Bern, SwitzerlandBern Switzerland

The future is uncertainty

Country-driven self development - or stagnation - seems to be shaping the immediate future. Not only do the U.S. find pleasure in introspecting their bellybutton, without really wanting to deal with century-old legacies of colonialism and discrimination of minorities. Also other giants in Eurasia invest in military build-up like in the cold war period, they fight for stakes in the arctics and for priviledged access to eventual covid 19 vaccines. One-time leading global players like the U.K. are drowning in their own political filth and post-colonial trauma of loss of "independence" as a nation. Authoritarian experiments from Russia through India, China to Hungary, Serbia to Poland and elsewhere are suffocating fragile democratic structures. Political fabrication, falsehood and lies are the raw material of today's newsmakers, and on to public opinion building. Accordingly, trust in the sincerity of governance has faded all over. Preposterous leaders either cheat their way through constitutional manipulation to remain in power eternally like in China or Russia. Or they are replaced by other polarised and power-hungry minds like so often in Africa and Latin America. Leadership transition towards genuine, upright, committed and responsible figures has become the exception. Interestingly, this has happened in quite a few countries now piloted by women like New Zealand, Finland or Iceland, with a new approach to manage public affairs.

What can we learn from this for international cooperation?

1. In authoritarian settings, it is not always best to strive for governmental backup from the top. Rather, the art lies in finding change makers in the middle ranks, sufficiently influential within the system but adequately independent from established power patterns.

2. Empowerment, sensitization, participation and capacity strengthening should continue to guide us in withstanding the upcoming authoritarianism. I do not see any reason in deviating from this powerful underlying development paradigm.

3. Gendered leadership experiences are of utmost relevance for the development sector which - at least in many OECD donor settings - still suffers from patriarchal organisational culture. To this end, fundamental value reflections are a must to "build back better". 

4. The often ridiculed Multilateralism must be re-strengthened. It is the only potentially effective way to promote peace and disarmament, to address global issues well beyond single countries' capacities and to enable equal participation of nations at global level. But it is more than heavy and often ineffective institutions. It is an idea for togetherness, for non-discrimination and equal human rights, for humanitarian assistance and for universal human development. Bilateral international cooperation can unfold its full potential only within a solid multilateralism.
                                                                        Martin Sommer
                                                                        Owner Consultant devolutions Ltd.