The Economist: Special report

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Leadership missing in action

A FEW WEEKS after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour, Winston Churchill was a guest at the White House. President Franklin Roosevelt was so eager to tell him he had come up with a name for what would become a new world security organisation that, the story goes, he hurried into Churchill’s bedroom, to find the prime minister naked save for a bathrobe....

The clock is ticking for nuclear arms control

TIME IS RUNNING out for the last remaining nuclear arms-control treaty between America and Russia. New START limits their arsenals of long-range nukes and allows intrusive mutual inspections. Without agreement to extend it, the treaty will expire on February 5th 2021. That is not the only reason why the five-yearly review of the 50-year-old Nuclear...

Mobilising for the next quarter-century

LUCKILY, GIVEN the pandemic, the UN did not plan a boastful birthday. Instead, it decided to ask what the world thinks. It has launched an effort to to gather views from everywhere, in the spirit of the opening words of its charter, “We the peoples”. With the help of a mass online survey, in-depth polling across 50 countries, hundreds of live “dialogues”...

Who’s in charge?

CRISES CAN bring clarity. In the financial crisis of 2008-09, the G20 club of big economies came into its own, reflecting how economic power had spread beyond the rich world’s G7. One thing the covid-19 pandemic has laid bare is an absence of global leadership. This time the G20 has done little beyond a rhetorical pledge to “do whatever it takes” and...

The UN has too much on its plate

MANKEUR NDIAYE, a former foreign minister of Senegal who heads the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), is a tall man with a tall task. The peace agreement between the CAR and 14 armed groups signed in February 2019 is the eighth since 2013, when French intervention narrowly averted a genocide. The situation remains fragile...

The UN’s structures built in 1945 are not fit for 2020, let alone beyond it

“IF YOU DIDN’T have the UN you really would have to reinvent it,” says Stephen Schlesinger, author of a history of its founding. Maybe, but nobody in their right mind would design it as it exists today. Insiders complain of a tangle of overlapping agencies, senseless silos and barricaded budgets. “If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory,...

Three future scenarios for the UN

IN A SPEECH in January Mr Guterres conjured up “four horsemen” to describe the challenges facing the world. The first represented the worst geostrategic tensions in years, with a real risk of a “great fracture”. Next, said the secretary-general, the planet was burning, and an existential crisis was close to a point of no return. His third horseman took...

Geopolitics and technology threaten America’s financial dominance

IN JANUARY AN American former general spoke at a gathering of senior global financiers. Used to thinking about strategy and hard power, he warned that America is dealing poorly with its most complex array of threats since the cold war—from Iran and Russia to the novel coronavirus. But he also spoke of a much less visible threat: how, through its aggressive...

The financial world’s nervous system is being rewired

TWO WEEKS before Christmas, executives from OneConnect, a Chinese technology firm, boarded a plane to New York. They landed in a chilly atmosphere: American legislators were about to bar Huawei, a telecoms giant suspected of spying for Beijing, from supplying American agencies. But OneConnect did the job. On December 13th it listed on the New York Stock...

As China goes global, its banks are coming out, too

AMERICAN BANKERS make for bold bosses. From his roomy office in Manhattan, in early February, the boss of one of the country’s biggest suggested he has few serious rivals—and all are just a few blocks away. “US banks continue to gain share from European banks.” Asia barely gets a mention. “Chinese institutions have generally proven incapable of expanding...

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