Archive | January, 2019

Cool Spa:  Endorsing Emotions Appropriate for Urgent Times, Dr. Robert Zuber

27 Jan


It was like when you make a move in chess and just as you take your finger off the piece, you see the mistake you’ve made, and there’s this panic because you don’t know yet the scale of disaster you’ve left yourself open to.  Kazuo Ishiguro

But there’s another sort of terror: the terror of failure, of being blamed for some disaster, or of assuming responsibility.  David Weber

The two of them, the smart ones, the clever ones, the great defenders of truth and fairness and justice, had done nothing while others had worked themselves to exhaustion.  Michael Grant

It’s a cruel fact of war that it takes little more than applying pressure to one finger to end another person’s life. More than that, it’s a cruel fact of life that we are hardwired to follow the crowd in a moment of panic.  Trevor Richardson

This was potentially a tide-turning week for the world and the UN found itself at the epicenter of much of it.

Yesterday the Security Council held a rare Saturday session to focus on the situation in Venezuela.  The conversation attracted numerous ministers and other senior diplomats, both Council members and many interested regional states, and featured the presence of US Secretary of State Pompeo who stuck around long enough to bash Cuba and issue a warning to countries still on the fence regarding the legitimacy of the Maduro presidency that it is “time to choose.”  He was replaced around the oval by Elliot Abrams of Iran-Contra infamy who was making his debut as chief adviser on Venezuela to the current US president.

The optics of this were not ideal for the US, for whom the presence of Abrams and the bullying tactics of Pompeo underscored fears of some states that the US is now resurrecting a modernist version of the Monroe Doctrine and its “backyard” justifications for aggressive intervention.   There is still vast, lingering pain throughout the region regarding prior “arrangements” between the US and its client states, governments at times willing to throw their own people under the bus to enable the policy objectives of its larger neighbor over which they essentially have no say.

And yet, many states were clear that the current situation in Venezuela, one which has resulted in mass displacement, rights violations and widespread economic ruin, has conspired to delegitimize the Maduro government.  European states at this meeting went so far as to propose an “eight day” window within which Maduro must arrange for new elections, a proposal subsequently mocked by the Russians.  Others preferred the “path of negotiations” approach with facilitation offered by Mexico and Uruguay.  Regardless, emotions were raw during much of this five hour session. Tensions among states seeking to transition the situation in Caracas and do justice to the many thousands of currently displaced (and the neighboring countries hosting them) as well as among states fearing the return of a more hostile US “backyard” remained consistently high.

Surprisingly a bit less “raw” was Friday’s Council debate on the climate-conflict nexus organized by January’s Council president the Dominican Republic.  In a discussion that spanned eight uninterrupted hours and involved 82 state speakers, both the urgency and the politics of climate response were on display. While there were no “climate denying” statements made (the US spoke effectively on disaster response but failed to utter the “C” word), many states (including Germany and some Council colleagues) noted that while climate change might not be the cause of conflict, its impacts have a “multiplier” effect on political and security tensions, adding flooding, drought, storms and other “disasters” to a worrisome global mix characterized by still-too-high levels of poverty and mass displacement, too much plastic in our oceans, and too many hands grabbing at the “cookie jar” of dwindling natural resources.  While some states shared concern about Council energy being “diluted” by excess attention to this particular “thematic obligation,” the Fiji representative rightly noted that we have reached the “tipping point” on climate, echoing Japan’s call for climate considerations integrated “throughout the conflict cycle” and Ireland’s call to explore the climate-conflict nexus across the spectrum of UN policymaking.

Beyond the UN this week was the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, bringing together the elites of the planet –complete with their copious entourages and private jets — to deliberate on the fate of a world they (in the aggregate) have done much to destroy on behalf of global citizens about whom too many of these “leaders” seem to actually care little.  This toxic (in my view) event which draws media attention as though this were the policy equivalent of a Super Bowl or Academy Awards, provides yet another reminder of the residual “vertical” dimensions of global governance, placing on display guardians of the planet who, so far as we can tell, are principally skilled at guarding their own privilege.  Media coverage this year focused on the “gloom” of Davos as elites contemplated the uncertainty of these times – as though much of the rest of this largely “exhausted” planet doesn’t cope with higher levels of uncertainty all the time!

But something did come out of Davos this year that grabbed considerable media interest and not without reason.  Perhaps my favorite quotation of the entire week came from a Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, whose warning to the Davos elites seemed to prompt at least a bit of soul-searching:

Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.

Preaching panic and culpability to generations (including diplomats and elites) that so often go out of their way to “keep cool,” that too-often misconstrue the difference between “keeping your head” and willful indifference to anything that might cause someone to actually and practically care, surely seems like risky business.  But in these times it is also essential business.

Let’s put this “panic” in some perspective.  The “playing it cool” game, like most other games we now indulge, has positive and negative repercussions.  To the extent that it implies keeping your head while others around you are losing theirs, this is surely a skill worth cultivating.  But the degree to which “cool” and its attendant platitudes become the mask behind which we hide from seeing, from feeling, from responding, then such “cool” becomes merely the latest iteration of a narcissistic pattern that too-easily hardens into inattention and dismissiveness; indeed into a potential “disorder” in its own right.

A similar distinction can be attributed to “panic.”  If panic is, as it so often is these days, a sub-set of our now-chronic anxiety, then it is related primarily to our perceived incapacity to control outcomes and/or to recover our brand from ill- advised movements “on the chess board.”  Panic in this sense is more likely to drive an irrational herd than to drive productive outcomes, concerned more with finding “spas” and other niches of personal relief and escape than urgently using those skills and capacities available to help resolve whatever crises make their appearance before us.

As much as we might like to think otherwise within our bastions of “cool,” there are many times when “panic” represents the more accurate reading of circumstance: the parent hovering over a desperately sick child; the homeless person on the cusp of a deadly hypothermia; a family evading traffickers as they seek fresh water and arable farmland, or escape from political instability; an entire nation watching helplessly as melting ice caps raise ocean levels, breeching fresh water supplies with salt and shifting fish stocks away from the access on which local populations depend.  These circumstances are not diminishing in frequency; indeed they threaten to carry us to our collective demise unless we grasp both the urgency they represent and our still-potent (for now) capacity for contructive response.

If some of the “small island” and other states who participated in Friday’s Council debate on climate change and conflict are correct; if their growing and still-unheeded concerns are indeed justified by circumstance; if the warnings uttered in Davos by Greta Thunberg have the merit that many seem to think they do; then “panic” in its most urgent and productive sense is fully warranted.  Not the panic of the herd, but neither the “cool” detachment of persons who don’t (or refuse to) understand that the metaphorical house fire whose potential and implications they fear has long been burning.


Tuesday’s Child: Leadership to Inspire Next Generations, Dr. Robert Zuber

20 Jan

Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon. E.M. Forster

We must desire to see people rising in life, rather than looking for ways to contribute to their fall. Bamigboye Olurotimi

Youth and elder meet where the pressure of the future meets the presence of the past. Michael Meade

He had a courtly way of exclaiming over whatever was exclaimable in people – especially kids. Susan Cain

The UN sprang back to life this week with several key events and with the faces of diplomats and secretariat staff looking fresher and more eager than they did a few short weeks ago.

Our own interns, with one notable exception, have largely scattered, soon to be replaced by others.   Some of what took place this week would have been really good for all of them to experience, the enthusiasm of a system that has taken some lumps over the past years, led by people who are determined to make that system not only work more effectively, but work for all.

One of the things that we ask of the young people who pass through our program is that they give a good-faith effort to understand the UN in all its policy facets – from the Security Council and the work of the GA committees to specialized bodies focused on the rights of women, the care of children, the health of oceans and agriculture, the sustainability of cities, and much more. At the same time, we ask them to evaluate (not judge) the personalities sitting at conference room podiums, to interrogate which UN leadership is most believable, which is keeping his/her eyes focused on the issues of greatest significance for the planet, but also has a plan for how to enable and promote meaningful and sustainable change among the UN’s diverse constituencies.

The rationale for these requests is twofold.  First, we want interns and fellows to, in essence, rub the interests and priorities that they come to us with up against the priorities and interests of a system that is now weighing in at so many significant policy levels.  While the UN is still some ways from being a viable learning community, learning opportunities abound, both diverse and of high quality.  Indeed, in much of the 20 years of Global Action’s existence, we have “mined” the many nuggets of learning available throughout UN system – its security crises and cutting-edge side events, its pandemic responses and gender justice sessions, as the best means available for keeping our minds focused and our vision sharp.

Some of the most interesting events have also been a bit of a welcome surprise – the Arria Formula meetings organized by Security Council members outside the Council’s formal structure, the impact-filled side events such as a fall briefing on the crisis of the Aral Sea region presided over by the president of Uzbekistan, or this past Monday’s multi-stakeholder discussion on finance for development presided over by the highly-regarded and able-listening president of the Economic and Social Council, Ambassador Rhonda King.

Given the vast and high level learning opportunities that abound in UN conference rooms and to which they have access, many of our interns leave the UN with a different passion than they entered with.  They take advantage of the “front row seat” provided for them to review their potential contributions over the frustrations and opportunities that punctuate virtually every UN policy discussion.  Do I want to contribute to policy or to direct humanitarian response?  Do I want to assist with development finance, with humanitarian risk assessment, with efforts to control our hunger for new and improved weapons?

But the second aspect of this UN journey is equally important, the assessment of the many “players” in the UN system who set agendas and guide negotiations, whose voices have an outsized importance in terms of how the UN directs its internal energies and engages external audiences.

Our interns, with few exceptions, have not been successful in cultivating relationships with diplomats and UN officials that go beyond the merely “professional.”  Thus, there have been few opportunities for them to experience what we would consider to be “mentoring” in UN contexts beyond commitments to their growth and well-being available through our own office and “community of peers.”  The balances that constitute mentoring in the best sense – a combination of character and skills development made possible through an invitation to explore the struggles and successes of life “up close,” is elusive for many in this policy space.

And yet there are occasions when bits of personality leak through the formalities of UN protocol, giving all of us – but especially young people – glimpses of human agency and possibility in these challenging times.   The interns might not know in any detail what makes UN leaders tick, or more importantly, the stories that lies behind their commitments, the life circumstances that gave rise to a career of service in multilateral settings. But despite these personal limitations, they can make observations of value in a time of great uncertainty.  After all, young people are gazing towards a future that can spin in a variety of directions, some of them quite discouraging.  Does UN leadership grasp this discouragement or even share it?  And beyond discouragement itself, which figures at the front of the room truly inspire?  Who is really listening to others?  Who respects contributions beyond the status limitations of diplomatic protocol? Who are the leaders grasping the momentousness of the times, calling us to cooperatively focus our intellectual, moral, diplomatic and technical energies on the problems that threaten our existence?

This past Tuesday, two events sought to affirm the values of multilateralism, inspire stakeholders to higher levels of collaborative engagement, and focus energies on the problems of our own making that threaten to grind human progress to a halt.  The first of these was a handover of leadership of the Group of 77 (G-77) and China from Egypt to Palestine.  President Abbas made the trip to New York to appear on the dais with senior UN officials and the Egyptian Foreign Minister to affirm the importance of the G-77 to the fair and able functioning of the UN development system, integrating what is promoted here as “south-south” cooperation.    Both President Abbas and the president of the UN General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés of Ecuador, underscored the importance of the G-77 to creating conditions of greater “global solidarity” from which we can tackle poverty and inequalities, climate change and “decent work,” these and other problems critical to a healthier and more just world.

In the afternoon president Espinosa Garcés herself took center stage, outlining priorities for her term in a voice that was both resolute and thoughtful.  She cited the current “turbulent” challenges that require all member states “to reaffirm their fidelity to the values of the Charter and the enduring value of multilateralism.”  She was gracious in thanking states and stakeholders for the many contributions they are already making to a more just and sustainable world.  And she put forth an appropriately ambitious agenda for change – from “fact-based” migration governance and eliminating ocean plastics, to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities and the “common cause” of ending poverty and gross inequalities — that communicated both the scope of her concern for the planet and her willingness to use every “soft power” tool at her disposal (including the convening of a breathtaking range of high-level events) to leverage additional collaborative change.

It fell to President Abbas, earlier on this Tuesday, to remind the large diplomatic audience that “people are the real treasure of nations.” Our people (especially young people) need to be inspired to “rise in life” by leaders who demonstrate both vision and compassion, who understand the challenges of the times and more specifically that such challenges are unlikely to be resolved successfully without the urgent and respectful engagement of all of us.  On this Tuesday, the UN demonstrated to all its stakeholders, young and old alike, that it is getting that message.

Finish Line: Honoring the Accomplishments and Aspirations of our Common Journey, Dr. Robert Zuber

13 Jan

finish ii

I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have. Abraham Lincoln

One who lives without discipline dies without honor. Icelandic Proverb

To be able to look back upon one’s life in satisfaction is to live twice. Khalil Gibran

There is no beauty in sadness. No honor in suffering. No growth in fear. No relief in hate. It’s just a waste of perfectly good happiness. Katerina Kleme

On Friday, the UN Security Council held its regularly scheduled meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a briefing from the always-enlightening Special Representative Leila Zerrougui. Part of her task was to introduce the latest sobering and comprehensive report of the Secretary-General on the situation in DR Congo including issues affecting the promotion of regional peace and security – efforts to control the latest Ebola outbreaks, assaults from armed groups on civilians and medical personnel, and the ongoing theft of natural resources – as well as the activities of the UN Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO), to protect as many civilians as possible and ensure a modicum of stability in this vast country.

This Council session was a bit different in that the focus was on recently-concluded and twice-delayed presidential elections in DR Congo, the conclusion and final certification of which is to (hopefully) lead to a peaceful transition of power in the country, the first such transition in DR Congo history.  A bevy of speakers, including from the African Union, the Foreign Ministry of neighboring Zambia (representing the Southern African Development Community) and the DR Congo National Electoral Commission (CENI) lent gravity to the proceedings, reinforcing the importance of this process for the often-compromised political legitimacy of the country as well as its implications for stability both within and even beyond the region.

Also highlighted was the suspension of the vote in Beni territory and Butembo in the North Kivu province due to health and security concerns.  Such suspensions, which promised to be resolved in time for March parliamentary elections, were duly noted by speakers but not fully interrogated, specifically in terms of how such suspensions might have affected the electoral outcome (a provisional win for Felix Tshisekedi).  In a country where trust levels are acknowledged to be low, the absence of Kivu votes is sure to become an issue that will linger past any upcoming inauguration and subsequent calls from the new president for patience and reconciliation.

Moreover, there were charges at this meeting that many votes had not been properly counted prior to certification.   Among the thousands of trained monitors at polling places across DR Congo were those of Conférence Épiscopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) one of whose officials addressed the Council and who laid out (in respectful tones) concerns over the vote count, concerns exacerbated by the lack of cell phone access for many during the voting process.  Simply put, CENCO’s polling figures are at times significantly at variance with those of CENI, prompting the request that CENI share its complete polling data in full transparency in order to “set minds at rest.”

It is not necessary to gloss over these concerns, nor “fetishize” the benefits of elections on other matters afflicting DR Congo (as some in the international community are prone to do) to recognize the enormity of this electoral achievement, made possible in part by the decision of DR Congo’s long-serving (but still relatively young) president Joseph Kabila to remove his name from consideration for another terms as president.   DR Congo is a huge and unevenly developed country facing a myriad of threats including its own legacy of corrupt, unresponsive and at times abusive governance.  As noted by several Council members – including new member South Africa — and more forcefully by CENI’s president; that these elections were as successful as they appeared to be — with only sporadic violence, robust monitoring of polling places, the successful registration of millions of Congolese, and voting machines (those not destroyed by fire) that appeared to work better than some had predicted – was as much as could have been hoped for, and should be respected and duly honored as such.

This entire discussion inadvertently underscored a deeper concern for me, one that punctuates much of our efforts within and outside this policy space: when is our work within the complex contexts of policy good enough?  And who decides?  Is it possible to walk the line defined by Belgium and other Council members whereby we can laud the courage and persistence that led to the prospect of a peaceful transition of power while at the same time demand that the political will of the Congolese be fully honored and that persons seeking to report on irregularities be both listened to and protected?

To put it another way, can we put our hands on the oft-elusive formula that allows us to both honor accomplishment and demand better, that makes it possible for us to integrate and even appreciate the diverse expectations of policymakers and constituents that drive equally diverse assessments of our successes and failures, assessments that can (and have too often) become wedges distancing official proclamations of progress from the unrealized aspirations of constituents?

CENI’s president was clearly frustrated by much of what he heard at this Council meeting, rightly citing the legal requirements pertaining to his office, the massive logistical challenges of registering voters and votes in an area larger than western Europe, even the emotional challenges associated with citizens putting faith in the ballot box to help solve a myriad of development and security problems in a country with a democratic culture that is literally in its infancy.  On the other hand, if electoral challenges are unaddressed or even ignored, if a fledgling trust in an equally fledgling political culture is once again trammeled in part by too-easy “reassurances” from state authorities, then all of the thorny problems that a new government will be expected to address will become that much more daunting.  And DR Congo already has more than its share of threats to human dignity to which it must respond.

This week, I came across another in a series of recent articles providing data sets that ostensibly demonstrate that, in some significant ways, 2018 was the setting for much in the way of “global improvements.”  While I have rarely met persons whose immediate circumstances “felt better” on the basis of published percentiles and other data sets, it can certainly be valuable to take stock (albeit cautiously) of progress in the aggregate.  And yet human striving has mostly yielded mixed (and often unequal) benefits, including with regard to human motivation (and human gratitude).  We are clearly making some progress on reducing absolute poverty, halting the spread of infectious disease, communications within and across cultures; this and more deserve appreciation and respect.  But we are also losing ground in several key areas including levels of food insecurity and forced displacement, and the health of our oceans and climate.  Moreover, despite the proliferation of “smart phones,” direct access to capacity such as technological innovation and financial instruments seems less equal in this world than has been the case at any point in my lifetime, perhaps in human history.

Data can be critical to keeping progress on track and exposing gaps and limitations in even our best intentions.  But it cannot – indeed must not – become a substitute for the decisions by people in families and communities regarding the point at which good enough is truly “good enough,” that time when promises by governments and policy leaders for greater health care, education and social equity are both kept and in line with aspirations, aspirations that are now continually stoked by the incessant displays of high lifestyles to which those in developing countries, and especially the youth, enjoy at least remote digital admission.

All is not doom and gloom in our times, to be sure, but we still have a long road to travel before we achieve the world envisioned – indeed demanded – by the UN’s sustainable development goals.  Along the way, we have things yet to learn, including the tricky matter of honoring without settling, critiquing without discouraging.  Moreover, we must continually rethink those too-tempting conclusions by government officials and data experts, that what seems “good enough” to them is actually “good enough” for others.


Value Clarification: Recovering Norms that Bind the UN Community, Dr. Robert Zuber

6 Jan


Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.  José Ortega y Gasset

I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Ralph Waldo Emerson

If we do not penalize false statements made in error, we open up the way for false statements by intention.  Dorothy L. Sayers

To value gold over water is to value economy over ecology, that which can be locked up over that which connects all things. Rebecca Solnit

Perhaps at no time in the 20 years of Global Action’s existence have differences of opinions about the value of the United Nations been as sharp as they are now.

Some continue to idolize of the UN as an indispensable presence on the international scene, an institution that, as attributed to former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, may not “bring us to heaven” but might be the only existing setting that can “save us from hell.”

For others, especially in this age of nationalist resurgence, the UN has become little more than a relic of the 20th Century, a place of stodgy protocol and undeserved privilege, where elites with excess ambition and little decision-making authority craft texts that few states actually abide by and that add too little practical value.

As a small organization that gratefully spends much of its life energy in UN conference rooms, we take what we hope is an attentive and reflective “third rail” approach to the UN.  We appreciate the expanding scope of UN policy interests as well as the time and effort that diplomats expend in keeping the UN properly funded, seeking to better-balance the power of states inside and outside of the Security Council, and ensuring (as best they can) that those who represent the UN in the field are properly protected and equipped, but that they are also held accountable for behavior inconsistent with mission values, priorities and mandates.

And we always recall that the UN is far more than its headquarters machinations, far greater in its scope and application than the ability of any one NGO to scrutinize.  Its peacekeepers, humanitarian workers, experts in promoting food security and pandemic response; these and many more are the lifeblood of the UN system, the reason that many frustrated over UN failures especially in the peace and security realm still cling to the hope that UN Charter values can become more deeply embedded in the culture of its members, can help guide all states on a path to a world that “values” the dignity and well-being of all citizens, that affirms in practical terms the cooperation that the challenges of climate, weapons, migration and more demand and that the UN should be well-placed to promote.

But this hope now displays frayed edges for many and not entirely without reason.   As I tried to explain in a recent interview with Global Connections Television, albeit clumsily, we are living through a “thin skinned” age, a time when many governments and individuals believe themselves to have earned the equivalent of a “plenary indulgence” shielding them from criticism or constraint, asserting their sovereign right to do pretty much what they want without judgment or indeed without consequence.

Such indulgence is toxic enough when asserted by individuals, but for governments it is discouraging at best and gravely dangerous at its worst.   Moreover, it is potentially life-threatening for a UN system that, at some level, must be able to bind its members to the values embedded in its Charter, values which are not always as straight-forward as some claim but which constitute a hopeful promise of sorts to global constituents who seek in multilateral engagements the capacity to hold individual states accountable for internationally agreed norms in ways that their citizens in (too) many instances simply cannot.

We have long taken the view that the “culture” of the UN which plays out in various conference rooms and political processes must itself better promote the norms and values which give hope to constituents and allow them to maintain faith in a system that has not always justified that faith.  The UN will never be perfect any more than its stakeholders will, and that includes tiny organizations like ours.  But the UN does have an obligation, we believe, to keep our collective eye on the prize, a world that has safely backed up from the brink of “hell” currently inflamed by existential threats from climate change, pandemics, plastic-filled oceans and weapons of mass destruction.

This is certainly no easy agenda.  As we on the NGO side are reminded all-too-frequently, the UN is largely what its member states want it to be.  And frankly it is not always clear to us that UN member states are uniformly and sufficiently interested in preserving the health and integrity of this system, a system that most all would affirm the value of (even if only to keep tabs on their adversaries) but where commitments to preventive maintenance are relatively rare.

Here are some of the practices we have witnessed by UN member states (you know who you are) that are both increasingly commonplace and undermining of the integrity of a system that, frankly, cannot tolerate any more shocks to its global reputation:

  • Articulating lopsided and self-interested versions of the “truth” that obsess on issues of national interest while ignoring relevant contexts
  • Demanding that smaller states abide by rules and obligations that seem not to apply in the same way to the more powerful states and their allies
  • Asserting that agreements negotiated under UN auspices are legally (or normatively) binding and then choosing to simply walk away from those that no longer suit national interests
  • Insisting that the UN has a role to play in assisting the internal capacity of states but has little or no authority regarding the internal behavior of states
  • Speaking (even in the Security Council) from the sole vantage point of national interest rather than investing more thought in how to promote the “best interests” of the system
  • Proclaiming the importance of the “liberal international order” without being transparent about the ways in which states – including the so-called guardians of that order – have undermined trust in its institutions and objectives
  • Advocating the presence of NGOs while blurring the distinction between merely “having a voice,” and actually “having a say”
  • Refusing to acknowledge mistakes and misjudgments while harping on the failures of others

One of the ceremonies I have long been intrigued by are those “renewals of vows” that are most often experienced in the context of marriages but which could certainly be arranged for member states and other stakeholders through the UN General Assembly.   As we have advocated previously, opportunities to publicly reaffirm the values and objectives of this system could encourage and energize global constituents while hopefully causing states that play loosely with the UN’s normative framework to reconsider their approaches and realign national values with those of the Charter.

Whether our various mistakes in language or judgement are “made in error” or “by intention,” it’s past time for us – all of us – to get back on the same page, or at the very least to acknowledge that there is a “page” to which we are all ostensibly accountable, indeed to which we must all be more attentive. If the UN is to avoid becoming another “dead institution,” another pious incarnation of a rapidly-diminished liberal world order, we need to work harder on improving the “culture” of the system itself – not just what’s in it for me, but what’s in it for all.

If we fail in this, prospects for resolving the challenges of climate, weapons, oceans, migration, pandemics and more – challenges that bind us all (whether we like it or not) and require more cooperation and trust than we currently exhibit – will be severely impaired.  And whatever history will eventually be written about us –our priorities, preoccupations and attentions– will surely not be kind.