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Jan

412:04

LEADER: We need to cooperate

 
In the January issue, we argue that while the world isn't as bad as we think it might be, the only thing keeping it from slipping is our ability to cooperate

JANUARY is a rubbish month to start a New Year with. It’s dark, cold and boring. There’s little to celebrate except the odd glimpse of blue sky and sun. It’s not made an easier when you remember that summer sometimes only lasts three weeks. Sure, there are cheap flights to Thailand, but COP21 made us feel guilty about our carbon emissions and we already feel bad enough still eating red meat. Bah humbug.

And, really, is there much to look forward to? The conflicts in Syria and Ukraine show no signs of abating. Despite a new climate accord, it was the warmest year on record, ending with winter weather anomalies from record flooding in the UK, tornado outbreaks in the US, to freakishly high temperatures in the Arctic.

Well, the world’s not all bad. Global health expert Hans Rosling went viral this year by showing how we radically underestimate the health and education levels of people around the world. He blames our ignorance on biased and generalised experiences from the media, which overlooks slow and steady changes. Shocking and newsworthy events exaggerate the unusual and put the focus on swift changes, argues his organisation Gapminder.

For example, last year we reported on the “refugee crisis”. But for whom was it really a crisis? Despite the one million new arrivals, life proceeded unaffected for most Europeans. The real crisis was taking place in Syria, where a lack of aid meant refugee agencies could not support the millions of displaced people. So they left the carnage for Europe, risking their lives in flimsy boats, only to arrive and be told their presence is tearing apart the European project.

The only crisis Europe is experiencing, however, is a disappointing crisis of faith in the project. We have the wealth, institutions and knowledge to address and change whatever aspects of the cooperation we disagree with. After the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has never been more democratic. But instead of harnessing this democratic power to create a joint refugee programme, European states decided to deal with the issue individually. Now Sweden has introduced border controls with Denmark, and Denmark is considering border controls with Germany. If this continues, we may lose the free mobility which has brought Europe its enviable wealthy and stability.

Whatever your stance on how open our borders should be, we should still be doing far more to limit the number of people forced to flee conflict, persecution or economic insecurity. The 4.8 billion kroner cut to Danish foreign aid sadly demonstrates that the government does not understand this simple principle.

2015’s crises were largely symptoms of our inability to cooperate and find common ground, from the conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria, to the dramatic rise in numbers of arriving refugees. These disruptions seriously threaten global peace and stability, but we need to do more than address the symptoms if we want to continue the positive developments outlined by Rosling.

So, in 2016, we’d do far better if we remembered that the world is slowly getting better, but that if we want to prevent it sliding backward, the answers are almost always to be found through greater cooperation. M

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