On 12 October 2007, the "India 2025" Conference was held in Paris. It was organized by the Institute of Higher National Defence Studies (IHEDN, Paris) and the "Asia 21" group (Futuribles International). Among the questions tackled were geopolitical developments in India, some aspects of which were covered in the February 2008 issue by Frédéric Grare and Isabelle Saint-Mézard. Alain Lamballe, who also spoke at the conference, gave an account of the factors that were likely to impede the rise of India between now and 2025 and he presents his analysis for us here.
Lamballe takes a highly pessimistic view of the future of South-Eastern Asia. He stresses India's weaknesses - namely the reservations of the two majority religions about progress, the potential ethnic and religious rivalries, the risks of insurrection and terrorism, the lack of energy resources and the regional geopolitical dangers etc. There is nothing to indicate that the "gloomy" scenarios that can be derived from these weaknesses will actually materialize over the next 20 years, but it is important, nonetheless, to be aware of them, in order to develop a better grasp of the elements that might lead to such an outcome and to observe how they develop over time.
La Malaisie a annoncé qu'elle allait produire le premier vaccin halal (licite pour les musulmans) contre la méningite. Cette annonce s'inscrit dans le cadre d'une diplomatie sanitaire qui joue un rôle croissant dans la politique étrangère de la Malaisie ; également dans une stratégie qui vise à positionner la Malaisie comme un hub de produits halal avant 2010 pour tirer les bénéfices d'un marché qui concerne des secteurs aussi divers que la santé, les produits alimentaires, la ...
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Bruno Étienne argues cogently in this article that to think in terms of a clash of civilizations - Islam versus the West - is to make a serious error of judgement by ignoring the many non-religious factors that affect the relations between the Middle East and the West. In order to deal with this misunderstanding, he starts by setting out a clear definition of what he means by religion. He goes on to point out that politics and religion are often in competition, including in the Muslim world, and usually politics has the final say as to which strategy is adopted in international relations.
Bruno Étienne then ponders what kind of international system will emerge now that there is no longer a two-way split: will there be one Great Power or many? He notes that we are now faced with a "huge ideological shambles" and it would be too simplistic to describe it merely in religious terms when in fact the issues are clearly geostrategic: Europe and the United States have always wanted to (re)draw the map of the Middle East to suit their own interests. He also raises the current regional issues (e.g. the problem of Israel and Palestine, the Kurdish question, Iraq, water resources and oil reserves) and their possible impact on relations between the West and the Middle East.
Finally, Bruno Étienne focuses on the three countries competing for leadership in the Middle East: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, recalling along the way that "it is ignorance of the Other [that feeds] most of the fantasies, the prejudices and therefore the fears" .
This article argues that we need to develop foresight studies with a strong geopolitical element, although it also stresses the need, as a preliminary, to meet the challenge of finding a way of capturing the dynamics of the contemporary world situation which is as relevant as possible - a world that clearly no longer resembles the world of the past, heavily dominated as it was by the interaction of nation-states and above all by the Cold War with its head-on confrontation of two opposing blocs operating according to a common logic.
In the absence of an apposite system of representation, the approach offered by Samuel Huntington in his book on The Clash of Civilizations met with great success. The essence of Huntington's thesis is that the civilization paradigm is the best means of analysing, perhaps of anticipating, changes in international relations. The article sets out the main points of Huntington's thesis and then examines what led up to it and, in particular, what its basis and limitations are.
Nevertheless, Hugues de Jouvenel recognizes the need to acquire new tools for deciphering a world where there is a vast increase in global interdependency as well as in tensions and conflicts that should not be viewed solely in terms of differences in culture or civilization, even if these factors undoubtedly play a growing role.
Hugues de Jouvenel concludes by raising the issue of the sense of identity and of belonging to communities of more or less shared values and interests which operate according to models that are sometimes quite unlike those of the past when geopolitics was considered to be the exclusive domain of states and the relationships they forged with one another. He therefore argues that we should thoroughly overhaul our ways of looking at the world which will undoubtedly determine, as always, the way we perceive possible futures.
Is it still possible to undertake foresight studies in the contemporary world, assessing its potential issues, challenges and developments? With the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 - enormous changes that nobody really foresaw - the question is worth asking.
Frédéric Charillon argues that it is not only possible but indeed necessary to give ourselves the means of trying to predict the future of international relations. Here he offers some tools for deciphering the situation of a sociological nature, criticizing the theory of the clash of civilizations as too simplistic. He first sets out the main issues that need to be considered when analysing tomorrow's world and the cleavages within it that they are likely to generate; he goes on to make a series of observations about the current international situation, highlighting the confusion of models, the ever more frequent abrupt changes, and increasing complexity of the world and how it is represented...
Hence the three main questions about the future of the world analysed by Frédéric Charillon: is there still some system for looking at the future and, if so, what is it? How do we set about understanding international situations if they cannot be explained? Is making culture the focus of the analysis really the best way of capturing the dynamics of the modern world?
Hence, too, the three sociological questions on which he ends: is it better to simplify the reality in order to be able to act or to attempt to understand the complexities before doing anything? Is it better - in both analysis and action - to go for sudden change or for continuity? Is it better to emphasize explanations in terms of the individual or the group?
Jean-François Mayer describes here the main religious trends and the prospects for the future linked to them, in particular offering several scenarios for what may occur between now and 2037. First he looks at the main religions against the background of globalization, then he shows how much the situation has changed with regard to the ability to multiply and spread religious messages (thanks in particular to the new communications technologies), and how far religions - which for a while had appeared to be in decline - are now enjoying a revival. Islam, Hinduism, Evangelical Christianity, etc.: whether or not they are political, these religious movements are very much alive and continue to attract new members, but they are transforming themselves and are continuing to evolve under the growing influence of individualization, which is affecting or will eventually affect the whole world.
The author also examines who the new religious activists are likely to be in the coming decades, stressing the probable emergence of new currents within all the existing religions (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc.) though they will lack real political clout at the global level. He wonders about the capacity of the religiously minded to bring greater unity to culturally homogeneous regions (with the inherent risk that this might lead to a clash of civilizations), and suggests that only Islam could hope to do so but that the obstacles connected with national realities make such a scenario highly unlikely.
All in all, according to Jean-François Mayer, religious belief will remain strong, probably accompanied by an acceptance of greater variety on the part of those actively involved. Competition is likely to continue and religious movements will go on diversifying, but without any single religion dominating the others.
Georges Corm analyses, in this op-ed piece, what he calls "the binary vision" of the world in which East and West are opposed. He starts by arguing that the end of the Cold War has not brought an end to the hostility between different blocs that dominated the world between 1945 and 1990. In his view we now have two worlds - one pro-Western and favourable to Israel, the Euro-Atlantic bloc, the other more pro-Arab, the "Mediterranean/Asian" bloc - separated by a fracture line that gives rise to both cold (the Iranian nuclear issue) and hot wars (such as the Western interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan).
He argues that this new confrontation between "civilizations" arises from five main factors: the "war on terror" which he tries to analyse with a certain critical distance, especially with regard to the United States; a certain tendency to wish to dominate the rest of the world on the part of the United States that is not thwarted by its (somewhat naïve) European allies; a Mediterranean/Asian world whose capacity for harm tends to be overestimated, in particular because as a bloc it is far from being unified; the Israeli-Palestinian situation, which in practice now seems very hard to resolve (the creation of a Palestinian state appears impossible); lastly, the designation of Iran as a potential source of regional conflagration while at the same time the United States has deliberately let slip the opportunity to normalize relations with Iran.
With this view as his starting-point, Georges Corm sketches several possible scenarios for future geopolitical change; in general these are quite pessimistic, such as the hypothesis of all-out war between the Euro-Atlantic bloc and a coalition led by Iran with the more or less overt support of Russia and China. In order to avoid such a prospect, it is essential, Georges Corm argues, to dismantle the policy of forming blocs which threatens to reproduce the model of the two world wars; this requires, in particular, the rules of international law to be applied without exception as the only means of calming "inflamed imaginations".
Alioune Sall, Director of the African Futures Institute, looks at the key question of this special issue - the future of relations between civilizations at global level - from the African angle, a view too often forgotten in this debate.
In this article, he sets out the major challenges that Africa faces (coping with modernity, bloody conflicts, problems of governance, etc.) and emphasizes how far the West (in particular the former colonial powers) is responsible for the current difficulties of the continent. Nevertheless, contrary to the view that certain commentators sometimes express, he thinks that Africa has a future and one that does not involve a clash of civilizations, but rather a dialogue which will give rise to a new sort of modernity.
Invoking various African thinkers, Alioune Sall offers three main arguments in favour of this dialogue of cultures: pluralism and respect for diversity, a new kind of citizenship that is not based on being native-born, and the emergence of what he calls "afropolitanity" (in a sense marking a post-colonial phase of modernity in Africa). He does not underestimate the scale of the challenges (population growth, economic problems, governance, etc.), but bases his hopes on the coming together of a vision of values and a certain degree of political intervention that makes it possible to envisage Africa's future with optimism, against the background of a genuine dialogue with other cultures, and especially with the West.
For this special issue on the future of relations between cultures, François Zabbal focuses on the relationship between the Arab/Muslim world and the West.
He starts by tracing how anti-Western sentiments grew up in the Arab world, first during the Cold War and the period of East/West tensions, then in the specific context of the aftermath of September 11th 2001. In particular, he shows that the roots of Arab hostility to the West (above all the United States) is not a recent phenomenon, and while it is true that such feelings have been strengthened in response to the way that the Islamic world is represented by the West, they also arise from the desire on the part of certain Arab communities to forge (or revive) some kind of pan-Arab bond.
However, according to François Zabbal, the pan-Arab movement came to nothing. Islamic sentiment is developing more as a statement of identity vis-à-vis the West, against a background of creating national or regional solidarities. It is nonetheless the case that a globalized Islam, sustained by modern means of communication and the Muslim diasporas living in Western receiving countries, may well continue to attract the poorest sections of the Muslim world, for better or worse. Let's hope, with François Zabbal, that the "wall of mutual misunderstanding" between Islam and the West is simply a passing tense moment, the prelude to a debate which may well be heated but which is also essential about the place and the shape of Islam in the West.
Ce numéro de la revue The Futurist, publiée par la World Future Society, contient un dossier sur " la religion dans la civilisation globale future ", dont l'article central est rédigé par Thomas McFaul. Au-delà d'une analyse extrêmement contestable des termes de culture et civilisation et d'une introduction dressant un panorama des grandes religions mondiales, l'article livre trois scénarios sur le rôle des religions dans la paix ou les conflits dans un monde globalisé en 2050. Scénario 1 ...
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Belief (religious or otherwise) is a subject of debate at the start of the 21st century, what with Islamist terrorism (Al Qaeda), a religious revival that is sometimes close to fundamentalism in the United States and Latin America, but also the decline in religious observance in Europe and excessive faith in some aspects of scientific progress (transhumanism, for example). Jean-Claude Guillebaud, observing the return or the potentially threatening appearance of certain dogmatisms and clericalisms (religious, but also in economics, science and politics), has devoted his most recent book to the question of belief. "What can we believe in?", he asks, or in other words how do we distinguish blindly held beliefs from reasonable convictions? Benjamin Delannoy has read this essay for Futuribles and summarizes its main points.