“An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.”  Politics is probably one of the most universal topics of discussion in the world. Everyone has an opinion. The majority of people pick a political party and stick to it, not unlike the way people support football teams. The best thing about politics is that it is a project that is never done. There are still unanswered questions and future prospects to be considered. Questions such as where does polarization come from? What does activism look like in the twenty-first century?  This chapter on politics in relation to change attempts to answer these questions, as well as multiple others. For example, what will be the future of international conflicts? What factors could really spark political change in different regions around the world? What trends are there in international cooperation? And, how can the use of technology change the public sector? This chapter begins with a description of developments in the world’s political climate. Next, it addresses some of the main trends in geopolitical relations and the future of conflicts. Additionally, it discusses some of the major international institutions through which different actors around the world cooperate. It also touches upon how several factors can bring on political upheaval and reforms in different regions around the world. After this, there is an analysis of the increasing role of technology in the political sphere and how that changes the way governments respond to developments in our societies. The chapter ends with a discussion on trends in social activism and what activism might look like in the future.Honzuki no Gekokujou
3.1 Political Climate - Dealing with Polarization, Populism, & Xenophobia
How does one define a political climate? When people think of the word “climate,” the problems of the twenty-first century have conditioned us to think of climate change and global warming. But the heat of modern political debate can be equally concerning. Everyone has strong opinions as to where our political climate is heading. All one needs to do is take a look at the titles of books that hatched from the Trump administration to be hit with a sense of impending dread: Rage, Hoax, Disloyal, Too Much and Never Enough, The Reckoning, Betrayal, Fear, and A Plague Upon Our House. The many authors of these books paint a picture of politics in the twenty-first century that is not too colorful. This section aims to lay out the positive and create a jolt of inspiration with regard to our political climate. In the words of Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”  It is paramount that we solve the problems facing our political climate, therefore, this section will delve more into solutions than descriptions of the problems themselves. The reason we must tame the way the world conducts politics is best said by the second President of the United States, John Adams:

“I must study Politics and War so that my sons may have the liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematics and Philosophy, Geography, Natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Music, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelain.” 

This section first covers polarization, moves on to populism, and ends with xenophobia.
3.1.1 Polarization: When Societies Divide
It’s the year 2019. Two researchers by the names of Thomas Carothers and Andrew O’Donohue set out to write a book on polarization around the world. They compare Brazil, India, Kenya, Poland, Turkey, and the United States. In Carothers’ words, polarization can “cause legislative gridlock, it can drive politicians to undermine the independence of the judiciary. Polarization shatters basic democratic norms like compromise, mutual respect. It can lead to disturbing rises in hate crime and political violence. [...] dragging countries into a negative downward spiral.” Polarization can feel inevitable; like a fish trap where the only way forward is deeper into the entrapment. If one follows the political discourse of their own country based solely on the front pages of the media, the situation feels like the British House of Commons, with two groups sitting opposite one another. A world where the following quote by novelist Joe Abercrombie seems to be the mantra.

"I am here to do business, not to take sides
Only thing on neither side o’ the street is the sewer!" 
This begs the question: what remedial actions are needed, according to O’Donohue’s and Carothers’ research? To preface this brief sum of actions, it is necessary to note that the root cause of polarization is one of the most complex political topics to date. This research does not attempt to simplify the problem, but rather, it attempts to display a problem-solving attitude over a cynical analysis of the current state of affairs with regard to the political divide; ample books have been written in such a fashion already.

The first possible course of action involves dialog and bridging efforts.  The list of institutions that can undertake these actions is endless: universities, mediation groups, religious organizations, and many more. Bridging efforts can, for example, be used to bridge the political divide at the “elite level,” to attempt to improve bipartisanship among elected representatives. O’Donohue and Carothers bring up the example of interfaith dialog in India to check communal riots in Mumbai and Hyderabad. A second method is institutional reform. Democracy can take on many forms; take, for example, the difference between the bipolar American system and the heavily fragmented Dutch parliament. Both are democratic nations but the way they conduct the democratic process is radically different.

One example of democratic reform to bridge polarization is the tackling of gerrymandering, reforming campaign finance laws, or experimenting with ranked voting. Institutional change is tremendously difficult.

O’Donohue and Carothers provide a detailed analysis of Belgium, Kenya, and Brazil, where multiple efforts have been made to take on polarization through institutional reform.  However, these countries remain deeply divided. A third method is individual leadership. A single person has the potential of strengthening democratic institutions and healing the wounds of their political predecessors. Take the example of Ecuadorian politician Lenin Moreno, who came to power in 2017. Moreno moved away from the divisive politics of his predecessor from the same political party, Rafael Correa.

A fourth remedy is closely tied to the chapter on technology in this book, namely media reform.  Companies like Facebook and Google were heavily scrutinized for their role in the spreading of misinformation, and both companies took steps to pop media bubbles and curb the spread of fake news. However, many political organizations and individuals consider this to be media censorship. New media platforms, promising no censorship, have popped up far and wide over the last decade.  O’Donohue and Carothers end their research with a call for more local research and study.  They bring up the example of Turkey, where the first research into local polarization was conducted as recently as 2017. Qualitative data is needed for any meaningful steps to be set. In short, the problem of polarization is multifaceted and cannot be solved by the adoption of one of the aforementioned remedial actions alone. There are tools to be found and solutions to be created, however, using a palette of solutions working together in tandem. 

Apart from these remedial actions, there are also projections for the future. Two American scientists, Hetzel & Laurin, wrote a paper in 2020 laying out two scenarios for the future of polarization with a case study of the United States.  The case study on the United States possible future is grim. It portrays polarization as a self-reinforcing cycle that will spin out of control.  This is caused by a behavioral tendency that can only be described as a dog biting its own tail, getting scared of its self-incurred pain, and biting harder. Hetzel & Laurin describe it as follows: Americans overperceive polarization and, as a response, they distance themselves from the perceived opponent, which increases polarization in the real world, creating a self-perpetuating loop: a dog infinitely biting its own tail. Luckily, Hetzel & Laurin point out that this is unlikely to be a reality: polls that analyze polarization are often heavily framed (Republicans report more polarization against the opposing party than the Democratic party does). Secondly, only 10% of Americans are on the extreme side of politics, making them the loud minority. And lastly, negative news is overrepresented, meaning that actual polarization is often exaggerated. 

The second case study on a possible future is more optimistic. Polarization is a pendulum that has reached its peak.  The writers argue that earlier research points out that a majority of Americans think political debate has become too negative and a return to civility is needed. Most are embarrassed by their own politicians’ hostile behavior. For example, when a politician becomes too hostile and close-minded, Americans are likely to distance themselves from them and hold more moderate positions.  The future the world ends up with is up to the people themselves, but one key indicator is whether our institutions are able to combat media misperceptions on polarization; if so, then one day, the dog has a chance to stop biting its own tail.

+ Sam Slewe
Reading more on political polarization(from a psychological perspective), I recommend reading this book: The Psychology of Political Polarization.
Source: Link

3.1.2 Populism: The Supposed Rule of The People
One of the most well-known simplified definitions of democracy is a political system “of the people, by the people, for the people,” spoken by Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address more than 150 years ago. But as Margaret Canovan, writer of The People, points out, "The people’ is undoubtedly one of the least precise and most promiscuous of concepts,”  and, she points out, it is inherently political. It offers convenient support for different causes because of its “indeterminacy and ambiguities.”  But can science analyze politics without the concept of “the people,” even with its ambiguities? As an answer to this question, Canovan ends her book with the following warning. “In conclusion, then, the concept of ‘the people’—or to be more precise, the cluster of ideas and discourses associated with the term—may be hard to deal with, but within contemporary politics, it is harder to do without. We certainly cannot afford to ignore it.” 

+ Adlan Hidayat
If you would like to delve deeper into the dynamics of democratic accountability, I would highly recommend reading the article 'Re-Assessing Elite-Public Gaps in Political Behavior' by Joshua Kertzer. In his research, he finds that political scientists actually tend to overstate and misunderstand the consequences of elite-public gaps in political behavior. In reality, public officials (the 'elites' who make decisions) and the masses (the public) share similar preferences in decision-making. Most of the time, the differences between the public and the masses are actually caused by misperceptions by elites.
Source: Link

Michael Kazin, author of The Populist Persuasion, argues that universal identities forged during the enlightenment, and rekindled by liberals and socialists, are becoming less and less politically mainstream. Populism is alive and well, but politicians rarely refer to the people as “the proletariat,” or “the common people” anymore.  Cornel West, professor of African American studies and political activist, notes that “the people” can at times make morally wrong decisions where elite bodies do not. For example, in his estimation, Brown v. Board of Education, which paved the way for desegregated schools, would not have passed if it had been a referendum instead of a Supreme Court ruling.  Appealing to “the people” as a working-class entity is not solely a left-wing tactic. According to Kazin, it is resoundingly a right-wing tactic in the United States, where “the people” are perceived as “hard-working, God-fearing, patriotic citizens abused by elite bureaucrats.” 

But what gives rise to populism? Paul Taggart, writer of Populism, sheds light on this specific question. According to him, “populism grows from, into and out of representative politics. It is something of an irony that populism is given the capacity to maintain itself in the form of systematic political movements only under systems of representative politics but that the impetus for populism comes from frustration with representative politics.”  In that sense, the system that populism pushes away from is the same system that allows for the creation of populism. Taggart identifies populism as one of the main threats to liberalism, together with nationalism and religious fundamentalism. But is populism truly nothing more than a threat, as Taggart seems to imply? Is it an ambiguous concept that needs further study, as Canovan concludes? Or is it an outdated concept and morally wrong because a political elite is sometimes morally superior to the general public, as can be interpreted from Kazin’s text? If the definition of populism is narrowed down to “policy based on the will of the majority,” this might not be the case.

For example, the United States is one of the few developed Western countries without any variation of government-regulated universal healthcare. Both in the House and the Senate, there is strong resistance against any such measure, originating from both sides of the political spectrum. However, 63% of all U.S. adults are in favor of centrally provided healthcare coverage.  Alternatively, 66% of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana, while it is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970.  58% support free college, while in American politics, this policy seems very far away. And lastly, 68% support a two percent wealth tax on individuals worth over 50 billion USD. Conclusion? Politics is often far behind the wills and wants of the public. Without any moralistic judgment on the benefits of any of the aforementioned policies, it is evident that there is a clear difference between the two definitions of populism; it can be weaponized by a politician who uses it as a rhetorical device to divide a country into us and them, othering the political elite. Equally, when populism is defined simply as policies dictated by the will of the majority, populism shows us that there is a strong divide between what elected officials want, and what the general population wants, as exemplified by the United States.

The future of populism is heavily influenced by globalization trends; a European study concluded that populism will keep expanding in Europe if concerns held toward globalization by adherents of populism are not addressed.  Political scientist Frane Adams argues that increased globalization and little accountability for elected officials brings populism with it; the desire for a “strong-man” with a focus on identity politics becomes appealing when a citizen does not recognize their own country anymore. Dr. Conrad King agrees with Adam’s estimation that populism is here to stay but for another reason. King argues that populism is inherent to representative democracies, and considering representative democracies are still on the rise globally speaking, populism will expand with it.  However, populism is local by nature. For example, a populist movement in Asia is unlikely to jump over to America because the relevant topics are widely different per country. In that sense, populism is a contained ideology, as opposed to Marxism, for example, which is universal and, therefore, easily moved across national borders. In conclusion, the future of populism is a sober one; it is here to stay unless we tackle the underlying issues, but because of its local nature, it won’t spread like wildfire.

+ Sam Slewe
Populism is not the only issue regarding this. We might even ask ourselves what will happen with democracies in the future. In Europe, fewer people are voting, raising the question of whether democracy is still a democracy if turnout rates are declining. As a result of fewer people voting, democratic inequality and prejudice in public policy may emerge. A higher voter turnout rate is required for a functioning democracy. So, this 'trend' also shows a new direction democracy is taking.

3.1.3 Xenophobia: When Strangers are to be Feared
“The world is full of people who think different is synonymous with wrong.”  The word xenophobia is derived from the two Greek words, xenos and phobos; stranger and fear. The fear of the alien, and the hate for strangers. The concept is heavily related to racism, othering, and political discourse. How prevalent is xenophobia today? What are some of its main causes, and what can we do to remove this fear from the hearts of all in the future?

+ Chia-Erh Kuo
In my opinion, the section answers the four questions very well. And that triggered my curiosity about the negative consequences of xenophobia in people's attitudes towards immigrants and policy advocacy. I recommend reading some case studies about the issue: 'Regionalizing xenophobia? Citizen attitudes to immigration and refugee policy in Southern Africa' by Jonathan Crush Wade Pendleton, 'Xenophobia, asylum seekers, and immigration policies in Germany' by Heribert Adam, 'The political economy of xenophobia and distribution: The case of Denmark' by John Roemer and Karine Van der Straeten.
Source: Link, link, link

When Hans Rosling, the author of Factfulness, held a poll among his readers for his book, he asked what people were most afraid of. As expected, snakes, spiders, heights, and claustrophobia always appear somewhere at the top of the list of items. Then comes a long list with no surprises: public speaking, needles, airplanes, mice, strangers, dogs, crowds, blood, darkness, drowning, and so on.  The fear of strangers is one of the more commonplace phobias. Rosling continues, “Yet here is the paradox: the image of a dangerous world has never been broadcast more effectively than it is now, while the world has never been less violent and more safe.”  Rosling calls this the “fear instinct.” This evolutionary bias has kept us alive for millions of years, and the media plays to our mammalian instincts to glue us to the news. If a stick moved, it was wise to jump in case of a snake attack. But a twenty-first-century woman watching a video of a natural disaster on their phone over breakfast is prone to assume that the world she lives in is still a snake-infested cesspit.

Leading psychologist and expert on judgment and decision-making processes Daniel Kahneman offers potential explanations for our inclination toward the fear of others. When we see migrants flooding borders on short, dramatized videos every week, what happens mentally is called an “availability cascade.”  Here, relatively minor events lead to widespread panic and overcompensated government intervention. Kahneman calls media outlets that jump on the bandwagon “availability entrepreneurs.” What happens is that these entrepreneurs notice people are outraged, and they cover the outrage instead of the news item itself, meaning the emotional reaction of the public becomes a new item in and of itself, perpetuating the negative spiral of sensational news. “Scientists and others who try to dampen the increasing fear and revulsion attract little attention, and most of it hostile; anyone who claims that the danger is overstated is suspected of association with a ‘heinous cover-up.’”  Timur Kuran joked on the subject that “all heuristics are equal, but availability is more equal than the others.”  The conclusion? Because the public is bombarded with news that inflames the fear of the unknown, and fear of the stranger, our brain has a list of ready examples of news that confirms the bias that foreigners are bad or scary.

Rosling makes the apt distinction between fear and danger.  Our fears have everything to do with our very human emotions, which are not prone to reason. We can be fearful of foreigners based on our own media consumption habits, but what is the concrete danger? If the crime rates in the United States among American citizens and immigrants (both documented and undocumented) are compared per 100,000 people, one can easily conclude that the American citizenry is more prone to crime than immigrants. But ask a group of 100 people to guess which of the two groups has a higher crime rate per capita, and a widely different answer is likely to emerge. If we make policy based on danger instead of fear, and if availability entrepreneurs stop banking on the very human fear of others, we see that xenophobia has more in common with our mammalian fear of spiders than the actual danger strangers pose; it is nothing more than fear over rationality.
drug crime rate 2012–2018 
The future of xenophobia is opaque because it largely depends on human countermeasures in the coming decades. A large behavioral science study conducted in 2015 stated that our social identity needs to “emphasize a superordinate level of identification that includes both the in-group and the out-group,” in order to tackle xenophobia.  Put simply, our future hope of living in a less xenophobic world lies in expanding our hunter-gatherer band to include all human beings.G. Bernhard, “Why Xenophobia works,” in Psychology Today, December 21, 2018, viewed on January 15, 2022,  

+ Daphne Prieckaerts
A few years ago, photographer & world traveler Thijs Heslenfeld invited me to travel to the outskirts of Namibia. After not seeing a human being for two days, we stopped in the middle of the desert to put up our tent and make a campfire for dinner. Then, a furious big black man came towards us out of nowhere on his big bike. He scared the hell out of me. While my instinct told me ‘run,’ Thijs walked towards the man, with open arms and a big smile as if he had known this man since kindergarten, yelling, “what a great bike, my friend.” Instead of running, we talked and drank coffee. The solution to xenophobia might actually be looking into the eyes of the other.

+ Adlan Hidayat
In my opinion, this conclusion leans more towards a pessimistic view. I think that due to the growing prominence of globalization and advancements in technology, society is actually more inclined to accept diversity. This has been evidenced by numerous efforts to support immigration, particularly during times of conflict. In the context of Ukraine and Russia, many have opened their homes to fleeing Ukrainians. After the Trump administration forced migrant children into custody, there was public outcry and efforts to improve migrant rights. Lastly, what the black lives matter movement taught us is that people all over the world believe in the value that everyone should be treated equally.

+ Emma Datema
What, for me, is striking is how over time, those who are understood to be strangers (and thus should be feared) change. In 2016, the Netherlands held a referendum about the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. It became a major political dispute, with politicians framing it as an issue of national identity and statehood. With a depressingly low turn-out (32.2%), a majority (61.1%) of voters were against closer political and economic relations with Ukraine. Many of these voters ignored arguments that Ukraine should be more closely integrated with Europe out of fear for Russia. Not even 6 years later, there appears to be much unanimity among Dutch society that Ukraine is very much part of Europe. (Rightfully so) Ukrainian refugees are very welcome, with Dutch citizens even willing to drive to the Polish-Ukrainian border to pick people up.

3.2 Geopolitics - On War & Peace
During the previous 3400 years, there have been no recorded wars for only 268 of them. Humans have been at peace for only 8% of recorded history.  For international politics, war and peace are major questions: What motivates people to pick up arms? How does one sustain peace? One approach is the emphasis on geographical considerations. Geopolitics focuses on the interplay between politics and geographical concerns. The idea is that topography (e.g., who one’s neighbors are) and natural environments (e.g., access to water) influence how political actors interact with each other. Nowadays, geopolitics has become a loose synonym for international politics since such geographical concerns are so fundamental to how countries interact. 
3.2.1 Traditional Security: Borders & Militarization
The provision of security is one of the main functions of the state. Yet, what does security truly entail? Traditionally, the focus has mostly been on what is understood as national security matters: protecting borders and the inside population from outside threats.  This means that the military has a big role in guaranteeing security, and military power is generally compared to understanding countries’ security capabilities. The focus here is on military spending, the number of troops, and how advanced military equipment and technologies are. For years, the U.S. has been the main spender on its military  but possibly more interesting here is that globally since 1995, countries have increasingly spent more on their militaries  (see graph ‘World Military Expenditure, by Region, 1988-2020’). The increase is the largest in the Asia and Oceania region, and possibly the greatest contributor to this increase is China. For more than a decade, its military budget has increased between 6% to 13% annually  and has been rising for twenty-six consecutive years.  Noticeably, conventional American troops are reducing in number. This means that the quantitative gap between the U.S. and countries such as China and Russia is decreasing.  This change in military-power perceptions is likely to cause a faster escalation in future conflicts since the U.S.’s hegemonic power appears to have ended and other actors are willing to take over part of the military vacuum. 
world military expenditure, by region, 1988–2020 
Furthermore, the focus on national militaries is also changing. Ever since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world has seen a great tendency toward the privatization of the military.   Privatization of the military has mostly happened for two reasons:
  1. Privatization allowed for the reduction of annual military costs: governments now do not have a part of their troops on the payroll, but only pay when they require the troops. 
  2. Through increased media access, citizens could see their soldiers dying abroad, and this made it politically more costly to send troops away. By hiring private companies, governments do not have to provide the same justifications.  
This development does, however, impose additional questions about what security means. Since these companies are the actors on the ground, they have the upper hand in defining what counts as a threat and when intervention is required. In effect, military operations take much longer and also become more expensive.   Additionally, in their quest to be the most attractive security provider, private military companies continue to develop new processes and weapons. In this way, violence is innovative, and these companies contribute to developing new technologies, which can protect some people while also causing great harm to others.  Furthermore, private military security companies will have an increasingly important role in information warfare and data protection, especially since many government technologies tend to adopt such private technological security systems.  The increased use of private military forces thus creates new challenges and raises questions about the future of warfare.
3.2.2 Does Warfare Ever Change? Old Wars vs. New Wars
Although Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man has been countered many times, at the end of the Cold War many international actors perceived that something had changed in the nature of conflicts. Mary Kaldor introduces in her book New and Old Wars, which was first published in 1999, the concept of New Wars. Although people disagree about how exactly to define it and to what extent it is true, Kaldor argues that the nature of conflicts has changed. Increasingly, wars are not fought between two countries but between a state and a non-state actor (like the War or Terror) or even two non-state actors. Moreover, conflicts are no longer relatively short wars but instead, long intractable conflicts. Generally, these conflicts are low in intensity but with sudden spikes in aggression. The war in Syria is a prime example of such conflict. 

As mentioned, not everyone agrees with Kaldor’s distinction but most recognize a key contribution that she has made; the idea that the proliferation of the new, or irregular, wars is connected to the weakening position of the state as the legitimate source of norms. This has a direct impact on what are understood to be justified reasons to wage war, known as the Just War Theory.  Since conflicts can create such devastation and large numbers of casualties, the international community generally requires a justified reason to join a conflict and has agreed on several conventions to conduct war in a more morally acceptable way.  Since the nature of conflicts is changing (e.g., the role of non-state actors and long, but low-intensity conflicts), there are calls to re-evaluate such standards for a justified war or conflict. 

An example of one such standard for a just war is that there needs to be a good chance of coming out victorious. For this, one demand is that the party is fighting a demarcated enemy.  When the U.S. started the War on Terror, there was much criticism because fighting all terror in the world appears impossible since countries will always manage to find new actors to label terrorists. The difficulty of pulling international troops out of Afghanistan in August 2021 appears to reaffirm this. After so many years of conflict, the party labeled a “terrorist organization” took over the country in a matter of days.  One can thus question how justified the international intervention was. However, since the nature of conflicts is changing, it becomes increasingly more difficult to wage war following the traditional perceptions included in Just War Theory.

Additionally, the emergence of new technologies raises questions about the nature of conflicts. The use of drones allows one party to intervene without risking any soldiers, completely changing casualty-risk considerations.   Moreover, 3D printers make weapons much more readily available and much more difficult to regulate in regard to who has access to weapons.  Thus, such new technologies will also influence the future of warfare and the way governments approach security challenges. 

However, the emergence of the New Wars does not mean that Old Wars are no longer waged. A non-elderly citizen of North America, Europe, or some parts of Oceania is likely to never have experienced war within their territory. When their countries were at war, it was waged thousands of kilometers from their national borders. The conflicts that these countries partook in were multilateral interventions, not territorial wars between two individual countries; think of the war in Iraq, the mission in Mali, or the war in Afghanistan.  That is not a universally shared human experience. Although New Wars are often intrastate or against non-state actors, there are still Old Wars occurring in the world. Despite the fact, war accounts for only 1% of global deaths in the early 21st century instead of the 15% in ancient agricultural societies,  wars are still waged over the acquisition of land, resources, and strategic locations.  Think, for example, of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict,  the Russo-Ukrainian war,  or the war in Georgia.  An important aspect to note here is that wars over territory don’t revolve around the land in every case. For example, the annexation of Crimea had the added reason for large amounts of oil and gas found in the Black Sea. By capturing the Crimean peninsula, Russia secured the territorial sea and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surrounding it, meaning they now have access to large amounts of fossil fuels.  Israeli historian Harari wrote in 2015 that it makes no sense to invade America to capture Silicon Valley, as they don’t produce silicon. Instead, its value lies in knowledge, which cannot easily be captured.  Whilst information may become the most valued asset in the world; there is still conflict over scarce resources used for energy, production, and subsistence.

Instead, new forms of warfare (i.e. non-state actors playing a larger role in conflicts, cyber warfare, and modern warfare technologies) created a mixture of both Old Wars and New Wars: Hybrid War.  This form of warfare combines soft power with hard power to exhaust the enemy’s resources and resolve.  An example of this can be found in China’s treatment of Taiwan. China flies hundreds of jets over Taiwanese airspace (which did not lead to open confrontation), extracts resources from small islands around Taiwan, isolates Taiwan from its allies, as well as forces private companies to recognize Taiwan as part of China by threatening to lose access to mainland China. 

Another aspect of today’s warfare (and future warfare) is the deployment of armed UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). These armed drones used to be the domain of superpowers such as Russia, China, and the United States. But they are rapidly becoming more accessible, leading to smaller nations and even non-state actors having access to this deadly vehicle for war.  Every era has a dominating technology or technique in warfare, from the war chariots of ancient times to the English longbow archers of the Middle Ages and the tanks of the Second World War.  Low-cost drones can be produced in large quantities, and Anti-Air weaponry is not yet prepared to counter a mass drone attack.  Almost every nation that uses drones claims to have ‘protocols’ in place to prevent civilian casualties, but these are not verified.  An example of armed drones in action is the deployment of drones by the Turkish government in Iraq.  Whilst the Turks claim that warfare becomes more ‘precise’ and ‘humane’ through the use of armed UAVs, the citizens of Northern Iraq feel that they are constantly being held at gunpoint.  Lastly, drones change our legal understanding of self-defense. In a ‘boots on the ground’ situation, soldiers repel an identified attack, but with drones, self-defense becomes ‘individualized’, where the target poses a constant imminent threat.  This changed idea of self-defense means that proportionality as a principle changes with it. Instead of the complexity of soldiers versus soldiers, drones may reduce the discussion to the simple question: ‘is this person an enemy’. There is a difference between Old Wars and New Wars, but the existence of hybrid warfare blurs the lines between the two, and new methods of warfare do not negate the fact that wars are still initiated over ‘old’ motives such as land, sea, and resources.
3.2.3 Cyberwarfare: When Actors Resort to Different Methods
A German team of scientists led by Ralph Langner made a staggering discovery in 2010. Langner’s team uncovered a cyber-attack that had a global reach but was highly targeted.  The worm, that came to be known as Stuxnet, was meant to disrupt the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran.  Stuxnet caused the enrichment centrifuges to break down. Stuxnet profoundly changed the way cybersecurity fits into a scientific understanding of warfare. Traditionally, proportionality in warfare, as proposed by 17th-century legal theorist Hugo Grotius, meant that an aggressive action from the belligerent justified an equal response of the defender: an eye for an eye instead of scorched earth in response to a minor border incident.  However, how does an attack that plays out in the digital sphere intended to cause physical harm fit into this narrative of proportionality? For example, years prior to the Stuxnet case, in 1981, Israeli forces dropped sixteen bombs on an Iraqi nuclear research facility to halt their progress.  ‘Operation Opera’, as it came to be known, killed eleven soldiers and civilians. Stuxnet did not kill anyone. Operation Opera did. Both had the intended effect of harming a country’s nuclear capability. Which one of the two was proportional to the threat they posed? There is no clear answer to this question, as is often the case with ethics. Cyberwarfare will raise many more such questions. 

The future of cybersecurity is one of rapid advancement. To illustrate, the U.S. Department of Energy deployed the supercomputer ‘Roadrunner’ in 2008.  The supercomputer cost 120 million USD to build. The computer covered 560 square meters, had 296 servers, and contained 122,400 processor cores.  Roadrunner was already redundant by 2014 because its processing power was no longer competitive.  The speed of the development of computing power is often described using Moore’s law.  Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors per silicon chip would double every year. He was close: over the next decade, the number of transistors doubled approximately every 18 months.  Half a century later, almost all the electronic commodities we care about are a reflection of Moore’s prediction: smartphones, cheap laptops, and GPS, but also artificial intelligence and genetic medicine acquired through machine learning.  However, the rate of Moore’s law is declining, as chip development reached a threshold where the research effort of developing the next generation of computer chips has risen by a factor of 18 since 1971.  However, the leaps in the broader technology sector still warrant plenty of unknown unknowns. 

This growing global computing capability is not only used for good. Cybercrime, hacktivism, cyberespionage, weaponized cyberattacks, and cyber disinformation campaigns are the new aggressive arsenal of global superpowers such as China, Russia, and the United States.  Over the past three decades, cyberwar capabilities have been deployed to target power grids, dams, centrifuges, missile launchers, and electronic election systems.  Cyberwarfare is nigh invisible, but it is also continuous, as its strategic goals are different from conventional warfare. The goal of cyberwarfare is overall power projection, which is not a goal with a set end in sight.  Cyberwarfare can also accompany ‘boots on the ground’ warfare practices. For example, Ukraine had to combat 150 cyberattacks in the first two weeks of the Russo-Ukrainian War.  These attacks include espionage, disinformation, and ‘wiper attacks’ meant to delete data on Ukrainian-run networks.  Cyberwarfare practices are used between nations in peacetime as well. For instance, in 2020, Iran faced a DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack on its internet infrastructure. Chinese hackers attempted to steal classified documents from the Malaysian government-backed projects. The Russian government has intruded on the U.S. cyber infrastructure since 2011.  The total cost of cybercrime on economies is estimated to reach trillions of dollars in the near future.  The number one priority for combatting cybercrime and cyberwarfare is the creation of international guidelines and regulations for malicious cyber practices.  Cyberwarfare will remain too alluring for governments to deploy until such international norms are in place, as the grayness of its current legality means the aggressors easily get away with their malpractices. 
3.2.4 The Politicization of Strategic Resources
Politics has to do with how scarce resources are divided. In the international arena, the scarcity of resources is often the cause of tensions. Many wars have been fought, for instance, over the access to or prices of oil. Climate change, however, has made some scarce resources even scarcer and made other countries find renewable energy sources, which upset other countries.  Although there are many other scarce but strategic resources, this section will focus on the emerging sand scarcity and the strategic importance of water.

+ Adlan Hidayat
If you like to explore the dynamics between strategic resources and political outcomes, I highly suggest reading 'Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil' by Timothy Mitchell. Throughout the book, Mitchell unravels the link between fossil fuels with the withering of democracy. Conventionally, many assume that the limited forms of democracy in the Middle East are restricted because of cultural and religious practices. In reality, Mitchell argues that the physical properties of oil limit the structure of the political response. For example, Mitchell talks about how the transportations networks of oil eliminate the opportunities for unions and labor rights. Fewer people are required to work, fewer people to supervise, and fewer central hubs. This was all planned to limit communities of workers and to the influences of labor unions, which were prominent with the extraction of coal. As oil companies gained influence politically, a history of pushback was translated institutionally.
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The demand for sand has skyrocketed in recent years as a result of the human desire to build ever more buildings and infrastructure. Since 2000, the amount of construction sand used every year has more than tripled and is still rising fast.  In most countries, the demand for sand exceeds domestic production. In the U.S., the price of sand increased at least 24% between 2011 and 2016, and the global value of sand increased sixfold in the last twenty-five years.  The issue is that desert sand cannot be used for construction, and thus sand needs to be dug out from oceans, seas, and rivers. This means that, currently, West Asian and North African countries are importing sand from as far as Australia and Canada.  Sand mining from rivers and seas also brings about additional risks, since this speeds up erosion, threatens biodiversity, and makes communities more vulnerable to climate change. 

All these worries have also led to policy changes. Singapore, which, since its independence in 1965, has increased its landmass by at least 20%, considers reclamation as the solution for accommodating its growing population.  Therefore, it has been stocking up on sand.  Since countries like Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia have introduced sand export bans (Indonesia specifically bans sand exports to Singapore), it is increasingly more difficult and pricier to buy sand. Cambodia introduced export bans on sand after pressure from environmental groups because sand mining was harming coastal ecosystems and biodiversity. 

Additionally, the shortages and high prices of sand also have created a new type of crime: the sand mafias. From Mexico to South Africa to India, police reports include murders and disappearances concerning the illegal mining of sand. Sand mafias have emerged in many places with job scarcity, feeding into the economic incentive, which results in local civilians digging the rivers, which sustain their communities, dry.  Poor working conditions and environmental degradation are what these communities are left with, while the sand mafias benefit from the increasing sand prices. Since sand is not even perceived by most as a valuable resource, and there is little awareness of the shortages and underworld associated with it, there are no international systems to ensure a more sustainable and morally correct sand-mining process.  The scarcity will keep increasing, which will not only drive prices up but also add to the criminality.

+ Elias Sohnle Moreno
There is a theory around this configuration: the resource curse. It would be interesting to see if sand-endowed countries will suffer from its benefit.

Another valuable resource causing increasingly more tension between nations is water. This has to do both with access to water for drinking and irrigation, and the generation of sustainable energy. An example of this is the plan that China has to build a dam on the Brahmaputra River. The foreseen Medog super-dam, which is to be built in Tibet, is reported to generate 300 billion kWh of electricity annually, which is enough to sustain all of Tibet and can thus even be exported to other Chinese provinces. For China, this is an important step toward reducing its carbon emissions and opting for more sustainable solutions. The problem is that this river flows further downstream through India. For India, the river is important as it accounts for almost 30% of its freshwater resources and for about 44% of India’s total hydropower potential. Moreover, if during the wet season, China decides to allow more water to flow through, India’s already wet season will experience even more flooding. Similarly, in the dry season, China can stock more water and India will experience further water shortages.  Since these countries are already suspicious of each other, the dam causes further strain on their already weak relationship.

The attempts by China to generate more sustainable energy are seen as an immediate threat to access to water for drinking, irrigation, and energy generation for India. And this is not the only example that exists. The dams that generate energy in Turkey have resulted in Turkey controlling almost completely how much access to drinking water and irrigation the Iraqi population has.  Similarly, Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the Nile is the cause of a decade-long diplomatic dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan. Egypt has threatened Ethiopia multiple times that if the latter decides to stock more water in its hydropower dam, Egypt will respond with military action to break the dam apart.  Such examples of hydropower dams and sand shortages show how the very important efforts to counter climate change can add additional tension between neighboring countries.
3.2.5 Human Security
Such climate change-related tensions and shortages in necessary resources bring us back to the question of what security is truly about. Traditionally, security is about protecting borders and the population within. Currently, there are enough bullets in the world to shoot the global population twice, and people still do not feel secure.  Increased military spending is not without additional costs: not only does it bring more weapons to the world, but the additional money spent on defense is not used for public goods such as education or infrastructure, and thus may harm economic growth in the long run.  The Covid-19 pandemic, technological advancements (which also create new risks), rising house prices, climate change threats, and natural disasters are possibly just as, if not more, pressing for people’s perception of security. Although with some of these threats, like natural disasters, the army does step in, with most other threats, increasing military spending or setting up new military alliances will not be able to prevent people from being affected by, for instance, a pandemic. For that, we need doctors and nurses, effective medical infrastructure, and international cooperation to prevent new variants from emerging. 

For this reason, a new perspective on security has emerged: human security. As the human rights organization GPPAC describes it, human security is based on the idea that people should live free from fear (e.g., wars, persecution, and physical harassment), want (e.g., access to education, jobs, and natural resources), and indignity (e.g., access to justice, and equal rights).  As shown with the example of strategic resources and how climate change puts even more strain on important resources like access to drinking water or how sand mafias have introduced great violence into the sand mining industry, it becomes clear these security matters cannot be seen independently from each other.

Governments and international organizations, therefore, have introduced the idea of human security as a holistic security approach. Countries like Japan and Canada have adopted human security in their security frameworks. For both of these countries, it means that rather than simply focusing on security from a military and conflict perspective, security includes matters such as human rights, health, education, housing, gender equality, and much more.  Moreover, the UN has also adopted human security in its framework. The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are all built upon this idea that security has to do with much more than just military protection. It stimulates countries that have not yet done so to include matters like poverty, health, and education into their security considerations.  The efforts made by actors such as the UN and GPPAC contribute to having this concept of security understood much more broadly.
3.2.6 Global Powers & the Power Shift
To understand the dynamics in the international arena, scholars generally try to map out which countries are the main actors and in what kind of arena they interact with each other. This can be a bipolar world, like the Cold War, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were the two main powers who influenced how most of the other countries interacted with one another. Some argue that after the Cold War, the U.S. became the hegemon and was able to dominate most of international politics.  Nowadays, many more countries appear to be present and willing to let their voices be heard in the international arena. For some, the reemergence of China means a similar Cold War dynamic between two major powers, but this time between the U.S. and China. Others understand the presence of many regional and mid-sized powers as a much more dynamic multipolar system.  

It is important to stress here that the literature and research are very much inconclusive about which of these systems (unipolarity, bipolarity, multipolarity) exists, either currently or in the past. Moreover, there is no agreement on whether one of them would be preferable due to, for instance, allowing for more peace in the world.  What such concepts do allow, however, is to try and understand who exerts influence in the world. That is very difficult to predict. Thirty years ago, no one mentioned China. People focused on Japan as the major Asian power in the world. Yet, since countries do not interact with each other in a vacuum or isolated space but are bound by economic conditions, alliances, and domestic politics, changes may occur where one does not expect them. Currently, the U.S. and China appear to be the big players. The EU and countries like Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Africa, Nigeria, Mexico, and Brazil exert regional influence.  Yet many questions remain: Which are the actors that influence global and regional politics the most? Since most people did not predict the reemergence of China as a global actor, could there be another country that grows as rapidly?
3.3 International Cooperation - Enemies and Allies
Nowadays, there are over 68,000 international organizations.  All of these focus on different international challenges. In our continuously changing world, we face challenges that cannot just be solved by individuals, communities, or countries by themselves. Issues like climate change and global development, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, demand international cooperation in order to find solutions. This section addresses some of these platforms, which allow countries but also non-state actors to cooperate and will influence our global future.

+ Adlan Hidayat
If you would like to explore challenges to the institutional framework for development, I recommend reading 'The Problematization of Poverty: The Tale of Three Worlds and Development' by Arturo Escobar. Escobar argues that development professionals (from the UN, World Bank, etc.) sought to devise mechanisms and procedures to make societies fit a pre-existing model. He found that when intergovernmental institutions aimed to help the 'developing world', they didn't aim to understand the particular circumstances, which produced worse outcomes.
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3.3.1 Politics at the Highest Level: the United Nations
In terms of international engagement and representation, the UN is and will most likely remain unparalleled for the foreseeable future. The UN was founded in 1945, after the horrors of World War II, and has grown to 193 member states.  The UN consists of many different agencies, programs, and funds that all address different challenges that the world faces.  Its long history as an international organization, and the large number of members and agencies does not, however, mean that solving these global issues always goes smoothly. Key topics the UN focuses on are security matters and climate issues. These two topics shape the current and future functioning of the UN. 

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the UN organ that deals with security matters such as peace and conflict intervention. It has fifteen members, of which there are five permanent members (known as the P5 members, consisting of the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, and China) which all have veto power, and ten rotating members, which do not have veto power. The P5 privileges stem back to the UN’s foundation as these were the victors of World War II. However, to many, this power division does not represent the actual distribution of international power and it hinders the effective functioning of the UN. There is no permanent seat and veto power for any African, Latin American, Oceanian, East Asian, or North African countries, and it is argued that Europe/the West are overrepresented. Moreover, since P5 countries have very different international interests, it means the members have a tendency to use their veto power to make it impossible for the UNSC to intervene in conflict situations. 

Since these problems negatively impact how representative the UNSC is and its international prestige and integrity, there have been many calls for reforming the UNSC. These demands are in themselves nothing new; already in the 1990s, there were debates on changing the UNSC structure. Still, this debate is important for future international cooperation and global power structures, since the international prestige of this council gives it the authority to evaluate what justified military interventions are and when, for instance, sanctions are to be implemented. This means that it can have an incredible impact on which wars are intervened in and which countries face economic restrictions. An example of this is that Russia has already vetoed fourteen resolutions by the UNSC on the war in Syria, including ones that are aimed at minimizing the humanitarian consequences.  If debates continue to lead nowhere, the UNSC will remain a relatively inefficient organ, and the credibility of its decisions will be reduced.

Possible suggestions for reforms include changing its Western focus by introducing a single seat for the EU, increasing the number of seats, or introducing a new category of members: semi-permanent members.  Given that reforms have already been stuck for three decades, it will be interesting to see how political and security matters will influence the future of the UNSC’s functioning. Perhaps the UN will restructure the P5 privileges or introduce additional seats, as a way to evolve to adapt to the new demands of the rest of the members. 

Furthermore, the UN has also been an active player in combating climate change. The actions taken by individuals and countries would be too inconsistent and, thus, the UN has taken it upon itself to create systems, agencies, and platforms in which actors from all over the world can come together to prevent climate change. 

An important aspect of this is the SDGs, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, which are aimed at future-proofing global development up to 2030. The SDGs consist of seventeen goals, which are not exclusively focused on sustainability with regard to climate change but a broader quality of life.  One difficulty that emerges with such a global and broad approach to sustainability is the question of how such efforts and progress can be measured. The UN has provided 232 SDG indicators in order to map the progress made with the realization of the SDGs but these are not without criticism. The indicators overlap and, at times, also contradict each other. The focus is heavily on economic indicators, which often do not give any sort of indication of sustainable practices. Moreover, it is unclear whether the indicators are all weighed equally or whether some of the indicators are more important. Lastly, and most importantly, in 68% of the SDG indicators, data is missing, making it impossible to evaluate what progress has been made globally in the realization of the SDGs.  The SDGs are obviously incredibly important in how actors come together globally in tackling climate change, and the indicators are required to map global progress. It is, however, good to be aware of the current limits and thus future challenges with which the SDG system presents us. 

Additionally, the UN has set up multiple agencies in order to stimulate climate change-prevention cooperation. The annual Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings are an example of this, in which all international actors involved come together to review the implementation of COP agreements and negotiate on additional measures.  There is, however, also great awareness that sustainable development is not just realized by building on the UN’s member states. Increasingly, there are attempts to directly involve different types of non-state actors. An example of such an initiative, which focuses on the inclusion of non-state actors, is the UN Global Compact. This initiative is the world’s largest on corporate sustainability and includes more than 15,000 companies globally, which have committed themselves and their business strategies to universal principles on, among other things, sustainability and human rights.  All these efforts make the UN currently, as well as in the foreseeable future, a key actor in aligning the interests and efforts of international actors to reduce the impact of climate change.
3.3.2 When Institutions Die: the Case of the World Trade Organization
It has been argued that the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is in charge of governing international trade, does not function anymore. There are two issues the WTO faces: its negotiations have stalled for years, and the dispute settlement mechanism does not function properly anymore.  With regard to negotiations and deciding on new trade policies, the WTO has been stuck for years in the negotiation process known as the Doha round. The issue is that the number of member states has grown a lot since its creation. Nowadays, the WTO has such a large number of member states that decision-making processes have become complex and difficult to realize.  Additionally, the dispute settlement organ, known as the Appellate Body, has ceased to function. Under the Trump government, which criticized the WTO for being unable to enforce on China equal competition laws (like property rights), the U.S. blocked the appointment of new judges. This means that, currently, the Appellate Body does not have enough judges to function.  Although President Biden announced that he would take a different stance than Trump and the U.S. would be back as an actor in international organizations, he has not made any significant process to revive the U.S.’ commitment to the WTO.  International organizations such as the WTO have to find a future solution between balancing representing all their member states’ interests, as well as retaining their effective functioning, in order to deal with future trade issues and develop new trade policies.
3.3.3 Emerging Powers: the BRICS
As a result of the lack of developments with global international organizations such as the UNSC and the WTO, cooperation has emerged at different international levels. One such example is the cooperation between the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The influence of these countries in the global arena is rapidly growing, and they have become a benchmark for industrialized economies.  These five countries together represent 41% of the world population, 24% of global GDP, and 16% of world trade. BRICS countries have been cooperating since 2009, and their policies focus on furthering political, economic, and cultural ties between the countries.  One example of this cooperation is the BRICS Development Bank, which contributes to development assistance.  Still, the success of the BRICS needs to be examined. There are many internal contradictions between the member states, and strengthening their international positions will help them to maintain domestic stability and growth. It is unclear whether this can be maintained for all the members in the future. Nonetheless, BRICS cooperation can be seen as an example of how actors, in this case, countries, who feel underrepresented in traditional international organizations, come together to further effective international cooperation among themselves. 
3.3.4 New Initiatives & the Importance of Infrastructure: the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
Another more recent international cooperation project is the BRI, formerly known as the One Belt, One Road Initiative. This multi-trillion project focuses on developing infrastructure all around the world in order to enhance economic growth and further connectivity. This initiative was proposed by China in 2013, and ever since, China has been at the forefront of projects such as railroads and ports.  The graph titled ‘BRI Plans in 2021’ shows a map of what the plans currently look like, though it needs to be stressed that the plans are continuously updated. 

+ Chia-Erh Kuo
The impact of the China-led initiative is expected to continuously reshape the geopolitical scenarios, given that Beijing has been facing backlash from member countries for years. If you are interested in exploring more about the topic, I recommend reading a recent article about what Russia's invasion of Ukraine could mean for China's BRI.
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bri plans in 2021 
The projects are mostly funded by China and do not come without additional questions about what the political, economic, and security implications will be. In November 2021, the European Commission announced plans for Europe’s Global Gateway; a €300 billion plan to finance EU infrastructure abroad. This is proposed as a way to counter China’s growing dominance in developing countries, stimulate competition, and boost transparency and higher environmental standards.  Although infrastructure projects like railroads might not appear particularly political, infrastructure directly affects strategic and economic interests, and thus political relations. The massive amounts that countries are willing to pay for infrastructure in other countries show that this will be a major topic in future international cooperation.

+ Chia-Erh Kuo
Japan has a similar strategy, intending to balance its interest in regional infrastructure development with suspicions about China. As a result, Tokyo has committed to spending $110 billion on infrastructure projects throughout Asia. In addition, Japan has also agreed with India to develop the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), a project to develop and connect ports from Myanmar to East Africa.
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+ Elias Sohnle Moreno
China is tremendously growing its influence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa manifests the strongest population growth over the next 50 years, making it the ideal candidate for becoming the new factory of the world. China sees this as a massive opportunity as Chinese labor is becoming more costly and the standard of living increases. China is heavily investing via traditional methods (purchasing land, training workforce, etc.) and loaning almost impossible to repay funds to African public authorities to take advantage of this opportunity. That will often entail strong collateral, creating a potential future dependency on China. 

+ Emma Datema
Reaction to the previous comment: Maybe be a bit careful with how strong you make the claims, there is also a lot of criticism that the impossibility to repay the loans is a very western way of analyzing the relationship between China and African countries, and many African countries actually loan much more from western countries/institutions and also private funds

+ Diede Kok
It isn't easy to describe just how historical international cooperation along the Silk Roads truly is. There are historical records dating from 2000 years ago noting the travelers that entered China, what they brought, when they arrived, and when they left; an administration system that is reminiscent of passport control. The Chinese reports refer to the Mediterranean as well as Roman cultures, whose inhabitants were said to be tall and wealthy. The BRI is a continuation of millennia of human history. 

Source: The Silk Roads, Peter Frankopan, p. 15-17.

3.3.5 Covid-19 and International Cooperation
Lastly, though not an example of an international cooperation platform, the Covid-19 pandemic has also raised questions about how the international community cooperates. Over the past two years, a new term has emerged in international politics: vaccine diplomacy. This is mostly focused on the idea that there are many diplomatic relations involved in the creation, recognition, and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. Covid-19 has become a matter of soft power; instead of influencing countries through financial aid or economic relations, health cooperation is at the forefront of countries’ foreign policies. An example of this is China’s involvement in delivering Chinese vaccines to developing countries. These developing countries had not been able to access vaccines to the same extent as Western countries. As of December 2021, only 7% of the African population is fully vaccinated. Western concerns over the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines do not matter as much: having a vaccine with some protection is better than having no vaccine and protection at all. China has pledged to donate 600 million vaccines and supply 400 million locally produced vaccines to Africa. This is additional to the already 200 million doses that China has already supplied to Africa. To Chris Alden, director of the think tank LSE Ideas, it appears that China is in search of moral high ground in order to create a more favorable international image. 

Additionally, although some countries have shown themselves to be hesitant about sharing their vaccine supplies, the emergence of new Covid-19 variants has proven the WHO’s warning that “No one is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe.”  This means that a global solution is needed, and that individual hoarding of vaccines will not allow countries to move on from the pandemic.  Nonetheless, similar to climate change politics, countries’ short-term and individual political, economic, and strategic interests appear to take precedence. How can the world move on from the Covid-19 pandemic when such an approach dominates? If, in the future, another pandemic occurs, what will the international community have learned from Covid-19?

+ Pieter Hemels
It's interesting to see that more and more is being done regarding the accessibility of medicines in low- and middle-income countries. The South African government fought multinational drug companies over access to HIV/AIDS medicines in what was dubbed "Big Pharma vs Nelson Mandela" and won. Since then, the accessibility of medicine has increased significantly. Initiatives like Access to Medicine Index, founded by Wim Leereveld, tremendously impacted big pharma behavior. Organizations like I+ Solutions literally increase the accessibility of medicine by shipping medicines to a billion patients in these areas, financed by UN Global Fund, USAID and others. More and more, these organizations focus on independence for these countries regarding access to medicine.
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3.4 Political Developments Around the World - Individual Regions
What could spark political change? This section looks at current political trends across the globe. It will focus on how several factors—such as the effects of the pandemic on the civic sphere and the political involvement of younger generations—could become driving forces behind political upheaval and reforms in different regions.
3.4.1 Asia-Pacific: China, Democratic Backsliding, & Online Activism
One trend that has shaped the political status quo in the Asia-Pacific region is China’s growing influence on the political sphere. Coupled with its deepening autocratization, Beijing has tried to challenge the legitimacy of the democratic model by offering an alternative to the U.S.-led democracy camp. Within this context, China is facing intensified competition with other regional powers to establish supremacy and control over borders and trade routes. Unsolved international disputes—including tensions in the South China Sea,  Mekong Delta,  the Taiwan Strait,  and the Sino-Indian border —have posed a significant challenge to the peace and stability of the region in the future.

The scale and degree of democratic backsliding is another worrying trend. The current pandemic has magnified preexisting democratic strengths and weaknesses within the region. Hybrid and authoritarian regimes, such as Cambodia, have tightened their grips on society in response to the pandemic, while democracies such as India and the Philippines have also experienced democratic decay. 

In addition, the destructive consequences of the pandemic could last for years; a study finds that political unrest tends to reach a peak two years after an epidemic starts.  Although autocrats are holding on in some countries, their inability to handle the virus has damaged the legitimacy of those centrally controlled governments. People’s anger was already rising in Southeast Asia over worsening inequality, with large, anti-government protests taking place in Thailand and Myanmar. 

Notably, activism in the digital age could bring opportunities for dissidents and political opposition groups. In response to a shrinking democratic space, young activists across Asia have demonstrated resilience and cross-country potential for alternative forms of activism.  A recent striking example is the formation of the Milk Tea Alliance, which is an online movement consisting of pro-democracy youth from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and Myanmar.  The new generation of protesters has successfully raised awareness at the international level by leveraging social media and co-opting popular symbols. Although digital tools have also been used by autocratic governments to restrict civil freedoms, the rise of digital activism is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored.
3.4.2 Americas: the Fragility of Trust
The growing political divide has become a critical issue in American politics. A high degree of polarization leads to difficulties in generating a broad consensus to undertake political reforms among different groups. Political polarization in the U.S. has grown rapidly over the past forty years, possibly due to increased racial division, the rise of partisan media, and changes in the composition of political parties.  The ongoing pandemic could intensify this troubling trend because social distancing, mask-wearing, and vaccinations are often not considered public-health measures but political markers. 

Apart from domestic affairs, polarization could also have a direct, far-reaching effect on Washington’s foreign policy. Over the past decades, there has been a cross-party consensus in the U.S. in favor of maintaining a leadership position in world politics. The mighty role of the greenback has also secured the U.S.’s role in the global economy. However, this long-lasting hegemonic position could change due to the weak consensus about American national interest and how to position the country in a multipolar world. 

Meanwhile, Latin America is tackling the political uncertainties brought on by a lack of trust in the institutions of government and democracy. Compared to other regions of the world, Latin American societies show lower levels of political trust, which could lead to economic problems and difficulties in countering pandemics. 

To be sure, the severity of the ongoing pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and magnified democratic and human rights challenges. Within the region, the consolidation of democratic governance has dimmed in some countries including Nicaragua and Venezuela. Amid economic breakdowns, traditional political parties’ prestige in delivering on democracy has declined throughout the region, which opens possibilities for populism and the rise of “outsider” politics.  As revealed by the case of Colombia, long-standing grievances are likely to spread across Latin America and trigger political change.
3.4.3 West Asia and North Africa: Demographic, Economic, & Geopolitical Shifts
In the West Asian and North African region, states are facing challenges brought on by structural changes in three main aspects: demographics, economics, and geopolitics. The political response to these underlying shifts will likely shape the nature of political life in West Asia and North Africa (WANA).

+ Chadia Mouhdi
I really like how we use the term WANA (West Asia and North Africa) instead of ""The Middle East"". Increasingly, people prefer the term WANA to the Middle East. 

The term 'Middle East' was coined over a century ago and is geographically ambiguous. The region is only east when considered from the perspective of Europe. The term WANA is less rooted in political geography but rather in human geography.

Although I am from a country that is often included when The Middle East is mentioned, I only recently learned about the term WANA and why it is preferred to the Middle East. For me, this really made me aware that the western perspective is ingrained in many different facets of life. It makes me wonder what other words and perceptions I take for granted currently. Going forward, I would like to learn more about such sensitivities and be more open minded.
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First, the rapidly growing younger generation could provide new challenges for authorities. By 2050, the populations of half the countries in WANA are estimated to increase by at least 50% from their 2015 levels.  The demographic change could instigate a set of questions around identity and the role of religion in the future, opening up existing social cleavages within states.  Second, economic uncertainty is also expected to have an immense impact on the region’s political outlook. Several authoritarian states across the Gulf have been using the distribution of oil as an effective means of regulating political life. In this context, rising economic pressures stemming from fluctuations in oil prices and the pandemic could curtail governments’ regulatory capacity.  Third, the developments in geopolitics could change the landscape of regional security. Although the Gulf monarchies have long relied on the U.S. as a guarantor of security, the impact of increased Chinese or Russian involvement in the region is to be observed. 

Regarding the outlook of democracy in MENA, a series of pro-democracy protests and uprisings that spread across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s, called the Arab Spring, has to some extent shaken the long-standing social contract within the region. One group of countries, led by Tunisia and Jordan, is taking a more democratic approach in responding to the needs of citizens, while other countries in the Arab world remain in the grip of autocrats. Some argue that the latter group will likely become more susceptible to social unrest and even regime change. 
3.4.4 Europe, Russia, and Eurasia: Allies & Alliances
Governments across Europe are wondering what the future of Europe might look like after Angela Merkel departs the political stage. The issue of political integrity and the change in Europe’s role in international affairs could reshape the political landscape of the region.

Europeans have a perception of a systemic lack of political integrity, possibly due to economic disenfranchisement and inequality. Low political integrity, along with political polarization, could damage democracies and citizens’ trust in their institutions.  From the perspective of the whole region, it is also becoming challenging to maintain the integrity of the EU. The recent dispute over the rule of law in some countries, such as Poland and Hungary, is undermining the union’s moral legitimacy and the bedrock of common European values—democracy and fundamental rights.  In addition, some have argued that the pandemic widened the preexisting split between high-performing democracies in Western Europe and weaker counterparts in Central and Eastern Europe, which has posed a challenge to the unity of the bloc. 

As for international relations, the recently announced Global Gateway (GG) project is considered the latest in a string of EU policy actions to reposition Europe in the world. The massive investment plan, often seen as the alternative to China’s BRI, reflects the EU’s strategic interests and intention to strengthen its role in the Balkans, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The impact of the GG project is to be closely observed in the coming years. 

The development of the Sino-Russian relationship is another issue that could fundamentally change the political landscape of the region. European leaders are increasingly cognizant of the possible effects of the rapprochement between Russia and China, given that the emergence of the Moscow-Beijing axis is expected to wield a growing influence on transatlantic interests and draw new dividing lines over Eurasia. Despite this, it remains unclear how Europe and the West would react to the Sino-Russian rapprochement. 
3.4.5 Sub-Saharan Africa: New Generations & Democratization
In Sub-Saharan Africa, conflict hotspots are expected to rumble on in the coming few years. The Sahel region has been facing armed conflicts and humanitarian crises since the regime shift in Libya and the subsequent uprising in Northern Mali in 2012, while a civil war in Ethiopia is threatening the stability of the Horn of Africa.  Despite the unresolved conflicts in the region, two main factors are likely to transform Africa’s political landscape.

First, the continent’s younger generation represents a key potential for further democratic development and increased citizen mobilization. Statistics show that Africa has the youngest population in the world: around 40% of the population is aged fifteen years and under as of 2021, compared to a global average of 26%.  However, it is notable that a growing population of unemployed youth could also create a ground for recruitment by extremist groups.  Second, rapid urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to have a wide impact on the region’s politics since urban residents in Africa are significantly less supportive of incumbent governments and less satisfied with democracy than rural residents.  As the urban population continues to grow, urbanization could lead to the transformation of existing power structures and political sentiment.

Concerning the democratic development in the region, some have expressed concerns about the impact of China’s model of developmental authoritarianism. Despite public support for democracy in the region remaining high, the Chinese model seems to be attractive to those who see democracy as a hindrance to development, as can be seen in the case of China’s vaccination campaigns. In addition, the inability of many governments to respond to the security challenges, such as unsolved ethical and religious conflicts, might further undermine popular support for a democratic trajectory. 
3.5. Technology and the Government of the Future
The advancement of technology is shaping the political sphere. The increased adoption of emerging technologies, such as big data and AI, is continuously molding the way governments respond to fundamental changes in society. However, these trends have also caused growing concerns about how technology, regulatory mindset, and state authority will evolve in the future.

New technologies could bring benefits to the public sector in many ways. One benefit is efficiency improvement. In virtue of AI and ML technologies, governments can become more responsive and agile by conducting predictive analytics to prevent unfavorable conditions. AI-based tools can help government agencies increase the efficiency of internal operations, such as identifying inefficiencies in procurement processes or creating customized education programs for different positions.  Notably, the virus outbreak might make governments across the world more cognizant of the role technology can play in the future of public services. A KPMG report finds that many governments will likely be undertaking the largest logistical challenges of the past fifty years. Given that the pandemic has exposed the fragility of supply chains in public sectors, governments are now rebuilding their systems to mobilize and rapidly distribute vaccines to their populations. 

Another advantage is the use of technology in policy design. Policymakers can identify emerging issues and acquire a more accurate understanding of their impact and costs with the help of new technologies; AI and data analytics can make sense of demographics, consumption, and other trends across different government sectors. Administrations can also evaluate a more comprehensive range of alternatives and find the best solution with their simulation, digital-twin, and optimization capabilities.  In other words, AI can help governments tackle problems more comprehensively by increasing the scale and type of information available to decision-makers. The smart-city model, which features the optimal use of all the interconnected information, represents this joined-up approach to policymaking. 

For policymakers, improving citizen engagement when designing and delivering future public services is crucial. Over the past few years, some countries have started using technology to strengthen democracy and promote inclusive decision-making at the government level.  More than seventy nations have incorporated the notion of open government—that is, a culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability, and stakeholder participation—in their action plans for the future.  The emergence of civic technology, such as open-data portals and participatory budgeting, also helps enable greater citizen participation in government affairs. 

However, the wide adoption of technology across sectors can be a double-edged sword for governments and citizens. A growing number of countries are enhancing their security capabilities with facial recognition systems, big data analytics, and smart-city platforms.

However, abuse of AI surveillance has led to concerns over possible violations of human rights.  In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, experts have expressed worries about the consequences; the use of technology will likely weaken democracy between now and 2030 due to reality distortion, the decline of journalism, and the impact of surveillance capitalism. Some believe that the misuse of digital tools could affect people’s trust in institutions and their views about democracy.  A looming example of digital authoritarianism is the spread of the Chinese model, which states have claimed to be premised on the goal of information security. Over the past few years, Beijing has tightened its political control over citizens through technology, such as the growing use of facial recognition and the launch of a nationwide social credit system. Some autocratic regimes, such as Egypt and Iran, are moving toward digital authoritarianism by adopting the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems. 

Another emerging issue is the manipulation of human behavior—often associated with the notion of social engineering—in the political sphere. The emergence of computational politics, a new field considered the intersection between computer science and political science, might give a clue on what the future of government-citizen relations will look like. Technological advances can increase governments’ capabilities of predicting and affecting people’s perceptions and behaviors; however, the methods of computational politics can give rise to unfavorable consequences. For example, tailored, data-rich political campaigns bring the potential for significant harm to civil discourse. The core of big data-driven computational politics is in opposition to the idea of a civic space functioning as a public, shared commons. 

To sum up, a greater role for technology in the political sphere can bring mixed consequences. The use of new technology largely augments how policymakers make decisions and how citizens engage in politics, while the sprawling system of censorship and surveillance has aroused concerns worldwide. As John Pike, director and founder of GlobalSecurity.org, commented in the Pew Research Center survey, “Democracy in 2030 will face the best of times and the worst of times. All the optimistic predictions about social media and other online implementations strengthening citizen participation will be realized. All the pessimistic predictions about the ease with which the surveillance state can manipulate public opinion will also be realized.” 

+ Martin Bernal Dávila
Have you ever jumped onto a train, downloaded or streamed a film or a piece of music online without paying for it? Have you paid somebody cash in hand, knowing that tax would not be paid on that money? There is an area of freedom that allows people to do wrong things from time to time. Nevertheless, big companies or governments will use all of the future technologies at their disposal to enforce their rules in the future. All these questions and considerations are from Jamie Süsskind's book "Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech."

My questions are more about how democracies and dictatorships will apply these technologies and knowledge; what norms will be reinforced in countries like North Korea, Venezuela, Russia, or the US? How will the concepts of freedom and control be used in politics?

3.6 Political Activism - Changing Society for the Better
Social activists frequently target organizations, companies, and government agencies in their efforts to change societal norms and policies.  Activism is defined as actions to advocate, obstruct, direct, or influence social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the goal of bringing forward societal change for the better.

This topic discusses some controversial activism movements in our society today, the changes social activism has manifested over the years, and the ongoing challenges it faces.

The topic of political activism in this section provides a general introduction of the government’s role in implementing the changes people have been fighting for and why this still remains an obstacle today. Furthermore, there is a discussion about the impact of activism, and an exploration of the importance of the different roles of people involved in the process and the ones affected at the end-goal of the intended change.
3.6.1 Climate Change Activism: The Demand for Immediate Action
Collective progression prospers when leaders proactively understand, listen, and address issues that ultimately impact the greater good—including the planet, which keeps us alive. Our decision-makers greatly influence and implement the policies guiding our societies, and when unresolved matters are left, saving those empty words and promises might be a little too late.

Climate change has been the subject of the most controversial change-focused activism in the world today.  In September 2019, the globe witnessed the greatest single-day climate protest in history, and according to the organizers of the worldwide climate strike, nearly four million people took part in 6,000 activities in over 1,000 locations across 185 countries.  The demand for immediate action soared even higher as large-scale and long-term execution of sustainable strategies to mitigate the alarming rate of climate change had yet to be undertaken. Despite the factual evidence, protests, global organizations for reducing greenhouse gasses, and collective first-hand experiences of individuals encountering the destructive effects of global warming, it was still being ignored by many. Why?

The majority of our country’s leaders possess apathy, and unlike the average member of Congress, the younger generation will have to live with the devastation of climate change.  The youth have led environmental protests today that struck the world and made this matter as controversial as ever. From the age of fifteen, Greta Thunberg has been a leading young environmental activist. She initiated a climate strike to urge authorities in the Swedish Parliament to take preventive action as our entire ecosystems perish.  Greta has been in the headlines for several reasons, including endless mockery. However, her voice has fueled the spark of a global movement organized by young students who regularly strike on Fridays under the banner “Fridays for Future.” She was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize following her viral addresses to lawmakers across the world. 

The climate change movement has been behind personal and organizational initiatives over the years, and several other teens are prompting initiatives to produce environmentally friendly innovations. Elif Bilgin, a 16-year-old from Istanbul, saw the issues with today’s petroleum-based plastic and spent two years producing a biodegradable alternative made from banana skins. Benjamin Stern, 17, of Melbourne, Florida, developed a new type of shampoo that maintains its shape and that does not need a plastic container. While the commencement of new strategies to reduce environmental damage is much more evident today, the effects of the human-caused climate crisis are still deemed irreversible. 

+ Camera Ford
This statement resonates with me because of the slight feeling of hopelessness. Saying that climate change's impact is irreversible feels huge and finite. I've said and thought the same phrase myself, so I understand exactly the feeling. And the projected effects of climate change will indeed be mostly irreversible in our lifetime. But beyond these sobering truths, it also makes me think of Kate O'Neill's book "A future so bright: how strategic optimism and meaningful innovation can restore our humanity and save the world." She says that strategic optimism is the most important element in fighting climate change, building better technology, and addressing society's other issues. The future won't be either a utopia or a dystopia, but it is determined entirely by our actions. So those actions should be guided by a belief that despite the future's risks, we can and will create a future that avoids the worst outcomes.

The facts, solutions, and ongoing research have shown enough evidence to determine that climate change should be treated as an emergency. There has also been massive coverage of the youth’s call for immediate action for a future they have yet to encounter. However, political parties governed by adults have yet to treat this issue as a crisis requiring a rapid solution from a system that seeks change.

Fossil fuels, which accounted for up to 89% of the world’s CO2 emissions in 2018,  have been the primary source of energy for economic and technological advancement since the industrial revolution. The significance of fossil fuels and other carbon-intensive activities in multiple industries has caused resistance to climate-friendly policies.  But do these fast-growing advances equate to sustainable growth?

While climate change is a pressing issue, it is important to note that nations around the world do not have the same economic health and societal standpoint. Developing countries are the most impacted by climate change and the least able to afford its consequences. Multiple factors contribute to their vulnerability, limit their capacity to avoid and adapt to the effects of climate change, affecting their progress.

Climate change is a complex global issue, and factors in dealing with it range from the apathy of today’s leaders and policymakers, the neglected voices, the ability of a country’s economy to address major issues, to hopeful generations, and the growing motivation to bring about a powerful change. Are we finally equipped to combat climate change? 
3.6.2 LGBT+: The Fight for Gender & Sexuality Rights
All humans deserve equal rights, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and be allowed to live without fear of violence, coercion, or prejudice. LGBT groups, an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or sometimes extended to LGBT+ in inclusion for intersex and queer groups,  bring forth revolutionary movements to advocate for societal justice, acceptance, and human rights.

While some parts of the world are now openly embracing different gender orientations, these individuals remain a notorious target for harassment, violence, and cyber backlash everywhere. During LGBT+ Pride weekend on 12 June 2016, an assailant opened fire at the renowned gay dance club Pulse in Orlando. This hate crime is considered the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, with at least forty-nine people killed and another 50 injured.  The expression of sympathy and immediate response from the police, the government, and people around the world represent the significant transformation in societal acceptance and support for the LGBT+ community in comparison to the oppression these groups have tolerated throughout decades.

LGBT+ communities in East Asia, however, are still struggling to fight against their distinctive challenges such as embedded conservative elites, apprehensive or hostile public opinion, demographic difficulties, or rising nationalist sentiments. Societal norms have challenged the marginalized communities in these regions, but activists have shown empowered resistance and resilience in battling these obstacles. The government’s view on LGBT+ in China has been one of neutrality in administering their rights; however, these rights do not provide equal legal rights, address pervasive societal bias, provide equal access to healthcare services, or allow autonomous action beyond a narrow scope. In workshops about how to deal with challenges, issues mentioned include how East Asian LGBT+ networks lack financing and resources, and there’s also a lack of regional cooperation and information sharing. Certain regions in Asia have centered on the traditional religious beliefs and anti-Western animosity to delegitimize LGBT+ rights. 

LGBT+ movements originated as a response to centuries of doctrinal practices and governmental and medical oppression where homosexual conduct or activities, ranging from conventional gender roles to cross-dressing, were prohibited by law or custom. Such denunciation might have been expressed through appalling public trials, imprisonment, clinical warnings, and sermon rhetoric. For generations, these avenues of persecution cemented homophobia, but they also made vast societies aware of the reality of diversity. Though social equality for LGBT+ individuals is a shared aim throughout these groups, the gamut of full LGBT+ rights is still withheld.

Leaders and policymakers collectively promise to foster freedom and have sworn to protect their citizens with policies that manifest fairness and liberty; yet the majority of LGBT+ groups continue to be preyed upon by assailants and face injustice where violators are still not punishable by law. LGBT+ sexual-assault survivors are often unwilling to seek aid from the police, hospitals, shelters, or rape victim facilities—people and authorities who are intended to help them—because they are afraid of being condemned or abused by the institutions.

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), 85% of victim advocates have worked with LGBT+ survivors who have been denied care because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and according to the 2015 Transgender Survey in the United States, one in every five respondents who was detained in a jail, prison, or juvenile detention unit in 2014 was sexually abused by facility workers. Furthermore, 17% of respondents who stayed at one or more homeless shelters were sexually harassed because they were transgender. 

Whereas human rights are prioritized and implemented across nations where any type of human right violation is punishable by law, the challenge of achieving full enforcement of LGBT+ rights is still suppressed. If roles were reversed and heterosexuality was considered illegal and subject to imprisonment and centuries of oppression, would world leaders still act the same toward implementing equal rights?
3.6.3 Inclusivity: A Voice for Everyone
The process of raising awareness and magnifying voices that seek change starts with collective inclusivity. Fighting for change in the modern world, challenges current policies, practices, and regulations, and opens the door for advocacy to reform the exclusive, closed or damaged systems that still exist today. Although the idea of change embraces the promotion of equal rights, it is vital to proactively support the unheard, vulnerable, and oppressed —it is less about becoming the voice for the voiceless, and more about making certain that every individual’s own voice is heard from their own perspective.

Political inclusion refers to the entitlement of the marginalized to political involvement and representation on the same legal footing as host populations, resulting in a sense of belonging to a city’s population.  The marginalized can include immigrants, persons with disabilities, and people of all backgrounds regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, religious identity, immigration status, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, health (including mental health), and socioeconomic status. To be inclusive involves bearing responsibility, being accountable, and accepting the reality of the injustices that have led us to this position today; it is a commitment toward the long-term viability and unity of our communities. It is also a refusal of the notion that any of us deserve to be cast out of the discussion or stay vulnerable. It is a collaborative effort by everyone to end cycles of inequality that impact us all in various ways, either directly or indirectly. 

Embracing diversity is the first step to inclusion; it is a process of acknowledging the strength of a wide range of experiences by individuals and diverting these into a powerful change-motivated movement. Realizing there is strength in diversity, compels teams to collaborate in buzzing synchronicity with unrivaled productivity and a shared sense of purpose. This is what ultimately enables victorious reforms.  Organizations, individuals, and movements that refuse alliance because of prejudice weaken the whole definition of activism—the essence of togetherness and equality becomes removed.

It takes deliberate work and consideration to make an organization or group accessible to everyone. Some participants do not have easy or any access at all to technology or transportation; however, concrete steps can be taken to eliminate hindrances in the progression of inclusivity. Enabling multiple entry points so that everyone can contribute, emphasizes the importance of establishing a gateway of opportunities and of a mobilization that accepts different degrees of involvement. Making inclusivity happen is a conscious effort and a priority, and once it is achieved, the possibilities are endless.
3.6.4 Is the Government to be Trusted? Political Trust & Legitimacy
Political trust is a key indicator of political legitimacy. It is broadly defined as a citizen’s belief in the authenticity of government systems and the administration; it is the people’s belief in the worthiness of these institutions and political systems of which they are a part. 

Trust is the backbone of an effective team and is vital for securing relationships.  The credibility of public institutions and functioning democratic systems are built on trust, and it is vital in maintaining political involvement and social cohesiveness. The lack of political trust, whether in governmental bodies or in the system as a whole, makes it much more difficult to establish and successfully implement solutions to our communities’ most pressing problems, such as the enforcement of regulations, developing responses, and even vaccination distribution during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The effectiveness of a wide variety of public policies that rely on public behavior is highly dependent on public trust, and increased public trust leads to better regulatory compliance. In the long run, public trust is crucial for long-term societal changes, which shape our future, such as climate change, aging, automation, and much more. But why do a lot of citizens distrust the government?

The media plays an important role in disseminating information to the public, yet the spread of misinformation in the digital age causes great distortion toward the perception and understanding of topics ranging from current events, public health, and governmental elections. Citizens are aware of the problem of the rapid spread of fake news and believe that this greatly affects the people’s output on decision-making and trust in the public bodies. In 2019, 68% of adults in the United States said that made-up news greatly impacted their public confidence in the government, whereas more than half believe it had a significant impact on Americans’ trust in one another and government officials to get the work done.  During the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, studies found that public trust for the government had declined. The U.S. and China, two of the largest economies in the world, saw a great reduction in public trust. China saw a drop of 18 percentage points in public confidence, while the U.S. saw an additional drop of 5 percentage points. 

+ Elias Sohnle Moreno
Post-truth was named word of the year in 2016 by the Oxford Dictionary.

spring trust bubble bursts; biggest loss for government  
Shobita Parthasarathy, director of the Ford School’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy program, believes that misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories do not provoke public distrust in political institutions. Fake information results from existing public distrust. The OECD identified five key public governance factors for generating confidence in government institutions; it measures the degree of responsiveness of institutions and how well they execute long-term goals, including how well they establish and implement programs that are fair, reliable, and transparent.
public governance factors for generating confidence in government institutions 
Political legitimacy is earned when the public see reliable results. This makes more people choose to voluntarily engage in their government’s control. 
3.6.5 The Future of Activism
From protests against climate change to the Black Lives Matter movement that struck the world, online or digital activism has revolutionized the way events, protests, and movements are conducted, allowing supporters to mobilize and raise public awareness for a wide range of issues with a single click.

Digital activism uses the Internet, social media, and other communication technologies as the key medium for mass mobilization in order to ignite change and challenge political action.  It began in the 1990s, along with the development of Web 2.0 and the boom of social media, and has evolved ever since, playing a vital role in bringing people together around a common aim of supporting a cause.  Differing from the offline method of live protest where traditional media has the power to impose limitations on what to share with the world, digital activism can spread unfiltered information and prompt the spread of real-time global reactions like wildfire.

Cancel culture, a modern-day social justice movement in the form of a hashtag, can damage an individual or brand’s reputation in seconds as the public’s stance against behaviors that are deemed inappropriate or unacceptable is easily put under a spotlight to seek accountability and proper action.  Online petitions, such as those on Change.org, let anyone simply create and share an online petition in order to garner traction for their organization, an initiative, or a cause—and with the power of 6,592,403 online signatures by citizens all around the world, innocent 19-year old Julius Jones who was wrongly convicted of a murder he did not commit, successfully had his execution called off with only three hours to go. 

+ Elias Sohnle Moreno
This is a fascinating characteristic of 21st-century society. It has huge sociological implications and shows us how society dictates what is politically correct and what is not and how society enforces social norms in the digital age. It could be interesting to elaborate on the sociological implications for the future.

Even after twelve years in the Boy Scouts, Ryan Andresen was told that he could not receive the highest rank in the organization because he had openly come out as being gay. His mother, Karen Andresen, created an online petition to protest against the organization’s decision, and after garnering 479,000 signatures, a historic decision was made by the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council to end the ban on gay youth.  Ryan may not have had the chance to earn this rank, but many young men and gay scouts would now be equally able to do so. For an organization that has been resistant to change, this momentous event signifies hope that any issue can be raised and addressed. 

Although online activism has victories, some people coin this type of action as “slacktivism” or a lazy and ineffective way of creating protests. The idea of publishing a hashtag or a picture on social media might make a person feel as if they’ve made a difference when in reality, they have not. Slacktivists tend to show concern over an issue on social media, but do not take any further steps to use their voices outside of the screen or at all.  Virtue signaling is another opportunistic strategy for people or organizations to join a trending movement’s bandwagon to score virtual points for speaking about a cause without doing any relevant action afterward. While some digital activist practices are relatively ambiguous, there is no question that the main essence of digital activism is to help spread the raw and non-mainstream knowledge that people deserve to know on a global scale.

The world’s shift to technology and digital mobilization shows how online activism has evolved and the monumental triumphs it has achieved over the years. From saving an innocent life hours before their execution to challenging the inclusivity in the Boy Scout organization, there is no doubt that voices behind the screens are a powerful weapon for change. Online activism is not a replacement for offline activism but it is an addition, a new way of challenging multiple causes, and a compelling instrument in the future of activism.
3.7 Leading the Change - Leaders of Tomorrow
Malala Yousafzai, Narendra Modi, Elizabeth II, Jacinda Ardern, Angela Merkel, Greta Thunberg. These are all instances of leaders who lead or led in a variety of ways and with a variety of leadership styles. It is debatable if all of those leaders will continue to lead in the future or whether their followers will continue to follow them. So, what does the future hold for leaders? What kind of leader will be able to deal with all of the current world’s changes? Will today’s leaders be able to lead in the future? This section will go into greater detail on the future of leadership and what to expect, focusing on business leaders and political leaders.

+ Kim Tan
Such an informational read overall! I think it is also relevant to highlight the importance of business leaders who can execute influence without authority. How can future leaders remain influential in a changing environment without compromising collaboration, focus, reflection, self-assessment, etc.?

3.7.1 What the Private Sector can Contribute: The Future of Business Leaders
A business leader who is successful today in producing a lot of money for a certain organization may not be so successful in 25 years. While certain aspects of leadership will remain the same (for instance, articulating a vision and forming a strategy to get the best out of the company), the future leader will need a new set of skills and attitudes to succeed.  According to Jacob Morgan,  there are six tendencies impacting the future of leadership; technology, world changes, purpose and meaning, diversification of teams and inclusive cultures, morality, and openness.
six trends shaping the future of leadership 
Firstly, technology is having a huge and, more importantly, quick impact on the planet. Leaders must soothe these worries by searching for methods to use new technologies. For instance, without the huge development in the importance of technology, Mark Zuckerberg would probably not be as successful as he is now, which shows how important the global trends are in shaping a leader and company. However, technology is not the only development that has a significant impact on future leaders; practically all developments described in this book have an impact on the world’s future leaders. For example, more and more value is attached to sustainable practices, so people expect a leader to also take this into account while leading a world-leading company. To cope with the changing world, leaders must always be looking forward in order to successfully lead their subordinates.  Purpose and meaning are also becoming more important in today’s world. Companies used to be able to readily recruit great personnel by offering high pay, but this is no longer the case for many companies. A current trend is that most employees want to work for a company that has meaning and purpose, and most of them are even ready to accept a wage reduction to achieve this.

Additionally, future leaders should aim to build diverse teams and foster inclusive cultures. More honest and modest leaders have emerged as a result of a contemporary movement for morals, ethics, and openness.  Purpose-driven leadership is actually on the rise nowadays. This type of leadership is when a leader puts their mission and beliefs above all else. From a business standpoint, purpose-driven business leaders take action on something broader than the company’s goods and services. 

+ Chia-Erh Kuo
In my opinion, the rise of the B Corp movement could be seen as a real-life example of purpose-driven leadership. The movement aims to help companies around the world balance profit with purpose, advancing a new model that ensures equity and sustainability.
Source: link link

In line with purpose-driven leadership, according to World Economic Forum research,  the demand for moral leaders is also greater than ever. Moral leaders use principles and ethics that they have developed over time and through experience to guide them. Companies with strong ethical underpinnings outperform their competitors in terms of profitability and customer and staff happiness. Another current trend is that subordinates expect greater openness and transparency. Leaders can no longer hide behind their titles; they must be transparent and honest with their organizations and the general public. As technology advances, the globe appears to become smaller and more connected. Globalization creates both serious geopolitical concerns and fantastic changes for collaboration and cultural exchange. Future leaders must embrace globalization and value diversity. They have to be able to interact across cultural obstacles. 

Purpose-driven leadership is becoming more popular these days, and it is projected to grow in popularity over the next few years. However, there are other types of leadership that are also gaining popularity, namely despotic leadership. This type of leadership is defined by the establishment of a centralized, easy-to-manage hierarchical organization. These leaders place a premium on total control over their subordinates and a high level of efficiency. It is defined as a style of leadership in which the leader advocates utmost harshness and absolute dominance over subordinates and expects them to obey without question.  The current rise of despotic leaders might be a result of uncertain times brought on by many global shifts. The Covid-19 crisis is an example of this; people are unsure about what will happen and feel a loss of personal control and power over the outcome. People prefer dominating leaders to other types of leaders in times of uncertainty because dominant leaders may help them regain personal control. 

Not only are business leaders important, but companies, on their own, also play an important role in world leadership. For instance, focusing on sustainability, Schneider Electric (European multinational energy and automation provider) is ranked as the most sustainable company in the world in 2021.  Their strategy revolves around creating a long-term business. To cut carbon emissions, they are focusing on digital and renewable disruptors. Schneider Electric can act as an example and as a leader for other businesses that want to improve their sustainability protocols.

Future developments will alter how businesses and organizations effectively impact the world. They must adapt to numerous changes that are currently occurring and are expected to happen in the future. The business leader of the future will develop new skills, work and empower diverse and multidisciplinary teams, and most of all, be purpose-driven. According to Steve Jobs,  success can make a business lazy and complacent. It’s important to continue taking risks, pushing to try new things, and seeing the changes in the future. Only time will tell who became a leader and a follower.
3.7.2 Future of Political Leaders: The Need for Inspiration & Inclusivity
What will the future of political leadership look like? The world around all of us continues to change, with current political dynamics creating future problems and new challenges arising. Since the beginning of time, people have had to organize themselves in order to tackle such challenges and ensure the well-being of the people. This section addresses the dynamics and future of political leadership.

The difficulty in the analysis of politics and leadership, or social developments more broadly, is that societies do not progress in linear ways. When new ideas emerge, there will always be people who oppose them and push back in favor of the status quo. This is also where leadership comes in. It is those people who take a stance and inspire others to see a future. Yet, political leadership does not only imply top-down structures but also bottom-up dynamics. It was climate concerns, and the (initial) lack of existing political actors, that made Greta Thunberg skip school in order to protest at the Swedish parliament. Her actions sparked such global support that she has now become the face of environmental activism.  Moreover, it also shows that political impact does not necessarily come from those political leaders who are in office; it is people with a vision, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race, or whatever else it is that people might be judged on, who take a stance and are willing to take action. 

The future of political leadership will be more inclusive. Much of humanity’s history has been decided while a vast majority of the population was excluded, whether for gender, race, social status, sexuality, or something else. In September 2021, there were a total of twenty-six women who served as Heads of State and/or Government in a total of twenty-four countries. From those numbers and recent progress, the UN concluded that if gender equality continues to develop at this speed for the highest positions of power, it will take at least another 130 years for gender equality to be realized at such high political positions.  Still, representation matters; those minorities who are elected to office can influence future policies as well as show next generations that their voices do matter and that they can make a change.

Andrew Reynolds, Professor of Political Science, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, analyzed the impact of openly LGBT+ legislators in office and concluded that their presence is associated with the passage of enhanced gay rights policies. Similarly, their presence has a transformative effect on voting behavior and views by their straight colleagues, and same-sex marriage is more likely in countries with a higher representation of openly gay parliamentarians.  In the U.S., these trends are accompanied by, between 2019 and 2020, a 21% increase in LGBT+ political representation with at least 843 people who openly identify as LGBT+ serving in elected offices.  Even if in some countries, the political participation among youth is decreasing, young people are demanding change in political leadership and take on a bigger role in shaping the future of their political reality. The 2019 UN Youth Climate Summit allowed youth climate leaders from all over the world to share their demands and solutions, and pressure world leaders.  Since then, the UN COP meetings have been accompanied by the Youth4Climate meeting, which allows young delegates to come together and participate in shaping the global climate discussion.  All these examples show the importance of ensuring inclusive political leadership.

Still, there are also opposing trends. In recent years, there has been much electoral support for populist parties and leaders. With populism, politics is generally framed as a battle between the corrupt elite and the virtuous ordinary masses. In many countries, there are many people who do not feel heard or represented and thus opt for people who frame themselves as anti-elite. Crisis situations make the support for populism generally higher.  Since the world is currently, and also over the next few years, facing plenty of crises, whether it’s the pandemic, migration, economic, or climate, such populist leaders are most likely here to stay. Additionally, for the fifteenth year in a row, Freedom House, which records how democratic countries are, has recorded a decline in the number of democracies.  Such decline in the level of democracy, within countries as well as globally, in combination with the arguments that people do not feel heard by the current political leadership, increases the importance of inclusive leadership.

Additionally, there are also changes in what is understood to be political leadership because, across different communities and cultures, political leadership takes different forms. An example of this can be found with the American Indian communities, where non-indigenous observers understood American Indian leadership as an inability to lead instead of a different ability to lead. Nowadays, there is more awareness of different political leadership traditions. This has led to the understanding that American Indian models are more focused on how different types of leadership can serve the community, whereas Western models are more focused on rewards and the reputation of individuals.  Furthering such awareness will allow different political communities to learn from each other, overcome biases, and tackle future challenges more effectively.

Our world will continue to face challenges. In order to make sure that the 7 billion people, or the 9.9 billion people expected by 2050, will continue to thrive, political leaders need to step up. A PWC report on the future of political leadership argues that a critical success factor for future leaders is a “global” mindset; implying that they must find a balance between global and local matters. The challenges of the future require political leadership with a vision, strong personal commitment, and an ability to energize and inspire. 

+ Diede Kok
The global community's challenges seem daunting, but remember an important citation from Franklin D. Roosevelt, a man whose life was riddled with difficulty and strive. His mentality is one of optimism and recalls the essence of the scientific method. 

"The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." - Leadership In Turbulent Times, Doris Kearnes Goodwin, p. 181.

What will the future of leadership look like? In business leadership, there are two main trends: purpose-driven and despotic leadership. These appear similar to governmental dynamics where on the one hand, there appears to be a greater call for inclusive leadership, whereas, on the other hand, there is also a rise in populist and authoritarian leadership. Our world will continue to change. This will allow new leaders to emerge, but it also demands new skills and strong visions from leaders. Both the private and public sectors have great possibilities to change our world for the better, and their leadership is crucial in how well humanity is able to face future challenges.
3.8 Political Change: What’s heading our way?
Although no one can predict precisely what politics will look like in the future, this chapter offers a glimpse at a crystal ball by outlining some of the possible trends with regard to political issues. The future of the world’s political climate depends largely on what parts of our politics are embedded in our human nature and what parts are taught behavior; geopolitics will likely see a different type of conflict and military, as well as a broader approach in defining what exactly security entails. New actors such as China are taking the lead in changing the way states cooperate with each other, given that many of the existing international organizations are having trouble with their effectiveness and representation.

As to political change at the domestic level, the long-lasting effects of the pandemic and the political involvement of younger generations could become driving forces behind political upheaval and reforms in different regions across the globe. On the government side, technology is continuously reshaping the way authorities respond to fundamental changes in our societies. In civil society, activist movements have expanded over time and undeniably sparked change in the evolving forms of protests.

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