Elections in France: France is in danger, save it!

 

In 1940 General Charles De Gaulle  called from exile the French to save the nation from falling under the Nazi yoke. Today this call to action is more relevant than ever.

The French will decide the 25 ° President of the French Republic in an international and European context with two very different models: the unionist spirit and the values of democracy and globalization against populism who encourages old fears and it proposes a paradigm shift in terms of integration and exchange..

The truth is that election in France can be only understood in the context of a model of integration and free trade global crisis. Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States and the exit of the United Kingdom of the European Union were the first big breaks of this process that began with the financial crisis of 2008.

In the French case is particularly important the multicultural model crisis product and heritage of an imperial past that is manifested by the lack of integration of ethnic and religious minorities. The wave of attacks that the country experience does nothing but encourage fear and misunderstandings.

So that after Sunday’s elections  two candidates, two models and two visions of the world face each other. And beyond campaigns they are both product of the French establishment.

On one hand Marine Le Pen, candidate of the far right “National Front”. Mediocre student, daughter of the leader and founder of the National Front. Se has been since ever in the political arena. The daughter of the system that it says to face  but it is indeed a product of the most extremist and nationalist sectors of the hexagon.

On the other hand Emmanuel Macron, candidate for “En Marche!”. Outstanding student, representative of the French financial establishment, member of the outgoing President Hollande team as Minister of Economy, Macron is not either a newcomer to the French political arena.

However they are both representatives of nontraditional forces. The crisis also embrace the traditional political parties:the Republicans, who have remained outside the second round with the defeat of its candidate Francois Fillon and the Socialist Party that has had its worst election.

Many French are faced the dichotomy of choosing the lesser evil in a context of widespread disenchantment. The political class has appeared mostly under the principle of “republican pact” so that both the current President Francois Hollande as the right candidate Francois Fillon have openly expressed their support to the candidate Macron.

Macron represents the continuity of a central France in Europe with the principles of secularism and respect for minorities as flags. Also marks an encouraging profile for entrepreneurs and businesses to boost job creation.

Many of the disadvantaged by the globalization, as those formerly industrial areas in the north support Marine Le Pen. Lack of opportunities and fear of differences and the wave of Islamic extremism leads to endanger the French Republic

There are times where one should stop being warm and run aside the pretended objectivity because the danger is too great and will imply costly consequences.

We must speak openly against Marine Le Pen, for being xenophobic, contrary to the republican and democratic values, anti-European and destructive.

Despair and disenchantment has already led  Europe to fatal elections that have cost millions of lives.

For the good of France, of Europe and of all humanity, Marine Le Pen is not an option.

What would be of Sherlock without Dr. Watson? The case of data analytics.

Being able to tell a good story is as important as good data analysis.

Sherlock had the ability to analyze and put together odd pieces of events. But his findings were set on paper in a catching way by his friend Dr. Watson. Being able to tell a good story is as important as having the right data analysis to back it up.

Traditionally, concerns were focused on how to minimize data processing time and how to build a model with the highest predictive value. Today’s concerns are towards what actions can be taken based on predictive modelling and what constituencies will support or block implementation.

“Data, hardware, and software are available in droves, but human comprehension of the possibilities they enable is much less common.” Tom Davenport. HBR.

Data analytics is without question on the rise and it was enabled by technology. Today there are thousands of businesses that collect vast amounts of data but are at a loss when trying to put this information to use[1].

Why are both important?

In an organization efforts are aligned through its strategic objectives and in most cases data allows to measure progress in order to reach these objectives. Within the decision making processes in organizations people with tech and non-tech skills coexist and both are equally important. “Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.” As said by Deming.  But without a hypothesis/objective you’re just a person with data. Communicating proposals validated on data points and generating consensus throughout the organization drives meaningful new ideas. Enabling to leverage data in order to achieve business results and create insight.

When does analytics fail? The case of Netflix

A couple of years ago Netflix launched a $1 million prize for the team that could come up with an algorithm that improved by 10 points the current match making of recommendations.  So the algorithm was developed and there was a winner but it was never implemented because Netflix changed its service from DVD-by-mail to streaming.  Meaning the whole organization was changing and the algorithm developed was rendered useless in most part[2].

References:

[1] http://burning-glass.com/research/hybrid-jobs/

[2] http://techblog.netflix.com/2012/04/netflix-recommendations-beyond-5-stars.html

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.

Are fake news the problem?

Fake news, fake news everywhere. Fake news, or that type of content especially generated by sites that seek to take advantage of the capacity of viralization that social networks provide, are the ultimate trend. The plague of fake news was considered one of the factors that helped Trump win the election, a result that was totally unexpected. Although  a research recently stated that it had not been as important as it may have seemed, this type of viral content certainly sets an alarm about our ability to discern false information from real.

So, what is Fake news?

While some websites earn money with quizzes  (one I did a few days ago told me that I look like Ariana Grande, which nobody believes here, do you? Fake news!), the real business today is political “news”. You probably have read the economic reasons behind these sites. By simply getting a domain that looks serious, a basic news template and a creative and incredibly viral title, even a young person from a lost village in Macedonia could influence the most relevant election in the world with the main goal of paying their weekly expenses.

This type of fake news is easily set apart from others because although some of the information they present seems plausible, a brief search on the internet can destroy any of the statements they contain.

 

Another problem is the poor reading these texts get. The title and a small description are enough for my granny, your brother and my former classmate to share it right away. Personally, I prove it every time my friends share my articles without having read them (seriously, they get more shares than views).

But if we bring this analysis to our Latin American context, we may find that  there are no teens interested in generating income through traffic monetization. Perhaps (a theory I fear, makes sense), what the creators of this content pursue is to weaken the opposing political positions and delegitimize the adversary, sowing doubts in many people, and reinforcing the previous beliefs of several more. The bots that create and reinforce Twitter content, for example, or phone campaigns that impose agenda, are also part of this phenomenon.

In contexts with increasing polarization, with discredited media outlets and abundance of information (or content), whatever our contacts decide to share on Facebook or on their networks becomes a much more appreciated and “legitimized” source than traditional news sources. We validate what we think or what we do not yet have an opinion on based on what our peers decide to endorse in their profiles. Social networks incorporate this activity into their algorithmic calculations and voila! The bubble is filled with content that no serious publisher would even consider reading.

To make matters worse, the critical capacity of readers is poorer than ever. And what is even more disturbing in this context is that there are researches that postulate that, against information that contradicts the original beliefs, these are more likely to be reinforced. Then, in this “backfire effect”, readers not only did not incorporate that information which corrected that wrong idea, but reaffirmed the last. So the task of informing gets even more complicated and the whole journalism is questioned.

Now, how can we stop this?

Fact-checkers from around the world are working on different alternatives. Pedagogical perspectives, for example, seek to provide tools for the analysis of information at schools or in learning environments. When we are trained to detecting data in speech, the task of verifying it is much simpler.

Fact-checkers also join efforts with Facebook and Google to identify true information and veto the false, which are just beginning. It is undoubtedly a work that takes time and the results are still difficult to predict.

In the meantime, I would recommend you that as a reader and also resposnible for this phenomenon to take advantage of the contents of the International Fact Checking Day at http://www.factcheckingday.com/ and help us get more people to incorporate data verification into their daily news routine. Putting an end to fake news is a collective task. So please, triple check before sharing!

 

Challenges in the automotive industry’s business model

How have 21st Century technologies allowed companies in the automotive industry to change their business models?

Since the beginning of the 21st century new players from the technology and communications sectors are entering the automotive industry and dramatically changing its chain value and traditional business model.  The main segments that were altered significantly are production, sales experience, key partners, product innovation and R&D.  Today the companies that follow have a chance to leap at the front of the game and those ahead might stay behind if their business model is not flexible at its core.

1)     Transition from push production to demand pull and modular production

We have seen this change in an innumerable amount of industries but Dell is the first name to come in mind when talking about modular production.  The automotive industry has been taking in at a late stage technological advances that arise in other industries.   In this way production transitioned to offer products with attributes selected by the client, sometimes ordered through internet and delivered within 15 days; for instance, Toyota’s upstart Scion.

2)    Changes in sales experience

Car dealers as sale points are being swept out as in the case of BMW and Tesla.  BMW chooses to change the buying experience by introducing the ‘BMW product genius’ who will educate the customer on all the lines of products.  The motivation of ‘BMW product genius’ is not to sell (they do not earn commissions per sale) but to build customer loyalty.  It certainly takes after the service offered in Apple Stores.  As to Tesla S1 electric car sold directly to customers is more aggressive and is reprimanded by car dealers.  Not because they are direct competitors (Tesla’s sales represent 0.1% of US auto market) but because out of fear that other brands might follow.

Technology has disrupted the way people make their buying decisions; today people use platforms to determine who to trust and what to buy.  Above that, consumers today value innovation in automobiles.  They want to buy from the companies they perceive as brining new technology first to the market.

3)    Product Innovation and R&D: Sustainable cars, Electric cars, Autonomous cars

In the ‘2016 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard[1]’ 6 automakers are among the top 30 and the number of patent filings in the automotive industry also reflect an increase.  Volkswagen was the company with the highest investment in R&D worldwide, until it stated struggling after falsifying environmental testing protocols.  Innovation has become a top priority for automotive companies.  Today there are at least 50 hybrid models in the market whereas in 2001 there were only 2.

Focusing only on downsizing internal combustion engines and fuel efficiency may mean leading companies may fall behind innovative companies in the future.  Changes in their products must be timed as to gain acceptance and not lose their loyal customers.  

The main product changes from mechanical to hybrid to electric to partly automated which shifted the sales motto of ‘faster, stronger’ to ‘sustainable, innovative’.

4)    Shared ownership

Going a step further the ‘Car2Go’ by Daimler and ‘DriveNow’ by BMW services suggest no ownership.  Another different example is ‘Autolib’ where the service is run by the government, a key partner, and the company providing the cars is unknown to the public.

Altogether there is more to technology innovation than changes to the product itself.  It enables new business models and relationships between stakeholders.  The emerging model is still to come but it is certain it will be driven by technology.  The chain value and business model will be shifting as new stakeholders enter the industry with the advances in electronics, communications, alternative fuels and materials.

 

REFERENCES:

[1] https://www.iriweb.org/sites/default/files/2016GlobalR%26DFundingForecast_2.pdf

SOURCES:

Ø  www.forbes.com

Ø  www.bcgperspectives.com

Ø  www.bain.com

Ø  www.bloomberg.com

Ø  www.economist.com

Ø  www.kpmg.com

Ø  www.ibm.com

Ø  https://www.iriweb.org/sites/default/files/2016GlobalR%26DFundingForecast_2.pdf

 

 

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.

Let’s play together

I remember going to the toy store with my parents for my 8th or 7th birthday to pick out my present. Those were the times when there was nothing as boring as getting clothes and there was nothing that could beat that trip to the toy store and those long aisles filled with fun.

I can’t recall if I wanted to be a marine biologist or a crazy scientist (special emphasis in the word “crazy”, because it was the most important part of the degree!), but I was looking for a microscope on that trip. Looking back I can see why may be the toy store wasn’t the best place to buy one! I finally found one, but of course it was a toy.

Disappointment didn’t last too long, since I kept looking around and I found it. The perfect gift. It was a box almost as big as me, and with big letters spelled: CHEMISTRY. When I bought it I felt so grown up, I could picture myself turning my house into an amazing lab. Each time I played with it, it felt like I did. The hours I spent with that chemistry set are countless.

What I didn’t see back then was that the box was decorated with different lab equipment, nothing else. Finally, on the side, the box specified the recommended age for the players. Leaving the specific age aside, the thing that stood out was the fact that there was a girl and a boy on the sides of the number.

As I grew up and started leaving my toys behind, I started paying more attention to the ads. The little kitchen, the register machine, the laundry set…the toy every girl wants for this Christmas. The workshop, the cars, the tools’ box, the little man of the house can’t have too many of those.

Sometimes, you don’t realize the effect that one can have on children. If you let them believe since that early age that they should play with something because it’s a “girl” or a “boy” toy, that kid grows up believing life is filled with “girl” and “boy” stuff and believing that decisions have to be made considering that, including of course, deciding which degree to pursue.

Usually school doesn’t help. If a girl does well on maths, it’s “impressive” and if a boy does poorly on literature, it’s “natural”. That’s because boys do better in science and girls do better in softer subjects. I heard that one between mothers so many times.

The world of science is seen as a man’s world, and if that was the case because it just happens, so be it. However, degrees in science are pictured as hard, intense, with a lot of manual skills. Therefore, boys are more encouraged to pursue them, since it’s risky for a girl.

We need to increase awareness on the impact we have on children and start thinking before speaking. If not, we are still raising adults that think that the natural place for a woman is the kitchen, while there’s nothing more charming than a man that cooks. We keep nurturing a society where is “amazing” that a woman pursues a degree in science. More important, we set what kind of aspirations kids should have.

If I ever have kids, I would like for them to grow up in a world where they don’t feel as a minority if they are the only woman in a class full of men or vice versa. If I ever have a daughter and she decides to study engineering as her mother, I would like for the first question she’s asked not to be: “Hey, it’s full of boys! When are you getting a boyfriend?”

Changes begin at our homes and we collaborate as a society. While playing they learn. Let’s learn to let them play.