Tuesday 2 May 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 2/5/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Mary Fitzgerald

Wiser council

When it comes to matters of peace and security, the UN Security Council (UNSC) is both the most important forum in the world and also hopelessly out of sync. The council’s five veto-wielding permanent members – the US, Russia, China, France and the UK – once reflected power balances underpinning the postwar international order but it no longer appears fit for purpose. African countries, in particular, have long argued that a more representative UNSC would include at least one permanent seat for their continent.

The ambivalence of some African states towards Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has unsettled Western leaders, as has Moscow’s growing influence on the continent. Having Africa at the decision-making table – either in the form of one African Union seat or two country seats – makes sense for several reasons. The continent’s weight in the UN General Assembly is greater than any other, carrying 28 per cent of the votes, ahead of Asia with 27 per cent, the Americas with 18 per cent and western Europe with 15 per cent. Africa is predicted to soon become the world’s most populous continent; by 2050, almost one in four people on Earth will live there.

Reform of the UNSC is impossible without the support of its existing members, and Russia and China have notably been lukewarm when it comes to expanding the Big Five to include Africa. At a meeting of the UNSC last October, they were the only members not to endorse African representation explicitly, thus showing the hollowness of their claims of solidarity with the Global South. Moscow and Beijing risk frosty relations with African states if – as is likely – support for an African seat on the council becomes a test for bilateral engagement. With Russia’s farcical UNSC presidency having come to an end on Sunday, to be replaced by Switzerland, now would be a good time for its permanent members to make a gesture of reform. The path to a more equitable world order leads through Africa and the UNSC needs to wake up to this.

Mary Fitzgerald is Monocle’s North Africa correspondent. A longer version of this piece features in Monocle’s May issue, which is out now. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe today.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / USA & Philippines

Strengthening ties

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, president of the Philippines, visited Washington yesterday to discuss economic ties and defence co-operation with Joe Biden (pictured, on right, with Marcos Jr). Marcos Jr, who took office in 2022, is seeking assurances on US commitments to protect his country under a 1951 security pact titled the Mutual Defence Treaty. With tensions rising in the Indo-Pacific region, Marcos Jr wants clarity on how exactly the US would defend the Philippines in the event of conflict. While the White House has reaffirmed the US’s “ironclad commitments” to the defence of the country, Marcos Jr is pushing for more than just rhetoric. In a recent radio interview, he said that the treaty “needs to adjust because of the changes in the situation we are facing in the South China Sea, Taiwan [and] North Korea”. China has already accused the US and the Philippines of stoking antagonism with the alliance. Expect it to treat any new developments in the partnership with similar scorn.


Transport / Chile

On the move

Chile’s president, Gabriel Boric, will soon unveil six new high-speed electric and diesel trains that will cut down the 400km journey between the nation’s capital, Santiago, and the central Chilean city of Chillán from five hours to three hours and 40 minutes. Chilean State Railways (EFE) has invested $70m (€63.6m) in a fleet of trains that China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation is now manufacturing.

During the 1970s and 1980s, more than a third of railways disappeared under the Pinochet dictatorship; the latest development is part of the Boric administration’s plan to increase the use of trains in the South American country, which is one of the longest in the world with about 4,300km of coastline. The Ministry of Transportation is hoping that the new trains will boost the annual number of passengers from 315,000 to 800,000 and get the country’s rail system back on track.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Japan

Shelf improvement

Manga sellers are reporting a surge in international demand for volumes of untranslated Japanese comics. Original-language editions of blockbuster series such as Slam Dunk, One Piece and last year’s top seller, Jujutsu Kaisen, are flying off the shelves in overseas markets.

Some readers are learning Japanese and want to become better acquainted with the everyday use of the language; others are drawn by the huge success of film adaptations, including The First Slam Dunk Movie, which is currently sweeping box offices in Asia. In some cases, multi-volume manga series are adorning bookshelves as interior-design accessories. They can certainly fill plenty of empty space: Slam Dunk was released in 31 instalments while One Piece has already passed the 100-volume mark. This trend seems likely to result in a serious case of tsundoku – the Japanese word describing the habit of stockpiling books that languish unread.

Image: Maserati

Business / Italy

Charging forward

Maserati unveiled its second mass-market electric vehicle, the Grecale Folgore (pictured), at the Auto Shanghai trade fair last week. The small SUV is part of the Italian manufacturer’s plan to produce only electric vehicles by 2030. When Maserati announced its electrification plans in March last year, fans of its cars were concerned that it might have to compromise on quality but this new model suggests that such fears were unfounded.

The Grecale Folgore has a range of 500km and its battery can be charged from 20 to 80 per cent in less than 30 minutes. Maserati’s CEO, Davide Grasso, also revealed that there had been an acceleration in demand for electric vehicles, which means his company’s 2030 goal seems increasingly achievable. “Any demand for internal combustion engines after that point will be residual,” he says. Customers are expressing their desire for quiet cars loud and clear.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle Radio / The Foreign Desk

Australia’s defence review

Australia’s defence review has identified an urgent need for the country to bolster its military personnel and weaponry, despite being in peacetime. Andrew Mueller discusses whether this conclusion is paranoid or well founded.

Monocle Films / France

Escape to la campagne: Côte d’Azur

Nestled in the hills above Nice, Casa Sallusti is a permaculture farm and hotel that was created to show how you can still enjoy the good things in life while taking care of the planet. We visit its founder, Isabella Sallusti, and meet the young folk who are working at the farm, having decided to swap the city for slow-paced living.


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