We have a choice. The next decade could see us transition into a world of ever more destabilising shocks, or towards a reconfiguration of the systems we rely on based on goals of equity, sustainability and resilience. Forum for the Future, a leading international sustainability non-profit organisation with offices in London, New York, Singapore and Mumbai, in a recent Future of Sustainability report entitled From System Shock to System Change – Time to Transform, explores the key dynamics that lie at the heart of these transitions. It considers the interconnected nature of human and planetary health and reveals four trajectories emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. Only one of which will deliver the just transition urgently needed if we are to avert the worst of the social, climate and biodiversity crises we all face. FDI commends this Report to you in providing this summary of its analysis.
Many Middle Eastern countries were experiencing heightened levels of food insecurity even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Economic shocks related to regional and global lockdown measures, and conflict in some parts of the region have further reduced food security. It is expected that the regional food security situation will remain precarious for the foreseeable future.
In light of Australia’s climate commitments, the creation of a nuclear-power sector ought to be revisited. The sector could potentially provide much of the foundational skills required to maintain and operate a nuclear-powered submarine fleet that could enhance Australia’s defence several-fold.
Pakistan needs a more manageable relationship with the United States that also brings economic gains. Two of the major obstacles in the Pakistan-US relationship will be Islamabad’s increasing proximity towards Beijing and the zero-sum approach of Pakistan’s deep state.
Timor-Leste has coped comparatively well with the effects of COVID-19, largely due to its sovereign wealth Petroleum Fund. Unfortunately, however, the longevity of the Petroleum Fund is now in question and, while a restructuring of the governing coalition spurred on by COVID-19 has brought some respite from high levels of political instability, it is still likely only to offer temporary relief. For Australia, the objective is a prosperous and stable neighbour but, if its economic and political challenges are not addressed, Timor-Leste could become significantly more vulnerable to the ambitions of foreign powers, which may be at odds with Australian interests.
Some of the first Executive Orders signed by President Biden indicate that he favours multilateralism and a more outward-looking US. While the new president has made working with allies a priority, his primary challenges, however, are domestic. In terms of India-US ties, it remains to be seen how Washington and New Delhi will reconcile their differences over the latter’s dealings with Russia.
China’s current strategies of economic and military coercion and territorial “salami-slicing” are causing other countries to view it as a predator and untrustworthy and they are aligning and coalescing in an effort to balance and, if required, counter its predatory behaviour. The result is a situation that could easily get out of hand and lead to conflict.
Covid-19 and Food Security in the Pacific: Considerable Challenges with an Opportunity to “Build Back Better”
While the health implications of Covid-19 in the South Pacific have been limited, the economic consequences of the pandemic have been severe. The loss of tourism revenue and remittances from overseas have reduced incomes and household spending. The economic downturn has limited economic access to food supplies, which has weakened food security. Efforts to “build back better” in the wake of the pandemic could focus on agricultural development, with significant benefits for regional food security.
While a number of events have led to the deterioration of the Pakistan-GCC relationship, a key factor has been the changing attitudes of the GCC countries towards Israel. In the future, the real challenge for Pakistan is likely to be adapting to a Middle East in which Israel and the GCC have normal relations, with increasingly less space for a zero-sum approach and looking at diplomacy in shades of simply black and white.
While most of the South-East Asian region has managed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus and prevent a public health crisis, the regional economic downturn has resulted in weaker food security and a rise in poverty.