To boldly go where no one has gone before
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987-94)
Globalization has changed everything forever for everybody everywhere. Like Hobbits, we in Middle-Earth are called to span boundaries in search of an elusive peace in our time. And like Trekkies, our Enterprise is emboldened by a mission of universal harmony for generations to come. The space-time continuum is core to the human condition.
In September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The Goals aim to end extreme poverty, inequality, and climate change by 2030. They envisage localized priorities, decisions, and investments that build comprehensively upon 15 years of progress under the Millennium Development Goals.
Africa Governance Initiative patron Tony Blair welcomed the announcement: “… defeating world poverty is not a hopeless cause … the SDGs can move the world further toward success.” But countries need to chart their own course and build capacity for development. International partners must work with national governments to steward the global agenda while respecting local choices.
Delivering on climate commitments
A case in point are the 180 countries stepping up action on climate change to meet the ambitions of the global agreement reached during the 21st Conference of Parties in December 2015. The international development community is working cooperatively to integrate Paris commitments within the Climate Change Action Plan. Canada’s Prime Minister is an outspoken advocate.
The Shock Waves Report shows that ending poverty and addressing climate change are inseparable. If left unchecked, climate change impacts could push more than 100 million people into poverty over the next 15 years. Implementation of climate-smart development and adaptation measures can improve resilience to climate shocks.
Cities are responsible for 70% of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Public funding must catalyze private investment to transition to low-carbon urban economies. The challenge is to stabilize policy environments and strengthen public institutions to grow investment in project pipelines.
The world came together to forge a deal that reflects the seriousness and urgency to preserve the planet. No one can afford to be left behind. Protecting the poorest people and the most vulnerable countries hinges on limiting the global temperature increase to 1.50C. Humankind cannot continue to poison the ecosystem and hope to survive.
Thinking globally, leading locally
Middle managers are natural boundary spanners in their relations with policy makers and citizens. Thinking globally increasingly means looking hard at the many different realities within and across countries. There are remarkably large disparities in people’s living conditions across regions and cities. Geography matters for well-being.
A thorough assessment of whether life is getting better requires a wide range of measures that show what conditions people experience, as well as where they experience them. The dimensions of well-being shape people’s material conditions-income, jobs, housing-and quality of life-health, education, environment, safety. Public servants are instrumental in assessing regional contributions to national outcomes and in mobilizing local resources to increase national prosperity.
Competing effectively in the global economy also means capitalizing on emerging opportunities and threats. Public managers must remain alert to market traits and barriers, financial and cultural risks, strategic partnerships and global alliances, and results and rewards. Succeeding in new global markets requires dynamic knowledge and analysis of key drivers.
What can middle managers and their teams do to serve Canadian international development interests? The first thing is to learn from experience what sustains global thinking:
- Context – respect culture, political economy, and in situ development aspirations;
- Diversity – promote Canada’s comparative advantage as a microcosm of the world; and
- Service – pursue greater international interests as the path to achieving Canada’s self-interest.
The second thing is to adopt purposeful strategies that weave together a compelling global narrative:
- Alignment – specify expected outcomes that convert socio-economic opportunities into results;
- Empathy – embrace expectations of reciprocal learning in all international endeavours; and
- Passion – value integrity, innovation, and accountability in public service to mitigate risks.
And the third thing is to be bold. Goethe offered this exhortation: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
John Wilkins is Executive in Residence: Public Management at York University. firstname.lastname@example.org. He was a career public servant and diplomat.