1- North-South contrasting demographic trends: how can Africa reap its demographic dividend?
There is a stark contrast when it comes to demographic trends across the Atlantic basin. On the one hand, northern countries are facing an ageing population, due to the growth of healthy life expectancy, along with low fertility rates. For instance, European population is projected to increase slightly by 2020, only to return to its current levels by 2050. The number of working age population is also expected to decline steadily, resulting in a higher old-age dependency ratio and increased pressure over the productive labor force. On the other hand, southern countries of the Atlantic basin are still enjoying a demographic boom. Population in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to double by 2050, while its working age population will further expand. This demographic dividend represents a unique opportunity for African countries to sustain a prolonged economic expansion that could contribute to the emergence of the African continent. Yet, the demographic boom could also turn into a demographic burden, characterized by mass scarcity, high unemployment and social instability. This session will discuss the implication for the contrasting North-South demographic trends and explore possibilities for Africa to reap its demographic dividend.
• Can migration offset North America and Europe’s ageing population? Can rising populism among these countries resist in the long run to these imminent forces?
• Reaping the benefits of this demographic transition in Africa is far from guaranteed. What priorities African leaders should consider?
• How can African policy makers mobilize sufficient financial resources to fund their ambitious investment programs in education and health?
• What role can international cooperation play in accompanying the demographic transition in Africa?
2- Atlantic trade, the surge of protectionism and the WTO
President Trump's "America First" policy and his obsession with bilateral trade balances have motivated a wave of protectionist measures which affected transatlantic trade in aluminum and steel, washing machines, and have caused grave uncertainty among automakers on account of threats to levy large tariffs on them. The newly renegotiated NAFTA (the US-Mexico Free Trade Agreement) contains more restrictive rules of origin which, when and if the new agreement is ratified, will affect automotive value chains across the Atlantic. The present tariff cease-fire between the European Union and the United States doesn’t indicate that the issue of the European trade surplus with the United States - especially that of Germany - has gone away. At the same time, by flouting it rules and refusing to replace the judges on the appellate body, the United States may relegate the World Trade Organization to oblivion.
• What explains the United States' protectionist stance?
• How much is China to blame? Germany?
• Is Trump's trade policy a temporary aberration or will it persist after him?
• How did the November mid-term election change the picture?
3- Can NATO survive the shifting geopolitical order?
This year’s NATO summit in Brussels was marked by US President Donald Trump’s strong escalations against the United States’ traditional allies and his statements questioning the multilateral system. Furthermore, his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki brought up further worries and concerns on European security. On multiple issues, from the needed level of military spending, sanctions on Iran, immigration and trade, the Trump administration seems to favor the ‘America first’ slogan even when it comes to its European allies, creating a deep sense of division inside the West and setting an unprecedented crisis with NATO. With all the current tensions, the United States’ European allies increasingly believe that Trump is shifting from the post-World War II order. This situation has even led the European Council’s President, Donald Tusk to declare: "Europe must do everything in its power to protect, in spite of today's mood, the transatlantic bond. But at the same time we must be prepared for those scenarios, where we will have to act on our own," while the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated that Europe should no longer count on Washington for protection but it must instead “take its destiny in its own hands.”
• What is left of NATO and the transatlantic order after US President Trump’s foreign policy? Can the transatlantic relations survive?
• Why is Trump’s approach to its NATO allies generally perceived as a total break from the past? Is it setting a new feature for the transatlantic order?
• Does a changing relationship between Western allies really matter? What are the implications of a new world order?
• Is there another major power that can plausibly step into the role of the United States as a partner for Europe?
4- The human dimension of the migration crisis
Today, over 258 million migrants around the world live outside their country of birth. Recent years have witnessed an important increase in mobility with growing numbers of migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea, undertaking dangerous journeys at the risk of being subject to abuse, exploitation, and denial of their fundamental human rights. Across the Atlantic region, poverty still motivates thousands of people to seek economic opportunities outside of their country of origin, which poses significant humanitarian and security challenges across borders. This session will examine ways of working with and for migrants to ensure that current approaches, policies and practices – including the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration – can respond to their needs and address these vulnerabilities.
• How can countries prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration?
• Given the rise of populism in Europe and the USA - two of the main traditional destination of migration – can and should the international community ensure the respect of human rights of all migrants, regardless of their migration status?
• What would be the best way to address the “root causes” and “drivers” of unsafe or unmanaged migration? What would be a win-win solution for countries of destination and origin?
• What role can non-state actors like NGOs play to push for greater respect of human rights?
5- The unmaking of the American world order
For the past 70 years, the United States have been taking the lead in building and defending the most successful “international system” in world history that resulted in the steady removal of various trade barriers and an increasing willingness of countries to cooperate among themselves – even if it meant renouncing some of their sovereignty. However, in less than two years in office, President Trump has turned its back on multilateralism, announced his country’s withdrawal from numerous international accords (such as the Iranian nuclear deal, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the treaty on nuclear arms control), started a trade war with China, and declared his hostility to several institutions that serve as the backbone of this liberal world order (e.g. the UN, NATO, the G7, the OECD, the World Trade Organization). In such a context, this session will discuss how the rise of nationalism and populism in the United States is threatening the liberal world order as we know it and if this fits into a shifting paradigm in international relations.
• How much of the Bretton Woods international system can Trump tear down in the next two years of his presidential term, or the coming six if he wins another term in 2020?
• How are American allies and partners accommodating themselves to this change in American leadership? What impact and implications will it have on the pursuit of American interests worldwide.
• How can world leaders, international organizations and civil society overcome these nationalistic impulses?
• Are the lessons about international cooperation at risk of being unlearned now along with the fading memories of the wars of the 20th century?
6- The digital age and the modern social contract
Economies, governments and societies across the globe are going digital. Almost half of the world’s population is now connected to the Internet, up from only 4% in 1995. Digital transformation is challenging almost every aspect of the economy, government and society – including what used to explain and justify the legal, political, and economic structures binding the three together. Can the traditional “social contract” prosper in a world that is increasingly digital and data-driven? How could a modern social contract use the opportunities offered by digital transformation to further economic opportunities, civic participation, and personal development? This session will examine the immense opportunities as well as the challenges that digital transformation represents for countries in the Atlantic region, while exploring their implications for both citizens and governments.
• How can local, regional and national levels of government use digital technologies to improve the efficiency of public services and better respond to citizens’ expectations brought about by the digital transformation?
• How can information and communication technologies (ICTs) be used to embrace good governance? How can they overcome the fear of change?
• How can digital technologies involve more all stakeholders (citizens, private sector, government institutions, trade unions, civil society and other stakeholders) in policy making processes?
7- 10 Years after the international financial crisis: is the next one looming?
The current expansion in the US is the second longest in US history, and if it lasts past August 2019 could be the longest. While not everyone would agree on the exact timing of the next recession, no one would deny that it would unfold in a volatile and uncertain environment. The USA are facing increasingly polarized political trends against a backdrop of tightening labor markets and monetary policy. The world is coping with a global wave of populism, continuing political violence, accelerating trade war among the major powers, Brexit, and rising internal and external debt problems in developed and developing countries alike, among other issues. This session will explore whether the underlying macro-economic setting with rising risks is likely to deepen and/or prolong the coming recession in the Atlantic region.
• Are these risks likely to be temporary or permanent?
• Should the assumption of a stable and “business as usual” policy environment associated with business forecasts be challenged and changed?
• Given the recent macroeconomic management experience and the rising debt burden in the developing world, how will such a recession affect economic growth in low and middle income countries?
• What are policy options and strategies for minimizing the adverse impact of recession in these countries?
8- Climate finance in the South
Three years ago, the landmark Paris Agreement was adopted by 195 countries who agreed to limit global warming below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. However, in addition to the challenge posed by President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the global community – and in particular developing countries – is facing serious challenges to mobilize climate investments required to help poor and most vulnerable countries cope with the adverse effects of climate change and the mitigation actions to meet the shared goal set out in the Paris Agreement. This session will discuss current efforts underway to scale‐up climate finance and actions needed to mobilize additional finance.
• What are the drivers of climate finance effectiveness?
• What actions are required to better address the needs of developing countries in terms of climate finance?
• What opportunities exist in terms of innovative instruments (green credit lines, risk-sharing instruments, support for carbon markets…)?
• What role can South-South cooperation play in advancing the fight against climate change?
9- The role of culture in Atlantic relations
Culture is a key component of the long standing relations that exist and intertwine between Africa and Latin America, as highlighted by several OCP Policy Center researchers during the 2017 edition of Atlantic Currents. Various types of music from both regions have been nurturing each other with influences (rumba, salsa), creating a unique opportunity for further cooperation and collaboration.
• What is the role of culture in fostering Atlantic relations?
• Where can we find this mutual influence in trans-Atlantic living arts, movies, photography, and literature?
• Is African contemporary art and its global success a sign of a new transatlantic culture, shared by Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Northern America?
• If so, how is this culture contributing to strengthening relations between the 4 poles of the Atlantic space?
10- Brazil: what next?
In the context of Brazil’s worst economic recession, rising crime and unemployment rates, and systemic cases of government corruption, the controversial Jair Bolsonaro moved from being a fringe figure on the far right of the political spectrum, to becoming the country’s president. Exploiting an atmosphere of general discontent, the rise of Bolsonaro is marking a significant shift in Brazilian politics and for the country’s economy. Dubbed the "Trump of Tropics", Jair Bolsonaro continues to spark controversy due to his worrying admiration for Brazil’s military regime and his rhetoric on homosexuality, race and women. Bolsonaro wishes to eradicate violence in the country, get rid of corrupt politicians, and restore Judeo-Christian tradition by aligning with specific countries whose current leaders are also staunch conservatives. While his foreign policy program remains, for the most part, unclear, his ideology seems to combine social conservatism with extreme economic liberalism. This session will examine the possible policy orientations of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency, and what they mean for the Atlantic region.
• How will the rise in populism impact Brazil’s economic policies?
• Is populism likely to spread to other countries in the Atlantic?
• How will Bolsonaro’s election change Brazil’s relationship with the BRICS? Will it reduce the group’s ability to push for a more multipolar world?
• What are Bolsonaro’s foreign policy priorities? How will they impact Brazil’s identity as a rising power of political influence beyond South America?
11- Learning from experience for new joint development: perspectives from former Latin American presidents (in Spanish)
Sharing of knowledge and experiences between developing countries with common historical roots, strong cultural bonds, and that face similar challenges is key. South-South cooperation between Latin American and African countries seems to be a useful tool to achieve progress in fields such as trade, investment, science and technology. A dynamic and pragmatic cooperation model between Africa and Latin America – two continents that require fast and solid integration – could enhance inter-continental collaboration for a common growth and poverty reduction strategies. This session will discuss opportunities for stronger cooperation between Africa and Latin American, share lessons learnt, and identify areas for future collaborations to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth and prosperity.