Monday 18 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 18/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Reuters

Diplomacy / Bruno Kaufmann

Rocking the vote

“Democracy needs champions,” said Joe Biden at the launch of the first Summit for Democracy in 2021. Energised by his election the previous November and the subsequent attack on the US Capitol, he was joined by heads of state and government from more than 100 countries. This week the summit’s third iteration is taking place in South Korea. Biden will not participate and will be represented by the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken. But Washington’s ambitious project to protect and spread democracy across the world is threatening to collapse.

The backdrop to this third summit couldn’t be more dramatic – and not only because Kim Jong-un has publicly renounced North Korea’s peaceful reunification strategy with its southern neighbour. Elections will take place in more than 70 countries this year, potentially involving about half of the world’s adult population. Democracy is under attack and needs a new start.

The Summit for Democracy hopes to inspire democratic dynamism across the globe. This week, however, government and civic leaders will have to address events such as Russia’s dubious presidential vote or the forthcoming general election in India, which is becoming increasingly autocratic. And then there are the US elections in November: Biden’s opponent, Donald Trump, has openly flirted with the idea of being a dictator. The rest of the world urgently needs to find new champions of democracy.

Kaufmann is a regular Monocle Radio contributor and global democracy correspondent for the Swiss Broadcasting Company. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Had its fill: France seeks to penalise fast-fashion products


Fashion / France

Speed limit

France’s lower house of parliament has approved a bill that seeks to apply penalties on fast-fashion products sold by companies such as China’s Shein. Though the bill was unanimously approved by all voting lawmakers, it still needs to pass a vote in the Senate before it becomes law.

Key measures include gradually increasing penalties of up to €10 per item of clothing by 2030 and imposing a ban on advertising such garments. According to the bill, the sector’s low prices and large volumes have “environmental, social and economic consequences”. The move makes France the first country in the world to take substantial legislative steps to address the overconsumption fuelled by fast fashion.

The armed forces of Ukraine move US made FIM-92 Stinger missiles

Image: Getty Images

Affairs / EU & Ukraine

Money where their mouth is

The EU Foreign Affairs Council will meet in Brussels today to approve the creation of a new assistance fund for Ukraine. The financial reserve, which is part of the European Peace Fund, will provide Ukraine with €5bn in urgent military aid, helping to relieve the country’s shortage of weapons and ammunition.

The move comes amid an intensification of European rhetoric on the conflict: Emmanuel Macron recently refused to rule out sending French troops to Ukraine, while a Czech-led initiative has sought to supply the country with 800,000 artillery shells. For many, it’s a sign of the continent’s increasingly decisive role in the absence of US leadership. “Over the past few months, there has been a tectonic shift in the EU’s relationship with Kyiv,” Ukrainian MP Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze tells The Monocle Minute. “This decision alone isn’t enough to ensure our victory but it is a significant step forward.”

Society / USA

Happy medium

For California, happiness is now a legislative matter: the state’s Select Committee on Happiness and Public Policy Outcomes has recently held its first meeting. The body seeks to consider how to incorporate policies that prioritise joy in state laws. According to its chair, Anthony Rendon, the committee was inspired by film-maker Roko Belic’s 2011 documentary Happy, which explored the science behind the feeling in 14 countries. Last September a survey revealed that only 16 per cent of Californians are “very happy”, 58 per cent are “pretty happy” and 26 per cent are “not too happy”. The committee will meet again in the coming weeks to work on policies that accentuate the positive, focusing on areas ranging from healthcare and urban green spaces to closer-knit communities.

Beyond the Headlines

In print / Issue 171

Paper trail

Monocle travels to the Swiss canton of Glarus to meet Lars Müller, a publisher who has long championed the power of print. He tells us all about his new online project, which offers up his archive to collectors.


Flat & Bound’s poster collection


Kühne’s workshop


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Image: Ola Smit

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Toklas and Finnair’s in-flight menu

We sit down with Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, the founders of Frieze art fair, to find out about their culinary ventures – and the intersection between art and food. Also in the programme: Monocle’s Helsinki correspondent, Petri Burtsoff, meets with Finnair’s development chef, Sami Oksava, to learn about the role of Finnish cuisine on board the airline’s flights. Plus: Michael Booth heads to the fête du Diamant Noir in Provence to discover more about the art of truffle-hunting in the region.


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