A Solemn and Colorful Ceremony in Grasse

Getting to know the inner streets of Grasse is a wintry diversion that includes leisurely strolls along quiet pedestrian walkways that are normally bustling with tourists and locals when the weather is warm. The relaxed pace allows time to appreciate the contrasts between the colorfully renovated buildings housing shops and apartment dwellers, on the one hand, and the crumbling and dilapidated vacant structures along narrow cobblestone pathways, on the other. An empty storefront has posted declarations from a group calling itself “l ’Alternative”, lamenting the high vacancy rate (40 per cent) and neglect for a healthy environment in the town, especially where there is also a housing shortage. But then, turning the corner, one sees other posters announcing sporting events in the coming months, along with the thematic promotion for this year’s traditional Grasse rose festival in May – all oriented to a thriving, revitalized Grasse!
It seems that the current Mayor of Grasse, Jerome Viaud, is trying diligently to elevate the image of this ancient perfume capital of the world. On a chilly grey morning, we came across yet another display of this revitalized pageantry in the square in front of the cathedral and hotel de ville (i.e. city hall).

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Reflections on Janet Yellen and Bill and Melinda Gates

It is such a pity that the flawed administration in the White House aggravated its flawed approach to responsible governance by choosing not to reappoint Janet Yellen to Chair the US Federal Reserve.  On the first day in office of her successor, Jerome Powell (whose policies were not expected to be a significant departure from hers) the stock market went into a nose dive of record proportions.  There were many reasons for this turbulence – bond prices were up, wages were up, inflation fears, bonuses to workers in major corporations as part of the “benefits” of corporate tax reform – many possible factors have been cited. What if?  What if Janet Yellen had not been displaced?  Might the very continuity of her presence have helped to calm things down?  Continue reading “Reflections on Janet Yellen and Bill and Melinda Gates”

Holiday Greetings 2017

 Dear Friends and Family,

Warm greetings to you for a happy and peaceful holiday season.  We are taking this opportunity to celebrate the small victories of collaborative efforts – the political inroads for positive change in Virginia and Alabama and yes, even here in France.  The shock and embarrassment of the US Presidential election result in 2016 continue to haunt us, but we are inspired to look to 2018 with these signs of change.  We are also hopeful that the cultural shift in addressing sexual harassment will in fact take hold.  Continue reading “Holiday Greetings 2017”

Family Photos

Personal Reflections on Conflict of Interest

There is a scene in the film Alice’s Restaurant, one of those anti-war films from the Vietnam War era, where an overly zealous police officer brings “27 8X10 color glossy photos” of a minor crime scene (the unlawful dumping of garbage) to a court proceeding presided by a judge who turns out to be blind.  It is a tale of overstating the seriousness and engaging in too many steps to prove the crime.  The photos have no use to the judge, who then levies a $50 fine on the defendant.  We understand that the main characters here – the “criminal”, the judge and the police chief all play themselves in the film, which contributes to its ironic punch.  The film was built around a folk song about a “massacree” at this same “Alice’s Restaurant”, performed by Arlo Guthrie (the “criminal”), describing a Thanksgiving gathering with a bunch of bohemians in an abandoned church in small-town New England.  Continue reading “Personal Reflections on Conflict of Interest”

Conflict of Interest and the WHO: Latest Developments

The World Health Organization has been caught up in a real mess by trying to categorize and create hurdles for collaboration with the growing number of non-State actors that are active in public health matters related to the mission of the WHO.  The complexity of this mess was in the spotlight at the recent WHO Executive Board, meeting from 23 to 27 January 2018.  Several agenda items touched on the issue, including ongoing attention to addressing the challenges of non-communicable diseases for healthy lifestyles. More knotty agenda items, however, had to do more directly with WHO’s relations with non-State actors – both its new but yet to be implemented basic Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA) generally and its guidelines for managing conflict of interest in the nutrition world more specifically.  The outcome of the deliberations on these agenda items is rather encouraging, and we hope that the new Director-General will actually clean up the mess.

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ACLU Reflections

Reflections on the ACLU: It would take me a while to search for the legal history on which case it was that Ruth Bader Grinsburg criticized the timing of the carefully crafted legal strategy during an ACLU Board debate on the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. Sometime in the 1970s – perhaps 1973? It was a case, she argued, that disrupted that strategy to build towards an interpretation of the 14th Amendment through case law that could essentially eliminate the need for an Equal Rights Amendment. Something to do with Oklahoma sticks in my mind.  As a new member of the ACLU Board by virtue of being a representative from the North Carolina affiliate, I remember being amazed by her stance and awestruck by her sophisticated arguments. It was quite a lesson in how constitutional law can be influenced by a deliberate strategy – not just through one case but through a series of cases if they are deliberately chosen and sequentially developed to move the judicial interpretation in a certain direction. Here are some reflections on a dramatic change in ACLU strategy today, but I start with a historical perspective.

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The Importance of Innovation

We live in a world of ever accelerating change, driven by the creativity of individuals and groups. In this context, it is useful to reflect on the role of innovation as a stimulus for creativity. We focus our attention here on innovation, and specifically on how innovation is being interpreted to be “at the heart” of the policies, services, information and cooperation of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Our interest is primarily directed to reflecting on how the trends reported by WIPO in measuring innovation and intellectual property are symptomatic of – and possibly even contributing to – the dramatic shifts in the geopolitical landscape. These shifts are having significant spill over effects beyond WIPO and especially, in these remaining days of 2017, at the World Trade Organization but also, if one looks to the opening days of 2018, at the World Health Organization. Continue reading “The Importance of Innovation”

Internet Governance Forum – Governance Debate

 

We have long been a fan of the Internet Governance Forum as a leading experiment in inclusive multi-stakeholder engagement at the global level. In our last newsletter (11 December 2017), we wrote an anticipatory commentary on the 12th IGF, which was meeting in Geneva from 18 to 21 December 2017. We had the opportunity to mingle with IGF delegates and to attend a few of the over 230 sessions that were held over five days (the official four days but also an extra day “zero” on 17 December to help deal with the overload). As usual, we came away with the impression of multiple voices – or sounds, as it were, like the warming up of an orchestra before the conductor comes on stage. Continue reading “Internet Governance Forum – Governance Debate”

SDGs Are Taking Root

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was the pivotal event of 2015, a year advertised for its transformational summits – on disaster relief in Sendai, on financing for development in Addis Ababa and on climate change in Paris. One might have assumed that the euphoria of the 2030 Agenda would translate directly into implementation strategies in 2016. While one could argue that it was premature to expect such an immediate shift to the new ways of thinking that the 2030 Agenda called for, 2016 also proved to be the year for catastrophic political events which effectively slowed down any hints of first steps. Continue reading “SDGs Are Taking Root”