As the UN turns 75, the organization is revealing the results of a global survey of nearly a million people in 193 nations—what matters most to them, and how do they view the need for global cooperation at this time of unprecedented crisis? Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser Fabrizio Hochschild explains the purpose and findings of the report.
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The world is facing an unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime crisis. World leaders and corporations alike need to not only rebuild, but reimagine what life could look like after the COVID-19 pandemic. In a special GZERO Media series, Eurasia Group and Microsoft experts present solutions to some of the biggest issues of the 21st century.
John Frank, Vice President of UN Affairs at Microsoft, discusses how to include people around the world in the digital economy,on UNGA In 60 Seconds.
Satya Nadella famously said, "We saw two years of digital transformation in two months" due to the pandemic and the need it created for virtual communication, work, and learning, but still nearly half the world's population lacks connectivity.
First, how can we begin to bridge the digital divide? Then, how can digital skilling lead us into a better global economy?
We need to redouble our efforts to bring broadband around the world. Less developed countries desperately need new technologies that bring broadband connectivity at lower costs, but we also need to focus on underserved populations in our urban centers and rural America. We need to create new mechanisms and new technologies that are going to bring people in, but being connected, it's not enough. We need to have people be able to participate in the new digital economy, and that requires digital skills. And what better way to get them than online. We can find new ways to train people, but there needs to be a commitment to lifelong learning. And of course, there's digital natives, but the whole population can benefit from developing digital skills, and we believe that many people can greatly improve their economic future and economic security through robust training on digital skills.
Video: The need for digital inclusion: access, training, and activating skills for the next billion jobs
Nearly half the world's population lacks internet connectivity at a time when digital communication has never been more critical. As part of a special partnership between Eurasia Group and Microsoft, GZERO Media examines the power of connecting more people—and how teaching digital skills could create the workforce the 21st century needs.
In this extended version of Ian Bremmer's conversation with UN Secretary-General António Guterres for GZERO World, the two discuss a wide range of geopolitical issues and how they've been exacerbated by the pandemic. Guterres shares his views on the urgent need for global climate action, equitable distribution of vaccine once approved, and Europe's emerging role as an example of successful intergovernmental cooperation. Guterres also lays out his vision for a more "inclusive" multilateralism, one that involves deeper partnerships between organizations like the UN and World Health Organization with multinational corporations and private stakeholders.
On September 16, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts on climate and sustainability to address the future of "net zero" in a livestream panel.
Our panel for the discussion on Net Zero: Climate Ambition and Action included:
- Julia Pyper, host and producer of the Political Climate podcast (moderator)
- Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor, Eurasia Group
- Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer, Microsoft
- Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School, Tufts University
- Mark Carney, Finance Adviser to the UK Prime Minister for COP 26 and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance
Select quotes from our panelists:
Gerald Butts on public-private collaboration on climate change
We can't be in opposing ditches throwing rotten tomatoes at each other about how to make progress on this problem. You're going to make a lot more progress, a lot more quickly, if large private sector actors are acting in concert with the UN and major governments around the world.
Lucas Joppa on fighting climate change amid COVID-19 recovery
We're recovering from an event, and if we don't take a more proactive offensive strategy to our engagement with climate change, then the number of things that we are going to have to recover from is just going to accelerate out of control.
Rachel Kyte on the new opportunity for net zero
The economic recession ... has knocked everybody back. We have to dress ourselves down, stare at this problem and work out how we are going to achieve two core goals: deeply decarbonize ... and use the opportunity to make recovery that works better for everybody.
Mark Carney on corporate ambitions to go net zero
As companies have plans, it becomes more and more obvious what problems need to be solved, and what technologies need to go from uneconomic to economic. A problem [turns into] a huge opportunity if the world's doing what everyone's saying they're going to do, which is to go to net zero — and that is a powerful dynamic.
This event was the first in a four-part livestream panel series about key issues facing the 75th United General Assembly. The next discussion, Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, will stream live on Wednesday, September 23, at 11 am ET and will include Microsoft President Brad Smith, and Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media.See the schedule of upcoming events and watch our livestream panels here, and check out GZERO Media's special coverage of the 2020 edition of the world's largest diplomatic gathering, and the first ever virtual UNGA.
On October 7th, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — presented a live panel discussion, "Digital Inclusion: Connectivity and Skills for the Next Billion Jobs," about the acceleration of digitalization, the changing workforce, and the need for digital access for all.
The conversation was moderated by Sherrell Dorsey, founder and CEO of The Plug, and our panel included:
- Kate Behncken, Vice President, Microsoft Philanthropies
- Lisa Lewin, CEO of General Assembly
- Parag Mehta, Executive Director and Sr Vice President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth
- Dominique Hyde, Director External Relations, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director, Energy, Climate & Resources, Eurasia Group
Also featured: special appearances by Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Chile, and Doreen Bogdan-Martinof the International Telecommunications Union.
A key theme that emerged during discussion was whether internet connectivity should be a human right. For Dhawan, digital inclusion is critical to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as we have seen during the pandemic how connectivity plays out in real life for all of us. It's also affecting anxiety about long-term student outcomes, said Behncken, who underscored the importance of giving schools proper IT infrastructure so they can train teachers, too.
As for how COVID-19 will affect job skilling, Hyde mentioned how refugees will likely suffer the most because they have the least access to tech. To fix that, Behncken proposed investing in quality education so migrants can become self-sufficient through nurturing their own talent.
Governments have a role to play in all of this. During the Great Depression in the US, Mehta pointed out, the government stepped up to provide jobs. Now, he said, there's an enormous opportunity to accomplish the same goal but indirectly — by empowering small businesses to become job creators through digitalization.
For Lewin, successful reskilling begins with a mindset that recognizes the critical importance of workers and why they are central to the long-term success, competitiveness, and talent value of any organization, public or private.
At this critical moment for connectivity, Bogdan-Martin proposed that the public and private sectors work together to craft a common policy for new digital jobs. But what does that look like? For Dhawan, it's time to invest in public-private connectivity infrastructure investments that will help create far more jobs than spending on roads or bridges.
Finally, however good a policy may be, it won't work until we remove barriers to access on learning and skilling. Lewin said that since no one school or university can do it alone, governments and private firms need to join the challenge so this crisis doesn't have an even more disproportionate impact of the crisis on marginalized communities worldwide.
Watch the other discussions in our four-part livestream panel series about key issues facing the 75th United General Assembly.
WFP's Enrica Porcari: Digital technology, the backbone of humanitarian response | UN Innovation Room
Watch: Tolu Olubunmi in conversation with World Food Programme's Enrica Porcari about how digital technology is the flexible backbone of humanitarian response.
This content is brought to you by our 2020 UN General Assembly partner, Microsoft.
Watch UN Innovation Room conversations weekly on Thursdays at 9 am EDT through October 15th: https://www.gzeromedia.com/unga/livestream/
#gzeroWithMicrosoft #UNGA #UN75
Marietje Schaake, former member of EU Parliament and international policy director of the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford University, discusses the role of cyberspace and the urgency to protect it in UNGA In 60 Seconds.
Protecting people in cyberspace is of vital importance for the United Nations. Secretary General Guterres has said that cyber is shaping history, but that we also risk that it's slipping away from us. What does that mean, exactly?
Well if you ask me, technology has shaped history. But more than anything, it's shaping the future. And I see a unique and urgent role for the United Nations in making sure that the public interest is defended. Anything from governing for public health, for public safety, and of course, for peace in cyberspace.
Now the question is, how has the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated some of these questions?
Our October 14th livestream discussion, "Digital Peace: Trust and Security in Cyberspace," presented by GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group - focused on the need for a global framework to govern cyberspace.
The panel was moderated by Meredith Sumpter, CEO of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, and included:
- Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director, Cyber Policy Center, Stanford University
- Marina Kaljurand, Member, European Parliament; Former Chair, Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
- Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security & Trust, Microsoft
- Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford
A major theme that emerged from the discussion is how the healthcare sector has become more vulnerable to cyberattacks due to the pandemic. But this sector also poses a major opportunity for governments and other actors to work together on protecting the world from such attacks — with huge resources already being mobilized to do so.
Burt underscored how the rapid digital transformation spurred by COVID-19 has made online activity an even bigger target for cybercriminals, with health systems and vaccine research as the top objectives for hackers. Microsoft alone, he pointed out, has blocked over 1 billion phishing emails since the pandemic began.
Although the EU, US, Russia, and China still don't see eye to eye on which laws should apply, and even on core values, the panelists agreed that at a minimum coordination on greater transparency and predictability is a step forward towards wider cooperation in the future.
For Akande, the main issue in moving towards a digital Geneva Convention to govern the rules of cyber conflict is determining how international law applies in cyberspace. Both the UN Charter and international human rights laws should be useful tools, but the problem (as always) is enforcement.
Kaljurand — who shared how her native Estonia responded to a Russian cyber attack in 2007 — explained that international cooperation is crucial to prevent a type of war that has no borders. The lesson for the EU from the pandemic, she said, is that EU member states have a lot more to gain from standing together for common interests like cybercrime instead of building borders between each other.
Finally, since cyberspace is mostly developed, owned, and operated by the private sector, the experts debated whether private firms should take on more responsibility on governance. That doesn't mean that governments will not be ultimately responsible, but such a complex problem will require more inputs from business and civil society.
Kaljurand said that even if the private sector is closely involved, governments should have the ultimate responsibility. For Schaake, public-private cooperation in this sphere can only work if there's clarity about the role each side will play to ensure transparency around communication, responsibility and accountability.
Beyond governments and tech firms, Burt suggested employers and citizens as other key players, putting the example of how Microsoft data shows that 99% of all cyber attacks can be stopped by enabling multi-factor authentication across all accounts by users.
This event was the last in a four-part livestream panel series about key issues facing the 75th United General Assembly.
On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:
- Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
- Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
- Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
- John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
- Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)
Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.
Brad Smith on what global recovery from COVID-19 will look like:
We're living through a period of time when certain things are being accelerated by this crisis. One of the most obvious is digital technology. In some ways, it makes certain investment decisions for a digital technology company perhaps even somewhat easier than before, especially if one focuses on the long term. As this acceleration continues, I think we're clearly heading towards a world where this will end, eventually. We'll use the opportunity to be back together in person, but [for instance] the future of medicine I think has been altered for good.
António Guterres on the post-pandemic ideological divide:
[The pandemic] is exacerbating nationalism, populism, even xenophobia and racism in more extreme situations, and the denial of the needs of multilateral governments and institutions. The two things are now confronting each other. This will be a very important ideological battle in the months to come... I am not naïve and I know this is going to be a very tough ideological battle and it is not won. We might come out of it with the capacity to build back a world with more inclusive and sustainable perspectives, but we might come out of it with a world where chaos will become the main logic of international relations.
Jeh Johnson on the top global security risks in next six months:
Long term, in my view, the biggest risk to our nation and our world is climate change. As Barack Obama used to say, it's a slow-motion emergency. Therefore, our leaders fail to put it on the top of their inbox to address. Short term, we're in an election season. Our democracy is under threat both by external actors, those who seek to push out misinformation and extremist views. Frankly, the way Americans receive their information has led to the increased political polarization that we see right now [and] that very much affects our democracy.
Ian Bremmer on Russian disinformation in the US:
The Soviets historically did a lot more damage with disinformation than they did with their bomber jets. But the reason that we beat the Soviets is because ultimately, our ideas were better than theirs. Our values actually mattered more to their own people and to those that were behind the Berlin Wall. And that's what brought it down. Individual liberties, a free market that worked, and the ability to create opportunity both for those inside the country born and also those that tried so hard to get to the US. A lot of those ideas no longer feel as legitimate to the average American. The Russians are engaging in disinformation all over the world. But it's more effective in the US.
Christine Lagarde on the future of global governance in a post-pandemic world
I hope that [the pandemic] triggers momentum. I can tell you that from Europe, it has certainly encouraged and supported a much more collective and better governed collective response, irrespective of noise on the line, if you will (there will be, it's inevitable). At a global level, I hope that international organizations like the World Health Organization, or my favorite former institution, the International Monetary Fund, will come out of that hopefully stronger than they were when they went into the crisis, but the jury is out.
John Frank on closing the global digital gap:
[We hope that] the application of data science to medicine and the collaborations that are taking place will be sustained and change for the better, [as well as] the direction of therapies and the delivery of them to broad populations in the world. If people aren't connected you can't have telemedicine or online education. There's 4 billion people that aren't connected to the internet today, including 1.4 billion children who left the classroom. The needs are profound and that's not something one company can do [on its own], but by bringing in others and by raising these issues, we hope to see more progress.
Trevor Noah on whether we are better or worse after 75 years of the UN:
I always think the world is better off. I know it may not feel like it in the moment, but I think we steadily move forward as human beings and as a species. We have setbacks, we have moments that we really shouldn't have had, we have moments that we really wish we could delete from history and time and just bridge the gap to the more progressive moments, or moments where society moved forward. But I think we always are doing better.
This event was the second in a four-part livestream panel series about key issues facing the 75th United General Assembly. The next discussion, Digital Inclusion: Activating Skills for the Next Billion Jobs, will stream live on Wednesday, October 7, at 11 am ET.
See the schedule of upcoming events and watch our livestream panels here, and check out GZERO Media's special coverage of the 2020 edition of the world's largest diplomatic gathering, and the first ever virtual UNGA.
In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.
GZERO Media caught up with Japan's Permanent Representative to the UN Kimihiro Ishikane during the 2020 UN General Assembly. In an interview with Eurasia Group Vice Chairman Gerald Butts, Ishikane talked about pandemic response, and how it has impacted the broader picture of US-China relations. Regarding a global fissure potentially caused by the world's two biggest economies, Ishikane said: "China is not like the former Soviet Union. Our system is completely intertwined, and I don't think we can completely decouple our economy and neither is that desirable." He also discussed the legacy of Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, who stepped down recently due to health complications.
As the United Nations wraps two weeks of a (historic and unprecedented) 75th General Assembly, made almost entirely virtual due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, some clear themes and threads carried throughout, giving us a sense of what the next several years could look like for the organization. GZERO Media covered the world's largest diplomatic gathering extensively, receiving a great deal of access to delegates, world leaders, and policymakers.
In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer at this critical moment for the world and the UN, Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of the need for "inclusive multilateralism." Guterres defended the growing — and somewhat controversial — notion that multilateral organizations should be actively working with private corporations to solve some of the world's most pressing problems, such as climate change, bridging the digital divide, and cyber security.
"We need to adapt our multilateral institutions to be more inclusive," he said. "This is also an opportunity to change the power relations in relation to the different entities that we have in the international system, and to open up governments to recognize that they do not represent the monopole of political action."
On the macro theme of global coordination, we
learned from Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank, about the early success of EU fiscal response — a rare glimmer of hope in a crisis otherwise lacking any true intergovernmental cooperation. Lagarde hopes that the example set by the 27 EU member states in agreeing on a $750 billion stimulus plan will inspire further multilateralism.
"At the global level I would hope that [the] international organizations that we have listened to... will come out of that hopefully stronger than they were when they went into the crisis," she said. "But the jury is out, we will see."
We also caught up with
Fabrizio Hochschild, a longtime UN insider who has been directly involved in a year-long survey asking people in 193 countries about what they want from his organization, and what issues will matter most to them in the future. Although he was optimistic about the future of the UN, Hochschild admitted that UNGA 2020 presented a challenge for the "contact sport" of diplomacy.
Normally, he explained, "there are literally thousands of bilateral meetings happening at any one time during the General Assembly. And it's done through a host of chance encounters. It's done over coffees, over drinks, and it's done at dinner parties and lunches. That's not something you can replicate easily virtually."
We also caught up with some delegates and thought leaders who were participating in UNGA from near and far, all of whom offered their take on the current state of global cooperation, and whether or not this moment will bolster support for the UN moving forward.
French Permanent Representative to the UN Nicolas de Rivièrediscouraged having an overly halcyon view of the earlier years of the organization, telling us that controversy and geopolitical battles have always surrounded the organization. But, he said, "we have no choice" but to continue to find ways to cooperate internationally.
De Rivière also addressed increasing isolation of the US within the Security Council, specifically discussing the widespread opposition to the recent US push to renew UN sanctions against Iran for alleged violations of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Kimihiro Ishikane of Japan talked about pandemic response, and how it has impacted the broader picture of US-China relations. Regarding a global fissure potentially caused by the world's two biggest economies, Ishikane said: "China is not like the former Soviet Union. Our system is completely intertwined and I don't think we can completely decouple our economy and neither is that desirable."
He also discussed the legacy of Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, who stepped down recently due to health complications, and described the road ahead for his country under its new leader, Yoshihide Suga.
Finally, if it weren't for the COVID-19 pandemic, climate action would have likely been the foremost topic of conversation at this year's UN General Assembly. Many delegates we spoke to had an optimistic view that the rebuilding necessary in the wake of the pandemic could lead to a strategy of "building back better" and greener around the world.
Mark Carney, former Governor of the Banks of Canada and England and who is now leading UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's COP26 effort, explained that large financial and tech companies are increasingly taking such a central role in climate action because the "doing well by doing good" model is pushing firms who have made net zero emissions commitments to top performance in their sectors.
"As companies have plans, it becomes more and more obvious what problems need to be solved, and what technologies need to go from uneconomic to economic," he said. "A problem [turns into] a huge opportunity if the world's doing what everyone's saying they're going to do, which is to go to net zero — and that is a powerful dynamic."
Iván Duque offered his insights on the current standing of Juan Guaidó, Venezuela's opposition leader and self-declared "interim president." Is he still the best hope for the country and its people?
Guaidó, Duque explained, is an expression of "pure democracy," but we should not expect him to defeat the Maduro regime on his own. Also, the Chavistas will need to be part of a transitional government that will take over when the current president leaves office.
You can see all of our coverage here.
From climate change to connecting more people to the Internet, big companies like Microsoft are seeing an increasing role within multilateral organizations like the UN and the World Health Organization. John Frank, Microsoft's VP of UN Affairs, explains the contributions tech companies and other multinational corporations are making globally during this time of crisis and challenge.
Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor of Eurasia Group, discusses reasons the rapid global response to climate change warrants optimism on UNGA In 60 Seconds.
There's a lot of doom and gloom out there about climate change. Can you give me a reason to be optimistic?
I'm going to say something you don't hear set very often when it comes to climate change. You should be an optimist. You should be a skeptical optimist, but an optimist nonetheless. Let me explain what I mean. We are scaling up climate solutions faster than even the most ardent among us thought possible a decade ago. Consider this. In 2010, about half of US electricity was generated from coal. This year less than 20% will be, and it's trending towards zero at increasing velocity.
Yesterday, just yesterday, Xi Jinping announced at UNGA that China's emissions will peak this decade, and he set an economy-wide net zero target for the middle of the century. And this afternoon, yes, just this afternoon before recording this segment, California Governor Gavin Newsome said the state will outlaw the internal combustion engine by 2035. All of this is happening against the backdrop of the European Green Deal, making a truly historic investment in clean growth, and a presidential nominee running on a climate plan that would have been unthinkable one election cycle ago. And that's just the politics. On the market side, ESG investing is more than holding its own against traditional vehicles, and the cost of renewable energy is truly competitive with thermal fossil, almost everywhere in the world, about a decade sooner than conventional wisdom, expected it to be. In short, things are changing, and fast.
But more than any of these trends, I'm optimistic because the demographics are finally on the side of climate action. Countries, global institutions, and firms are increasingly being led by a generation of people who will live through the harsh reality of the climate change era. They've seen the future, and they don't like it. None of this is to say the change is going to be easy or that it's going to happen automatically. These big changes that I've been talking about... They need to get bigger, and they need to happen faster, but there's too much doom-saying out there about climate change. There is hope, you should be skeptical, and you should always, always read the fine print, but there's lots of reasons to be hopeful. I'm Gerald Butts, and this has been UNGA in 60 Seconds.
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
It's UNGA week, very unusual New York to have the United Nations General Assembly meetings. You know, the city is locked down. It's almost always locked down this week, but usually you can't get anywhere because you've got all these marshals with dozens of heads of state and well over a hundred foreign ministers and their delegations jamming literally everything, Midtown and branching out across the city. This time around, the security cordon for the United Nations itself is barely a block, and no one is flying in. I mean, the weather is gorgeous, and you can walk pretty much anywhere, but nothing's really locked down aside from, of course, the fact that the restaurants and the bars and the theaters and everything else is not happening given the pandemic. And it's not just in the US, it's all around the world.
So we're having an UNGA without world leaders, and they are mailing it in. And I would argue that in addition to mailing in virtually their speeches, in many cases, they're mailing in leadership. I just had a conversation with the Colombian president, Iván Duque, who said the first few months, there's been a lot of leadership individually, but nothing from a multilateralism perspective, not the G20, not the UN. That it's really been shocking to him that there was no coordination around personal protective equipment or ventilators in the early days when it was desperately needed. I hear this from [UN Secretary-General] António Guterres. I hear it from [European Central Bank President] Christine Lagarde in the early days of the crisis. We need international coordination. These are all people whose jobs are truly global, truly multilateral, but they are also people who recognize that so far, at least this crisis, we have not been learning those lessons.
This is an environment where... I mean, we have COVAX for example, which is an effort to try to bring coordination on vaccine development and distribution to people all over the world, and the Europeans have signed up. Most of the developing world has signed up, but so far the United States and China have not, the world's two largest economies. And this is not to say that you can't spend other money developing other vaccines for yourself. It's just a promise to, in addition to that, provide that support and coordination. Not happening. I mean, I guess if there's good news here, good news at the multilateral level, the good news is that the institutions we have aren't falling apart. So... Give you an example. John Bolton was the National Security Advisor for President Trump. He's the guy that famously said that you could take off five floors of the UN main headquarters building, and no one would notice.
He can't stand the United Nations. But actually, the United States continues to pay their United Nations dues every year, and President Trump gave his plenary speech. Wasn't much to it, just seven minutes long, but he was there, kind of like US with NATO. People saying, "Oh, Trump was thinking about leaving NATO, threatened to leave NATO." He hasn't left NATO. Actually, the relationship is kind of the same. And even though Trump has said he's leaving the World Health Organization, he hasn't yet. He can't yet, and the day to day cooperation between the US and the WHO, including the sharing of data and the rest, continues to be as it has been. So at the multilateral level, at least we can say that the architecture we have, which is increasingly not aligned with the geopolitical order, and certainly not robust, but it's not broken.
It isn't gone. It still exists. And the reality of President Trump, who is an avowed anti-multilateralist, and President Xi, who is certainly not aligning with the free market or liberal democracy, which is largely the values that the multilateral institutions support, neither of them are saying, "We want to destroy this architecture." And if they occasionally say it, they're not doing that. But that's very different from saying that they're actively cooperating on the global stage to try to bring countries together. They're not doing that, and they're not doing that on a vaccine. They're not doing that to ensure that there will be economic support for the countries that are getting massively more indebted on the back of this crisis, and will need a lot more international aid and credit over the coming one, two years, the developing world and those that are under developed.
That's a serious problem, and I do think that not only does this election in the United States matter in that regard, but also Xi Jinping in 2022 matters in that regard. Right now, the direction that we are heading is not towards more effective multilateral leadership. We're actually heading in the other direction. And as much as very well-intentioned people like António Guterres and Christine Lagarde, both of whom I have a great deal of respect for, desperately want that trajectory to change, I'd be lying as an analyst here sitting here and saying I see that happening. Right now, I don't see that happening. For me, the true optimism on the global stage today is that despite the fact that the multilateral order is eroding, despite the fact that we truly lack global leadership in a GZERO world, that there's enormous amounts of human capital being unlocked. Uncoordinated, but still being brought to bear to help us respond to this global crisis of the pandemic, and these global crises of growing social inequality and economic inequality and political polarization and climate change.
I see so much effort of individuals trying to bring new technologies to bear in terms of over a hundred vaccines in development, in terms of improved distance learning, tele-medicine, efficiencies in agriculture, move towards sustainable energy, all of which is happening so much faster right now in part because of the pandemic than it was before. So, I mean, if the great acceleration that is coming on the back of the pandemic is truly concerning in the geopolitical order that feels increasingly broken, it's increasingly uplifting in seeing how individuals around the world are becoming more entrepreneurial, in creating the kinds of solutions that ultimately will get us through this. So that's my view, my quick take this week from the United Nations General Assembly and from New York City, the hub of it all this week and hopefully for many years to come.
In an interview with Eurasia Group Vice Chairman Gerald Butts, Nicolas de Rivière cautions against an overly halcyon view of the UN's history. The Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations explains that throughout its 75 years the organization has confronted adversity. This moment is no exception, but "we have no other choice" than cooperation in order to address today's biggest crises, he explains. Rivière also discusses the global pandemic response, a need for greater commitments to climate action, and a recent move by the US to push for renewed sanctions against Iran.
How does having "the mind of a pessimist, and the soul of an optimist" affect Trevor Noah's view of the world? Microsoft President Brad Smith interviewed him for this first edition of "In Conversation," a discussion series launched from the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.
This video is provided by Microsoft, which is partnering with GZERO Media and Eurasia Group for special coverage of the 2020 UN General Assembly. See more on connecting through crisis at #UN75: gzeromedia.com/unga
Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, joins Ian Bremmer on this week's World in 60 seconds to discuss multilateralism, optimism, and the return to normal in the post-pandemic world.
Could this pandemic actually present an opportunity to bolster global support for multilateralism and what should that look like moving forward, Brad?
Well, I think it's an imperative and it has to bolster support for multilateralism for a very simple reason. We cannot afford to assume that it will be another century before we see a pandemic like this again. We have to take from this experience, all of the learning we can muster and put in place what we will need to be better prepared. And the only way we can do that is to start with an obvious fact. Viruses don't respect borders. So people have to work together across them as governments and with the kinds of support from companies and civil society that it'll take to ensure that we don't find ourselves as ill prepared a decade from now or five years from now, as we were when this year began.
On the one hand, there's been a lot of lack of leadership, at least internationally, the G20 doing nearly as much coming out of this crisis that we saw coming out of the 2008 financial crisis when it was founded. On the other hand, you've got supra-nationalism in Europe with the Germans and the French, and indeed unanimous votes to actually create stronger redistribution, stronger capacity and resilience of that institution. You've got the World Health Organization, the UN here working with a bunch of leaders and the private sector.
What gives you cause so far for most optimism that we actually are going to respond more effectively?
Well, I think one of the fascinating aspects of this pandemic in its own way has been the critical importance of data. We're all relying on data, literally, to manage government decisions that determine whether we get to leave our homes, where we get to go, what we get to do. But the truth is what we've also learned is that the data that is needed to address something like this needs to be measured in a consistent way across borders. At Microsoft we're doing a lot of work with the World Health Organization. Just learning from that how each individual government can be more effective if it's collaborating with others in a more unified way, putting digital technology and data to work. I think there's a lot of insight from that narrow slice that in fact impacts every part of the economy in the world today.
One of the things that people have been most concerned about is that the pandemic is driving borders up. It's driving people farther apart. But the fact that technology is working as well as it is right now is also unlocking human capital in terms of distance learning, in terms of telemedicine for large numbers of people that otherwise would have been left further behind in a crisis like this.
We're all learning a lot. I think tele health services are one of the great examples of where we're going to find in the future that it doesn't mean that people will no longer go to a doctor, but they'll only go to a doctor when they need to see a doctor in person.
And we'll probably live in a world where people have more consultation with health professionals because tele-health will fill-in a void, but we're also finding all the cracks in our societies. What it means when some people have broadband and others don't. Some people have access to digital skills and others don't. So it's a world of new opportunity, but if the opportunity isn't distributed more broadly, then it's going to exacerbate all the divides we already worry about in our societies.
What's the piece of life after coronavirus when truly people feel safe, again, that we're not socially distancing and the rest, that you think is going to be most different from life before coronavirus?
Well, I think it's going to be a more of a mixture of hybrid life. I'm not one who believes that people will want to stay in their houses forever. I think there's a lot that can be accomplished when people get together that they can't do when they're by themselves. But there's also a lot that we can do that will add convenience and efficiency and effectiveness to our lives by combining this in-person interaction with remote sort of everything, shopping, ordering food, connecting with people around the world, we have the opportunity to build sort of a richer experience. But again, only if the technology that's essential for this is within everyone's reach.
I also think we could get used to being six feet apart from each other for a longer period of time.
Yeah. But I still think you'll go to a sporting event, people are still going to want to be in a crowd. Go to a theater, people are going to want to be in the crowd. It will be fascinating to see how long some of these other habits persist once we're finally out of the other end of this tunnel and can look at it in the rear view mirror.
Watch: Tolu Olubunmi in conversation with Dr. Samira Asma from the World Health Organization on how they are advancing health data innovation in the age of COVID-19.
This content is brought to you by our 2020 UN General Assembly partner, Microsoft.
Watch UN Innovation Room conversations weekly on Thursdays at 9 am EDT: https://www.gzeromedia.com/unga/livestream/
This UN General Assembly features speeches from world leaders, high-level delegate meetings, and (sometimes heated) debates about the biggest issues the world is facing. This year will be no different, but the format certainly will be. Here's our look at the first virtual UNGA, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted much of the UN's work to the digital realm.
What does "net zero" mean, and how can companies, and perhaps even governments, achieve neutral carbon emissions? Climate change is a problem that impacts far more than weather systems—it has a human toll, one that is rapidly increasing. Microsoft and Eurasia Group have teamed up with GZERO Media to talk about real solutions to one of the biggest crises of our time.
If Brexit has shown the world anything, it is that deep-seated political dysfunction is by no means confined to the United States. But as Europe comes together to avert an economic catastrophe caused by COVID-19, will Brexit throw the entire continent back into chaos? European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde tells Ian Bremmer in a new GZERO World interview that she doesn't "see any trace" of that happening.
Watch the episode: Christine Lagarde, Leading Europe's United Economic Pandemic Response
Microsoft's President Brad Smith and Ian Bremmer discussed the impact of disinformation campaigns—both domestic and foreign--on the US democracy. The use of fake stories is creating polarization and an ill-informed public, they agreed. In discussing the impact of Russian interference in US politics, Smith said, "In all of the years of the Soviet Union, did the Soviet Air Force ever develop an aircraft that did as much damage to the United States as Russian disinformation campaigns have done through social media over the last four years? I would argue that the answer is no."
Watch more: Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?
The coronavirus pandemic threatened to bring Europe's economy to its knees. Then something remarkable happened: 27 member states came together. Joining GZERO World with Ian Bremmer is the individual at the heart of that response, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde. She'll explain how European nations were able to overcome political divisions and act quickly to prevent an all-out economic catastrophe on the continent.
When the coronavirus came to Greece in March, the country was only beginning to emerge from a decades-long financial crisis that had brought it to its knees. Citizens feared the worst, but instead the country responded swiftly and effectively, and cases have stayed down. On GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Greece's Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, talks about his country's pandemic response, its "improved brand" on the European stage, and recent tensions with neighboring Turkey.
|9.16.2020||Net Zero: Climate Ambition and Action|
|9.23.2020||Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding|
|10.7.2020||Digital Inclusion: Connectivity and Skills for the Next Billion Jobs|
|10.14.2020||Digital Peace: Trust and Security in Cyberspace|
Movses Abelian, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, acknowledges that this year's gathering of world leaders presents unique challenges. But, he says, the work of the UN continues. For two decades he has had a pivotal role in organizing thousands of key diplomatic meetings during these important weeks in NYC. In this video, Abelian explains the General Assembly, how it has worked in the past, and what to expect this year.
Moving Multilateralism Forward: Madeleine Albright, Caroline Kennedy, and John Frank discuss with young adults
Watch: "Moving Multilateralism Forward," an intergenerational dialogue between Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State; Caroline Kennedy, former US Ambassador to Japan; John Frank, Microsoft Vice President of UN Affairs; and four current and former students of the Marble Hill School for International Studies in the Bronx, NY. These veteran diplomats and young minds discuss the future of multilateralism, the unprecedented challenges facing the international community, the power of young people in leading change, and the promise that technology has to be a force for good.
During the UN's 75th year, the conversation reminds us that inclusive multilateralism must involve diverse stakeholders across the international system – and most importantly across generations – and that young people are optimistic about our future, understand the value of multilateral institutions, and want to be involved in achieving a better world.
Watch the full video above, and the teaser here:
Moving Multilateralism Forward: Sizzlewww.youtube.com
This content is brought to you by GZERO Media's 2020 UN General Assembly partner, Microsoft.
In an interview for GZERO World on the eve of the first virtual UN General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres offers an optimistic view of renewed commitment to climate action, particularly from the European Union. But he tells Ian Bremmer that it will take much more from the world's biggest carbon emitters—including China, India, and the US—to alter the course of climate change. Guterres also discusses the need for public-private partnerships and the role big corporations and financial institutions play in eradicating the damage of carbon emissions.
Watch the episode: UN Secretary-General António Guterres: Why we still need the United Nations
Watch this interview from our UN General Assembly partner, Microsoft:
How do we build a more sustainable, inclusive, and fairer future as we recover from COVID-19? At this year's #UN75, Microsoft President Brad Smith chatted with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
Colombia’s President Iván Duque on early pandemic response: “Multilateralism didn’t work as it should”
In an interview with GZERO Media, Colombia's President Iván Duque discusses early missteps in global coordination on pandemic response that he feels exacerbated the spread of the virus. "If we all had acknowledged what was really going on in Asia, maybe we would have taken faster draconian measures to protect the world," he told Ian Bremmer.
While Colombia was initially praised for a swift and successful approach to COVID-19, infection rates and cases have spiked in recent weeks as lockdown restrictions ease in order to alleviate strain on an already battered economy. In the conversation, Bremmer and Duque also discuss the Venezuelan refugee crisis, and how economic fallout of the pandemic has forced at least 100,000 to leave Colombia and return home.
When the coronavirus came to Greece in March, the country was only beginning to emerge from a decades-long financial crisis that had brought it to its knees. Citizens feared the worst, but instead the country responded swiftly and effectively, and cases have stayed down. In an extended GZERO World interview with Ian Bremmer, Greece's Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, talks about his country's pandemic response, its "improved brand" on the European stage, and recent tensions with neighboring Turkey.
Our intrepid Senior Writer Gabrielle Debinski is on the ground with our colleagues from GZERO World for the latest updates. Also, if you missed our rundown of the major items on the agenda on Friday, catch up here.
Please note, leaders are listed in the order in which they are expected to speak, but the schedule sometimes runs ragged. You can find a complete schedule here.
Major Speakers on Tuesday
- Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: By tradition, the Brazilian president opens every General Assembly debate. Lula has complained about too much focus on Ukraine at the expense of other global issues, watch for his rhetoric here.
- U.S. President Joe Biden: The only leader from a permanent member of the Security Council who is attending the summit in person, expect lots on Ukraine and appeals for development aid and climate action..
- Colombian President Gustavo Petro: The left-wing leader called for an end to the war on drugs in his first UNGA speech last year — and now cocaine exports are booming.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Often the belle of the geopolitical ball the past two years, Turkey has played a crucial role in the Black Sea grain deal and is the only NATO member with good ties to Moscow. This one is worth your time.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: With his counteroffensive making slow progress and whispers of “Ukraine fatigue” spreading across Europe and the US, the actor-turned-president is looking to make a command performance to shore up support.
- Day 2 of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals
New Yorkers, get ready for terrible traffic, because the big show is in town.
World leaders are about to start pouring in for the United Nations General Assembly’s high-level session, the annual global event where leaders from countries great and small gather to have their say about the world’s toughest issues. (Though sometimes they use the moment to suggest the US president is Satan or to share their views on the JFK assassination).
The sleek mid-century modern architecture, massive cubist murals, and vast diversity on display can give the event a bit of a sci-fi vibe, but the scale of problems makes it hard to feel Star Trek-esque techno-optimism. Here’s a quick breakdown of the biggest issues for this “UNGA” as politics nerds call it:
The War in Ukraine and Global Hunger. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has confirmed he will speak in person in New York. Also in likely attendance: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. There’s sure to be some careful choreography to prevent a spontaneous meeting, but the UN also wants to bring the two sides together to renew the Black Sea grain export deal, which Russia ditched back in July.
When Russia pulled out it put severe pressure on food prices, particularly for low-income countries in Africa that rely on Ukrainian grain. It doesn’t help that the World Food Program is suffering a budget shortfall that could force it to cut food aid to 24 million people — forcing the world into a “doom loop” of hunger.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer he would continue leading talks with Turkey, Russia and Ukraine to revive the deal, but set expectations low in the short term.
Sustainable Development Goals in rough shape. Way back in the halcyon days of 2015, every single UN member state agreed to a set of 17 development benchmarks to achieve by 2030 that would help fight climate change while also fostering economic growth. Halfway to the deadline, the UN’s own report on the progress paints a bleak picture.
Progress on half of the targets is insufficient, and another 30% have stalled or even regressed. The number of people living in extreme poverty, for example, is rising for the first time in a generation and is on track to reach 575 million by 2030.
Secretary-General Guterres said that fixing this is UNGA’s “most important objective,” but not everyone is convinced about the U.N.’s credibility on climate. Former U.S. Vice President and climate activist Al Gore tore into what he called the “capture” of UN negotiations on climate change by the fossil fuel industry. You can see Gore’s point: The United Nations’ next big climate change conference will be held in Dubai, led by oil magnate Sultan Al-Jaber.
Can the Security Council be fixed? Probably not. There will be lots of talk about updating the Security Council’s membership to reflect the world as it is in 2023, rather than as it was at the end of World War Two, when it was created.
U.S. President Joe Biden expressed support for reforming the body last year, possibly adding countries like Brazil, India, and Japan to reflect their importance in world affairs.
There is precedent for expanding the council, as 4 non-permanent seats were added in 1965. The issue with any attempt to reform is the same, though: any permanent member can veto any resolution before the council. Should Russia or China feel adding a member would be against their best interest — and if China’s rivals India and Japan are in play, they likely would — the whole thing gets squashed.
Where’s Xi Jinping? The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, won’t attend, and neither, reportedly, will his top diplomat Wang Yi. Instead, China is sending Vice President Han Zheng, whose role is mostly ceremonial.
That could complicate US hopes to firm up details about hosting a Biden-Xi summit later this year. It also hints at some possible rudderlessness behind the scenes in China’s foreign ministry following the disappearance and public dismissal of former Foreign Minister Qin Gang.
The upshot: Hope never dies. Corralling nearly two hundred countries toward consensus on any given subject, much less ones as thorny as climate change and the invasion of Ukraine, is a daunting and often thankless challenge — but one that would be all the harder without multilateral fora like the United Nations.
Ahead of the gathering, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed cautious determination in his interview with Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer.
“Hope is the thing that never dies, but it will not be easy,” he said. “We are in an era of escalation, not an area of easy solution.”
The annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the world's largest diplomatic event, normally entails leaders and representatives from the 193 UN member states descending upon New York for a full week of speeches, high-stakes meetings between governments, and street protests. UNGA has also had its share of surprising moments, like Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev (allegedly) banging his shoe on the desk, or Venezuela's Hugo Chávez suggesting that US President George W. Bush was the devil himself.
This year's UNGA will be very different because of COVID-19. Hotels in New York won't be full of diplomats, metal detectors, and secret service agents. The "contact sport" of diplomacy will go virtual, with great uncertainty over how improvisational breakthroughs often found on the sidelines of UNGA summits will translate to the digital world. And more individuals from around the world than ever before will be able to take part. In other words, UNGA will be very different, but hardly less important (or dramatic).
The COVID-19 pandemic makes this year's UNGA — the 75th — a once-in-a-generation opportunity for global leaders to unite around a single challenge, build the momentum necessary to tackle its effects head-on and chart a clear path forward for multilateralism... all while overcoming the obstacles of working virtually.
What will change? This year's UNGA will be mostly virtual, with world leaders delivering prerecorded statements and only one representative per UN member state attending in-person in the General Assembly Hall. All other events and meetings will take place online — requiring a 20th century institution, which still thinks in analog in many ways, to rapidly embrace 21st century technology. The pandemic will make proceedings more transparent for the general public, but the virtual setting may not be ideal for the most sensitive aspects of diplomacy that occur behind closed doors or the spontaneous meetings in the labyrinthine hallways of the UN. Many UN insiders worry that the virtual format may stand in the way of these unofficial meetings, which are often where the real diplomatic work gets done.
The overwhelming nature of the COVID-19 crisis may also divert attention from other top priorities such as biodiversity, and cash-strapped governments will be less likely to announce concrete financial commitments to meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the organization's roadmap for ending poverty and protecting the planet. Finally, there's a serious risk that the urgency of doing something quickly about the pandemic will make UN member states cut corners and compromise on sustainability, so in fact we'll end up "building back worse" than before.
What will stay the same? For the UN, 2020 was supposed to kick off its so-called "Decade of Action" to meet the 17 SDGs by 2030 — and it still is. Although that timeline has been complicated by the coronavirus, the UN has no immediate plans to push back the deadline, and now argues that the need to "build back better" after COVID-19 makes the objective of achieving all SDGs by the end of the decade even more urgent than it was at the beginning of the year.
This year was also expected to be all about the UN's own 75th birthday. A planned year-long celebration of the UN's accomplishments since its formation in 1945 has turned into an opportunity for the UN to draw lessons from its 75 years of experience dealing with global crises that can help the world recover from the pandemic. Finally, this year's high-level meetings will focus — as planned — on UN75, biodiversity, gender equality, and nuclear disarmament.
So, what's cooking for this year's UNGA, who are the key players, what's needed next, and how can you get involved?
What's the UN doing this year?
In 2020, UNGA will be anything but business-as-usual, starting with the schedule. The multiple high-level summits and events that are normally programmed for one week will take place throughout September and October to allow for most discussions and meetings to be virtual or in-person with social distancing. Here's the updated schedule of high-level meetings:
- 09/21 UN 75 anniversary commemoration. The UN will celebrate its 75th birthday under the theme The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism with a virtual address by Secretary-General António Guterres.
- 09/21-29 General Assembly debate. This is an opportunity for representatives from all UN member states to gather in the same room, and for each individual UN member state to raise any issue that's important to them. The process takes five days, and Brazil is the first to speak because it was the only country that volunteered to do so at the first debate in 1955. The US comes second, and representatives can talk about whatever they want... for a maximum of 15 minutes (the limit is rarely enforced).
- 09/30 Biodiversity Summit. As the degradation of biodiversity threatens global progress towards meeting the development goals, world leaders will adopt a framework to take urgent action on putting nature on a path to recovery by the end of the decade.
- 10/01 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. A quarter century since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the Fourth World Conference on Women, UN member states will take stock of progress made and challenges ahead for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, everywhere.
- 10/02 Commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This year's commemoration occurs in the shadow of a deterioration in arms control agreements between the US and Russia, the two states with the most nuclear weapons.
Who are the key players?
Governments are the most important players responding to global challenges, but they can't do so alone. Thus far, their response has also been insufficient, failing to rise to the level of international coordination seen in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and other pivotal global crises. This presents an opportunity to rethink effective multilateralism for the next 75 years, and it's why this year's UNGA is also bringing together the private sector, NGOs and others interested in a better future for all to together figure out how to meet the 2030 deadline to achieve the development goals in the "new normal" the pandemic has created. Microsoft, for instance, has long committed to Agenda 2030 and this year opened a representation office in New York to advance its partnerships with the UN and its agencies.
What's needed next, and how can I get involved?
This year's UNGA will aim to forge a global compact to prepare for a post-pandemic world that first and foremost focuses on global health in a scenario where COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on global health systems worldwide. But that consensus will also have to address rising inequality as a direct result of the coronavirus, its devastating impact on labor markets, and the political divisions the pandemic has exacerbated. Only a multilateral approach can get governments, the private sector and all other players on the same page so the recovery leaves no one behind.
To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN has been running a global survey on the future of global cooperation: Will COVID-19 bring the world closer together, or rather lead to greater mistrust? Contribute your opinion on what the UN should prioritize in the coming years by taking part in the poll. The survey is open until the end of 2020, and preliminary results will be announced at the commemoration ceremony.
A sneak peek at the findings shows that over 90 percent of respondents believe that global cooperation is vital to respond to today's challenges, including COVID-19. Those surveyed have identified health, access to basic services, global solidarity and making economies inclusive as the most pressing short-term priorities, and addressing climate change, corruption, poverty and conflict/violence as the most vital long-term goals.
In the meantime, stay tuned for special coverage on four key themes — climate and sustainability, crisis response and recovery, digital inclusion, and digital peace — by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group.
While governments around the world race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, intelligence services and criminal organizations see an opportunity: to steal vaccine research, keep tabs on the competition, or hold critical information for ransom. The vaccine manufacturing process involves a wide group of public and private organizations that have access to sensitive vaccine and manufacturing details as well as the personal information of trial participants. In addition to the risks of stolen intellectual property or personal information, hacks could also delay or derail elements of the quest for a viable vaccine. Here's a look at what hackers are after at each stage of the vaccine development process.
One of the biggest threats to 21st century international peace is invisible. It recognizes no borders and knows no rules. It can penetrate everything from the secrets of your government to the settings of your appliances. This is, of course, the threat of cyberattacks and cyberwarfare.
During the coronavirus pandemic, cyberattacks have surged, according to watchdogs. This isn't just Zoom-bombing or scams. It's also a wave of schemes, likely by national intelligence agencies, meant to steal information about the development and production of vaccines. Attacks on the World Health Organization soared five-fold early in the pandemic.
Why is the threat of cyberwarfare growing, and why isn't more being done to stop it?
Hacking is increasingly the business of nation-states. Not so long ago, hackers were mainly hooded freelancers sitting in their basements stealing credit card numbers. Now they are increasingly the employees of national intelligence services.
Why are countries investing more and more in the cyber game? For one thing, hacking is a cheap way to level the playing field with larger global rivals. For North Korea or Iran, you no longer need a powerful military in order to project power across the globe. You just need a laptop and a few good programmers. What's more, unlike missile launches or invasions, the targets can't always tell where a cyberattack has come from. Plausible deniability comes in handy, especially when attacking someone bigger than you.
Targets are getting fatter. As countries build out 5G networks, data flows will increase massively, as more than a billion more people move online over the next decade. The so-called "internet of things," the network in which everything from your watch to your (potentially self-driving) car to your refrigerator are being hooked up to the internet. (That said, huge gaps in internet access persist, as we wrote here.)
There are no rules. Conventional war has rules about whom you can and cannot attack, occupy, or imprison. They aren't always respected or enforced — but the cyber realm has very few rules, mainly because the world's major cyber powers don't want them. If you're Vladimir Putin, hacking has brought dividends that your flagging economy and mediocre military cannot. If you're the US, you're historically wary of any binding rules about the conduct of war. (If you're Gulliver, why tie yourself to the ground for the sake of Lilliput?) So, while various groups of countries have, under UN auspices, started to develop "norms" – they are not binding.
Unfortunately, it may take a catastrophe to create those rules. So far, the damage inflicted by hackers has mostly been economic. In 2017, the NotPetya virus, which targeted Ukraine, quickly spread around the globe, inflicting $10 billion worth of pain. It was, so far, the worst cyberattack in history.
But it's not hard to imagine a cyberattack on a hospital network, a power grid, or a dam that kills thousands of people and forces even more from their homes. How can those responsible be called to account? And what would it take to make future such attacks much less likely?
Will it take an event that inflicts that much human damage for governments and tech companies to sit down and hammer out cyber-rules of the road?
The coronavirus pandemic has radically accelerated the adoption of digital technology in the global economy, creating an opportunity for millions of new businesses and jobs. However, it has also left millions jobless and exposed yet another vulnerability: hundreds of millions of people lack access to this technology.
To be sure, this divide was already present before COVID-19 struck. But unequal access to the internet and technology is going to make the multiple impacts of the pandemic much worse for offline and unskilled communities, among others. In fact, there is not a single global digital gap, but rather several ones that the coronavirus will likely exacerbate.
Rich vs poor countries. Although more than half of the world's population is now online, internet access remains quite low throughout the developing world, where connectivity is largely expensive, slow and unreliable. This means a vegetable trader in Nairobi, for example, may use basic mobile phone payments but cannot expect to sell his produce online because most of his buyers are neither online nor aware of e-commerce.
In developing countries, governments lack the funds and private companies the financial incentive to invest in broadband for all. The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic will further discourage betting big on digital infrastructure plans where they are most needed, so the digitalized world will speed ahead in the fast lane while 3.2 billion unconnected people remain stuck.
Skilled vs unskilled workers. For some, COVID-19 has radically transformed the nature of learning and work, as technology now allows both to be done remotely. This may become the norm in certain societies after the public health crisis has passed.
Microsoft predicts that a pandemic-fueled quantum leap in global tech adoption will create 149 million new digital jobs by 2025. However, those jobs require tech skills that almost no one who has lost a job due to COVID-19 can acquire fast enough to benefit from the future digital hiring spree.
Women vs men. More men than women use the internet in all regions of the world except in the Americas. The digital gender gap is actually growing in some parts of the world, and almost nowhere is it more glaring than in India, where conservative attitudes in some parts of the country ban women and girls from using smartphones or social media.
Unless urgent measures are taken, women will miss out on many of the new job opportunities because they are less likely than men to own a smartphone or have access to the web. The pandemic will thus exacerbate gender discrimination, a violation of a human right.
Urban vs rural communities. Experts believe 5G networks will be a game-changer by massively expanding data download and processing speeds for driverless cars, smart cities, and connected factories. That will be the case for cities, where this technology is already available.
Rural areas, however, will be much slower to adopt 5G — and attract the new jobs this technology will enable — because it is more expensive to install when communities are less dense. Even in the US, the world's largest economy, rural states like West Virginia already feared they would have to wait years or even decades to get 5G networks before the pandemic. Now, they may be left even further behind.
Bottom line: COVID-19 has plunged the world into the worst economic crisis in a century, while also accelerating the digitization of the workplace. People who can already learn or work remotely — and have or can pick up the skills needed to land the new digital jobs — will thrive. Those who don't have laptop jobs or can't land them, and who don't have access to virtual education or work, will have a much harder time.
This year's United General Assembly will be very different. Hotels in New York will not be full of famous heads of state, metal detectors, or US secret service agents as the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world's largest diplomatic gathering into a mostly online affair to enforce social distancing. A virtual UNGA requires a 20th century institution — which turns 75 and still thinks in analog in many ways — to rapidly embrace 21st century technology. How will UNGA adapt to its new virtual setting? Here are a few things that will change.