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Good morning, this is Yves Daccord in Boston, where I have the impression that, for once, the answer to our problems will not come from the United States.

I would like to share with you my conviction that we need to rethink the social contract that unites us. Living together comes at this price and it should keep us busy in this new year, which I hope will be safe and exciting for you all. Enjoy this first Geneva Solutions newsletter of 2021!

photo journaliste

Yves Daccord, Geneva


‘It’s time to build a new social contract and reflect on what unites us all’

Photo article

Protesters take part in the March on Washington, August 2020. Credit: AP Photo / Julio Cortez

“STINKY CHEESE ALERT. This smell is normal!” This was the warning written in large letters on the package containing the Gruyère I had just ordered from a small grocery store in Boston. Needless to say, I still have to get used to the US and to certain basic aspects of its communication.

I have travelled a lot over the last ten years, going from one country in humanitarian crisis to another. This is the first time, however, that I have put down my suitcases for a longer period of time in a country that I know little about, outside of Washington and New York.

What struck me immediately, besides the bold nature of the stinky cheese-type of alert, was how the "we" is lived and expressed both in each neighbourhood – in my case in Jamaica Plain, a fairly mixed and cool neighbourhood in the heart of Boston – and in the country as a whole. Of course, I knew a little bit about the history of the country and its racial, social and economic divisions. And yet, the violence of the emotions that separate people often left me stunned. I was also bewildered by my own difficulty in navigating these tensions as a “white male with privileges”.

The presidential election has been an amazing magnifying glass. I couldn’t help but marvel somewhat at Trump's political "genius" at being able to constantly and aggressively define who is part of the American "us” in everyday life, and who is not.

Read the full article

On my radar

🌍 The world doesn’t really know how to make peace. I have seen that during all my years at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): 90 per cent of active armed conflicts are in countries that have previously experienced civil war. So it was high time to propose a bold and innovative initiative to reframe the current approach to peace processes. I am proud to be part of it, and to join people like Ilwad Elman and Teresita Quintos Deles.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

📹 Digital surveillance is part of our lives at home, at work, and even at school. Covid-19 is accelerating the phenomenon. The question now is no longer whether digital surveillance is needed or not, but what surveillance, for whom and for what purpose? The debate has only just begun.

Maclean's (EN)

📈 ‘We think that you should be led in your parenting not by fear, but by the data’. Really? Check out this article by my Harvard colleague Urs Gasser and John Palfrey, president of the MacArthur Foundation, who offer advice on how to become “a connected parent”.

The Harvard Gazette (EN)

Surprising fact

7 out of 10 of the largest national surveillance programmes are in democratic western countries.

Here’s what else is happening

Image of the day

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Credit: African Cities/Creative Commons

Cities are becoming more and more important on issues as crucial as the climate crisis, migration and security. Initiatives to improve urban development are multiplying, including this new consortium launched to tackle complex problems in some of Africa’s fastest growing urban areas.

Changemaker of the day

Photo article

Beatriz Botero Arcila is a specialist in data issues and their governance, particularly in urban environments. A musician who is passionate about her city of Bogota, she is currently finishing her PhD at Harvard and is helping me set up the research department of the pop-up institute that I am leading.

Berkman Klein Center (EN)

Next on the agenda

Museum pioneer. I’m a big fan of Pascal Hufschmid, the director of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. His contribution to International Geneva is just remarkable. He was able to use the Covid-19 crisis to reinvent his museum and he is now hiring people to continue the adventure. Go for it.

A new era for Le Temps. Geneva, French-speaking Switzerland, and the key issues and themes that underlie this region will benefit from the renewal of the newspaper Le Temps which, as of this week, changes ownership.

Data protection in a Covid-19 world. The ICRC is doing a great job on the issue of data protection. On 12 January, the organisation will launch its DigitHarium, a forum exploring the issue of data protection in a Covid world.

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Have a good day!

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