could help me in this quest. Estoril Conferences  is an unique event, an international conference held in Portugal (in Estoril more precisely), with the intention of providing a global forum where the world’s most pressing problems are debated.

 

It gathers a prestigious and eclectic group of panelists around the world providing an exciting and refreshing discussion pool in an informal tone and out of the box mood. Differently from traditional conferences that I have attended that usually have a main core subject with an homogeneous group of experts in one specific subject or area EC presents instead an eclectic and multidisciplinary environment with a diverse panoply of panelists, which makes it an extraordinary and unique event, that definitely exceed all my expectations.

 

Panelists have multiple backgrounds, work in diverse areas and have different styles and personalities. From university researchers; worldwide economists as Joseph Stiglitz; impressive writers as Kenan Malik; Mr. Rajendra Pachauri, Mentor of POP Movement, Protect Our Planet;  the remarkable justice-makers, judge Carlos Alexandre and Sergio Moro; Passionate activist of Human Rights as Jody Williams, National Geographic officers with prospects on the health of the planet; the emotional statements of the atrocities of DAESH victim Fareeda Khalaf, the moving story of Maria Conceição that was adopted age two by a poor African women that had already 6 children and named her NGO Maria Cristina in homage to her adoptive mother;

 

to the impressive and sometimes terrifying pictures of global migration of the remarkable war photographer Yannis Behrakis; or the prophetic and inspiring speech of the eloquent Madeleine Albright evoking the great responsibility of youth in this uncertain future; or the direct phone call with the controversial Edward Swowden! EC is above all a very stimulating event that provides not only precious data and trends of our global society but is also a great show-hall of human emotions and its stories.

Now what does EC contributed on my quest to understand how to change the world? First by the nature of the event itself it shows that informal dialogue and out of the box exchange of ideas is the way to curb confrontation and the current polarization of society around the world. Another lesson from EC  that I usually insist in my work is the multidisciplinary approach to find solutions, nothing is more scary than when a group of technical experts hold the monopoly of knowledge. The great enterprises and organisations, like let’s say NASA, or the UN or Google all have a great diversity of technical experts and are successful exactly because of that. My field of expertise for example, development economics,  is very appealing because it always demands multiple expertise of different areas, from economy, to archeology, to diplomacy, engineering, human rights or social science, all always come engaged to find a joint solution.

 Also specific messages were systematically reinforced during the conference that I think will be future trends. I strongly believe in one: the glocal concept, global challenges demand local solutions. Indeed one idea that I strongly endorse is that globalisation without the trickle-down effect of local solutions creates alienation and confusion.  This is a crucial issue because what is in stake is how do we assure that a consensual worldwide idea is implemented nationally and then locally. This is one of the most difficult issues to solve for decades. International relations usually use the power of UN and specifically treaties to assure compliance of internationally binding principles and ideas, but we all know in the daily news how difficult sometimes that is to become reality. In economics the same perplexity is illustrated through what is called the macro-micro paradox, that shows how it is difficult to implement a good well designed macroeconomic policy effectively and assure the desired effect on households or other microeconomic agents. So this GLOCAL concept is the key to success of most international policies. A theme that is challenging this implementation and even international binding principles is Migration, one of the subjects in focus in EC.  This great exodus, equivalent to a massive war migration and indeed the largest since Second World War, is shaking the structures of international relations that cannot tackle these movements with treaties and if they do they use protectionism; challenging European universal principles that sometimes see these movements as threats and exposing an appalling human drama that all get moved about, but very few find solutions to.

EC showing a proactive intervention, goes beyond its dialogue mission but also wants to materialize concrete tools to the international community, so proposed to the UN Secretary General the passport of Global Security after the Pope Francisco pledged for the recognition of migrants to fundamental rights.

I am not a migration expert, so I foresee no straightforward solutions to such sophisticated problem, but for me it is obvious that the Migration we are witnessing is an unique and very complex phenomenon because it engulfs  simultaneously a panoply of diverse features of: typical war, prosecution and human rights violations, religious fundamentalism and human trafficking, so no wonder it is difficult to tackle it! It will also be a great challenge for international organizations that need to find diplomatic solutions and make government follow th rules. I could also suggest that national governments need to invest in borders administrative and pedagogic capacity to promote not only efficiency and transparency but also a dignifying human reception of migrants. But my largest contribution to this subject is as a poverty specialist. In this discuss many immediate issues are presented, but normally it is missing in the study the underlying conditions of migrants that commonly live in disadvantageous and precarious situations in their countries which lead them to forced migration. In my view migration is ultimately a poverty outcome that needs to be addressed with inclusive and pro-poor policies in developing countries. Development in a country is a way of retaining their population and the mission to protect and provide a good and prosperous life is the best way to avoid migration. To invest in the development of poor and vulnerable countries and economies has been and it is the most enduring solution and prevention for migration. Otherwise we can only concentrate on the recent great mediatic slogans that time usually dilutes fast and feel amazed as well as powerless. Failure to look deeper into this subject, can leads us to an approach in which we focus or blame the egg, but completely forget the chicken and that is not only superficial but also will not provide enduring solutions to the sophisticated problem of migration.

So as we can see nothing is more difficult than to change the world, but if we want to take some lessons on it, I guess that we need dialogue to promote consensus, we need to be GLOCAL and focus on tools and implementing practices, we need multidisciplinary joint solutions, we need to dig deeper and look to underlying conditions as poverty and then finally I guess we have to trust in the wisdom and kindness of the human spirit.

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