President of Green Cross International & Former Adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev
President of Green Cross International & Former Adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev
Alexander Likhotal served as adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev for many years and is currently the President of Geneva-based Green Cross International. He is a member of the Club of Rome, World Academy of Art and Science, Library of Alexandria Board of Trustees, the Climate Change Task Force, the International Council for the Earth Charter, the Board of Directors of the Universal Forum of Cultures, Adviser to the Club of Madrid, and has launched internationally acclaimed initiatives such as the Earth Dialogues Forum and Green Cross International's global campaign for the Right to Water.
A World in Crisis
Can the huge, global, diverse and interconnected world suddenly freeze still, incapacitated by a collective horror? Can it roll back in its perpetual movement and start hurriedly closing borders and shutting doors and windows? Before the spring of 2020, the answer was “no way”, plainly impossible! No one could fancy the fading of international life, whose 24x7 bustle was perceived as a constant. Yet it did happen. The planet went into lockdown, shocked by its own vulnerability, helplessness, the ease of alienation and simultaneously a sensation of being a single whole.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has not shut down the universe. COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities, magnified weaknesses, and exacerbated chronic issues. COVID-19 has only stimulated the processes that emerged long before it came into being; it has accelerated the evolution but failed to add to it anything fundamentally new. The erosion of international rules and institutions created in the second half of the 20th-century, which survived the Cold War, albeit in a slightly modified form, began in the 21st century with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
It was exactly the pandemic’s scale and shocking impact on the habitual personal, social and political relations that have inserted a symbolic break, dividing the world into “before and after”.
What shall we expect in the post-coronavirus world? How we will be affected globally, locally and individually? What impacts to expect in the areas of war, peace, security and generally international relations? How it will affect the state, private property, work, families: the basis of our lives?
Russia-Loose Cannon of the Modern Politics?
Unpredictability has become the code word of Russian foreign policy during the last 10-12 years. Modern Russia looks frightening precisely because it is confusing and unpredictable. Russia is, at the same time, a global power and a weak state with corrupt and inefficient institutions. The contradictions go further: the regime can be described as rock solid and also extremely vulnerable.
As recently announced constitutional changes that could lay a path for Vladimir Putin to stay in power beyond 2024, Western pundits and policymakers are left wondering whether his almost life “sentence” means that Moscow’s self-assertive policies toward the West will continue or even escalate. But what is the reality of Russian power in the Putin era? Is Russia a rising, declining or stagnating power? How does its standing in the global order compare to other nations, including the United States, China and European powers? Why Trump has repeatedly deferred to Vladimir Putin on major issues while Biden demonstrated the “watershed” calling him a “killer”?
However, it’s puzzling that, the Western analysis of Russia is transfixed on Putin, who is seen as the cause and end of all changes happening to the country and its policies. Yet it is necessary to foster the analysis on Russia, the general trends in Russian and global transformations and not on Putin regardless of his imprint on current politics.
The purpose of this talk is to provide a framework to define the factors and principles motivating Russian foreign and defense policy decisions. We will examine main foreign policy determinants and focus on the Russia’s possible reactions to the modern politics challenges.
“Debugging” the World Order
The Ukrainian crisis has provoked a serious and dangerous breakdown of relations between Russia and the West – so serious that a new “reset” will not do much to improve the situation. If we are to avert a revival of Cold War and arms race – to say nothing of other threats looming large including climate change, growing shortages of fresh water, food shortages, international terrorism, cyber security, pandemics, and so on – something more like a full “reboot” is required.
In his talk, Alexander Likhotal focuses on the new “rules of the game” that could reformulate the international agenda and political frameworks in a way consistent with modern challenges.
Do We Need a Change: Do We Have a Choice?
Today’s world is in a state of transition. Change is no longer something we theorize about. It is no longer an option that we can consider. It is a reality that we live in and a “conditio sine qua non” of our survival. Due to on-going change and regardless of our acceptance, in 10 years the world will differ that much that we will be surprised with our current concerns. Analyzing the key trends, Alexander Likhotal focuses on the question: how well are we prepared to meet our future?
The Post-Post-Crisis World
The post-crisis era is over, and the “post-post-crisis world" is upon us. And the clever euphemisms like ‘green economy’ or ‘shared sustainable growth’ would not help. If a system is fundamentally flawed, making it more efficient or accountable will not resolve the problem. This model locks the world in continuing crisis, social injustice and the danger of environmental disaster. What we need today is to decouple economic growth from the use of energy and materials; simply increasing resource efficiency will not get us where we want to be. Alexander Likhotal does not question the objective of increasing energy and resource efficiency; essentially, we have no choice. What has to be questioned, however, is how production and consumption are being organized today.
Growth in Transition: Sustainable Development – Still an Option?
In this fascinating speech, Alexander Likhotal explains that we are at an inflection point in the world today. There is a convergence of themes – seemingly disconnected – that is now being understood to be integral and urgent to our very survival. The world is headed into a perfect storm of an interconnected economic, ecological, and social crisis. However, it’s clear that while growth is unsustainable, de-growth is unstable.
Alexander Likhotal argues that the prospects to cope with these challenges will depend upon a different way of thinking about economy and our ability to use the changes at hand for transformative change of the modern economic model – creating a renewables-based system, which enhances access, health and security, creates jobs and safeguards the environment.
Alexander Likhotal argues: it's time to decouple the issue of business environmental and social responsibility from the political correctness myths. The business of business is business and regardless of any "ethical mantras" it will not become a non-for profit activity.
But the world is changing and there is a growing business case for the private sector to become more resource efficient and to support green growth. The speaker focuses on relevant policies, practices, and models that make sustainability as strategic for business as customers and profit, and thus create incentives for social and environmental transformation of business models. His message: rather than being idealistic, we need to promote policies that couple long-term solutions and short-term benefits.
Seizing the Opportunity of the Climate Change Crisis
Winston Churchill famously said that "a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." Seized as an opportunity, the climate change crisis could be the catalyst for a new era of market-driven innovation in alternative energy, conservation, sustainable development, and international cooperation. The speaker focuses on:
- Economic MODEL transformation.
- Holistic approach: linking development and environment, in analyses and in governance policies.
- Decoupling economic growth from use of energy and raw materials.
- Circular/performance-oriented/decoupled economy: drivers and instruments;
- GHG reductions and job gains by moving the economy in the direction of a performance economy.
- Markets reorientation by valuing natural and social capital.
- Incentives for “net positive” transformation of business models.
The Global Water Crisis: Lacking Resources or Missing Vision?
Bottled water at the grocery store is already more expensive than crude oil on the spot market. More people today own or use a mobile phone than have access to water-sanitation services. Unclean water is the greatest killer on the globe, yet one-fifth of humankind still lacks easy access to potable water. More than half of the global population currently lives under water stress — a figure projected to increase to two-thirds during the next decade. Adequate access to natural resources, historically, has been a key factor in peace and war. Water played a key role in 37 wars during the last 60 years.
However, the world's water crisis is not related to the physical scarcity of water, but to unbalanced power relations, poverty, and related inequalities. Environmental speaker Alexander Likhotal explains that the problem of overcoming the water crisis comprises many complex and controversial issues, and outlines a coherent strategy in which the economic, social, water and environmental aspects of policy must be properly coordinated.