Migrations: the Biden Administration and Europe’s policies (Kelly Petillo, Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

The Science of Where Magazine meets Kelly Petillo, programme coordinator for Middle East and North Africa at the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations

What is the thesis of your article “Out of place: Why Europe needs a new refugee policy” (European Council on Foreign Relations)?

The Biden administration has revamped the US commitment to human rights, drawing a rupture from the disregard towards international norms and multilateralism that has characterised the Trump era. I argue that those in Europe who are concerned with the recent trajectory European policies vis-à-vis refugees in the region and closer to home have taken should leverage the momentum brought about by this US-driven change in rhetoric to collectively push for a change in direction of European policies towards refugees, in its different dimensions – in terms of common refugee policy, but also bilateral agreements between the EU and countries in the Middle East that host or generate refugees, and in EU member states bilateral agreements with these countries. In the article, I lay out how European agreements in recent years, for example the 2016 deal struck between the EU and Turkey or the recently renewed deal between Italy and the Libyan authorities, are designed to merely keep refugees and migrants out of European shores. This, I argue, neglects the need to address the situation in countries truly bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis and the abuses and unlawful treatment of individuals who seek to reach safety. To be clear, I am not arguing that Europeans should wait for a clear US steer towards a shift in tone and hopefully policy towards refugees. The US is not concerned with addressing the multiple crises that ravage the Middle East in a comprehensive way and will likely focus on surgical support in terms of counterterrorism and other key priorities, like Iran. But a change in US leadership does have an effect globally, in terms of setting the tone and fueling positive or negative trends in Europe. Trump alone was not responsible for the rise of anti-refugee sentiment in Europe. Yet, Trump contributed in exacerbating these trends by legitimizing actors and policies that vilify refugees and neglect their rights. Hopefully, by recommitting to a multilateral push on normative values the US shares with Europe, Biden can contribute to changing this trend.

Migration policies, especially in recent years, have represented a reason for cultural and political conflict within the European Union. What are the advantages of a “regulated” immigration, without sacrificing the increasingly indispensable humanitarian aid?

An agreement that is able to comprehensively regulate refugee movements upon arrival is in European interest for both security and political reasons. It is fair to be concerned with protecting borders. Yet, Europe fails to truly do so if it lacks comprehensive focus on addressing the multiple crises affecting the MENA region in a comprehensive manner. In my opinion, the refugee issue has been highly politicised and often instrumentalised for political gain. In Italy, refugees and migrants were used during the 2018 elections by the Northern League as the culprit of the many socio-economic problems the country faces, and rallying anti-refugee sentiment helped the party win votes. At the European level, the issue of refugees has fallen victim of a lack of European cohesion. We currently witness sub-groups of states try to push for their respective agendas through the migration issue. Southern European states, including Italy, emphasise burden-sharing. Visegrad group countries, and others like Austria, push on security and border control. Some countries (including again Italy, but also Malta) used the Covid pandemic to declare their ports unsafe for people rescued by NGOs, de facto facilitating the return of refugees to countries widely recognised as unsafe, like Libya. Several member states like Greece have been unlawfully pushing back migrants with relative impunity. These policies, aided by the pandemic, may have succeeded in keeping refugees out. But meanwhile, crises and inequality in the region have exacerbated exponentially and more refugees will seek to reach Europe. So Europe may have stopped arrivals, but is far from achieving the stability in its neighbourhood that is needed to stop people from setting off to Europe. Given the current juncture, which sees relatively manageable numbers, one could argue that dealing with refugees at our borders now should be a feasible endeavour. In doing so, Europeans could capitalise from existing success stories such as the award-winning Humanitarian Corridors Initiative, started by Italian faith groups in 2016, which has proved successful and perhaps could be replicated at a larger scale. This may be harder to prioritise during the pandemic, given domestic priorities and economic hardship, but discussions on this front can still take place. In terms of humanitarian aid, Covid has meant a decrease in support for 2020. While Europe has pledged to increase aid to the region, this still fails to comprehensively address needs. The upcoming Brussels conference on the future of Syria, and other similar moments, should see a shift towards providing a realistic package able to address needs. Europeans should also show leadership on the vaccines front and ensure refugees in the region and beyond are not neglected. I don’t think this would mean neglecting the economic crises European countries are facing – if we don’t provide vaccines in a comprehensive manner, we will not end the global pandemic and resume economic mobility.

Migrations represent a global challenge and meet the climate challenge, especially in African and Middle Eastern countries. Is there a possibility, with the new American administration, of a realistic multilateral approach?

Under Trump, the US has been largely absent from the global conversation on refugees. Under Trump, the US rejected the UN Global Compact in 2016, failed to sign the New York Declaration and the subsequent Marrakech declaration. Upon Biden’s inauguration, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi stated their auspice to welcome the US into the Global Compacts, highlighting the strong historical partnership between the US and UNHCR. However, Biden hasn’t yet announced he will join these agreements, which are nonbinding (and one could argue this could be a feasible step that would send a signal of a renewed US commitment to tackling the issue of migration at the global level). So while there will indeed be increased transatlantic cooperation on matters of common interest like climate, and while the US is set to widely restore humanitarian aid in the MENA region, I do not believe migration will be a standalone priority of transatlantic cooperation and will likely be channelled through cooperation on other front – again climate, but also security, counterterrorism and human rights. This shouldn’t daunt Europeans. It is an opportunity for them to play a leading role on this front and put themselves forward as a global actor whose migration goals meet global normative standards. And as I argue in my ECFR article, more cooperation on other fronts, and an increased US commitment to human rights, are still important factors that have the potential to build momentum and shift the European conversation in a more positive direction. Guterres has released a call to action on human rights, which was officially endorsed by the EU on February 22nd. The US re-joined the UN Human Rights Council. So there could be cooperation that has the indirect potential to improve the lives of refugees and migrants.

How much does Europe’s weakness in terms of common foreign policy affect the resolution of the conflicts in Africa and the Middle East (which inevitably cause forced migrations)?

The problem at the core of a small-picture thinking to the issue of refugees in the MENA region is that this is permeated by the imperative to mitigate migration and security its borders rather than decreasing insecurity and preventing abuses faced by individuals in neighbouring countries. In my view, focusing on migration and security alone will fail to achieve stability. To focus on managing migration at the expense of meeting core humanitarian needs and preventing abuses both in local and refugee communities means giving a free pass to increasing conflict, insecurity and economic hardship, which is increasingly a factor that prompts refugees to move to Europe. It also means setting a precedent for impunity for actors around the world who are observing these trends. Europeans are one of the few actors that have an interest in maintaining global norms alive as part of their raison d’etre. It is also worth noting that, in many cases, the current approach to refugees has seen Europe subject to pressure by its neighbours – such as in the case of Turkey and Greece. In my view, Europe needs to provide a comprehensive support package to countries like Lebanon (which hosts the highest number of refugees per capita). On Turkey, it should leverage current ongoing negotiations over the agreement renewal to revisit its parameters. The 2016 agreement sought to address the realities of the situation in 2015. There is now space for a shift in focus, from solely prevent migration to directly improving the conditions of refugees in the country, under the framework of the Global Compact on Refugees — which was signed by both Turkey and all EU member countries (minus Hungary).


The economic value of climate policies (Brent Orrell, Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

The Science of Where Magazine meets Brent Orrell, resident fellow at the think tank  American Enterprise Institute

 Could you explain to our readers the thesis of the article “Biden’s ‘green jobs’ mirage” (American Enterprise Institute)?

Our thesis is that green jobs training is not the same thing as green jobs employment. During the Obama administration, the U.S. invested heavily in skills training for green sectors like weatherization and solar panel installation but without sufficient economic demand for these workers. This led to waste and frustration both for government funders and training participants. The only way to create the necessary demand is to impose policy “backstops” – tougher carbon emission laws and regulations and requirements for use of green technology – that do not yet exist in the U.S. to the degree they are being used elsewhere, including Europe, and are unlikely to given the polarized American political context. This means green job training is like “pushing on a string”. In the meantime, the U.S. is experiencing high rates of unemployment related to COVID-19 that demands serious investment in retraining for workers, primarily those in the service and hospitality sectors, whose jobs may not return in sufficient numbers to meet the need for work. By diverting limited resources to green job training where employment demand is insufficient and growing slowly, we miss addressing the immediate needs of individuals and families struggling to restart their lives and careers.

In the U.S., much work remains to be done to persuade a sufficient number of Americans that the costs of future climate change impacts exceed those associated with major changes to the economy and patterns of fossil energy consumption. Until that threshold is met, Congress and the Biden administration will be limited in the types of federal laws and regulations it is able to impose on the economy and will be, to an extent, dependent on executive orders which would be easily reversed or modified by a future administration with different policy views.

 The ecological question and the technological factor are at the center of the interests of The Science of Where Magazine. How do these two dynamics intersect?

Everyone hopes that technological development will answer some of the difficult questions we are facing now and in the future. The response of the biotechnology sector to the COVID-19 pandemic is an example of how quickly science is able to move to address a crisis when properly incentivized to do so. On climate, as on many other issues, we need to support scientists in thinking flexibly and creatively about both solutions and mitigation. It may not be possible to reverse climate change completely but science may offer us ways of slowing it down and providing tools for managing some of its negative impacts. Our children and grandchildren need us to invest in a secure environmental future but in a way that also affords short- and medium-term social and economic opportunity.

Finally, how do you rate the Biden administration’s multilateral approach? Isn’t this a way of addressing global challenges – such as climate change – by calling the “international community” to responsibility?

If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything it is that in some areas, like human health and epidemiology, nations should not try to “go it alone”. While we have to respect the unique attributes of all countries and cultures, on an increasingly crowded and interdependent planet, some areas require multilateral policies, and I’m hopeful that the Biden administration and future U.S. administrations will recognize and work for the kind of cooperation that recognizes both global diversity and our shared interests and needs.


Towards the Digital Stability Board for a digital Bretton Woods (Robert Fay, Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

The Science of Where Magazine meets Robert Fay, managing director of digital economy at Centre for International Governance Innovation.

 When you write about “divide” with reference to technology you put the question within the global framework of inequalities. What is the social, cultural and economic “weight” of the “technological divide”?

I think the weight may vary by country and perhaps within countries, but no matter the weight given, these are factors that must be considered. Technology has brought, and will bring, enormous benefits but technological developments also displace and create harms, and these are typically the largest for individuals who are least able to protect themselves or to adapt easily. The Covid pandemic has made this all too apparent. I have called these the five technological divides :

First, the access divide: Our need to physically separate has made digital technologies and services almost indispensable to carrying out daily routines and keeping in contact with social networks. Yet, this dependence has highlighted the deep digital divide in the access to broadband and resilient infrastructure and the access to affordable technology, and reinforced or deepened existing inequalities in safety nets.

Second, the knowledge divide: The advances in technology are mind-boggling, creating challenges when it comes to technology use, and the implications of that use — which are far from obvious and include the monetization of personal data, invasion of privacy and so on. These challenges were illustrated by the development and rollout of applications to trace exposure to COVID-19; both citizens and governments are still debating about such applications’ efficacy, security, privacy and deployment.

Third, the trust divide: Technology can provide information at scale. More perniciously, it can spread mis- and disinformation at scale, and it can be used to attack and disrupt essential services. This year, disinformation related to false cures, ransomware attacks and cyberattacks were rampant. Sifting through the barrage of information online and determining what is accurate and what is not can be extremely difficult, and bad actors use this confusion to their advantage.

Fourth, the market power divide: The shift to the intangible data-driven economy appears to be resulting in fewer winners and more losers — indeed, a characteristic of this economy is “a winner-takes-most” economic structure. During the pandemic, we have seen a sharp rise in market valuations of some large multinational technology firms as their market positions have become even more deeply entrenched, due to the need to use digital platforms in the pandemic and firms’ greater access to data captured by (increasingly frequent) user engagement. In contrast, smaller, domestic-oriented companies have faced bankruptcy, often resulting in the loss of innovative firms. Indeed, firms are engaged in cutthroat competition, but not in the traditional sense where competition among firms drives down prices, and boosts consumer welfare and choice. In fact, it is the opposite: it is a competition over the control of intellectual property and the rents that accrue from it. It is a contest over the values that govern the uses of new technologies. Countries and jurisdictions — and even individuals — are strategically setting rules and using technologies to benefit their own interests.

And, finally, the distribution divide: The goal to more evenly distribute the revenues of multinational digital firms is an ongoing effort at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But this work became more difficult when the United States pulled out of the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting negotiations. This move pitted the United States against other countries and furthered trade tensions with countries such as Canada, France and the United Kingdom that have proposed to go it alone. Even more urgently, the sharing of intellectual property to combat the pandemic has vividly illustrated the tensions in this area: the greater public good against the payment for the efforts to create a vaccine.

Many of our institutions and regulations have been found to be sorely lacking in these areas and a comprehensive rethink is required.

With respect to the issue of global digital governance, is the so-called “international community” ready? How will the new American course affect? And Europe, what policies is implementing ? Some countries (I think, in particular, to Russia and China) seem to prefer a kind of “digital sovereignty”. What are the reasons for this choice?

 I think there are two elements: is the international community ready and is national community ready? And how should they work together?

Digital sovereignty takes different forms and there are very powerful vested interests at play at the firm, national and regional levels. For example:

The US digital sphere is focused on the private sector and its de facto national champions, such as Facebook and Google. The US enshrines in its trade agreements open data flows (no localisation except in limited circumstances) that direct data back to American firms, which further re-enforces their market power and economies of scale and scope. It also includes safe harbour provisions for the content of its social media platforms, making it exceedingly difficult to regulate content. And the US generally lets the platforms set their own terms, conditions and enforcement.

The EU digital sphere does not have national champions and instead focusses on strategic regulations to rein in the market power of platforms and to promote individual rights through its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is focused on the privacy of personal data and has created an extensive legal framework for its protection. Any company that operates and uses EU personal data must abide by the GDPR or have an equivalent framework in place as assessed by the EU.

China and its great firewall form another digital sphere with full data localisation and a massive database of its citizens that can be used to create national champions. This is broadly consistent with China’s determination to move up the value-added chain. Its great firewall also has great failings, which it seeks to overcome for example by acquiring data via its Belt and Road Initiative and other means. China is also determined to become a leading standard-setter that allows it to imbed its technology and disseminate its values globally.

Of course, most of the global population falls outside these realms yet we are powerfully affected by what happens within them.

Our focus is on the relationship between technology and human society. What risks (for example, new forms of control) and what opportunities (for example, in the pandemic, good technologies for health) can we consider in the difficult road to building a new world “order”?  

  1. We have classic insider/outsider dynamics at play that are getting reenforced with every user engagement of a platform. The spheres are defining what is best for them and meets their purposes with little or no input from those outside the realms. For example, GDPR is now being discussed as a global standard and there are many positive elements of it. But what input did countries outside the EU have into this “standard”?
  2. Social media platforms and others typically define their own codes of conduct and also define how they will enforce them. They may be based on codes defined elsewhere, but ultimately the platforms decide. Why should this be the case? Why shouldn’t governments impose their respective societies’ democratic values and hold the platforms to account? Why should platforms be the judge and jury? Granted there is an increasing demand for transparency and accountability, and regulators are beginning to take action, but there is a long way to go.
  3. It is imperative that we have closer global collaboration on the governance of these technologies that impact all of us. Digital technologies and especially data do not respect borders and shouldn’t be defined by vested interests. Moreover, coordination is necessary so that we don’t get a digital version of what we have seen with tax havens e.g. a flock to jurisdictions to avoid stronger regulation such as where privacy protection is limited, where governance is limited and so on. Global cooperation is essential. Even social media platforms have called for it realizing that a unified and coherent multilateral transnational regime would lower compliance costs. But such a coordinating mechanism does not exist.
  4. At CIGI we have therefore proposed a Digital Stability Board, modelled after the Financial Stability Board, to carry out this coordination function. An updated and comprehensive international governance architecture is urgently needed especially as the world splinters into data realms.  Bretton Woods was the Allies’ answer to the financial and social shock of the emerging postwar period. It brought decades of financial stability and prosperity to the world economic system. A new Bretton Woods-style agreement, resulting in an international bodyto stabilize the digital world, is now necessary, to enable the world to meet the promise of the new connected age. A modern reboot would provide an opportunity to create a similar institutional framework to manage the world’s digital infrastructure as it recovers from the financial and societal impacts of the current pandemic. We have coined this new organization the Digital Stability Board and have published articles on it. The FSB is not treaty based yet has managed, and delivered, the vast global financial regulatory reform process. Its success in part derives from its transparent multi-stakeholder participatory international forums that include policy makers, regulators, standard setting bodies and civil society. In a similar fashion, the DSB would also be a multi stakeholder forum with a remit to create global governance for big data, AI and the digital platforms, while allowing national variation to reflect different values and cultures. It would shape global standards, regulations, and policies across the platform economy; advise on best practices, as well as insights about the regulatory and policy actions needed to address risks and vulnerabilities in a timely manner.

Strategies/Advancing democracy and the impact of technology (Patrick Quirk, Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

The Science of Where Magazine meets Patrick Quirk, Senior Director for Strategy, Research, and the Center for Global Impact at the IRI (International Republican Institute), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to advancing democracy and governance worldwide.

What is the thesis of the article (written with Richmond Blake) “How the Biden administration can get the Global Fragility Strategy right” (Brookings)?

Our article argues that armed conflict and instability threaten U.S. interests globally. We recommend that, to address this challenge, the Biden administration implement the first-ever “U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.” Released by the U.S. national security agencies in December 2020, the strategy is the foundational requirement of the bipartisan 2019 Global Fragility Act. We suggest the Biden administration do three things that will help make sure the strategy is successful: elevate ownership of the strategy to the White House, to provide top-level support needed to coordinate across multiple agencies; prioritize research and learning, to identify the key issues driving instability in selected countries and develop evidence-based solutions to them; and build multilateral support for conflict prevention and stabilization, to share the burden of addressing this global problem. Looking ahead, the administration should include addressing threats from fragile states in its first National Security Strategy.

Liberal democracies appear to be in danger around the world. The risks facing the world challenge their resilience. In general terms, how do you rate the early acts of the Biden Administration?

Democracy is under threat the world over. Addressing this challenge is a priority for the United States not only because supporting freedom and liberty has long been a guiding light of the American project, but because American citizens are more prosperous and secure when the world is free and open. Recognizing this, the Biden administration has made strengthening democracy abroad a foreign policy priority. It has committed to holding a “summit of democracies” to galvanize support for fighting corruption, combating authoritarianism, and advancing human rights. The president has also elevated the issue within his White House National Security Council staff by creating a high-level coordinator for democracy and human rights. President Biden is smart to commit to combating threats to democracy and rebuilding America’s institutions to lead by example. Doing so is practical and interest-oriented foreign policy.

Our magazine deals, in particular, with the relationship between technology and more human society. How can technological innovations help overcome inequalities and social disunity?

Effective governance and responsive representation are critical to overcoming economic inequality and beginning to address societal divides. Digital technology already helps improve the ability of elected officials to do both – deliver services as well as develop and execute policies that meet citizens’ needs. Especially during the pandemic, governments have moved services – and in some cases even parliamentary deliberations – online to continue delivering for their citizens. But we can do more to fully harness the positive potential of technology for improving governance. One such step would be to create and implement a positive vision of the future of democracy that embraces digital technology to advance democratic principles and global cooperation. In recent years, Transatlantic countries have been almost entirely focused on countering ways authoritarians use digital technology to advance their interests—whether through the export of surveillance technology, countering disinformation, or regulations around, for example, 5G technology. While these protective measures are important, we need to shift from the back foot to a more forward leaning stance. Working together, democratic partners can focus on entrenching in their societies ways in which digital technology can advance democratic participation. Examples include mandating open data, setting norms around public consultation for policy development, entrenching participatory online deliberative democratic frameworks, and public investment in emerging technologies to ensure that they develop and are applied in ways that advance the democratic interest.

The pandemic, for our democracies, is aggravating ancient problems. What societies do you see in post-Covid world ? Will the necessary recovery operations be enough or will new paradigms be needed to understand and govern the world?

Democracy remains the most resilient and effective structure for governing societies, translating their demands into policy, and providing citizens the services they need to thrive. If anything, COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of democratic governance to global prosperity and security. It was, after all, the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of media, medical, and official reporting on the virus in its inception stage allowed it to metastasize into a global pandemic. The pandemic has further bolstered democracy’s case as the preferred option for governance globally. By and large, countries that were more democratic, with capable leadership, have fared better in dealing with the pandemic and its consequences than authoritarian nations. Increased cooperation between the United States and other leading powers will be essential to quash the pandemic and move swiftly toward sustained economic recovery. The same will be required to address other existential challenges, climate change chief among them.


La sfida di Piero Bassetti (Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

Recensire “Oltre lo specchio di Alice” di Piero Bassetti è, per chi scrive, una operazione preziosa. Fin da subito ne suggerisco la ri-lettura: esso, infatti, non è semplicemente un testo da leggere.

Capita raramente, per chi come me si occupa di cultura, avere un sussulto. Bassetti, con visione progettuale, si colloca in pieno nel campo intellettuale delle mie convinzioni. Il testo è perfettamente riassunto nel sottotitolo: Governare l’innovazione nel cambiamento d’epoca.

Nel libro si apre un mondo, che lascio al lettore. Voglio solo notare come i ragionamenti dell’autore si inquadrino in quel filone non ben definito, né definibile, di riflessioni alte, nell’oltre.

E’ l’innovazione, da alcuni ferocemente criticata e da altri a-criticamente accolta, che pone in metamorfosi tutti i paradigmi (interpretativi e operativi) che abbiamo ereditato dal ‘900. Chi sta al di qua e chi, invece, sta al di là dello specchio di Alice ?

Sottolineo, ed è l’unica considerazione che brevemente sviluppo, come la politica novecentesca (che caratterizza l’intero arco delle nostre classi dirigenti) stia – senza generalizzare – al di qua dello specchio. E’ una politica che rincorre i processi storici, l’innovazione così come la pandemia, e che si lascia progressivamente erodere in termini di senso e di significato. E’ una politica senza visione e che, per arrivare alla questione, non governa.

L’innovazione, val bene dirlo, non riguarda solo le big tech e i loro comportamenti spesso discutibili. L’innovazione siamo noi, è la vita che evolve, è il futuro già presente.

La qualità d’impatto dell’innovazione è ciò che distingue una società governata da una sommatoria di individui lasciati al proprio destino. E oggi, mi pare, siamo completamente immersi in sommatorie umane divise e disuguali, colpite al cuore da un fenomeno inarrestabile come l’innovazione in aggiunta a tutte le crisi che questo tempo ci mostra.

Ci vuole “realismo progettuale” perché l’innovazione non è mai neutra. Se essa ci apre a mondi nuovi, al di là dello specchio, altrettanto incide pesantemente sui mondi che conosciamo, al di qua. Spetta a chi si assume la responsabilità di governare il rendere sostenibile il cambiamento d’epoca.

Il libro di Bassetti, per concludere, è uno strumento per maturare visioni di realtà. E’ un libro, come direbbe Edgar Morin, davvero transdisciplinare.


Reality in us (Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

I remember that these reflections are part of a research path on the relationship between the human condition, innovation, complexity and international relations. It is important to underline it to give continuity to every single article. Working in progress …


Cities, immersed in the pandemic, show us an unnatural situation. What is immediately evident is the absence of human relationship: the pandemic has aggravated this problem which we could summarize in the expression “divided society” contained in the broader “unequal society”.

It is good that, thanks to the unstoppable technological innovations, we reason about the future of cities, of smart cities, of what mobility we will experience, of how we will move, of how essential public services will be reconfigured, of which cars we will use, of how work and education will change, of what forms of government we will have. Because the city, I have always thought, represents an extraordinary paradigm to rethink our coexistence, place – at the same time – of the local/global, of the territorial/planetary.

My point, walking in the pandemic cities, is above all a return to reality. As some critics argue, with the advent of the digital revolution the concept of mass has returned (surveillance capitalism according to S. Zuboff): in social distancing, each for himself, each of us is mass within the mass.

Superimposing innovation on this discomfort, without facing it, does not resolve but aggravates the discomfort itself.


Disunion and violence are characteristics of this third millennium. For this reason I recalled, as political acts, the unity and tenderness respectively evoked by Biden and Pope Francis.

What should be noted is that, in the midst of discomfort, in its depths, the great absent is the political vision. Our approach, considering mediation as fundamental (the Europe of recovery is certainly better than the Europe of austerity), strategically looks at a political thought that works “in” the human community, and “in” every human community, to re-compose the relationship between person and community (intrapersonal, interpersonal and global).

It is essential to return to the “inside” of who we are. If we do not immerse ourselves in the human condition, it is very difficult to hope to experience the change of era we are going through with a united humanity capable of welcoming the great potential brought about by the fourth industrial revolution.

While innovation opens up perspectives, it also closes panoramas that we considered immutable: just think, for example, of what is happening in the labor market as a result of the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning. But also what is happening, as a consequence of the impact of 5G technologies, on the nature of Nation States and on the metamorphosis of their relations. The fourth industrial revolution changes each of us, human coexistence and the world: everything happens simultaneously.

The human being, in all this, will continue to need to make fundamental choices, to live empathy, to have physical contacts, to believe in a god or in any superstition: all the machines will not be able to deal with, if not superficially. Even discomfort can only be faced by the man who experiences it, re-seeking his own inner balance in the balance of coexistence and reality. It is an inner dynamic that becomes social and which, as we see every day, is transforming politics.


The deep conviction of this research is that there are no simplistic solutions. Simplification is the enemy of complexity, therefore of reality.

I am fascinated by the fourth industrial revolution but, equally, by the need for reality in us. The two dynamics must evolve simultaneously, touching and contaminating each other.

Too little intellectuals are engaged in elaborating a thought in the present, critical and complex, which cannot be only linear or disciplinary. This is the time when, considering technological innovation as what really puts our interpretative paradigms in metamorphosis, it is necessary to work in a transnational, transgenerational, transdisciplinary key to build together a new panorama of senses and meanings for strategic decision in every field.

Each place, in this way, can become pluri-versitas, world in the world: we need informal debates, to think together, to know the evolving reality – and the evolving realities – to take the path of “historical judgment” in “common good”.


Reflections on the liberal order (Alexander Cooley, Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

The Science of Where Magazine meets Alexander Cooley, the Claire Tow Professor of Political Science at Barnard College and Director of Columbia University’s Harriman Institute for the Study of Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe.

The topic you address in the article “The Impact of COVID-19 and Global Perceptions of US Leadership and International Order” (Valdai Discussion Club, January 13, 2021) is of great interest. What is the importance of the technological factor in the metamorphosis of the liberal order?

This is an interesting question because there is a debate among international relations scholars as to whether technological innovation is endogenous to or develops independently of hegemonic power. Some would maintain that measured by global patents and the tech sector, the US retains its global primacy because of its very openness and market-friendly environment. But its also worth considering that America’s giant tech companies its– Amazon, Apple, Facebook Google– have taken full advantage of the global legal dimensions of liberal ordering to book profits offshore, thereby minimizing their contributions to the US tax base, and avoid meaningful national regulation. And in as much as they have enabled the transnational backlash against liberal ordering– for example by supporting social media platforms for illiberal movements and networking– they have contributed to revealing some of the contradictions among the three pillars of the liberal international order: economic openness, political liberalism, and intergovernmentalism.

It seems clear, and the pandemic has only aggravated the phenomenon, that there is an ongoing clash between liberal democracies and illiberal systems. Who will win?

Well, I think we have to be careful and not judge the outcome by who is occupying the White House in Washington DC. Certainly, now with the Biden administration there is a good deal more optimism that the liberal order can be resurrected and even updated for new global challenges. I do not share this view because I believe that President Trump was a symptom, not the cause, of the liberal order’s unravelling. The international order is under fundamental contestation at all levels: from above, with the rise of China and Russia as providers of counterorder; from below, as small states leverage the availability of alternative patronage providers to push back against liberal ordering and from within, as illiberal transnational moments I crease their strength within the liberal core. We need to remember that historically, the international system has been illiberal in different forms, especially in the age of dynastic empires, colonialism and the interwar period. So, my best guess is that we are entering a period of fundamental contestation between liberalism and illiberalism, with many countries wanting to keep both doors open.

Will the new American Administration succeed in achieving the unity of liberal democracies in a plural and so complex world?

I think this will be difficult for many reasons. First, the events of January 6th when the US capital was stormed by pro-Trump rioters and insurrectionists reveals that the political divide in the United States has reached a critical point. The United States needs to shore top its own democratic institutions which, although they did not break, were certainly exposed as more fragile than was commonly assumed. Second, how does one decide which countries are and are not valid democracies? By what criteria? US officials already will have a difficult time with core European countries given that this administration is likely to back liberal parties and factions domestically, just as the Trump administration appointed Ambassadors to Europe who were sympathetic to and actively backed populist right-wing parties. This will also trigger backlash. Finally, it seems that the Biden Administration will make a big push in the area area of anti-corruption on a global level. However, the tools that it is likely to use– targeted Magnitsky-style individual sanctions, extraterritorial jurisdiction to go after corrupt politicians and their assets– will undermine and threaten many regimes worldwide which will then be come even more inclined to denounce such policies and offer opportunities to countries like China and Russia for partnership.


Internet regulation: a transatlantic challenge (Julian Jaursch, Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

The Science of Where Magazine mets Julian Jaursch, head of the project Strengthening the Digital Public Sphere at the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung (SNV) (think tank at the intersection of technology and society).

Julian, Internet regulation is a complex matter. What is the thesis of your reflection, What the European DSA and DMA proposals mean for online platforms (written with Aline Blankertz), published by Brookings on January 14, 2021?

The European Union revealed its plans to regulate big tech companies in December, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. These were highly anticipated draft laws, precisely because the matter is so complex. Our first analysis is that the European Commission is really pushing for a comprehensive accountability and transparency system, while maintaining some of the pillars of previous internet regulation. To deal with the complexities and open questions, for example, regarding online advertising or how rules can be enforced by independent oversight bodies, the upcoming months and years will be quite important to shape these rules. Because the rules that Europe adopts for the internet affect virtually every citizen and millions of businesses across the continent.

Progress in Europe are important but Internet regulation is a global issue. What’s happening in the United States (in particular, with the new Presidency)?

There’s different approaches to regulating tech companies and the platform economy generally. For example, in Europe, there’s a common data protection law with the General Data Protection Regulation, whereas the US does not have privacy legislation at the federal level. The new administration in the US could potentially move on this topic. Antitrust procedures are a big issue on both sides of the Atlantic. The US has lately made a huge push here with investigations and lawsuits against big tech companies.

What are the main activities of SNV, the think tank you work at? And, in your opinion, what are the opportunities and what are the risks of the fourth industrial revolution which, by now, has radically changed our way of life?

As a think tank working on how technology affects politics and society, SNV looks a various topics at the moment, from AI in foreign policy to transatlantic cyber security strategies to the characteristics of the platform economy. Digitalization can bring huge advances for education, health and communication, but this ongoing change needs to be rooted in human rights and put the dignity of human beings at the center. To give a concrete example: the way many people read and find news has changed dramatically over the past years. It’s easy to get educated online, but it’s also easy to find and spread conspiracy myths and hate. To deal with this change towards news apps, social media feeds and personalized content, I think it’s important to strengthen users’ digital news literacy, to support independent journalism and to deal with regulating social media. These are all very difficult and long-term efforts, but they’re necessary instead of pretending one single, small solution will suffice.


Towards the stars (Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

To begin

It begins here, thinking that the journey is made by walking, a research path on the relationship between human condition, innovation, complexity and international relations. We will look at the totalitarian risks in the today’s world,

I dedicate this reflection to Bruno Ratti, visionary and founder of The Science of Where Magazine. I did not know him but his experience lives in our desire to look beyond.

On this path we will follow the thought of some giants: Hannah Arendt, Edgar Morin and Raimon Panikkar. We will stay as much as possible in the cultural debate, immersed in ideas, with critical thinking.

We must ask ourselves: where are we? The initial question is fundamental because, too often, we take refuge in the past or in the future, as if to exorcise a difficult present, in us and in reality, to the world.

Instead, the problem is in finding ourselves realists in reality-that-is, in deeply divided and unequal societies, full of great possibilities in innovation and new technologies, interconnected and nodes of “networks”, part of a world that struggles to find an order after the end of bipolar equilibrium.

Senses, meanings and strategic decisions

The pain and disasters caused by the pandemic or, better said, by the current pandemic, have aggravated ancient criticalities.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a symbolically important event to open the change of era we are experiencing, many had deluded themselves that they could be masters of freedom, of having identified the miraculous models that would have guaranteed well-being to all of humanity, of having arrived at the end of the history.

The history, on the other hand, was very much alive and confronted us with its complexity and unpredictability, which are ours. What is culturally missing, and on which we would like to work, is the re-appropriation of reality in us.

It is a matter of senses, meanings, and strategic decisions. In a world that has become plural and mestizo, nothing that happens is foreign to us and our approach can only be critical, never just linear, capable of problematizing the dynamics that run through the globe, first of all by knowing them.

There is an evident crisis (here understood in a negative sense) in the role of intellectuals and in the capacity of the ruling classes. It is innovation, powerful and unstoppable, which has put into metamorphosis the paradigms we inherited from the 1900s: this is our starting point.

Capitol Hill and the liberal democracy

We must return to a critique of our democratic regimes. What happened on January 6, 2021, much stronger than the inauguration day of the new President, is the sign of a particularly complicated historical moment for our liberal democracies.

Even through an instrumental use of innovation, an epochal clash is taking place between liberal systems and illiberal ones. Without generalizing, we notice a difficulty of liberal democracies in determining international equilibrium. De-generation, in fact, is entirely internal to the West which no longer manages to be the part of the world that indicates the direction.

Those who believe in democracy, like the writer, cannot escape an exercise of criticism, even a radical one, of a system that is objectively in danger. Abused words such as populism and sovereignty do not represent the real danger that, instead, is called nationalism: recent history reminds us that nationalism can represent the beginning of totalitarian adventures.

In this context, innovation is two-faced Janus: putting man at the center is an euphemism, because it is man who creates innovation, risking to succumb to it. We need global rules, of government and not just of governance, we need a rebirth of culture and politics at all levels.

Historical judgment

Biden’s call for unity is crucial. This should be accompanied by that of Pope Francis with tenderness. Both are deeply political acts.

Unity and tenderness help us to walk in the elaboration of a “historical project” that we would like to propose with these reflections. In this, innovation is an actor of primary importance because it can help and support relationship processes where paths of division, competition and inequality seem to prevail.

We must, first of all, recover the taste for coexistence, for constructive confrontation aimed at dialogue. Here we are among the stars but nothing is taken for granted: we are not the masters of freedom, we need responsibility. We are only at the beginning.

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