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Selected Solution Proposals

Members of the GES community have come up with many excellent proposals to address global challenges. We published some of them as “Solution Proposals of the Day” and used them as touchstones for lively debate in and beyond the conference’s 30 or more sessions. We are using this newsletter to bundle some of the texts. But rest assured that all proposals will be evaluated, and published in a variety of formats. To speed implementation, they will also be circulated to policy-making and research communities around the world. Thank you for attending the GES 2015. And thank you for contributing to the search for solutions to shared global problems.


Migrants Knocking on Europe's Doors: Towards a Coherent Response to Irregular ImmigrationMigrant Crisis — The World Needs to Embrace a new Paradigm

Policymakers have to come to terms with the roots of irregular migration in order to embrace a much-needed paradigm shift in dealing with the problem, argues Swing. Only by accepting the economic and social drivers, the demand for migrant workers, and the effects of global communications can they get ahead of the curve.

What Swing calls the largest migration of people in recorded history should, he says, remind us of how important mobility has become to the modern world. By accepting to this fact, host countries can transcend the crisis mode in which they find themselves to develop longer-term strategies in co-operation with other governments.

Swing stresses that only a truly comprehensive approach stands any chance of succeeding in the long run. Governments will have to continue to offer protection to refugees. But at the same time, new ways must be found to ensure safe regular migration – for workers of all skill levels, as well as for families looking to re-unite. In poor or war-torn countries, community stabilization and development programs would reduce migratory pressures.

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New Indicators of Progress: How to Make a Difference to Policy and PoliticsMacroeconomic Indicators — Venturing Beyond GDP to Measure Wellbeing

Despite a growing international consensus that gross domestic product is too crude a measure of a country’s national wellbeing, alternatives are having trouble establishing themselves, according to Michaelson and Jeffrey. This is because they lack a clear narrative, suffer from information overload, or fail to match public perceptions.

In the hope of changing the mindset of the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), Michaelsen and Jeffrey looked at measures of national success used in recent public consultations. They came up with five headline indicators they say will provide a better measure of national success than GDP: decently paid, secure employment; subjective wellbeing; environmental impact; economic inequality; and health-care provision.

A handful of clear, communicable, and memorable indicators allow for a close alignment of policymakers’ priorities and the concerns of the public, they argue. Although the number and mix of indicators will vary from country to country, Michaelson and Jeffrey argue only similar efforts elsewhere will spur policymakers to adapt.

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Food Security through more Intense Crop Production

Food Security — Crop Production: Satellites and Ploughshares

Satellites, computers and new modeling techniques could more than double global crop production, meeting future food and biomass demand without increasing the area of farmland, Mauser, Klepper, Zabel, Hank and Delzeit argue. Enlisting modern technology to improve crop management would automatically raise farm-management standards and spread the use of profit-maximizing crop allocation techniques across the globe.

Mauser et al. say innovation in all three areas could raise farm output by 148 percent points and keep pace with the demand for food and biomass, which is expected to double by 2050. With satellites monitoring the growth of crops and new computer models, farmers will be able to maximize yields while reducing water and fertilizer use.

In the coming years, global agriculture will be transformed into an information business, and trade in agricultural commodities will come to include regions that currently stand apart, they predict. Satellites like the EU’s Copernicus system will provide the backbone for this new degree of “local-yet-global” information flow.

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Migrants Knocking on Europe's Doors: Towards a Coherent Response to Irregular Immigration

Migrant Crisis — Note to Europe: Stress Upside of Immigration

Europe needs to change the narrative about the tens of thousands of refugees streaming over its borders, argues Legrain. Instead of using the tools of border protection and policing to cast them as an implicit threat, he says governments should welcome them as an explicit opportunity for reinvigorating their rapidly aging populations.

Young, hard working, taxpaying newcomers would prove a shot in the arm for a European Union with its shrinking working-age population. With new arrivals this year amounting to 0.1 percent of the EU population, Legrain says it is wrong to cast the region as overburdened. Instead, governments should stress the upside of aspirational and often highly skilled newcomers. Nearly one in two Silicon Valley start-ups has an immigrant co-founder, he notes.

Once European countries see immigration in terms of their economic self-interest, Legrain argues, the strains and stresses of the EU’s current response to the refugee crisis should resolve themselves. Member states would see welcoming migrants as an investment – one that pays dividends the sooner refugees can start to work.

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Re-assessing Waste Management and the Circular EconomyRecycling — The Circular Economy: The Producer Pays

Manufacturers should pay an up-front fee to cover recycling costs when their products are thrown away, according to Hermann F. Erdmann. This would for the first time give producers and consumers an economic - rather than simply an ethical - incentive to manufacture and consume responsibly, he argues.

Voluntary schemes to prevent waste have proved of limited use, mainly because they have failed to ensure that everyone contributes their fair share. Instead, Erdmann calls for the founding of an independent national or supra-national agency to assess – and charge for - the social costs of products once they are thrown in the trash.

The Extended Producer Responsibility Organization (EPRO) would charge the manufacturer a fee per unit product and take responsibility for recycling. Being forced to pay for the hidden social cost of waste management would encourage manufacturers to design and consumers to buy products that are easier to recycle, he says. While EPRO’s basic structure is simple, agreeing governance and fees could be a challenge, Erdman admits.

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How to Build Sustainable Cities for the Next Urban Billion?

Sustainable Cities — Urbanization Demands Public-Private Schemes

The number of people living in cities is expected rise by a third by 2050, but governments have proved incapable of creating the necessary infrastructure to keep pace with this development, say Macomber, Singham and Ting. They argue only public-private partnerships can generate the investment needed to house 2 billion new city-dwellers and provide public services like water, electricity, and mass transportation over the longer term.

So-called enterprise cities would foster orderly growth of urban areas, avoiding the unplanned sprawl of many existing cities in which unregulated land use has hindered adequate provision of infrastructure, and planning for housing and education. Such township planning can be seen an extension of traditional office-park development.

Inspired by examples across the globe, Macomber, Singham and Ting argue that streamlining regulations, transparent tendering, and fair competition is key to success. Crucially, so-called regulatory framework agreements to attract investment should be agreed at municipal level to avoid the pitfalls of national politics.

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Brave New Media World? How the Internet Spreads Information Across the Globe

Digital Journalism — A Fund to Kick-start Pan-European Media

Public responses to recent European crises have varied widely from one member country to another, a stark reminder that a truly European public sphere remains elusive, according to Müller. To address this problem, he argues, Europe needs public funding to foster pan-European media with a genuine cross-border appeal.

Müller says subsidies are needed to deal with the paradox of digitization – more people consuming more news than ever before, even as free access weakens the ability of news organizations to fund their work. This, he says, is a particular problem for media in the European Union, given the expense of gathering news across the region.

Given the risk of political pressure, Müller calls for a fund financed by public stakeholders like industry associations and labor unions, rather than governments. A team of independent media experts would decide how to allocate the fund’s resources. The committee would select private media companies according to their journalistic track records and organizational ability to report pan-European news free of national agendas.

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Putting the SDGs to Work

Sustainable Development — Food, Water, Energy: Key to Everything Else

The global community should focus on bringing food, water and energy production to the world’s vast arid regions as a precondition for meeting the United Nations’ much broader Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to Christian Berg. He says this narrow focus would be the best way to minimize painful trade-offs between economic growth and environmental protection implicit in the SDGs, expected to be finalized next spring.

Bringing plant-life back to eroded land would lure farmers and allow crop production to rise while ending the land consumption that sees fertile natural habitats turned into farmland, Berg argues. Setting up solar or wind power plants in these often sunny and breezy regions would lure manufacturing and spur infrastructure development.

Berg reckons this focus on three “foundational SDGs” could quickly improve conditions in arid regions, some 41 percent of the earth’s terrestrial surface. It would also put the global community on course to addressing half of the UN’s 17 SDG goals, including the top two on the list - poverty reduction and food security.

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Migrants Knocking on Europe's Doors: Towards a Coherent Response to Irregular Immigration

Migrant Crisis — Fixing Europe’s Dysfunctional Asylum System

Europe’s governments should end dysfunctional national asylum policies by giving the European Union sole responsibility for the tens of thousands of migrants entering the region, argues Lücke. That would ease the strain on poorer southern EU countries through which migrants enter and richer northern countries where they collect.

Centralized responsibility for the processing and welfare of migrants would in Lücke’s view end the mismatch between the much-vaunted freedom of movement in the EU’s Schengen area and the so-called Dublin III Regulation, which demands that asylum seekers be administered by the member states in which they first set foot. It would enable joint responsibility, common standards, and real burden-sharing among EU members.

With around 1.5 million migrants – mainly from the Middle East and Africa - entering the EU every year, Lücke estimates the EU would need national governments to top up its annual budget by E45 billion. That would be equivalent to one third of the current EU budget, but only 0.3 percent of member states’ gross domestic product.

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The Design of Fiscal Consolidation PlansFiscal Consolidation — Austerity and Growth can go Hand in Hand

Critics of the Eurozone response to the currency bloc’s debt crisis have questioned so-called austerity policies to shore up public budgets. But Kastrop argues that economic growth can – and must – go hand in hand with fiscal consolidation. The trick, he argues, is to design spending cuts and tax increases with care and flexibility.

The OECD studied the effects of cutting various types of public spending and increasing various forms of taxation, Kastrop says. It found cutting subsidies and pensions, as well as raising inheritance taxes to be the least harmful to economic growth. Most harmful were education and health care cuts, and raising social security contributions.

But, Kastrop stresses, policymakers should avoid one-size-fits-all solutions and favor bespoke recipes that reflect a country’s position and preferences. For example, raising taxes that are already very high can have little economic or social value. Policymakers should also allow policies to evolve – tax increases are easy to implement quickly but should give way to spending cuts over time. Lastly, they should set prudent long-term debt targets.

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Reflexivity: The Interplay between Caring Decisions and Caring Societies

Fostering Values — The World Needs More Altruism to Fight Crises

Improving the mental health of citizens can help mitigate economic and environmental crises, growing rates of stress and depression, and the adverse effects of individualism and egoism, according to Singer. Rather than a redesign of institutions or rules, she advocates a science-based training program to help each individual.

Singer argues training is needed because many social and economic problems are becoming more global. It would help citizens broaden their domain of altruism, strengthening co-operation and limiting conflict as a result. Schools, universities, offices and factories might profit from the introduction of contemplative techniques. These and other social settings could be re-configured to emphasize teamwork and co-operation over competition.

Over nine months, Singer studied the effects of a new, science-based secular mental training program on well-being, brain, health, and behavior. First results suggest that daily training can indeed reduce stress, induce plasticity at brain level, increase pro-social behavior and trust, body awareness, and subjective well-being.

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Guido Warlimont

Guido Warlimont

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