Friday 27 May 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 27/5/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Multiple realities

I can hardly imagine the cognitive dissonance of the Ukrainian officials who travelled to Davos for the World Economic Forum this week. Roaming the streets of this Alpine town and attending its parties while war rages at home must have felt odd. Yet most consider it a part of their job. I asked one Ukrainian MP, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze (pictured), whether she considered simply staying on foreign soil and her answer was clear: she will be returning to western Ukraine for a few days after Davos, before setting off on her next overseas trip.

The dignity, eloquence and patience of Ukraine’s representatives in the face of such a warped reality – and no small amount of personal hardship – is striking. Yet it’s worth the effort. Ukraine needs weapons and cash, and where better to meet the people who can help than at the World Economic Forum? Attendance also helps to control the narrative: the war would always have been a major topic here but having a voice on every pertinent panel has certainly helped Ukraine to dictate those discussions.

Where to next? Swiss president Ignazio Cassis – with Volodymyr Zelensky, who joined virtually – announced that the Ukraine Recovery Conference will take place in July in Lugano. Talk of reconstruction amid war is another thing that might require some cognitive dissonance but for Ukrainians it’s all connected. One architect we spoke to for a feature on rebuilding the nation for Monocle’s June issue stressed the importance of building temporary housing close to the ravaged cities that Russia has already vacated, so that residents can get on with their lives.

Ukraine needs support and it won’t let Western leaders talk about its future behind its back. This remains a confident nation that controls its own destiny. Ukrainians can travel, fight, live and rebuild all at the same time.

Image: Getty Images

Trade / Singapore

Piggy in the middle

Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong (pictured) has confirmed that Singapore is joining the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the Biden-administration pact aimed at countering China’s regional influence. Meanwhile, Lee also said that Singapore will support China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, an earlier version of which the US left in 2017.

Singapore wants to “maintain a balance so that we are not overly dependent on any single party,” Lee told Nikkei Asia. Singapore often has to maintain a balancing act between China and the US, its biggest and fourth-biggest trading partners. It has few natural resources so trade and banking links – and, most of all, diplomacy – are crucial to its economy. Singapore backed strict sanctions on Russia but has also called for dialogue in the conflict. On Thursday, Lee warned against a potential “arms race” if Japan and South Korea focus more on territorial defence. As relations sour between global superpowers, more countries will have to walk Singapore’s line.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Iran & Canada

Kicking off

On Thursday, Canada’s football organisation cancelled a planned “friendly” international football match with Iran that had become anything but. Soccer Canada’s invitation to Iran’s national team had become a political minefield with leaders from all sides, including prime minister Justin Trudeau, urging that the 5 June fixture be halted. The prospect of the match was particularly upsetting for those affected by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ downing of a passenger plane in Tehran in 2020, apparently in retaliation for the US military’s assassination of its top military commander. Many passengers on board had been travelling to Canada. There were also concerns that the CA$400,000 (€292,000) fee that Soccer Canada had reportedly offered Iran’s football federation for the game would find its way into the Revolutionary Guard’s coffers, undermining sanctions in place against Iran. Politics and football aren’t strangers, so one has to ask why Canada’s sports federations didn’t in the first place think more carefully about its invitation.

Image: Iwan Baan

Art / Norway

Scream seen

Following delays that have kept some of art’s most iconic works from view, Norway’s new National Museum is due to open on 11 June. Some 5,000 artworks, from antiquity to the modern day, will be available for public view, including work by giants such as Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh. One of the most famous – and most anguished – faces in modern art, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, will also feature. The publicly funded institution was expensive, costing more than €600m, but it will be the largest art museum in the Nordics and the building’s project director is confident that the striking stone structure is a worthy investment. “The materials will age with dignity and last for centuries,” Jon Geir Placht told Monocle. The museum’s opening, along with that of Berlin’s Grosz Museum, which debuted earlier this month, and other global venues refreshing their exhibitions reminds us of the culture we sorely missed – and why cities are worth living in.

For more about the reinvigoration of the art world, from Ghana to Singapore, read our art special in Monocle’s June issue, which is out now.

Image: Rodrigo Cardoso

Urbanism / Global

Talk of the town

The past week in Davos has shown that global leaders were keen to meet and get to work, with many of the oversubscribed panels prompting snaking queues. This was also an iteration of the World Economic Forum (WEF) with plenty of buzz about the future of cities. “We want to see cities that are more liveable, more sustainable, more resilient and more affordable,” Alice Charles, the lead of cities, infrastructure and urban services at WEF, tells The Monocle Minute. For the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, the forum was the perfect opportunity to take notes from his neighbours. “You want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to create prosperity for your residents,” he says. “It’s a tremendous learning experience about leadership, making tough decisions and creating an economy that’s resilient, about leadership and making tough decisions.” The idea of greener, more liveable and more resilient cities is something we can all get on board with.

To hear more about WEF’s focus on cities, tune in to this week’s episode of ‘The Urbanist’ on Monocle 24.

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Varsity Headwear and Batch LDN

Hats off to two innovative businesses chasing perfection from head to toe. Varsity Headwear has changed the game in baseball caps, ensuring that every individual can find their perfect fit, feel and fabric. Batch LDN is reimagining the suit with a fresh emphasis on sustainability, versatility and comfort.

Film / Kenya

Nairobi: building better cities

Kenya’s Karura Forest offers not only respite from the bustling capital but also a sense of pride for its citizens.


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