Thursday 7 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 7/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

In action: Andrew Tuck, on right

Image: Anna Nielsen

Urbanism / Andrew Tuck

Talk of the town

When you come from a wealthy northern country, it’s easy to see the world in binary terms, to be blind to the daily complexities that other people face and to imagine that everyone should be following the same script – yours. It’s a particular flaw when it comes to big issues such as climate change and sustainability. Why isn’t everywhere like Copenhagen? Why do people fly when there are bicycles? Well, sometimes your best bet is just to keep quiet and let other people tell their stories.

That was my recourse over the past two days in Dubai at the inaugural Sustainable Cities in Action Forum, a gathering of thought leaders from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Hosted by Expo City Dubai, the meeting involved a remarkable gathering of women and men doing the “action” part of the event’s title. Monocle Radio was in attendance to record those stories and moderate two sessions built on the traditional idea of a majlis, Arabic gatherings that are used as places of debate and spaces to float ideas and share news.

Angela Servina, CEO of the Seychelles Planning Authority, spoke about the devastating effects of climate change but also why an island with no natural resources beyond its beauty still wants people to visit. Nasra Nanda, CEO of Kenya’s Green Building Society, told us why, with 60 per cent of Nairobi’s population living in informal settlements, the focus should be on working with these people who are often seen as on the fringe of society. Folayinka Dania, chief resilience officer for Lagos State, talked about the big vision piece but also how safe public bathrooms with running water could make the difference between a young woman who has a period staying at home or attending school.

Dubai is good at playing host and making people from the Global South feel welcome. Expo City allowed for an exchange of ideas and solutions on everything from architecture and placemaking to technology and new materials. People were happy to discuss the complexities, compromises and contradictions that they have to face every day with an openness and humility that will stay with me.

Andrew Tuck is Monocle’s editor in chief. Tune in to Monocle Radio for a special episode of ‘The Urbanist’ from the Sustainable Cities in Action Forum in Dubai at 17.10 London time. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

In the running? María Corina Machado

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Venezuela

Office politics

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) announced this week that the country’s elections will take place on 28 July. The chosen date, which comes several months earlier than expected, allows little time for the opposition to choose a candidate. Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, has been in power for 11 years and is expected to seek another term. The participation of Maduro’s most powerful opponent, María Corina Machado, is in doubt.

In January, Machado was banned from holding office due to allegations of financial misconduct and will now have little time to clear her name ahead of official campaigning. The elections will be closely monitored by the US, which agreed last year to ease sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector. The restrictions had been imposed after what the US claimed were illegitimate elections in 2018. The outcome of this vote will determine whether Washington will reinstate its sanctions or support Venezuela out of its dire economic situation.

Defence / Greece

Strength in numbers

The Greek ministry of defence has announced plans to restructure the country’s armed forces, which are expected to include the voluntary conscription of women for the first time. Defence minister Nikos Dendias said that the move reflects Turkey’s growing power in the region and the country’s increasingly aggressive stance towards Greece. While Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has stated that he does not want to engage Greece in a conflict, the term “blue homeland” – a shorthand expression for Ankara’s maritime claims in the Aegean Sea – has recently become part of his government’s rhetoric. According to Dendias, allowing women to voluntarily join combat forces would not only promote gender equality within the ranks but also make Greece better equipped to deal with potential conflict. Modernisation plans also include the establishment of a joint IT body to strengthen cyber security and two new departments focusing on artificial intelligence and data analysis.

Image: Muji

Society / Japan

Golden age

Japanese retailer Muji is working to breathe new life into Japan’s affordable danchi housing developments. The lifestyle brand’s parent company, Ryohin Keikaku Co, began renovating outdated apartment blocks more than 10 years ago but has now turned its attention to neighbourhoods and communal spaces. Muji’s joint project with housing agency UR aims to redevelop a run-down shopping street in Chiba prefecture and build a shared kitchen and wooden stage at the Konandai danchi in Kanagawa.

Together they aim to attract more young people to live in danchi and reduce loneliness in a country that has one of the country’s fastest-ageing populations. Since Muji began its renovations in 2012, three quarters of residents in the refreshed units are less than 50 years old. Muji’s latest project recognises that what’s on the outside – communal spaces and retail – is as important as modern amenities and decor.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Patricia Casaburi

Making moves

Patricia Casaburi is founder of Global Citizen Solutions, a boutique investment-migration consultancy firm that offers residency and citizenship programmes for individuals looking to find their dream homes abroad. Here, she talks to Monocle about global mobility trends and how her firm helps clients with the complexities of international relocation.

What locations are emerging as popular destinations for people looking to move abroad?
Portugal, Spain and Greece are the countries that get the most interest. Portugal has an advantage over other European destinations because English is widely spoken there and it is a very international country. Malta also has a strong citizenship programme. Outside Europe, the biggest market is the Commonwealth Caribbean islands.

What criteria do people look for when relocating internationally?
Generally speaking, lifestyle and safety. The appeal of Europe is based on the strong pillars of its society, including good education and healthcare, as well as fairly stable economic and political landscapes.

Visas can be confusing. How do you help clients navigate the complexities?
In Portugal, we can help people obtain a “golden visa”, which is sort of a passive immigration process. With this visa, a client investing in the country will be able to access a residency permit without actually having to spend physical time in the country itself. They would simply have to visit for a week per year on average. We also work on digital-nomad visas, Canada’s start-up programme and the EB-5, which is a visa for US investors.

For our full interview with Patricia Casaburi, tune in to episode 638 of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Foreign Desk

Haiti calls for aid

This week, Haiti’s plight under gang rule has intensified as its prime minister, Ariel Henry, is refused entry into the country. Andrew Mueller explains who is – and who isn’t – answering the Caribbean state’s plea for assistance.


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