Monday 11 July 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 11/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Mending fences

Joe Biden is packing his bags for a trip that he would probably prefer not to make. This week the US president embarks on a Middle East tour, taking in Israel, the West Bank and, most contentiously, Saudi Arabia, which he once vowed to make a global pariah for its alleged role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. As president, Biden released US intelligence stating that the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (colloquially known as MBS) had personally approved the killing. Now he is jetting off to the kingdom on a fence-mending exercise and will even meet MBS despite previously ruling that out.

For the US, the visit is about resetting relations, with the unstated aim of persuading the Saudis to lift oil output when needed and calm the manic energy markets. And for MBS, it’s an opportunity for rehabilitation on the world stage – one that will anger his critics, not least many Democrats in Washington watching this trip with shock and dismay. This week, Biden will have to stifle his own outrage to get what he wants and the Saudis know this. As MBS told The Atlantic recently, “We don’t have the right to lecture you in America. The same goes the other way.”

Biden isn’t the only one having to make an about-face. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who led calls for Saudi Arabia’s global isolation after Khashoggi’s death, recently invited MBS to Ankara, both to bury the hatchet and to seek an injection of investment into his country’s beleaguered economy. In one press photograph from that awkward encounter, Erdogan looks downcast while the crown prince beams at the camera, as if to say: in the end, you lot always come running back.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Africa

Better together

From Celac and Mercosur in Latin America to Asean in Asia, regional blocs and organisations have struggled to assert their purpose of late in an age of nationalism. Which is perhaps why the African Union has launched a monthlong series of 20 events, aimed at showcasing its work over the past 20 years since its founding, ranging from a seminar on farmers’ rights to food and seed security to a parliamentary session led by children. “Our founding fathers were fearless in their pursuit of a self-sustaining Africa that’s healthy and thriving with authentic African values: prosperous, united and with a strong cultural identity,” says Egyptian diplomat Amr Aljowaily, who is co-ordinating the effort. “May we all rise up to the work needed of us to push our continent to the future envisioned by them years ago.” The African Union’s determination to bring together their members for an anniversary celebration is proof that many states still see co-operation and communication as crucial.

Image: Fresia RE SpA 2021/Arney Fender Katsalidis(AFK)

Urbanism / Italy

Roman remix

The area around Roma Tuscolana train station, like many other parts of the Italian capital, has all the ingredients of a great neighbourhood: it boasts good public-transport links and is close to both the centre and thriving outer hot spots, such as Pigneto. “But it just feels like a bit of a no-man’s-land,” says architect Tommaso Franzolini of London-based studio Arney Fender Katsalidis. The ambition of Campo Urbano, a broad consortium led by Franzolini with Rome-based Fresia RE, is to create a mixed-use urban area that allows Tuscolano to live up to its potential, complete with housing, offices, retail and hospitality. The proposal has won the Reinventing Cities competition, launched by a global network of mayors known as C40. “The Campo Urbano team was good on everything across the board,” Hélène Chartier, C40’s director of urban planning and design, tells Monocle. Franzolini’s vision is that Campo Urbano will become a new landmark in Rome that serves as “a catalyst to do things differently”.

Read more about Campo Urbano and other projects reimagining industrial parts of cities in the July/August edition of Monocle on newsstands now.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Fiji

High stakes

The 18 countries and territories that make up the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) will gather today in Fiji for their annual summit. China’s recent attempt to sign a sweeping trade and security pact with the region is likely to dominate discussions, alongside Beijing’s bilateral agreement with the Solomon Islands. Australia, a founding member of the PIF, is expected to head the resistance, backed by New Zealand and several islands aligned with Taiwan. At the same time, the administration of Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese (pictured) will be at pains to demonstrate Canberra’s new approach to the Pacific, which involves more listening and less lecturing.

As Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama has made abundantly clear, the region does not want to become a battleground for warring superpowers – and certainly not at a time when many Pacific Island nations are already facing an existential threat from rising sea levels. If Canberra is serious about winning back influence in its own backyard, it will have to reinvest in regional development, engage wholeheartedly with these sovereign island nations and finally make good on its climate change commitments.

Image: FFJM 2022 Marc Ducrest

Culture / Switzerland

Next chapter

The Montreux Jazz Festival on the shores of Lake Geneva is entering its second and final week, with acts including Stormzy, Måneskin and Jeff Beck (and controversial special guest Johnny Depp) due to perform. The annual festival has had a reputation for exclusivity since its first outing in 1967 at the Montreux Casino. This year, there has been a welcome initiative to expand its free programming with the addition of the Lake House: a three-storey space that’s open from 17.00 to 05.00, with eight themed rooms hosting DJ sets, literary workshops and a cinema.

More than 450 acts have been invited to perform at the festival, with an emphasis on lesser-known and emerging artists. Supporting the next musical generation and providing free access for a wider and younger audience are two priorities that hit the right note for a festival that is seeking to secure its popularity well into the future.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Legacies series: Antoni Gaudí

In part one of our summer series uncovering the legacies of the biggest names in architecture, city planning and design, we take inspiration from Catalan icon Antoni Gaudí.

Monocle Films / Denmark

Community spirit in Denmark

Housing co-operatives are numerous in Denmark, providing residents with affordable places to live, keeping community spirit strong and cultivating samfundssind: the Danish concept of putting society’s needs ahead of individual interests. Monocle visited the Jystrup Savværk co-housing community, an hour outside of Copenhagen, to explore the meaning of the word. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, which is available now from The Monocle Shop.


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