New Challenges in 2017

Last night I spoke at the PS21 and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy event “New Challenges in 2017 and Beyond.”

In preparing for the event I drew up a long-list of crises, challenges and issues. I looked at the long-list of crucial upcoming elections and, of course, thought about the impacts of things we voted for in 2016 coming to fruition.

But given the joint brief of left-wing politics and international development, here are the three challenges I put to the room:

  1. Conflict Prevention

At the end of 2016, we were left with 47m displaced people in the Middle East and 15m displaced people in the Niger basin. The imperative to deal with protracted conflicts and their impacts is clear. But we need long-term, values-based strategies — not just tactical approaches — to preventing conflict, especially with growing levels of violence and instability in many regions of the world. The latter is easy to do in times of uncertainty, but it is also easy to unravel without coherent vision.

2. Globalist vs Patriots

In her latest speech, Marie Le Pen divided the world between globalists and patriots. This is dangerous because it dresses nationalism up as patriotism and is designed to aggravate social and cultural divides. Ensuring that globalisation is inclusive and that leadership is responsive is a major challenge for politicians and progressives.

3. Maintaining consensus for global development, humanitarian intervention and progressive values

In a world where news headlines begin with “In an angry tweet, Trump said…,” and where we seem to have an epidemic of “fake news”, it can feel as though evidence and fact are no longer relevant and consensus on progressive values is waning. The reason for this? Like peace building — which has to happen all the time, not just in times of conflict — making the case for these issues has to be a continual process. We need to get more innovative in making the case, telling our stories and presenting an ambitious vision for the world.

Unsurprisingly throughout the event, we discussed the threat of nuclear war, Trump’s foreign policy, the role of China, and what will happen in the EU. However, my final worry, which I put to the room, was what happens if Trump fails — if he fails to deliver for the people he enfranchised, who voted against the political establishment? What does that mean for our political systems?

This seems to be one of our greatest challenges: re-inspiring trust and confidence in our political institutions and proving that they can deliver.

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