September 23, 2011
Parag Khanna on How to Run the World by Turning it on its Head (From the Bottom Up)
In his Idea Festival talk, Parag Khanna addressed the shifts we're seeing around the world. He thinks what is happening in the Arab world is the beginning of what we're going to see elsewhere.
Almost all Arab countries are post colonial countries. He says, "most of the 200 countries in the world look a lot like the Arab countries falling apart in the last six months."
And, asserts Khanna, “we’re in for a decade of this at least and watch this unfold for a very long time. At least 80 or 90 countries are experiencing the same kind of decay that a lot of the Arab countries are today. Expect to see a lot more falling regimes.”
We have to not just focus on economic and political issues in a silo. Things are complex so rather than look at how the UN is defining global progress, look at how private enterprise can assist as well. For example, what happens at the Clinton Global Initiative is very different than what happens in the UN, since it is much more representative and accurate of who has the real power.
It includes CEOs, entrepreneurs as well as politicians. This translates into offers from companies who can help facilitate change at a global level. For example, a mining company pledged to support a workforce in a South American country. We should be looking at ways to improve the ways we can measure real change in people’s lives.
The power has shifted when you have cities and mayors who are key in climate change decisions, the fact that that the Gates Foundation commits as much money as most governments do and that Walmart has more gas emissions coming out of their buildings than the country of Ireland.
Diplomacy is the glue at which we urn the world – it’s the relationships, the alliances, the solutions. It's the most important thing that we do and don't even realize it. Khanna notes that we live in a world today where there’s more diplomacy than ever before and yet it’s less organized.
How do we sort out the moss pit of what exists with political leaders today? He recommends the following principles:
- Diplomacy needs to be inclusive. Anyone who wants to be part of a resolution to a problem should be involved.
- Decentralization – solving problems at the source. People in developing countries with real problems don’t need policy papers or money that is stored in centralized funds somewhere in Paris. It’s much better to give money to people directly if you can through micro-finance through organizations like Kiva.
- Become our own diplomats: each of us needs to think of ourselves as diplomats. Within ten years, everyone on the planet will have a mobile phone or a phone within their immediate family. Everyone will be able to reach everyone else. A lot of these phones will be smart phones and will have telebanking and mobile banking baked in….the latter is growing incredibly fast in Africa.
He ends his talk by saying “the best global governance is local governance," and working from the bottom up, not the top down.
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