Here’s our second feature drawn from the series of insightful and thought-provoking lectures delivered recently by political scientist Professor Yves Schemeil, who lectures at Sciences Po Grenoble. This time Prof. Schemeil deals with new uncertainties facing the world and its transnational organizations. Words by Stuart Pallister.
In his series of webinars, ‘The World after 2020’, political scientist Professor Yves Schemeil highlighted contradictory relationships between states on the one hand and international organizations on the other. As an example, he cited US President Trump’s frustration with the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus crisis.
In reviewing changes in the global architecture, Prof. Schemeil explored events over the past couple of years to explain what has happened in 2020.
“This is the birth of an uncertain world,” he told students from Les Roches and Glion. “For decades, people took for granted that we were living in a society where progress would be constant, that we will improve our living standards and health conditions forever. So, it was a path towards growth and more growth. Now there are people who think we could regress or even should regress, and go for de-growth.”
Obviously we do not yet know what will transpire in 2020 as “it takes time to make science, whereas the time to make politics is very short”, Prof. Schemeil said, noting that although there is an abundance of data, “these data are inconsistent with each other”.
He added, “If we don’t understand the crisis, it’s because we lack knowledge due to the fact that the crisis is recent and infectious diseases were not the target of high-quality scientific research in past decades.”
We also lack expertise, he said, so it is difficult to reach consensus among medical experts on policy measures. “There are dissenting opinions within the scientific councils which advise policymakers and that’s becoming more and more of a challenge.” He bemoaned the lack of information, particularly about the origins of the outbreak.
Making sense of the puzzle
When comparing how different countries have fared in dealing with the pandemic, graphs depicting the numbers of excess deaths can provide “a pretty good idea of what’s happening (even though) we don’t fully understand what’s happening”. In short, it’s difficult to make sense of the puzzle as to “why some governments are trusted, while others are not, because there doesn’t seem to be a logical explanation as to why successful governments are not trusted, while unsuccessful ones are”.
For instance, Germany’s government is “much better ranked” than Italy’s but the Italian government is “still better appreciated than the UK, and the US government is last in the queue”. Some countries were late to lock down, he said, while Taiwan, Japan and others chose to focus on tracking and tracing instead.
The coronavirus crisis brought with it major and “unexpected” consequences. Prof. Schemeil noted, “We may consider 2020 to be the birth of an uncertain world, where governments and intergovernmental organizations are not quite sure they can handle such crises. So, there is great anxiety about how the future will bring surprises and how we can hopefully overcome difficulties in the future.”
Prof. Schemeil outlined seven major challenges – or what he termed as “plagues” – facing the world which are “not totally new, but suddenly we feel they’re more acute”.
- Climate change – “It’s something which objectively exists and will impact human life more and more in the future. We can try to slow down the rate of climate change, but we won’t reverse these potentially harmful effects because it’s beyond our reach.”
- The environment – “Can we limit the pollution of clean air? Industrial emissions are decreasing but coal plants will not close everywhere as promised.”
- Toxic waste and damaging pests – The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has drawn up a “frightening” list of a dozen persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Plus, there are damaging pests such as locusts.
- Pandemics/epidemics – “Wild animals and domestic cattle can be sources of major disasters in matters of health. We’re used to viruses and bacteria but there are super viruses like the coronavirus we’re now facing.”
- Terrorism/mass murder – “There are very few places in the world which have been spared violence. The novelty now is that, due to social media and the internet, we can video something live as it happens (e.g. the killing of George Floyd in the US). This is what I would call ‘murder by proxy’ and it’s made even more terrible by hate speech.”
- Uncontrolled migration – This is not legal “in the countries where the migrants (e.g. from Syria/Afghanistan) try to settle”. It also includes the trafficking of human beings.
- Inequality – “Probably the most difficult challenge on the list, as inequalities are growing worldwide.” That said, “the people at the bottom of the economic pyramid are much more affluent now than they were in the past”.
“Taming any of these challenges will be a great achievement,” Prof. Schemeil said. However, in summing up, he warned that if inequalities persist and worsen, “this will be a source of trouble, strife, and even civil or international wars in future” if states and international organizations do not intervene.
So, all in all, a rather downbeat picture. Prof. Schemeil added that he hoped that in time there will be an adequate mitigation of all the risks so that governments will be able to focus once again on things which matter to sectors such as hospitality, and the people who work in them.
- Keep watching our blog for more insightful instalments from Prof. Schemeil’s course in the coming weeks
- If you want to discover more about Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times – click here to visit our dedicated knowledge center