Opinion

Youth 20 Dialogue in Berlin

Some minutes with Julia Amerikaner, one of the argentine delegates.

The Youth 20 Dialogue is the official G20 forum for young people.  As the SABF, it’s objective is to gather young professionals of different cultures to tackle the future of the international agenda. In this edition, Julia Amerikaner was the argentine delegate.

 

SABF: Tell us a bit about the activities during those days.

Julia Amerikaner (JA): The conference lasted a week and more than 70 young participants from different countries and organizations were gathered. This year, not only delegates of the G20 countries were there, but other guest countries as well (like Norway and Singapore) and multilateral organizations, like the World Trade Organization, World Labour Organization, United Nations and regional organizations like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

The final product was a special editorial of 25 pages that resumed the 10 topics that youth considers a priority. Between those: global economy, gender equality, digitalization, sustainable development, terrorism, migration and refugees, within others.

During the first days of the conference, we got together in informal workshops to discuss these topics and set forth recommendations for the G20 governments. Afterwards, each one of us chose a topic and worked on it in teams.  In between, we had the opportunity to meet experts in each field and enhance our work.  After the first draft, each team had to present their topic to the reset of the conference and we went through each point altogether.

Consensus was key: there were easily 5 drafts before getting to the final document (and a lot of nights up until 4 am!).  We discussed about which ideas to include (or even which entire paragraph should be deleted); the nature of the recommendations and the capacity of the governments to set them forth.

After closing the document, each group chose a speaker to present the theme to Merkel.  The speaker had two minutes to pitch their idea and, later on, accepted questions from Merkel.

 

SABF: How were the different topics developed? Which one interested you the most?

JA: At the beginning the topics were worked by everyone, it was an exchange of ideas, opinions and points of view.  Later, each participant had to focus on one topic in groups of 4 or 10 persons.  In my case, I was passionate about three:  anti-corruption, digitalization and gender equality.

Finally, I chose to work in the digitalization committee. To understand my decision, you should know that I work as an adviser in the Ministry of Culture of the Nation.  When I began, almost a year ago, everything was done on paper. Today I’m leading a project to implement a digital platform to organize the work at the Ministry; from the planifications of their activities to the budget execution.  I felt that I had a lot to contribute to the group and also had the chance to deepen my own knowledge and apply what was learnt in my country. I really feel that the modernization of the State is important to progress and to improve the quality of the services offered to the citizens.

 

SABF: As you worked on the digitalization topic, did you come across any uneasiness?

JA: I’ll make an observation (It could be considered as “uneasiness”) and I will say something very obvious:  Our context, the place where we grew up and the things that surround us, really define the way of seeing the world. I say this because I was surprised that the in the gender equality committee (composed entirely by europeans and none from Latin America) did not include gender violence in their first draft. The argentine delegation, together with the mexican, requested that it should be included in a paragraph in the official document about the gender violence and domestic violence.

This anecdote serves to emphasise that diversity, especially in a working group, is important.  I believe that if Argentina and Mexico would not have been part of the discussion, then gender violence would not have been included in a debate about equality; a terrible mistake, in my opinion.

 

SABF: At the time of promoting the objectives of the G20, what do you think is the role of Argentina and what do you think is the most urgent aspect to strengthen?

JA: I think Argentina has the unique opportunity next year as we are assuming the presidency of the G20.  There are only three latin american countries in the group (Mexico, Argentina and Brazil).  So I think Argentina can emphasize certain topics in a unique way: the poverty and migration as one of the most relevant.  I would also like the country to take a long term perspective and emphasis on sustainable development and politics on renewable energy, as well as gender equality and digitalization.

 

SABF: What did you want to pass over of Argentina to the rest of the countries?

JA: I became a very close friend of the delegations of Korea, Indonesia and Singapore. All of them said that I was the first argentine they met. That tells you everything.  As a delegate, you want to share the best of your country: the sympathy of Argentina, the friendship, but also the cleverness of argentines to solve problems.  I wanted to transmit that we were an open country, friendly and, above all, leave a good impression.

 

SABF: You had some training on public speaking, anything you would want to share about that?

JA: Thess conferences show the importance of public speaking. For the ones that don’t have much experience in this, I believe the most important part is to lose the fear and to try it: start speaking in public, by small steps, without embarrassment and with conviction.  At the moment of preparing a speech, the best thing is to write down what you want to transmit and generate something coherent.  Where one idea follows another one naturally.  Above all, be clear and concise, give examples.

 

SABF: One of the topics for Y20 was the lack of economic opportunities for young people and the lack of representation of youth in the global economy. According to statistics 25 per cent of youth in middle-income nations and 15 per cent in high income nations are NEETs: not in education, employment or training (OECD, 2017). What’s your perspective?

JA: This was one of the main topics: young employment.  It’s something that generates a lot of concern; from Latin America to Europe, Africa and Asia.  Above all, I believe that participation of youth in politics and social civil organizations is key.

 

SABF: How was it to share some moments with Angela Merkel?

JA: It was amazing.  I think that the presence of a Head of State — and someone as influential in the international scenery as Merkel– was a positive message to us and an important signal for youth.  It means “we care about what you are saying”, given that they generated the institutional space to give us a voice.  Also, Merkel had a lot of questions and she seemed interested.  It was not a “passive listening” on her behalf but she made us stand up for our points and develop others.  For the digitization team, she inquired about artificial intelligence and future challenges.

 

SABF: What are your expectations for the coming G20 in Argentina?

JA: I may be repeating myself a little… But my expectation is that this is a great opportunity for Argentina to itself before the world.  I would like to see us leading the regional agenda in topics such as digitization, gender equality and sustainable development.

 

SABF: Do you have an anecdote to share?

JA: Uf, thousands.  But I would like to tell one about how I met the delegate of Arabia Saudita. We both participated in a workshop about gender equality and as I talked (or she), a sense of complicity developed.  We had a lot in common, all of those who shared ideas were in sintony. She said something and I was thinking “yeah, that’s right”.  I said something and she would look at me like saying “I agree completely”.  When the workshop ended, she came to me and said “We haven’t met yet, right?” And I said “No, but we should”.  After that, and together with the delegate from Singapore, we spent hours talking about different topics, always feeling we had a special connection.  That’s something amazing that this kind of international conferences give: the chance to connect instantly with a person from a completely different environment, that you met two days ago.

 

SABF: From the global challenges that were set forward, which was your favourite?

JA: My favorite is Assuming Responsibility. Already it’s title expresses a key idea: what happens is our responsibility.  It’s time to assume that responsibility and be proactive at the moment of solving problems that unsettle the world for hundreds of years: wars, forced migration, sickness, injustice.  In a world evermore connected, I think it’s irresponsible to look the other way and say “this is not my problem”.  Someone else will not fix this and this will affect you too.  We all have the potential to be agents of change.

North Korea: the last frontier

In today’s world, where borders seem to have surrendered to the phenomenon of globalization and communism disappeared with the opening of Cuba and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s, it remains an isolated Stalinist state.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea occupies the northern portion of the Korean peninsula. It is headed by the only case of a communist dynasty in the history established by the supreme leader and eternal president of Korea, Kim Jong-Il and is rule under the “Juche” ideology whose vocation regulates every aspect of the citizen’s life. It is a totalitarian regime based in the cult of personality of their leaders. After the death of supreme leader in 1994, came to power his son Kim Il-Sung and after his death in 2011, the current ruler Kim Jong-Un.

It is a heavily militarized regime with one of the largest armed forces in the world. This is so because the country is since ever in  state of war as a peace was never signed after the Korean War.

South Korea, a democratic and liberal regime has reached a high level of development is the south of the peninsula with support from the United States and Japan. Meanwhile the North Korean regime has seen its existence compromised with the fall of the Soviet regime and the inclusion of China in the economy and world order. While Beijing remains its mainstay, criticism from its biggest ally do nothing but increase.

It is in this context and with the coming to power of the supreme leader’s grandson, the positions and the rhetoric of the regime have been radicalized. The pursuit of nuclear weapon and the missile development has become a priority for the regime and its existence.

 

Current status

2017 has been a challenge year so far to the international community. North Korea feels its own existence in danger and it shows it with provocations and threats.

In March Koreans conducted a four missiles trail. The missiles traveled nearly a thousand kilometers, three of them reached Japanese waters. It is estimated that the exercise goal were US bases in Japan. China interceded in United Nations to calm down the reaction of the United States, South Korea and Japan. Since then the United States called to end the strategic patience towards the regime and South Korea expressed concern at the progress of North Korean missile program.

Two others missiles test were made, one in late March and another in April. Both of the without success. The issue was addressed at the meeting between President Trump and President Xi Jinping. Koreans threatened an unforgivable reaction to what they saw as an american provocation as the US announced and increasement of its presence in the peninsula.

The North Korean press made threats of nuclear attacks on American soil after the US announcement. Indeed it is estimated that a nuclear test site is operable since April.

In this context the Japanese reported that the North Koreans have the ability to launch warheads with sarin gas. North Korea announced that they will respond to any attack with total war. The regimes showed its potential during a military parade in occasion of the commemoration of the 105th anniversary of the birth of the Supreme Leader.

The Vice President of the United States,Pence, said that all options are on the table regarding the Korean crisis and recommended the regime not to test the determination of President Trump.

Japan meanwhile urged North Korea to refrain from further provocations and claims to the role of China in the conflict.

However, North Korea did another missile test unsuccessfully as it exploded after launched. Pope Francis called for a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis.

In May North Korea announced that it can conduct a nuclear test at any time and call for the immediate suspension of US anti-missile shield.

A new President in South Korea assumed after a political crisis and corruption scandal, saying o be ready to travel to North Korea if the conditions were acceptable. It was the end of 10 years of conservative government in South Korea. Nevertheless North Koreans tested the new South Korean president with another missile test. The White House called for tougher sanctions to the regime. Moscow and Beijing were concerned at the escalation of tension. The European Union considered North Korea as a threat to international peace.

Furthermore the United States and Japan called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council after two missiles tests in less than 15 days. Russia called to stop intimidation to North Korea.

In this context  a massive cyberattack occurred and there were strong versions that It could have been originated in North Korea. At the United Nations, Washington and Beijing prepare a resolution with sanctions against the regime. 18 companies and regime figures were sanctioned. In response North Korea conducted a new missile test. UN called North Korea a threat to international security.

In June the North Koreans again tested a missile showing significant progress. The death of the US extradited prisoner, Otto Warmbier, created new tensions between the administration and the regime Trump. It was first accused of stealing a propaganda poster during his visit to North Korea.

 

An agenda for Korea

The evolution of the first half of the year shows that North Korea feels threatened and it believes that the only solution is the development of technology: a kind of technology that will make extremely dangerous a possible invasion.

The only deterrent will be the nuclear weapon as well as the missiles to reach South Korean, Japanese and even American soil and so neutralize any threat to the regime.
The objective of the North Korean regime is causing a high cost to any military intervention on its territory. And there is not one greater than the nuclear, so it is difficult that they will give up the development of this technology.

The sanctions have not been effective as in the case of Iran, as the North Korean economy is not integrated into the international economy and the North Koreans seem not revealed by harsher condition. The famine between 1995-1997 is a clear example of this.

The role of the Chinese and Russian governments is critical to achieving a resolution to the conflict as they have a certain influence in the regime.

Any attitude and demonstration of force will only reinforce the alleged weakness experienced by the regime. It will increase the regime desire of the nuclear weapon.

Only dialogue and multilateral negotiations will find the solution to the Korean problem.

Will the international community give an opportunity to build bridges of trust and to avoid what it looks like a inevitable all-or-nothing confrontation?

The day that politics became part of consumer goods

Are the political party, the electoral platform, the electoral promises, the government objectives and / or the candidate’s experience and training important? Do we consider some of these variables when we have to vote? How much do we empathize with political candidates depending on the words they use, colors, how they communicate or their advertising spots?

Today politics have become a consumer good. It is a product that is created precisely with the goal of being consumed, being elected and meeting certain personal goals or a space. This is not new, but the turning point is when the image becomes more important than the content.

For the image to become relevant, it is necessary to have a team behind it that builds from zero a candidate. Therefore, candidates become mere products of a market that moves according to the demands and perceptions of civil society. This construction takes into account from the physical image, to speeches, verbal and non-verbal language, political discourse, and the actions they perform. Even though they are part of a political party, they seek to avoid being categorized merely in the party and reach as many spaces as possible. The parties are used as mere promotion platforms, losing the sense of belonging to it and generates a collective identity in which we know what to say and how to say it.

To achieve this, polls of public opinion on issues of interest are closely followed. The strategy is no longer based on purely political analysis, but also on marketing. It is important a strategy with a clear and persistent basis, but that also has the capacity to adapt to the fluctuations of everyday life. Precisely, the essence is creativity.

It is often said that brands in industry use marketing not only to meet needs but also to create them. Politics are beginning to use the same conception. Candidates respond to certain needs that civil society evidence, but candidates also through discourse create the imaginary collective of new needs that they and only they are able to satisfy. This becomes a key when people internalize that need. For this, the need must be well thought out, it must be deeply designed.

The media, although they are positioned as actors that objectively report reality, they are not. That is why politics uses them as a mechanism of transmission, not for official campaign advertising, but in daily programs, from news to programs of general interest. Today’s politicians must have the ability to interact with political analysts in the same way that journalists do. Why? Because the politics has become a show. It takes the politicians off the stage in which they develop their work, and they are humanized, but humanized as celebrities where everything they do is news.

A valuable example is Donald Trump, who was criticized and delegitimized in all major US media, while, at the same time, he was on the news every day. His strategy was to hold every day, to make his image the most seen and best known. It was more important to see him than what he really represented and said. Politics ceases to be an idea and a call to action, and becomes an acting role, where civil society plays the role of spectator vis-a-vis candidates and politicians who have the leading roles.

Furthermore, the new technologies of information and communication are being as important, like social networks that allow politicians to have a first-person link with their followers or even with their detractors. Although those who manage the networks are not the politicians themselves, the idea is generated that they are and that is a tool that brings that gap between governors and ruled closer.

Marketing is the central element that structures political campaigns strategies as a consequence of the increasing mediatization of politics. Today, more than ever, we can speak about the press or the media, understood in a broad vision of the concept to be able to be incorporated to the TICs, like the fourth power. That Big Brother who sees and analyzes everything, but with a subjective position.

It is in this way that politics gradually have become a spectacle, a show, a product that citizens consume, whether conscious or not. It will depend on civil society itself, citizens, on how to interpret this new face of politics. Now the question is: as citizens are we aware of this new policy role or do we consume it as if it was any product?

Chechnya: Rethinking the bonds that bind us

Leaving aside the need for subtitles in order to understand Russian, there is nothing keeping us from instantly empathizing with the words of Vyacheslav: one of the victims of the decadent state of the fight for human rights in the Russian Federation. A couple of months ago, hundred of men have been kidnapped, tortured and even murdered by Russian security forces in the Chechen region. All of them men suspects of “homosexual behaviours”. The first ones to report this terrible situation were members of Novaya Gazeta, a Russian organization specialized in human right investigations. A unique and discrete report, that follows the long tradition of censorship towards opinions that oppose the official ones, and particularly the ones calling out on the terrible state of LGBTG+ rights in the Russian Federation, fearing retaliation, kidnaps and more tortures.

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (1) and Human Right Watch have manifested their concern towards the situation and have called on the Russian authorities to set in motion investigations and programs to ensure victim’s safety. The level of disinterest and denial of the authorities is unbelievable. Everything comes together while hearing the terrible speech (2) of the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, who not only denied the existence of homosexuals in the Republic but also added that: “If there were, their families would take care of sending them somewhere they would never come back from.” The homophobia in the region reaches tremendous levels, with evidence of the so called honor murders in which the families are the ones who murder the victims, for putting on the tight rope not only their honor but also their most firm ideals.

Vyacheslav and the rest of the Russian citizens, share a culture, a language, and a history. They have lived surrounded by the same smoke. Regardless, an Argentine a thousand kilometers away with whom he doesn’t share almost anything, understands his perspective more clearly than the rest of those Russian citizens, who did not doubt for one second to shoot him, kick him in his ribs or yell at him: “Where are you going fagot?”. How can all the shared history and culture be forgotten only to focus on a much more irrelevant aspect of the identity, such as sexuality, that is currently the only bond binding Vyacheslav to that Argentine a thousand kilometers away.

Two persons, that apparently do not share anything, that live on two different sides of the Earth, that do not share the same language or think in terms of the same culture, can bond over one miniscule portion of their identity. That detail of our identity can be used to find a starting point, a place where we can begin building something together. This detail was more important than what the main pieces of anyone’s identity, like their national identity, their religion, their history or their culture were. How many details such as this can be found in order to build bonds that cross frontiers and challenge the limits settled by the most obvious and traditional pieces of our identity? It is important to take a moment to question and explore each of the things that influence our way of thinking. To go through that drawer full of little bricks, recognizing them and understanding why they are there and which role they play in our upbringing. By doing this we can find points in common with the rest of the people. We just need one shared detail, even though it is lost among thousands of other pieces that seem irreconcilable.

After reading about the situation in Chechnya, a quote I heard in a Ted talk a couple of years ago came back to me.

…because, aren’t you lucky that you don’t live in Uganda (3)

Privilege? Yes. Luck? Yes. But even if I lived in Uganda, Chechnya or Argentina, there are obviously bonds that bind people that go much further than geography, religion of national identity. Even though it is true that I do not live in Chechnya, and that I do not suffer first hand the terrible atrocities that Vyacheslav had to suffer, there is a bond that binds us and that allows me to share the suffering. The suffering that serves as power to make everything better, to fight for a better reality. The suffering that we both share but that the rest of the Russian citizens that perpetuate these atrocities don’t. The suffering that ignores frontiers and that allows us to cooperate regardless of our differences. Once more the national identity is diminished by another not so irrelevant aspect of our identity. Once more it comes to evidence that the traditional frontiers are left behind, that there are new ways of connecting thoughts and perspectives. It is a new way of understanding cooperation and building new starting points.

Diversity in tech and why we need it

It is a wide known fact within the industry of IT that there’s not a lot of diversity among people who build the internet. Why is this a problem and why should we address it?

Technology is everywhere. We use technology to communicate with our peers at work, with our families, with our friends. We use technology to search for information, we use it to get our news, we use it to learn and to grow. Being such an omnipresent factor in our lives, in everyone’s lives, it is imperative that technology is built for everyone. Moreover, it’s important that technology is built by everyone.

While it is true that most people are born naturally empathetic, there’s only so much our empathy can go. To give a silly yet relatable example, last weekend we forgot to purchase vegan sweets for an event. The reason being: it’s always been our (then absent) vegan friend who thought about those things. One can make an extra effort to be empathetic and walk in someone else’s shoes, but not sharing their reality only allows us to do it to some extent.

Of course, the lack of empathy when building a product can go beyond sensitivities and affect functionality as well. A clear example of that are facial recognition algorithms. Take the case of Joy Buolamwini, an African-American MIT student, whose face was not being consistently recognised by the face-detection algorithms she was using to complete her studies. In order to test her assignments, she even had to recur to wearing a white mask to increase contrast in low-light environments and have her face detected.

Does this mean that whoever created the face detection algorithms is racist, or that the algorithm has a racist bias? Not at all. Most face detection programs use artificial intelligence, where a neural network needs to be trained with a set of samples (in this case, faces), that will allow it to determine patterns to match against. The main cause for black faces not being recognised, or Asian eyes detected as closed, is that the set of samples used for training the neural network was not diverse enough.

While it can seem hard to, as individuals, influence how a phone screen blocker detects Asian eyes or how crime prevention algorithms identify suspects, the truth is that we all have a part to play. Diversity is key, and we all can start by encouraging others to become involved. Examples of this are Rails Girls and Django Girls among others, which are organisations aimed at increasing the proportion of women in tech, and Black Girls Code, which aims to increase the number of women of color in the digital space. Another great example is the Algorithmic Justice League, created by the aforementioned Joy to highlight algorithmic bias.

If you feel identified with any of these stories, get involved. If you ever found it difficult to use an app or website due to your ethnicity, age or disabilities, get your community involved. Educate them, attract them to the industry. Increase diversity in the development teams and in the test groups. If you didn’t, if you’ve never had any struggles at all, make a special effort to become aware of social bias. Start by looking at your surroundings. Inspect the company you work at and analyse whether it’s diverse enough. Encourage diversity. Improve tech.

I Am A Feminist

We all remember Emma Watson’s speech in the UN in September 2014 when she presented the #HeForShe campaign (http://www.heforshe.org). She was the voice for millions of women who daily experience obstacles, discomforts, pressures and also violence to live in a macho society. It was a voice to bring to reason many people who unconsciously continued to proliferate this way of social organization where there are certain rights that are traditionally reserved for men.

I live in Argentina, a country where the numbers of violence against women are significant. In 2016 there were 327 cases of death due to femicide in all of Argentina. This figure shows that a woman died every 30 hours in Argentina for a case of contempt for the female gender. They are only the figures of the cases denounced and that they have proof that demonstrates the bond with femicide. The number would be higher if we took into account that not all cases are reported and not all femicides are declared. By the middle of this February the figure for 2017 highlighted a total of 57 femicides, implying that there is more than one case per day.

These numbers call to action. Argentina took the initiative, the Argentine women took it to the street putting a voice and a face to social patterns with which they did not agree. Although our society evolved in many respects, such as the law of equal marriage, however in other respects it remained stagnant. In 2015 the “collective cry against gender violence” is born, as the #NiUnaMenos (Not a woman less – http://niunamenos.com.ar) page says. This was born from a group of journalists, activists and artists who saw the need and they took the cause as their own to generate a collective campaign. A campaign that became successful because of the high degree of adherence of women and men across the country and even reached neighboring countries.

 

What is sexist violence?

I hear constantly many men take offense at hearing the use of “macho” to describe this type of violence, on the grounds that they are men who never offended or denigrated a woman. But do not we live in a society that for years was built under the domination of men, and why not say it, white men, who banished women and everyone they considered different from the spheres of power and decision-making areas? Do not we live in a society where women earn a lower salary than men despite having the same training and the same hierarchical position? Do not we live in a society where women are judged by how they dress, how they act and how are their sex lives?

The woman problem has always been a man problem.” – Simone de Beauvoir.

Being a feminist is often misunderstood as to be against the male gender. But that comes from a high level of ignorance. According to the Oxford dictionary Feminism is: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”, this means that women are equal to men, and do not want to subtract rights to men as many say. It is not a struggle of sexes, it is a question of gender ceasing to be seen as an impediment. As Emma Watson clearly explains:

For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes“.

But not only violence against women is seen in gender-based killings, it is seen in everyday actions. We live in a society that, although we fight continually and we rip our clothes to declare that we are open, that we do not discriminate and that we have tolerance, we are surrounded by prejudices. Violence does not necessarily occur in a physical form, there is symbolic violence, which is not minor, because it is the one that influences people and limits their way of acting in public spaces.

Men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it. They have decided that it is entirely right and proper for men to fight for their liberties and their rights, but that it is not right and proper for women to fight for theirs.”- Emmeline Pankhurst.

Symbolic violence is the one that constricts freedoms in an indirect way, which generates that the person restrains from certain actions because of fear or to avoid problems. That violence that occurs every day, is the one that causes the greatest damage. It is transmitted in the family, in education, in the media and in public spaces. It is our job to diminish it and make it disappear.

For now, it is more what was gained in law than in fact.

 

3 powerful techniques for problem solving

We, the Homo sapiens, solve problems every day. One of our greatest tools (but not the best) is intuition. Our most common method for solving problems is that of trial and error. Based on this context, we learn from our mistakes and when we get to the solution of a problem, we learn how we did it. In this way, we build a “bridge” in our brain, which helps us in the future when we want to solve a similar problem. The issue is that there are many techniques that we can apply to improve our ability to solve problems in everyday life, whether in study, work or any situation; Every day we face a problem, as simple as it may be. The key is to structure our analysis, which serves as a framework for later thinking the problem in greater depth and thinking alternatives. However, a word of caution: intuition is a double-edged sword. Thomas Gilovich couldn’t have said it better: “We believe certain things because they ought to be true.” Sometimes, just because we believe that something must be true because we believe it (sounds obvious), does not allow us to examine other alternatives to the solution of a problem.

Now, I present 3 tools that can serve to improve our ability to solve problems:

1) Divergence and convergence: With the first, we seek to explore and look for new things. It is a process to look for new options and ideas. Convergence is the opposite, we seek a response or conclusion. The idea would be to apply both concepts separately, and in different parts. The ideal would be to diverge and then to converge.

2) Restating the problem: In several different ways, is a divergent technique that opens our minds to alternatives. For example, changing the focus of the problem, rephrasing it in a broader context, or asking the question “how can we get employees to come to the picnic?”, to rephrase it to “how can we make employees not come to the picnic?”.

3) Applying the scientific method: Which was something I learned from my mentor Yimi, in order to solve problems. We present our problem as a hypothesis, and we want to see if applying a given solution, we arrive at the thesis is true.

I graduated… now what?

There are several types of crisis in this world and we all have experienced them at some point in our lives. Parents suffer when their kids grow and leave home, you can suffer a nervous crisis waiting for the grade of your last exam, we also have experienced as a society political, socioeconomic, financial and of course, existential crisis. But nobody anticipates the crisis that you are going to live when you have already passed half of your twenty decade … reaching your 30’s.

We are determined to follow an established pattern of stages to accomplish as we grow. We have a guide since our childhood that tells us what is the next phase that we must overcome. But what happens when you finish the cycle by which we are all immersed?

Knowing our path, that’s the importance

After a lot of effort, coffee cups and sleepless nights, you finish the major that you were forced to choose at your early 18s. You get a job, you become independent and you live your life day by day. It sounds like you’ve reached the top, but the truth is that you’re just starting to get to know yourself. There is no more pattern to follow. There’s only you. You and the decisions you make.

In my personal case, when I was 26 I suffered a strong stakeout in my life. I graduated and at 23, I came to live to Buenos Aires. Leaving your country makes you to live more intensely. Even though I was stable with a good job and a temporary department to live, I had my activities with friends and sometimes I got to travel, I felt deeply empty. That’s when the imminent question comes… where am I going? The end of the eternal adolescence hits you hard. According to Dr. Ricardo Rubinstein, Psychoanalyst of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association, “we live in times that are characterized by burning stages with urgency. There is a social pressure to achieve everything right away”. After spending several weeks locked up and having finished almost the 10 seasons of Friends in just one night, I decided to make a change. That change was going to depend on me and only me.

The million dollar questions

Before any decision, you need to organize yourself: What am I passionate about? What is my talent? What am I investing both my money and my time? What makes me happy? These are some of the questions I asked myself to start this new path. It sounds very cliché, but if we do not start to question ourselves is difficult to reach a goal.

In my case I felt a strong need of learning new things and I realized that it was not as simple as it was in the past. I started ukulele classes that, even though I’m really bad at it, distracted me from my duties and I could expose my brain to activities that required different attention. At the end of each class I felt exhausted and is to be expected since playing music is for the brain the equivalent of a complete physical training.

In my innovation journey, I joined UX Design classes. I’m intrigued to learn how to program and I knew that to get to that, I had to start from the basics. I’m still in the process of reaching that goal, but setting small short-term goals makes it easy to not get lost on the road.

Since I’m always willing to help my community, I decided to get into the TED world. I  took the license to organize TEDxRecoleta and with a group of friends, we organize the first edition of this event. This kept me busy for seven months in an activity that was completely extraprogrammatic bringing something positive to my community . We were able to make an event for 100 people that was a success and the satisfaction you feel after having achieved it, is indescribable (watch the talks here!).

As I am passionate about traveling I decided to get to know at least 3 new places every year. They didn’t have to be far away from where I live, just destinations I had never visited before. In some journeys I was alone and in others accompanied, but I never left apart what makes me smile, traveling. At this stage I also quit my job and now I work in a completely different area from the one I was used to. I have constant challenges that test me in all my capacities and it has helped me to know myself in facets that I had never experienced before.

This month I went to the Vital Global Partnership Voice Mentoring Walk, which takes place simultaneously in more than 80 cities around the world. The initiative consists in couples conformed by young women with potential of leadership, in which both are involved in the reflection on the professional and personal challenges. This was an unique experience in which I had the chance to talk with my mentor about the problems and questions I currently have in every scope of my life. She was the one who insert in my mental hard drive a new question and that will be the 2017 question for me… for what I do the things that I do.

It is important to know that there are years that ask questions and years that answer them. You only regain control if you start living more focused on your interests and values. The small goals that we propose define ourselves and we need to have that turning point to decide what course will be taken in our future. Do not be afraid of losing the guide we once had before and let’s take every opportunity to reinvent ourselves every day.

The technological revolution: freedom or servitude?

We live today a period of acceleration of time and complexity of the space. The moment when a new type of society is born. This is reflected in the constant transformations, both from the macro point of view, at the state level and the global order as well as in the micro level: attitudes or way of doing things in everyday life.

The application of technological advancement holds many advantages but also many challenges. Within the first thing we can list advances that have been simplified, improved and even prolonged human life. On the other hand the risks of this fourth revolution are not only challenging but also dangerous.

The application of the technological revolution to the labor market represents a serious challenge to the quality of life of millions of workers. It is a global risk the concentration of wealth in hands of a global minority. Today we live in a structurally unequal world, where a group of hundred people concentrate the same percentage of wealth that half of humanity, 3.5 billion people.

Technological developments and their profits concentrated in few hands will only lead to the end of society as we know since such conditions can not sustained in the medium and long term. Technology has increased the gap substantively. It has left many out of the benefits from the technological revolution and  it has concentrated the fruits in a few hands.

The concentration of wealth and high levels of inequality are contrary to liberal democratic state. But this is not the only thing that affects the state as we know

The real challenge of this new revolution is considering the human being in the heart of it. Scientific progress and technology development is meaningless if it is not serving humanity.

It is therefore essential the role of governance, both local and international, to guide the changes in benefits of all and thus enable sustainable development in the medium and long term. It depends on this a successful and fair transformation of our world.

Finally doing an analysis of our current situation, we are not very encouraging in the short term as global structures and effectiveness of state for allocating resources does not work properly. Perhaps the complexity of today’s world and the resurgence of anti-establishment and extremist elements can be understood from a model that does not answer to the needs of the human being.

In the policies adopted at regional and global levels we will see if the challenges become or not a opportunity to live in not only a more efficient but also more fair world. The fruits of innovation belong to humanity.

MERCOSUR is dead

With more than 1 million square kilometers, with a GDP of more than 4 trillion dollars and with a population of approximately 275 million inhabitants, MERCOSUR is characterized by a history of impulses and stagnation. After being born as a process that was disruptive for the time, and especially, to mark the end of the confrontation thesis between the two biggest countries of South America, MERCOSUR has been losing its impulse.

During the month of March 2016, MERCOSUR had its 25th anniversary, an event that was little promoted, which happened almost unnoticed for civil society and to which governments did not give much importance. The media, although they did not refer to this anniversary as an event of transcendence, recalled it in their publications with titles that reflect a pessimistic perspective: “25 years of MERCOSUR and very little to celebrate” (La Nación, Argentina https://goo.gl/s2ju3R), “A sad regional birthday” (El Observador, Uruguay https://goo.gl/ENlIOL), “MERCOSUR will celebrate 25 years of creation and will be without pain or glory” (ABC , Paraguay https://goo.gl/VxSKNE) or even Globo (Brazil https://goo.gl/YrL3E7) detailed that: “… the anniversary comes amid the political crisis in Brazil and the wear and tear of the bloc”. However, there were two optimistic headlines: “MERCOSUR, 25 years of success” (La Razón https://goo.gl/3oomlE) in Bolivia, which is currently in the process of joining, and Telesur (https://goo.gl/fNrXXI): “MERCOSUR celebrates 25 years betting on economic integration” highlighting the progress in social and cultural issues.

However, the current situation shows that there is a crisis and an opportunity for the process of integration. There are two possible ways, self-criticism and call to action, or resignation. The international system up to 2016 demonstrated the importance of every State to belong to broad integration processes and to large trade blocs, since it increases the possibilities of commercial transactions, with enormous political and economic opportunities. But last year was a turning point in the history of integration. The Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency who withdrew the country from the brand new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) shows an uncertainty in the economic, geopolitical and also social area, especially after a time when diplomacy and international negotiations had created a conducive environment for the trade blocs, from the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself to the Pacific Alliance, in an attempt to focus the world economy on Asia-Pacific, which is interpreted as the engine of the international economy in the next years.

According to many analysts, nowadays MERCOSUR is the moment of the ‘Black Swan’. This theory develops the possibility that unexpected situations lead to a rebirth of the bloc after a long hibernation in an unpredictable and uncertain international political and economic context. Among other things, this new impulse is brought about the emergence in Latin America of a new integration process, the Pacific Alliance, which calls itself as an innovative process which follows the patterns of the new international system focus on the new center of geopolitics and world economy. In contrast to MERCOSUR that was born in 1991 inspired by neoliberal ideas, after the change of political climate there were only advances in the social, cultural and, in some cases, political areas.

MERCOSUR needs to adapt to the new regional and international situation. Since it was born in the 1990s in a neoliberal context, it developed in the 2000s in a political climate framed in the ‘turn to the left‘ and is now in a different regional climate with the so-called ‘turn to the right‘ (1), into an international environment where it seems that the status quo is going to have an unpredictably change. This is precisely one of the weaknesses of the MERCOSUR project; it depends almost exclusively on ideological complementarity, extreme inter-presidentialism and pro-tempore presidencies pendulums. However, it should not be forgotten that this harmony between governments and presidential diplomacy is the success factor of the bloc (2), a bloc that does not fit the models of classical integration, because there is neither a significant institution nor a supranational level. We could say that MERCOSUR follows its own model (3) which is precisely the cause of its progress but also of its obstacles. There is no single model for the integration and cooperation processes, because each one is adjusted to its member’s reality (4). MERCOSUR was born with the deficiency that it followed the priorities and objectives of the governments of turn, reason why before each political change, MERCOSUR is stalled.

If we see the present, it is possible understand that after the first phase of economic complementation the bloc did not have more advances in that field, but it did cross with strength the 2008 crisis that was originated in the developed countries, the congruence of the politics of the ‘Turn to the Left’ made it advance in the social and cultural level, and the leadership of Brazil, on the one hand at regional level, on the second hand as an emergent power (5), gave some dynamics to the process but that could not cross political climate changes.

Nowadays, MERCOSUR is immersed in a crisis, but it is not the only integration process that is on crisis, even the European Union (EU) which is considered the deepest process of integration and the example to follow, is in its greatest crisis (6), or the Trans-Pacific Agreement which few months after seeing the light, goes through its first moment of darkness. However, MERCOSUR is marked by a change of political conjuncture of the ‘turn to the right‘, the strongest partner, Brazil is in a social, political and economic crisis, Argentina is politically divided but in a stable situation, Uruguay is in a cautious mode, Paraguay is expectant of the Bolivian incorporation to be able to increase the commercial flows and thus to leave the mutual geostrategic prison, and the most problematic partner, Venezuela, that after Chávez’s death, the country entered a political-social crisis that divides the country and makes the member be suspended from the bloc, but having the pro tempore presidency, a big deprivation.

That is why MERCOSUR is dead, because the bloc is experiencing a credibility and survival crisis. It was unable to adapt to the new era, to the new international and regional reality, and neither was there political efforts to have an economic deepening. It is necessary that the projects transcend political administrations and be guided by the wishes of the people, which at first are forgotten. Furthermore is needed a common external agenda, because that was built for the majority partners (Brazil and Argentina) for the benefit of their own interests, which sometimes are not complementary and even hurt the smaller partners. A common agenda would give the bloc the tool to go on new international negotiations, deepen current alliances and having a voice in international forums. With Brazil immersed in its internal sphere, it would seem the moment for Argentina to be the leader of the process, but for that to happen it must prioritize the interest of the bloc to the national interest, and generate instances that allow a better complementation after the changes of the administrations.

Between the 20 and the 24 of March, the XXVII Round of the Committee of Bi-regional Negotiations between MERCOSUR and the European Union will be held in Argentina to promote stalled trade negotiations. But the bloc also has several open fronts, negotiations with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and the rapprochement with Korea, China and Japan. In a Multiplex World, all actors have the potential to increase their international insertion, if they maintain a clear strategy (8). It is time to see if MERCOSUR can achieve this strategy.

 

(1) Carné, Jonatán. “¿América Latina da un Giro a la Derecha?”, SABF Blog, 2016, http://blog.sabf.org.ar/2016/04/06/america-latina-da-un-giro-a-la-derecha/

(2) Malamud, Andrés. “La diplomacia presidencial y los pilares institucionales del MERCOSUR: un examen empírico”, Revista electrónica “Relaciones Internacionales”, 2010.

(3) Bizzozero, Lincoln. “Los primeros 20 años del Mercosur: del Programa de Liberalización Comercial al Plan Estratégico de Acción Social”, Revista Densidades, 2011.

(4) Peña, Felix. “Los 25 años del Mercosur y opciones en el camino de su evolución futura”, Newsletter, 2016.

(5) Carné, Jonatán. “¿Qué pasó con las potencias emergentes? El Caso de los BRICS.”, SABF Blog, 2016, http://blog.sabf.org.ar/2016/07/06/que-paso-con-las-potencias-emergentes-el-caso-de-los-brics/

(6) Domínguez, Emiliano. “La encrucijada europea: ampliación y Brexit”, SABF Blog, 2017, http://blog.sabf.org.ar/2017/01/30/la-encrucijada-europea-ampliacion-y-brexit/

(7) Acharya, Amitav. “From the Unipolar moment to a Multiplex World”, YaleGlobal Univertisty, 2014.