Wednesday 26 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 26/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Matters of perspective

When I interviewed the UN’s secretary-general, António Guterres, two years ago, with coronavirus vaccines on the horizon and a measure of stability returning to the global order, he spoke of “shoots of hope”. On Monday, sitting next to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov (pictured, centre), Guterres had to admit that the risk of conflict among world powers is at a “historic high”.

Throughout April, Russia has been chairing the UN Security Council (the presidency rotates among the 15 member states monthly). On Monday I watched Lavrov preside over an Orwellian debate on “effective multilateralism”; yesterday he chaired another on the Middle East, despite stiff objections from Israel, which was marking its Remembrance Day. Ahead of this week, Western diplomats debated whether to snub Lavrov or challenge him in public. In the end, he was flanked by scowling UN ambassadors, while various foreign ministers denied him the satisfaction of their attendance.

Is there any point to the Security Council in this polarised environment? Rein Tammsaar, Estonia’s ambassador to the UN, tells me that he wishes Lavrov had been denied a visa to enter the US and that, if it were up to him, the UN would focus exclusively on resolving the war in Ukraine. Instead, he says, the council is operating on two tracks: “paralysed” on the subject of Ukraine but continuing with other business.

Tammsaar recognises that not all ambassadors share Estonia’s priorities. What is happening in Ukraine is terrible, yes – but so are climate change, which threatens entire island nations, and a debt crisis that could bankrupt half of the developing world.

Brazil’s UN ambassador condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but also criticised “kneejerk” sanctions that disregard the effect on third-party countries. However maddening it is to listen to Lavrov pervert the truth, being at the UN opens your eyes to different perspectives. That alone is enough reason to keep this flawed, deliberative institution afloat.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s Washington correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock


More than words

South Korea’s president, Yoon Suk-yeol (pictured, centre), is in Washington today to meet his US counterpart, Joe Biden. Arms are expected to dominate discussions and there are tough decisions to be made by both sides. While the Biden administration wants South Korea to supply weapons to Ukraine, Yoon is seeking greater involvement in US military planning in the event of a North Korean attack. For about 70 years, South Korea has been under the protection of the US nuclear umbrella but the White House is under no obligation to consult its east Asian ally before deciding how – or if – to retaliate against Pyongyang. According to polls, most South Koreans want their country to develop its own nuclear deterrent rather than rely on the whims of whoever occupies the White House. With the US presidential election due in 2024, Biden is under mounting pressure to offer more than strong words.

For more on Yoon’s visit to Washington and his meeting with Biden, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio at 07.00 London time.

Image: Reuters

FASHION / France

Golden threads

This week, LVMH, the French conglomerate behind 75 luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Givenchy and Bulgari, became the first European company with a market value of more than $500bn (€453bn). The announcement comes after LVMH became one of the world’s top-10 biggest companies earlier this month.

The milestone is partly the result of buoyant demand for luxury goods from Chinese consumers after Beijing lifted pandemic restrictions last December. A strengthened euro has also contributed to the luxury behemoth’s expansion, after the currency reached its highest level in more than a year. The boost in sales has put the wealth of Bernard Arnault (pictured), LVMH’s chairman and CEO, above that of Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, making him the world’s richest man, according to Forbes. Since LVMH raised the age limit for its CEO from 75 to 80 in March last year, Arnault and his company have shown no sign of slowing down.

Image: Toei Animation

Cinema / JAPAN

Jump shot

Japanese animated film The First Slam Dunk (pictured) dominated China’s box office last week, racking up $56m (€50.8m) in the first four days of its theatrical release. It continues the trend of Japanese anime features performing well in China – one of the world’s biggest film markets – even as the popularity of US films is waning. Makoto Shinkai’s anime fantasy Suzume has also performed well, earning $110m (€99m) in Chinese cinemas so far since its release in March.

This year, Chinese authorities allowed cinemas to screen more foreign movies after the government slashed the permitted number in 2022. Most Western releases have trailed behind Chinese and Japanese market leaders; Universal’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, for example, has earned just $20m (€18.2m) of its $872m (€792m) global total in China. The First Slam Dunk has been a smash hit in every country it has been released in so far, making it one of the top-10 highest-grossing anime films of all time. Its success could signal that Japanese animation will become a new staple in global cinemas.

Image: Tom Nicholson

Q&A / Lina Chawaf

Bridging the gap

Lina Chawaf founded Rozana Radio in the Turkish city of Gaziantep after leaving Syria 10 years ago. It now broadcasts to more than 10 million listeners across northern Syria and southern Turkey, the earthquake-struck region that needs accurate news now more than ever. The Monocle Minute sits down with Chawaf to find out more.

What are your priorities in terms of what you cover?
We do a lot of service and solutions-oriented material, targeting the everyday needs of our listeners. We have people who go into the camps and report on specific shortages and the needs of the residents. We have shows with legal experts, as well as mental-health and education specialists. We also have a weekend women’s programme to make them aware of their rights.

Has your mission changed?
In the beginning we were all news. As the displacement and refugee situation became a long-term crisis, we stayed here in Gaziantep, even after the border with Syria closed, and switched the focus to analysis and community support. It’s about maintaining a connection with Syrians on both sides of the border.

What lies ahead?
We want to produce more new formats that encourage people to speak to each other across political and geographical boundaries. And we want to keep training young Syrian journalists.

For more fresh stories, pick up the April issue of the magazine, available now on newsstands and online – or subscribe so you never miss an issue.

Image: Loro Piana


Loro Piana at Milan Design Week

Argentinian industrial designer Cristián Mohaded and Francesco Pergamo, director of Loro Piana’s interiors division, discuss their collaboration on a new furniture collection and an installation called “Apacheta”.

Monocle Films / Greece

Keeping the faith

In this digital age, do we need more forgiveness and sacrifice in our lives? And where can we look for direction? Monocle Films sits down with Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to find out how the church strives to address contemporary needs and remain relevant.


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