Thursday 16 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 16/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Leila Molana-Allen

Too slow to act

On Monday 6 February the world was confronted by the horrifying news of the collapse of thousands of buildings in earthquakes peaking at a magnitude of 7.8 along the Turkish-Syrian border. International aid teams armed with state-of-the-art equipment rushed to rescue as many people as possible in southern Turkey. But in the cloistered, freezing towns of northwestern Syria, no one came.

Caught up in political wrangling between allies of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, who want all aid directed through Damascus, and Western countries, which believe that aid might be diverted to his supporters, this rebel-held pocket of 4.6 million people has been without adequate food, shelter or medical supplies for years. Just one border crossing from Turkey was licensed for aid crossings following a hard-won battle.

But after five days of desperate pleas from Syrian rescuers and bereaved families, the world finally began to take action. The US agreed to lift sanctions on Syria for six months to allow all earthquake-related help to enter. Two further border crossings were temporarily cleared to open for aid and dozens of trucks have rolled through in recent days. It’s too little, too late to save the lives of those caught under the rubble who might have survived had action been taken earlier. When Martin Griffiths, the UN’s undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency-relief co-ordinator, visited northwestern Syria, he made the rare admission that the international community had failed the people of the region. He’s right.

Years of blanket sanctions and the UN’s pussyfooting around Assad (so it can keep its permit to operate from Damascus) have only heightened the suffering of Syrians. While engaging with the Syrian crisis is always fraught, the worst option available was to abandon nearly five million people to suffer, starve and die alone. A new way forward is imperative.

Leila Molana-Allen is Monocle’s Beirut correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Ukraine

Shot in the arm

The supply of ammunition to Ukraine was at the top of the agenda at a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels, which concluded yesterday. As they continue to fend off Russia’s attacks, Ukrainian troops are firing thousands of shells a day. While Nato members have been heeding calls for more support, their stocks are rapidly declining. Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general, says that the alliance is “looking for ways to enhance [its] defence industrial capacity” but Ukraine’s demands go further. Volodymyr Zelensky is asking for fighter jets but the UK’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has said that it might be years before the country can send planes and commit to supplying the extensive training and infrastructure necessary to make them operational. As the first anniversary of the full-scale invasion approaches – and with both sides expected to launch new offensives this spring – Nato needs a long-term plan. Part of any solution might well involve expanding on the US’s efforts to train Ukrainian troops to fight using less ammunition.

For full coverage of the first anniversary of the beginning of the war in Ukraine and the days leading up to it, tune in to Monocle 24 from Monday.

Image: Getty Images

Tourism / Japan

Full capacity

A new report from the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) shows that the country welcomed 1.49 million overseas visitors in January. Though that’s 120,000 more people than in December, the figure still represents just half the number of visitors who came in 2019, before coronavirus restrictions hammered the sector.

Even so, with international tourists slowly refilling Tokyo and Kyoto, and winter destinations such as Hokkaido (pictured) and Niigata welcoming skiers and snowboarders, Japan’s airports, which shed workers during the pandemic, are struggling to keep up. Among the JTA’s ambitious plans to build up the country’s tourism industry is a target for every foreign visitor to spend ¥200,000 (about €1,400) in Japan by 2025. That might benefit the broader economy but if Tokyo wants to maintain its international appeal, it should first address the infrastructure problems facing travellers in the country today.

Image: Jack Lovel

Architecture / USA & Australia

Building a profile

Today marks the start of Modernism Week, a 10-day event in Palm Springs, California, celebrating modernist design. Among the speakers is Jack Lovel, who is giving a presentation on his book Catching Light, focusing on the work of Iwan Iwanoff, perhaps Perth’s most celebrated architect.

Iwanoff studied and practised in Munich before moving to Australia with his wife in 1950, where he worked until his death in 1986. During his time there, Iwanoff built about 150 homes, the most remarkable of them defined by his innovative use of concrete blocks and large windows to create sculptural forms that were in stark contrast to the simple, bungalow-style houses of Perth’s suburbs. Though Iwanoff died 37 years ago, his work has attracted new attention in the city in recent years. “There’s no other work in Australia that looks anything like it,” says Lovel. Now Californians will be able to catch a glimpse of it too.

To read the full story, pick up your copy of Monocle’s March issue, which is on newsstands from today.

Image: Getty Images

Fashion / France


Louis Vuitton, LVMH’s highest-earning brand, has announced the appointment of Pharrell Williams as its new men’s artistic director, succeeding the late Virgil Abloh. Many fashion-industry professionals were surprised to see Williams (pictured) given the top job over traditionally trained designers such as Martine Rose or Grace Wales Bonner, both of whom were said to be among the contenders.

Yet Williams’ multifaceted career (the Grammy-winning musician and entrepreneur is also a hotelier and owner of a fashion and beauty brand) might make him better equipped to meet the demands of a house the size of Louis Vuitton. The job requirements will stretch beyond design to staging large-scale fashion shows, creating new campaigns and dealing with the media spotlight. “His creative vision beyond fashion will lead Louis Vuitton to a new and exciting chapter,” says the company’s newly appointed CEO, Pietro Beccari, who wants to expand to projects beyond fashion in the coming years, including the opening of a Louis Vuitton hotel in Paris. The industry will watch with interest as LVMH’s latest hire begins to march to his own beat.

To hear more about Louis Vuitton’s appointment of Pharrell Williams, tune in to ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories: Mercado do Bolhão

Ivan Carvalho visits Porto’s much-loved Mercado do Bolhão to uncover the legacy of an urban landmark that continues to bring residents together.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: March issue, 2023

Is the future electric? That’s the question that Monocle is asking in its future of the car special. Our forward-looking report offers our verdict on self-driving cars, the auto industry’s next moves and the companies in pole position to take advantage. Plus: Australian architecture, Spain’s costume-makers and Spam – no, really. Grab a copy today from The Monocle Shop.


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