Interviews / Global
Calling the tune
This summer, our Monocle 24 radio station is broadcasting interviews with key thought leaders from across the globe. Here we revisit 10 of the most insightful so far, from political leaders to newspaper editors, humanitarians to architects.
How we’ll beat the virus
About the interviewee: Vas Narasimhan has been the chief executive officer of Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis since 2018.
Novartis produces 72 billion doses of medicine a year for more than 800 million patients and is a champion of public health. Its ceo, Vas Narasimhan, tells us about the importance of maintaining global supply chains and the role that pharmaceutical companies can play in getting us back into the office.
“It’s interesting: the growth of coronavirus was exponential – and exponential things tend to catch human beings by surprise. What we saw in March was this explosion that left people scrambling. I think it’s understandable that we had a huge variation in how countries responded based on, frankly, a lack of knowledge. We didn’t have enough scientific knowledge around the virus, around the medical care, around the treatment or the public-health measures.
When you take a step back and you look at Novartis over the past couple of years, we’ve been on a journey of cultural and digital transformation that set us up to be reasonably resilient when this pandemic hit. From a cultural standpoint, we moved from what was a top-down culture to a more empowering culture with devolved decision-making. At the same time we had a pretty big agenda to deploy digital technology across the company. The fact that we did this set us up well for the changes.
“You need large-scale industry and you need to allow diagnostic companies to scale their capabilities to bring testing to patients all around the world”
What I see happening now is an exponential growth in our understanding and science-based progress. There are now more than 5,000 publications on this virus in some form or another and more than 500 clinical trials running. We’re going to have this explosion in knowledge – that’s what’s coming. You have to be patient; it has to be done rigorously. But I would hope that by the autumn we can have a better, more harmonised approach around the globe. Building on this theme, globally linked supply chains – and the ability to have redundancies in supply chains – are incredibly important in an organisation like ours.
I am concerned by some of the push to nationalise elements of the pharmaceutical supply chain, whether they’re innovative drugs or generic drugs. This typically happens after pandemics; it happened in the world of vaccine manufacturing after the h1n1 [swine flu] pandemic in 2009-10. The world has to be cautious: these globally linked supply chains are actually what creates resilience in the system because we have multiple suppliers in multiple countries. If you Balkanise that, you’re going to have a difficult time building resilience. It’s counterintuitive for policy-makers but I think it is incredibly important.
When you look at how we respond to these kinds of healthcare crises, industries such as ours have to play a significant leadership role. There are massive discussions about scaling diagnostics all around the world. You need large-scale industry and you need to allow diagnostic companies to scale their capabilities to bring testing to patients all around the world.
When you look at the ability to generate high-quality data on either repurposed drugs, new drugs or vaccines, it is the biopharmaceutical industry that is able to run large-scale, double-blind, randomised, controlled clinical studies that are properly designed to really find answers. Even when you look further on – in terms of the ultimate solutions and what we hope will be definitive vaccines – this comes back to the private industry again. We also have a leadership role to play on the technology front.
Finally, what’s been striking to me – and what we’re also navigating at Novartis – is how we have a role to play in defining ways of working. When should people come back? How should they work? As a large pharmaceutical company, we’ve learned that we set a standard and there’s no one who is going to set that standard for us. It’s been a new leadership [role] for us that we’re learning as we play – but it’s an important one.”
Hear the full interview on the 8 May 2020 edition of Monocle 24’s ‘The Chiefs’.
Newspapers can survive
About the interviewee: Emma Tucker took the helm of The Sunday Times in January, becoming the first female editor of the UK broadsheet since 1901.
What are the challenges for newspapers of playing to both digital and print audiences? Sunday Times editor Emma Tucker talks us through this dilemma while discussing the role of a Sunday newspaper and the importance of investigative journalism.
“I took over The Sunday Times at the end of January and by February the paper started to be dominated by this thing that was coming at us from China, this pandemic. But my big recollection from back then was the almost complete absence of the UK prime minister. Halfway through March, I was talking to the head of news and one of us asked, ‘What the hell was really going on in February? Where was the prime minister and what decisions were being taken?’ It struck me that this would make a good read. It might not be particularly revolutionary but it was one of those good bits [of journalism] we like to call a ‘tech talk’: what happened and who was doing what, when.
We’re lucky at The Sunday Times to have our Insight team. In March we put them onto this project and what they produced was an incredibly good, solid piece of reporting that also happened to be rather explosive. It more or less painted a picture of a government not so much in shambles but one that lacked focus, took too long to act, didn’t talk to its neighbouring countries and seemed to be confused.
Off the back of this first Insight piece we sold something like 3,000 subscriptions in a weekend, which is a phenomenal number. It turns out that people will pay for distinctive, unique, exclusive journalism that they can’t read anywhere else.
In the digital era, everybody has to think hard about what role they’re playing. At The Sunday Times we know that we can’t compete against the bbc and its huge newsroom for breaking news, so we’re not even going to try. But what can a Sunday newspaper deliver that other outlets can’t? Well, more than anything, it’s well-resourced investigative journalism.
Obviously, print is in decline; that’s no secret. But funnily enough our print sales have held up. The great advantage we have is that not only do we remain strong in print (and we have a strong commitment to keeping the print paper distinctive) but at the same time we can do very well in digital. The sort of journalism that a Sunday newspaper should be doing – exclusive investigations, campaigns – are all things that work well in digital.
For example, when we did the first Insight piece, I took the decision to publish it at 18.00 on Saturday. There was some resistance from the old guard, saying, ‘This will cannibalise our print sales.’ But my point to them was that we have distinct [digital and print] audiences. It got enormously high traffic on the Saturday until midnight and then the highest spike of digital traffic on Sunday morning. But what was really interesting was that the print sales also went up.
Putting it up at 18.00 caused such a stir on social media that it acted as a branding or promotional tool for the print sale. Far from cannibalising each other, I think the noise that accompanied the digital publication actually pushed print sales the next day. You won’t necessarily get this every week but my point to the newsroom is: we have different audiences and one doesn’t cannibalise the other.
I always felt that there was a slight lack of global ambition at The Times and The Sunday Times. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to take over the world but we should be occasionally coming up with stories that have global cut-through, just like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. As the digital transformation continues, it’s likely that there will be a handful of big, quality media titles left. They obviously have their core markets – the UK will always be our primary focus. But it doesn’t mean that we can’t be producing journalism that makes waves at a wider level.”
Hear the full interview on the 5 June 2020 edition of Monocle 24’s ‘The Chiefs’.
About the interviewee: Benno Zogg is a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies (css) at eth Zürich and a regular contributor to Monocle 24.
“Multilateralism has long suffered from a branding problem. International organisations in Brussels, New York and Geneva will regularly receive blame for their own failures and also those of their member states – but little praise for their successes. ‘America First’ beats ‘Multilateralism First’ as a slogan. ‘Get Brexit Done’ sounds catchier than ‘Let’s Get Diplomatic and Compromise’.
The EU knows this branding problem better than most. Its latest example: the unprecedented stimulus package negotiated between its member states in July. Critics will point to the bickering between nations and the eventual compromise as a sign that nobody got what they wanted. Yet in doing so they actually flag the merits of multilateralism: states must negotiate, disagree and renegotiate to ultimately find the right set of policies. The alternative to this is coercion or national selfishness. Small and developing nations have no choice – you can’t easily pursue ‘Moldova First’ or ‘Malawi First’ – but to rely on effective multilateral frameworks and international law.
The pandemic should serve as a lesson in international relations. Health crises disregard national borders, just like climate change, armed conflict or organised crime. Helping other states overcome such challenges is more effective than acting at home, alone. And yet multilateral institutions have found themselves simultaneously battling the coronavirus pandemic and pushes for greater unilateralism.
Prior to the pandemic, many elements of multilateralism were being criticised as outdated; international institutions were undermined by the rise of populism, authoritarianism and power politics. And the world’s two largest economies have been questioning not just the role of international institutions but their underlying principles and values.
The US, one of the chief architects of the international system we have today, has become its biggest critic – the World Health Organization [who] is only the latest format that the Trump administration has abandoned. Meanwhile, China poses a challenge from the outside, as it sets up alternative organisations, and from the inside as it pushes for new interpretations of UN norms – arguing that economic rights are more important than political and civic rights, for example.
Disaster has ensued with the arrival of coronavirus: countries’ first reactions were to socially distance from each other and close national borders, leaving each to fend for themselves. However, the pandemic has proven that unilateralism is inadequate and populists erroneous. The situation calls for more and better multilateralism, not less. ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe,’ UN secretary general António Guterres has declared. States should come to recognise at a global scale what many of us have felt in our local neighbourhoods during the pandemic: that we are all in this together; that we should help each other out; and that there are merits to talking to our neighbours.
The crisis, then, should push the international community to reform and reinvigorate multilateralism. It can start with smaller groups of like-minded states – ‘mini-lateralism’. Such coalitions can include Western states but should also incorporate developing nations, emerging powers and stakeholders such as civil society and multinational corporations. Given that China and the US have preferred to use multilateral institutions as battlegrounds for their own competitions, Europe is poised to be a main advocate for such efforts. With that in mind, Germany and France last year launched the Alliance of Multilateralism, an informal network dedicated to a rules-based international order, founded ahead of the UN’s 75th anniversary this year.
But where should efforts to revive multilateralism start? What opportunities are there to grasp before the next pandemic strikes or the tipping point of climate change is reached? First, actors must agree on the minimum on which their interests converge and on outcomes we all wish to avoid. This kind of thinking should allow for progress in four key areas: global health, peace and security, economic and financial co-operation, and sustainable development.
“The pandemic has proven that unilateralism is inadequate and populists erroneous. The situation calls for more and better multilateralism, not less”
In global health, the who has proven to be essential in confronting a global pandemic yet underfunded and overburdened. Boosting its response and early-warning capabilities will require depoliticising its work, allowing it to focus on its core mission. Science will lead the way out of the pandemic, so data is key and should be shared. Reliable data will better inform authorities’ disaster preparedness and help businesses to assess risks.
On global peace and security, the pandemic has presented an opportunity: 70 UN member states and hundreds of ngos supported Guterres’ call for coronavirus ceasefires, and 11 armed conflicts have seen a temporary lull in hostilities. But improving the multilateral architecture for creating peace requires reform of the UN Security Council, which has proven unable to act in crises from Syria to coronavirus. For that reason, since 2013 a group of more than 20 reform-minded states has called for revisions of the Council’s methods to make it more “accountable, coherent and transparent”. Their effort has resulted in more interactive briefings and consultations open to non-Council members.
Countries have poured billions into their own economies. But institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should be better equipped to support countries most in need. The g20 group of major economies, which includes the developing world’s major creditor, China, has already offered debt relief for low-income countries this year – an encouraging sign of co-operation.
Sustainable development is key to preparing for the next crisis. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a series of global targets that it set for 2030, include providing access to healthcare, sanitation and vaccines, which are ever more important. While most countries are focused on reviving their own economies, many ngos have urged decision-makers not to lose sight of long-term efforts to make developing countries more prosperous, sustainable and resilient.
These steps are a start but they are unlikely to produce a grand bargain for multilateralism that halts climate change, reinstitutes free trade and spirits away geopolitics. Multilateralism is only as strong as the states upholding it. Reviving it will take many years, summits and dedicated leadership – and success is not guaranteed. But many international actors are realising that shying away from the challenge is not an option. As we’ve learned in this pandemic, our health depends on it.”
Catch Zogg making regular contributions to M24’s news programmes and ‘Monocle on Sunday’ from the Zürich studio.
We must build public trust
About the interviewee: Former UK foreign secretary David Miliband is president of the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian-aid organisation.
After serving as foreign secretary under former UK prime minister Gordon Brown and running for the Labour party leadership, David Miliband left frontline politics altogether. In 2013 he took the helm of the International Rescue Committee (irc), where he directs the organisation’s efforts to alleviate the impact of war on citizens worldwide.
How do you view the quality of global leadership today?
I see a struggle to come to terms with multiple challenges and to sustain public trust and engagement. We know the leadership model for technocratic public-policy solutions but so many problems today are not amenable to a simple technocratic solution; they require behavioural change, public engagement and trust. This is [seen] in the work that we do at the irc. We know that when we’re fighting Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo that the number-one asset is not a hospital; it’s public trust. The big challenges of the modern world, from criminal justice to climate change, require a coalition of government leadership, mass [citizen] mobilisation and business and ngo innovation. It’s a time of change in the nature of leadership and many leaders are struggling.
Is it a problem of communication? The US and UK are home to amazing media and advertising brands yet struggled with basic messaging during the pandemic.
If you don’t have a plan, you can’t communicate. Governments that have the most difficulty communicating are those who don’t know what they’re trying to communicate or don’t have a plan. One caveat is the capacity for “alternative facts” to gain currency. We see that in far corners of the world when our health workers are trying to explain coronavirus. There are people and organisations inside and outside countries that are running interference. That’s a threat to democratic life.
Whose responsibility is it to confront disinformation?
It’s a whole-of-society question. The context for this is one where liberal democracies are in retreat: 113 countries have seen reductions in political freedom over the past 13 years. That means less free press, less independent judiciary, fewer fair elections. Political rights can’t be taken for granted. We have to fight those battles again.
“Health is the arena in which an effective form of global co-operation could make sense to citizens – notions of national sovereignty are clearly inadequate to tackle global pandemics”
Does Europe have a role to play?
The question is, how can the EU insert itself into the global equation? One example that’s obvious from the current crisis is that we need a different, stronger, more independent, better funded and more transparent global health infrastructure led by the World Health Organization [who] but not confined to it. The US’s withdrawal from the who, which has the effect of reinforcing Chinese influence [at the who] rather than undermining it, doubles the importance of Europe playing a role. Health is the arena in which an effective form of global co-operation could make sense to citizens; notions of national sovereignty are clearly inadequate to tackle global pandemics. The health agenda could be where international co-operation is reorganised in a way that’s fit for the 21st century.
Should the EU look south towards Africa to fill that global role? Many are saying that this is Africa’s moment, not just in terms of direct aid but in terms of helping build up its manufacturing base.
I’m a massive supporter of effective aid – the irc is a partner of the EU and it’s key on moral and strategic grounds. But there are 350 million people in Africa today who count as part of the global middle-class. There is a major business community and a major philanthropic community. It’s a different kind of aid partnership today. There’s a danger that we focus on “Africa struggling” and we forget the “Africa rising” aspect of this.
During this pandemic, Western governments have been pathetic when it comes to giving aid; we’ve raised more money from the global public than from governments. I’ve seen a lot of people in business and foundations within Africa stepping up [instead] – and there are some benefits in that – but the truth is that they need international help. The EU of the future has to be globally oriented or it will shrivel.
If there’s a lack of government fundraising, should corporate leaders fill the funding vacuum?
Corporates are powerful but governments are still the agenda-setters. My pitch to the corporate sector has been, “Let’s work together because the government won’t do it for us.” And we’re very proud of some of our corporate partnerships. But it would be wrong to say that we’ve taken it to scale; there’s a long way to go.
Hear the full interview on the 19 June 2020 edition of Monocle 24’s ‘The Chiefs’.
Constructing in a crisis
About the interviewee: William Ti leads Manila-based wta Architecture and Design Studio.
During the coronavirus outbreak, William Ti’s team designed and constructed emergency quarantine facilities. The studio built 62 across the Philippines using mostly donated supplies, providing much-needed relief for the country’s hospitals. Here he describes the building process.
“Hospitals needed facilities for people who couldn’t quarantine properly in their own homes due to a lack of space. At wta we’d been working on a pavilion that was easy to build. That’s how the emergency quarantine facility or pavilion started. We latched on to that idea and said, ‘This is something that we can actually scale up and build with speed and minimal manpower.’
If you use tents, you often have to order and ship them. Building a custom [pavilion] for a hospital’s needs is better, quicker and more effective. We used wood and plastic because they are forgiving. We wanted materials that people were familiar with, so that when you make a mistake you can easily adjust it on site. The flexibility of the project comes largely from the fact that architects are on site. We were basing our construction on what was readily available and the architects needed to make decisions about how to use the materials quickly.
Working on such a project, you have to be aware about what you’re building and know it well enough that you can make decisions without having to go back through references. Architecture has been evolving towards heavier documentation and we’re losing sight of the actual building. To be able to immediately reflect your ideas on site is quite refreshing.”
Hear the full interview on the 14 July 2020 edition of Monocle 24’s ‘Monocle On Design’.
People still love books
About the interviewees: Documentary film-makers Judith Mizrachy and DW Young are producer and director, respectively, of The Booksellers.
The world of bookshops might be changing but the passion of those in the industry remains the same. The Booksellers is a documentary about New York’s rarefied shops, collectors and traders. We spoke to the film’s director and producer.
New York booksellers have both whimsical and forward- looking elements. Were you conscious of the future of the book trade as much as looking back?
Judith Mizrachy: Everybody has their stereotypical idea of a bookseller but it’s clear when you look at the trade now that there’s so much more. It’s not something that’s dying. It’s something alive that has a future.
Why should people who collect books appeal to those who don’t?
JM: There’s an eccentricity about people who are mad collectors. For the booksellers it’s about a love of printed material and preserving that for the future. We met fascinating people who were so passionate, so excited, so quirky. It was clear to us that these characters could hold up a film.
Tell us about the legendary book runner Martin Stone.
DW Young: He was an amazing guitar player in the 1960s – apparently he was almost a Rolling Stone. After a drug habit pushed him to France from the UK, he settled in Paris. Martin was very good at rooting out books in Paris to which English dealers might not have had access. The book scout is a lost art, sadly.
“Bookshops are essential to most cities. One good thing during this pandemic is that people have realised how important they are”
How has the internet and Amazon impacted the world of rare books? DWY: For dealers who are able to adapt and move their business online, and reconsider who the material they’re handling appeals to, there are upsides. But for those whose trade was low-end used books that they could turn over with some frequency... it’s put quite a few people out of business.
But there’s now a new generation opening bricks-and-mortar bookshops in New York.
DWY: Seeing younger dealers [enter the trade] has made me feel more optimistic. There might be a different model of bookshop now but it’s still a very welcome sign.
JM: There are great stories of modern collectors too. People such as Caroline Schimmel, who is collecting the work of women adventure writers and bringing a forgotten part of history to the forefront again. Or Syreeta Gates, who is collecting hip-hop material that wasn’t digitised. The work that they’re doing is important, showing that anybody can become a collector.
How important are bookshops to New York as landmarks?
JM: Bookshops are essential to most cities. They are places where people can exchange ideas. One good thing during this pandemic is that people have realised how important they are.
There’s a lot of book smelling in the film. Do you have a favourite book for its scent?
JM: I’ve an old copy of A Tale of Two Cities with my mum’s and my uncle’s names written in it. It has an amazing smell. I open it and think about the past. It’s great when a book does that.
Hear the full interview on the 13 July 2020 edition of Monocle 24’s ‘Monocle on Culture’.
Sinn Féin is ready to govern
About the interviewee: Mary Lou McDonald is the president of Sinn Féin and the leader of the opposition in the Republic of Ireland.
In February 2020, Mary Lou McDonald led Sinn Féin to its best-ever result in an Irish general election. An unprecedented three-way coalition between Ireland’s establishment parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, in cahoots with the Greens, kept Sinn Féin out of government. But it leaves the one-time ira-allied party as by far the strongest force leading the parliamentary opposition.
Are you reconciled to being leader of the opposition? Do you still feel that you should have been given a shot at government?
I would never reconcile myself to being in opposition because it is our purpose and our desire to be in government. And I say that not out of any sense of overblown ego but out of the knowledge that so many of the changes that are going to be necessary for Ireland are not going to happen on the watch of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. As to the reality that we were very deliberately excluded by the political establishment, I still don’t accept that it was the right thing to do. But I am reconciled to the degree that this is politics; it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Were you at all caught out by your own success?
It would be fair to say that we had not calculated correctly the scale of the appetite for change. Had we been on the right track in that regard, then we would have fielded more candidates and we would have had many more candidates elected.
Do you feel as though there’s still work to do in managing Sinn Féin’s reputation? More than 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement, there are still figures from the IRA associated with the party.
The purpose of the peace process was to create a democratic space for everyone. The fact that former ira combatants are involved in the political process is a mark of the success of that process. Students of Irish history will know that in the 1920s, when Fianna Fáil – which is now a pillar of the Irish establishment – was first entering the Dáil [parliament], the same kind of rhetoric and name-calling that we’ve experienced over the last number of years was deployed against them by an outfit called Cumman na nGaedheal, now Fine Gael, the other pillar of the Irish establishment. So some of this is political positioning that wiser heads would avoid if they knew their own history.
You said recently that you still spoke to Gerry Adams, while Martin Lynch and Pádraic Wilson were involved in the talks following the election. By most analyses, all three were or are members of the IRA Army Council.
I’m regularly in contact with Gerry Adams. He was leader of the party during all my time as an activist. He’s also a friend of mine. As for Martin Lynch and Pádraic Wilson, they’re both very active in political work across the party. There should be no surprise or shock in that. The fact is that for politics to work, everybody has to work at politics. I’m the leader of the party and I expect every member of the party, north and south, to act in the best interests of pursuing and deepening the peace process and pursuing our openly stated objectives.
You’ll be aware that Ireland’s national police commissioner recently said that he still agrees with a 2015 Police Service of Northern Ireland report that asserted an ongoing link between Sinn Féin and the IRA. Is that accurate or not?
The war is over, the ira is not operational and the weapons are gone. What was said in that report is wrong. I stand personally on my honour, and especially as a woman in political leadership, when I say that nobody pulls my strings. I’m a team player; I believe in collective leadership but I’m the president of the party. Let there be no doubt about that at all.
What’s your personal view of why Irish reunification matters?
Because partition has cost us dearly. It has cost us economically; it has had a social cost; it is like a gash in our nation. The border is a symbol of failure. This notion that somehow we are not capable – all of us together – of making decisions for our country... that’s wrong. More than that, I see the huge opportunities that reunification presents. When the island was partitioned in the early 1920s, we were left with two deeply conservative and reactionary states – and people in both of those states suffered. It has taken us almost a century to extricate ourselves from those toxic politics and to see a horizon for achieving the kind of Ireland that was proclaimed in 1916.
What’s your pitch to the Unionist community in Northern Ireland?
Of course we need to have a conversation. In the first instance, we need to clear a space for Unionism to say out loud what it sees as the future. Obviously they would wish to prevent Irish unity and maintain the Union, and that’s fine. But at this stage, given the direction of political traffic, they need to have a plan B and a plan C. And I think that there are significant figures now within Ulster Unionism who recognise that the conversation about what constitutional change might look like needs to happen.
Has Brexit changed the calculus on reunification?
Yes. Huge numbers of people are offended at the notion of losing their European papers, the freedoms that they bring and that sense of connection with the rest of the continent. In the north of Ireland, that sense is all the more acute because people there voted to remain. And within Unionism, I’ve met people who say that they don’t want to be marooned at the mercy of whomsoever might be sitting in Downing Street. We will not be the collateral damage for a Tory Brexit. It’s been a little vignette of unity: whatever else we disagree on, we agree that all of Ireland has to be protected from Brexit.
How prepared are you for the increased scrutiny that Sinn Féin will now face? You’ll recall a couple of outbreaks of rebel songs on election night.
The songs in question would have been absolutely grand in the public house afterwards – a sing-song – but it wasn’t the thing for the [polling] centre. I’ve been at this now a while and I’ve never been anything other than thoroughly scrutinised. And even if you think sometimes that the scrutiny is a bit over the top, or people have the wrong end of the stick, it is what it is. It’s great news to transition from a small to a medium to a large party. But it’s like any other organisation: a work in progress. I encourage everybody to scrutinise Sinn Féin.
This interview was featured on Monocle 24’s news shows and conducted by Andrew Mueller, host of ‘The Foreign Desk’.
Reforming the US police
About the interviewee: Tracey L Meares is a professor of law at Yale Law School and a member of Barack Obama’s task force on policing.
The wave of demonstrations over the Minnesota killing of an African-American man, George Floyd, has put US policing in the spotlight and reignited a debate about whether community organisations should take over some police roles. So how do we keep cities secure without making our citizens feel unsafe? And what is the actual function of a police force in our urban environments? These are questions that Tracey L Meares has been examining in depth.
There has been a huge amount of debate about the role of the police in the US. Tell us what you think the police are for.
The first thing to understand is that we have a long history of the relationship between policing and the use of force against, primarily, communities of colour. [You have] African-American communities – formerly enslaved communities – in which police used to segregate blacks from other groups to help deny them their right to vote, creating areas in which communities have been under-invested. The second thing to understand is that we have a federalised system; it is really hard for the federal government to impose national standards. So when you talk about what the police are for, you have to think about the context in which armed first responders are appropriate – and then ask how you ensure that police are actually held to those limited powers.
Let’s take that notion of when armed first responders should show up. Should all cities audit what their police forces do?
It’s an important first step. At a minimum you should figure out when it is appropriate to send an armed first responder. But one big issue in this whole conversation is: if the police don’t do it, does that mean that the state itself isn’t going to do it? We need to have a serious conversation about the set of public goods to which every citizen is entitled, to ensure that their communities are vital and flourishing.
Are you a supporter of the notion of defunding the police?
This slogan has been effective in bringing a coalition to focus on the issue [but] there’s less clarity about what the state should be doing to support communities. My own interpretation of “defund the police” is to divest certain funds from how policing exists now and invest those funds elsewhere in state and city governments. But we should understand that the shape and scope of other agencies and services has long been vastly inadequate.
Do you think that anywhere in the US is making positive strides?
There are two prominent examples. In Camden, New Jersey, the police force was basically restarted from scratch. The officers were fired; there was a new police chief brought in who rehired his people. They have, at least by US standards, stringent use-of-force standards, with the police collaborating with community organisations. Another place is Oakland, California, [where] collaboration between policing agencies and community organisations were effective at stamping out violence. But for those efforts to be effective, they need to be funded deeply and at scale.
Do you think that if some of these reforms had been in place we would not have seen the killing of George Floyd?
I had the honour of serving on then-president Barack Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing. Many of the 59 recommendations we made are echoed in the examples in Camden and Oakland. It is reasonable to say that, had there been real investment in some of those reforms, policing as it exists today would be better. But we still need to have this serious conversation about what policing is for. There was nothing in those recommendations about that question.
Hear the full interview on the 18 June 2020 edition of Monocle 24’s ‘The Urbanist’.
Song for Brazil
About the interviewee: Céu, a Brazilian singer-songwriter, has been one of the country’s most popular cultural exports over the past two decades.
Brazilian music, popular in the 1960s, struggled to make it into the global mainstream for a number of decades until the arrival of Céu in the early 2000s. Her latest album, Apká, includes some political lyrics that won’t go unnoticed in a country struggling with its national identity.
“I was born in São Paulo, a multicultural metropolis. Brazil is already a rich country, culturally speaking, but São Paulo is where people come to work, so we have a lot of different accents and music. My music is a collage of all those influences.
Brazilian music is sophisticated – rich in melody, lyrics, rhythm, harmony. I wanted to show that to the world. But in Brazil there’s also a political question: we have always had great artists and yet we need the validation from outside Brazil to really [build] our own value in Brazil.
I’m proud of my latest album. In one of the songs, “Forçar o Verão” [“Forcing Summer”], I wrote that we were about to have a big political problem. I was looking at the super-polarised world we live in and how we don’t know how to go back. We have to change; people are dying. It’s sad, it’s violent – but to create change it feels like humans need that. We have to deal with this new reality in Brazil.
Artists in Brazil don’t have support; no one represents us. When I leave Brazil a common statement is, ‘We don’t see [Brazilian] people playing here all that much.’ The problem is we don’t have support to grow. We did have the UK in our focus before the pandemic. I hope [to go there] next year. I’ve missed going on tour.”
Hear the full interview on the 11 July 2020 edition of Monocle 24’s ‘The Monocle Weekly’.
My life as a chef
About the interviewee: French-born Dominique Crenn is the first and only female chef in the US to attain three Michelin stars.
Chef Dominique Crenn, owner of three-Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn, tells monocle about her inspiration for becoming a cook. She also explains what the restaurant industry can do to ensure a more equitable world.
“It was not my thing to become a chef right away. But my story is beautiful: being abandoned at six months old and then being found by these beautiful people who wanted to give me love and who raised me and my brother, who was also adopted. It has made me who I am today.
I looked at life and at the texture of life through the eyes of my parents, and tried to understand what the world is about – trying to find yourself, asking what really makes you tick and what do you love? I didn’t really know right away if I wanted to be a chef. I wanted to be a photographer or a detective. I also wanted to connect with people and nature and the planet. Ultimately, food was something that I found myself to be very taken with. I found food to be a way of communicating: like a symphony, like an artist, like a painting.
France is a very beautiful country. I love it as far as its story and the culinary world goes. But it’s really since I’ve been in San Francisco that the idea of wanting to get into cooking was defined. And not just to cook but to tell a story, to have a voice and to give a voice to people who don’t have one. It is an opportunity for me to use that platform to become an artist. I was not painting. I was not singing. I was not writing. But I was cooking – and the food was my colour palette.
I think that being French helps you a lot in the culinary world – there’s a bit of privilege through it. France is a country that has been dedicated to food and bringing out different ways of cooking for centuries. I’ve always been welcome in any kitchen and I’m very lucky that my nationality is French. I think there’s a little bit of hypocrisy from other people when you look at it but perhaps it got me where I am today, so I’m thankful. And yet sometimes I think it’s also a little bit shameful that people would look at me for my nationality first and not for who I was.
Being a woman in a kitchen? Well, it’s been challenging. Even if we see a little bit of difference nowadays, there’s still a lot of work to be done and not just for women. It’s about inequality in general: gender, colour, ethnicity. I’ve been fighting it for 30 years so what’s going on right now is really exciting for me because it’s going to allow my industry to become a place where humanity is welcome, where everybody is welcome. We have work to do but I’m optimistic.
“Being a woman in a kitchen has been challenging. There’s still a lot of work to be done and not just for women. It’s about inequality in general: gender, colour, ethnicity”
I find that there are two types of people in my industry: there are some people who are just doing it for their own good, to be famous and to make a lot of money; I am not putting them down, that’s who they are. And then there are those people who go out on the frontline, such as my friend [Spanish-American chef] José Andrés. They make sure that people are OK, that they are fed. If the person next to us is not OK, how can we say that we are OK? When people go to restaurants, I hope that they think about this and think about who the people are that they are giving their money to. Are they people who fought for them and with them? Or are they people who don’t care?”
Hear the full interview on the 26 June 2020 edition of Monocle 24’s ‘The Menu’.