Thursday 3 September 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 3/9/2020

The Monocle Minute

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Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Help from afar

When I was growing up in São Paulo, Lebanese surnames were common in my classroom and I even have some family members with Lebanese ancestry. There’s an excellent selection of Lebanese restaurants in the city and one popular traditional snack – a sandwich made with pitta bread and a selection of fillings – is called Beirute. Or there’s Esfiha, an even more sought-after snack of flatbread with a minced-meat topping.

Brazil is thought to be home to the largest Lebanese community outside the country itself – the diaspora is estimated at about 11.5 million and dates back to the 1880s. So it’s no surprise that Beirut’s port explosion last month caused a strong reaction and outpouring of sympathy in the country. To my surprise this included even the president, Jair Bolsonaro, who is not exactly known for gentle diplomatic gestures. He sent a delegation to Lebanon led by former president Michel Temer, who is of Lebanese descent, to offer humanitarian aid.

So far it is Emmanuel Macron who has been leading the international charge to rebuild Beirut and restore political order; the French president this week visited Beirut for the second time in a month. But Brazil could have a role to play in Lebanese reconciliation as well. The country has a long line of politicians with Lebanese descent; aside from Temer, São Paulo alone has had three mayors with Lebanese ties in the past few decades.

For Brazil’s embattled diplomatic corps, a strong role in supporting Lebanon could mark a welcome return to the golden days of Brazilian diplomacy. In the meantime it warms my heart to know that the Lebanese-Brazilian community is supporting Beirut with donations including food, medicine and money. Beirut and Lebanon need all the help from their diaspora that they can get.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / India & China

Fighting talk

Following renewed clashes between China and India in the contested Ladakh border region this weekend, which left another Indian soldier dead, the two sides converged in Russia yesterday in a bid to ease tensions. It marked the second time in the past few months that Russia has offered to help in seeking resolution to the long-simmering border dispute. “Russia has a clear interest in de-escalation here in a way that other major powers – such as the US – do not,” says Inderjeet Parmar, professor of international relations at City, University of London. Though de-escalation is laudable, Parmar suggests that Moscow might have some ulterior motives too. “Russia has strategic and economic interests in allowing China’s economic development in the region,” he says, referencing the Belt and Road trade route that Xi Jinping’s government is building throughout Central Asia. “By permitting China’s presence, Russia becomes a beneficiary of its trade – and custodian of the route.”

Image: Alamy

Society / Germany

Equal importance

Workplace discrimination is not only harmful to individuals around the world but it could be hurting the German economy in particular. That’s the finding of a joint study by the German Institute for Economic Research and Bielefeld University, which found that discrimination based on sexual orientation (about one third of LGBT employees in the country felt discriminated against) has led to under-representation in key industries such as manufacturing and agriculture.

This is despite the fact that 60 per cent of Germany’s non-heterosexual population have university or technical degrees compared with 42 per cent for the German population as a whole. “This insight alone should be an incentive for companies to create a low-discrimination working environment so that jobs become more attractive for this target group,” says Lisa de Vries from Bielefeld University and co-author of the study. For a country desperately seeking skilled workers as its population ages, tackling discrimination should be a win-win.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / UK & South Korea

Gangnam style

You’ve probably heard of K-pop, K-beauty and K-drama – but K-fashion is also starting to gain prominence. Seoul is pushing to rival Tokyo in Asia and could, one day, stand alongside Paris and Milan as a key fashion capital. Recognition of the growing power of young, trend-driven South Korean customers came yesterday when the British Fashion Council (BFC) announced Yun-Kee Jeong as its first-ever London Fashion Week ambassador in South Korea. The South Korean stylist, creative director and president of talent and communications agency InTrend will help raise the profile of UK fashion in his home market. The appointment is not only a sign of how Seoul has become a vital fashion market but also perhaps an example of the start of a post-Brexit evolution – UK industries will no doubt be seeking to engage more with customers beyond Europe in the months and years ahead.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Vietnam

Intelligent design

Do we really need another so-called smart city? Vietnam’s deputy prime minister, Truong Hoa Binh, has ordered Ho Chi Minh City’s authorities to consult with international technology, finance and property firms, as they develop plans for a special smart-city precinct. Binh hopes that these foreign experts will invest in the creation of an “innovative urban area” which will, according to city authorities, “create a bright future for both local residents and businesses”. But the move to encourage investment in a smart hub is questionable, given the failure of similar models and the withdrawal of investors elsewhere (see Alphabet’s recent back-pedal on Toronto’s waterfront). If Binh and Ho Chi Minh City are looking to guarantee bang for their buck, we’d suggest improving existing infrastructure in parts of the city where people are already living, ensuring that residents see some real benefits and making sure that any investment doesn’t end up as another discarded smart-city blueprint.

Image: Torben Peterson

M24 / Monocle on Design

Get moving

Get moving: This week we have a spring in our step - we get moving and bring you a few stories that are featured in Monocle’s September issue and much more.

Monocle Films / Global

Resort rules

Holidays should be the time of year when everything is allowed but we do have some gentle recommendations for both hoteliers and holidaymakers to take note of.


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