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7 Billion Strong

The UN marked today the global population reaching seven billion (see here). The global population is expected to grow to nine billion by 2050 and to 15 billion by 2100. This milestone event was accompanied with a call to action by top UN officials addressed to world leaders to meet the challenges that a growing population poses, from ensuring adequate food and clean water to guaranteeing equal access to security and justice. The overall situation is far from rosy. About one billion people around the world leave in poverty. The world economy has been slowing down over the last years and fiscal austerity is the keyword in many of the world’s capitals. Among others the financial crisis has shown that some Western countries can use themselves some of the good governance lessons they try to teach others.

In a powerful op-ed in the International Herald Tribune, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon the world leaders of the G-20 that will be meeting in Cannes, to agree to a concrete action plan that advances the well-being of all nations and people, not just the wealthiest and most powerful. As he put it, growing economic uncertainty, market volatility and mounting inequality have reached a point of crisis. It is a crisis of trust in the leadership.

Should those least responsible pay the highest price? As Ban Ki-moon put it, we cannot afford to cut loose those who are most vulnerable — the poor, women, young people, and the planet itself. Seen the slow pace of EU member States movement to shore up the euro and Greece and the disheartening results of international negotiations regarding important environmental and agricultural issues (the post-Kyoto and the Doha rounds) I am very skeptical that this meeting will actually lay the foundations for a healthy, green and inclusive economic prosperity for everyone. It will take more time and efforts for such an ‘international social contract’ to come into being, although France as the leader of the G-20 group for 2011 can lay the foundations for that in Cannes on 3-4 November.

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