Friday. 6/11/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Forward thinking

If the past week has taught us anything it’s that some predictions can be dizzyingly unpredictable. Whether it’s Trump’s pollster-puzzlingly strong performance in the US election or the alarming worst-case-scenario figures that persuaded Westminster to plunge England into a second national lockdown, now is the time to mull over the gulf between what might happen and what will. Both the US election and the UK’s actions show us two things: that every prediction arrives with the potential peril of being wrong but, more hopefully, that we can take collective action to alter what comes to pass, whether that’s to help curb the spread of a virus or assert our democratic rights to tip out a leader who we loathe. It’s up to us to prove the worst predictions wrong.

This week marks the publication of The Forecast, Monocle’s magazine that talks to the leaders, businesses and trend-buckers whose actions and ideas, we predict, will impact the world over the weeks and months to come. On its pages we profile five African leaders (including Kenyan politician Boniface Mwangi, pictured) shaping the future of the continent, offer 10 ideas to improve any city and profile the next moves in aviation, office design and art to invest in. You’ll find our annual Small Cities Index of the best places to escape to (or in which to set-up afresh) and we seek counsel from a new crop of innkeepers in case you too were considering a quieter life of hospitality in the sticks. You’ll discover much here to encourage you, nudge you in the right direction and inspire you to challenge the glum scenarios that the naysayers and worst-casers dote on. My humble prediction? You’ll find plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

Security / France

Pushing the boundaries

On a visit to the Franco-Spanish border yesterday, Emmanuel Macron called for a “deep overhaul” of the EU’s approach to security and its monitoring of illegal immigration within the open-border Schengen area, as well as on the EU’s external frontiers. France will also double the number of police controlling its own EU borders to 4,800. The French president’s comments come after recent terrorist attacks in France and Austria, which were perpetrated by attackers who had moved freely within the EU. But while improving security co-operation is laudable, it’s unclear exactly what overhaul Macron is demanding. The EU already has Frontex, an external border force, and Europol, an EU law-enforcement agency. Countries also already exchange information; a case in point is Austria, which admits that it did not heed a warning from neighbouring Slovakia about the Vienna attacker. So the devil will be in the detail. Macron has said that he will present his case at an EU summit in December.

Elections / Myanmar

Imperfect democracy

Myanmar’s citizens are preparing to cast their ballots on Sunday in the country’s first national elections since 2015, which brought Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to power after decades of military rule. Close to 100 political parties will be competing but the country’s democratic process remains far from perfect. Rohingya Muslims have been mostly barred from voting or standing in the election, while more than 20 opposition parties have called for postponement due to health concerns related to the pandemic.

“It’s a milestone for Myanmar to be holding a second multi-party election but however long the queues are to vote, this election will be fundamentally flawed,” says Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The election can’t be free and fair so long as a quarter of the seats are reserved for the military, access to state media isn’t equal, government critics face censorship or arrest, and Rohingya are denied participation in the vote.”

Business / Switzerland

Open office

More than 1.2bn Swiss francs (€1.1bn) and six years of building have yielded The Circle, a vast retail, medical and business park that opened this week next to Zürich Airport. The investors, Swiss Life and Flughafen AG, will initially face an uphill battle to attract visitors due to the current lack of air travel, yet its mixed-use nature and a business model built for the long term should help it to succeed. Global names such as Microsoft are already planning to move their Swiss headquarters here and some 80 per cent of the office space is currently leased. Philippe Peress, who operates The Spaces, a Zürich co-working project, tells the Monocle Minute that a strong tenant mix “creates an ecosystem that companies want to be part of”. He remains convinced that the venue’s conference centre will become the “pre-eminent centre for conventions in all Europe”.

Urbanism / Vancouver

Head start

Vancouver’s city council said this week that it will explore the idea of hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics. With many cities turning their backs on the event due to the high price of building the requisite infrastructure, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Games could return to British Columbia, a short 20 years after the province last hosted them. Reusing several of the venues that were in operation in 2010 would result in Vancouver incurring fewer costs than those cities that have to start from scratch. This is likely to be appealing to the selection committee but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor. When done right, hosting the Olympics provides a city with an incentive to better itself. Los Angeles wouldn’t be rolling out such a comprehensive public-transport plan, nor Paris greening its buildings with the fervour it currently is, if it weren’t for their upcoming duties for the summer Games. The International Olympic Committee would be wise to ensure that other cities that haven’t yet served as hosts are afforded this opportunity too.

M24 / Foreign Desk Explainer

The incumbent

Ivory Coast’s president, Alassane Ouattara, was re-elected for a third term at the weekend despite the constitution stipulating a two-term limit. Andrew Mueller explains how Ouattara has, so far, got away with it.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: The Forecast, 2021

Hands up who’s looking forward to 2021? Monocle is too and The Forecast is our optimistic and informed take on the year ahead. From the offices showing why communal working is here to stay to the changing world of espionage, our global coverage will put a spring in your step. Plus: which city comes top of our Small Cities Index? Available now at The Monocle Shop

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