Dear Colleague

In this months newsletter
  • Polylateralism and the faltering Nation-State
  • Multilateralism versus Globalization
  • Upcoming Course: Strategic Foresight for Humanitarian and Development Actors

In a recent article in the September 2021 edition of the New York Review of Books, Finton O’Toole pointed to Afghanistan as a reflection of ‘The Lie of Nation-Building’. From a futures perspective, the implications of the Afghanistan tragedy go well beyond the immediate implosion of empire and the horrendous suffering of the Afghan people. It opens up the prospect of a profound change in global governance – polylateralism.

The term suggests trends in which the agents of global society and subnational governments are taking up the slack of faltering nation-states. In an article entitled  ‘Planetary Politics When the Nation-State Falters,’ Nathan Gardels, Editor in Chief of the Berggruen Institute’s Noema Magazine, puts forth the prospect that we are witnessing the most significant evolution in world scale governance since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

In a world in which it had been assumed that solutions to the present pattern of threats such as pandemics, climate change and global indebtedness would depend upon state-based institutions, including intergovernmental organisations, more and more analysts are pointing to an increasingly atomised, globalised construct. The humanitarian implications – crisis drivers as well as solutions – may well fundamentally change the ‘humanitarian paradigm’.

What are the implications of polylateralism when it comes to humanitarian action in the future?

The question is posed and to some extent answered in our commentary Humanitarian Futures and Contending Paradigms - Globalization vs Multilateralism. The multilateral construct, as discussed in the attached, seems in various ways to be teetering on the edge of chaos, while the more pluralist model appears overly unpredictable. Perhaps, as the HF commentary concludes, ‘le bricolage’ might be the only answer in the shorter-term future…the definition is in the text.

Of course, how should those with humanitarian roles and responsibilities deal with the consequences of changing paradigms, constructs, differing crisis drivers, the hitherto ‘unaffected’? One step in the right direction is to have a more systematic approach to futures planning. It is a point that Beris Gwynne has made in her introduction to the 14-15 October course to be presented by IARAN and Futuribles – Strategic Foresight for Humanitarian and Development Actors
The Humanitarian Futures team welcomes the announcement of this certified course which will be hosted jointly by IARAN and Futuribles on 14th and 15th October 2021. As ‘Planning from the Future’ enthusiasts, we celebrate the mounting body of evidence that professional competencies in anticipation contribute to better decision making and create spaces for new ways of thinking about old problems and responding pro-actively to present and likely future challenges. With increasing interest across the sectors (government and multilateral, academe, business and society) in ‘strategic foresight’ approaches, we are thrilled by signs of ‘convergence’, as recognition of the need to make futures thinking accessible to as many people as possible leads providers of this kind of training in different parts of the world to support one another.  
These sorts of contributions to the humanitarian sector are most sincerely welcomed, as would any positive inputs which you might wish to make to the Humanitarian Futures newsletters in the future.

Once again, our very best greetings,
The Humanitarian Futures team

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