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TitleThe Economist - The World in 2017 (gnv64).pdf
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Justin Trudeau Canada at 150 Martin Sorrell Time for long-termism
George Clooney Stopping confl icts Yuri Milner Wondrous science
Tsai Ing-wen Tigerish Taiwan Susan Wojcicki What we’ll be watching

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Page 74

74 International THE WORLD IN 2017

A year in the life
Laurence Blair

A connoisseur’s guide to the anniversaries of 2017

Two major historical milestones will hog the lime-light in 2017: the centenary of Russia’s October revolution, and the quincentenary (500 years, to
laymen) of Martin Luther’s dissemination of his 95 the-
ses, which sparked the Reformation in earnest. Both were
instrumental in forging the modern world (exegesis on
both events and their meaning today is to be found else-
where in these pages). But digging a little deeper throws
up not only some other intriguing anniversaries—1,000
years since the founding of the Druze faith, 600 years
since the first recorded use of street lighting in London,
60 years since the first Frisbee was thrown—but also
questions about what the world remembers, and why.

Much of 2017’s retrospective rumination might take
on a political character. Marking 600 years since Henry
V’s decision to restore English as the language of gov-
ernment, Anglophones worldwide may rejoice that they
never had to speak French. As with
the 950th anniversary of the Battle
of Hastings in October 2016, some
Brexiteers will contrast England’s
native tongue and ancient liberties
with continental despotism; Re -
mainers will be in frank disagree-
ment with such tendentious angles.
Events tend to be remembered or
forgotten according to their point-
s c o r i n g va l u e. T h e p a t r i o t s a n d
Whigs who trumpeted the 800th an-
niversary of the Magna Carta of 1215
will probably overlook 800 years
since the Treaty of Lambeth of 1217
(which ended a war started when
the same proto-democratic barons
begged the king of France to invade).

Several anniversaries will pre-
sent tempting parallels for foreign-
policy wonks and columnists. The
passing of 500 years since the first
d i p l o m a t i c m i s s i o n f r o m w e s t -
ern Europe to Ming China—that of
Portugal’s Fernão Pires de Andrade—may prompt lofty
reflections on the rise of China and the pendulum of
geopolitics; China’s One Belt, One Road initiative is soon
supposed to connect economies from Beijing to Lisbon.
Those fearful of Vladimir Putin’s tsarist revanchism
might invoke the Silent Sejm (parliament) of 1717, when
Peter the Great’s soldiers intimidated the Polish-Lithua-
nian Commonwealth into hobbling its army and becom-
ing a de facto Russian protectorate.

Perhaps Barack Obama had an eye on history in Oc-
tober 2016 when he scrapped limits on tourists bringing
Cuban cigars back home, just in time for 2017’s bicente-
nary of the legalisation of the Cuban cigar trade (or per-
haps the outgoing potus simply fancied a well-earned
Cohiba). Also in 1817, a ragged band of soldiers under
José de San Martín crossed the Andes from Argentina
to liberate Chile—200 years too early for a new tunnel

between the two countries likely to be started in 2017.
The anniversaries of more obscure figures will pass

largely unremarked. Germany will issue a special coin
to commemorate 200 years since Karl Drais took the
first bicycle for a spin, but he died unappreciated and
penniless after his pedal-less Laufmaschine was taken
up only by the trendiest urbanites. Maybe modern-day
Hamburg hipsters will be inspired to give his “Dandy
horse” another go. Knaresborough, in north Yorkshire,
celebrates in 2017 the tercentenary of John “Blind Jack”

Metcalf ’s birth. He overcame pov-
erty and disability, becoming a fid-
dle-player, outdoorsman, soldier,
stagecoach-owner and the builder
of 300km of turnpike roads across
n o r t h e r n E n g l a n d : a v e r i t a b l e

Jack-of-all-trades. Speaking of idioms, the actor and
playwright David Garrick was also born 300 years ago.
He was allegedly so engrossed in his own pioneering,
naturalistic performance as Richard III that he failed to
notice he’d fractured his femur—hence (one fanciful
theory goes) the thespian “break a leg” to wish perform-
ers good luck. Many of history’s heroines are nameless:

Russia’s February revolution, the centenary of which
also falls in 2017, saw women take to the streets in their
thousands to demand bread, peace and equal political
rights, playing a crucial role in toppling the tsar (Lenin,
meanwhile, was still skulking in Switzerland).

It was 50 years ago today
Some in 2017 will ( hazily) recall the Summer of Love 50
years previously, and the release of The Beatles’ “Sgt.
Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, the album that pro-
vided the soundtrack for many. But perhaps they should
focus instead on the 60th anniversary of the chance
meeting of Paul McCartney and John Lennon at a church
fête in Woolton, Liverpool, where Lennon’s skiffle band,
the Quarrymen, was playing. Happenstance and chance
encounters may make for less satisfying anniversaries
than big events, but are often just as pivotal.

Some will
(hazily) recall
the Summer
of Love

Laurence Blair:
deputy editor,
The World in 2017

Spare a thought for Karl


It is 50 years
since James
Bedford, a
of California
became the first
person to be

Page 75

THE WORLD IN 2017 International 75

Stop the cash, stop the conflict

Tackling corruption
is the key to peace
in South Sudan
and beyond, argue
George Clooney and
John Prendergast,
co-founders, The

It’s simple: go after
the warlords’ wallets

he world’s newest country, South
Sudan, could have been holding its
first free elections in 2017. Instead,
it faces another year of strife. In the

latest phase of the cyclical conflict that has
plagued its people for decades, tens of thou-
sands have died, 5m people face hunger or
starvation and 1m have become refugees. Yet
cleverer global action—especially involving
Western banks—can stop the rot.

The local context is important: control
of the state is the grand prize in the deadly
contest for power. Factions based primarily
on ethnic and historical allegiance compete
violently for power and the massive opportu-
nities for self-enrichment available through
looting national budgets, exploiting natural
resources and manipulating state contracts.

This winner-take-all competition for the
spoils is the main source of war. Witness
how, when President Salva Kiir removed Vice-
President Riek Machar from office in 2013, it
took only a few months before their two com-
peting factions went to war. After a peace deal
allowed Mr Machar to return to Juba in 2016,
the groups soon fell out again, plunging the
country deeper into conflict. A combination
of grievance and greed, connected by extreme
corruption, powers the ongoing violence.

South Sudan could be fabulously wealthy;
it has abundant natural resources, including
oil and gold. But that dream, felt acutely by
most South Sudanese on independence in
2011, has become a nightmare. Billions of dol-
lars in oil money have gone missing.

If this rot—the competitive looting of the
state—is not stopped there is little chance
of ending the violence, as documented in a
report by our new investigative initiative, The
Sentry. But the task in 2017 is to identify the fi-
nancial drivers of war and begin to dismantle
the violent kleptocratic system. Mistaken for a
call for regime change, it is actually about sys-
tem change. This reform agenda is a prereq-
uisite for lasting peace, in South Sudan and
in other states around the world where illicit
financial flows fuel bloody conflict.

Hit them where it hurts
Responses to South Sudan’s chaos are cur-
rently ineffectual. The sound and fury of
international indignation signify nothing to
the orchestrators of atrocity because there
is no enforcement. We counted 65 times in
which senior officials around the world have
threatened South Sudan’s leaders with con-
sequences, but failed to take any meaningful
action, since the latest war began in 2013. Its

generals and politicians are largely unmoved
by damning human-rights reports or press
releases, un Security Council protests, the
deployment of peacekeeping troops, threats
of arms embargoes and the unenforced sanc-
tioning of mid-ranking officials. None of
these responses affects the calculations of
the warring parties because they do not target
their pressure points and vulnerabilities.

A more effective approach requires going
after the ill-gotten assets of warlords and their
foreign facilitators, including businesses and
arms dealers, because that is where they are
most vulnerable. Experience from efforts in
countering terrorism, nuclear proliferation
and organised crime is instructive. The les-
sons include combining measures against
money laundering with targeted asset freezes
on war leaders and their accomplices. All this
requires robust enforcement by banks. In the
most successful cases, targeted officials are
locked out from the financial system, creating
real international leverage.

It’s simple: go after the warlords’ wallets,
bankrupt those who choose the bullet over
the ballot, and suddenly the incentives are
for peace, not war; transparency, not corrup-
tion. This is a lesson that policymakers could
apply far beyond South Sudan, particularly in
the effort to prevent mass atrocities.

Countless South Sudanese journalists,
human-rights investigators, anti-corruption
activists, government reformers and humani-
tarians are risking their lives to change the
system. Highlighting their work globally is
crucial, as we do in supporting the Aurora
Prize, a global humanitarian award. Bringing
international pressure to bear on war leaders
would further level the playing field for these
champions of civil society.

The coming year will provide multiple op-
portunities to translate talk into action. The
g20 will launch its latest anti-corruption plan.
A un fact-finding mission on South Sudan’s
conflict will report in March. Mr Kiir and Mr
Machar, long-time rivals, will have a final
chance to drag their country back from the
abyss, or step aside for others with less of an
interest in disorder.

The world must undermine the pillars of
the war economy and disrupt the financial
flows that fuel conflict. Western taxpayers and
charitable donors have contributed billions
of dollars for peacekeeping and humanit arian
aid, but policymakers have rarely focused on
the key driver of the carnage. Unless the links
between conflict and corruption are con-
fronted, peace will remain a distant dream.

Page 147

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