The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 11 May 2016

Image: Tony Karumba/Getty Images

Asylum argument

If Europe is unable – or unwilling – to cope with an influx of refugees, should the western world be surprised if poorer nations decide that they too don’t want to pull their weight? Kenya’s announcement that it will close all of its refugee camps, which are currently home to at least 600,000 people, has understandably angered human-rights activists. Most of those refugees are from Somalia, a nation still racked by civil war. The Kenyan argument that the camps have become a security risk is bogus, as numerous studies have proved. Yet European governments, which have in the past persuaded Kenya to keep the camps open, are now less vocal. How can they demand Kenya sticks to the Geneva convention on refugees if they are trying to wriggle out of it themselves?

Image: Rachel La Corte/Press Association Images

Thanks but no thanks

The response to the devastating wildfires that continue to sweep across the Canadian province of Alberta has been widespread. Canadians have so far donated some CA$54m (€37m) to the Red Cross to support those forced to flee the devastation but a curious collection of international governments has also offered to help. Russia offered water-bombers; Australia, Mexico and the US have offered personnel; and even Israel and the Palestinian Authority offered (separately) to contribute to the efforts. What, then, can be read into the politics of these international shows of support? Russia and Canada's relations have been strained since the crisis in Ukraine; Mexico and Canada are at loggerheads over competition in their respective car-making sectors; and both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have had bones to pick with the current and previous Canadian governments. So are these international political players trying to prove a point with Canada in its hour of crisis? Well, if so, prime minister Justin Trudeau has – politely – declined all offers of international help.

Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Getting steamy

Hong Kong is preparing to host its quirkiest event this weekend: the annual bun festival, which traces its roots back to 1894 and is held on the outlying island of Cheung Chau. The festivities climax on Saturday evening with the bun-scrambling competition, in which 12 finalists race to the top of a 14-metre-high tower to collect the steamed treats. Anticipation is particularly high this year after 2015’s competition was cancelled due to a thunderstorm. Though it’s a light-hearted affair, the real highlight for many will be the afternoon parade, which features a performance by primary school students mocking the controversial news stories of the moment. The topic this year will be “bag-gate”, a minor scandal involving the embattled chief executive CY Leung, who was accused of asking airport staff to break baggage rules for his family. As Hong Kongers throng to the annual bun fight the occupants of Government House may welcome another washout.

Image: Tuca Vieira

Street talk

No one is better placed to fix a city than the people who live and work there – but that doesn’t mean different centres can’t benefit from outside solutions. That’s the idea behind the Mayors Challenge, an ideas competition from Bloomberg Philanthropies that invites cities around to the world to submit innovative fixes to their own pressing problems, and then shares the winning solutions with the rest of the world. This year’s competition focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, which Bloomberg Philanthropies’ James Anderson says “have a tremendous history of public-sector innovation, especially in engaging citizens in policy-making”. Finalists will be announced next month and five winners will be chosen later this year. Interested in other city fixes? Join us for a live episode of The Urbanist at our Marylebone headquarters on 2 June, where editor Andrew Tuck will sit down with city-planners, policy-makers and urban leaders to discuss how to build a better London. You’ll be able to share your own ideas too.

From Monocle 24

Snøhetta: redesigning the Norwegian banknote

Oslo-based design firm Snøhetta has given Norway’s banknotes a striking redesign befitting of the nation’s newly minted status as a Nordic design capital. Managing director of brand design Martin Gran tells us about the project.

From Monocle Films

Time for a hospitality refresh

From nation to brand, city hall to hotel, who is doing hospitality well and offering benchmarks for experiences that are genuine, reliable and believable? This Monocle Quality of Life Conference film was the overture to the panel discussion, exploring how cities and brands make visitors and residents feel welcome.

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