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01 - Surin Pitsuwan

Former foreign minister of Thailand, now ASEAN secretary-general

Bangkok, Thailand

Who would you like to see more of in 2008?
Hillary Clinton, I figure that if she can handle Bill Clinton she can handle anything.

And less?
All military dictatorships around the world: they have done enough damage, they have stayed beyond their welcome.

What themes do you anticipate dominating the headlines?
It think that it has to be climate change and global warming because it is literally a matter of life or death, and not just for mankind but for the planet. It has a moral dimension because human beings are contributing directly to the extinction of all forms of life if we are not careful.

What countries will be in the news for good reasons?
I believe that it has got to be China and Japan because of their respective efforts to establish an East Asian community. This will have implications for the world far into the future, and will serve as a platform for the “Pacific Century”.

And for bad?
I think that it is still going to be Sudan over the issue of Darfur. It has been going on for far too long, and there’s been a very, very heavy human toll of suffering. Unfortunately, I think that the world will still have to grapple with that in 2008.

02 - Hanna Anbar

Editor ‘The Daily Star’

Lebanon

Who would you like to see more of in the coming year?
I would like to see more of Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum in Dubai. Bill Gates for what he’s doing for Aids around the world, especially the money he’s donating to people with Aids in Africa. I want to see Bill Clinton using his charm around the world to make up for all his past mistakes. And Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum for his plan to contribute €7bn to enhance education in the UAE, and especially for women, who are the lost race in this part of the world. That’s going in the right direction.

And less?
Definitely George Bush. To be honest, I’d like to see less of George Bush, Bin Laden and Ahmadinejad. In the past year, because of George Bush and Ahmadinejad, the world has been living on the brink of war. That war might not come but being in a position where we expect it to happen every day is not very healthy for us, for the economy, for the politics in this part of the world. The last thing we need is another war in Iran. We are afraid that Bush and Ahmadinejad will come to a point where they cannot avoid armed conflict. Hopefully we’ll see more women take positions around the world, because they have proved that they’re less violent than men.

What themes do you anticipate dominating the headlines?
The environment. We need a concerted and sincere effort to do something – not just by statements and recommendations in the wake of meetings around the world, but seriously to do something about emissions and the environment.

What countries will be in the news for good reasons?
I think Europe has a duty to play that role because of the wealth of nationalities and cultures, and because of its past interaction with the rest of the world through colonialism. That should give it a good idea of how to interact with cultures and religions without confrontation.

And for bad?
Because of the oil, and the way that prices are going up, all the world’s attention is focused on this part of the world. This stops the region from doing what it should to enhance the living conditions of its nationals. The political situation in these countries is going to be unpredictable, unstable, with money being spent on armaments instead of in the right places.

03 - Mark Leonard

European Council on Foreign Relations

London, UK

Who would you like to see more of over the coming year?
I would like to see more of people who risk their lives and their freedom to promote democracy and human rights.

And less?
David Cameron [leader of the UK’s Conservative Party] and celebrities who make us feel good about supporting vague causes that we – and they – don’t really understand.

What themes do you anticipate dominating the headlines?
Chinese, Indian and Arab attempts to buy Europe’s favourite companies; why dictatorships seem to be so economically successful; and how hard it is to get anything done in the United Nations.

What countries will be in the news for good reasons?
China will surprise the world by being marginally helpful on climate change, and Zimbabwe. The United States will look beyond the Bush era. Sweden will continue to be the perfect country.

And for bad?
China will not be very helpful on Iran, Burma or Darfur. And Sweden will not be big enough to run the 21st century.

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