The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 8 March 2018

Defence

Image: Getty Images

All hands on deck

The tide is turning within Japan’s defence forces as they look to boost women’s roles and bolster recruitment.

With Japan’s shrinking population set to have an impact on recruitment for the country’s Self-Defence Force (SDF), the government is looking to boost the role of women, who currently make up only 6 per cent – or 14,000 people – of the combined air, sea and ground forces. This week the Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) appointed its first female warship squadron commander, Ryoko Azuma, who will command four ships, including the Izumo helicopter carrier, and a crew of 1,000 people – of whom only 30 are women. The higher profile role of a woman is a sea change for the MSDF, which 10 years ago didn’t allow women to serve on destroyers at all. The SDF, which was founded in 1954, is now looking to double the number of women in its ranks in the next few years.

Election

Image: Getty Images

Keep the peace

Colombia’s upcoming elections – the first to see ex-Farc members run as candidates – will put the country’s peace process to the test.

Colombia’s parliamentary elections are set for Sunday in which former members of Farc – the guerrilla army responsible for more than 220,000 deaths in the country – have been guaranteed 10 seats split between the two chambers of parliament as part of the country’s 2016 peace agreement. It marks the first election in which Farc has been able to field candidates and will be a test not only of the peace process but also the country’s democracy. The run-up to the election has been riddled with controversy: Farc’s comrades-turned-candidates announced in February that they were suspending their campaign activities after threats to their lives. Sunday’s polls will be followed by the presidential elections in May; Farc’s erstwhile leader Rodrigo Londoño – also known by his nom de guerre Timochenko – is running, though he is trailing way behind in the polls. With many Colombians opposed to the peace agreement, not to mention Farc, will the group's foray into politics be a case of winning the battle only to lose the war?

Urbanism

Image: Alamy

Work of art

Smart planners in Melbourne have introduced legislation that will help protect the city’s creative atmosphere.

Melbourne’s Southbank arts precinct by the Yarra River is thought to have one of the world’s highest concentrations of arts institutions – it’s home to the National Gallery of Victoria and the Victorian College of the Arts, among other centres. And the Victoria state government is so determined to keep it that way that it has introduced a new law. An amendment to the city planning scheme posted by authorities this week will require new developments in the Southbank area to dedicate their first four storeys to studios, workshops, galleries or performance-and-events spaces. The boom in new apartment blocks within the inner city is threatening Melbourne’s street life and liveability, so the planning and creative industries ministries are smart to tackle this future problem head-on.

Society

Image: Getty Images

Credit where it’s due

Canada’s new banknote features a Nova Scotian icon of the civil-rights movement.

A new banknote will be unveiled in Canada today: the revamped CA$10 bill will feature the civil-rights activist Viola Desmond – making her one of the few women to have graced a Canadian banknote. In 1946, Desmond sat in the whites-only section in a cinema in Nova Scotia, prompting her arrest. In addition to her being chosen for the banknote – selected from a shortlist of five Canadian women who made history – the cinema in which she mounted her protest is now being refurbished. The new note also marks the first of a larger roll-out of new, refreshed notes to be introduced throughout the year.

From Monocle 24

Image: Flickr

Food Neighbourhoods 74: Stockholm, Sofo

The Menu

A visit to the Stockholm neighbourhood that has transformed from an industrial heartland into a hotbed of independent restaurants, wine bars and delicatessens.

From Monocle Films

Parc de Belloch: the home of Catalonian design

Show-stopping design firm Santa & Cole takes inspiration from the Catalonian countryside and the fact that it’s just far away enough from bustling Barcelona.

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